Can you remember a time when you realized you just weren’t good at something you thought you were good at? Or maybe someone else was better than you at something you thought you were excellent at?
When that happens, it kind of feels like this.
I kind of felt like this: Toy Story Clip
Buzz light year wanted to fly so bad because he thought if he could fly, then he’d have value… then he’d have something to contribute to the cause of intergalactic peace… but it turned out he didn’t have that gift. And from his perspective, if you remember the movie, he saw himself as just a useless toy.
Sometimes, we have our hearts set on being good at something… and it’s hard whenever we realize we’re just not good at it… maybe it’s a skill or maybe it’s a personality characteristic… like, being funny… and when we realize we’re not the best at it… or maybe not even very good at it… we may feel worthless… like we don’t have anything to contribute.
This dynamic is especially true when two people have the same skill… like let’s say cooking thanksgiving dinner… it’s been the tradition of the family that grandma, the matriarch, cooks thanksgiving dinner, but one day, one of the kids gets married and they decide to bring these two families together… and the matriarch of the OTHER family was the one who always cooked dinner for their family… whichever grandma doesn’t end up being the head cook might feel like, well, I guess I don’t have anything to contribute anymore. She wants to be the main cook. But nobody wants too many cooks in the kitchen… So grandma’s left feeling like buzz lightyear…
That’s one of the problems that the Corinthians were dealing with.
Last week we talked about the missing ingredient of the people in the Corinthian church: love. I used the analogy of how using our gifts without love is like setting a table for mother’s day but not making any food. The reality is that the table was created to serve up delicious food.
And the gifts God has given us is to serve up his divine love.
Now that we understand that love is what we’re serving up, we’re taking a step back and looking at the table. The gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spiritso as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
See, for the Corinthians, like I mentioned last week, they all wanted one gift. They thought that if they had this one gift… this gift that was the most valuable of all the other gifts… if they had it, it would demonstrate how spiritual they really were. If they had it, they’d have something to contribute… They wanted the gift of tongues.
Now, the gift of tongues isn’t something we talk about a lot, but if I was going to briefly explain it, at its bare bones, tongues is when the Holy Spirit makes a person say something that they don’t understand. To them it sounds like gibberish. To them it sounds like a foreign language. But when the Holy Spirit would prompt, a person would open up their mouths and out would come a language that the speaker didn’t know. Sometimes it was a spiritual language that only God could understand, sometimes it was a foreign language.
Think back to Pentecost in Acts 2, you might remember this story… At Pentecost, the believers were gathered together in an upper room, and here’s what it says: Acts 2:2-8.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
The gift of tongues fell on each one of them and they spoke words they didn’t understand, but it was in the language of people nearby who could understand what they were saying. Tongues is basically a word from God through a willing person. Pretty cool, right? It’s no wonder that these Corinthians wanted that gift above all others.
So tongues is the gift of the day. Tongues is the gift all the Corinthians wanted. But what Paul is getting at in these first three verses is that, just to be clear, we aren’t united by all of us having the same gift… quite the opposite. We are united, with our own unique and distinct gifting’s, by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit lives in everyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ for Salvation.
It’s not our gifts that unify us…
he also mentions Jew/Greek, Slave or Free… it’s not our socioeconomic class that unites us… it’s not our ethnic heritage that unites us… it’s not the color of our skin… it’s not our hobbies, or interests or personalities that unite is… we’re united in Christ.
We all look different, but we’re all looking in the same direction… toward the cross of Christ.
This is good news for us! We don’t all have to be the same because that isn’t what unites us together. And since we’re united by the Holy Spirit’s presence in us, we can even be united with people who put toilet paper on the dispenser like this.
We can be united with people who cheer for Philadelphia sports! Even people who voted for Gary Johnson can be in unity with the rest of us because we are united by the Holy Spirit, not by our political affiliation. That’s good news, right!?
We all look different, we all have different gifts, but we’re all looking in the same direction.
Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 12:15-20.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
For Buzz Light Year, after he realizes he’s a useless toy… When he realizes he can’t do what he so badly wanted to do, he gives up.
He essentially says, “if I can’t fly, I have nothing to offer.”
Think about grandma in the kitchen… when the new grandma in law comes along and she’s not the best cook in town anymore, she might be tempted to feel like she has nothing to offer.
Think about a football team. As a young boy, everyone wants to be the quarterback or the wide receiver or the running back, maybe a kicker… no one ever says they dream about being on the offensive line.
But the team can’t win unless everyone joins in. Without the offensive line, who would protect the quarterback and make a hole for the runner? Even the people who get the water for the players are important.
Grandma still has an important role in the family even if she isn’t the one in charge of cooking the food anymore. She thinks her only value is from being the cook, but she doesn’t realize how important her love and affection for her grandkids is. She doesn’t even know how powerful her life experience and words of wisdom are. She doesn’t know that the way she embodies God’s love is influencing her kids and grandkids in ways they aren’t even aware of.
Every person who follows Jesus is part of the team, and Paul’s saying to the Corinthians, you may feel like you don’t have anything to contribute because you don’t have the gift you want… but we can’t be effective as the church without everyone on the team using the gifts they have for God’s purposes.
Missing people on the team is like a body that’s only an ear, and I’m sorry, but if I was just an ear, where am I going to find a Q-Tip big enough to clean myself out…
But in all seriousness, it’s ideal that our entire body is functioning at 100%. We can live with a lot of things not working 100%, and when everything isn’t working 100% we know that that life is still just as valuable, but the body works the best when every part is there and functioning 100%. And the same is true for the body of Christ working for God’s purposes in the world.
