God works in all of us in different ways, as that is part of what makes us the Body of Christ. We are not all meant to play the same part in this body. And if we try to play the same part, the body will trip over itself at best or severely injure itself at worst.
The difficulty here is that many of us have an attraction to the more glorious body parts that make up the Body of Christ. We don’t want to play the part of the big toe when we could be playing the part of the mouth, and so we chase after the parts that seem more glorious for the wrong reasons. We try to fit roles God has not appointed us to and in doing so we end up hurting both ourselves and the rest of the body. We often want to chase after the things that will get the most attention, but that doesn’t make the body something special, that just makes us something special.
But all of this being said, while we should be comfortable with our particular position in the body, Paul told us to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor 12:31).
It’s important to note that while we all operate differently within the Body of Christ, it does not mean that all other gifts and empowerments are closed off to us. Remember, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Cor 6:19), and the Holy Spirit is capable of anything. Just because He’s anointed you in a certain way does not mean that you are therefore not allowed to move in other giftings, nor does it mean that you are cut off from being given more giftings from the Holy Spirit as time goes on.
Paul’s statement that we should “earnestly desire the higher gifts,” is a very telling statement. The implication is not only that you can have more than you currently have, but that you should want more. Paul does not want us to be so content with where we’re at that we never ask God for more, rather he wants us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18)—a verse that implies that we should not just have one drink of the Spirit, but that we should keep on drinking the Spirit, because apparently we leak. We are not to take one sip of the Spirit and call it good—we must make the consumption of the Holy Spirit a part of our regular diet. As James D. G. Dunn points out, “One does not enter the new age or the Christian life more than once, but one may be empowered by or filled with the Spirit many times (Ac 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9; Eph 5:18).” (Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. 2nd ed. London, SCM Press, 2010, p. 54.)
And it becomes clear that we should be open to giftings we may not have when we look at some of the giftings that Paul lists.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Ro 12:6-8)
Now I don’t think Paul ever meant to imply, “If you’re not gifted to serve, exhort, contribute or show mercy—then don’t.” No; he expects us to do these things whether we’re gifted at them or not. Though at the same time, he does see a special gifting on some for doing such things.
Likewise, if you’re not gifted to heal, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pray for people’s healing. It’s all the grace and power of God through you in the end, so if someone is sick, you pray for them regardless of any special anointing on you and see what God does. Besides, how can we desire the greater gifts if we’re not willing to try them out and see if He has given them to us yet? I am certain there are people gifted for prophecy who have no idea, simply because no one ever taught them how the gift works.
When I underwent Charismatic renewal, I became incredibly zealous for everything. Reading about the saints of old was depressing because it left me incredibly jealous of them. I wanted to have their experiences and do the things they did. Sometimes holiness fueled that zeal, but many times it was pride. There were many nights I pouted, “Why not me, God?”
When I became a pastor, my evangelistic plan was to just create space for the Spirit to show up and do His thing. This wasn’t entirely wrong—in fact, it’s quite Biblical. But even there I found pride. I wanted people to hear about what God was doing through me and my church and to be viewed as some kind of holy man. My heart was not entirely focused on God’s ministry, but my ministry. To some extent, it’s probably an act of grace on my life that He didn’t pour out on our church in some kind of extravagant way. I doubt I would have been ready for it.
Don’t get me wrong: we’ve seen the gifts at work in our church throughout the years and I eagerly desire more. But God has taught me to be patient as I desire His presence and has taught me to be faithful in praying for His presence to come whether it feels like He shows up tangibly or not—to pray for others even when they didn’t get healed the last seven times I prayed. He has taught me (and is still teaching me) to be happy to witness His presence on others even when I can’t sense Him in the same way.
So now I stay eager, waiting for a deeper level of presence and gifting on our church for the sake of both the church body and those outside the church, while aiming for humility in myself so that I am spiritually ready for it when it comes.
Want to continue the conversation? Take the long journey with my book/audiobook, The Rush and the Rest, or take a shorter path with my condensed version, Fantasy IRL.