Good morning! Hey let me start with a question for you to consider this morning. I think it’s a question we all have wrestled with or are wrestling with. Do you feel like you’re making a difference in the world?

That’s a pretty loaded question, because depending on your world view, we could all have different answers. But even if your answers are different from the people beside you right now, we each still ask this question to ourselves. It’s a burning desire within us to know if our life is making any difference in the world. Am I making my life count? Is there something more to this life? I think many of us may honestly answer, I’m not sure, I don’t know, or not yet.

However, if you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve got an even greater question: Am I making a difference for God’s kingdom? Would Jesus look at me and say, well done, good and faithful servant?

Here’s the good news: Today, as we read through chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul is about to help us answer this question that our heart longs to know. And no matter where you’re at with your faith, if you’re here or listening online today, he’s got an answer for you. Now, if that doesn’t give you incentive to listen in, I don’t know what will!

Paul starts out with this:

“Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us. I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans (which basically means before you knew God), you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Cor. 12:1-3 NLT

Alright so let’s try and clear this section up before we continue on. After all, Paul says he doesn’t want us to misunderstand this. Paul wants to take some time to address what we refer to as spiritual gifts. He says that before we knew God, we lived according to our old, sinful self. When we hear the words speechless idols, we may dismiss it as something we don’t do. I mean, I don’t talk to any golden calf. But before we come to know God, we did worship speechless idols. We worshiped things such as money, people (ok people do talk, but not the point), sex, and addictions. But now we are changed, living our new, God-focused way of life. So Paul is actually starting with this to make something very clear. If a spiritual gift doesn’t show God glory and honor, if it doesn’t benefit the Kingdom, if it doesn’t put Him above everything else, it’s not a gift from God. Someone who truly knows God wouldn’t speak against Him, or wouldn’t curse Him. And someone who doesn’t know God wouldn’t ever say that Jesus is Lord and mean it, unless they had the Holy Spirit in them. These two are opposites. Before he even addresses what these gifts are, what they should be used for, and so on, Paul wants us to know, without misunderstanding, that these gifts come to those who follow God.

Paul continues:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Cor. 12:4-6 NLT

The term spiritual gifts is really actually pretty special. The word ‘gift’ in the Greek is the word charisma. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? It’s where we get the words charisma and charismatic. Now here’s where it gets cool. Charisma can actually be broken down into two parts: charis, and ma. Charis means ‘grace.’ The ‘ma’ portion of the word talks about it being given. It’s grace given. So we could actually call these grace gifts! And don’t forget what grace means: it means it can’t be earned. It’s just given out of love for us. We are given these supernatural gifts out of the grace of God!

So the Holy Spirit is the source for these grace gifts, and there are several kinds, each doing something different. God uses us in different ways to do what He has created us to do. But why would God give us gifts freely? What purpose do they serve?

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” v. 7 NLT
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” v. 7 NIV
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.” v. 7 NKJV
“Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!” v. 7 MSG

This is a key verse in this chapter that we can’t forget today. Each of us believers are given these grace gifts from the Holy Spirit to benefit others, to help each other! Each of us has a gift from God that we are to be using so that we can help others, whether that’s physically, emotionally, or simply straight up spiritually. Paul then lists some of those gifts out for the Corinthians, probably what some of the gifts that they had there:

“To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.” 1 Cor. 12:8-11 NLT

Pretty cool gifts, right? Now, we could spend more than one Sunday talking about what each of the gifts does. However, that’s not where I want to go today. Feel free to spend some time later reading about what these gifts are all about online, in a book, or by talking with someone about them. But the reason I don’t want to concentrate on them today is because I believe that in this chapter as a whole, Paul is trying to get across a larger message, though it’s certainly important to understand each of the gifts. And the focus, as we’ll continue to see, is on us using our gifts for others.

What Paul does next is he actually uses a great analogy to help us better understand our role with these gifts. Here’s what he says:

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.” 1 Cor. 12: 12-14 NLT

So collectively, we make up the body of Christ. If you’re a follower of Jesus, then you make up His body. But each part of the body does something. It has a use. That’s where these gifts come into play. That’s why each one of us is given one for the profit of all. We each contribute to the working of the body.

Knowing that, there’s a question that comes with it, and I believe it’s a question God is asking us: What are you doing with your grace gift? Who is benefiting from it? Are you using it to build the body of Christ? Are you using it at all? Now keep in mind, while Paul has mentioned a few gifts here, there are more listed throughout the New Testament. There are also gifts such as talents and passions.

So really, if you think about it, because we are EACH given a gift that we are to use to build the body of Christ up, that makes all of us body-builders! YOU are a body-builder! When someone asks you what you do for a living, you can look at them and confidently say, ‘I’m a pro body builder.’ Depending on your actual physical stature you may get some odd looks, but hey, it’s true! We weren’t created to just get by, or to just come to church each week without doing anything else. We were given a grace gift in order to build the body.

