Monday, May 18, 2009

Using the Unused

By: Rev. Geoffrey Ellis

"Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant....There are different kinds of gifts, but the same spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of workings, but the same God working all of them in all men. Now to each one of the manisfestation of the Spirit is given for the common good" (1 Corinthian 12:1-7 NIV).

A friend of mine told me about his wife who visited a physiotherapist to seek relief for her neck and shoulder pain. When the problem didn’t go away after several visits, she asked why. She was told that her pain was because of some “lazy neck muscles.” Apparently, the neck muscles that were supposed to hold her head upright were not doing their job. As a result, her shoulders muscles had to take over the function of holding up her head. This caused unnaturally stiffened shoulder muscles, the solution? Exercises were prescribed to train her neck muscles to do what they were designed to do.

In a way, the woman’s problem depicts what happens in the body of Christ…the church. God has given each believer spiritual gifts that are to be used for the common good of the church (our focus verse 12:7). But when some of the possessors of those spiritual gifts don’t pull their weight, and use those spiritual gifts others far less gifted in those areas have to pitch in and do the work. This can cause undue stress on them and the result is a less effective body of Christ…the church.

So then the question becomes: “How do you get the possessors of Spiritual Gifts that are not using their gifts to use their gifts to strengthen the church…like the therapist was trying to help the woman do with her neck problem?

In our text Paul gives several points to clarify this problem in the body of Christ…the church. First, He points out that the origin of these gifts is the Holy Spirit…you can’t buy these gifts…you can’t learn these gifts…you can’t get these gifts by just attending church. These gifts are given by the Holy Spirit as He and God desires… at conversion not as we desire.

Secondly, Paul states that the gifts are given for the common good. When a person uses their gift to edify their self that’s not the work of the Holy Spirit…that’s the work of the Deceiver…the one who would divide rather than unite the church. When one uses their gift to edify the body of Christ…the church…God gets the glory…not the person with the gift. And the gift is used for the common good.

Paul’s third point is that although there are different gifts…different services…different workings…the same God works all of them in all men and women…Not some men, not some women…but all men, all women. Some men and women think they are gifted to the exclusion of other men and other women…wrong… God has given Spiritual Gifts to all men and to all women at conversion.

We have to learn to begin using the unused. So let me leave you with some definitions of spiritual gifts and spiritual responsibilities so you won’t get caught not using the unused.

I need you to know that spiritual gifts-(or grace gifts) are extraordinary abilities that the spirit gives to believers to build up the church…and here are the comparisons…

All believers are called to serve one another, exhort one another, give cheerfully, and be merciful. However, some Christians are given the supernatural ability to do those things.

All believers are called to live wisely, walk by faith, and teach the truth to others. However, some Christians are given the supernatural ability to do those things.

Spiritual gifts, strengthen the body of Christ, support the body of Christ, and supply the Body of Christ. Use the unused.


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Rev. Geoffrey Ellis is Senior Pastor, Greater St. James A.M.E. Church, Louisville, Kentucky.

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