As we draw to the end of this series on the gifts of the Spirit, I want to conclude by thinking a bit more about what is the purpose of these gifts. The gifts are a foretaste of heaven, of our restored relationship with God. They are one way to draw us into the presence of God. Through the gifts we encounter the reality of a living Jesus who is active in his church today. They are not the only way for us to experience God since for example prayer, worship music, sermons, and reading God’s Word all lead us to Jesus.
We are encouraged to be in a living relationship with a God who wants to direct our lives specifically, and who wants to do that, not just in the moral or ethical sphere, but also in terms of which of several good alternatives we should follow. He wants to guide our lives. He wants to have a relationship with us and to know us. He wants to set us free. He wants power and healing to come to us. He wants to speak with us. He wants us to know him. That’s what we have been talking about. Isn’t it a wonderful thing? Is it any wonder, then, that when Paul is speaking about this he tells us to pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts?
I hope this series has challenged us to passionately seek these gifts, to stir them up, and pursue them. Many who theoretically believe in the Holy Spirit and his gifts fall at this hurdle. They simply passively wait for God to give them a gift rather than pressing in and persistently asking him to bless them with these gifts. We do have a part to play in receiving the Spirit and his gifts.
Gifts need to be exercised in our meetings. The Bible says this, “Well, then, brothers, when you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or interpretation, that all things be done for the building up.” Now, a large church can’t do that on a Sunday morning—everyone of the congregation, one after the other—or the meeting will last all day! So if you want to obey that Bible verse, you need to get yourself into a small group, into a cluster or zone meeting, or perhaps into the church prayer meeting. Those are the contexts where each of us can do that, and it’s a safe environment where we neither foolishly embrace prophecy in a unwise way without thinking about it, nor do we reject it. So I want to encourage you. In a large church, don’t just come on a Sunday morning, because you cannot obey that verse if that is all you do.
The Christian faith is a supernatural spiritual faith. It’s not man-made. There is a power at work—maybe you have felt him in a church meeting—he’s there. He is present in his church wanting to give gifts to us.
Imagine if I was to go to my wife and say, “Darling, I’d like to spend time with you. I’d like to get to know you a bit more and chat with you, but please don’t buy me any presents. I don’t want your presents, I don’t want your gifts. I don’t want anything from you.” She’d be pretty offended, wouldn’t she? Similarly, we are foolish to think we can pursue God without pursuing the gifts.
But imagine this: if I were to say to my wife, “Give me everything you’ve got, but I haven’t got any time to talk with you. I’m not interested in that. I don’t want a relationship with you, I just want your gifts.” I don’t think my marriage would be very pleasant!
We come to a Jesus who wants to give us gifts, but more than that, he wants to give us himself. He wants us to know him. He wants us to know sins forgiven. He wants us to know that he came and died for us, he rose again for us that we might be forgiven, that we might know our way to heaven.
Never allow gifts to distract us from our loving relationship with our Savior. The whole purpose of the gifts is to enhance that relationship, not serve as an end in themselves. But do not allow yourself to despise the gifts just because you have seen counterfeits at work. We seek the giver and his gifts, because through these gifts we meet God.