We’ve been promised something powerful beyond our own resources.
By Jonathan A. Thompson
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:6, 7).
What is it about receiving gifts that ignites such interest, stirs such excitement, and fills us with such overflowing joy? Is it the prospect of having some need met? Is it the idea of being thought of or cared for? Or is it perhaps the feeling of being special? Receiving Christmas, birthday, and anniversary gifts is thrilling enough. What an awesome reality, however, that the Creator God has reconciled and befriended humanity through the incarnation of His Son!
Additionally exciting is the news that He anoints and gifts believers with the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. God has engaged us in a quasi-partnership to extend and expand the ministry of Christ through the endowment of spiritual gifts.
What are these gifts? How do they work in the believer’s life? How do they impact one’s spiritual formation?
Defining Spiritual Gifts?
The apostle Paul instructed the congregation in Corinth on the source and means of spiritual gifts: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). In Romans 12:6 Paul links the gifts to God’s grace and our faith. In 1 Peter 4:10, the onetime boastful Peter lets us know the gifts are not given to glorify the individual, but to administer grace and to serve others. If anyone is to be glorified, it is God, the donor—not we, the instruments. “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11).
My Experience With Spiritual Gifts
In another New England soul-winning venture, we experienced the Holy Spirit’s anointing in the transformation of lives. A member learned that his neighbor was contemplating suicide because alcohol had wrecked his thriving business, broken up his marriage, and destroyed his family. The member, stirring up the gift, convinced his neighbor to come to the meetings and give God a chance. As the Holy Spirit would have it, the message presented that night reminded the desperate visitor of truth he’d heard as a child. Hope was kindled in his heart. He came night after night. The Holy Spirit strengthened him to give up the bottle. Then God reclaimed his wife, family, and business. This man became a faithful deacon and later a productive elder in the church.
Whenever pastors and laypersons have stirred up the gift and worked together, we have seen remarkable results: outreach has energized the community, evangelism has flourished, churches have been planted, Christian schools have been started, buildings have been renovated, and mortgages have been paid off.
How Spiritual Gifts Shaped My Faith
First, my father had a unique way of conducting family worship after work. We sat around the dining room table discussing the Sabbath school lesson and reading from the writings of Ellen G. White. And in order to demonstrate that we were paying attention, each of us had to read a paragraph, and then explain its meaning.
While this time-consuming exercise failed to create an appreciation for those books, it did sow good seed and lay an excellent foundation.
Second, my pastor (J. J. North, Sr.) delivered sermons from Daniel and Revelation, using fascinating pictures of beasts that looked like comic book creatures, focusing on the “last days.” The coming of Jesus was “at the very door,” his messages said.
Third, at 9, I made a decision to give my heart to the Lord, be baptized, and follow God’s leading. Then first lady Sister Ruth North took over. Her baptism and new believer’s class indoctrinated me, groomed me for Thirteenth Sabbath presentations, and trained me for Sabbath afternoon and Sunday witnessing experiences. As a shy child, the last thing I wanted to do was knock on apartment building doors in Brooklyn, New York. It was too dangerous! And rejection or embarrassment was certain! Nevertheless, with a sense of the urgency of our message, the power of the Holy Ghost, and the presence of angels, I stirred up the gift and became a little witness for my Lord. To my surprise, there were more “Yes” responses than slammed doors. Soon our mission was organized into a church and moved from storefront buildings to a beautiful worship facility.
What God Is About to Do
It will happen again. Said Ellen White: “The great work of the gospel is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening.… Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven.… Miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and signs and wonders will follow the believers …” (The Faith I Live By, p. 332).