When I take photos of people I like to get in close, to focus on the face, and cut out much of the surroundings. I’ve gotten some great portraits that way. However, focusing tightly on one subject loses the greater context. We can’t know where they were or what they were doing or if there was anyone else around.
The church treats spiritual gifts that way sometimes. For instance, we might focus on a single gift, its importance, or its function. Or, we might focus on an individual’s set of gifts, what she’s equipped to do or not do, or where she might fit in the church.
While this kind of focus can be helpful, we need to also view spiritual gifts with the wide-angle lens to keep them in the proper context. If we don’t, one or more of these problems, abuses, and limitations will likely pop up:
- We might use our “gifts” or “lack of a gift” as justification to disobey God’s call to service or to a specific task.
- We might limit what God wants to do through our life.
- We might miss out on participating in an amazing work of God.
- We might fall into pride over the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives.
- We might unconsciously shift the glory God deserves to ourselves.
No one who loves Jesus wants to be out-of-focus when it comes to spiritual gifts. So, before the Do Not Depart team focuses in on specific gifts throughout the month, let’s take a step back, snap on the wide-angle lens, and view them in the larger context.
4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. 6 God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NLT
What is the Source of Spiritual Gifts?
The Holy Spirit is the sole source of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4). Without the Holy Spirit, there are no spiritual gifts, only the physical talents and natural abilities God gifts to every human.
But, if you are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then His Spirit resides within you (Romans 8:9-10). We don’t get a piece of Him. We get the whole kit and caboodle. The entire person of the Holy Spirit lives within believers, working through us to accomplish God’s purposes.
What are Spiritual Gifts?
According to the Bible, spiritual gifts are the way the Holy Spirit chooses to work through an individual to accomplish God’s purposes (1 Cor 12:6). The gifts are the way He reveals His presence in an individual life and uses them to serve the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:5,7).
Therefore, the gifts are the outflow of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. If our relationship is weak, the gifts will be weak. Whatever we’re “doing for God” will simply be in our own strength and power.
In the powerful little book, What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts?, author Henry and Mel Blackaby elaborate on this truth:
“If we seek the gifts of the Spirit and not the Holy Spirit Himself, we’ll always focus on self. We must learn to understand that there are no gifts apart from an intimate relationship with the Spirit… If you do not walk in the Spirit, you do not have a spiritual gift. Apart from the Spirit, whatever “gifts” we display can only be our natural talents, drawing attention to self.”
What is the Purpose of Spiritual Gifts?
God gives individual believers gifts to be used for the good of the church. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). Not so we can look good or do something great for God or feel useful.
Patti said it so well in her introductory post:
“God does not give us gifts to puff us up, or to make us feel inferior. His purpose in giving spiritual gifts is for us to use them for His glory, and for the good of others. In selfless service using our God-given gifts, we love actively and show Jesus Christ in the world.”
As we each use the gifts God has given us, the members of the body will get what they need and we’ll grow into spiritual maturity together. As each one does her part, the body will be built up in love and increasingly reveal Jesus to the world. (See Ephesians 4:12-16.)
Who Has the Power?
Too often we limit what God may want to do through us because we’re focusing on the gifts instead of the Giver. Have you ever said “no” to God because He asked you to do something that fell outside the realm of your “gifting.”
Believer, the Source of the gifts resides within us! The power He exerts through us to accomplish God’s purposes is the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (See Ephesians 1:19-20.) Nothing God asks of us can ever fall outside the realm of His resurrection power!
Oh sweet believer, let’s focus on the Giver and not the gifts. When we do, we will be operating in His power, for His purposes. And He will get all the glory!
How could our understanding and use of spiritual gifts change when we use the wide-angle lens?