The gifts of the Spirit have nothing to do with personal ambition or career orientation. They are not given to build individual reputations, to warrant superior positions in the local church, or to demonstrate spiritual advancement. The gifts of the Spirit are not trophies, talents, traits or toys. The gifts of the Spirit are God’s supernatural expressions of love, caring, kindness, healing and concern – bestowed upon us and through us. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT.
Sadly, we well-meaning Christians can take the bountiful blessings of God and turn them, as Wimber states here, into trophies, talents, traits, or toys. How often, in my lifetime, have I seen anointed men and women of God run amok, taking the anointing given to them by God, and using it for self-centered purposes? All the while, the Lord sits sadly off to the side waiting for someone to be humble enough to do it the right way: Someone who can be trusted with the blessings of God; someone who won’t treat the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit with such disdain; someone, like Jesus, who will learn to prefer and defer their personal wills to the interest of the Father, instead of insisting on having it their way.
I don’t get visions very often in my life. However, back about twenty years ago when Sandy and I were pastoring our first Vineyard church in Iowa City, we attended a big church leadership conference being held in our area. It was being hosted by a well-known pastor at the time and literally hundreds and hundreds of key leaders from major churches across the Midwest were there to take in this exciting event. Some big-name pastors were scheduled to speak at this conference and I remember feeling the buzz in the lobby as the doors opened on that first evening. People ran to the front row seats, making sure that they would be close to all the action!
Sandy and I found some seats about halfway down toward the front and settled in for the excitement. Worship, of course, preceded the first speaker, and there was an excitement in the air as the lights came down and the event was ready to roll. I recall the worship leader that night working the crowd, picking up on the anticipation we all had for the evening. One rock-em, sock-em praise song after another kept the crowd on their feet, moving to the music. I felt a bit uneasy about the worship session, sensing that it was more like a carnival than a place where we should be meeting with God. I sat down and began to reflect on why I was there and why I had allowed myself to get so caught up in the excitement of the evening. Near the end of the worship set, the band finally changed gears, slowing things down a bit with the old hymn, Be Thou My Vision. I closed my eyes, lifted my hands, and sang this song to Jesus with as much passion as I could muster.
Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I was standing in the midst of a great hall filled with people. It was a magnificent banquet hall and folks were dressed to the hilt. Apparently the king had invited all of us to attend a banquet held in the honor of Jesus and the royal palace was a-buzz with excitement. As the crowd led its way into the large banquet room, I took note of a long line of tables lined up along both sides of the hall. The tables were decorated nicely with placards above each one. It had the feel of a tradeshow, where booths are set up for vendors to display their wares, but in this case, the placards above each booth really intrigued me. On one side of the room, all the gifts of the Spirit were listed on the placards. As my eyes scanned the long row of tables, I saw that the first booth said the gift of healing; the next, the gift of tongues; followed by yet another where the gift of wisdom was being distributed. On the opposite side of the room, the signage advertised the fruit of the Spirit. The first booth had faith; the next, hope; followed by the next, love.
People were flocking to the tables. Apparently this banquet was being held by the king to freely distribute his gifts and his fruit to his people. I was excited. I thought to myself, “I better get over to those tables as quickly as I can before they run out of gifts!” Then it hit me. As I saw the people flocking to the tables, even getting a bit rowdy, pushing each other to get to the gifts they wanted, I suddenly felt very remorseful. Here I was, one of God’s children, pushing and shoving others, trying to outrun them to get the fruit and the gifts I wanted for my life.
In my guilt and shame, I looked up and across the room, there he was. At the front of the great banquet hall, sat the guest of honor. It was Jesus, sitting there all by himself at the head table. He looked very sad. As my eyes caught his, he beckoned me to step away from the busy tables. At first, I was hesitant. I really wanted my share of these fruit and gifts and by going over to Jesus, I would lose my place in line. Finally, after a few more glances at the Master, I decided to tear myself away from the madness and go over to Jesus. As I stepped up to him, he beckoned me to sit down next to him. I could tell that he was very disappointed at the way everyone was acting. I felt his deep sadness and stayed there with him for some time, giving him the undivided attention no one else seemed interested in doing.
After a while, the crowds died down. People had come and gone. The room was a mess. People had grabbed all of the gifts and fruit and walked out of the room, never even coming up to the guest of honor to acknowledge or thank him for the party or for the party favors! Inside, I felt a bit cheated. Since I had stepped out of line earlier in the evening, I missed the opportunity to get my share of gifts. Jesus looked at me and I was aware that he could read my thoughts. Without a word, he stood up, took me by the hand and walked me over to one of the empty tables. The table was marked love. He reached down behind the empty table and pulled out a gift with my name on it. Then, we went to the second table. He did the same thing. Before the evening was done, Jesus had escorted me to many tables, all of which had specially wrapped gifts with my name written on them, all hidden away behind each table!
I looked into his face and knew with certainty that it was Jesus’ intent to escort each individual guest to the tables that evening, doing exactly what he had done for me. But sadly, few were patient enough, first and foremost, to go sit with the Master, allowing him to choose what fruit and gifts God had especially set aside for us.
I’ll never forget that graphic vision of twenty years ago. And I hope by sharing it here with you today, you too, will remember that the gifts and fruit of the Spirit are not ours, but his. And these same gifts are best accessed by, first and foremost, going over to Jesus, sitting with him, and allowing him to take us to his distribution tables. For his name’s sake!
Jesus, forgive me when I take the gifts and fruit of the Spirit and treat them as trophies, talents, traits, or toys. Your gifts are sacred to you, Lord, and I, for one, would prefer to dwell in your presence, waiting for you to release your gifts to me, than to take it into my own hands, trying to operate in gifts that, quite honestly, will always belong to you. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How might I be misusing the fruit and gifts of the Spirit, unwittingly trying to operate in these gifts out of my own strength instead of deferring to and preferring Jesus’ personal invitation to join him as he determines which gifts and fruit might best fit me and the work he has for me to do?
- Am I looking over my shoulder at others and the gifts they have, becoming envious of others while ignoring the gifts Jesus has specifically picked out for me?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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