When the Spirit prompts us to speak and act, we must remember that we are simply passing on God’s words and doing his deeds. We are called to speak with his authority, but we do not heal the sick or cast out demons. We minister in partnership with the Spirit: God is responsible for the miracles, we merely supply the faith, the hands and the mouth.
Some believers think that they need huge amounts of faith for ministry, whereas Jesus suggested that we need only a tiny amount. Faith is like the clutch in a car. There might be a powerful engine roaring under the bonnet, but the car remains stationery until the driver presses the clutch and slips the gear. The clutch, however, does not make the car move; it merely engages the power.
Matthew 9:2, 22, 29 & Mark 6:1-6 show that sometimes the person being ministered to had faith. This means that when we minister we should be ready to encourage people to believe in God’s power and in his promises. It also means we should be firmly persuaded that God can do what is needed, and that we are committed to speaking his words when he prompts us. We examine this more in Living Faith.
Ministry in the Spirit normally means ministering the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, it is difficult to envisage any form of ministry which does not involve the gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12.
In Knowing the Spirit, we see that God’s giving of grace-gifts to each believer is a continuous activity and not a once-for-all action. This means that we do not receive spiritual gifts as personal possessions; rather, the Spirit gives us whatever gift we need whenever we need it.
Jesus had tremendous skill in ministering according to the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, we see examples of all the New Testament gifts in Jesus’ ministry except tongues and interpretation.
For example, we see Jesus using:
- The gift of faith – Mark 11:20-25 & John 11:41-42
- The gift of miracles – Mark 6:30-52 & John 2:1-11
- The gift of healing – Matthew 4:23-25 & Mark 5:21-43
- The word of wisdom – Matthew 22:18; Luke 13:10-17 & John 7:53-8:4
- The discerning of spirits – Matthew 16:17-23 & Luke 13:10-17
- The gift of prophecy – John 2:19
- The word of knowledge – John 1:47-50 & John 4:16-20.
If Jesus needed the gifts to help him to minister, we can surely expect the same for ourselves. We must, therefore, make sure that we develop expertise and experience in using them effectively.
At its simplest, using the gifts of the Spirit means relying on whatever thoughts or words the Spirit gives us, for the gifts are merely manifestations of the Spirit himself. Isaiah 11:1-2 lists some of the Spirit’s attributes which are similar to the gifts; and 11:3-5 shows them being used in godly activity and prophetic authority.
Through the 1 Corinthians 12 gifts, the Spirit reveals some facet of his divine knowledge, ability and nature, and he applies that directly to the situation or person we are serving. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 identifies nine gifts:
- The word of wisdom – the Spirit’s ability to apply a revelation, or to understand how to resolve or assist a situation
- The word of knowledge – the Spirit’s revelation of facts about a person or situation
- Healings – the Spirit’s insight into how to minister God’s healing to a particular person, and his enabling effectively to minister God’s healing to the person
- Faith – a supernatural surge of the Spirit’s confidence in God’s ability to do something seemingly impossible
- Miracles – the Spirit’s miraculous power intervening in the natural order through a minister
- Prophecy – the Spirit’s message for a person, group of people or situation
- Discerning of spirits – the Spirit’s insight which identifies the motivating spirit behind a word or person, and helps us to separate the divine from the human and the demonic
- Different kinds of tongues – the Spirit’s words to pray in an unlearnt language
- Interpretation of tongues – the Spirit’s revelation of the gist of a prayer in tongues.
It should be plain that these gifts are important tools which really do help us enormously in ministry. Obviously we will make mistakes when we start to use them. But we will develop more skill in manifesting the gifts if we persevere through the failures and errors.
When we are ministering, the Spirit guides us along his own creative path. He might prompt us to do something unusual – like Jesus anointing a man’s eyes with saliva. But this does not mean that we should repeat what has ‘worked’ in the past, or ever do the same thing again, unless he clearly instructs us to do so.