Now, what do we mean when we say “God’s purposes” in the world? Well, at faith church, we narrow it down to three simple things. Connect. Serve. And Grow. We believe that if we can grow in these three things, then we will grow closer to God and the world will be transformed by God’s love.
Connect. We connect to God through our worship gathering… praising and giving him thanks… and we connect with one another in Christian community.
We serve Christ by sharing his love with people, both in and outside the church.
We grow deeper in faith through spiritual disciples, small groups, and wider in faith by inviting others to follow Jesus with us.
That pretty much sums up the purpose of the church.
And Paul’s saying to the Corinthians, and he’s saying to us… God has gifted you and created you the way he wanted you… there’s a place for you in the body of Christ… using your gifts for his purposes… some people have roles that appear less important than others, but roles that seem small are often the most important. And each person who follows Christ has been arranged by God with unique gifts to be used in the body of Christ for God’s purposes in the world.
And God’s purpose in the world is not just what we do on Sunday mornings. If God’s purpose was to have worship once a week, then the Corinthians are right… we don’t need everybody using their gifts… we would only need a limited number of people. We’d need some people for music, we’d need someone to preach, someone to run multimedia and sound board, to greet folks as they come in, to provide information to guests, to restock the prayer cards and giving envelopes, to pray for the prayer requests, to bake cookies and bread, to put out coffee, to care for toddlers in the nursery and teach kids in children’s church, to wipe snot off the tables in the children’s church room, to clean the sanctuary, to prepare communion, to make the bulletin, to pray for our time together, and to set the thermostat. That’s actually a lot of people right there, but it doesn’t require everybody.
But, maybe you have a gift that could be used there?
Of course, if you’ve ever looked at the bulletin, you know that the work of the church doesn’t stop Sunday mornings… we serve people. We send teams on mission trips to disaster recovery areas, we put together flood buckets, we make a huge impact in our community through serving our seniors and blessing of the backpacks, and Vacation Bible School, we have a visitation team who serves communion to shut ins and visits with them, we put together blessing baskets for Easter and Thanksgiving, we host Bellefonte School district sports banquets, we have funeral dinners, we open up our doors to hundreds of teenagers for 5th Qtr, and we make blankets for people who are experiencing difficulty or to celebrate life change…
Maybe you have a gift that could be used there?
Growing in faith is another important thing we lift up as a value around here. We have people who lead small groups, bible studies, and Sunday school classes… we have people who host groups in their homes…
Gifts aren’t always skills though, right? Sometimes gifts are simply the way God has wired us. A person with the gift of hospitality might be willing to make sure everyone feels welcome by taking care of refreshments for their group.
A person with a heart of compassion may use their gifts as a member of a small group or Sunday school class by reaching out to people who share prayer requests and seeing how they’re doing and continuing to pray for them. A person with an encouraging heart might see someone who looks like they’re having a tough time and offer a listening ear.
Maybe your gift can be used there?
There are a lot of ways to use your gifts for God’s purposes in the world by being part of a program or a ministry of the church, but there’s another element I haven’t even touched on yet. Serving and loving your neighbors and coworkers and family using your gifts is part of the work of the church. Sometimes serving like that might be skills you have like plumbing, baking, mechanical… sometimes it might be heart gifts like compassion or hospitality.
Some people in Corinth thought they were unneeded because they didn’t have the big gift… tongues… they thought they couldn’t be used… but Paul says everyone is needed. Imagine the impact we could have on the world if everyone in the global church used their gifts for the purpose of worshiping God, loving and caring for people, and inviting them to follow Jesus as we go deeper in faith. Imagine the impact we could have on the world if everyone gave to the work of the church?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a church running out of work that needs to be done.
Can you imagine a Sunday morning where there are no announcements and no bulletin and someone gets up and says, “we’re all done! There’s no one to love, and everyone is in perfect connection with God. We’re finished! Let’s all go home. Good work!”
Rather, until Christ returns and rules and reigns in the world and rights all the wrongs, the church has the honor and pleasure of being his hands to do his work, being his feet to go where he would go, and be his voice to speak on his behalf. And with all the brokenness we see around us… the world needs Jesus. And the world meets Jesus when he walks up to them, when the body of Christ shows up and demonstrates God’s unbelievable love. Is that going to solve all the problems in the world? There’s other work that needs to be done, for sure. But, showing people that they are loved is one of the purposes of the church. And we will always fulfill our purpose to the fullest capacity we can.
But our capacity isn’t based on the amount of work available… our capacity is based on how much of the body is functioning… and friends, there’s still more work to be done… and Paul invited the Corinthians, and he invites us… with the gifts and the skills that God has uniquely prepared in us… to join in with whatever we’ve got to accomplish his purposes in the world.
We started this message by watching Buzz Lightyear at the beginning of a sad season of feeling worthless… but Buzz light year eventually found his place. He was never was able to fly like he wanted, but once he realized he had value and purpose and gifts that could be used, he used them alongside his team of Andy’s toys.
Buzz figured out how his gifts could be used. Let’s be people who figure it out, too.
1. Make a list of 5 skills you have.
2. Make a list of 5 positive personality traits you have.
3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-20. Highlight what sticks out to you.
4. From the lists above, what skill or personality traits are you tempted to believe aren’t needed for God’s purposes in the world?
5. The purpose of the church can be lived out by our vision statement:
a. Connect with God and one another through worship.
b. Serve Christ by sharing His love with people in and out of the church.
c. Grow deeper in faith through spiritual disciplines, small groups, and grow wider in faith by inviting others to follow Jesus.
6. How have you used your gifts in the church/world in the past?
7. What are some different ways you could use your gifts in the church/world in the future?
8. Pray that God will show you if you need to start using a gift in a new way.