Have you ever wanted to be a superhero?
I wrote a novel when I was in college about a guy name Tom Noone who wanted to be a superhero named Zolton – but that’s a different story!
Growing up, I liked the Hulk, among other superheroes. My favorite villain was the Hulk’s nemesis, the Leader. The Leader had also been belted by gamma ray but instead of it making him green and strong, it made him green and smart, and he had this enormously tall forehead.
But in reality, there are no real superheroes. A few years ago, I watched a few episodes of “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” It was really a pretty lame reality TV show, hosted by Stan Lee, the creator of the Hulk, Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men. But the people who were competing to be a superhero were just very ordinary people.
Ordinary people may not make good superheroes, but they are exactly the kind of people to whom God gives His spiritual gifts. While God doesn’t give us superhero powers, He does give to His people supernatural gifts, and He expects us to use them. What else would we expect from a God who has given Himself to us and has made us His Temple?
Whenever we consider the spiritual gifts that God gives to His people, we should always start with His greatest gift and the one from which all of the other gifts come. That greatest gift is God Himself, and He is the giver of every good gift. Out of His love for us, the Father gave us the Son. Out of love, the Father and the Son give us the Holy Spirit, by whom God dwells in us and with us. God knows what’s best for us, and what’s best for us is being united to Him. Being with God, union with God, is therefore our ultimate goal.
Have you ever just wanted to be with a particular person: a spouse, child, or friend? As a kid, my Grandpa Jones was someone like this for me. He made mundane things like going to the grocery store and running errands seem like magical fun. Being with God should be like this to us. To have God give us Himself in increasing measure: that’s what our lives are all about! All of His other gifts are to bring us to God and life in His kingdom.
If you have the Holy Spirit, then you have THE gift of God – which is God Himself. St. Paul teaches that if you have God Himself through the Holy Spirit, then you also have God’s spiritual gifts. God, the good giver, never comes to us empty-handed, which reminds me of other grandparents: Grandma and Grandpa Erlandson. Whenever they visited us, I remember them bringing homemade candy and G.I. Joe stuff. Like my grandparents, when God comes to us, He comes bringing His good gifts.
If God has shared His life with us, and His salvation, then He’s also shared His work and His ministry, something that Paul speaks about all the time. This is the same Lord who dared to entrust His ministry to 12 average guys who were often ignorant and confused, and to one like Paul, who breathed out murderous threats upon His Body.
If we are the Body of Jesus Christ, then we are His ministers on earth. He will give us, through His grace, all that we need to do His will and to be His ministers, for whatever God has called you to do He will equip you to do. You therefore have God’s spiritual gifts to be His ministers
If you are baptized into the Church, which is the Body of Christ, and you live like Jesus
Christ is Lord, then you definitely have spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts aren’t just for priests and pastors, and they’re not just for Billy Graham and the Pope.
We aren’t given superhero powers, but we are given supernatural gifts. In I Corinthians 12 Paul seems to be talking primarily about the extraordinary “charismatic” gifts. But in reality, all of God’s gifts are “charismatic,” for all of them are gifts or charisms (from the Greek word for “gift”) that God has given us so that the Body of Christ on earth, the Church, can minister as Jesus Christ to the world. God has given each of you His spiritual gifts, but when they are seen as being extraordinary, we’re tempted to think we don’t have them, especially if we look only at the extraordinary “charismatic” gifts, which we may not have.
What if we called God’s spiritual gifts “abilities, talents, competencies”? Of course they’re gifts, but sometimes that word gives us the wrong impression of what God has given us and how we are to use them. In verse 6 Paul calls the gifts “activities,” suggesting that God’s gifts and His ministries are much more common and sometimes ordinary (to the human eye) than we sometimes imagine.
The spiritual life is all around us because the earth is the Lord’s and because we have the Holy Spirit in us. The spiritual gifts are found wherever the Spirit is found, not just in a few and not just in miraculous ways. Normally, the Holy Spirit, like the wind, is invisible. For example, at baptism, one who has no spiritual insight would think nothing spiritual or important has happened, and yet God acts in a mighty way in baptism.
You have spiritual gifts: you just may not recognize them because you may be looking for the wrong gifts in the wrong way. To find God’s spiritual gifts, look for where God’s will is being done. Look for where God’s kingdom and ministry are. Look for wherever the people of God faithfully use whatever God has given them: this is where you will find God’s spiritual gifts.
It might help you to realize that the call to use your spiritual gifts is a call to use something you already have by identifying some of the quieter, not so glamorous gifts. There are the gifts of home repair (I can tell you now: I don’t have this one!) and house cleaning. There are the gifts of cooking, mentoring, listening, encouragement, and many others. I don’t want to minimize the spiritual gifts that are particularly mentioned in the New Testament, but I do want to suggest that there are more gifts out there and that they are more “natural” than we often assume.
You’ve been given God’s good gifts because He loves you and wants you to share in His life. But He also wants (and commands) you to lovingly use them for the good others. It’s important, therefore, to remember why you have been given such exquisite gifts. You might give a member of a primitive tribe the wonderful gift of a Cadillac version of the latest generation of notebook computers, loaded with an enormous bundle of software. But if he doesn’t know what it’s for or how to use it, it’s not much good to him or anyone else.
In verse 7 Paul reminds us that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” We are to use the good gifts that God gives us – all of His spiritual gifts, however simple or humble they may be – for the good of God’s people. This is one of the reasons God gave Himself to you and gave you His gifts.
In using God’s gifts for the good of His people, you become like Him. You should therefore use His spiritual gifts, not out of mere duty, but out love and generosity, and out of the joy of sharing what God has first given us. I love the fact that in Greek the word for grace (“xaris”) is related to the word for joy (“xara,”) for God’s gifts bring us joy both in receiving and in giving them.
God has given each of you His amazing spiritual gifts.
To receive God’s good gifts and not to share them would be to be like a 5 year old at his birthday party, surrounded by a double-layer chocolate cake and homemade vanilla ice cream, and surrounded by all his friends and family – and then presuming to eat the cake and ice cream all by himself!
But to receive God’s spiritual gifts joyfully and use them for the good of God’s people – this is what being a Christian is all about.
“The gifts of God, given for the people of God.”
Prayer: Father, I thank You especially for Your love which You have shown me by the gift of Your Son and the gift of Your Holy Spirit, by whom I am able to confess that Jesus is Lord. Thank You for Your excellent gifts to me: may You stir them up within me so that I am may be brought closer to You for the benefit of my own soul and so that I may be provoked to share them and share You by using them for the good others. Amen.
Point for Meditation:
Make a list of the spiritual gifts you have. You might want to take a spiritual gifts inventory, or you might find it more profitable to meditate on the talents, abilities, and experiences that God has given you to equip you for laboring in His ministry.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate on (or recognize) one spiritual gift that God has given to me and to practice putting it to use today or this week.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson