By Todd Stiles
It was a Thursday, and it seemed that most of my hours were spent processing what I knew was best but didn’t necessarily like. Ever had one of those moments? Days? Weeks?
On the outside, I appeared fine. And in all reality, I was. Why? Because I knew the proper decision was made. But inwardly, it would take some time for me to adjust to it. To acclimate my thinking. I felt like a Jeckyl and Hyde, one minute thinking the right thing and the next feeling the wrong thing.
In all transparency, that’s where I was after a leadership meeting. And it was right in the middle of those moments of back-and-forth emotions that God used a fellow pastor in southern Iowa to encourage me through a sovereignly distributed spiritual gift. Let me explain briefly.
He had called me to talk about some upcoming events we are partnering on, and in the course of conversation about life in general I relayed some of my “Yes-I-know-its-best-but-I-don’t-like-it-in-the-moment” discouragement. Not too many specifics, but enough for him to tell I was struggling to balance my array of mixed baggage. And frankly, what I shared was honoring to our leadership team; I wasn’t critical at all. I even affirmed the decision, but he could tell I was operating from the left side of my brain.
Without even hesitating, he related to me an encounter he had a few weeks prior in one of his seminary classes—one in which his classmate was experiencing the very situation our leadership team had been discussing. Sure enough, because they didn’t take the action our team took, it was going badly. “Seems like your leadership team is looking out for you,” he concluded.
It an instant God used that simple phone call, and the exhortation of a long-time friend, to edify me…build me up…to bring glory to Himself for the way He has structured His body, the church. Truly, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety,” and I was watching that Proverb play out first hand.
So why did I share that story? One reason—I believe that’s the way spiritual gifts look day in and day out. It’s not just on the extraordinary mountaintops that we see the “manifestation of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:7); it’s also—maybe more so—in the ordinary, normal, day-to-day moments when God’s people need built up that His Spirit will display his power in the life of someone for the good of another. How? Throughmultiple expressions of gifts, services, and activities (1 Cor. 12:4-6). But the singular source of each one is the Holy Spirit, which is precisely why its called a spiritual gift—it’s a sovereignly dispersed and supernaturally empowered ability brought about by the Holy Spirit.
Did my friend use a gift he already had, like exhortation? Or mercy? Perhaps. Did God suddenly “gift” my friend with a “word of knowledge” or “word of wisdom” for that exact moment? Maybe. Did my friend know he was exercising a spiritual gift? I don’t know; I didn’t ask him. Was it instead the fruit of the Spirit visibly displayed, and not a spiritual gift? Maybe, maybe not; personally, I don’t think so. Does it really matter if we know the answer to all these questions? Probably not.
But for those who enjoy questions that can’t always be answered completely, here’s why I say (rather affirmatively) it was a spiritual gift moment—Because of the participants and the product. In other words, it was one believer relating to another believer, the result being edification and unity. That seems to fit the description of a spiritual gift perfectly as described by Peter in his first letter (4:10) and Paul in his words to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:25).
1 Peter 4:10
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
1 Corinthians 12:25
“…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
That’s precisely what occurred in that God-ordained moment on the phone—he ministered to me through the power of the Holy Spirit, helping me stay on course and in sync with the body, not off track and divided. Sounds like a spiritual gift to me. After all, if it looks like a spiritual gift, acts like a spiritual gift, and talks like a spiritual gift, it’s probably a spiritual gift.
By the way, my friend is a cessationist. I’m a continuationist. So when I talked with him later that same day, after thanking him for his previous call, I assured him, although tongue-in-cheek a bit, that God had used him in my life, probably by gifting him at just the right moment with a “charismata” that was used to build me up in the Holy Ghost. His response? “At least it didn’t need interpreted.”
Todd Stiles is lead pastor at First Family Church in Ankeny.