To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:7 (NRSV)
Across America, and in fact, across the globe, much of the world’s attention will be focused on the life and the legacy of MartinLuther King, Jr. There will be marches. There will be singing and preaching. There will be endless speeches, extolling the impact of this man of God.
Yet, sadly, far too little is said about the fact that all of us are called to seek the common good that Rev. King was called to seek. It is far easier to put Rev. King on a pedestal as one to be admired, than it is to put him in the context of Christian commitment to which we are all equally called.
The many accolades heaped upon Dr. King in his lifetime, the Nobel Peace Prize and the countless other awards and citations are wonderful and worthy of our adoration. But, the greatest thing that can be said about Dr. King is the fact that, as a committed Christian, he lived for the common good of others.
It was Rev. King’s faith in Jesus Christ, as his Lord and his Savior that propelled him forward into action. It was his faith in Jesus that opened his very life to the amazing gifts of God’s spirit that so transformed the face of a nation and world.
It is my delight and my duty to inform you that this same spirit yet remains among the children of God today. The same gifts that we celebrate in the life of Dr. King are yet given to men and women, boys and girls in this present age.
Wondrous gifts from God are given to all who live in a vibrant relationship with God. To all who belong to God, is given first and foremost, the great gift of faith in Christ Jesus.
Once having accepted the gift of faith in Christ Jesus, we receive from the same spirit more gifts, in accordance with the will of God. But, these gifts are not strictly for our own gratification and enjoyment; rather, the gifts we have received from God are for the common good of humanity.
As a Christian, I am convinced that the greatest gift of God, for all of humanity, is the gift of salvation. To all the world, salvation is offered; salvation from fear, salvation from hopelessness, salvation from brokenness and above all, God offers to all of humanity, salvation from sin and eternal damnation.
This salvation is only possible through faith in Christ Jesus, as Lord. But, even faith is a gift from the spirit of God and not something that we can achieve on our own.
This is what Paul is trying to make plain in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “…no one can say that ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”The confession of faith is only possible by the grace of God that grants us the capacity to know and to believe that Jesus Christ is truly Lord.
But, my beloved, I would not have you misled nor confused about confessing Jesus as Lord. To confess that Jesus is Lord is more than just a lip confession.
To confess that Jesus is Lord calls for a manner of living that is in line with Jesus as the head of one’s life. To confess that Jesus is Lord is to live a life under the leadership and the authority of the teaching and example of Jesus.
Jesus must be Lord of our whole life. For, only they who give God every aspect of their lives in service to God shall be found pleasing and acceptable unto God.
In Matthew 7:21-22, Jesus makes it plain for all who have a desire to hear, “not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.” But, do know this, only they who have accepted the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit, will be able to do the will of our heavenly father.
The spirit of the Lord enables us to confess with our whole person, that Jesus is the head of our lives; and, when he is the Lord of every aspect of our lives, it is then that we come to know that our lives are not our own anymore.
It is then that we realize that we are unable to live just any old way that we want to live, doing any old thing that we want to do, any old way that we want to do it.
But as for those who do whatever they want, with no regard for the things of God, they have not really confessed Jesus as Lord; and, they have refused so great a gift of saving faith offered by God’s Holy Spirit.
But, all who are in a saving relationship with God will receive from God, gifts, talents and abilities to do great and awesome things in his name, by his power, for his glory and the advancement of his Kingdom here on earth.
The God who has given you talents and abilities, is calling you to his service; and, make no mistake about it, the same God who gave Dr. King his unmistakable gifts and talents, is the same God who gave you your great gifts and talents.
God did not love Martin Luther King, Jr., any more than he loves you and me. All of us are equally loved and valued by our heavenly father. So then, God did not cheat us out of gifts and talents and abilities.
The God that gave Rev. King a dream of what America could be and should be, is the same God who still gives to little black boys and little white girls, dreams of a brighter day.
He is the same God who speaks to hard working Hispanic men and struggling Eastern European women, enabling them to rise above their current conditions of cruel circumstances and tough times.
Dr. King was prominent and he was powerful. But, all that he was, was a gift from God; and, the same God that enabled him to move a nation, is the same God that wants to use you and me in his holy service. Therefore, he has given each and every one of us a gift.
Not all of our gifts or abilities are the same. But, they are all from the same God, for the same purpose.
We have been gifted in order to equip the saints for the work of ministry and for building up the body of Christ and for leading the lost to the savior.
