This resource is adapted from our Ezer Equipped monthly newsletter dedicated to equipping our women with content, from both within and outside of our church, to help us continue to grow as disciple and disciple-makers. To subscribe to the Ezer Equipped newsletter, click here.
Welcome to this edition of Ezer Equipped!
Last month we addressed the topic of racism and how to be strong allies for our friends and neighbors in the black community. This month we are returning to our series on the Holy Spirit. In May's edition, we focused on the Holy Spirit and his ministry to us. His work stirs our affections for Christ, replaces our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, and secures our place in the family of God. This month we are focusing on the Holy Spirit’s ministry in and through us. We want to help you understand more about spiritual gifts and how the Holy Spirit empowers you specifically for God’s mission.
There’s a lot of confusion in the church regarding spiritual gifts. Some of you grew up in more charismatic churches that freely exercised and even emphasized the spiritual gifts of healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. Maybe you’ve seen these gifts exercised in ways that were faithful and strengthening for the church, or maybe you’ve seen these gifts abused, misused, or even misrepresented and it’s left a sour taste in your mouth for anything supernatural. Others grew up in more traditional environments where the emphasis was on the Word of God and the Spirit of God was almost never mentioned—especially not when it came to spiritual gifts. And some of you are just plain confused and don’t even know what to think, and you certainly don’t know what your gifts are, how to use them, or if you even have any at all.
Wherever you land, there’s a lot of room for all of us to grow in this area, and I think Peter gives us a great launching point,
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
If you are a believer, God has uniquely and supernaturally gifted you through the Holy Spirit. And it is your responsibility, as Peter says, to embrace how God has gifted you and to use those gifts well in serving others.
But there are two ditches we can fall in here, similar to what we discussed in our last newsletter. First, we can dismiss the Holy Spirit and treat anything that is supernatural with skepticism—trusting instead in our own intellect, abilities, strategies, and grit. When we land here, we push the Holy Spirit into the margins and miss out on opportunities to see him work powerfully in unexplainable ways. The other ditch is self-promotion and a spiritual narcissism—overemphasizing supernatural experiences and viewing spiritual gifts as signs of spiritual maturity or value. Here we use the Holy Spirit as a way to gain affirmation, importance, identity, value, and status in the church and reject opportunities to intentionally not use our gifts, in specific ways or at specific times, in order to better love and serve others.
As believers, we need God’s Word to guide us in both our understanding of and use of our spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are not about us or for us and our own self-fulfillment. They are manifestations of God’s own Spirit in you in order to build up the church, advance God’s cause in the world, and to enable you to be strength for others. This means you are simply a steward—a vessel that houses a unique supernatural power, which is meant to flow through you onto others.
As always, this newsletter contains some recommended resources for further study. We have also created a new resource to help you learn more about spiritual gifts and how God may have uniquely equipped and empowered you for the building up of the body of Christ.
Grace Church Women’s Discipleship Advisor
Book: 1 Corinthians 12-14
In this passage, Paul challenged the church at Corinth over their envy, comparison, and jealousy over spiritual gifts that caused division among them. Paul reminds them that the Spirit gives gifts for the building up of the church and magnifying Christ, not for self-glory and the adoration of others. Love must always be the conduit through which our gifts flow. You can be the most supernaturally gifted person in the church but if love doesn’t govern you in your use of spiritual gifts you have gained nothing.
“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
by: Carolyn McCulley
In a world full of tools (Enneagram, Strengths Finder, DISC, Meyers Briggs) to help us learn who we are and how we function, this can often lead to narcissism, vanity, and navel-gazing. In this article, Carolyn McCulley reminds us that while our spiritual gifting is useful and of value, it is not the most important thing. Love for God and others must be our aim.
“All these ‘varieties of activities’ are apportioned by the Spirit for the common good. We all bring something different to the party, but that diversity is exactly what is needed for the common good. There’s no point in comparing or complaining, because not only is the Spirit divvying up the goods as He wants to, it’s not about you, anyway. You get a gift to spend on someone else.”
by: J.D. Greear
While we recommended this book last month, it is worth a second recommendation. In chapter 9, Greear specifically addresses how we experience the Holy Spirit in our giftings, discusses some common confusion about gifts listed in the Scriptures, and extends the challenge that, “Whatever you are good at, do it well for the glory of God—and do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”
“Most spiritual gifts are assigned somewhere as duties to all believers. For example, God commands all believers to serve, evangelize, prophesy, pray for healing, intercede for others, trust God for provision, be generous, exhort one another, and so on. But some believers are particularly effective in those things. This unusual effectiveness is the sign of a spiritual gifting.”
