Going Deeper into Loving Others
So glad you’ve gathered with us today as we journey deeper into loving others. Do you have your Bible, a pen and journal? How about a friend to talk with?
Let’s get started.
Heavenly Father, thank You for gathering us today. Open our hearts to Your great love so we might share it with others as You call us to.
Read Reflection Scripture:
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth.
1Corinthians 14:1 The Message
What insights did you gain from the Reflection Scripture and Reflection Thoughts which helped you understand sharing your spiritual gifts as a means to loving others?
The Reflection Scripture in the English Standard Version reads:
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.
Looking at the original language there is a small word between pursue and love, an article, which can be translated: this. Literally the verse reads: Pursue this love (agape)…
Did you look at the context of the Reflection Scripture? Did you notice what precedes it?
1Corinthians 13: the love chapter.
What never ends?
What will end?
Prophecy, tongues, knowledge. These are all gifts of the Spirit. These will end.
What remains or abides? Which is the greatest?
Faith. Hope. Love. The greatest of these is love.
This is the love we are to pursue, the love God defines, the one which is greater than faith and hope.
The Word then tells us to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts: pneumatikos, literally “belonging to the Divine Spirit” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). The Greek for “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” might better be translated “zealously desire what belongs to the Spirit.”
What belongs to the Spirit, those divine gifts, equip us to love others with God’s love. Both faith and hope are required to obtain and exercise the gifts of the Spirit when it comes to loving others, but one day, these gifts will no longer be needed. We will all be perfectly in love, loving Him and one another.
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it…
The litter of puppies born at my house gave me a living picture of this verse. Eight babies in the image of their mother arrived in the world. They can’t see or hear, nor do they have the strength to stand or sit. The pups can’t even regulate body heat on their own. They can do two things: eat and squirm. Everything else is left up to momma dog. She patiently feeds and keeps them warm, protects them and constantly cleans up their messes. She’s their life and when she enters their space they go after her as if their life depended on it. It does.
Their total dependence gives me reason to pause. I want to be like a puppy when it comes to going after a life of Love. Trusting God to protect me. Depending on the Spirit for my every meal. Giving little thought to what I see or hear around me and never limiting love to my own strength. When I squirm a little too far I want to seek the warmth of God’s presence as if my life depended on it. It does.
What have you gone after in this life? What did it look like?
Thinking back on things I went after, marriage, children, I went after pretty hard. Pressed a man to define the relationship or move on. Sought children from that man after pressing him into marriage. Then… I pressed for a swimming pool.
It was not pretty. I’m ashamed to say there was pouting, a degree of manipulation, and possibly some nagging. No. It was not pretty.
I hope I’m doing better in the pursuit of loving God and others. As I reflect on what I’ve gone after in the past and the pursuit of fellowship with Him, I see a stark contrast.
My previous pursuits were self-centered, focused on the desires of the flesh. But my current pursuits, those of loving God and others are, by nature, wholly other-centered. They can’t help but be.
It’s a much lovelier pursuit.
Give yourselves to the gifts… Did you or have you identified some of your gifts? How were your gifts revealed to you? What are they?
Do they look different than they did one year ago? five years ago? ten years?
Read Romans 11:25-32
What mystery does Paul want Believers to be aware of? What does this passage say about God’s gifts and calling?
The people of Israel are still God’s chosen people, even though they are disobedient and unbelieving because of hard hearts. Their behavior and belief (or lack thereof) do not change the fact He called them. They are His, they will be shown mercy.
God’s calling and gifts are irrevocable: not possible to revoke, unalterable, not able to be changed (Merriam-Webster’s). The Greek literally means not repentant of, unregretted (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). God does not take back or regret what He’s given.
All Believers have spiritual gifts. Whether we use them, neglect them, or use them in the wrong way does not alter their existence or His pleasure in giving them.
Prayer of Praise
Did praising God as Truthful open your heart to sharing your gifts? How?
