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Only What God Does, Matters
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Track 8 of 17 in the Living in the Light of His Coming series
Running time: 22 minutes, 47 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, October 24, 2004
8th sermon in a 17 part series
ďOnly What God Does, MattersĒ
ďBeing in Him Means Being His ChurchĒ
(1 Corinthians 12:4 - 6)
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

John Piper says, ďThe difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam wonít enlist you unless you are healthy and Jesus wonít enlist you unless you are sick.Ē ďWhat is God looking for in the world? Assistants? No! The gospel is not a help wanted ad. Itís a help available ad. God is not looking for people to work for Him, but people who let Him work mightily in and through them.Ē

I was struck by that last phrase particularly. That God is looking for people that He can work mightily in and through. Every week I receive one of these text sheets that tells me when Iím supposed to stand up and sit down. The top of the page always reads the same. Itís a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:17-18. Be humble about your talent, otherwise you may say in your heart that you did it all on your own. But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gave you the ability to do what you do.

My question this morning is really very simple. How do you get to that place? How do you get to the place in your life where what you recognize is that God does, in fact, want to do something mightily in you and through you. And yet to recognize that weíre not the point. That in fact he is the one who ultimately matters and that what God accomplishes is what this is about, not who he works through or how he gets it done. I think that, thatís at heart whatís going on in Corinth. It is an ultimate conflict over who matters ultimately. I mean the book starts out with a conflict over people. Paul would say some people follow Apollos, some follow Ciphes(??), some follow Paul. Some even claim to follow Jesus, but all it produces is division.

And he walks down through a series of events in the book of 1Corinthians to remind them of what is ultimately important. He says it this way in one particular place. Apollos waters, Apollos plants, I water and God reaps the increase. You hear the third result. God reaps the increase. We see it most clearly in 1Corinthians 12, this text that weíve been looking at and when you get to the second paragraph, verses 4 through 6, itís an intriguing paragraph. Look at it with me.

1Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Notice the uniquely Trinitarian statement here of Spirit, Christ and God. Listen to it in a different translation. Listen for that Trinitarian statement.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us.

A Spiritual gift is given to each as a means of equipping the entire church.

But donít notice that just all three persons of the godhead are mentioned, notice how it seems to get, well, I would call it more intense, maybe itís a statement about being more mature. Notice how the emphasis leans. Follow this in another translation.

There are different kinds of gifts, but they are from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve, but the same Lord to serve. There are different ways that God works through people, but the same God. God works in all of us in everything we do.

Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person for the common good.

It has always struck me that there is this interesting intensification in this text. We move somehow through the, somehow we talk about the different personalities of God (Spirit, Christ, Father) but thereís also this progression that goes from gifts to ministries to Godís activity. It strikes me that, that is progression. That there is something significant about that.

I want to come back to this question. How do we get to the place that our ultimate priority is on what God accomplishes, not on us? Let me try to answer that.

I think it starts by recognizing that our gifts do matter. Itís the very first thing he says in Verse 4. There are different kinds of gifts, different varieties of gifts. . . .but, they all come from the same Spirit. The emphasis in verses 7 and 11 particularly, are upon the place that the Spirit plays in the life of a believer.

Verse 7 says, that the same Spirit, this same Spirit gives to each one a manifestation for the common good. Verse 11 says, All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The emphasis is on the fact that God gives through the Spirit we receive. Not our choice.

It reminds me a little of Jeremiah 1, when Jeremiah is called in to his prophetic role. He says, Iím going to make you this certain thing. In fact, what I want you do to is. . . I want you to do these six things. Four of them happen to be destructive. Two of them happen to be constructive. But he identifies Jeremiah with six specific verbs to describe his activity.

My question has been, for years then, what in the world is my verb? How would you describe what you do?

Yesterday I was talking with someone who was asking me specifically about our congregation and what they asked was, well, what are your ministry positions? What are the titles that you use? To which I responded, we donít use titles much around here. We use verbs a lot. We donít talk about a minister of worship. We talk about someone who is responsible for our ministry of worship. We donít talk about the preacher. We talk about the one who preaches, in an attempt to try to get at that verb thing.

Then yesterday, I was reading the paper. Itís a fascinating little article in the Pantagraph out of Bloomington, IL where this woman recounts a series of event that she went through. She said it started on Sunday. I heard this good story, good news/bad news kind of thing. The bad news is, the speaker reported, we need a new roof for the church. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for the roof. The bad news is, the money is still in your wallet (followed by, please give). Then she said, that afternoon, the doorbell rang and somebody is selling something in order to support some organization, followed by the United Way campaign at the location where she works. Followed by some other opportunities to give. That set the article up. But what got my attention was this.