Video: The Holy Spirit
by: Jeff Eenigenburg
In this short video, our Taylors campus worship pastor explains God’s purpose in spiritual gifts and some pitfalls we can fall into when it comes to understanding our specific gifts.
“We, as Americans, have a strong tendency to love to understand ourselves. We love a journey of self-discovery. We love personality tests . . . and I think sometimes the spiritual gifts conversation can move right along those lines, and we begin to treat spiritual gifts as just another project of self-discovery. And while it is good to know what our spiritual gifts are, I do think it can turn our mindset about spiritual gifts inward and we begin to think about them as more of a representation of us than it is a way to turn our attention toward others and serve them. When we begin to see spiritual gifts that way, there is a danger of looking at them as a way to showcase how gifted we are or the ways in which we are gifted to gain attention, credibility, and a place in the body of Christ.”
Sermon: Spiritual Gifts and Service
by: Matt Williams
Matt teaches on 1 Corinthians 12, common misunderstandings and abuses of spiritual gifts, and how it is not the spiritual gifts that illustrate or define our spiritual maturity but the fruit of the spirit that defines our maturity.
“[Spiritual gifts] are for serving other people, not for building your status. [The Corinthians] are moving from taking the thing that God gave them to serve other people, and it's becoming a form of spiritual narcissism as they are using these gifts to fill their own needs and deal with their own deficiencies and make them feel good about themselves.”
We encourage you to use these conversation starters as a means of self-reflection and for discussion within your community.
- Which ditch do you find yourself in: skepticism (pushing the Holy Spirit to the margins) or self-promotion (overemphasizing supernatural experiences as signs of spiritual maturity and securing affirmation)?
- Spiritual gifts are not self-identified. They are confirmed in community by other believers as they witness you serving and the Spirit producing fruit through you. Can you recall a time when another believer affirmed the Spirit at work through you? What were you doing? How was the church being helped?
- Read 1 Peter 4:10-11. How are you currently serving the body of Christ? When you think about what Peter says in this passage, are you using your gifts well? If not, why not? If you are using them, is the way in which you are using them bringing glory to yourself or God?
Scripture warns us to not just be hearers of the Word but to be doers of it as well. All of life is repentance. What is a believable next step God is calling you to take in response to all you’ve learned? Pick one or two of the below steps to take.
- Based on where you are—either in or between the two ditches described above—how do you need to move?
- If you find yourself leaning towards self-promotion and hyper-spiritualizing the gifts, reread 1 Corinthians 12-14 and listen to Matt’s message on that passage. What does Paul say about spiritual virtues of faith, hope, and love, compared to spiritual gifts? What does he say about not equating gifts with personal status and value? What would it look like for you to pursue loving others over displays of power?
- If you find yourself more aligned with skepticism and dismissing the spirit and the gifts he has given, reread 1 Peter 4. You have been given a spiritual gift, not to be confused with a natural talent, and you have responsibility to use it and develop it. What does it look like for you to acknowledge this responsibility and step into the lives of others? How are you stewarding this gift in this season of your life?
- People very rarely start serving in the area of their gifting. As you serve over time, to other believers notice your gifts and move you more into areas of your specific gifting. If you’ve never had anyone affirm fruit they’ve seen in your ministry to others, what are one or two areas you could begin serving within the body of Christ?
- We created a new resource for you: Understanding Spiritual Gifts. We hope to help you learn more about spiritual gifts, reflect on how the Holy Spirit may have gifted you, and discuss some common temptations and abuses of spiritual gifts. We know this is a hefty resource and can feel daunting when you first look at it. Don’t hesitate to dig in though! We created this specifically with you in mind, so print it out and take your time working through it.
Book: Romans 12
Book: 1 Peter 4:10-11
Book: 1 Corinthians 12-14
Book: Ephesians 4:1-14
by: Christine Hoover
by: Matt Williams
Sermon: Spiritual Unity
by: Bill White
Sermon: Exalting Others
by: Matt Williams