The Rolling Stones tell us “You can’t always get what you want,” but as they go on to say “… you get what you need.” And so it’s true of the spiritual gifts. God gives us what we need to serve him, but it might not be what we want.
When I became a Christian in October 2001, one of the first things I did was do an Alpha Course. I found it really helpful, to go through the basics of Christianity. I wish my Confirmation classes at the age of 12 had been similarly helpful, then it might not have taken an additional 19 years for me to get it. For clarification, being a Christian is something you choose to do, it isn’t something conferred on you, like a degree or a blessing from a Bishop. It’s not about being able to recite anything, pray anything or particularly do anything; it’s all about what Jesus has done for you, so that you can find your way back to God. It’s a personal choice and it’s a big decision. It’s certainly not an automatic right once a church thinks you’ve reached the correct age, or because all your friends are doing it.
One of the things about the Alpha Course is helping you to understand the Holy Spirit. When you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within you and will start to reveal your particular gifts that are to be used to build up the church. You can read about them in 1 Corinthians 12; but essentially think about them as each Christian being given a function – just as the various bits of a car engine or your body have specific functions – and when we work together we become a complete body, or engine.
Through doing the Network course a while back, I’ve discovered that my gifts are of administration, encouragement, helping and knowledge. I’m an equipper. I’m your back-room girl, making sure that you’ve got everything you need to go out and do what you need to do. Writing isn’t listed in the Bible, but I hope very much that I’m using this gift to serve God and build up other Christians.
I love to study my Bible. While other people stare at it blankly, to me it comes alive. I’m able to look at it, not just from a practical, how do we live this out, way; but to appreciate the context in which it was written, how radical Jesus’ ministry was, and revel in all the amazing nuggets of information that Bible scholars through the years have discovered. It truly is a remarkable life-changing book, but yet so many people who aren’t Christians only have an Authorised King James version at home and think that’s what the Bible is – something you can’t easily read or understand. No, it isn’t! There are so many better translations on the market. The King James translates wild goats as unicorns for heaven’s sake, it’s not exactly accurate!
Anyway, I digress, I’m talking about spiritual gifts. We get them, we use them and then we do that natural human thing of looking at other people and comparing what we’ve got to what other people have.
I’m not immune to this. I look at my set of gifts and sometimes feel decidedly underwhelmed because I didn’t get any of the, I’ll call them ‘super-spiritual’ gifts. All mine are things that you might find in everyday life, they’re not things that have clearly come from God. For example, the gift of prophecy – which is receiving a word from God – being able to speak into a situation, to highlight a particular scripture or feel that something has been laid on your heart about something or someone. Then there’s the gift of tongues, which is being able to pray in the spirit using a language that isn’t of the earth. It’s amazing and is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. I’m surrounded by people who can pray in tongues but me, alas, I’m still struggling to string a prayer together in English.
We can get hung up on these ‘super-spiritual’ gifts and denigrate the others, such as admin or encouragement, but the Spirit doesn’t give all gifts to all people, he only gives you what you need to do the job you’ve been asked to do.
I’m pretty sure that with my weedy voice I’m never going to be a worship leader, but how many of them know about the importance of registering every song you sing in church with the CCLE, so that the people who wrote the songs will get paid for them? It’s not just red tape, because Matthew 10:10 and Romans 4:4 tell us that a worker deserves to be paid, and what is songwriting if not working for God? I know about licensing and CCLE, that’s my Gift of Administration bit. You sing it and I’ll make sure Matt Redman and his contemporaries get paid.
If we work together then the Body of Christ will work like a healthy body should. It won’t if the eyes suddenly want to be the liver or the cylinder head gasket would rather be the exhaust. As Christians, we need to do what we’ve been gifted to do and do it to the absolute best of our ability. Because, as Colossians 3:23-24 tell us, we are working for our heavenly boss, Jesus Christ. So get busy, he’s coming back soon…