Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 50

What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 12-13.

What Stood Out About What I Read Today: 1 Corinthians 12: 4-7, “Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.”

And, 1 Corinthians 13: 1-6, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit. Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

The guy that was discipling me asked me what my spiritual gift was. I hemmed and hawed about what it might be, but the bottom line was that I really didn’t know. He, rightfully, felt like it’d be good for me to get a better handle on it…and he knew of a tool they used at his office to determine their staff’s gifts. He said he’d get me one and to set aside an hour on Saturday to take it.

So, I did.

I broke the seal on the booklet and filled in the bubbles on the questions it asked me. Sure, there are inherent flaws on any self-reporting test like these and this particular test allowed someone else who knew you well to take it making judgments about YOU. Apparently, the deal was that you’d compare notes with how you viewed yourself against how others saw you.

Afterward, you took your bubbles sheet and put this transparent key-sheet over it and it told you how many points to put in each column based on responses and all that. At the end you took your highest point total from each column which corresponded with another sheet that had the gifts and their definitions and their strengths and weaknesses.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my spiritual gift was…

…wait for it…

…Martyrdom.

Oh, yeah. My secondary gift: Celibacy.

So the odds seemed good that I’d die for my faith before I ever had sex. The odds seemed VERY good given that Charles’ evaluation of me revealed the same thing.

Evidently, we were both wrong given that I’m still alive a quarter-century later and married (of course, those same things were a reality only 4 years later, too).

But even though I still laugh about the results–especially since I’m not sure that my results are even spiritual gifts–I appreciated the reality that we’re supposed to have a gift.

(As an aside, I personally believe that we have one spiritual gift. I know other pastors who think we have something akin to a “gift mix” in which we have two or three that we’re using, but that’s here nor there, really)

But Scripture is clear: We have at least one gift. That gift is given by the Holy Spirit.

We all have different ministries in which we use that gift, which God places us in. So, for example, I know some touring musicians that have the gift of teaching, several pastors with that gift, and some school teachers with that gift, and yes, some housewives and business folks with that gift. You can imagine the differences in how the gift is employed, but the gift is the same.

And there are different results. So, my musician friends entertain their fans who all laugh and have a good time during the interaction, but you’d be amazed at how all the banter with the crowd results in people learning about the spiritual life. I know a pulpit pastor, a small group pastor and a youth pastor will all have their gift look different and help their various charges grow in their faith. The school teachers teach the spiritual life in an entirely different way, but nonetheless communicate in such a way that their students glean things. Same for moms with their kids or businessmen during the presentation.

But another thing is clear, too: The manifestation of each gift is for everyone’s benefit.

See, we all have a role to play in God’s economy. And you can usually see them on display on any Sunday morning at any church. Folks with the gift of hospitality can’t help but walk around and greet folks and do whatever they can to make people feel comfortable. Teachers and teaching in various classrooms. The encouragers are usually involved in personal conversations, checking up on people, weeping with the weepers and celebrating with the celebrators. Those with service are setting up chairs and making coffee (usually done before everyone else is there) and so it goes.

What’s scary is when you decide your gift isn’t as valuable as someone else’s. When the coffee maker gets irritable because the chair set up got a pat on the back from the pastor and he didn’t get so much as a “good morning.” Because, yes, some gifts get noticed a lot more than others…particularly those that put you in front of groups.

Which is why Paul puts the importance of love in the mix…no matter what your gift truly is.

And notice that there are positives and negatives in the “love” passage, too. Things love “is” and things love “is not.” Also notice that the adjectives are primarily CHOICES, not feelings.

For example, one time a mom was in my office talking to me about their child and I mentioned that the teen told me the mom had a “short fuse” and was “angry” all the time and “yelled” at her. The mom told me that I had no idea what that kid put her through and that those actions were all necessary to “get her point across.”

I looked her dead in the eye and asked her if she loved her child. She looked offended and insinuated that it was a stupid question because she never loved another person so much.

I told her I disagreed…that she didn’t love her child. Want to send a mom over the edge? Use that counseling technique. She went over the edge, and I proved my point.

You’re not patient with her.
You’re not kind with her.
You envy her station of life.
You’re rude.
You’re self-serving.

You get the point, right? Love is a choice. Not a feeling. Install that on all your hard-drives, pronto. Yes. Yes. The feelings will follow the choices. But the sooner you agree to idea that love is a choice the better off we’ll all be.

So, no matter what your gift, your to exercise it by choosing to be loving…and that looks 100 different ways.

And there’s no test with bubbles that can tell you what your gift is definitively. I’m of the belief that your ministry is a series of observations based on what you think your gift is, your natural abilities, things you’re passionate about, things that you love to do, and the experiences you’ve had that would make you empathize with certain situations.

But there is a test of love…just ask yourself if you’re choosing to be all those things.

And one without the other is just noise.

(Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Corinthians 14)

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