Two of our senior saints are turning 80 this week. And by God’s grace they are able to still serve the Lord actively in our church and in our community. Many people in Scripture served well past 80. Abraham was 75 when he started out for the promised land; Moses was 80 when he lead the children of Israel out of Egypt; Joshua was 80 when he took over from Moses; Caleb was going strong at 85; Daniel lived past 100, Simeon and Anna (84 or 91) were worshiping and praying in the temple in their retirement years. God used them in their old age, He can certainly use us in our old age. But not all of us end like Moses. “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7). Moses was an exception to the rule. Most of us wear down and wear out and find we just can’t do all we did anymore. With this come some dangers and temptations.
We have spent the summer talking about spiritual gifts and about using our gifts for ministry, about how we are called and gifted to serve one another in the body of Christ. Over the summer I have been privileged to learn of different ways some of our members are serving quietly in the church and in the community. There is one group of people in our midst that struggles with this whole matter of using our spiritual gifts, and that group is our senior saints who no longer can do all the things they used to do. I want to conclude our spiritual gifts series with two sermons with some wisdom and encouragement from God’s Word for those who might think they are too old to serve usefully anymore. America is getting older. 5,500 baby boomers turn 65 every day. Over 14% of America is over 65. But America seems to be allergic to getting older, many fight it or deny it for as long as possible. We are very much a youth driven culture that views getting older as a bad deal. We live in a culture that exalts youthful energy and looks, that exalts rationality, autonomy and productivity. When our minds and bodies start to fail us we assume we are of little value and not needed anymore. What’s the point of life for a person who is losing their mind, their independence and their ability to do useful things?
Since Pentecost Sunday we have been talking about God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We started with ten truths about spiritual gifts and then six things they are not and shouldn’t be confused with. Then we considered nine of the speaking gifts, nine of the serving gifts and four of the sign gifts. Then we talked about how to focus the gifts according to how God has shaped us in life, through our heart or desires, abilities, personalities and experiences. Now what?
Introduction. We ended last week with me urging you to take the Spiritual Gift Inventory we put in your box and set on the table and sent you the link for on the Internet. I urge you to do the inventory. But once you have some clue about what gifts the Spirit has given you in the body of Christ, then what? We can know what our gift is but not be sure what to do with it or where to use it. This morning I want to give us a tool to help us discern how and where to use our gifts. The tool is on the back of your bulletin and it’s called SHAPE. It’s not original with me but has been around for years. What is your shape for service and being used to make a difference? To illustrate how it works I want to use the life.
Introduction. Last week when I preached on the nine serving gifts of the Spirit, I mentioned how I couldn’t do what I do as a pastor without the helping/serving gifts of my wife. I want to add that applies also to Kara Humphreys and Susan Berendsen. They are excellent church secretaries with many gifts of serving and helping and administration and some creativity thrown in. I want to publically acknowledge my debt of gratitude and my thanks to God for their faithful service to our church. We have talked about nine of the speaking gifts and nine of the serving gifts and this morning we come to the final group of spiritual gifts, the four sign gifts or extraordinary gifts, and therefore those controversial gifts. [Again this week, I have pulled from several resources for the definitions, characteristics and cautions I’m about to share so there is nothing completely original here (C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts; Erik Rees, SHAPE; Paul Ford, Unleash Your Church; David Hocking, Spiritual Gifts; Al Vander Griend, Discover Your Gifts).]
All these definitions, characteristics and cautions will be on the church web page tomorrow afternoon, or just ask me for a copy and I can e-mail one or print one out for you. Keep a running tab as we go through these, yes, maybe, no, and at the end see if any stand out. These nine gifts “serve” the church or enable God’s work by providing structure, organization, and support in both spiritual and practical areas. Many of them are about putting others first or meeting the needs of others so they are free to exercise their spiritual gifts. There is some similarity and overlap, but I will try to distinguish between them. Also remember that many of these gifts are commanded of all of God’s children. The difference for some is they have a special enabling or anointing and do their gift above and beyond what is normally expected, or more freely or more frequently or more effectively than the rest of us.
