Friday, February 14, 2014
Meeting together in the power of the Spirit
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul is writing to a church to bring better balance and order to its worship gatherings. He mentions nine gifts – we are probably wise to regard these as representative – which he lists like this:
- Message (or literally word) of wisdom
- Word of knowledge
- Gift of faith
- Gifts of healing
- Miraculous powers
- Distinguishing between spirits
- Speaking in tongues
- Interpretation of tongues.
Here we have gifts that bring revelation – knowledge, wisdom, distinguishing between spirits, prophecy (speaking in a ’ tongue’ or unlearned language followed by a broad interpretation amounts to pretty much the same thing). Revelation causes faith to rise in such a way that we speak it out (vocal gifts) and pray and as necessary contend and do warfare, following through from the revelation and the faith.
The gift of faith is also a specific gift listed, often an adjunct to gifts of healing and miraculous powers. All these gifts can be brought by the Holy Spirit, and they work together, and any person may be the channel of any gift.
How does it work in practice? In the worship gathering, Jim feels a momentary pain in his right knee – but he’s fit and active and is seldom troubled by joint pains. He asks God if he should make that known. Mary, who is absorbed in singing a favourite praise song, gets a momentary, rather random thought about a knee joint and she senses that an old injury is in need of healing. She asks God if that was from Him. Bob is also in the gathering. A former keen rugby player, he is no stranger to aches and pains and has been telling his wife that his right knee has been “playing up”.
Bob’s home group leader John is leading the service today and he notices Mary catch his eye even as Jim makes his way to the front and quietly tells him what he felt in his right knee. John waits for the right moment to share with everyone that it seems that God wants to heal someone with a painful right knee. As he does, Mary (who is quite shy) nods and says “I got that, too” and adds the insight about the old injury.
John directs Jim to wait at the side and encourages anyone who thinks it could be for them to go to the side where Jim has been joined by an elder and a couple of men used to operating in healing gifts. Mary sees that a man has responded, but then another person goes over. Mary puts her shyness to one side and joins them – the second person is a woman and Mary senses that it would be good for her to be involved. While the service continues for everyone else, the two groups pray, ask the Holy Spirit to come again and wait for a moment for His leading and any specific world of wisdom about how to respond to the word.
The group with Bob address the pain and possible damage and call down healing. Mary’s cluster do it differently. They pray first into an apparently unrelated issue which had surfaced, with the help of Gill, one of the pastors and a respected shepherd, before moving on to physical healing.
In a home group it would work in a similar way, but more informally, and with less need to move around.
What would happen if there was no word given about knees? If too much reliance is placed on receiving and acting on words of knowledge, people with other needs can go away disappointed. John usually asks his group if there is anyone needing a touch from the Lord. It’s a group used to the gifts operating through them; Bob has had other injuries healed by God working through others in his group.
What about the gift of tongues? In both little clusters that were praying for healing from knee pain, some participants prayed quietly in their Holy Spirit given prayer and praise language, knowing that this gift often acts as a channel for the others.
The story above is about physical healing; it could equally have been an emotional need, or Bob’s circumstances, or a question he was carrying about whether to take holiday to go on a short-term mission trip, or an insight about how to talk to his sister about his nephew who was causing them some concern. To God it is all about seeking revelation from Him, people’s faith to receive it and act on it by being willing to speak out and pray – and an expectation that He will bring the appropriate form of salvation out of His Father’s heart of love and covenant with us, His people.