The Bible is quite clear on this: Spiritual Gifts are available for all Christians. Paul says so, and he told it to the Corinthians in First Corinthians 1:7 that “Now you have every gift from God while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to come again.” The inference being that yes, spiritual gifts will cease one day – but not until the Lord Jesus returns again.
In First Corinthians 13:8-12, Paul states it even more emphatically that gifts such as tongues, prophecy and gifts of knowledge will one day cease – but not until Jesus returns again. As he says:
“Love will never end. But all those gifts will come to an end – even the gift of prophecy, the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages, and the gift of knowledge. These will all end because this knowledge and these prophecies we have are not complete. But when perfection comes, the things that are not complete will end. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, and I made plans like a child. When I became a man, I stopped those childish ways. It is the same with us. Now we see God as if we are looking at a reflection in a mirror. But then, in the future, we will see him right before our eyes. Now I know only a part, but at that time I will know fully, as God has known me.”
The questions which arises as soon as we understand and accept that all Christians are meant to operate in spiritual giftings, are how to receive the gifts? How to operate under them? How to cultivate them?
To operate in spiritual giftings there are a couple of simple Biblical prerequisites:
1) Be convinced that the Bible teaches that spiritual gifts are available today for us.
2) Be convinced of First Peter 4:10, that “God has shown you his grace in many different ways. So be good servants and use whatever gift he has given you in a way that will best serve each other.” In other words, God gives His gifts to all Christians, not just a chosen few.
First Corinthians 12:11 tells us that the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts as His discretion saying: “One Spirit, the same Spirit, does all these things. The Spirit decides what to give each one.”
Does this mean that we cannot ask for gifts from the Holy Spirit? No, it does not mean that. For example, in First Corinthians 14:13 Pauls says “So those who have the gift of speaking in a different language should pray that they can also interpret what they say.” Paul is asking us here to pray for that which we do not have. In First Corinthians 14:39a he tells us “So then, brothers, seek to prophesy…..” and in First Corinthians 12:31 he asks us to “But zealously strive after the better gifts.” Without doubt, the Bible supports us seeking and striving for new and better gifts.
In simple practical language to those who do not operate in God’s spiritual gifts, James 4:2 tells clearly:
“You desire, and do not have. You murder, and are jealous, and cannot obtain. You fight and war, yet you have not because you ask not.”
In other words, you do not have because you do not ask! It cannot be much clearer than this. We are to seek Spiritual Gifts and that also includes simply asking, or praying, for them.
Once we have a gift, we need to use it an exercise it. There is no gifted theologian or prophet who did not both study the bible and practice their gifting continually. If we do our part and are obedient and faithful, God will do His part. Hebrews 11:6 attests to this view saying:
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Similarly the parable from Jesus on the Talents given to servants in Matthew 25:14-30, confirms this view that we need to develop and invest what which God gives us. Like any muscle, a gift from God will soon become useless, if not both activated and used regularly.
“For it is as if a man going abroad called his own servants and gave them his goods. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to each according to his ability. And he went abroad at once. And going he who had received the five talents traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two, he also gained another two.
But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the earth and hid his lord’s silver.
After a long time the lord of those servants came and took account with them. And so he who had received five talents came and brought another five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered five talents to me. Behold, I have gained five talents above them.
His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.
He also who had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered two talents to me. Behold, I have gained two other talents above them.
His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.
And he who had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew that you were a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter. And I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the earth. Lo, you have yours.
His lord answered and said to him, Evil and slothful servant! You knew that I reaped where I did not sow, and gathered where I did not scatter, then you should have put my money to the exchangers, and coming I would have received my own with interest.
Therefore take the talent from him and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will abound. But from him who has not, even that which he has shall be taken away from him. And throw the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
To use the gifting is one thing, to develop it, another. The Bible provides Christians the means of developing one’s gift, for as Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the face of his friend.” This means that we are not to be Christian Lone Rangers. To sharpen our gifts we must be in a group of fellow Christians who are also working in the gifting. As we talk and exchange with them, we will be encouraged and strengthened. Over time, we will develop a sharper edge to our gifting which will be able to cut through both demonic and fleshy issues more sharply and more effectively. Working alone for God, is not ever what God plans for us. Again as Proverbs 13:20 tells us “He who walks with the wise shall be wise, but a companion with fools shall be destroyed.” We need to choose our company wisely and choosing the company of those more gifted than ourselves, is God’s wish for us, such that will grow us in wisdom.
When seeking more new giftings and improving those we have, we need to be certain that our purpose in seeking, is in aligned with Jesus and the purposes of the New Kingdom. Often, our head says one thing and our heart another. We need to be sure we are on God’s path at all times. Reading our fleshy heart is not to be done lightly, or without God’s help or His revelatory ministry. Jeremiah 17:9-10 explains this to us:
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I Jehovah search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
God’s giftings are not for our benefit. God’s giftings are for the benefit of God’s Kingdom and fellow Christians. First Corinthians 14:3 demonstrates this position saying, for example “But he who prophesies speaks to men for building up, and exhortation, and comfort.”
We also need to be reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received freely, freely give.” Yes, we are to give freely of God’s giftings!
Finally, we need to remember that one of the greatest gifts and mercies of the Holy Spirit is to show us our sins. If we do not know our sins, we cannot repent of them. First John 1:9 explains this saying that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Without doubt, this is something worthy to seek.
However, whatever we seek from the Lord, there is only one way to do it; and that is in humility. It is, after all, not about us, but about Him. Paul, in Philippians 3:10 speaks to this saying
“All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him from death. I want to share in his sufferings and be like him even in his death.”
If this was the cry of Paul, it ought to be the cry of every Christian also.