Robert Jeffress - You and Your Spiritual Gift
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Let me ask you an important question. As a Christian who believes the Bible is truly the Word of God, have you determined which spiritual gift God has given to you? Embracing your spiritual gift is life-changing, and today I'm going to help you identify your God-given gift. My message is titled "You and Your Spiritual Gift" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In January of 1994, a small church near to the Toronto airport, and that church, 200 worshipers had gathered together for their weekly worship. This is the day, according to those church members present that evening, when the fire fell from heaven, when the Holy Spirit, according to their report, actually came. And when he came, again according to their reports, these worshipers started falling to the ground writhing in convulsions of laughter. People stood up and started making animal noises, pecking sounds like chickens in the barnyard or roaring like lions. There are even stories of angels appearing to work with dyslexic children.
In just a period of a few years, this church grew from 200 in attendance to 4,000 in attendance. Five nights a week, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people would gather together for four and five-hour worship services. Certain airlines began offering discounts for travelers who wanted to fly in for the Tuesday through Sunday meetings. The Toronto life magazine even build this church as the top tourist attraction for 1994. Can you imagine what would happen in our church if we had a similar "Visitation" from the Holy Spirit? What would happen if somebody stood up and started making pecking sounds like a chicken or making other animal sounds, or other people started rolling down this aisle where they'd have trouble with that TV camera? But if other aisles were filled with people rolling in convulsions of laughter, what would we do here if that happened?
I imagine for a while I would try to play like as the pastor, nothing was going on and I would continue my message until some diligent usher came down and escorted or pulled the person out of the service while all the time they would be protesting that we were quenching the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Well, how would we know we weren't quenching the Holy Spirit's work? How do you separate real manifestations of the Holy Spirit of God from counterfeit manifestations? You know, Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. The same thing that happened in Toronto in the 1990s and later in Brownsville, Texas and still happened in churches across America today were happening 2,000 years ago in the church at Corinth, and it was causing a great deal of confusion. How do you separate real spiritual gifts from counterfeit gifts? It was such an important topic that Paul devotes not one, but three sub-chapters to the subject of spiritual gifts.
So if you have your Bibles tonight, I want you to turn to 1 Corinthians 12 as we look at the subject of you and your spiritual gift. In our study of 1 Corinthians this year, we have come now to chapter 12 where Paul begins looking at this very controversial and, in many churches, divisive issue of spiritual gifts. And I approach this topic realizing that many of you in our church come from a variety of denominational backgrounds, many who listen to this broadcast, tens of thousands every week come from all kind of different Christian backgrounds, and there is a variety of opinions about this matter. And I want to say very clearly, as I often say, I don't give to hoot and a holler what Baptist believe about anything, okay? I couldn't care less about what Baptist believe.
What I want to know is what does the Bible say. And that's what we're committed to at First Baptist Church Dallas, teaching the Bible, looking at it objectively, seeing what does the Word of God have to say. And so, we're going to do that in this subject about spiritual gifts. This isn't Baptist doctrine we're looking at. It is what the Bible teaches. Now, look at verse 1 of chapter 12. Paul writes, "Now concerning..." I'm going to stop there. I promise we won't stop after every two words. But anytime Paul says, "Now concerning," peri de in Greek, it always introduces a new topic. "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I don't want you to be unaware". Agnoeio, we get get the word agnostic from it.
This subject of spiritual gifts is not some secondary or tertiary issue. This is an important topic. Paul says, "I don't want you to be unaware of it. No Christian should be ignorant or agnostic about the subject of spiritual gifts". I think next to salvation, the understanding of spiritual gifts is the most important thing you as a Christian can understand, that God is imparted to you a unique gift for his service. Now, sometimes you may ask, "Well, what is a spiritual gift"? I talk to people sometimes, I ask them, "What do you think your spiritual gift is"? Some say, "Oh, I've got the gift of singing," or other people say, "I've got the gift of working with my hands".
