I titled this blog, “Do Men Cluck Like Chickens?” because of a strange experience I had in my life many years ago.
In 2004 I was part of a team that promoted the work of Youth With A Mission Turner Valley. As part of this responsibility, I often attended mission conferences. While I was at Missions Fest Vancouver, I met a fascinating man. I say fascinating because of the kinds of questions he asked. He told me as a young boy he grew up in a nunnery within the Catholic Church. He proceeded to tell me many stories and I asked him many questions about his experience. Most of the topics we talked over were normal, but a few of his subjects were unique.
He asked me, “Do you believe God has a sense of humour?” I told him, in general terms, yes, in fact, I did believe God had a sense of humour. I observe His creation — humans — on a regular basis enjoying this attribute. He replied with the query, “Do you think God could make a man cluck like a chicken?” Now I’ve had many people ask me strange, interesting, and sometimes wonderful questions, but you might be shocked to hear I’ve never had anyone ask me this question before. After I recovered from the hyperbolic hysteria, I replied, “Because I’m not God, I cannot comment with absolute certainty what His will is each moment. What I do know is that God is sovereign and if a man clucking like a chicken falls into the category of God’s plan, then maybe it’s possible. Just like we observe donkeys speaking like humans in the Old Testament.” The conversation ended a few minutes later, and I never saw that man again.
A few weeks later, while working away at my desk, the receptionist paged me. She said there’s a man on the phone that wanted to talk about a problem he was having. I thought nothing of it, as many people call me with their problems.
But this phone call was like non-other I’ve had in my life. I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello this is Scott, how may I help you?” The man on the other end of the phone said, “I don’t know if you remember me. A few weeks ago we met at Missions Fest and talked a bit. I was hoping you could help me with a problem I’m having.” I said, “Yes I remember you,” I mean how could I forget! “How can I help you?”
He said, “Since we talked at Missions Fest, I’ve been increasingly clucking like a chicken every day. It’s starting to be a big problem. I think you did something to me — maybe put a curse on me or something like that.” My eyes went as wide as golf balls! I said, “I can ensure you that I did not put a curse on or over you.” He said, “Then what’s happening to me?” After talking for a while, I gently explained to him that I have no idea what he was experiencing and recommended that he reach out to anyone in his life that could help him receive professional help.
I tell this story to illustrate how sometimes we view the work of the Holy Spirit as a confusing mystery and that we’re hopeless to understand what is happening from situation to situation. We believe that the Holy Spirit is too confusing to understand and therefore we shouldn’t try. Maybe we’ve had a bad experience or seen someone abuse the name of the Spirit, so we’ve chosen never to go there. I get it, no one likes to feel uncomfortable. Not many people wake in the morning and declare, “Today, I wish to walk into an uncomfortable situation where I feel self-conscious and inadequate about myself and what’s happening in my faith.” So I — and maybe you too — choose to avoid it because It’s easier. The path of least resistance always is.
Now, as scary as it may be to start the conversation about Spiritual Gifts and the work of the Holy Spirit, it’s also the most rewarding thing we can do. John Piper says,
“There is nothing more thrilling, more joyful, more meaningful, more satisfying than to find our niche in the eternal unfolding of God’s glory.”
I think it’s imperative we define what we mean by our terminology. When I use the term Spiritual Gifts or Gifts I’m referring to the God-given talents, abilities, and skills God has gifted you with. In summary, Spiritual Gifts=talents and abilities.
Common Myths About Spiritual Gifts:
Myth One: I don’t have a Spiritual Gift
This is the most common comment I hear concerning Spiritual Gifts and probably the most untrue. Check out what 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.“ Factually we know the Holy Spirit has given all who trust in Jesus Christ at least one Spiritual Gift, if not multiple.
Myth Two: My gift is unimportant
I get it, there are always people around us that are so much better at using their gifts. They just seem to work better, make more sense, or are more useful. In high school when I was learning to play the guitar, I would occasionally go to concerts. Watching professional musicians always made me feel like I didn’t even know how to play guitar at all. They made it look so easy when in contrast I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.
Myth Three: I must use my gift, at all times, everywhere I go
If you feel like you possess gifting in the area of prophecy, It’s not like every time you go to Superstore you need to stand up in the produce section and prophesy, “Thus says the Lord, the pickles are rancid. Woah to anyone that eats the pickles.” The goal is to be naturally supernatural. In other words, to go about life as you would usually, and let your gifts flow through you in the process.
Myth Four: No one acknowledges my gift, so I’m not obligated to use it
At roughly 17 years old Jeremiah was the prophet that lived during the final days of the crumbling nation of Judah. He was, appropriately, the last prophet that God sent to preach to the southern kingdom before sending them into captivity at the hands of the Babylonians. Jeremiah, a faithful, God-fearing man, was called to prophesy to Judah with no victory. Jeremiah 1:19 God says, “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” God warns Jeremiah that his message will be rejected, but that he must not stop.
