The Gifted Community: A Dream Come True


For this week’s scriptures, read Numbers 11:16-30 ( ) and 1 Corinthians 12:1-26 (


It is good to see each of you this morning as we gather together today to seek God’s face and be reminded that the Holy Spirit is among us and at work within each of us.  The church today is truly a dream come true because we do have the Spirit at work within each of us.  What we have today—the Holy Spirit at work within us—is something that Moses longed to see in his time, but something that God only began with the sending of the Spirit to fill Christ’s followers at Pentecost.  If you remember Moses’ story, you will remember that, at first, Moses was the only one of the Israelites who had God’s Spirit upon him, but there came a time when it was clear that Moses needed other leaders under him to help guide the people.  Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, saw the need first because Moses was unable to handle all of the disputes and problems of the camp (Exodus 18)—maybe there is some wisdom here about listening to your father-in-law, but that is another sermon for another day…  What is clear is that Moses needed help to fulfill the calling of God on his life.

How many of you know that when you are following God’s call on your life, God will provide the help?

Providing Moses with the leaders he needed is exactly what God does for Moses in our first reading for today.  It is important that we see this—God does not just send these 70 elders into new positions for leadership and tell them to fend for themselves—instead God touches them with the Spirit and equips them for the work that they need.

So, the 70 receive God’s touch and they prophesy—even two who had missed the call to come out of the camp are touched and begin to speak the things of God.  This is where young Joshua appears in our story.  One day, Joshua is going to inherit the leadership of the Israelite people.  One day he is going to lead the people into the Promised Land, defeat their enemies and establish the people of God in the place that God has set aside for them, but that day has not yet come because Joshua still has things to learn.  The idea that two people might prophesy in the camp was appaling to Joshua.  Listen to the story again (Num. 11:27-29):

27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”

Joshua wants to see the Spirit bottled up.  He wants to see the Spirit resting on Moses and Moses alone, because that makes Moses special, but Moses had a different dream.  Moses knew that the Spirit of God transforms us and changes us.  He knew that the Spirit of God equips us for the work of God and Moses was more concerned about the work of God than he was about being “special” and keeping the Spirit to himself.  There is clearly good reason why scripture tells us that Moses was the most humble man on earth (Numbers 12:3)—his focus was not on himself but on God and he dreamed about a time when the Spirit of God would be upon all of God’s people.

Well, my friends, here we are.  We are Moses’ dream come true.  Why don’t you turn to your neighbor and tell them “you are a dream come true.”

Listen to how Paul explains the Spirit’s work in our New Testament reading:

 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit.”  Why? “For the common good.”  God has not only given us the Spirit like God gave the Spirit to the elders, God has also equipped us through the Spirit to be a blessing to the people around us.  That is the reason that the elders in Moses’ time received the Spirit and that is a big part of why God’s Spirit is on us today.  We are called to ministry, my friends, each and every one of us.  Each and every one of us is uniquely gifted to reach this world in some way that no one else can.  Frankly, without you and your gifts, the church is incomplete.  Paul paints the picture using the human body and the parts of our body as an example.

He tells us that the church is just like the human body.  Like the body, the church has many different parts.  We have fingers and toes, we have elbows and eyeballs and ears and lips.  We have legs and arms and on and on, and if any of those parts are missing—or simply not functioning—then the church is going to struggle.

How may of you have needed surgery on a part of your body?  What about a broken bone?  How many of you have needed some other treatment for some part of your body that was not working quite right?  Just about everyone here has experienced what it is like when a part of your body is not working right.  We should all have our hands up by now—it is no fun when part of our body is not working, is it?  A broken arm or a bad toothache or a sprained ankle or a back that is out of joint—any of those problems makes it hard for you to do much of anything.  The same is true for the church.  When we try to minister to each other and the world and we do not have all our parts in place, we are going to suffer.  As Paul puts it (12:26): “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

We are the body of Christ.  All of us.  Without your gifts, we are going to struggle.  The church that fails to recognize that we need every gift working together will never thrive, and the church that looks to the pastor to be the entire body will never be able to get anywhere close to living out Jesus’ Great Commission—that we go forth and make disciples.

So, you might be a foot, or maybe a hand or a shoulder or an ear, but whatever role you play in the body of Christ, we need you.  The Gifts that the Spirit has given to you equip you in a way that no one else in this room is equipped, and if you don’t live in those gifts of God, then no one will.  My point here is not to try to get you to sign up for some committee that is so distasteful that you would rather be pulling tobacco in 100 degree heat than in that committee meeting.  In fact, my point is just the opposite—when you know how God has gifted you, you will see those things within the life of the church that are exciting to you.

Think about the people who you know that have found life-giving ways to be engaged in ministry.  I’m not talking about those who go to a meeting they don’t want to out of duty, but the ones who love what God has called them to.

Brenda comes to my mind when I think about people in our congregation(s) who have found their gifts and call.  Brenda has a deep love for missions.  She loves being present in places where people need the body of Christ to reach out to them in a practical way.  That is her calling and she is gifted in serving others.  Now, I doubt that I could twist Brenda’s arm hard enough to get her to a finance committee meeting, but that’s just it—I have no desire to try to get Brenda on the finance committee.  That is not her gift, but there are others here who God is calling to be in ministry in that way.  This coming week, Brenda will be heading out again to help with repair from the damage caused by tornados this spring.  We are going to pray for her and commission her after the sermon, because she is going as part of this body of Christ, as our hands.

