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Seeking the Best for Others
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:7
Track 9 of 17 in the Living in the Light of His Coming series
Running time: 24 minutes

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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 31, 2004
9th sermon in a 17 part series
"Seeking the Best for Others"
"Being in Him Means Being His Church"
(1 Corinthians 12:7)
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

They call it the Pareto Principle named after an Italian economist who discovered at one point at least that 80% of all the property in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. That has since been processed through a lot of different circles and frankly, most everybody accepts that 80/20 rule. If you're an employer, you probably have noted that 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people. They have taken that to church, as a matter of fact. ____________ and some others who have done some studies in that particular area have noted that in the church 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, give or take a person or two.

Eighty percent of the money is given by 20% of the people. Probably ought not be that way, but apparently seems to be that way and since it probably shouldn't be that way I found myself looking at 1 Corinthians 12 again this week asking myself, how would you avoid that kind of a scenario where so much falls on so few. I asked myself if that was true about us.

The difficulty is I just don't know how to count up how many people are involved on Sunday morning because I actually don't have a clue what goes on around here on Sunday's. I feel good if I can get here and get myself organized and get up here on time. But I know there's a lot of things happening around here. There's a whole bunch of folks back here on that side of the building and over there in that other building and a whole bunch of people were here before I ever got here, getting set up and ready. Well, the communion table was set when I walked in and the lights were on, so I know there's a lot of folks involved. I don't know if we fit that 80/20 rule or not, but my guess is that we come closer to it than the other way around. I would be quite certain that we don't have 80% of our people involved directly in some kind of formal ministry at least.

Well there are ways of getting at that. You could solve that problem I suppose by recruiting a whole bunch of people who we might call "Miss indispensable", whose motto might be, "if I don't do it, it won't get done." Now you couldn't live without somebody like that. Somebody who sees that job and says, "well, in fact, if somebody doesn't do it, it isn't going to get done." The problem is that when that kind of mentality pervades a church, nobody gets equipped to do ministry because that one person finds themself, well, just doing it rather than asking somebody to learn how to do it so that can be passed on to someone else.

We might pray that our church be full of "Mr. super-servant"--"whatever and whenever the church needs me." That's when I'll be there and, frankly, again the church couldn't get along, well, if there weren't some people like that who just show up and do whatever needs to be done whenever it needs to be done.

My friend Bob is "Mr. super-servant". You could count on him to do absolutely anything, including things he didn't know how to do. So you might walk in and he would have heard at some point in the discussion that the ladies bathroom needed painting, so you would come back the next week and the ladies bathroom would be painted. Now the ladies might not particularly like the way it was painted, but it would be done.

You could pray that you would have a whole bunch of "Mrs. servant-martyrs" who have a statement something like, "I'll just do everything" and unfortunately, in that situation, what you end up with are people who burn out in their ministries and frankly, don't last a long time because they do try to do everything and that's not the way we're designed.

Or you could pray that you have one or more Mr. Deep Pockets and we could just hire enough staff to do everything and nobody would have to do anything. And somehow that would fly in the face of the whole New Testament. Other than that, there wouldn't be anything wrong with it.

So what is the solution? I want to come to 1 Corinthians 12, just one verse and then we'll look at some other texts in conjunction. 1 Corinthians 12:7 It seems to me that the solution to the problem is really pretty simple. Each one doing his or her part for the benefit of us all. Each one of us doing our part for the benefit of us all.

1 Corinthians 12:7 in the midst of this discussion about God gifting the church by his Holy Spirit he makes this comment, verse 7. . . . .to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. . . . .to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given . . . . .

I did an extensive, elongated, difficult word study on the word EACH and do you know what it means? Each, it means all of us. There isn't anybody who is a Christian who doesn't have, in some sense, a gift from God that they're called upon to use for the common good of the body. We've all been gifted in some way. That's his point. That each one of us have some kind of gift.

Now keep your hand here in 1 Corinthians but go over to Romans 12 . In fact, you're going to need to be dex (dexterous??), whatever that word is. You don't have to be ambidextrous. You don't have to be able to use both hands. You just have to be able to use one really well. Now, can you do that? Nah! Given up on Dan.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: (to how many does he say this? To all of us. To every one of you.) Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

God has given a measure of faith to how many of us? To every one of us. Well, he says, Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. And then he's going to walk down through that list of gifts. In Romans 12, though the gift list is different, the emphasis is the same to each one of us. Every one of us.

