1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 88
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1998|
|It’s really precious to realize that no gift is ever real unless it’s received. If we’re going to receive the gift that God has given us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are receiving daily His life. We’re receiving daily His peace. We’re receiving daily the wisdom and all of the other things that He embodies. But if we’re not going to receive it, then we might as well forget it.|
1 Corinthians 12:24-31
All for One, and One for All – Part 3
It’s really precious to realize that no gift is ever real unless it’s received. If we’re going to receive the gift that God has given us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are receiving daily His life. We’re receiving daily His peace. We’re receiving daily the wisdom and all of the other things that He embodies. But if we’re not going to receive it, then we might as well forget it.
The church of Corinth might as well have forgotten it. They weren’t receiving it. They weren’t living daily receiving what God would want to do in them and through them. They were not living that way. We’re talking about, “All for One, and One for All.” This is Part 3 of that series in 1 Corinthians 12. Like the perfect artist that God is, He has so beautifully composed His body of believers on this earth.
The word “compose” in verse 24 when Paul says, “But God has so composed the body,” is the word that comes from two Greek words. You need to see it because we are all important as believers in the body of Christ. It comes from the word, first of all, meaning to mix. It comes from another word which means together. There are two words for “together,” and it’s in that word “together” that we see the point that Paul, I believe, is making here under the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God. To mix together is the word “compose.” The little “together” there is the word sun. We talked about it last time. There are two words for “together.” The little word meta means together in the sense of association. We’re together on Sunday morning; we have to leave after the service is over and do our own thing. It’s not the body that’s important. It’s the individuals who make up the body. That’s the word meta. You can remove one, add one any time you want to do that.
But the little word sun is a different word. It’s the little word that means to be so mixed together that you lose sight of the individual ingredients and begin to see more the whole when all of them have come together. The picture here is a biscuit. You take the ingredients of a biscuit. There are no big I’s and little you’s in the word “composed.” It’s all the greater gifts and the lesser gifts, however man perceives them, put together into one unit called the body of Christ on this earth. You can’t see the different pieces. You see the body. That’s the key here in the little word sun. Like a biscuit, you put all the ingredients on a baking sheet. I still haven’t gotten them right. I’ve gone over this thing a hundred times. You have all those ingredients there, flour and whatever else you put in it. Before you bake them the focus is the ingredients themselves, because there’s nothing else there but ingredients. You can add to or take away. But once you mix them together, put them in the oven, and bake them, then the ingredients have lost their identity in the biscuit. That’s the word “composed.”
In other words, there’s nobody who has these great gifts and nobody has any lesser gifts. No, no. God has taken the people who have more noticeable gifts and the people who don’t have noticeable gifts and He’s so mixed them together that they form the body of Christ. You don’t look at someone and say, “Look at the gifts he has,” or “Look at this one. Look at the gifts he doesn’t have.” You see them all together and you see instead the whole, not the parts.
So God has beautifully composed the body of Christ. There are no big I’s and little you’s. In Corinth there were big I’s and little you’s. Why? Because they were focused on gifts, they weren’t focused on the giver. They weren’t understanding the mix that God had made and the beautiful mix he had made in the body of Christ. Every gift needs the other gifts. There are no greater gifts. All the gifts are important in God’s economy because God has put them together. He has mixed them together. When we all function in obedience to the head, then we cause the whole body to be identified and to function properly. God did not intend for us to covet each other’s gifts. God did not intend for us to belittle the gifts that we have. I’ve seen people do that. “Oh, I wish I had this gift.” Or, “I wish I had that gift.” Listen. Salvation is so grand we just ought to be overwhelmed that we’re a part of what God’s up to on this earth. That’s a beautiful thought. Gifts should never be the cause of any kind of division in the body of Christ. When God and the gifts that He has given are fully appreciated, this completely disarms all the selfish envy that anyone would have toward a gift that he has or doesn’t have. The result would be that we have a care then for one another. We begin to appreciate the other gifts.
