MAKING USE OF THE GIFTS
“Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant (…) There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit (…) earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way”, 1Cor.12:1, 4, and 31.
Any faithful and honest heart or mind seeks to distinguish between fruit and gifts. Gifts should be the servants of the fruit of the Spirit of God. Others mixed it all up and take it for granted that whoever performs something in the name of God is holy. Secondly, we must know that there is “a more excellent way” with or without the gifts. It is far better when that “more excellent way” is found together with the gifts of God. However, those gifts are a huge temptation to overlook what is more excellent and pleasing to God.
The works of God are performed by God. In many instances, He uses vessels to perform whatever may lead someone to the Kingdom which is under the rule of God and His laws. But, even when people are instrumental in the works that God performs, the fact remains that it is God who performs. The power of God doesn’t work on its own; it is not autonomous from God since His power is Him at work. God performs. It is not a man that has the powers, but a man that has God or God that has a man under His holy yoke. It is not a man that uses God, but God that uses a man. It should remain clear in the eyes of all those who see it being performed that it is so and that awareness should prevail without the slightest sign of hypocrisy or feigning. Facts are facts and they must be seen as such.
The reason why many people seek gifts above the fruit of the Spirit is that there is a general idea that gifts bring benefits to self and to people. And because God is good, they believe He must do what they wish and do good to them according to their pattern of goodness. Little do they realize that God remains good by sending someone to hell and does so because He is good. By receiving some gifts or what people believe are gifts from God, man might feel satisfied enough not to speed after the more excellent way. Receiving gifts should encourage to find what is more excellent and not allow anyone to feel satisfied with anything less than that. Besides, doing good to people can become a selfish craving as well – it can be emotionally and emotively selfish. We shouldn’t do things to satisfy a feeling as many religions do, but God. It is a virtue to be able to deny oneself even in that sense. Many do good works to satisfy an emotional craving and don’t have God and His kingdom in mind. Unless it serves to further the Kingdom of God and His rule, it is selfish one way or another. We are not born to sacrifice, but to do God’s will and whatever it implies. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why things are not the same anymore among the people of God. The motivations and the motives have changed. People do not seek the Kingdom of God - they seek the satisfaction of so-called good feelings. To sin is not only to satisfy bad cravings, but any sort of cravings. And we are commanded to seek the Kingdom first and above all else. We must seek God to come and rule. The Kingdom reigns the heart, it reigns from within and must rule over the feelings.
There are two kingdoms present in this world: the rule of sin and the rule of God. The Kingdom of God has come to be here. Both are at work from within and rule what man is if they reign. And any sin is selfishness. It means that where sin rules, selfishness rules. It breaks the law of love. If the law of the love of God (that sort of love) is not broken, then it is not sin. If selfishness rules or performs, it is sin. The opposite of sin is not hatred, but selfishness. Hatred is just one of the many ways of being selfish. If selfishness preaches, it is sin; and if love kills (as happened often in the Old Testament), it is holiness. According to Paul, it is possible to sacrifice oneself, even unto death, without love. If it is done without love, it is done for selfish reasons or improper motives. If it is not performed through the power of God, it is pushed through and performed by the might of the flesh and not thought the Spirit. There is no midway. It is either love or selfishness at work. And Paul warns those who must seek the best gifts that there is a more excellent way. It doesn’t mean that the more excellent way excludes the gifts at all or that it is found in the absence of the gifts. It only means that the more excellent way are not the gifts and that, perhaps, the gifts should be working together towards that more excellent way. That more excellent way should not only be sought, but should be found to the point of becoming our own nature. It should be found in such a way (and not only sought) that it could be eternally established through grace. Unless grace can handle and establish it, it is not the excellent way. The power of grace doesn’t mix with the power of the flesh. Grace keeps itself pure and autonomous from self all the time. There are conditions that must be met to have grace perform the more excellent way from within. Unless those conditions are fully met, grace shall not work it. Some other power will try to do it. The flesh must be dead – as dead and as unusable as a corpse is for this present world.
It is God who works to perform according to His will. He not only works out the performance, but prepares the vessels to perform according to His will as well; and prepares the vessels to be reconciled with His timing; and to be able to depend on His power to perform that way only. To work within the timing of God means to be punctual – not late nor before it is time. If it isn’t done by God, what value can we attribute to it? It must be God performing. And if it is the Lord performing, then the timing, the power and the vessel must become a synchronized all-in-one unity that works for God by God. “I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; (…) because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me”, John 5:30. If Jesus says He did as He had been sent to do and never according to own judgment, and if He sends us in the same manner, it is only right to believe that we cannot do unless we are taken and led to do so in a timing preferred and chosen by God and by using His power. What is the timing of God without His graceful power? And what is His power for if we believe we are the ones who must decide the timing for Him? It being a gift to perform, it is unthinkable to do something when we are the ones to decide, or act as if God must listen to us when we think or feel it is time for God to do something, our decisions being prompted by the flesh and not by the Spirit of God. It is a different thing altogether when it is God who causes us to sense or even feel it is the proper time for God to carry out whatever He decides as He decides. And all people who crave to anticipate things are the very ones who shall delay them when God’s timing arrives. We must be alert and wide awake for the moving of God, unless the devil jumps in the pool before us. It is God who must lead and not He that must be led or made to do something. I know this crushes the spirit of many so-called devoted Christians, especially those who demand from God that He performs as they decide because they can’t find whatever they seek. On the other hand, the fact that God uses vessels to will and to do according to His will is also undeniable, especially when they maintain a genuine and humble relationship with Him soaked with readiness and love. God uses what we are or what we have become. He does all in all when and where He reigns for real.