When God calls us to participate in fellowship in a way we never have before, a way which fills us with anxiety, doubt, or fear, we can be sure He is calling us in truth. He knows what’s in us better than we do. If He calls you to teach, rest assured you have the gift of teaching. If He calls you to pray, be confident that you can, He will provide the words. If He calls you to share a hard truth with a friend, something He’s shown you they need to know, trust it is just what they need to hear.
Whatever the call, He has provided what’s needed. He will not call you to do something He has not equipped you for. And that’s the truth.
In the Word
Read 1Corinthians 1:4-9
Along with God’s grace, Believers are enriched with gifts to help us wait for Jesus’s return.
What does it mean to wait? How do we wait for His return?
Biblical waiting is all about hope, eagerly looking forward to His promises with expectation of fulfillment. Yet, prolonged waiting can be difficult. Spiritual gifts are given to enrich us, so we are not lacking anything while we wait.
enrich – to make rich or richer especially by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient: as a: to add beauty to: adorn b: to enhance the taste of c: to make (a soil) more fertile d: to improve the nutritive value of (a food) by adding nutrients (as vitamins or amino acids) and especially by restoring part of the nutrients lost in processing e: to process so as to add or increase the proportion of a desirable ingredient
– Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.)
Considering the definition above, how do our gifts enrich the church in our waiting?
Our spiritual gifts, when used, sustain the church by increasing the quality or character of Christ in the body. When we share our gifts through participation with Christ they add beauty to the church, making it an appealing refuge to both Believers and unbelievers, alike.
The church becomes tastier, more appealing. A community sustained by the spiritual gifts given becomes increasingly fertile for spiritual growth and fruitfulness. The use of our gifts adds more of what is desired and what is needed to sustain us until His return.
We are all given gifts by the grace of God to enrich the community of Believers to encourage our hope and confirm the testimony of Christ among us. When we ALL use our gifts, we will not lack anything.
Sharing our gifts is an integral part of fellowship – participation – in the church.
Read 1Timothy 4:14-15
What benefit is seen in the practice of your spiritual gifts?
Progress in the faith. Visibility of our spiritual growth and maturity.
progress – noun 1a (1): a royal journey marked by pomp and pageant… c: an expedition, journey, or march through a region 2: a forward or onward movement (as to and objective or to a goal) 3: gradual betterment especially: the progressive development of mankind
– Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.)
What definitions of progress, reflect the Christian life?
The moment we become Believers we begin a journey. We become sojourners, temporary travelers passing through enemy territory. Being able to see progress on our journey is key to perseverance, to keep running the race one step at a time.
Using our spiritual gifts help us to see forward movement in the right direction and make our progress visible.
To immerse yourself in the practice of spiritual gifts is to become the gift, let it define who you are.
Are you becoming your gift? is it your identity?
By the time we complete this Going Deeper Series, we will have spent over two years immersed in growing, learning, writing, and teaching Jesus’s summation of a life of faith.
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”
Matthew 22:37-40 The Message
What you haven’t seen is the process. Carol and I have slowly come to acknowledge our gifts along the way and settled into a rhythm we didn’t quite expect.
The plans we have for 2019 will cause a shift in the rhythm, a call to write and teach a lesson that has taken my entire life to learn. And I’m still learning. Thinking about the process leaves me shaking. Do I have it in me? Is it even possible? Because immersion feels a lot like drowning, I’m not sure I have the gifts needed.
As I shared my struggle with the sister, she simply replied, “You have all that is needed in you.” God calls us out to deep waters, places we would never survive on our own. Maybe “in over our heads” is exactly how we’re supposed to feel when God calls us to use our gifts for the building of His kingdom.
Have you felt over your head when exercising your gifts? becoming your gift? How?
What keeps you from practicing your spiritual gift?
Fear is a primary factor which keeps Believers from beginning to use their gifts. Fear of failure. Fear of missing out on what we want to do. Fear of the time involved and its potential to consume our lives.