You see, when you appreciate God, then you begin to appreciate the gifts that He’s given. That’s the way the body of Christ ought to function. We must remember our context. The apostle Paul is comparing the human body to the body of Christ. He just told them how ridiculous it is to ever consider any part of the human body as unnecessary. After showing how no sense is made at all of the eye disdaining the hand, of showing how it’s so stupid for the head to disdain the foot, he says in verse 22, “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” He’s talking about the human body and comparing it to the body of Christ. The word weaker, asthenes, normally means without strength. But here it seems to mean unnecessary, unnoticed.
With that idea, go back and read it again: “On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be ‘unnecessary and that go unnoticed’ are really necessary.” Then he illustrates it. He first points to the parts of the body that we spend time trying to make more presentable. In verse 23 we read, “and those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor.”
What in the world is he talking about here? Well, let’s just say a lady has big ears. I don’t know why I just said a lady because I’ve got big ears. But there’s one thing I can’t do about my big ears. I can’t make them any more presentable. They are just going to have to hang there less honorable. But let’s just say a lady has big ears. She can do something about it. She can grow her hair a little longer and she can pull that beautiful hair around those ears and make those ears a little more presentable. Or she can hang an earring on them, I guess, and make an ornament of it so people might not recognize the ear as much as they recognize the earring.
The ear is important, but it’s not quite as presentable. So what? It requires more attention. That’s what Paul is saying. In the human body you’ve got parts that are presentable. You don’t spend as much time with them as you do the parts that are not as presentable, but it’s just as necessary. Then he goes on and says that our less presentable members become much more presentable.
That word “presentable” there, I hate to tell you, means indecent. In other words, there are certain parts of the body we cover because of modesty. This is the perfect illustration that he’s using here. He’s saying it doesn’t make them any less important. It just makes them much more demanding of our attention so that we cover these particular parts of our body. What he’s saying is these are all necessary parts and they require attention.
The body of Christ is the same way. The parts that he has made, the gifts that He has given, there are some that go unnoticed. There are some that are overlooked in the church of Corinth. They are looking at the greater gifts and not the lesser gifts. But he is saying that God has so composed the body that it needs each other and you’ve got certain gifts that are not noticed that need to be noticed. You need to bring this thing up to a balance. And the gifts that are seen, they don’t need anything.
Look in verse 24. He says that our more presentable parts have no need of it. In other words, the parts that are more presentable don’t need attention. What needs attention are the other parts of the body so that they can understand they’re just as important as any other gift that someone might have. God has so composed the body of Christ that each member needs each other. Some members’ gifts don’t need as much attention as other members’ gifts.
Verse 24b reads, “But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” The word for care, merimnao, means to be concerned about, to think of another in an anxious way. In other words, anxious meaning an urgent way, something that’s motivating you to think toward someone else.
The definite article is used here. He’s saying that God has so composed the body of Christ that each member is so important and when it’s functioning properly, each member has the exact same concern for the other as that one has for himself. No big I’s or little you’s in the body of Christ. In Corinth there were big I’s and little you’s. Some had these gifts and some didn’t have them. “Uh-huh, I’m more spiritual than you are.” That was the problem, and Paul is saying, “What in the world are you doing, man? You’re human body is a perfect example. You notice every part because each requires attention. All is as important as the other. There are not greater gifts.”
Verse 26 is where we come to now. We’re going to just take it from that point on. It says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” The body must live all for one, Christ. When the body lives all for one, then it can life one for all. That’s the whole message that we’ve developed here in 1 Corinthians 12 in these last several verses that we’ve been looking at.
Let’s look at verse 26 and following see what God can say to us. This is the message. Are we going to function in the gifts He’s given us? Are we going to be grateful to be a part of what He’s up to? First of all, Paul rehearses the problem again. There’s no way to miss what he’s saying. He says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.” We must determine what’s on Paul’s mind here. Is the suffering that he speaks about persecution because of one’s faith? Is it sickness? Is it traumatic circumstances? What’s he talking about, “If one member suffers”?