I expect that you can think of others who have found their gifts and calling.  It may not be mission trips, it might be a passion for music in someone who likes nothing better than helping lead the music during worship.  Or, think about this example: I once helped lead a funeral for a woman who, unknown to me, had an incredible ministry of sending cards to people all over the community—her age and inability to get out of the house did not stop her from living in the gifts God had given her.  I was amazed at the ways she had used her gift of encouragement to touch many lives through that ministry.  Or, think about those who truly enjoy cooking and have made bringing food to people who need a meal their ministry, or consider those who find joy and excitement in making sure people simply have food to put on their plates.

I want to tell you a story today about one person who was passionate about feeding people.  He discovered his gifts and his passion and had a huge impact as a result.  David Horne had a passion for feeding people.  In the early 90’s, David worked as the general manager of a great organization—the Society of Saint Andrews (—which helps with gleaning ministries such as the gleaning organization we are a part of here in Southside Virginia.  David was touching lives and providing for those in need in an incredible way, but he still had not discovered the full call of God on his life.  David had another passion—hunting, and in the early 90’s he began to realize that his passion and gifts for organizing, feeding the hungry and hunting could all come together in a way that no one in Virginia had considered, and thus “Hunters for the Hungry” ( was born.  It took David two years of research, conversations, and meetings to get Hunters for the Hungry off the ground, but in 1993, David stepped away from the Society of Saint Andrews to focus on this ministry full time.  From 1993 until 2002, Hunters for the Hungry provided more than 5.6 million servings of high quality, low fat venison to the hungry of this state—and David was the spearhead who made it happen.  He loved it, because it tied together things that he cared about.  In 2002, at the age of 49, David died of cancer.  His death was a great loss, but at the same time, I stop short of calling his death tragic, because I don’t think we can call the death of any person who has embraced their gifts and calling tragic.  His was a life well lived.  A life that touched many and continues to transform our community.  Last year Hunters for the Hungry provide 1.2 million servings of venison to those in need.  That is not tragedy, it is a legacy of which anyone could be proud.

            Tragedy, on the other hand, is a life lived ignoring the gifts of God and failing to embrace God’s call.  A man or woman can live to be 100, but if that person missed out on using the gifts that God has given them to touch their community and the world then their death is tragic.  My friends, my hope today is that none of us will be a tragedy, because regardless of the length of our life, each day will be lived as a person of God equipped by the Spirit of God.

            To do that, we need to understand the gifts of God in our lives.  Paul says the same in verse one of our reading (1 Cor 12): “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.”   Spiritual Gifts are very simply gifts that each of us has been given by the Spirit to bless the church.  Often, these gifts might look like an extraordinary character trait.  I am sure that we have all known people who we might say: “she is really wise” “he is really merciful” or “she is really generous”—those are spiritual gifts, and if the person who has been gifted with wisdom recognizes that gift, then she will be able to take on a role in the church or community that might involve counseling or teaching that will allow her to use that gift.  The other side of the coin is that our gifts mesh with our passions—those things that are important to us—and together point us towards our calling.

            Many of the gifts fall into the category of extraordinary personality traits.  Look at the list on the inside flap of your bulletin (or see  Discernment (or being gifted to tell the difference between right and wrong/good and evil) , administration (or organization), encouragement, faith (or believing God for incredible things), wisdom, giving, helps (or a deep commitment to develop relationships and help those around you), prophesying (which is speaking truth to power), teaching, leadership, mercy, and service all fall into the category of what we might call gifts which are exceptional personality traits.

The list also includes supernatural gifts of healing, miracles, and knowledge (which is the gift of knowing things by divine revelation).  These gifts, along with speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues are more clearly supernatural.  They can also be more obvious—for example, if you have the gift of tongues, you probably know it because the evidence is clear in your life (that is why speaking in tongues is not on this list).  These obviously supernatural gifts are not as common within the church today, but I have to wonder if that is because of God or if it is because of us.  Paul tells us later in chapter 12 (12:31) that we are to eagerly desire the greater gifts, and so my hope for you is that even as you identify the gifts that the Spirit has given you that you will also continue to ask God to equip you with more of these gifts so that you can discover who God is calling you to be and live in the abundant life that Christ has for you!

My friends, I don’t want church to be boring for you.  I don’t want your life of faith to simply be a burden.  God desires that we live out our passions with the gifts that God has given us, and when you reach that place where you are living out of your gifts, then you faith journey will be a joy!

In a few minutes we are going to look at a piece of a spiritual gifts assessment.  I took these few questions from a larger assessment that I will happily provide you with.  This is the first step and I hope that it will help those of you who are unsure about your Spiritual Gifts to know a little bit more about how God has gifted you.  After you have begun to identify gifts in yourself talk with God in prayer and talk to other people around you to confirm what you see in yourself.  Then, get involved.  You may know right away how your gifts can be used to further the kingdom.  If so, jump in!  If not, come talk with me and together we will find out how to put your passions, your gifts together into a ministry that will bless others and give you joy.

Let’s pray.