Consider the right way (Christ’s way) to use your spiritual gifts to make a difference and maximize your impact and reward:
1 Corinthians 12:31-14:1 ESV - But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
Have you ever considered your ability to speak in tongues - or your exercise of prophetic or knowledge gifts - as God’s stamp of approval on your life or ministry? Have you ever viewed your intense faith or radical generosity or extreme self-denial as evidence of your heart for God? While all of these are good, Biblical gifts and disciplines, it is sobering to think that they can all be operated or possessed without Biblical love. While none of us has attained perfect purity of motives or consistency of pure love, what better spiritual pursuit is there? It is Biblical to desire spiritual gifts, especially ones that build up the church. Yet in the middle of the most extensive apostolic correction on the abuse of spiritual ministry gifts, the heart is Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians. Love is the proper fuel for our ministering. Love is also the safe governor to keep the gifts of the Spirit from wounding or destroying ourselves or others because of misuse or abuse.
Have you ever desired to be able to sing or play music with the skill and inspiration of someone else? Or desired to preach, teach, or have the spiritual knowledge of others? Or hungered for the miraculous power to operate signs, wonders, prophecies, healings, and other miracles? Perhaps just the desire to be a great leader or missionary or rich giver? None of these are bad desires. Yet in 26 years of serving God, I’ve never heard of anyone longing for - even envying (in a sanctified way) - the purity of someone else’s love. How can that be? In view of this virtue at the top of the list of important virtues and ministry, shouldn’t we desire to have the extreme “anointing” to love God and others? Whose love for God, for the church, for the lost inspires you? Whose consistent ability to love like Christ would you wish to have? Do you think others are envious of your love for God, the church, and the lost? Think and pray on these this.
1 John 3:10-23 ESV - By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 19 By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
1 John 4:7-12 ESV - Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.