The principle of suffering with one another, me feeling your pain and you feeling my pain, is a solid biblical principle. As a matter of fact, in Romans 12:15 he’s been talking about love without hypocrisy, and he makes a statement. He says that you weep when others weep and rejoice when others rejoice. So when the body is truly functioning there will be a sorrowing for one another. There will be a rejoicing with one another. There’s no question that the principle of the body is that if it’s functioning properly that when somebody hurts within the body the other members suffer with it until it’s healed and then all are healed together because each member is important to the health of the body.
But I want to suggest something else that he’s saying here. I don’t think that’s exactly what he’s referring to here. The word for “suffering” is the word pascho, which is the suffering from pain caused from without. It’s in the present indicative active. One member is suffering, but what is he suffering from? In light of what Paul has been talking about, I believe he’s talking about those gifts that go unappreciated and unnoticed. Could he be saying that one member is suffering because everybody else is chasing after the greater gifts and making his gifts seem to be incompetent? In other words, his gift is not appreciated in light of the “greater gifts” that others are looking for.
When you start singling out something like languages or tongues of other languages and you start saying that makes you more spiritual than somebody else, then it automatically causes the whole body to suffer because you’re overlooking the other gifts that are just as important as that one gift is made to be. You can’t afford to overlook these other gifts. We can’t afford to do that. We can’t afford to exalt any gift. If we cause believers to suffer because of our selfish pursuit of certain gifts, then what I’m saying here is that everyone in the body will be suffering as a result of it. Every gift is dependent on the other gifts in the body of Christ. I don’t care what gift you say you have or don’t have. It’s ridiculous to covet others gifts and it’s ridiculous to belittle certain gifts. It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t make any sense. It goes right back to what he said. It’s like the eye saying, “I don’t need you, hand.” Or the head saying to the foot, “I don’t need you. You’re not a head, so, therefore, you’re not important to the body of Christ.” If you do this, it’s to cut off your nose to spite your face. That’s what was going on in Corinth.
In Louisiana, I was doing a meeting and a doctor came to me and said, “I want to share something with you. I have all the rounds in the hospitals here. There are people all over this city who could get up tomorrow and go home because they’re not sick because of anything physical. They’re sick because of something else. It’s more of a psychosomatic illness. It came as a result of the teaching that goes on in this area.” And he said, “There are a lot of people here who have wanted that second blessing. They’ve wanted that gift of tongues. They think that somehow makes them spiritual. We have so many of them come through these hospitals and there’s not one thing physically wrong with them. It’s all coming as a mental and emotional stress from not having received what others said were the greater gifts.”
That’s exactly what Paul is saying. If you exalt any gift—teaching, preaching, anything—over another gift, you have missed it completely. God has composed the body and when He composed the body, you don’t single out this or this or this. The body is the important thing, not the individual parts of the body. They need each other to make the body exist.
So he comes back, I think, to the problem, if any one suffers. The suffering there is not what he’s talking about in Romans. What he’s talking about is, when you overlook a person’s gift at the expense of what they would call the greater gifts, look out. The whole body suffers.
Secondly, he points to the pattern, the way it ought to be. He continues his thought. Verse 26 says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Now, immediately our minds will say that means this person’s rejoicing and I’m going to rejoice with him. This person’s suffering; I’m going to suffer with him. Yes, that is a truth and yes, that is Romans 12, but I think here he’s answering his own thought. If that same believer, who has been caused to suffer, is honored, then everybody rejoices.
You think it through and see if I’m correct because we’ve got both truths balancing each other. The reason I say that is the word for “honored” is not the normal word for “honored.” It’s the word that means glorified, and the word glorified means recognized. Isn’t that just what Paul has been talking about? If that gift instead of causing to suffer and not be recognized is recognized, then instead of the whole body suffering, the whole body will rejoice. You see, the local body of Christ is just a picture of the whole body of Christ, the universal body of Christ. Every body of believers has all that is needed in its local body, but every local body has the tendency, like Corinth did, to exalt certain gifts and cause the whole body to suffer or it has the opportunity to recognize all of the gifts and cause the whole body to rejoice. We must recognize each member and each gift that the body is going to rejoice. Every gift is important in the body of Christ.
