I’ve always loved football. Well into my 30s I would play on Wednesday evenings with a group of blokes who were all old enough to know better. We never agreed teams in advance – we would just separate into two teams on the night, depending on who was there. Some nights I would look at the two teams as they lined up and you could tell it was going to be a close game. Other nights, I would look at our team, and theirs, and think, ‘we’re in for a hammering here.’
And occasionally, something beautiful would happen. Despite my worst fears, our team that looked like it should be well beaten suddenly clicked, and we ended up winning the game. Suddenly every player knew their role, we defended together, attacked together, passed to each other, encouraged each other, and also felt that deep joy that comes from knowing that against the odds our team had prevailed, we’d done something that none of us thought we could do when we lined up 50 minutes earlier.
The alchemy of a team is truly a mysterious thing. But when everyone plays their part, it’s amazing.
The life of the Spirit is meant to have the same quality. In this famous passage St Paul talks about some of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit to help us be the church. Literally, they are ‘grace-gifts’ – gifts which reflect the grace of God to us. And what we learn today are three simple things, all of which we can find in verse 7:
First, they are spiritual gifts. We all have natural gifts and these can of course be used for God too. But these particular gifts help us to do God’s work and see God’s kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. For us to fully live the life of the Spirit – the life we’ve been learning about over the last six or more weeks – we need the gifts of the Spirit.
Second, they are for everyone. So often we limit gifts to the upfront people, but in truth there are no first-class and second-class Christians – since we all receive the Spirit of Christ, Jesus gives gifts to each one of us. Which means you have at least one gift like this that God can use for His glory. If you don’t know what gift that is yet, why not ask God to reveal it to you?
Finally, they are for the common good. With the possible exception of the gift of angelic languages (usually called ‘tongues’) every one of these gifts – and the others described in Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 – are used to bless others. To encourage them, heal them, empower them, pray for them, give to them or serve them. We are blessed for blessing. When we say ‘God bless’ to someone, let’s not forget that sometimes we might be the answer to our greeting.
God’s plan is for each one of us to receive gifts that we can offer to others, for their good and our joy. How might you use such a gift today? And, perhaps, how might God bless you through someone else?