I Cor. 12:12-16, 21-22; I Pt. 4:9-11
Lane Sanders, senior pastor
Macedonia Baptist Church, Jackson
I have a confession to make: I’m a mean parent.
I make my kids do work around the house. Yes, I’m one of those parents. In fact, I started handing out chores to each of my children while they were still very young. No, I didn’t have my two-year-old princess pushing the lawn mower up a steep hill in the front yard! But she could clean up her toys on a Saturday afternoon. Or empty the dishwasher. Or a number of other household duties.
You would probably be shocked to know that my kids did not appreciate their assignments. They would often complain, threaten to call the local authorities, feign some sudden illness, or procrastinate in hopes that I would forget I ever told them anything at all. So why the cruelty?
Several reasons: to teach them a work ethic. To get them to do things I didn’t want to do (are parents allowed to admit this one?). To invest in the future. But one of the main reasons is one I read about long ago: when our kids are given work to do around the house, even though they complain, it makes them feel they are valued, contributing members of the family. It promotes their own self-worth, whether or not they are aware of it or even enjoying it.
God, too, has blessed us with a calling – sort of a chore list for the Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 12 encourages us with the assurance that God has implanted gifts within us. The same chapter charges us with the responsibility to use those gifts for service in and through a local body of believers. The calling is a blessing, because it reminds us that we are valued, contributing members of God’s household (I Tim. 3:15) and that “we are God’s fellow workers” (I Cor. 3:9).
Every believer is valuable
I Corinthians 12:12-22
Believers neglect the use of their spiritual gifts for a number of reasons: lack of commitment, apathy, false humility, lack of understanding, or a genuine doubt of their worth to the work of ministry. Whatever the reasons, these member spectators fail to realize their unwillingness to serve affects more than just themselves. The whole church suffers.
The offensive line of the football team doesn’t get a lot of name recognition. But if just one of them decides he’s going to take a play off, the quarterback suffers. Hence, the offense suffers. Hence, the team suffers.
Whether you teach Sunday School, keep the nursery, visit nursing homes, work on the building and grounds team, or play in the praise band, you have immense worth to the Kingdom and to the local church. Do not squander your opportunity to affect eternity.
Service reflecting Christ’s heart
I Peter 4:10-11
Peter agreed spiritual gifts were not shiny mantle pieces to be admired. God gave gifts to be used in service. When exercised correctly, spiritual gifts accomplish two purposes.
First, people are served (v.10). Implied in the phrase “as good stewards” is if people are not served when gifts are used, God views it as poor stewardship of what He entrusted to us. That’s why every ministry, activity, and even committee in our churches should evaluate what real impact they are having on the lives of people. I’m afraid if we gave an honest evaluation, drastic and painful changes would have to be made in our churches in order to be found faithful.
That reminds me of when Jesus said He came to serve (Matt. 20:28).
The second purpose of exercising our spiritual gifts is to glorify God (v.11). If a believer can maintain proper humility, he knows that when something good comes from the use of his spiritual gift, the result cannot be attributed to him. The giftedness comes from God. Therefore, the credit must go to God. And the humble believer delights in saying so.
That reminds me of when Jesus expressed an intense desire to glorify God (John 12:27-28, 13:31).
In fact, Peter’s admonition here reflects Jesus’ answer to a question about the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:37-40), doesn’t it?
Gifts result in growth
I call this passage the utopia of church life. Paul describes here what every pastor longs for, what every spirit-filled believer strives for, and what every church was built for.
Would you like to be a part of a church that 1) is built up, 2) is unified, 3) has a deep knowledge of Christ, 4) possesses spiritual maturity like Christ, 5) is doctrinally sound, the people know what they believe and can defend it, 6) is loving, and 7) is growing? Wow. That would be impressive.
But is it even possible? I say it is, because Paul says it is. How? “According to the proper working of each individual part” (v.16). Your church can become all those things when each person in your church commits to exercising his/her spiritual gifts as God designed.
Of course, you cannot control others in your church to ensure that they are doing their part. But you can control one person: you. Commit to God today to use your spiritual gift in and through the local church to serve others and to bring glory to His name.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand” (Eph. 2:10). If God prepared the work beforehand, He’s also prepared you beforehand. So, in the words of Nike, just do it.