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St. Paul's Gifts of the Spirit
The Choice of Topic: Our Gifts
Recently I was invited to visit a church camp and present an address and workshop on a topic connected with "God Gives Us a Future." The afternoon's study was to commence at 2.00 p.m. and to last for three hours with three speakers. The campers would be divided into three groups and rotate, so that we would each give our one-hour address three times. As the other two speakers chose to speak on the main theme from different aspects, it seemed a good idea for my address to be about identifying our 'Gifts of the Spirit' and our responsibility to grow these gifts so we can use them to the best of our ability in the future.
As English was not the first language of the campers, we needed to send our addresses a week before, so they could be translated for the interpreters.
I'm posting this as I thought my address might be useful for anyone interested in this topic.
What Do We Do With Our Gifts?
I have a gift in this box. I can’t see what’s in it, but a very good friend gave it to me with love and I trust him. I accepted the gift and thanked him.
What is it? (open gift) A plant – what a lovely gift! I’ll keep it on this table and watch it grow.
Oh! Do I need to water it? What will happen if I don’t water it?
Yes, it won’t grow, there won't be any fruit, and it will slowly die.
The gifts of the Spirit are like this plant. God gives them in love, but we need to use them and grow them, or they die.
St. Paul wrote about God’s gifts of the Spirit in three of his Letters. He gives us some gifts for the work of people in the church. Others are personal to help build our character. All our gifts are to be used to help to build up the church.
In Romans 12.6-8, Paul lists some of these gifts of the Spirit.
The Sixteen Game Cards
Prophecy in proportion to our faith
Ministry in serving one another
The Teacher in teaching
The Encourager in encouraging
The One who Contributes in generosity
The Leader with enthusiasm
The One Who Cares with cheerfulness
The Mark of the True Christian one who acts in love
Gifts of the Spirit: Game 1
We have a game to play about these gifts of the Spirit.
You each need 1 of these cards (there are enough for 16 people).
Please read your card and find the person who has the matching half. If you don’t know what it is, you can find most of them in Romans 12.6-8.
When you have a match, talk to your partner about how you could use this gift.
Later you can tell us what you said in your discussion.
The Grace of God and the Gifts of the Spirit
Thank you. Would you come back to your places now, please?
Paul often writes about the Grace of God.
What do you think he means by ‘grace?’
Grace is God’s favour. He favours us by giving us the free gifts of the Spirit.
- We haven’t earned them
- we don’t deserve them
- we can’t pay Him for them
But when we have faith in Jesus and follow Him, God’s Holy Spirit gives them to us.
How Can We Use the Gifts of the Spirit?
I would like each pair to tell us how you think the gift on your cards could be used.
PROPHECY, in proportion to our faith
Who has this one? Can you tell us about this gift?
What does Paul mean by prophecy? He uses this word again in Ephesians 4.11. He says that the gifts God gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors. We often think prophets are people who tell us what will happen in the future, but Paul means people who speak out with wisdom and warn us about sin. God gives this gift according to our faith: if we have strong faith in Him, we will receive the gift of prophecy.
MINISTRY, in serving one another
Who had this one? What can you tell us about this gift?
Sometimes we think of ministry as being the work of priests, evangelists and pastors. That is true, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we are given the gift of ministry too. Ministers are all of us who serve and help each other. In Ephesians 4.12 Paul wrote that God gives us the gifts of the Spirit to equip us for ministry and to build up the Church.
THE TEACHER, in teaching
Who had this one? What did you discuss about this gift?
In 1 Corinthians 12.8, Paul wrote that 'God gave the gift of the utterance of knowledge.' Teaching is a gift is so we can share our knowledge of the word of God. He chooses some of us to be Sunday School teachers so we should prepare the lessons the best we can and teach well. Children often remember for the rest of their lives what they learn in Sunday School.
THE ENCOURAGER, in encouraging
Who are the encouragers? What do you know about this gift? Is it important?
