Gifts and Greater Gifts

 
 
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We just celebrated Valentine’s Week by focusing on love in the article: New Fresh Love. This week, let’s explore how love can make a personal difference and a global difference.

With all the challenges, conflicts, and losses on this spinning globe, love is a challenging subject. Still – what the world needs most is love. Even song writers agree. In 1965, Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote the hit song, “What The World Needs Now Is Love [Sweet Love].”

On your worst days, your lonely days, you know you need a deep, abiding love. You need God’s love.

What Are Gifts and Greater Gifts?

To do justice to this topic, we need to explore some Scripture. 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, concludes the greatest quality to aspire to is love. It is the greatest of the “greater gifts.” Two other greater gifts are faith and hope.

If you are a Jesus follower, you have a spiritual gift set. There is a full list of all spiritual gifts in chapter 12. But no matter what your individual gift set is, you need love. It boosts the value and usefulness of your gifts. In fact, love is the only admirable motive under all gifts and skill sets.

Still, to display love, you need to do certain things. This is where your spiritual gifts come in. This is how you reach into the world, starting with your family.

All spiritual gifts are from God. The gifts of greater value (from His perspective) build up, encourage, and nurture His people.1 Cor. 14:1-19 compares two gifts: speaking in tongues and prophecy. Let’s see what these two gifts look like, each motivated with the greatest gift of love.

Why would we spend time talking about speaking in tongues or prophecy? These topics sound irrelevant in today’s world. I’m guessing they are more relevant than you might suspect. And I know they have been vastly misunderstood. So, here we go. Let’s start with tongues.

Tongues

Speaking in tongues has often been coveted through centuries, possibly because of its sensationalism. It’s quite an experience to speak in a beautiful, heavenly language you previously did not study to learn. Tongues is a personal edification experience for only you – a unique opportunity to express your love for God. Many believers do not have this gift, and that’s OK.

Without the presence of an interpreter, speaking in tongues has no place in public worship. If an interpreter is present, they convert this limited, personal experience into value that is multiplied to others by sharing the message in a language everyone understands. If the message is truly from God, it will strengthen, encourage, edify, instruct, and/or comfort people who are listening. (1 Cor. 14) Those people will not be confused, fearful, or insulted by the experience. This is in contrast to when people hear a language they don’t understand being inserted into a public worship time – and they have no idea how to respond. They will probably think all those Jesus followers are nuts! Out of their mind! (1 Cor. 14:23)

Speaking in tongues, however lovely, does not compare to regular, common, daily love for others. It does not hold a candle to faithful daily duties you carry out in Jesus’ name. Your hard work and kindness bring credibility to words of love for those around you through action. Your faithful service backs your claims of love, just as Jesus’ faithful sacrifice and service backs His claims of God’s love.

Paul spoke in tongues. But he puts this gift at the bottom of the list. And he contrasts it to a gift of greater value on the list: prophecy. Not every believer has this gift either, and that’s OK.

Prophecy

Prophecy has a completely different purpose than tongues. It strengthens, encourages, instructs, and comforts other Christians. As a spiritual gift, it’s meaning is not to predict the future! It provides practical action steps for life. Whereas tongues edifies one person (without an interpreter), prophecy edifies all believers. It also provides an intelligent, welcoming message to people who don’t know Jesus yet. Tongues expresses love for God privately, prophecy expresses God’s love for all people and provides practical instruction for believers to show their love back for God through their daily choices – their actions. Whereas tongues is a momentary experience (and special memory), prophecy focuses on daily living issues, addressing the hard work of living well. It gives practical, necessary teaching and training to nurture growth, encourage discouraged hearts, provide critical direction and details, and stimulate courage in the deep recesses of each believer.

The exponential effect of prophecy, motivated by love, far outweighs tongues. It is to be desired much more highly because it has the power to express love for God and His people in the most critical, ordinary, practical manner.

God values order and purpose in spreading His message of salvation and hope. He wants His people to grow up in their faith, to get beyond private edification and invest in nurturing other believers into maturity. This puts legs to your private walk and talk with God, adopting His very heart for lost people.

i-Apply for Gifts and Greater Gifts

  1. What is your spiritual gift set?
  2. If you don’t know, ask God to show you what spiritual gift set He gave you.
  3. Prayerfully study 1 Cor. 12? Ask others who know you well to give feedback. There are spiritual gift assessment tools you can take to determine what your set is.
  4. Then explore how to use your spiritual gift set for building others up on a regular, practical basis.

Why not let love motivate your spiritual gift set? This love is not a feeling. It’s a decision. Build others up with the greatest of the greater gifts: LOVE!

 

 

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