How is Jesus Making a Difference in Our Lives? – Week #4: Holy Spirit

Our question we’re asking each week in this series is, “How is Jesus making a difference in my life?” This week I have a very simple, straightforward answer.
How?  By faith.

Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Isaiah 11:1-5 here.

Listen here: 

Listen to choirs here.

One Sunday a pastor was greeting people after the service and a woman complimented him on his sermon.  He said, “I have to give all the credit to the Holy Spirit.”  To which she replied, “It wasn’t that good.”[1]

I tell you that joke because today we’re talking about the gifts of the Spirit, and I was going to tell you that my spiritual is, of course, puns.  I think some of you might disagree.

Spiritual gifts are the manifestations of the power of God in our lives. They are some of the ways we see the difference that Jesus makes in our lives.  We are able to do more and be better than we would be without Jesus.  Our scripture readings for today talks about several spiritual gifts:

Wisdom, knowledge, faith, miracles, healing, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, understanding, counsel, might.  There are other scriptures that talk about other gifts: serving, leading, encouraging, giving, mercy (Romans 12:6-8) and the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). All of these are the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.

Today I’m going to just focus on one that helps us with all the others.  We’ll talk about the others in our small groups tonight and tomorrow, and even if you’ve never come to a group, you can come tonight at 6:30 here at the church or tomorrow night at 7pm at Tami & Steve Hosman’s house to talk more about spiritual gifts.

We read this morning from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  He wrote to them to help them with problems they were having.  We tend to think that divisions in the church are a new problem, but they were already happening back in the first century.  They were arguing over spirituality.[2]  Who’s more spiritual?  Who’s got more Jesus?  Which of the manifestations of the spirit is better?  Paul points out that the Holy Spirit is present whenever anyone says Jesus is Lord, and that all of the gifts of the Spirit are given to build up the church. God gives us what we need at a given time according to his purposes.

That’s why our verse to remember this week is 1 Cor. 12:7.  The Living Bible makes it clear:

“The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1 Corinthian 12:7)

1 Cor 12.7.jpgThe gifts of the Holy Spirit become visible when we put our faith into action, when we’re helping one another.  Through faith, we discover the rest of the gifts and the fruits of the spirit.

Our question we’re asking each week in this series is, “How is Jesus making a difference in my life?” This week I have a very simple, straightforward answer.

How?  By faith.

There are all sorts of gifts, all of them necessary and valuable for building up the kingdom of God, but the one that holds up all the other spiritual gifts is faith.

God gives us the faith to believe in Jesus, to listen to the words of the Bible, and to do the things he calls us to do.  Faith is what enables us to trust God enough to obey God.

Through faith we have faith.

God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)

Some of us have the gift of having stronger, bigger faith that makes it so we can help others who are struggling with their faith. It’s a gift of God.  That’s why one of the words Paul uses for spiritual gifts is the Greek word charismaton – the gifts of grace.[3]

Faith is gift. We need to steward it. We need to take care of it.  We can foster it and help it grow, or we can starve it and let it get weak and weaker.

We need to acknowledge it.  Claim it. Say it out loud.

We need to feed it – through prayer, Bible reading, discussing the Bible with others and hearing what God is saying to them.

We need to use it.

When we use our faith, we strengthen it, and we surprise ourselves with its strength.  I used to be very afraid of talking to people who are opposed to Christianity.  I avoided them.  Sometimes I’m shy about talking to new people anyway.  I push myself to overcome that because I want to meet new people, and I want to get to know people, but sometimes it’s hard, and so it is especially hard to talk to someone who is outspoken about their disbelief in God.  I was afraid that in talking to someone who doesn’t have faith that I would lose my faith.  But as I acknowledged my fear, I began to realize that my faith was stronger than my fear….because God is stronger. Deep down I know God is there. And I grew to realize that someone telling me otherwise isn’t going to change that.

Many of us go through seasons when we stop going to church or drift away from faith.  I did, too.  Because part of growing up is going through the process of figuring things out for ourselves.[4]  When we’re little we stay near our parents.  At our house we called it the “parent proximity meter.”  Our kids would only go so far away before they would realize they weren’t close enough, and they’d come running back.  As kids get older, they’ll go farther, until eventually, they’re ready to go off on their own to college, to their own apartments, to their own adult lives.  Our faith goes through the same kind of process of individuation.  We have to find God on our own. It can happen to us at any age.

There will be times in our lives where we go through what we sometimes call a crisis of faith, when we’re asking, “Is God really there?”  When our faith is dim, this is a really tough question.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Sometimes the things that we can see make it really hard to trust in the things we cannot see.  We can see the bills piling up, or the big list of things that need to be done, or the diagnosis from the doctor, or the person or situation that is challenging us, or the bad things on the news, and those things can seem so much more real than God.

I have been there.  In one of those times, a friend who I didn’t even know had faith asked me, “Have you talked to God about this?”  In that moment, God gave her the faith and words to help me find faith.

Faith is the spiritual gift that enables us to use and exhibit all the other spiritual gifts.  It’s there, even when we aren’t sure it’s there, because the Holy Spirit is there.

If your faith is strong, keep it strong by feeding it, and use it to help encourage others.

If you aren’t taking care of it, today’s the day to start doing something to help it grow.  Commit to coming to church, to going to a small group, to spending time with God every day.  Whatever the next step is for you, do that today.

If your faith is wavering or weak, that’s ok.  Admit that it is and ask for help.

Watch for ways to help one another.

God gives us all kinds of gifts, as the Holy Spirit works in us enabling us to help build up the church. We find our gifts through putting our faith into action, through stepping out in faith. The more we help one another, the more we overcome our divisions and join together to serve God and lift up the name of Jesus, the more we will see the Holy Spirit work in us to display the power of God.

Thanks be to God!

Listen to the SC Choirs 

Listen to the Highland Singers’ postlude 

———-

[1] http://javacasa.com/humor/sermon.htm

[2] Some good discussion of this here https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=72

[3] Paul talks about them using two different words in Greek:  pneumatikon – the gifts of the Spirit, and charismaton – the gifts of grace.

[4] I call this “individuation” but psychologists might call it something else. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individuation  In Fowler’s stages of faith, this would be spiritual adolescence, stage 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_W._Fowler

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