Last week, I wrote about prioritising the Great Commission in our lives. It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t ask His disciples to fulfil this commission on their own. On the contrary, He told His disciples to wait until they received the promised Holy Spirit who would empower them to be His witnesses throughout the world [John 16:7, Acts 1:5,8]. On the day the Holy Spirit descended on the first disciples, the Church – the Body of Christ, was born. It continues till this day through us, the present-day disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday, millions remembered the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. This was the fulfilment of a promise made centuries earlier by the prophet Joel [Acts 2:14-21]. So, if you’re a Christian, what does Pentecost mean for you? Does it affect your life in any way other than just being a feast on the Christian calendar? Not too long ago, my answer was probably “no”. However, I now realise nothing could be further from the truth. Paul speaking on 3 different occasions to Christian communities in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome, taught them that through the Holy Spirit, every follower of Jesus Christ is given a gift [1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 & Romans 12]. This fact is also corroborated by Peter [1 Peter 4:10-11].
The Bible teaches that Jesus handed His ministry to us just before He ascended to heaven so that we would continue to make disciples just as He did. After He ascended, He poured out the Holy Spirit on His first disciples and everyone who would come to believe in His name. With the Holy Spirit came various gifts – which are manifestations of the Holy Spirit – given to each of us so that we can serve the Body of Christ. Before proceeding, it’s worth addressing some fundamental questions about these spiritual gifts as it relates to each of us individually. Because God never intended for us to be ignorant of our gifts [1 Corinthians 12:1-2].
When were we given our gifts? When Jesus ascended to heaven [Ephesians 4:8]. When did we receive it? When we repented of our sins and were baptised [Acts 2:38]. What are these gifts? The four chapters I mentioned earlier detail the various gifts. I also find the way Paul presents the Godhead’s involvement in bestowing these gifts on us enlightening. The Holy Spirit bestows different gifts on us, the Lord Jesus gives us ministries to complement our gifts and God the Father determines the results of our ministries [1 Corinthians 12:4-7]. So, why have we been given these gifts? These gifts are given for building up the Church. We are to employ them in serving the Church until we all attain unity of the faith, the knowledge of who Jesus is and become the mature disciples Jesus wants us to be [Ephesians 4:11-13]. When this happens, our convictions will be unwavering as we speak the truth in love and demonstrate that love as we serve each other [1 Corinthians 13]. Our world today needs this desperately.
I suspect there are Christians who aren’t aware of these truths and are not contributing to building up the Church as they should. Others may be aware of their gifts but either don’t know the Giver or the purpose of their gifts. Therefore, they aren’t using their gifts for the common good as God intended. Nevertheless, those who know the Giver and the purpose of the gifts will use their gifts to the glory of God. Do you know your gifts? Are you using it to God’s glory? John Wimber the founder of the Vineyard movement once said that in the Church, “everyone gets to play”. He is right because Jesus has a specific part for each of us to play in building up the Church. Finding purpose, fulfilment and peace in life is closely related to using our God-given gifts to glorify Him through serving others. Do you truly believe this? If so, how does your life reflect this truth?
Do you know what your gift is? If not, what do others say you’re good at? What are the things that come easily to you that serve others? What do you enjoy doing and would happily do for free if you could? These are questions to get us started. However, you must seek the God who crafted you for definitive answers. I find that the Holy Spirit bestows gifts which effortlessly complement our personalities and inclinations which would make perfect sense. God wants us to succeed in life and that success involves us operating in our gifts. But, for this to happen we must surrender ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice, and renew our minds (Romans 12:1-2) as we allow ourselves to be sanctified through being washed with the Word of God [Ephesians 5:26].
Lastly, our gifts, ministries and the outcome of those ministries are all determined by God. As such we must guard against pride, envy and self-indulgence. We are not to covet another person’s gift or compare ministries and results. It’s never about us, ours is to do what God has asked of us according to the measure of the grace He gives us [Ephesians 4:7] and leave the rest to Him. After all, without Him, we can do nothing [John 15:5].
The feast of Pentecost is also a reminder of the fundamental expectations of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus. These expectations are to make disciples of all nations and serve the Church with our God-given gifts. We do not do this with our finite strength but we rely solely on the infinite grace of God. That grace isn’t abstract, Paul tells us that grace is a Person [Titus 2:11], One who has promised to be with us until the end of the age.