How many times have you ever sat and heard somebody speak and say, “I wish I had that gift”? I’ve done the same thing. But I don’t need to sit here and be jealous of that gift. It’s no greater than the gift God gave to me or the gift that God gave to you. You see, this is what happens when you get your focus off of Christ. You get it down on ministries and gifts and this will divide a church. This will split a church right down the middle.
I know people today who will fight me over some of the things I’m going to say about tongues. They walk in ready to fight me; they leave ready to fight me. So what? What does the Word of God say? The Word of God says a gift should never divide a church, that each would have the same concern for the other gifts. Only when Christ is appreciated and focused on can that even take place. So the pattern should be that all the gifts are recognized or glorified (translated honored) so that the whole body can rejoice. But when you’re singling out certain gifts the whole body is suffering. That’s a very anemic body. It’s not healthy whatsoever.
Then Paul brings them back to the principle. Here he goes in verse 27. “Now you are Christ’s body.” He said that a little differently in 1:2. There he calls them the church of God. He said in verse 2 of chapter 1, “to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” He calls them the church of God there at Corinth.
But now he says, “You are the body of Christ.” There in Corinth, in the midst of all of the paganism that was there, was the church of God. There is in the middle of it was the body of Christ. Now, Paul says, “you are Christ’s body,” then he finishes his thought, “and individually [each and every one of you] members of it.” Nobody’s left out. All of us are a part of the body of Christ.
I want to tell you something. That statement in itself requires a lot of meditation. We are the body of Christ. Is it not ridiculous in the height of arrogance for somebody to stand up and portray one gift as greater than another when Paul makes the statement, “You are the body of Christ”? My toes are just as important as my brain. Everything on my body causes this body to work, in my human body. And in the body of Christ, every part that He has so beautifully composed and mixed together on this earth is absolutely overwhelmingly important.
In 2 Corinthians Paul beautifully says what a body is for. A body is to bring recognition, not to itself, but to the entity that lives within it. He says in 2 Corinthians 4:11, “For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake [listen], that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” In other words, it’s not a gift that I can use to bring identity back to me. It’s a gift that when it’s used properly brings identity to Him. We’re His body. The only reason we’re on this earth is to bring glory to Him. We ought to know what we’re not by now. But we know who He is. So he said, “You are the body of Christ.” To inflate any gift as greater or to deflate other gifts as lesser is the height of one who is in nothing more than living in arrogance, a person who is so proud that it’s a wonder God has not already brought him down.
Well, the sign of an unhealthy body is when one or two or three gifts are lifted up and exalted above other gifts. There’s no such thing in a healthy body as selfish organs or unnecessary organs. There’s no such thing. All gifts are important. They have their place and their function should not in any way be exalted or belittled. The problem is exalting certain gifts and causing the whole body to suffer. The pattern is to recognize those gifts, to glorify, to bring them out like you do when certain members of the body require more attention. Why? So that the whole body can rejoice. Then the principle is, we are the body of Christ on this earth.
Welcome to the church of Corinth. That’s the only thing that they knew: The problem, the pattern, the principle, and then the placement of the gifts. Paul brings us full circle. This is the ending of chapter 12. We’ve seen over and over again. It’s the giver, never the gift. He brings them full circle right back to the giver. This is beautiful what he does here. I want us to walk through it very carefully. We must again be brought back to this place.
It says in verse 28, “And God has appointed in the church.” Back in verse 18 of the same chapter we find the same words and it says, “But now God has placed the members.” The word used there is the exact same word as the word “appointed” is used in verse 28; each one of them in the body just as He desired. In fact, in 12:7 we find out which person of the godhead did it. It was God the Holy Spirit. Verse 7 tells us, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit of the common good.” So it’s the Holy Spirit, God the Holy Spirit, who has placed and given the gifts just as He desires.
The word “appointed” there, as I said, is also used in verse 18. It’s the word tithemi, which means to set, to place just in exact order. We were having dinner with some friends recently and I noticed how it was set just right. You know, you put the mats down and you put the silverware. But you set things in place. You put it in their proper order. That’s the word tithemi.
