Jesus promised that after he was gone, he would continue to build his church.
By his Spirit.
Through his disciples.
Both of those phrases matter. But for some of us, we skip the Spirit and chug along our merry way. It’s as if we imagine that when Jesus was physically here on earth, he did the work by his power; but now that he’s gone, we do the work for him. Nope. The same Spirit is at work in both: Just like Jesus was doing the work when he walked around Jerusalem, so now he’s doing the work through us, by the Spirit.
We see this clearly in the way Luke opens the book of Acts, “In the first book [the Gospel of Luke], O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach …” The first volume, the Gospel of Luke, is about what Jesus “began to do and teach.” What does that mean? That this second volume, the book of Acts, is about what Jesus continues to do and to teach through his Spirit in his people.
And whenever Jesus, through this Spirit, empowers his people to do his work in the world, that is a spiritual gift.
In 1 Corinthians 12:4–7, Paul tells us that though we have varying gifts, it’s the same God who “works all of them in each person.” He continues, saying, “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good.”
Sometimes spiritual gifts are for the moment. Other times, they’re life callings. Take, for example, the gift of prophecy—that is, God speaking through someone to provide a word to another believer. God can use any of us to do that. (In fact, I’d argue he wants to use all of us to prophecy at one point or another.) But that doesn’t mean we all have the gifting of prophecy permanently.
In fact, some of the most dangerous people in the church can be those who think they have this gift. They tend to feel like everything they think is what God says. Not helpful.
Or take the gift of faith, where someone perceives what God wants to do in a situation, and then they pray it back to God in faith, believing him for it. That can happen to any of us in prayer. When the friends of the lame man in Mark 2 lowered him through the roof, for instance, Mark says that it was when Jesus saw their faith (the faith of the man’s friends), he healed the paralytic. They’d been given the gift of faith in that moment, perceiving that Jesus was ready and willing to provide the healing. Were they permanently imbued with that gift? Maybe, maybe not.
Now, if those two things (prophecy or faith) occur in someone’s life repeatedly, they might see them as part of their personal life-calling. That’s part of how I found my way to preaching, by the way. The more I taught people the Bible, the more people responded by saying, “God is using you to help me understand this Book and how it applies to my life.”
But listen: It’s important that we don’t become so intent on finding a lifelong spiritual gift that we miss out on something the Spirit of God wants us to do in the moment to accomplish his purposes. Nor should we exempt ourselves from exercising certain gifts because they might not be our permanent giftings.
Remember, what God began to do in the world through Jesus, he continues by his Spirit through you. That happens through permanent gifts. It happens through temporary gifts. The important this is, it happens. So ask God to show you, today, where he wants you to serve.