Are you a prophet? Does God work miracles of healing through you? Perhaps the Spirit inspires your teaching or preaching. According to 1 Corinthians 12, these are just some of the gifts the Spirit bestows upon us, “for the common good.”
I know that some faiths believe that the Spirit no longer gives gifts. I disagree, but it’s a familiar controversy. But I was recently surprised by someone insisting that spiritual gifts are also given to unbelievers, those who don’t have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. I had never even considered this possibility. Could it be true?
Have you heard the news? According to the Los Angeles Times, “Religion doesn’t make kids more generous or altruistic, study finds.” The Guardian chose a more negative headline: “Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds.”
Could this possibly be true? What study is this? How was it designed? Who ran the experiment? When something this counter-intuitive makes headlines, my brain immediately starts flashing a “caution” sign. In this case, my brain was right. There are a number of issues that make me cry “foul!”
We should study our Bibles, right? Of course we should. It’s a given, obvious, no question about it. I’ve written lots of posts about my struggle with consistent Bible study, and the habits I’ve formed that help me follow through on my good intentions. Just recently I compared the Bible to love letters my husband wrote me when we were dating.
One morning I was doing just that—reading my Bible, underlining verses that particularly caught my attention, scribbling notes in the margins—when I noticed something I’d never seen before. (It amazes me how God can point out new things in words I’ve read over and over for the last 40 years!)
I’m pretty consistent about reading my Bible. Not perfect, mind you. Sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes I get distracted. For the most part, though, I try to read at least a chapter (or more, if they’re short or in Numbers) every morning. I always imagine it as God and I sitting down over a cup of tea, having our own little tête-à-tête.
Recently I’ve been rereading the gospels, first Matthew, then John. Pen and straight edge in hand (I’m a bit compulsive about neat annotations), I was underlining verses that particularly spoke to me, inscribing comments in the margin to remind myself later of what I was learning.
As I wrote a couple of months ago, I was particularly struck by this passage in 2 Peter 1:5-8. It could be viewed as God’s steps to success:
… make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ve shared some of my thoughts about faith and goodness; the next quality Peter mentions is knowledge.