Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:4 KJV
Several years ago, Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand co-authored a book titled, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. Yancy, the journalist, Brand, the doctor, combined to write an amazing testament to God’s creation of the human body and its direct relation to the spiritual body of Christ. Brand writes, “As a Christian, I believe that the Designer of DNA further challenged the human race to a new and higher purpose: membership in a spiritual Body. The community that the New Testament calls the body of Christ differs from every other human group: unlike a social or political body, joining it requires an identity transfer, analogous to an infusion of DNA. Jesus described the process to Nicodemus as being “born again.” Dr. Brand and Philip Yancey go on to conjecture the intricacies of the human body in relation to the body of Christ, which is His church. Every member is essential because every member provides something that is needed to the whole. Some called these spiritual gifts.
A discussion concerning spiritual gifts in the body of Christ usually evolves into the following question, “How can I discover my gift or gifts?” The question itself reveals a misunderstanding concerning the very nature of spiritual gifts. It implies that once I have discovered my gift, I can finally exercise it to God’s glory. I am hindered in being used of God until then. What follows is a battery of tests and surveys which attempt to unearth the buried treasure God has skillfully hidden. The thought occurred to me that the early church was exercising the gifts of the Spirit without the need of such things. How then should we understand spiritual gifts?
First, a spiritual gift is something which God has given to us, and He has no desire to hide it from us. He will reveal it, not to us, but to those around us, in his time. Also, we did not earn it by merit, nor was it bestowed because of a request on our part. It was placed within us by our Savior. Furthermore, the gifts that the Lord has given us for ministry are not for us, they are for others. As Victor Frankel once wrote, “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone other than oneself- be it a meaning to fulfill another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself- by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love- the more human he is.”
Second, spiritual gifts are not an indication of our growth or maturity. Some very immature Christians still exercise spiritual gifts. Growth takes place when we focus our attention on Christ and not our gifts. The purpose of an apple tree is not to produce apples, it is to grow by giving attention to its taproot. This simple observation is the foundation of understanding the conversation concerning spiritual gifts. Trees do not eat their own fruit. Fruit is the overflow of a healthy plant. “I am the vine, and you are the branches.” (John 15:5) Our growth and maturation are not dependent on the exercising of the gifts He has given us. We are not built up in any way by the ministry God has given to us. There’s to be no credit given to us, no glory for something that was not ours to begin with. The point of Jesus made is clear, abide in the vine and the gifts of the Spirit will naturally flow.