One lady told me one time, "I've got the gift of making chocolate pies," and I wanted to take advantage of her gift. You know, those are all natural abilities, but they're not a spiritual gift. Let me give you this definition of a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift is the desire and power God gives you to accomplish his purpose. It is the desire and the power God gives you to accomplish his purpose. First of all, it is a desire. When God gives you a gift, he gives you a specific desire, a way to be involved in his kingdom purpose. Some people, for example, want to express God's mercy to others by helping people who are in distress. That's the gift of mercy. Other people like to meet the practical needs of other people. That is by serving. Some people like to give generously, make money and give it generously to God's kingdom's work. They have the gift of giving. It is a desire, a way to be connected to God's kingdom purpose.
Now, a lot of people get their gift mixed up with their ministry, and that's why they have a hard time determining what their real gift is. You know, people, for example, who have the natural ability of singing, like our choir members, or playing an instrument, now that is a ministry they're involved in, but that's not their spiritual gift. Their gift is the desire they have, why it is they want to sing. You know, some people sing because they want their message that they're singing to convict people of sin and turn them back into a right relationship with God. They hope the goal of their singing will convict people of sin and turn them back into a right relationship with God.
That's the spiritual gift of prophecy, convicting people of sin. Other people up here in the choir, they sing because they really know that there's somebody listening to that message who is hurting right now and that they need a comfort. They've got the gift of mercy, but they are exercising their gift through the ministry of music, of worship, and so forth. A spiritual gift is a desire, but it is also a unique power, an enabling power that God gives us. When you're operating in your spiritual gift, it's not only something you enjoy doing, but it's something that God seems to bless uniquely in your life. Jot down Philippians 2:13. Paul says, "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work his good pleasure".
Do you see those two things there? God gives you a will, a desire to do his pleasure, but he also gives you the power, the work, the ability to do his pleasure. It is a desire and an ability. By the way, let's take a poll tonight. How many of you have a pretty good idea of what your spiritual gift is? Okay. How many of you think it could be maybe any one or two or three different gifts? Okay. You're not sure it's one, but you'd say it's maybe two or three gifts. Well, I have carved out three weeks in July, three Sunday nights, the last three Sunday nights in July, and we're going to talk about how to discover what your unique gift is and how to use it in the body of Christ. Tonight is just an overview of 1 Corinthians 12, but I believe it is key that all of us as believers understand what that spiritual gift is.
Now, look in verses 2 and 3, Paul talks about the abuse of spiritual gifts. Paul writes, "You know that when you were pagans, you were let astray to mute, dumb," the word there means silent, "Idols, however you were led. Therefore, I make known to you that no one is speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus is accursed,' and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit". Remember Paul is distinguishing between real spiritual gifts and counterfeit gifts. Whenever God gives a legitimate gift, Satan will always try to counterfeit it. Satan loves to counterfeit what God has given. God has given us human sexuality. That is a gift from him. Satan perverts it. He counterfeits it into something that is not nearly as satisfying.
The same thing is true of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts, so to speak, were not just practiced in Christian churches. In pagan temples like in the temple of Corinth, people also practiced certain supernatural gifts. The most common practice was the promise or the practice of what was called enthusiasm or ecstasy, in which the worshipers of idols would work themself up into a frenzy. They would start clanging, sounding a gong, clanging symbols. They would start speaking this ecstatic gibberish that was really a call to engage in sexual immorality.
Now, does any of that sound familiar to you? See, it is a counterfeit of the true spiritual gift when we get to chapter 14. Do I i believe in the gift of tongues? Absolutely. I think there is a gift of tongues, but it's not what it has been perverted into today. There is a real gift of tongues and there is a perversion of the gift of tongues, and that's what was going on in Corinth. And so Paul said, look at verse 2, "When you were pagans, you were let astray to these silent idols, however you were led". But now, you've come into the church. Why would you drag these pagan practices into the church? During this practice of ecstasy, when people were speaking this gibberish, during that practice of ecstasy, some of them would actually blaspheme and curse the name of Jesus Christ.
