1 “Spiritual Gifts” Rev. Matthew Baugh First Congregational Church of Lockport, UCC August 16, 2009 Have you ever noticed that some people are never happy? Mildred took her grandson, Billy to the beach one day. They were walking along when a huge wave came out of nowhere and washed Billy out to sea. Mildred raised her eyes to heaven and said, “God, please help me. I’ll never ask you for anything again if you just return my grandson to me, safe and sound.” Another wave rolled in and deposited Billy at her feet, wet but unharmed. Mildred hugged him, looked him over and they raised her eyes to heaven. “He was wearing a hat,” she said. We know that God gives us many gifts in our lives, but sometimes we aren’t satisfied with the gifts that we have. We look at other people, other families, other churches, and see something in them that we covet for ourselves. We think: If only I was as smart, as athletic, as wealthy, as that other person, I could really be successful. If only I had… something that I don’t have right now, I could really do great things in the world. We often see our lives in terms of what we don’t have, rather than what we do. That’s different than the approach scripture teaches. It focuses on the abundance that God offers rather than on our own limitations. It focuses on the boy washed back out of the sea, and not on the missing hat. It focuses on all the blessings we have, and especially on the spiritual gifts that the New Testament often discusses. 2 It’s funny, all Christians read the same passages about this, but we have very different ideas about what spiritual gifts are. Some denominations say that it is only the nine things that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12. Others suggest that anything can be considered a spiritual gift, providing the person is able to do it “supernaturally well.” But when Paul talks about gifts in his letters, he seems to be talking about something that is much broader. He says. Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. (1 Cor 1:7-9) We’ve got it all? That’s a wonderful promise, but it’s hard to believe. We’re so used to seeing the world in terms of what we can’t do that it’s a big adjustment to imagine that God has already given us all the things we need to succeed. It has a lot to do with trusting God. The Christian writer, Tony Campolo tells of being invited to speak at a large women’s gathering. Before he spoke the president of the organization read a letter from a missionary expressing a need for $4,000 for an emergency. She asked Campolo to lead them in a prayer that God would provide the resources for the need. 3 “No,” he said. “I believe that God has already provided the resources and that all we need to do is give. I’m going to step up to this table and give every bit of cash I have in my pocket. And if all of you will do the same thing, you’ll see that I’m right.” The president of the organization said, “Well, I guess we get the point. He is trying to teach us that we all need to give sacrificially.” “No,” he said, “I’m trying to teach you that God has already provided for this need. (He later wrote that he wasn’t too worried because he knew he only had about $15 in his pocket). When the offering had been taken, they discovered that it was more than enough to meet the crisis. He told them that he was right, God had already provided; it was just up to them to trust God and to give. That’s a financial illustration, but the principal goes far beyond money. God has already provided all the gifts that we need to do the work of the church. Each of us has special gifts—that’s not just a few of us, but all every single one. Some people’s gifts may be very obvious, and others are quiet and inconspicuous, but all are valuable. All are necessary. Some of the gifts mentioned in the Bible are these: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful: wise counsel clear understanding simple trust 4 healing the sick miraculous acts proclamation distinguishing between spirits tongues interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor 12:8-10) Do you see yourself in any of those? If you do, that’s wonderful. If not, don’t worry. As I said earlier, anything that you are good at that can be used in God’s service is a gift and every one of us has gifts. Sometimes we just don’t realize it. That’s something we’ll be focusing on for a few weeks and, in early September, we will have a couple of classes to help you discover what your gifts are. It’s a fascinating learning process and is important in helping reach out and fulfill the vision of the church. Which brings up two other things I wanted to say about spiritual gifts. The first is that Paul doesn’t really say that God gives us the gifts that allow us to do anything we want. God gives us the gifts to do the things that we are called to do. First we have to have a clear picture of the good that God has specifically chosen us to do, then how our individual gifts can plug in to make that possible. The second is that none of us has the gifts that we need alone to do all the things God has called us to do. Fortunately, we don’t need to because one of the best gifts God gives is the gift of each other. 5 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. There's no end to what has happened in you—it's beyond speech, beyond knowledge. The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives. (1 Cor 1:4-6) Have you ever noticed that some people are never happy? But that’s not the way it can be with us, because we trust that God has given us everything we need. God has given us the vision, God has given us the gifts we need to make that vision a reality, and—most of all—God has given us each other to love and support each other in every good thing. With hearts full of thanksgiving, and trusting in God, let us do wonderful things.
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