Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gifts and Fruit

In my years in the church (fifty-seven of 'em--no, I'm not a "young whippersnapper" any more), I've seen many times when after teaching on "spiritual gifts" and talk about "discovering your gifts" and so on, a lot of people, often young but not always, get excited about them and want to start exercising them. (Especially the ones that put you up front--I have some thoughts on this, but it will have to be another post.) But what I have come to understand from reading the NT passages on spiritual gifts is that they are not given to us as individuals; they are given to the church--we are not the recipients, we are the delivery truck drivers. They are given to meet the needs of the church body in this life, and as such, they are temporary. Some may be lifelong, but by God's standards that is still temporary. And there have been times in my life when something was given through me, to meet the needs of the moment, and that particular type of gift was not given through me again--sort of a one-shot deal. (And if God wants to work that way, I'm okay with it.)

Now the fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control--are a different matter. We have to develop these in our lives, with the help of the Holy Spirit. (If it was up to us to generate them on our own, the church would be in a sorry mess--come to think of it, sometimes it does get like that!) But these are character qualities, not functions. So whatever we can acquire of them really does become ours, not only for life, but for eternity. In fact, acquiring these is what turns us into the kind of people who can enjoy Heaven.

I'm not saying the gifts are unimportant, but that they are God's business. If He wants me to help with some delivery now and then, I'll do what I can to oblige. But my real concern--my day job, you might say-- is developing the fruit of the Spirit in my own walk. Can't say the mission is fully accomplished, but I haven't given up yet either.

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