Now, there can be a few common responses to that question. I think the first is the most used answer out there. We might answer, ‘I don’t know what my spiritual gift is yet. When I figure it out, then I’ll be able to use it.’ How’s that going for you? What have you done to figure it out? The body is waiting, needing your part! You know, you could learn all about what each of the spiritual gifts do online. You could take an online quiz to figure out what your gifts are. But we find out our spiritual gifts when we serve. There’s no better way to do it! I’ve taken a few quizzes myself to better understand my own gifts, but it’s not until you’re serving that they’ll be used, that you’ll be able to see them in action, and that you’ll be able to actually help others with it. So you don’t know what your gifts are? Serve somewhere. In a ministry here, at a soup kitchen, at a fundraiser for something, by offering your skills to others. Serve somewhere. You find your gifts when you serve, not by waiting to figure them out.

Another common answer would be like one the Corinthians seemed to have been giving Paul: They don’t feel like their gifts were important. What they could do wasn’t nearly as great as some others. Paul continues with the analogy of the body to respond to someone who doesn’t feel like their gift matters:

“If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.” 1 Cor. 12:15-20 NLT
The Message version paraphrases this in a cool way: Reading verse 15 and verse 20:
“I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together… As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.”

Do you see that there? YOU ARE IMPORTANT. There were people in the Corinthian church that just didn’t feel special enough with their gifts. They weren’t happy with what God had given them. They would look at other people in the church and think that they weren’t as important as other people. And man isn’t that easy to fall into today. Have you ever heard of the game would you rather? You give two scenarios and then you have to pick one. So, would you rather cut off your feet or cut off your hand? I think we might think, well, feet of course, I need my hands for everything! But could we really live well without our feet? The same with our eyes and our ears. The eye may seem more important, but your ears play an incredible role. Trust me, being pretty much deaf in one ear, life is definitely more difficult. But there is no would you rather games here. God wants every part of our body to be working well, together. It’s all important. It all contributes. It all makes a difference for God’s kingdom.

Think about the instruments in our band. We’ve got such talented musicians that here, and they’re all amazing at their own instrument. But it’s when they all play together, using their talents at the same time, that a song forms. Don’t believe me? Just hang out for 5 extra minutes after church and listen to their jam session.

It can be easy to look at the people in the church that we see all the time and think that their gifts are more important. It can be easy to put the speakers here at the top, thinking they have the greatest gift, and that we can’t contribute. But you aren’t getting the full song. You aren’t seeing the whole body. We have so many wonderful volunteers both upfront AND behind the scenes that make church happen each week. And each part is just as important as the next. Why? Because we’re all a part of the body of Christ, and we have these gifts, not for ourselves, but to help others, for the common good!

I’ve started going to the gym… again… and I’ll tell you what, I hate leg day. I think most people would agree with me. It’s the worst. I like working towards those mountain top biceps and chiseled abs. But if all I worked on were those muscles, I’d end up looking pretty lopsided (And let’s be honest, we’ve all seen some guys like that). It’d be a misunderstanding to think of my legs any less than the rest of my muscles. In the same way, we must each do our part in Christ’s body.

It’s wrong for us to believe that we can’t make a difference, because every part of Christ’s body is important. Don’t get into the comparison game! God made you for that specific purpose. Stand strong in it! Here’s why: If you think you are a weaker part, one that doesn’t matter, such as a foot or an ear, God doesn’t reward you based on what you’re not. He will reward the foot based on being a foot and the ear on being an ear, just as He will reward the eye for being an eye. As it says in verse 18, “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.”
Remember that we are EACH given at least one gift by the Holy Spirit in order to help others and lead them closer to Christ. That answers our first question of how we make a difference in the world! We use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us.

If you’re someone who hasn’t served, who hasn’t found the gifting that the Holy Spirit has given them, or who doesn’t use the gifts that they have, you’re allowing a gift that was made for you that you don’t even deserve go to waste. The difference you could be making isn’t happening because you aren’t serving somewhere! Just think about how there is a piece in the kingdom of God, made for you, and it’s missing. A puzzle isn’t complete without all it’s pieces!

Think about it this way. It’s like being hired for a job you were born to do, but not showing up for your shifts! When pay day comes, we wonder why our paycheck is so low. Or, when we examine our relationship with God, we wonder why it isn’t that strong. It’s because we aren’t using what has been given to us! Don’t be confused, you don’t have to work for God to love you, that’s already taken care of. But, when we aren’t doing anything to build our relationship, like using the gifts He’s given us, our relationship with Him will be weak!

It can be really easy to fall into a comfortable habit, waiting for our spiritual gift to drop on us, and in the meantime wondering why we don’t feel as close to God, or wondering why we aren’t getting anything out of church. It’s God’s design that we each have a part to play in the building of the church. Our goal should be to serve in the church in such a way that it is stronger because we are there.