We are talking about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To all who have claimed Jesus as their Savior from sin and their Lord for life, to them He has given the Holy Spirit. And to all to whom the Spirit has been given, to them the Spirit gives at least one spiritual gift and usually two or more as a manifestation of His presence and power for the common good of the body, for the benefit of the whole church. Lists of Spiritual Gifts. There are at least four chapters in the NT that give partial lists of spiritual gifts. No chapter has them all and each has some that others leave out. Our texts are from three of those chapters. In I Peter 4:10 Peter seems to give us a summary way of thinking about all the Spirit’s gifts. Peter divides the gifts into two categories, the speaking gifts and the serving gifts. That’s how we will consider them with the addition of a third category, the sign gifts or those extraordinary gifts of healings, miracles, tongues and interpretation. This morning we will consider the speaking gifts first. And low and behold, it’s another miracle, there’s a list on the back of your bulletin. Wonders never cease. Maybe an old dog can learn new tricks. Only time will tell.
In my last sermon I gave ten truths about spiritual gifts. I said that only those who are spiritual have them, meaning Christians. Every Christian has at least one and no one has them all and no single gift is given to every Christian. We can’t earn them, and the Spirit decides who gets which ones. This morning I want to give six things spiritual gifts are not or are not to be confused with. All of this is in an effort to help us not be uninformed or ignorant about spiritual gifts. I Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.
After my sermon last week about who are you and what are you doing here, a church member told me a story about Albert Einstein getting on a train and when the conductor came by to validate his ticket, he couldn’t find his ticket. Finally the conductor told him, “It’s alright Mr. Einstein, I know who you are.” Mr. Einstein was still concerned, “Yes, I know who I am too but I don’t know where I am going.” We talked about the value of knowing who you are and what you are doing here and where you are going, meaningful origin plus meaningful destiny equals meaningful life. All of this was very clear to Jesus as we read in John 8:12-14: John 8:12-14 Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. When you know who you are and where you have come from, why you are here and where you are going you experience greater peace, joy, rest; freedom from stress, pride, envy, competition and frustration. Knowing about spiritual gifts is a key
Rabbi Jozef was on his way home from a long day at the synagogue. It was evening. In typical rabbinic fashion his head was down deep in meditation on that days reading from the Torah. Oblivious to his surroundings he suddenly ran into a wall and a Roman centurion called out: Voice: “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Narrator: In typical rabbinic fashion the Rabbi answered the question with a question: Rabbi: “How much do they pay you?” Voice: “One denarius a day.” Rabbi: “If I pay you two denarii a day will you follow me and ask me those two questions every day?” “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Why do you get up every morning? What are you living for? Are you enjoying it? What do you dream about and wish you could do? What dreams have faded or died over time? What would you like to do in retirement? “Who are you and what on earth are you doing here?” Two Options: (see R.C. Sproul, Essentials). There are two possible perspectives on all of this. The first option says we emerged from the primordial slime and we will return to it - ashes to ashes, dust to dust. But a meaningless origin plus a meaningless destiny equals a meaningless life. In the words of some Nazis we are just “useless eaters.” In the words of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre we are just “useless passion.” In the words of Macbeth we’re “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” In the words of the retired Berkeley law professor and father of the intelligent design movement Philip E. Johnson, according to the Darwinian theory of biological evolution we live in a closed system of purposeless, undirected causes and effects that have created everything that exists. God is not the creator but rather a subjective invention in the minds of those who chose to be religious. In other words mankind created God and not the other way around. Many attempt to assign dignity and worth and significance to this temporary human existence lived between two poles of meaninglessness, but to do so is fantasy and self-delusion. The second option says we are created by God and therefore we are related to God. Meaningful (purposive) origin plus meaningful (purposive) destiny equals a meaningful life. Our origin is tied to God from all eternity. We are His workmanship. Our destiny is tied to God. We will receive a crown of glory. Knowing where we have come from and where we are going is important. Why? The value and significance of our lives is at stake. God's purpose and plan for each of us is at stake. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To God be the glory now and forever.” Romans 11:36. Os Guinness’ in his book The Call puts it this way: “God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.” (p. 4)