For many years I did not believe in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. In those days, when I read First Corinthians, chapters 12-14, I understood those references to things like prophecy, miracles, healings, and tongues as being gifts to the historical church that no longer had present day availability to Christians. Around 1999, I began to question how I came to that conclusion, and I discovered easily enough that I had simply embraced what I had been previously taught by others as being true concerning the gifts of the Spirit. I launched into a personal extended study about what the Bible alone revealed concerning the nature of spiritual gifts, and I eventually concluded that there was not a single verse in all of the Bible that teaches that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit had ceased.
My theology on the gifts of the Holy Spirit changed in that season and, a little more than two years later, God sovereignly ushered me into the realm of personal experience with those gifts. I make no apologies for my current position and practice involving the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I live my life in obedience to the commands in First Corinthians 12:31 & 14:1 to desire and pursue spiritual gifts. I am always seeking to be growing in them, and I hope to continue to do so until I stand in the presence of Jesus. These gifts have not only enriched my personal walk with Jesus, they have proven to be healthy tools to enrich the lives of others. Building up the Body of Christ is what spiritual gifts are primarily meant to do. The Holy Spirit imparts His gifts to Christians for the purpose of each of us ministering to one another (1 Cor. 12:7). Yesterday, I spent a few hours thinking upon three gifts that are desperately needed in the Church right now. These three gifts do not seem spectacular on the surface. Most people would not even consider them supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Yet, in Romans 12:6, Paul uses the Greek word χαρίσματα (charismata) to describe these three gifts. This Greek word reveals that these are gifts of grace that are supernaturally imparted to a believer by the Holy Spirit. We get our word charismatic from this same Greek word. We are on solid ground to say that the three gifts of serving, giving and encouraging are Charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. We can see these three gifts in practical action through the life of one little-known man whom Paul references in an ancient letter:
“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. but when he arrived in Rome, he searched for me earnestly and found me – may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day! And you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” – 2 Timothy 1:18
Paul was incarcerated at the end of his life for being a faithful witness for Jesus Christ. He had been delivered so many times from trouble and persecution, but this time he would not be freed from prison. Very soon, he would be martyred for Jesus. He wrote his final letter to a younger pastor named Timothy, exhorting Timothy to continue on in the faith after Paul’s death. When he mentions the man, Onesiphorus, he expresses deep, heartfelt gratitude for this man’s personal ministry to Paul. While Paul was deeply committed to the gifts of prophecy, tongues, healings and miracles, he mentions none of those more spectacular charismata here. He blesses Onesiphorus for ministering to him with encouragement (he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains). He spotlights Onesiphorus for giving his time, energy and expenses to travel to Rome and personally minister to Paul while he was incarcerated (when he arrived in Rome, he searched for me and found me). Paul then affirms this same brother for the personal servanthood he had displayed at an earlier time when they were both together in Ephesus (you well know the service he rendered).
Paul intentionally exalts these three Kingdom ministries and places them on equal ground with the more sought-after gifts that Christians both then and today seemed more eager to experience. Based on what we read in Scripture, these gifts of encouraging, serving and giving come from the same Holy Spirit and, consequently, should be held in the same honorable regard as the more spectacular gifts of the Spirit.
When was the last time someone came forward in a church service to have hands laid upon them to receive a baptism of servanthood?
Have you ever witnessed a Christian longing for breakthrough by seeking an impartation of supernatural generosity so that they might more freely release their time, energy and finances into the Kingdom?
I have been in vocational ministry since 1996 and have not once ministered to a person who was groaning to receive a deeper gift of servanthood.
People want prophetic gifts.
People want tongues of fire.
People want a healing mantle to be laid upon them by God.
Could it be that the modern Church needs greater spiritual breakthrough in the arena of encouraging the weary and forgotten, giving ourselves more fully behind the scenes with our time and money through anonymous means, and serving other people joyfully in tough, vacant and unimpressive areas of need? What if God has our breakthroughs hidden in the pursuit of these less-regarded charismata rather than the fiery experiences of prophecy, healings and tongues? It would be consistent with what Scripture reveals about God for Him to choose to embed large storehouses of breakthrough, joy and purpose in these presumably lesser gifts rather than the ones that come with all the hype in the modern Church.
We should want the gifts. All of them. We should desire the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives through all the gifts listed in First Corinthians, chapter twelve. Yet, if we are only seeking those gifts while dismissing the parallel value of gifts like encouraging, giving and serving, then I think we should question whether or not we have spiritually and relationally matured enough to be entrusted with greater levels of things like prophecy, tongues, miracles or healing. Again, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are imparted to us for the good of others (1 Cor. 12:7). Giving of our time and finances is to be viewed as the exercise of a spiritual gift, not merely the meeting of pragmatic need through the human discipline of planning and providing. Encouraging other people via personally serving them is grossly undervalued by us, but it brings the touch of God to people in their time of weakness, loneliness or need. To serve other people means we deny ourselves the natural desire to be the ones being served in those moments. Holy Spirit empowers us to go deeper into the nature of Jesus who declared that He came to serve others rather than be served by them. Each of these three lesser desired spiritual gifts calls us to think deeply of the value of them and to pursue greater release of them just as we might pursue the thrilling experience of tongues, miracles, healings or prophecy.
For all of you who operate as servants, encouragers and generous givers – THANK YOU!!! Never let any imbalanced Christian or teaching lead you to feel inferior because you flow in these often-undervalued gifts of the Spirit more than you might flow in the other gifts which are normally treasured and pursued among modern Christians. The Church needs more of Jesus’ love to be released through us. In my opinion, the love of Jesus Christ is more clearly seen in encouraging, serving and giving than it is in the gifts of tongues or prophecy. There are just fewer spectacular headlines associated with these three gifts, so most Christians don’t seek breakthrough or greater depth in them.
May God the Spirit empower all of us to mature into a deeper pursuit of these three gifts that may very well be the hidden places where God has a treasure trove of breakthrough awaiting us.