Christian Spiritual Gifts
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

16. Christian Spiritual Gifts

Serve Christ Better

Pathway SignThe service of Christ can be the pathway to fulfillment in life. The great medical missionary, theologian, and musician Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) writes, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know, the only ones among you who will be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." Some people try good works as a substitute for loyalty to Christ. To serve Christ properly belongs within the Body of Christ, but not as a way of entering it. Actions alone lead us away from God, whereas service leads us towards God. "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church" defines "A spiritual gift" as "an endowment given by the Holy Spirit." One usually thinks of an "endowment" as money given to a person or organization for a particular beneficial reason. It is also so with spiritual gifts. Throughout history, there are supernatural graces which individual Christians need, and in the Apostles' days to fulfill the church's mission. Christians are called upon to search out and exercise their "spiritual gifts." They also use their ministries to bless others and glorify God. The phrase "spiritual gift" comes from the Greek word "charismata" and the singular "charism." "Use what talents you possess," urges Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933), the American author and educator, "the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Others, therefore, benefit when we use our spiritual gifts and talents. All gifts are bounteously, generously, and freely given by a kindly God, but they are like folded flags in our Christian lives until we unfurl them for his use. Christian fulfillment and true happiness result from exploring and exercising our spiritual gifts.

Christian Body Gifts

DandelionChristian spiritual gifts and talents are given by God to members of the Body of Christ so that they may serve Christ and others better. In the Body of Christ, God grants each one of us at least one of the twenty-five or so Christian gifts described and listed in different parts of the New Testament. There are seven gifts listed in Romans 12.6-8, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy following your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then encourage; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." There are also nine spiritual gifts listed by Saint Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.8-10. "To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge using the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another a gift of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous power, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." "Different kinds of tongues" man be translated equally as "different kinds of languages." There are also two gifts mentioned in 1 Peter 4.11, "If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things, God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen." There are in all eighteen New Testament spiritual gifts listed in three Biblical passages. I believe that every committed Christian receives at least one gift, though not necessarily the same as other Christians. Some may and certainly do have several or many gifts, but not all. There are probably other gifts which God gives as they are needed. I think of Peter walking on water to meet Jesus. Was this a gift that Jesus gave him? Some people do not feel that they have any of the spiritual gifts listed, and others think they have many. For those who believe they have none, consider a plant found everywhere. One can eat its leaves in salads, or cooked, and consumed like spinach. Properly dried, it brews to a tea-like drink while its roasted and ground root percolates into something like coffee. Its flowers produce a tasty wine. It is as common as the humble DANDELION!

Which Gift?

Two GiftsIt is gratifying to know which Christian gift or gifts we do or do not have. Billy Graham (1918-2019), the late American evangelist, once joked, "Most of my friends tease me because I cannot carry a tune!" A famous video clip from one of his crusades shows him trying to sing the children's chorus, "This little light of mine." Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea are carrying the tune, but not Billy! Dr. Graham had many gifts such as preaching and evangelism, but singing was not among them. All Christians have at least one gift, but not them all! You used your Christian gifts well. Well done, thou good and faithful servant of the Lord! Rest in peace, Billy.

Serene Silent Beauty

The use of one's spiritual gifts leads to a holy Christian life. We should model them on Jesus Christ in every respect. Christians are to show the serene, silent beauty of a sacred calling. When we use our gifts in God's service, the personal Body of Christ in us gradually becomes a devout Christian life. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher who contributed significantly to the study of fluids, pressure, and vacuums in science. He also writes profoundly on the holy Christian life. He writes, "The serene, silent beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world." Another earlier philosopher Saint Paul challenged his Roman friends in Romans 12.1, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, because of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship."

Most Powerful Influence

Open HandWhen Christians act in the world, we subject God to that activity, whether holy or profane. Saint Paul applies this analogy to the Corinthians Church in 1 Corinthians 6.15-17, "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?" and "he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit." The holy Christian life is wholeness in the Master's hand. It is the lifetime process of being made perfect, but one which we will only finally reach in heaven. A bent and battered chalice may not stand upright, but a silversmith can straighten the twisted stem. He can knock out the dents and re-silver the vessel as if it were new. God works in this way in our lives. He delivers us back just as if we had never fallen short of his perfect standard! God hammers out all our dents and imperfections as he makes us holy. Serving Jesus Christ means that we cannot serve both God and riches. It is either Jesus or wealth and influence. Those serving Jesus Christ must prepare not only to be a new creation but also to serve even in the use of one's wealth. Jesus states in John 12.26, "Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me."

Saint Cyprian

Saint CyprianSaint Cyprian (200-258 AD), was the martyred third-century Bishop of Carthage in North Africa and a great Christian apologist. He was born into a wealthy non-Christian family and became a lawyer and a public speaker. Later, he took the additional Christian name of Caecilius after a priest to whom he owed his conversion. He writes, "a second birth restored me to a new man." After his baptism at age thirty-five, he gives a significant part of his wealth to Carthage's poor in. He witnesses that, "before I knew Christ, I did not know the possibilities of what I could become." Serving Jesus Christ and membership in the Body of Christ brings with it certain obligations as well as blessings. Jesus asserts in Matthew 16.24, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Serving Christ has its cost. Jesus teaches about the dangers of riches in his service. In Luke 16.13, Jesus says, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." In serving Jesus Christ, it is a clear case of either-or. Dick Francis called it "the highwayman's choice - your money or your eternal life!" He challenges us in asking us what Jesus means by "You cannot serve both God and money."

"Christian Spiritual Gifts"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

^Top Page Next Previous