And so Paul says, "Look, one way to know whether a gift is truly from God or not is this, any gift that causes you to curse the name of Jesus or in any way diminish the Lordship of Christ, that is not a true spiritual gift". Now, I know that's unimaginable to us today for people to blaspheme and curse the name of Jesus Christ while practicing a spiritual gift, but here's the principle I want you to come away with, the test of whether anything is really from God or not is not how we feel about it, it's what the Word of God says. The Word of God is the test of whether an experience is legitimate or illegitimate.
Now, let's look, beginning in verse 4, at the categories of spiritual gifts. One of the things that's always puzzled me about spiritual gifts is this, why are there three different lists of gifts? There's one in Romans 12, one in 1 Corinthians 12, one in Ephesians 4, and none of the gift list match up. Paul mentioned some in Romans 12 that aren't mentioned in Ephesians 4. He mentioned some in 1 Corinthians 12 that aren't mentioned in Romans 12. Why are the list not consistent? There are actually three different categories of spiritual gifts, and interestingly, you see them listed here in verses 4 through 6 of 1 Corinthians 12. Look at it with me. First of all, there are gifts. Verse 4, "Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same spirit".
The word here for gifts, charismata represents the gift you receive when you're baptized with the Holy Spirit of God, and there are seven of those gifts mentioned in the Bible. Romans 12:6 to 8. Hold your place here and turn over to Romans 12:6 to 8. Paul says, "Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly". Now, Paul says you have one of these seven gifts. You don't have three or four of them. You have one. "If prophecy, according to the proportion of faith". The first gift is prophecy, convicting people of sin and their need for a right relationship with God. Or you may have the gift of service. That's the second one, meeting the practical needs of other people. Or teaching the ability to present and verify truth. Exhortation. Exhortation, that word means to come alongside, to give counsel to. To give, that's another spiritual gift.
Now, we're all to give, but some people, have you noticed, have the unique ability to turn a dollar into a million dollars or a hundred thousand dollars and they can make money, and they do so so that they might give it to God's work. And I can think of a host of people in our church that have that gift of giving. Another gift is that of leadership, organizing to achieve God's purpose, or the gift of mercy, empathizing with the hearts of other people.
Now, the Bible says if you're a Christian, you have one of those gifts. In the last three weeks in July, we're going to help you determine how you know which one you have. You say, "Well, how do you know it's only one"? 1 Peter 4:10 says, "As each one has received the gift," the charismata, it's singular, "As each one has received the gift, let him use it, employ it in serving one another according to the manifold grace of God".
There are gifts, and you have one of them. But the second category, verse 5, is ministries. There are a variety of ministries in the same Lord. A ministry is a door of opportunity that God opens for you to exercise your spiritual gift in. And while your gift never changes throughout your lifetime, your ministry can change a lot during your life. In fact, you could operate, have several different ministries at the same time. Ephesians 4 lists those ministries. "He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastor and teachers".
Let me illustrate that for you. In August, I acquire an orchestra. Many of them, 175 of them are going to Argentina. I'm going to go with them for a few days. We're going on a mission trip. Whenever you take the gospel to a place that has not heard the gospel before, that's the ministry of an apostle. Whenever you're speaking to God's own people, that is the role of a prophet. Whenever you're speaking to non-Christians, that's the role of an evangelist. The point is ministries change throughout your lifetime. You may have a variety of ministries through which to exercise your one gift.
And then thirdly, there are effects. Look at verse 6, "There are a variety of of effects, but the same God who works all things for all persons". What do we mean by effects? This is what God does in the life of other people when you exercise your spiritual gift. Whenever you're operating your gift, using it in the ministry that God has opened up to you, the Holy Spirit will produce all kind of effects in other people's lives. And listen to me if you don't hear another thing tonight, hear this, that's the whole purpose of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts were never given for self-gratification. They are given for the edification, the building up of other people.
