We all like to receive gifts, but we also know the phrase 'it is more blessed to give than to receive'. The latter resonates with God and who He is: God is Love, and love cannot help but give and pour out.
There are many ways to give of course, including one-off donations and regular giving. As a church we rely on regular donations to enable us to operate, trusting God to meet our expenses. And God has been faithful - so much so that we are now praying on how God wants us to increase our ministry.
One clear opportunity is the Ely CAP Debt Centre. We have budgeted to give to this new initiative, which will actually be administered by a partner church in Ely. This is an example of us releasing resources, enabling others to use it for ministry. It is the same principle as in Acts 2 & 4 where people made their resources available for the common good. So our question/challenge this week applies this on a personal level:
Key Qn: [UP] What giving does God want to enable through you?
Challenge: Release & Increase!
Giving is a spiritual exercise: there is a direct connection between your ability to embrace the question/challenge and the depth & health of your relationship with God ... your ability to sit light with resources, your ability to release with no strings attached!
The 1 Corinthians 12 passage is not just about finances however, but with gifts that originate from God and given through us. Verse 1 uses the Greek word 'pneumatikon': 'pneuma' is 'breath' or 'spirit', so he is talking of spiritual things, makings or gifts. Paul makes clear that the Holy Spirit asserts Jesus as Lord, so people who are able to speak or do things that show Jesus as Lord are doing them by the Holy Spirit.
The Corinthians were making a mistake by judging between different abilities and actions: holding some in high regard and discounting others. This was childish behaviour! Verse 4 introduces another Greek word 'charismata': 'charis' meaning grace, so he is talking of grace-workings or gifts. These all come by the same Spirit, says Paul. Also there are 'ministries' (same word as in 'deacon') that are by the same Lord Jesus and 'operations' by the same God (the Father). Paul straight-forwardly references the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - as working through people in a diverse set of ways. It is all God, so no room for arbitrary distinctions.
In verse 7 he goes up a gear and talks of 'paranesis', which means 'manifestations' or 'occurrences'. This is the Spirit working supernaturally among us, enabling us to know/say/do things that are only possible by God. He spills out a long list which includes knowledge, faith, gifts (grace-workings) of healing, the miraculous, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, un-learned languages and their interpretation.
The list is diverse (and not exhaustive), but again all made possible by the Spirit without need to distinguish. The section is bracketed by verse 11 (the Spirit gives as He determines) and verse 7 (given for the common good). This is God giving and releasing through us. The person experiencing the Spirit finds themselves receiving and giving at the same time: receiving because the Spirit is supernaturally at work in them, giving because they minister to others in the process! Such work is done with no strings attached - just the invitation to be drawn further into relationship with Jesus.
This wonderful ministry of the Spirit is a consequence of God with us. We should expect God to work among us! Paul is not saying that these things should happen, but rather given that they are happening (which is normal) have the correct understanding that they are all equally of God. Remember, incredible things are possible because God is with us!
So returning to the key question/challenge, maybe what God wants to give through you is not just to do with finance or time, but to minister through you by the Spirit. Maybe the challenge to 'release' is to be an open-channel through which God can work, learning to be a simultaneous receiver and giver for the common good.