The black cloud, though a bit more destructive, is much like the church. We are meant to draw strength from one another. Of course, the analogy of the black cloud has one major flaw. All of its parts are the same. We are not the same. Like the parts in a human body, we each have our own abilities, needs and purpose. It's obvious that our body parts aren't going to be the same. A tail doesn't need teeth. A paw has no need to hear. A nose doesn't need to be covered by shaggy fur. If we look over at Jude's tail, (If I may use you as an example, Jude) you'll notice that it has no fur. Naturally not. He's a rat. Rat tails don't have fur. They don't need it. So would anyone conclude that because his tail is bare while his other limbs are covered in fur, it's not really a part of him? That's just silly.
Yet very often, I have seen Christians come to that conclusion about one another, or even about themselves. We've all heard about the churches that believe you aren't saved if you don't speak in tongues. Paul tells us right here that such a belief is just silly. Not everyone is going to be given that gift. Not everyone who has the gift is going to have the same variation of it, either. One will have an unusual knack for learning languages. Another may find himself preaching in a foreign language without knowing what he is saying. Both are legitimate variations of the gift of tongues.
Of course, there are many others. Paul gives us a long list in several of his letters, but it's far from exhaustive. He mentions teachers and preachers and evangelists and healers and those with words of knowledge, but I know of many more spiritual gifts. There's raveling- seeing how spiritual gifts fit together. There's hospitality. There's the encourager, like Barnabus. There's the prayer warrior, the armor bearer, the exorcist, the pillar of strength, the planner... all of these have their place in the church. Some have spectacular gifts, some mundane, but no gift is any more important that another. The one who can restore a missing eye through his prayer is no more important to the church than the lady who does the dishes after a potluck supper.
I wonder why, then, there are those who think they are not saved because they do not have the right gifts. We all know at least one. Because they can't evangelize easily or can't perform a healing or don't burst into Swahilli in the middle of a service, they think they aren't saved, or if they are, they're much less important than any other saint. This is an argument that is easy to refute. We need only read the chapter we just read.
But what if it's not gifts? What if it's blessings that cause self-doubt? Imagine if my gall bladder whined that it didn't count as part of my body because it didn't get to feel things like my fingers do. I'd tell it "Hush. You feel too much already. That's why the doctor threatened to take you out." What if my toe claws got jealous of my teeth because I didn't brush them with toothpaste? If, by chance, by body parts had their own feelings, I should hope they'd understand that their needs are different. Some parts need brushing, some don't. Some parts get to do ceertain tasks that others don't. Some parts get put on public display. I want you to look at my eyes, my nose, my whiskers. I've got bits that i don't care if you see but it would be crude to draw attention to them. There's one very special part that nobody's going to see but my doctor and my wife. Is that one then a shameful thing? Heavens, no. It's simply reserved. those parts I display have the honor of your attention. Those I do not have the honor of being special. None is any worse or better than another.
There are those in the church who are meant to be moustaches and eyebrows. Their function is to be seen, so they get lots of attention. Do you ever feel like God is not blessing you because you're languishing in obscurity? It might be that you are simply a much more special part, destined to fulfill your destiny at a later time, in a far different way.
Have you ever found yourself praying "God, why don't I have what HE has?" I know most, if not all of you have. Some of you even admit to it regularly. You wonder why you're still single when other Christians your age are married. you wonder why God has left you so poor instead of rich. You wonder why you have weak heart, or deaf ears, or severe diabetes. God has blessed others so visibly, why not you?
"Visibly". That's the key word. There is no point in being jealous of these people, because they're not more blessed. They're differently blessed. You don't necessarily know what you have that they don't. Maybe that fellow with the gorgeous wife and the big house hasn't smelled a thing since 1982. You also don't know what the future holds. If God is holding you in reserve for a special purpose, it's very likely that he's also holding a special blessing in reserve for you.
There is so much more that I wanted to say in this sermon. I especially wanted to speak much more about how we need each other, but this sermon has already gotten very long indeed, so this is going to be a two-parter. Be sure to come back next week for the rest of it.
Today's reading: 1 Corinthians 12
12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
2 You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit,
9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit,
10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body; whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?
18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."
22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,
24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,
25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.