So he has appointed here the gifts as He desires. He has put each person in the body in exact order that He divinely had desired to put them. How in the world could you ever say you had a greater or a lesser gift when God’s the One who put us where we are? What Paul’s about to do is to show once again that we have no business trying to be what God has not appointed us to be. We’re to accept the gifts. We’re to accept the ministries God has given us and never try to mimic somebody else’s or live coveting somebody else’s but receiving what God has given to us.
How and in what priority did He place the gifts? In the list to follow the Corinthians probably were taken back that what they thought were the greatest Paul didn’t think so because God looks at it a little differently than man looks at it. It says in Verse 28 we read, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues,” or as we’ve seen earlier, “languages”.
Now, let’s look at the list he just gave us. First of all, apostles, he first appointed apostles to the church. Apostle, the word apostolos means one sent forth with a message. You say, “Where are they today? Do we have them today?” No, not in this sense, but they’re still around; they’re right here in the New Testament. Their voice has long been silenced but they’re still heard in the written ministry that the Holy Spirit of God gave to them. This is where we get our New Testament from, the apostles. They will be heard in the church until the end of time. They’re still around only in the written Word. Now you may have a generic sense of apostles around, a person sent forth to be a missionary or whatever, but not in this sense. These are the ones who determined doctrine.
Along with them, secondly, he lists the prophets. These are not just the Old Testament prophets. That’s already implicit. These are the New Testament prophets. He had the apostles and the New Testament prophets and they too have been silenced. Their voices are also heard written in the pages of the New Testament. Ephesians 2:20 puts the two of them together and says that our faith is built upon the apostles and prophets. There they are right there. They’re already there. That’s the foundation of everything we believe. It’s right in the Word of God.
But then thirdly he says he gave teachers. I love this. These are the ones gifted to expound upon and explain what the apostles and prophets have given to us, which is the basis of our faith, which is the Word of God. These are what teachers are all about. A teacher clarifies and brings it down where people can understand it. How important it is that the teacher comes right after the apostle and prophet. They gave us the fundamentals of our faith, the foundation which is the Word of God. The teachers come along behind them and explain it to us and they expound it so we can clearly understand it.
Then Paul brings up miracles, works of powers, plural, and gifts of healing. We’ve already dealt with this and we’ve seen that the only pattern to that was in the early New Testament church officers. Now, God could do this any time He wants to but there’s no pattern except in those first offices that he appointed to the church. Then he mentions helps and administrations and it’s interesting. These are the things in the order He has given them. The word “helps” here refers to those who serve in those behind the scenes ways. The word “administrations” is the word that means to lead. It’s a word for leadership.
In fact, if you’ll turn over to Acts 27:11, let me show you where it’s used. It’s used of a person steering a ship. The leaders he put within the body of Christ. Acts 27:11 says, “But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot [of the boat, the one steering the ship; that’s the word] and the captain of the ship, than by what was being said by Paul.” That was when they were about to shipwreck. That’s the idea of the word.
You know the church of Corinth lacked in no gift and neither does any local body of believers. Then they had people to lead them. But let me tell you the problem of Corinth was not leadership, the problem of Corinth was follow-ship. Every man was doing what was right in their own eyes. They weren’t about to do what the leader said. They had their own opinion and they did it their way. That’s what turned the whole church upside down at Corinth.
Then at the bottom of the list, the very last one he mentions is various kinds of tongues or languages. What is his point? Why would he even bring this up after all that he said? There are no greater gifts. There are no lesser gifts. But the body of Christ is composed, is mixed together. Everybody is just as important as anybody else and the key is not the individual gifts. The key is the giver and the body itself.
What is his point? Verse 29 is clear as a bell. “All are not apostles, are they?” In other words, “Guys, why are you trying to be what God never intended for you to be? All are not apostles.” He says, “All are not prophets, are they?” All are not teachers, are they?” You’re not gifted to teach. Why are you trying to do what you’re not gifted to do? “All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues [or other languages], do they? All do not [translate] interpret, do they?” There is a question that is implicit in this list here. He’s saying to them, “Why are you trying to be and do what you’re not called to be and do? Just be who you are. Be in the gift God has given you. You’re just as important as these others because it’s God who has put you in this body.”
