1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
This whole chapter has been very familiar to me since I was first introduced to the Charismatic Movement back in 1973. That said, this verse is still very pertinent to my pastoral ministry today. It has two major truths in it. English and Japanese word order put those truths at opposite ends of the sentence, but that doesn’t matter. One of those truths is that each person is given one or more spiritual gifts. There are many Christians today who insist they aren’t gifted at all. Some do that out of ignorance, some out of humility, and some out of a desire to avoid the responsibility of using that gift for the sake of the Body of Christ, like the third servant in the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25:24-25) The second truth here is that these gifts are given for the common good, and never just for the direct recipient. That seems obvious for some of them, but is often overlooked when it comes to tongues, which is the one gift that is focused on the most. When that gift was first given at Pentecost, it resulted in the salvation of 3000 people, as they heard God being praised in their various languages. (Acts 2:6-12) I have heard an American (who didn’t speak Japanese) using Japanese in delivering someone from demonic oppression. My wife, Cathy, was in a prayer meeting with a group of Filipina girls when they became very excited, because she was praying in Tagalog, which she doesn’t know at all. The girls’ faith was greatly strengthened! Even when the tongue in use isn’t a known language, it can be very useful in praying for situations where we really don’t know what or how to pray. (Romans 8:26-27) The thing is, if spiritual gifts aren’t used, they don’t benefit anyone at all. They aren’t merit badges, but tools to build up the Body of Christ.
Of course this applies to me, and not just to those to whom I preach. I think I have experienced all of the gifts listed here at least once each, but with widely different frequency. I pray in tongues every day, but have experienced miracles maybe once or twice. (Of course, that raises the question of just what is a miracle.) There have been periods when I have really let these gifts slide, and those have never been good. Recently I have found it very convenient and helpful to pray, both in English/Japanese and in tongues, while I am driving. Praying in known languages can be distracting from the road, but praying in tongues doesn’t have that problem. Prophecy is a gift I would like to exercise more. I do seek to preach prophetically, that is, speaking out what God is saying, but other forms of prophecy can be very beneficial as well. The point for me in this church is to focus on each person being gifted, so the believers won’t exclude themselves from how God wants to use them.
Father, thank You for this very timely reminder. With tomorrow being Palm Sunday, Pentecost is just eight weeks off. Guide me in preparing and teaching the flock so that everyone will be open to whatever You want to pour into and through them, for the common good and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!