I remember one of those pure moments about seven years ago, there was a minister visiting our church from an under-developed, poverty stricken area in Africa. He tended to his congregations in neighboring towns by walking, sometimes taking as long as two days to get there. As I listened to him, I remembered a brand new bicycle sitting in my garage. I started squirming in the pew. The thought of giving the bike to the visitor was an incredible rush of joy. To make a long story short, a group of us put our heads together and later that day shipped to the ministerís home, the bicycle, the most heavy duty bike tires we could find and a tire repair kit.

I read the article and I said, that woman has the gift of giving. It just seemed obvious to me. Now I donít know, maybe it doesnít seem as obvious to you, but it struck me that itís pretty obvious what her verb is. She felt the need and turned right around to meet the need by giving out of her own abundance.

Our gifts are important and figuring out what they are is, thatís our job. Thatís what we do. We find ways of discovering and developing our gifted-ness. We work at it. We take a class. We talk to people. We do gift analysis. We evaluate. We work at developing our gifts. We get personal coaching. We try things. We go to adult discipleship classes. We get into small groups. We join a choir. We do things where we can develop the gifts that we have. Itís not that the gifts are not important. Itís just that you can only do so much with this statement. My gift is. . . . . . and then what? Okay, youíve got it figured out, now what?

I mean it would have been like, if the woman had said, I have this incredible urge to give my bicycle away and then went home and took a nap. Cause the issue isnít discovery, is it? The issue is using it, which is the very next thing that happens in this text. Did you notice that? There is one Spirit who gives gifts. We all have them. But then he says, there are a variety of ministries but the same Lord. Itís an interesting combination. Isnít it? The gifts goes with Spirit and ministry goes with Christ who was described in these terms. I did not come to be served, but to serve. It strikes me that one of the answer to the question is that our gift is important, but the better answer is the use of your gift is even more important. What you do with what you have. Our service matters, even more than our gift matters. Doing something with it is what makes the difference.

Iím an occasional Foxtrot fan. I donít mean the dance. I mean the comic. The computer nerds always intrigue me and they found a football and you can just imagine two comic strip computer nerds trying to figure out what to do with it. And so the punch line is something that isnít funny when you talk about it but funny when you look at it. Itís the question. . . . .I wonder if it needs batteries??

A football is only a football if you do what with it? Kick it! Throw it!! Do something!! Play with it, but if it just sits there, youíre gonna ask the question, I wonder if it needs batteries?

A gift is a gift is a gift but if you donít do something with it, you might as well polish it, put it on a shelf and say. . . .well, thatís nice!

Paul tries to help this group of Corinthian Christians understand, that just simply knowing that God has in some way placed in you a gift, doesnít make that all that significant if you donít do something with it.

I looked this up just so I could say this. It came out between 1980 and 1982. Itís the little figurine that has the little lady serving a pie. Some of you may own it. Most people have it and stick it in a shelf someplace and hope that itís worth more next year than it is this year. I saw that in real life, almost every day. Her name was Eva Stump. She was my neighbor. She worked in the childrenís department of our church, well not all the time I was there, was this going on. I mean, what I want to say is she did it for 68 years. Obviously, not while I was there. Sixty-eight years of working in a childrenís department, but what intrigued me most was, virtually every day I would see Mrs. Stump walking down the street with a pie in her hand and she would be taking it to a neighbor, any neighbor. Any neighbor that needed one. Any neighbor that wanted one. Any neighbor that had a need, Mrs. Stump had the gift of service and generosity. And it wasnít that you had a little plaque on a door that said, Eva Stump, gifted at hospitality. You knew that she had that gift because you saw her do something with it every day.

Paul says, the Spirit gives us all gifts. There are lots of different kinds of gifts. They all come from the same Spirit. But whatís more important is that there are different kinds of ministries. Lots of different kinds of ministries, but they all come from the same one who is the foundation of ministry itself. They all come from Jesus. And it doesnít seem to matter what they are. It doesnít seem to make any difference. ThereíĎs no special distinction between them, but even that doesnít get to the answer of the question. How do you get to the place where that which is ultimately important is ultimately important? And it isnít just recognizing your gifted-ness, and it isnít just putting your giftedness to use.

Look back down here one more time at 1Corinthians 12:6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

One translation of that is that there are different kinds of effects or different kinds of results. What Paul seems to be driving at in this process of building through this text is that the gift is important and the ministry is a bit more important but what really matters is the result. What happens at the other end, and what happens at the other end is that God is allowed to do his thing.

I love the text. . . . .it was the last text we read this morning. It has, for the last ten years or so been among those texts that have been most meaningful to me.

Isaiah 26:12 . . . .all that we have accomplished God has done for us. Do you hear it? It isnít the denial that weíve done some things that God has allowed us to participate. That maybe weíve had some gifts that weíve been able to express in some ministry. The issue is, that when itís all said and done, the recognition is that God did this. It wasnít about us. It was about Him.

Proverbs 16:18 says it this way; Pride goes before destruction. . . . .