Then for the finishing touch, in verse 31 he says, “But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.” That’s a confusing verse to me when Paul has just spend all this time telling us there are no greater and no lesser gifts, that they’re all important in the body of Christ. The word for “earnestly desire” is the word zeloo. It means to earnestly desire. It’s a good translation. That’s why it’s translated “earnestly desire.” But it doesn’t make any sense to me.
I want to tell you something. I wrestled with this and wrestled with this. What are you saying? Paul, you just said that there are no greater gifts or lesser gifts and the ones that are more noticeable get their own attention. We should give attention to the ones that are the lesser. What are you talking about, Paul? Then it hit me. I don’t think it’s translated properly. You say, “Who in the world do you think you are?” I know what I’m not, so don’t take my word for it. You check it out. But in the Greek language the indicative and the imperative forms are identical. Most people translate this as a present imperative. In other words, “I command you that you desire the greater gifts.” It doesn’t make any sense to the whole context to me. But change it, since the form is the same; make it a present indicative and then see what he’s saying: “You are desiring the greater gifts, so-called.” In other words, you have put certain gifts into a greater category and this is your problem. This is what you’re doing. You’re designing the greater gifts.
Whoa! Now that makes sense. Then add what he puts to it. He says, “And I show you a still more excellent way.” In other words, what you’re doing is so off-the-wall. You have missed the point. You’re desiring that you say are greater and that make you more spiritual and it shows how unhealthy you are. But let me show you a better way. I show you a better way.
Now, we’re coming into 1 Corinthians 13. You know what that is, don’t you? I have the ability to speak with tongues of angels, etc., but I have not love. I’m a sounding gong. Listen. Do you know where that love comes from? That love is only produced by the Holy Spirit of God. Do you realize what Paul has just simply done? He’s come full circle. He said it over and over again. Now he’s come right back. I’m going to show you a better way. Quit seeking gifts that you call greater and start seeking the giver once again and God will produce in you and through you that which cannot be faked.
Do we recognize that you can fake any gift? You can fake it, but you can’t fake the fruit. Any gift that a person has, if it’s not wrapped with the fruit of God’s love, the whole of chapter 13 makes that person nothing more than a bunch of noise. He’s unnecessary, in the sense that what he’s doing is more detrimental to the body of Christ than it is to help the body of Christ. But if that person is seeking Christ, then the Holy Spirit’s producing in him or her a love that is different from any kind of love that a human being can produce. It’s produced only by the Holy Spirit of God.
Chapter 13 talks about the quality of a person’s life that comes when they’re seeking the Giver as the difference between a person who seeks the gift in chapter 12. I want to tell you something. When I finish these messages, I leave the church and go home. Sometimes people come up and say, “Hey, I enjoyed that,” or “I think you missed the whole thing.” I’ll get a letter or two. I never know where it goes. My prayer is that somebody is receiving what we’re saying and you’re starting to put two and two together. That tells me there are a lot of immature churches in our country that are zeroing in on gifts at the expense of the Giver. And there’s no fruit there to wrap those gifts with which makes the gifts nothing more than a joke. They’re not what God produces.
When I have the love of the Spirit within me, you’re a benefactor. You can’t contain the love. The love has got to be given. So people around you already know whether or not you’re seeking the gift or seeking the Giver. They already know that by the way you relate to them or don’t relate to them. That’s the bottom line. So it’s not the gift. It’s the Giver.
Years ago I worked at a camp in Black Mountain, North Carolina. One of them came in and had a handicap. He had a hearing aid. Back then I didn’t understand what that was like. I felt sorry for him and kind of liked him. That didn’t last. This kid would come into supper and butter his hand and take his corn on the cob and roll it around on his hand so he could butter it. We took his eating privileges away from him. This was the worst kid I had ever been around. Unlovable is not even helpful to describe this kid.
Finally four and a half weeks went by and we were going to celebrate. He’s going home. The director of the camp walked across and said, “Scott is going to be here for another four and a half weeks.” I said, “Man, don’t do that to me.” He said, “You’re going to deal with it.”