And when somebody talks about how they're practicing their gifts and boy, it just gives them all kind of warm fuzzies and, you know, chill bumps and everything, you can know that's a counterfeit gift. Spiritual gifts are not about you, it's about other people. And when you are really using your gift in the ministry God has given you, God will do miraculous things in the life of other people. Look at verse 7, "But to each one is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good".
The reason God gives you his spirit and his spirit's gift is not for your good, it's for everyone's good. It's for the building up of other people. Now, you all have been so kind and patient and attentive, let me wrap up tonight with three simple truths I want you to write down about spiritual gifts. Some of you're thinking, "You know, I'm trying to make it through a difficult marriage. I'm trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage next month. Why should I get excited about spiritual gifts"?
Let me give you three practical benefits of understanding and using your spiritual gift. Number one, discovering our spiritual gift helps us discover our unique purpose in life. Discovering our spiritual gift helps us discover our unique purpose in life. I talked about that a lot this morning. The fact is God has not only saved you if you're a Christian, he has connected you to his eternal purpose. And when you understand what your spiritual gift is, you'll experience real joy. It is no accident that the word charismata for gift comes from that Greek word, root word, chara which means joy. Real-lasting joy in your life can never be experienced until you discover that gift and know you're a part of God's eternal plan. It gives you a sense of purpose in your life.
Secondly, understanding spiritual gifts helps us to appreciate other people. Understanding spiritual gifts helps us to appreciate other people. Now, this is going to come as a shock to you, but I bet you'll accept it. Because we have different spiritual gifts, different desires, different abilities, it means not everybody's going to want to go on the mission trip to Argentina, okay, and not everybody is going to get excited about going door to door, knocking on doors with evangelism, and not everybody is going to get excited about getting up on Saturday morning and going to build a house for habitat for humanity.
Now, you may think, "Well, they ought to do that. Everybody ought to do that. Everybody ought to be just like I am". No, that's not true because everybody is not like me. God has given us different gifts, and just because you don't enjoy doing everything in the church, just because you don't enjoy being involved in every ministry, doesn't mean there's something deficient in your spiritual life. The fact is different gifts give us different interest and abilities, and that means we ought to appreciate one another rather than insisting that everyone be like us.
Number three, using our spiritual gift energizes the church. Using our spiritual gift energizes the church. This body of believers will be handicapped. It will be crippled unless you, as a member of this body, discover and start using the unique gift. You see, you're connected to this body of believers, and the fact is you, the church needs you. This church will never be what it needs to be until you start using that gift. But here's the flip side, not only does the church need you to exercise your gift, but you need the church as well. You need the benefit that comes from other believers in this body using their gift to minister it to you.
Now, this is going to shock some of you and some of you are going to get upset and some of you are going to say, "No, preacher, you're just dead wrong about that," but I'm going to say it anyway 'cause it's God's truth, a relationship with Jesus Christ is not enough to sustain your spiritual life. A relationship only with Jesus Christ is not enough to sustain your spiritual life. It is not enough just for you and Jesus to have a great old time together, okay? You and Jesus, you can't hack it just with Jesus. You need other Christians too. And Jesus is the one who designed it that way.
See, Jesus said, "I'm the head of the body. You need to be connected to me. But when you become a Christian, I'm not only connecting you with me, the head, I'm connecting you to other Christians in the body of Christ because you need them as well". Think what would happen if I severed this hand, just cut off this hand, flop down there. What would happen to this hand? This hand, in a very short amount of time, would wither. It would die. Why? Not because it just wasn't connected to the head, but it wasn't receiving the blood, the oxygen it needed from the heart and lungs in my body.
It is the same way in the body of Christ. Yes, you need to be connected with Jesus Christ, but Jesus says you need to be connected to other members of the body who can help give you the spiritual life you need when they are exercising, using the gift that they were designed to exercise. Discovering and using your spiritual gift, I believe, is the key to sustain both your and other's spiritual vitality.