I’m writing about this to sort out my own thoughts, to leave this here for anyone who needs it, and to open a discussion on this with my dear friend over at Dark Brightness who is still in a cessationist church.
I grew up in a cessationist church. We didn’t discuss the spiritual gifts much, if at all. When I moved to my current church, the spiritual gifts were taken for granted, but because we’re a very orderly church, unless you went to certain services, the more supernatural gifts weren’t on display. But you were encouraged to figure out what yours were, and gradually I met people who had the more … interesting… gifts.
It was comfortable to do the tests and say, “I have the gift of counsel! I have the gift of organization!” – they aren’t very woo-woo. Pretty normal, everyday “things I’m good at”, really… But any life that is truly alive grows and changes, does it not? And you *are* exhorted to ask for more gifts, more of what the Spirit wants to see in you. We are supposed to be walking the path of sanctification, not sitting in the pews of complacency.
1 Corinthians 14: 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.
And eventually… something pops up that can’t be explained by natural means. And then you have to deal with that.
“Dealing with that” isn’t a simple matter. *Would that it were*. There are charlatans to the skies, and I neither wish to be deceived by one of them nor do I want to become one. God forbid. Literally. I am HORRIFIED by the idea that I might be out of sync with God.
What I learned from the folks who have the more supernatural gifts, back when I was just talking to them, is that, one and all, they were uncomfortable with sharing them – especially at first, and most especially with strangers. (First test: Is the person who is talking to you brash and overconfident? Fishy). And I heard them say that the experience was that you would get an assignment from God, and usually you’d argue until it didn’t get done… about that time, you’d see someone else step forward to do what you’d refused to do. And OF COURSE I thought, “well, I’d not do that!”
Until I did… until it was my turn to have a Word for someone and (since it was God’s word, *not* mine, and I didn’t know anything whatsoever about what I was called to say, I didn’t want to say it – especially not to a stranger I happened to be praying with) I argued in my head for a couple of minutes and the woman sitting two places down from me opened her mouth and gave that word. The Word I was supposed to give. And then the shame comes – I was commanded, and I disobeyed.
But you still have to DEAL with the mess that is this fallen world. Words (and other supernatural gifts) can come from God – or they can come from the enemy (read your Bible – he does have power). Words can also come from one’s own fevered imagination and not be supernatural at all. Of course one’s commitment is always and ever to follow Christ, but how do you KNOW when it’s God, and when it’s not???
I’m very much still working this out (please leave any input), but I have hints:
- Did I go looking in the crystal ball? Highly Fishy – and the “crystal ball” is metaphorical here. God’s Words come from Him, not me trying to sort something out – except when I ask and get an answer much later. They’re also not MY answers – they come from Him, not me.
- Did I get a date/time? At least for me, super fishy.
- Anyone who acts like a medium between you and God can go jump in a lake.
- Would I *really rather not* but I’m feeling pressured, and it’s outside my comfort zone? Ah, that sounds more likely…
So why, with all the effort and headache of discerning truth from falsehood, what’s the point of the more supernatural spiritual gifts? Why do we have them, and why do we have them today?
- I think it is good for us to be reminded that we serve a God of miracles, to be reminded that this bread-and-porridge world is not all that there is. That yes, our lives can – and will – be interrupted by the miraculous, and we should open our eyes. This keeps us humble and awestruck. “My help is from the Lord”. I, at least, need frequent reminding that I am NOT supposed to be doing this life thing on my own (entirely natural) strength – and that I CAN and SHOULD ask (and expect) help on the daily. The attitude that “God’s got this” is helped along when you see His -unmistakable – hand.
- Encouragement. A little bit of “God hasn’t forgotten you” can go a long way when you’re in a desert place. Even knowing that it can happen to someone you know is very encouraging. A close relative has been granted miraculous relief from some things that should be quite painful, and is developing Healing as a gift. Praise God!
- Confirmation. “I’ve been praying on this, and reading my Bible and I think this is what’s going on but… Oh Hi Susie, what? Oh. Wow, yeah, that’s helpful! Thank you”. (I’ve heard many the time that people can hear God well enough on their own. I sure hope so! But see the list above – sometimes you’re pounding hard on something and you can really use a backup to your own research – or am I the only one who questions herself constantly?)
Now if all this hasn’t been sufficiently clear – TEST THE SPIRITS. Test, test, test. Go through all of my tests and test again with your own. Do *not* just accept what anyone says to you or does for you or.. But having tested – let God be God, and accept that He gives gifts as He will.
It sure does look like things on this planet are about to get “interesting”. I think we’re going to need all the gifts, active and working, to get through. Not just the “gift of service” that unflinchingly cleans the church bathroom for 20 years – but the stuff that looks right weird to the outside world.
Anyway. I am dealing with this, and it’s not especially comfortable, but I figure God’s got a reason for what God does. I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your own walk and your own giftings.