So I got all my counselors together and said, “What are we going to do?” We had a bunch of us sitting in a circle, twelve counselors and myself. One of them was a college freshman. He said, “Well, maybe he doesn’t know Jesus.” This is a Christian sports camp and we said, “We know that is a problem, probably, but he’s beyond that. This is a threat to society.” We kept going around the room and finally we kept coming back to what this freshman had said. Out of the mouth of babes there it was. That was our answer. It dawned on us that maybe the kid just didn’t know Christ.
We asked the Lord to forgive us and went and checked his records and found his Mom had been married five different times. He had never known his Dad. They sent him off to a boarding school every fall and every spring. He would come home for breaks and then go to a camp for nine weeks like he did us for that summer. He was never at home. Nobody wanted him. So he had built a wall around himself then said, “You don’t love me, buddy. I don’t love you.”
I want to tell you something, folks. If you’re not filled with the Spirit of God, I don’t care what gift you say you have, you can go into your prayer closet and stack B.B.’s. I don’t care what you say. If you don’t have the love of God produced in your life, it is not affecting anybody because the love that the flesh produces will not in any way crack the shield that people have built around themselves because of people who have been unloving to them all these years.
It dawned on us we can’t reach this kid but Christ in us can. We asked the Lord to do that and it was so precious. Three weeks into the second session I had the privilege of leading that little boy to Christ. It was interesting what happened. We had a revival break out on our campus and many of them are still preaching today because of what happened to this one little kid. He was so mean. He’d turn his hearing aid off. “Scott, do this or do that.” “I can’t hear you.” He just had a way of irritating you to death. We saw him come to Christ.
The last night came. We saw what the love could do that a gift would never do. You see, if you get hung up on gifts, you’ve missed the whole thing. It’s what the fruit is, not what the gifts are. That last night we had two awards, the best camper and the most improved camper. Don’t get ahead of me; he’s not the best camper. Sanctification is a process. God’s got to do some things in his life. He’s not the best camper but he was voted the most improved camper by 56 kids and all the counselors.
I got to announce the awards. Finally it came around time to call out the awards. I said, “Scott, you got the most improved.” Scott looked at me. I guess the only award he had ever gotten was the most unlikely to succeed or something. He looked so shocked. It wasn’t anything to it. It was a board with some cans on it. It probably cost five bucks. But we handed it to him and when he took it, he turned around. I said, “Scott, would you like to say thank you to all the people in this room who have voted for you?” That little unemotional rock turned around and broke and began to weep. You know how emotional I am. He didn’t weep two seconds that I wasn’t crying with him. All the kids began to weep and the parents began to weep because they realized his parents weren’t there. Somebody had loved him with a love he’d never known before in all his life.
I didn’t know what to do. I got them all joining hands and I had them singing camp songs. Then I finally tried to lead them in prayer. While I was praying the last prayer that I’ll ever pray with this particular group of people in the same room at the same time, I felt two little arms go around my waist and a little head buried itself in my life. I knew who it was. Scott had broken out of that circle and came over and put his arms around me and stood there just trembling and held me like I was going to leave him the next second. After it was over with, I couldn’t talk to him. We just stood there and held each other for probably thirty minutes.
He went on to bed that night. I got up early the next morning. We were leaving. He was leaving on the bus, one of the only ones on the bus to go to the Asheville Airport to fly home because his parents were too busy to come get him. I put my hand up next to his and I started walking with him. We walked all the way to the the gate there at Rockmont. The last thing I remember was that little face pressed up against the window, tears streaming down his cheeks trying to get one more glimpse of somebody who had loved him when nobody in the world had ever thought he was important.
I want to tell you something, folks. You walk out of here and talk about your gift if you want to but it means absolutely nothing if the fruit of the Spirit of God is not there. Because when the fruit is there, you see people like God has you to see them and that’s what Paul is telling the Corinthian church. You think you’re spiritual? No way. Let’s talk about what spiritual is. I’ve got a better way. Quit desiring gifts that you think are greater and start pursuing the Giver and watch the difference in your life. The gifts will take care of themselves.