1 Cor 14:1, 12 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
It strikes me from verse 12 that the Corinthian believers were indeed doing what Paul had said to do in verse 1, but he was trying to put more of a point on it, focusing on the purpose of spiritual gifts. It would seem that people in the 1st Century had the same sort of problems we do today, with people looking at spiritual gifts like “merit badges,” trying to accumulate as many as possible for the sake of bragging rights. That was a real issue when the modern Pentecostal movement started around 1900, and then again when the Charismatic Movement started around 1970. People naturally get disgusted with that, and in consequence, spiritual gifts get neglected. That is a tremendous waste. Paul lays down some principles here that should help us approach spiritual gifts properly. In the first place, we should indeed eagerly desire them. God gives only good things, (Luke 11:13) so we should be open to everything He wants to give. In the second place, God’s gifts aren’t just for the direct recipient. God gives gifts of the Holy Spirit specifically to build up the Church, the Body of Christ. That should immediately eliminate the “merit badge” approach. They aren’t for decoration, they are actively to be used to benefit others. And that fits in with the third point, which is that it all must be done in love. Sometimes love is very firm, and even prophecies of judgment express the love of God, warning people to flee destruction, but if there is no love, then a different spirit than the Holy Spirit is at work. We are indeed earnestly to seek spiritual gifts, because the challenges that face us are more than our natural gifts can handle.
This is a very good reminder, because spiritual gifts have really faded into the background for me. Since being baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1974, I have experienced every gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 at least once, and most of them multiple times. I do pray in tongues, probably every day, but very rarely in group settings. The thing that bothers me a little is prophecy. I have been used in prophecy many times over the years, but very rarely indeed in this church. I certainly seek to preach prophetically, that is, speaking out what God is saying, but specific words to specific individuals or groups have been largely nonexistent. That’s not been the case when I have ministered in other places, other churches. I want to be actively available to my Lord, fully useful for whatever He wants to do through me, but prophecy has seemed largely dormant, at least in terms of my being aware that it was prophecy. It’s entirely possible that I have spoken the Word of the Lord into people’s lives without being especially aware that was happening. If so, then praise the Lord, because that would eliminate the temptation to pride. I want everything I do to build up the Body of Christ in love, and Him to get all of the glory.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me not be anxious about any of it, but rest, relax, and rejoice in You, allowing You to use me or not use me, at Your choice and Your convenience, so that Your will may be done on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!