Madeleine LíEngle says it this way; ďTrouble always comes whenever we begin to take credit for any of the gifts of the Spirit.Ē

I read this, this week. ďHow well I whistleĒ said the keyhole to the wind. And with much indignation the wind said, ďHow well I whistleĒ. At which point, the owner of the house felt a draft and plugged up the keyhole. At which point, neither of them were able to perform. And it reminded me that this is not about us.

I read with interest the story of young David. Israel is at battle with the Philistines and there is a giant in the land named Goliath, who is taunting Israel. And the armies are lines up on both sides of the valley and the giant walks out basically, every day, and says, donít you have anybody that is strong enough, brave enough, courageous enough to come out here and do me battle? If he wins, weíll be your slaves and he taunts Israel day-after-day-after-day and young David walks up with lunch for his older brothers and says, who is this Philistine who defies the army of the living God? And if you know your Old Testament story, you know what happened. He went to Saul. Offered to kill Goliath. Saul dressed him in armor. The armor, well, some people say it didnít fit. David just didnít like it according to the text so he took it off. He walked out with five stones and a sling and he made this announcement, your dead! Thatís my paraphrase. Your defying God. How dare you dishonor God and so he killed him and cut off his head.

Now Iím not suggesting you do that just because somebody defies God. But I want you to hear the language of David. How dare you defy the living God!

I stepped on an elevator with a friend of mine, this has been years and years ago and another person got on the elevator. The elevator was basically full and when the elevator started, the person who got on after us obviously had some back pain and it HURT and he let out vocabulary that you donít use in buildings like this, actually you donít use it anywhere if you have a better vocabulary than that. And my preacher friend turned to him and he said, ďya know, weíre sorry that you hurt but what you just said didnít make you feel any better. It was embarrassing to everybody in this room and it dishonored God. Iíd appreciate it if you didnít say that any more.Ē I picked my jaw up off the floor. I couldnít believe he said that. Iíd never seen anybody stand up for God before. I didnít think God needed standing up for. I thought he could probably handle it himself. But I appreciated his heart. You donít dishonor God.

I was trying to watch the Cardinal game last night. They announced the opening of the fox season, the new Simpsonís program. You know what the ad is? Forgive me!

Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! I donít think he was praying!

I used to live across the street from a junior high. You know what the most common word in junior high apparently is? God! But itís not a prayer.

What Iím asking is, is it possible for the people of God to care so much about God, that the only thing that ultimately matters is His honor? Not our gifts. . . . . . . . . . . just what he does. And that can be both a positive and a negative in this sense. We will do something to control our sin on the negative side because we donít want to dishonor God. But we will also make sure that on the positive side, everything we do is done to honor God including the way we conduct ourselves in worship or at work, so that whether our gift is this gift or that gift or some other gift or our ministry is this ministry or that ministry or some other ministry, what ultimately matters is that God is honored and that His work gets done. And if you do it instead of me, I donít care. Just so it gets done. And if she does it instead of him, then thatís okay because what matters is, it gets done.

It strikes me that the challenge that Paul is trying to lay in front of these Corinthians that Iím trying to lay in front of you is that, yes our gifts matter. We ought to try to figure out what they are and yes, ministry matters. We all ought to have something that we do that expresses who we are before God, but, what ultimately matters is that God is allowed to work in whatever way God wants to work and that we sit back and when itís all over we find ourselves with that same phrase that Isaiah used so clearly so long ago. All that we have accomplished, YOU have done.

Would you pray with me?

Father, we live in a world that is so wrapped up in what we do, what we accomplish, how many hits we get, how good a grades we achieve, what kind of salary we earn and it is so hard to just let you be you and to give you all the honor that we can give you.

Father, we want everything we do to be pleasing to you. We want to be useful. We want to be available, but ultimately we want you to get your work done and if we have to get out of the way to do that, then thatís what we do. We just want you and your name to stand above everything else. We want you name, your fame to be spread throughout the world. May we live in a way that accomplishes that. Through Jesus, Amen.

You know, that in this church, one of the highest priorities we have is to help you find a relationship with Jesus Christ that is personal and fulfilling. That allows you to express that relationship in ways of ministry in and out of this building and around this community. And there have been some decisions this week that have been made. Youíll be hearing about them either in later service today or in the next week or two. We like to just inform you of those kinds of things as they are made. Iím sure that hundreds of other decisions get made all the time. Theyíre made by you and you donít ever tell us, you just make them and you do it. But we always come to this season of our worship when we sing something that tries to give us an opportunity to say to God, here we are, use us, do with us whatever you want to do and weíre back here again to say if youíve got a decision you need to make and it needs to be a public one, then WOW! This is the time. If youíve got a decision you need to make and you just need to make it where you are then do it. Say it to Him. If you donít know what to do, then the invitation is to come and talk with us and let us share with you what Christ wants to do in your life. We would never want a week to go by that the offer was not made to you to walk more closely with Jesus, to listen to Him, to respond to Him, to obey Him, to serve Him, to honor Him, not for our benefit, solely for His.

Would you stand while we sing this?