Gary and I have been dying to start this blog for some time now. It will be a way we can get out our thoughts and concerns and praises and everything else we can’t fit into a sermon. One part therapy-for-the-pastors and one part filling up what is lacking in our communication, I suppose you could say. I hope you are encouraged by it.
I would like to kick it off with 1 Corinthians chapter 13; also known as the “love” chapter. This is the passage that you’ve probably seen hanging up in a friend’s home (or your own); the one that gets printed on fridge magnets and couch pillows, reminding us that “love is patient” indeed. Perhaps you’ve seen the beloved Love Comes Softly made-for-TV movies?
After Gary’s message last Sunday I’ve been thinking over a few words he said. At the end of the previous passage, just after Paul takes time to order and describe different gifts and God-given appointments, he mentions that we are to “earnestly desire the higher gifts.”
Simple enough, right? Earnestly desire the higher gifts, but… Paul says we are to place a greater honor on the gifts we think are less honorable (13:23); or to put it another way, “the way down is the way up.” Seek to serve in the lowest manner and you will reflect the highest King.
We all can think of the “honorable” gifts or areas of service in the church, can’t we? Preaching, mission-work, leading worship, being an Elder or Deacon (having some sort of title!); these are the things we normally think about as “higher” gifts.
But the way down is the way up. The “lower” gifts like those without a title (or those outside of the spotlight) are the real treasure to be sought after. There is real honor, from the right Person, in doing those things that seem simple (door greeter) or repetitive (church setup) or messy (kid’s ministry) or not worth the effort (leading a small group).
“Earnestly desire the higher gifts,” Paul says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way.”
What is this more excellent way? What can be more excellent than using my gifts to serve the church? A more excellent way for me to go is to serve the church body with my gifts solely for the sake of the church and not merely to call attention to myself. Oh yeah, there’s that whole “motive” thing.
If you’re anything like me then in your head there is a constant thought of how you will be honored by your particular gift. I may not directly think it, but my crafty actions say, “What’s in it for me? And, who’s looking? And, throw in some big, theological words.”
I need to learn to serve like Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:6).
That is truly excellent.
I encourage you to re-read chapter thirteen and think about how you can seek to be like King Jesus who sought the way down and found the highest honor.