This is the third part of a transcript of my recent sermon on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. You can see the video or download the audio on the introduction page or read about the word of wisdom and word of knowledge.
The presence of Faith in this list underlines a point, which is probably true about all of these gifts. In the context of this passage Paul is talking about gifts that are given for the good of the whole church, and that will be exercised, probably in a church meeting, but certainly in the life of the church, in the context of a body of people. So, probably for most of these gifts, or maybe even for all of them, the expectation is that each believer may well have them to some extent for themselves, for their own blessing. Certainly you have to have faith to be a Christian, so it’s definitely true of this one. So what he’s talking about here can’t be the faith that we all have, our trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and an eternal future, and that he rose from the dead.
This is instead that supernatural spiritual gift of faith that comes on people for specific things. It’s something that often happens to leaders. It’s when God gives you an extraordinary confidence that something is going to happen. You can’t see that thing happening except with the eye of faith, and yet somehow, by the Spirit, you have a boldness that drives you, that energizes you, that compels you to act. And if anyone says to you, “But have you thought about the risks?” You say, “What risks? God has spoken. I know this is the way we’re meant to go. I know that he’ll provide.” It happens often, for example, when it comes to choosing a new building for a church to meet in. Someone will say, “Well, what about the cost? What about the permissions you need to get?” But somehow the leader can see through that and see it happening.
Of course, it can also happen in our own lives. I sometimes think you need a miracle every time you want to buy a house in this country! And, sure enough, often God will give us a gift of faith that sees something happening that we haven’t yet experienced. And that is a vital, vital gift. If you’re looking for a church, one of the main things that you want to look for in a leadership team if you’re thinking of joining yourself is, “Have they got faith, real faith? Have they got a vision for the church? Have they got a clear sense of direction from God and are they running after that?” Do they inspire faith in me? Obviously, one needs to be sure of some other things as well when joining a church, but that is certainly one of the things that would be on my checklist.
GIFTS OF HEALING
Healings can be physical or emotional; there are various kinds—there are gifts plural of healings plural. Some individuals have a specific gift of healing. I know of people, for example, who almost every time they pray for somebody who has a bad back, that bad back is healed. We may not realize who’s got this gift unless we pray for the sick. I want to encourage us at this time to push into God to really cry and that we might see more healing. We’ve seen them here at Jubilee. We don’t have to talk about healings from other parts of the world. We don’t have to talk about healings from decades ago. Many of us have stories to tell that we’ve seen as children, or as younger Christians. Actually, right here in this cinema last week, we had some healings.
So, actually, all we’re asking is for Jesus to do what we know he will already do then, but a little bit sooner. It’s like, “God, I know you promised to do this, so why not do it now? Why not do it today?” And I think God loves that—when we cry out to him like that. And, of course, none of us can heal anybody. But as the powers of the age to come breaking through into this world, I believe we can expect to see more and more healings right here.
Miracles are works of power. They induce wonder. God is not a watchmaker who just winds up the universe like a watch and leaves it ticking according to his own rules. No, God intervenes in history. He does it all the time. He does it in ways that we often don’t notice, but he also does it in big ways as well. I think we would do well to have an eye to watch for the miracles that are happening in our lives. Let’s give a couple of examples. He parted the waters of the Jordan and of the Red Sea—that’s a miracle. That’s a work of wonder. But he does miracles at other times as well, and we’ve seen it in more recent times.
One example that is cited very often, and is worthy of citing often, is what happened in World War II. Hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were holed up and were expecting to be massacred or captured by our enemy, and our government (the king and the prime minister) called for a day of national prayer. I was reading about it again during the week, and it says the mood in the country was sober because the truth was that most of our army was on the continent and likely to be killed or possibly taken prisoner. If that happened, well, it was obvious what was going to happen next, wasn’t it? We would be invaded too. So there was this day of prayer. But then, they said, “We’re going to try and rescue them.” And they thought maybe at a push, they might get to rescue, let’s say, 20,000 people was what the admirals thought.
But after prayer, something dramatic and remarkable happened. There was an unnatural calm in the English Channel. It became almost like a pond, so flat, that even small boats could sail across the channel, and yet there was also cloud cover, and rain and fog in some places, so it meant that it was harder for the German Air Force to attack these boats. It was declared a national miracle when after a couple of days or so, more than 338,000 troops were saved. It is considered the turning point of the war. As I say, you can read the newspapers where national leaders say, “That was a miracle!” Often the miracles in our own lives are smaller, and we need to have eyes to see them.