Now here's where the tricky part is. . . .keep your hand there in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 7 and come over to Ephesians 4. I'm actually asking you to hold those passages because we're going to go back to them in a minute. I'm saving you the trouble of finding them all over again.

Ephesians 4:11. Talking about what Christ has done and what God has done to those, for those who have given their lives to Christ. He said, It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Certainly there are some selected leadership gifts in the church but their job is not to do all the ministry. It's to equip the saints to do the ministry so that every part of the body can make a contribution so that the body can function like the body is supposed to function.

One last text, 1 Peter 4, over toward the end of your New Testament.

1 Peter 4:10-11 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use. . . . . No one is excluded.

If we haven't done anything in spending the entire Fall looking at 1 Corinthians 12, I would hope that one of the things that we would have come to at this point in our conversation is that every Christian brings to the table some kind of a gifted-ness from God. That the gifts vary, even the lists themselves vary, but the thing that doesn't change is that every Christian is gifted in some way and that we all come to this as a part of a growing process.

Ephesians 4 specifically talks about the fact that we are growing, maturing and as we mature those gifts become more evident and more available, but, everybody has them.

So I come back and say, what is the answer to the question of breaking this rule of 80% of the work being done by 20% of the people? It's very simple, each one doing his or her part for the benefit of us all.

When we go back through those texts, which is what we're going to do, what you're going to notice is the benefit of us all. There is no sense in which this gift that you've been given is supposed to be for you.

You notice in 1 Corinthians 12 how clear that is. We each one have the manifestation of the Spirit given for the common good.

If you go back to that Romans 12:3ff passage, you'll notice in particular the statement in here. . . . each one of us belongs to one another. Romans 12:5 each member belongs to all the others. It's Paul's way of saying to the Romans, this is for the common good. We each belong to everybody else. Our gifts are not just for us.

If you go to Ephesians 4, it's until we all attain, until this maturity comes, until we all get to the knowledge of the Son of God, until we all measure into the fullness of Christ so that there is this commonness that we have among us. In fact it's interesting that this passage Ephesians 4:11-16 comes on the heels of probably the most specific unity passage in the whole New Testament. One body, one Lord, one Father, one Spirit, one Baptism. We are all one.

If you look at the 1 Peter 4:10-11 passage what you'll discover is that each one uses these gifts to serve others.

1 Corinthians12:7 (you can drop all those other pages. We're not going back there again for now.) Nobody is excluded, not only in the sense that all of us have gifts, but no one is excluded in the sense that we minister to each other. That these are for the common good. In fact, it's interesting how that idea of the "common good" is used in the Corinthian correspondence.

In fact, if you want to, back up in 1 Corinthians6 where it becomes very individualized though it's the same idea. You'll notice he starts 1 Corinthians6:12 this way.

"Everything is permissible for me"--but not everything is beneficial. That's the word "common good". Everything is okay, but not everything has value. Not everything is profitable is one way of translating that.

Come over to 1 Corinthians10:23 You get this same term used again. Again Paul coins this phrase or borrows this phrase. "Everything is permissible"--but not everything is beneficial. It's not all profitable. It's not all good.

Come to 1 Corinthians10:33 He says, --even as I try to please everybody in every way. I am not seeking my own good but the good of the many, There's that same word, the "common good". What he does, he says, I want to be beneficial. I want it to have some kind of profit for the whole body so when you come to 1 Corinthians12:7 here's what he's trying to communicate. We have all been gifted in some way so that what we do can be good for everybody in the body. But our gifts are intended to be so that everybody else in some way benefits. So whatever that gift happens to be, you use it in the life of somebody else and you encourage them and the use of their gifts and the next thing you know you have a body full of people all doing the things that they are gifted to do. Some of them do it on Sunday's around here. Some of them do it during the middle of the week around here. Some people do it out there someplace but it is this emphasis upon all of us taking whatever it is that God has given to us and put in us so that we can take it out and give it to somebody else.

My preacher, when I first became a Christian, was one of those gifted people at helping other people find their place in ministry. I probably would not have been his friend had I known that he had that gift. I probably would have been smart enough to see what was coming before it got there.