All of this implies that a man must get such a relationship with God that he becomes easily aware of what God wishes to do, how and when. It is not enough to know that God wants to do it, but it is also necessary find grace to perform, and to use spiritual intelligence and decisive prompting from the Spirit of God - as long as it indeed originates in God and, consequently, ends in being performed through the power of God and never through any other means or sort of power.
Before you ask God what He wants to do through you or through your existence, your life must be His to manage, use and lead. You must be usable. You must be fully available to His power and ways. The will of God is primarily the sanctification of the vessel. You must be like good clay in His hands and not like bad clay. To be clay is not enough – it must be good and without sandy stones. He must be able to mould it smoothly as He sees fit to do (2Tim.2:20,21). Any gift distributed before that availability of heart is made possible to Him, before you are fully His, shall always become a stumbling block along the process of taking hold of the “more excellent way”. We must be a “ready people prepared for the Lord” (Lk.1:17) before anything serious can or may happen. As I often say, John the Baptist prepares us for Christ; Christ prepares us for the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit prepares us for heaven and to serve. Where are you found in the process?
It is common to believe that when we are to take hold of something, it is God who is withholding it from us and that we need to take hold from Him. It is true that it is God who holds the blessing in His hand. However, He cannot distribute anything to the flesh unless He wishes to create more reasons to condemn it or to justify its sooner condemnation. According to Scripture, a blessing before the time is a curse. In other words, if we are found in the way of genuine salvation, it is the flesh that is withholding from us what is good or whatever could bring benefits to the Kingdom of God. In the same way that a butterfly fights its way out of its cocoon to take hold of liberty and to be able to fly freely, we need to be resurrected in a real way out of the chains of the flesh, its power and its ways. We need to be free from it in such a way that nothing coming from the flesh may still be an option. We do not take hold of freedom by fighting against freedom, but by fighting with it as an ally against the cocoon of the flesh, which is the enemy or the enmity against God. It is enmity even when it breeds so-called good feelings. In that sense, we fight with God on our knees to be one with Him. And that fight can be so real and so intense that your sweating may be turned into blood drops. And it doesn’t matter what causes that fight as long as we are changed along the process of fighting and get a new name given by God and not one which is given or imagined by self for self, which avoids the fight. Self-given names serve only to entertain people in their poor hopes and in their deceived lives of sin to keep them religiously deceived day in and day out. Deceit entertains the hope that death catches them before they open their eyes to the truth and to facts.
If the gifts are to benefit the saints towards holiness to bring them to be one with the Lord, it is only expected that God must take the lead and must be able to use the ones with gifts according to what He needs to do in a timing chosen by Him. One who prophesies must be shown what to say, how to say it, to whom and when to say; one who heals must be shown when and how to do it; one who distributes what he has, must have received from God first and be faithful in timing and in giving proportion. To do so, the relationship with God must be fruitful, constant and continuous. And whatever that gift is, God must be fully involved in it and God must receive the thankfulness and the praise for whatever has been done or accomplished.
Take as an example the gift of prophecy. I have heard many ‘prophecies’ in many services during my lifetime. Most of them promise this and that to people who have never been truly converted and who, after the service, go home to fight with one another and to gossip against the pastor and church members. The week after, in the service, a lot of promises and consolations are ‘prophesied’ all over again. If you ask them what has been prophesied the week before, most people don’t remember. It has become a ritual that pleases people. When Paul mentions the gift of prophecy in the book of Corinthians, he says it reveals the secrets of men who enter the service. Their secret sins are publicly exposed. I have never seen such kind of prophecies in common churches nowadays. It doesn’t please people to have the genuine gift of prophecy. And the goal of most preachers and prophets is to be pleasant to their hearers for reasons only they can answer for.
I have mentioned the example of Peter in another occasion. Let me mention it here again. Peter walked every day past a man who, for many years, was put in front of Solomon’s porch, at the entrance of the temple, day in and day out. We have reason to believe that even Jesus saw him there a few times because the lame man was forty years old and was put there every day. Jesus has been inside the Temple quite a few times. The man had never been healed, not by Jesus and nor by Peter or any other of the apostles. But, on a certain day, Peter turned to Him and said, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Acts 3:6. Peter was so sure about it that, when the man hesitated, he decided to grab his hand to pull him up. Why did that happen only that day and not before? Didn’t Peter see him in the days or months before as he went to the temple to pray and to preach the Word? Or did Peter, after Pentecost, cease to be someone whose time was always ready and right for anything and had been reconciled with the timing and the leading of his Lord and Saviour? (John 7:6). As you can see, even if the gift had been there for years, in Peter, there was a good timing to make full use of it. Pentecost is the reason and the way to be able to do what God wills when He wills. The idea that God is never willing when things don’t happen as they should, must be banned. He shall want to do something and we don’t need to haste His doings or provoke His willingness, but only to haste our own consecration and sanctification. That’s how the time is redeemed. Let’s take care of what we need to do and allow God to care for what He wishes to do. Even if it tarries, it shall come. Amen.