We may think that God has not given us any gifts, but Paul has ‘encourager’ on his list. He knows this is an important gift. Other Christians, Priests, Ministers and teachers work hard. They help many people and sometimes feel that no one cares. A word of encouragement or a ‘thank you’ can really help them.
THE ONE WHO CONTRIBUTES, in generosity
Who had this one to discuss? Did you find anything interesting?
We may think that contributing and being generous means we must give more money. That is important, a church cannot work without money. But there are other ways to use this gift. We might contribute some food for a special event, or contribute ideas in discussions and Bible Studies. Paul tells us it is a gift of the Spirit to be generous when we contribute.
THE LEADER, with enthusiasm
Who had to discuss leaders? What did you say about this gift?
Paul writes that leaders in the church should be enthusiastic. Sometimes this is hard when all the preparation, paperwork and recording take so much time and energy. If a person has received the gift of the Spirit to be a leader, perhaps in a Home Group or in some other way, she should do it the best she can, with enthusiasm.
THE ONE WHO CARES, with cheerfulness
This is the last on Paul’s list in Romans 12. Do you think that this is important?
Caring is a gift of the Spirit, especially when it is done cheerfully. There are many ways to care: by welcoming new people, by visiting a sick neighbour, by praying with someone, or by visiting the sick in hospital. People in hospital do not want an unhappy person to visit them! It is a gift to care for others cheerfully.
THE MARK OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN is one who acts in love
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul tells us that love is the most important gift of all. We can use our gifts in many ways, but if we do not act in love we only make a big noise about nothing. True Christians base their lives, and how they use their gifts, in ‘faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.’
Gifts of the Spirit: Game 2
Now I will give each of you three pieces of paper and a pencil.
I would like you to write on each piece one of the gifts you have seen in someone in this group. It may be
- caring for others
- visiting sick people
- arranging flowers in church
- leading the singing
- or sharing God’s love in some way.
Now give that paper to that person. Leave them upside down until they have all been given.
Please read the papers you have been given.
You are surprised! Sometimes we do not realize we have a gift, but other people see it in us. That is something to celebrate and to give God thanks.
Note: Some participants had small children with them and I encouraged them to join in. One little girl asked me to help her write to her Mother: "Thank you for helping me to shower." Camp was different with only showers and she had found them rather scary. The gift of a mother's love and care was so beautiful and comforting.
Why are Our Gifts of the Spirit Different?
To finish, let us think about what we have discussed.
God gives Christians gifts of the Spirit. Why?
Just like my plant, it is so we can grow fruit. We need to grow our gifts and use them to serve Him. The gifts He gives us are not all the same. Paul asks in 1 Cor. 12.28-29 'Are we all Apostles? Are we all Prophets? Are we all teachers?' No! One church might need a leader with the gift of evangelism while another may need a leader with a gift of teaching. Our gifts are not all the same. There are different needs, different ways of serving, and different activities to fulfill those needs (1 Cor.12.4-7).
In his Letter to the Ephesians (4.11–16), Paul wrote that God gives us gifts to use for the work of ministry, for building up the church by sharing our faith and knowledge of Jesus. When we do this with love, we are no longer like little children. We grow up into Christ.
We do not choose these gifts ourselves. God made us and we can trust Him because He knows and loves each of us and gives us just the right gifts. We should not compare our gift with someone else’s; we are different so our gifts are different.
All the gifts that God gives us are good and we should thank Him for them and always use them in love, and act in love - to the glory of God.
Conclusion and Thanks
We have a lovely song to sing now. It is ‘Christ, from whom all blessings flow.’
This song praises God for all the gifts He blesses us with and asks for His strength to use them well, united in His love.
We can sing together.
Thank you for sharing with me today. May God bless you.
I have a bookmark for each of you.
This bookmark has a prayer on it. Let us pray that prayer together.
© 2013 Bronwen Scott-Branagan