In order for this to come to pass, God has given to some, the gifts that enable us to tell others about just how good God really is. To some, have been given the gift to teach others important truths about God and life that they may not know.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, some of us can sing like the angels. Some of us can preach like Paul. Some of us can lay our hands on the sick and they get better.
Some of us can see what has never been done before and make it a reality. Some of us can hope against hope until the impossible becomes possible.
We don’t all have the same gift, so we all can’t do the same thing. But, make no mistake about it. There is but one source from which all of these things come. So then, no gift, service or activity is inferior to another, since they all come from the same spirit, the very spirit of the Lord God.
Our gifts come from God, to be used by God, for the purposes of God. The word of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 12:7, declares that these gifts are given to be used for the common good of humanity.
We’ve got to use what God gave us in the service of the God who gave them. We have a charge to keep and a calling to fulfill. Dr. King realized this, and he was faithful unto the God who gifted him in great measure.
Rev. King was a man who took what God gave him and gave it back to God, to be used by God, for the Kingdom work of God. With his doctorate in hand, with his nice quaint church in Montgomery, Alabama, he could have lived a nice easy life. But, he understood that all that he was and all that he had was a gift from God to be used in service to God.
But, be ever mindful that life for dedicated servants of God is seldom easy. Nevertheless, the power of the Holy Spirit will empower us to do so much more than we could ever imagine.
Dr. King did great things. He helped to knock down walls of inequality. He inspired downtrodden men and women to believe in themselves and in one another. He gave hope to those who were only accustomed to rejection and hardships. Yes, he was a mighty man amongst men.
But, let us look beyond the surface of Dr. King’s life and activities, great though they were. All that King did and stood for, were just manifestations of the spirit of God that was alive and at work in him and through him.
Rev. King’s marching and preaching and writing are all manifestations of the one who was greater than he. All that he did and said that was good and wholesome were just manifestations of the spirit of the Lord moving in his life.
When we are mindful that the ability to stand up to bad bigots and mean men and a callous Klan are manifestations of the spirit that is yet alive and active in us, then we know that we can do what King did, and some of us may rise up one day and do even greater.
God has given to all who are living in relationship with him, precious and awesome gifts. Don’t you see, in each of us are some talents and some abilities that God has personally and intentionally given to us?
Don’t you see that there is more to your child than meets the eye? There is a gift of God within them. Don’t you see there is more to your spouse, more to your siblings, more to your friends and even more to your non-friends than meets the eye?
For, all who are in Christ Jesus have received from the spirit of Jesus, awesome and amazing gifts to be used in the service of God for the common good.
Seeing then, that we have been so richly blessed by God, I urge you to be careful how you live. Be careful what you do with the gifts that God has given you, for one day we all must give an account of how we used what God has given to us.
No matter what the nature of the gift may be, it is to be used by God, for the good of the community and never for our own selfish purpose. We can never enjoy life to its fullest, nor can we ever reap the full benefits of our gifts unless we share our gifts for the common good of others.
Dr. King reminded us that, “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.” So it is then, that the gifts that God has given us are to be used for the common good of all people.
We are called to work with God in bringing about a more just society. We are called to spread love wherever hatred tries to rise up. We are called to show compassion to those crushed by the weight of this world’s burdens.
We are called and empowered by God to leave this world a little better than we found it. We are not called to make history, but we are called to make a difference.
Make no mistake about it. It will be hard. We will have to sacrifice so much of our time and our energy. Yes, some, like Dr. King, may even have to sacrifice their very lives.
But, fear not, oh Child of God. For the Lord is able to keep you through all of life’s troubles and trials. He is able to give you strength when you are weak, power when you are tired, hope when you are down and he is able to give you new life, day-by-day.
Therefore, we have a new song. We have a song of victory amidst the ongoing battles of life. We have a song of joy amidst the uncertain days of our lives.
Because the spirit of the living God is with us and in us, we can “Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty in Christ Jesus. Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies; let it resound loud as the rolling seas.”
Oh Child of God, “sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;” come now, come let us face the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on in the spirit, let us march on till victory in Jesus is won and death and sorrow and suffering are no more.
Rev. Clarence W. Davis is the pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A frequent contributor to BlackandChristian.com, Davis earned a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree from Harvard Divinity School and is currently a student in the joint Ph.D. program at the University of Denver and Illiff School of Theology.
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Used by permission, BlackandChristian.com, 2007