Myth Five: I don’t have a gift that another person has, so I’m free from that responsibility
I hear this narrative spun all the time when it comes to evangelism. “I don’t have the gift of evangelism, so I don’t need to share the gospel with my friends or co-workers.” We cannot forget that beyond the subject of Spiritual Gifts is a call to go and love others. God says in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.“ Our mindset should be to work towards and desire all of the Holy Spirit’s gifts.
Before we move into looking at God’s view on this subject of Spiritual Gifts, it’s essential that we have a decent context to who and what the purpose of the Holy Spirit is. I’ve found a great video by The Bible Project to help illustrate this background.
Spiritual Gifts are not just an afterthought. We can see from this video that God’s intention was always to gift and use his people to push back the darkness in the world. Now, let us turn to God’s Word for direction on this topic.
We’re going to look at four primary texts that are the foundation for where we get our Biblical basis for Spiritual Gifts.
Our first text is Romans 12:6-8 that says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.“
1 Corinthians 12:4-11, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.“
1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.“
Ephesians 4:11-12, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
When we put all these lists together and take out the redundancies, we’re left with 19 gifts.
Speaking in Tongues
We must understand these lists found in the Bible are not exhaustive lists, more like samplings. Also, they’re not all the same. There are different gifts mention in each list. It’s possible there are other ways people could be gifted that are not mentioned in these lists.
Timeless Truths from these Passages:
One: The Holy Spirit is the one that distributes Spiritual Gifts
I think this almost goes without mention that the Spirit is in control and gives Spiritual gifts away. 1 Corinthians 12:4-5 says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.“
Two: The Holy Spirit gives gifts in different portions
The Spirit portions out gifts differently. When I look around me and think of the various people I have served and worked with over the years. I undoubtedly see a mixed landscape of giftings that are working at different levels. For example, Pastor Terry regularly teaches to crowds of thousands. Terry has grown into that ability along with the Spirit providing the necessary capacity to do so. Many people would feel terrified to walk on a stage with thousands listening. They have not acquired what’s needed to perform this task and to do it with excellence.
Three: The purpose of Spiritual Gifts is to build up the body of Christ
If our gifts are not building up God’s kingdom or the body of Christ, we have missed something. If they’re raising up ourselves or pointing people to something other than Jesus, we must stop. I’ve seen tremendous leadership gifts through the years that have gone off track and ended in self-service.
Four: Spiritual Gifts reflect the nature and character of God
God is prophecy, miracles, generosity, leadership, and all the other Spiritual Gifts. When we move in the gifts, it’s an act of relationship and a display of worship before the Creator. We reflect the glory of God when we do what we were built to do. When we “be” who we were designed to be. Spiritual Gifts reflect God’s heart for all humanity.
Five: We are given Spiritual Gifts because of God’s grace
We did nothing to deserve God’s gifts, but because of God’s rich mercy, He chose to supply us with gifts. Romans 12:6a says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.“ Not only have we been given gifts through grace, but God also desires to use us to build His kingdom on earth. Our perspective should change from, “I have to use God’s gifts” to “we get to be used by God.” We get to have a part in the greatest story in history. Our gifts no longer need to be bound by “I should” they can live in the context of “I’m free because of God, and I get too!”
Four tests to find my Spiritual Gift:
This is when we spend time studying scripture to understand Spiritual Gifts. Take some time to look at key passages like Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4, and Ephesians 4. Study other epistles, the gospels, the book of Acts and other old testament books for context to how Spiritual Gifts work.
When we step out and use our gifts, we can observe the Holy Spirit affirm us through a simple feeling or sense. This may be an internal subjective feeling, but no less important. Sometimes it’s in the form of the Spirit calling us in a direction or place of service. This is notable because where we are called to serve, we are equipped by the Spirit. It’s common to find our gifts by the type of service we get assigned.
It’s possible to have a wrong perception of ourselves. It happens more than we know. In areas where we believe we possess gifting, in reality, may be completely false. Seeking confirmation of those that know us well, balances us out. Ask others questions about your performance. If you’re leading, ask people you trust if they see your impact on others. If you’re teaching, ask if people learned anything. Don’t just be open, invite the feedback of others into your life. Their wisdom will help guide you and your gift.
Trial and Error
Any journey of discovery requires trial and error. Don’t be afraid of failure or making mistakes. View failure as insights. A graphic designer will tell you, creating something astounding takes a thousand no’s to get to the one yes. Finding God’s unique design for us will take lots of trial and error, so get comfortable with it now, because there is no alternative.