Ironically, when we neglect our gifts, we miss out on what will truly be the most fulfilling and freeing thing we could ever do on this earth. And we’ll miss out on seeing progress in our spiritual lives.
Sharing our gifts is essential to our journey of faith.
Turn to Ephesians 1:16-23
Paul’s prayer for the church reveals the blessings God gives His people when they are properly connected to the lordship of Christ as the Head of the body, the church.
Read Ephesians 1:22-23
In Day 3 of the study, what insights came as you considered what happens in a physical body when communication with the head is interrupted or prevented?
Neurological disorders interrupt communication between the head and the body. Diseases like muscular sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Parkinson’s disease debilitate function slowly over time, crippling the body and eventually lead to premature death.
What kind of picture does this paint for the church when we are not spiritually connected to Jesus as the Head?
What causes disruption between the Head and the body?
- Dependence on self or human means
Have you seen evidence of this in the church? What did it look like?
What do we gain when we come under Christ’s headship which helps the church function properly?
With full connection to Jesus we gain the wisdom and revelation to use our gifts the way He wants them to be used. We can see our hope and inheritance, which provide encouragement and perseverance to use our gifts to grow in faith. We have access to His power and the ability to use our gifts in a far greater way than we ever could on our own. He empowers us with His great might!
Can we improve our connection to the Head? How does Ephesians 1:23 describe the “body”?
…the fullness of him who fills all in all, is how several translations read. We are to be filled with Him.
It is in our individual relationship with God the Father, through Jesus, by way of the Holy Spirit we become filled with Him and come in line with His purpose for our gifts and our lives.
How do you build your relationship with Christ? What does prayer look like for you? What about listening to what He says in His Word?
Getting to know Him, spending time with Him in prayer and His Word, being obedient to what He says, being faithful in the little things, are all part of a growing relationship with Jesus.
Participating in fellowship places us in a position where others can recognize a gift we may not be aware of. However, one of the dangers of fellowship is seeing a gift in someone and deciding you want to be just like them.
You can pray for the gift, but to begin by emulating the individual with the gift you admire is not the way to go. Only God gives spiritual gifts and graces as He determines. We don’t get to pick and choose. We can ask, but it doesn’t mean we’ll get it.
Being thankful and content with the gifts He’s given you is a great place to start in experiencing His fullness in your relationship with Him. Every gift is unique, every gift important, and only you can fill the needed role in your fellowship. Even when you have a gift in common with another, it will reveal itself differently, because you are different. We must all accept our individuality in Christ and His desire to bring about unity in diversity.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:4-5 ESV
When we as individuals share our gifts as He calls us, the whole body benefits. And when all members of the church share their specific gifts in the same manner, as individuals, the body becomes healthy and whole. We will lack nothing…
Allowing Jesus to be the Head of the church as individuals, leads to a healthy body of Believers.
Last week, I considered our gift of teaching. Seeing growth spurts and new revelations in those who gather with us at the shop, I reflected on the work He’s doing. I wondered about what He is going to do in the future.
As I thought, I saw His hand at work in those in our group and I saw myself as simply a bystander. Like a master craftsman with his apprentice or helper. An apprentice does only what the master says when he says and watches as a masterpiece appears. The helper would never dream of taking any credit for what was produced.
This vision gives me a clearer picture of the Head and the body. The body when closely connected to the head isn’t doing anything in and of itself except standing by and waiting for instruction from the Head. The parts of the body get to participate, but only by doing what He says when He says it, then we wait and watch to see what comes of it.
Clearly, it’s not my gift but His.
Surrendering our spiritual gifts back to Him and being willing to use them at His direction is the best thing we can do with our gifts.
He fills each Believer individually with gifts which when we come together as a whole, working in unison according to His will, we become the fullness of Christ. Without each of us taking our gifts seriously and connecting to Him individually, His body will not function as it is intended to. In His fullness.