Paul’s second half of the section is to the opposite party. Apparently in Corinth, along with those who thought they weren’t special enough, there were people who thought they were extra special. Here’s what he says:

“The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” 1 Cor. 12:21-26 NLT

There seemed to have been some people in the church who thought of themselves as extra special. As if what they did was more important. Paul wanted to make sure they understood that we are all a part of the body, and every part is important. Here’s what the Message version says:

“But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of… The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance.”

Pride was very clearly an issue within the Corinthians church. And with people who make themselves seem most important, it’s no wonder that some people felt like their gifts didn’t matter! Paul was writing to empower some and demote others on to a level field. That’s because there are no ranks of spiritual-ness. No gift is more important than another because we all need each other. No one is nonessential!

Paul then comes back to the main point of it all, and it’s almost a mirror of verse 7, just with the body analogy connected to it:

“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Cor. 12:27 NLT

The church, the body of Christ, cannot grow, thrive, or reach to the lost effectively if there are missing parts to the body. Did you hear that?
The church, the body of Christ, cannot grow, thrive, or reach to the lost effectively if there are missing parts to the body.
Here’s what that means: We need you. We need your spiritual gifts. We need your talents. We need your passions. You are part of the body, and there are no nonessential parts. Even the person who’s role is the appendix. (That was a biology joke…)

I want to challenge 4 different people here this morning after going through this chapter. I think that there are really 4 different stages of where people are at. You’re in one of these!

The first group I want to talk to is those who are new to church, or those who don’t yet know Jesus. Man, if you’re here for the first or second time, or if you’ve just been in and out of churches trying to find God, we are so glad you’re here. This whole talk about the body of Christ might seem a little overwhelming. Like man, I just came to visit your church and now I have to go and volunteer time? That’s not exactly what I’m saying right now. What I want you to know is that, should you choose to give your life to Christ, you will be given a gift. And remember, you don’t have to do anything to earn it. There are no hoops we will make your jump through. It’s a grace gift! You just need to put your faith in Christ. And, here’s what’s really cool, that purpose that you’ve been looking for, the reason to live, the feeling like you’ve made a difference, that can all be yours. You are not only wanted here, but needed here! If you would say that you are a visitor here today, we want to talk to you. We want to know who you are, what you’re going through, and we would love more than anything for you to know the God we worship here each and every week.

The second group of people are those who don’t serve. Now again, this isn’t just for our church of MRC. I mean you don’t serve ANYWHERE. Perhaps you feel like you just have no time, or it seems like too much work, or, more than likely, you don’t feel like you can make a difference. Let me tell you, you can and will. Because you are part of the body, and every part is essential. Don’t wait around until you feel like you have time, you’re never going to feel that way! Don’t wait until you know for sure what your spiritual gifts are; the only real way to finding them is by serving! This shouldn’t just be a place you attend, this should be a place that you build, that you make better. As a follower of Christ, you have the Holy Spirit, who has given you a gift. Don’t let it go to waste.
The church, the body of Christ, cannot grow, thrive, or reach to the lost effectively if there are missing parts to the body.

The third group of people may have taken that next step to use their gifts somewhere in serving. However, even still, they aren’t truly using their gifts, because they are helping others minimally, or when it’s convenient for them. Too many people in the church today… and when I say church, I’m talking globally, not just MRC… too many people in the church today are convenience servants over consistent servants. If they happen to have free time, or if they have just a little extra, they’ll help out. But if it causes a change in lifestyle, they aren’t so quick to help others. Fewer people want to commit to an ongoing ministry. More and more leaders hear, “I’ll help out when I can,” and “Call on me when you really need me.” Yet the truth is most of us want the benefits of the nursery, the benefits of teaching, the benefits of children’s ministry without being involved. Let me challenge you to be consistent, to use your gifts in a way that benefits others, every time you’re there.
The church, the body of Christ, cannot grow, thrive, or reach to the lost effectively if there are missing parts to the body.

And finally, the fourth group of people are those who are serving others for personal gain. They think that their position is most important, or at least more important than other people’s. Now, we need leaders, of course; people who take charge, who are accountable, who know what they’re doing. However, there is a difference between leading for selfish gain and leading to help others. C.S. Lewis calls pride the great sin, and I agree with him. It puffs us up, and puts us in first place, when very clearly Jesus told us to first love God and then others. The hardest part is that the people that are struggling with this, probably don’t see it. If you’re someone who is serving anywhere or anyone for selfish gain, or if you think that you’re better off without other’s help, you need to re-evaluate why you’re serving, and remember that everyone has a place and purpose in the body of Christ.
The church, the body of Christ, cannot grow, thrive, or reach to the lost effectively if there are missing parts to the body.

Paul did not write this part of the letter to sucker the Corinthians into serving, and I am not speaking on it today to sucker you into volunteering here, or anywhere for that matter. It’s not a ploy. Understanding that God has given YOU a gift to use to build the body of Christ gives you a reason to be here. It fills that longing you have to make a difference! I can’t express the joy you’ll feel when you get to use your gifts, talents, and passions to help others. We honestly just want the very best life for you, and we know that that life is with God, and being a body builder!