Why Are We So Very Different?
NETWORK 3: 1 Corinthians 12


 “Heavenly Father, thank you for this opportunity to meet and learn more about your design for us serving in the Church. Open our hearts and minds to what you have to teach us. Help us to learn how you have created each of us unique, and how even though each of us is different, it is when we serve you together that we are truly one in Christ.”


I don’t know what kind of week you have had but mine has been quite eventful - not exactly the kind of week I had scheduled. In fact it was probably the first week in my ministry when I have been without a diary, telephone and computer. A couple of late night visits to the doctors and various emergency health centres, four different anti-biotics, and a short stay in hospital has left me physically drained in more ways than one but curiously refreshed and deeply reflective about what matters most to me in life. I can’t say I found spending a night on a bed in Accident & Emergency or a few days on a hospital ward exactly heaven. I did however meet many angels, guardian angels or a wide range of nationalities.

In the space of 72 hours, as I observed the world going by my temporary three foot wide home on wheels, in my enforced child-like dependence, I realised that a hospital is far more than just a loose collection of doctors and nurses but a highly disciplined, multi-tasked operation working 24 hours a day. From the paramedics and ambulance crews, I met at the entrance to the receptionists and porters, the nursing staff, the auxiliary’s, ward sisters, surgeons, anaesthetists, junior doctors, consultants, pharmacists, technicians, lab assistants, cleaners, chefs and hospital chaplaincy team.

These highly qualified and deeply motivated guardian angels, were each using their skills and talents with one objective in mind – to help me get well again. Each had been trained, equipped and recruited for a specific role within that organisation. Each knows their job description, what is expected of them and to whom they are accountable. Despite their different uniforms, positions and titles, most had one thing in common – the desire to serve, to heal the sick, listen to the troubled, counsel the confused and comfort the dying, with patience, grace and humour. Isn’t that a picture of the Church?

These Sunday mornings we are asking the question – ‘Does God have a purpose for my life?’ The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. In Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The intention is that through the Network Course we will each discover or confirm the person God has uniquely made you to be and how you can be fruitful and fulfilled in His place of service. There are a variety of resources available from the bookshop which I commend to you. 

There are three dimensions to discovering our place in the Body of Christ. A combination of our passion, spiritual gifts and personal style.
Last week we discovered that our passion is the God given desire that compels us to make a difference in a particular ministry. Today and in two weeks time we want to consider the second strand – spiritual gifts.  You may like to turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12. There are a number of reasons we need to informed about spiritual gifts.

1. First, we are told to be aware of them
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” (1 Cor. 12:1). This is a biblical command. Ignorance about Spiritual Gifts is no excuse. Paul is saying, “Listen up! Take note! The emphasis on gifts is dramatic and critical because they are indispensable to the growth of the church.

2. Second, we are expected to use them
Like a spiritual father, Paul writes to Timothy,
“Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.” (1 Timothy 4:14). Would Paul have made such a statement unless neglect were a possibility? Unfortunately such neglect happens every day. Either through ignorance or disobedience. If you needed convincing why this subject is so important, Paul gives us a third reason.

3. Because as stewards we are accountable (Matthew 25:14-30). We will one day be held accountable for the use of the gifts God has given each one of us. God expects a return on his investment. So how are you doing as God’s steward? Are you aware of what you have been given? Are you keeping your gifts stuck away in a safe place or are you investing them for the kingdom? Lets begin with a definition. What is a spiritual gift? 1 Cor 12:7 describes a spiritual gift as a manifestation of the Spirit. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7)

That simply means - a God-given ability, a supernatural ability or grace, - a God-given gift that enables us to serve meaningfully and fulfillingly.

A few verses later we learn something more about their source. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”   (1 Cor. 12:11). 

 Spiritual Gifts are therefore given to every believer according to God’s Sovereign design and purposes. So we don’t get to choose which ones we want. God knows best. Nor do we get the chance to opt out from service. We have all been called and all been gifted.

So we are given a definition and told of their source.

We are also reminded of their purpose in Peter’s first letter. “Each one should use what ever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

So, Spiritual Gifts are for the common good, to glorify God and edify others, not ourselves.
Lets take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 12 to discover what it means to use spiritual gifts for the common good of the Body of Christ. Lets read together verses 20-25.  “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!“ And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour”. These verses speak of the diversity within the Body of Christ. Paul then goes on to stress the unity. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” (1 Cor. 12:20-25). Unity in diversity.

We each have a unique contribution to make – there is great diversity in the body because our differences are God’s design but his purpose is growth in unity.  How is this achieved? When we were young we were dependent on our parents. They provided nurture, care and protection. We did not know what we would grow up to be – we were just dependent. As we got older, we began to understand that we were not like everyone else, that in some way we were unique. With that awareness, we began moving toward independence and started to assert ourselves.

To be independent seemed to be the goal. Culturally we have equated maturity with independence. But achieving uniqueness and diversity is not necessarily the same thing as maturity. How does a body function? What is the relationship of all its parts?

I have had a week long biology lesson – some of the theoretical drawings, and technical terms I remember from my boring biology class, all those years ago, suddenly took on graphic and painful significance and I became an avid learner. I had a vested self interest in asking, how does each one do its part and remain healthy? By interdependent relationships.

Just as pain at one end was felt at the other, so drugs administered at one end brought relief to the other.
I leave it to your imagination to work out which. God’s design for the Church is the same as for our bodies. there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” Healthy interdependence is shown by equal concern for each other. In the hospital every person had an important role to play. The doctors and nurses were just as dependent on the porter who pushed me from A&E to Kestral Ward via the Ultra Scan Dept. as much as on the consultant who examined me or the pharmacist who prescribed my drugs. Each person was interdependent on the others. As with our bodies, says Paul, so it is to be in the Church.

We shall pick up on this unity in diversity next week when we explore in more detail the various kinds of spiritual gifts. For now lets simply reflect on the wonder of God’s design.  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.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). We were put on this earth to make a contribution of eternal significance.

At the end of your life on earth you will stand before God, and he is going to evaluate how well you served others with your life. As we saw from the parable of the stewards, “each one of us will have to give a personal account to God” (Romans 14:12).

Let me close with a challenge from Rick Warren’s brilliant new book, The Purpose Driven Life. (read pages 232-233).

This morning we have discovered that every Christian has

  1.  At least one God-given Spiritual Gift
  2.  A unique and meaningful place of service in the Church
  3.  A God-ordained ministry to glorify God & edify others

Next week we will examine in more detail the different kinds of gifts God has given us and how we can indeed be faithful stewards of his grace.

Lets pray.
Lord, Thank you for so generously giving spiritual gifts to everyone who belongs to you through Christ Jesus. Help me to better understand what those gifts mean to me and how I can use my gifts the way you want me to. Help me please you by being a good steward. Help me be an active participant in your church. Enlighten me, Lord, and reveal the gifts you have given me so that I can use them to bless others and glorify you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This sermon draws heavily on Bruce Bugbee’s “What you do best in the Body of Christ” published by Zondervan, and the NETWORK Leaders Guide by Bugbee, Cousins and Hybels also published by Zondervan.