But I remember having to get up on Sunday morning, as a brand new Christian, and read Scripture in church. The last time I did that prior to becoming a Christian was when I was in the fifth grade and we still had Bible reading in school-- King James. And I remember stumbling over it so bad, I said I would, first of all, never read the Bible again and secondly, never stand up in public again. And he had me up reading the text. Now he would pick the text but I would read it. And then, sneaky man that he was, the next thing I knew, he was asking me to pick the text. He would make sure that it was okay and then after a few months, he wasn't even checking to see if it was okay. I was just picking the text and standing up and reading it.

And low-and-behold, one Sunday evening he actually had me up preaching a sermon. He and I had written it together. Well, actually, he'd written it. I was just saying it. I practiced it over and over again. Took twenty minutes to get through it at home. Took six minutes to get through it at church. You'd like that kind of preaching, I know.

Well, then we wrote a second one. Only I wrote more of it than the first one. It took twenty minutes at home too. But it took thirteen at church. The middle five were spent crying. I just lost it in the middle.

His gift encouraged my future ministry. That's the nature of the "common good" is that those who have gifts help us find our gifts so that we then, can minister to the rest of the body and from the body to the world and make a difference.

One of my favorite American icons is the Statue of Liberty. I longed, as a kid, to go out and see it and have actually had the chance now to be out there more than once. I still marvel at what it represents. American freedom. And the literally thousands and thousands of people who have come to our country as immigrants, where we have welcomed them.

But I was reading this last week and I ran into this comment by Victor Frankl. Frankl was a survivor of the holocaust. He was a Jewish psychologist who endured the prison camps. In his book, A Search for Meaning, which has a number of marvelous quotations in it, he makes this comment about us. He says, "Freedom is only part of the story and only half of the truth. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast." Twin towers of freedom and responsibility.

Receiving our gifts is only half of the story--using them is the other half. Being "free in Christ" having all things be permissible to us, having found the freedom of what it means to know Jesus personally, he says, implies, is only half of the story. Taking that freedom and capitalizing on it and understanding what it is that God has done in you so that you can then become responsible to use what God has given you for the sake of the rest--is the other half of the story.

So the challenge this morning is really pretty simple. Are you Christian? Once you've answered that question, are you using that which God has given you for the sake of the rest of us?

Are you a part of the 80% who are doing the watching while the 20% do the work? Or are you part of the 20% or the 30% or the 40% of the church who roll up their sleeves and exercise their gifts, whatever those gifts happen to be for the sake of the rest of the body? See, the real challenge is simply to recognize your gifts, to develop them and to use them. This is not a spectator sport!

I forget which football coach it was but it was a famous one I'm sure who was asked the benefit of professional football. He said, "very little. There are 22 men on the field dying of exertion while 60,000 people sit in the stands badly in need of exercise."

Do you sometimes wonder if there aren't a hundred people in a church badly in need of rest? While five or six hundred are badly in need of some exercise.

Can I call on you as a brother to recognize whatever your gift is and to begin to ask God, how can I use that to benefit everybody else that's a part of this body?

Father, what we desire to do is what you desire for us to do and that is to be your people and accomplish your purposes. You have granted us this incredible gift, whatever it might be, whether it's encouragement, or giving, if it's challenging, if it's painting, if it's using our physical health, if it's praying. You have gifted us with the ability to do so much. Help us get over ever being selfish with that. And may we give them to you in acts of worship as we invest ourselves in your body so that your body can invest itself in the world and impact the world for Christ. Today we come committing ourselves to you to use whatever it is that you've given us to honor you and when we don't know what that is, committed to discovering it so that we can use it for you. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

God is the giver of gifts. It's one of the interesting things about Ephesians 4, is that when God comes into a person's life rather than taking from them, he gives to them. It's the exact opposite of what you would expect when somebody has conquered someone's life. He comes offering you this incredible gift and we offer it to you, as you know, every week at this particular point, an offer of salvation. But I'm not sure we are always honest with you and I want to make sure that this morning, we are perfectly honest. These gifts come with strings attached. Now there's not a thing you can do to earn it, don't misunderstand me. It's an act of grace on God's part to allow you to be a believer. But when you become a Christian and you give yourself to the Lordship of Christ, there is an expectation of responsibility. It's that twin tower of freedom and responsibility. You benefit, you gain because God wants to pour into your life, grace and gifts. But the expectation is that you'll pour that back into the lives of other people.

We invite you each week to come to faith in Christ. We want to do it honestly because it is important for you to know what you're getting into. But we do invite you to come to Jesus to own your faith. And this morning we're going to sing and give you the opportunity to do that very thing. To own your faith in Christ.

Would you stand with me while we sing?