Sharing our spiritual gifts according to His will, in proper connection with the Head, infuses us with the power to “raise the dead” and bring spiritual life back into the body.
Read Romans 1:8-12
Paul continually gave thanks for a church he didn’t establish and hadn’t visited. He prayed continually to be able to go to them to encourage them in their faith and be encouraged by them.
What did he look forward to giving them to strengthen and encourage faith?
encourage – 1a: to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope: hearten b: to attempt to persuade: urge 2: to spur on: stimulate 3: to give help or patronage to: foster
– Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.)
How have you experienced encouragement from others in the church when it comes to spiritual gifts?
I was encouraged this week through the words of a brother in Christ. He’s a retired preacher and we spent some time discussing church. Our conversation floated to a church without walls. Not a geographical place on the map, but a way to live. I was reminded of a song my mom taught me long ago.
“The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple, the church is not a resting place… the church is the people. I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. All who follow Jesus, all around the world. Yes, we’re the church together.”
In our pursuit of building ministry in a downtown shop through our gifts of teaching, he gave confirmation of what we have felt called to do.
When we share our gifts, all are encouraged in their faith, both spiritual newborns and mature Believers. Each encouraging one another’s faith in the process.
Seeking Perspective through Examen
Did the prayer exercise of Examen help you see God’s three-fold perspective when it comes to sharing your gifts? How? What did it reveal about your relationship with your gifts?
I know my gifts and God patiently calls me to use them. At the top of my list, encouragement. But prayer isn’t even in the top five. Don’t get me wrong. I pray. I’ve learned to pray aloud in groups and no longer hesitate when someone asks for prayer. Long ago, I let go of trying to sound eloquent or poetic. I do more listening than speaking and most of the time feel there are no words to capture what’s in my heart.
I went to the local market this week. Rushing to pick up a few things on a hurried day. As I left the store, he was there. A stranger leaning against the pole resting his forehead on his arms. The spirit nudged, “Pray for him.” I continued on my way asking God to lead my silent prayers for the stranger.
“No, GO pray for him. Lay your hand on his shoulder and speak aloud my words.”
I looked back. Nope, not doing it. Not my gift. I don’t even KNOW this person. I’m not proud of it, but I left him there, no prayer spoken over him.
The Father’s perspective looms heavy on my heart. I walked away. Refused to give. I robbed a stranger of the eternal all because I refused to make an investment. Ugh!
As I sought forgiveness, the Son’s perspective of grace flooded my soul. I prayed God would use another to do what I wouldn’t. I’m not arrogant enough to believe his healing depended on me. I’m convinced Grace will cover the stranger’s need. Certain His grace will give me another opportunity.
Spirit’s perspective revealed to me I have gifts still wrapped neatly on the shelf. It’s true I’ve learned to pray in certain situations and have overcome the discomfort in many ways. But there is still work to do, still growth to embrace. I asked God with fear and trembling to do His work in me, to perfect the gift He so lavishly poured out. And I know what my prayer means…
There will be many more opportunities to use it. In the beginning I’ll fail more than I’ll succeed, but I believe in God practice makes perfect.
The Father has eternal purpose and impact for the spiritual gifts He’s blessed each one of His children with. The Son patiently pours out His grace as we use our gifts. The Spirit continues to reveal, call, encourage, and guide in the sharing of our spiritual gifts for the building up of the church.
Do not neglect your gifts. Prayerfully consider, go after, and zealously desire the gifts of the Spirit. Share them in fellowship. It’s essential to your spiritual growth and to the growth and health of the entire body of Believers.
Our next Going Deeper into Loving Others through the faith practice of Share is sharing What We Have, all God has given each one of us in the pursuit of loving others.
Click here for a PDF of the Homework: Share Week 4_ What We Have – Homework
Lord, thank You for the gifts You’ve provided for eternal purposes, for the pouring out of grace on one another, and the pursuit of holiness. Bless us with the boldness to share them as You call us to.