Sample from “The Joy Of Early Christianity” from the chapter on the gifts of the Spirit. Copyright 2019
These gifts are supernatural, however, they don’t usually come with a lot of fanfare. They usually occur in such simple ways that we sometimes don’t even notice them. The gifts of the Spirit are not just for religious superstars (people who promote themselves as prophets or apostles and claim special powers form God). They available to all Christians.
The gifts of the Spirit are various ways that God wants to work through everyday people. You don’t need a title, a degree, or an ordination. They don’t have to be announced to a crowd before they can operate. You don’t need to announce: “I’m a prophet and I’m about to prophesy, so everybody look at me.” You just speak what God puts on your heart and/or do what God tells you to do. Then the various gifts of the Spirit will freely flow out of you, whether you are aware of them or not.
When a group of Christ-followers meet in Spirit-led, open sharing according to 1 Corinthians 14:26, the gifts of the Spirit enter the gathering with simplicity, love, and humility. After one such meeting a woman told me: “We saw all 9 gifts of the Spirit tonight.” Afterwards, I went through the gifts in my mind and I counted 8 gifts that had been manifested among us. However, I couldn’t think of a miracle that happened in the meeting. Suddenly the words came to my mind: “It was a miracle for that many people to come together on a weeknight to passionately seek Me for three hours.”
Let’s examine each gift of the Spirit individually. They are all powerful ways to go beyond religion and back to the joy of prechurch Christianity.
Message (or Word) of Wisdom
Have you ever been in an awkward situation where you didn’t know what to say and/or what to do? That is a great opportunity to experience the spiritual gift of the word of wisdom. The word of wisdom is a small amount of Spirit-given wisdom to help you understand and/or know what to say or do in a specific situation.
Here’s an example of the word of wisdom from the earthly ministry of Jesus. I believe that He had all the gifts of the Spirit working in and through Him.
Some religious people suddenly dragged a woman up to Jesus and threw her to the ground. They told Him that they had caught her “in the very act of adultery.” (It’s odd that they didn’t bring the guy, who was equally as guilty, along with her.)
Then they quoted the Jewish law that declares adultery to be punishable by death to be administered by stoning. And they asked Jesus what they should do?
Jesus was in a very tricky situation. If He had said to stone her, they would have accused Him of being merciless and cruel. However, if He had said to let her go, they would have accused Him of breaking their rules.
You probably know the story. Jesus got a word of wisdom. God told Jesus how to respond in a way that amazed everyone present.
A word of wisdom is when God drops a little bit of His wisdom into your spirit. I once received a word of wisdom as I was reading about Jesus and the woman caught in adultery and her accusers.
I read the first 5 verses of the account (that I paraphrased above), and then I was captivated by something in the 6th verse of John 8. It says: “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with His finger.” For the first time in many years of regular Bible reading I realized that what Jesus wrote in the dust wasn’t important enough to be included in the Bible. (It doesn’t tell us what He wrote.) Therefore, the important thing must be the fact that He bent over and marked in the dirt. But why did He do that?
In such a moment of crisis, why would Jesus bend over and write in the dirt, words that weren’t even important enough to be included Scripture? I believe He was obeying a word of wisdom.
His simple action accomplished several things: 1) It gave Him time to listen to God; 2) He disarmed the anger by responding in humility; 3) He distracted the crowds’ attention from the situation; 4) He made people curious about what He was doing; 5) He broke eye contact with the crowd; 6) He allowed time for God to work by shifting the atmosphere of the moment from intellectual questioning to the working of the Holy Spirit.
After writing a bit, Jesus stood up and said the famous words which I believe were a word of wisdom: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He bent over and wrote some more.
As I was reading that passage alone, I felt like God told me to stand up and then bend over and pretend to write on the floor. So, I did. In that position just about all I could see was the floor. I would have been very vulnerable to people who were trying to trick me. However, I could have seen people’s feet walking away.
And the people did walk away from Jesus, until only the woman and Jesus remained. Even His disciples wandered away. After He saw all those feet walk away, Jesus looked up at the woman and spoke to her (implying that He was still bent over writing while he was talking to her). He then sent her away forgiven and with the word to go and sin no more.
I think that I need to write in the dirt more — to humbly bend, to not try to immediately fix a situation with my own words, and to allow the Holy Spirit the time and freedom to work and to give me a word of wisdom while I scratch away.
As I was writing this, I remembered a time when I was in a tricky situation and needed a word of wisdom. I had a summer job selling black history books in Columbus, Georgia during a summer of race riots in 1971. Just before dark one night I was walking to my car when a group of 6 or 7 tough looking guys came from around a corner and started walking right toward me.
As they came up to me, they surrounded me and one of them said in a rather threatening way: “What are you doing in this neighborhood?” Their body language showed me that a lot was riding on my response.
After a few awkward moments I felt prompted to say in a friendly way: “I’m here for the right reason. Let me show you.”
Then I pulled out my sample of Ebony’s Pictorial History of Black America, and sat on the hood of a car. I opened the sample and begin to flip through the pages, showing them the pictures and talking about black history in a friendly way.
After a few minutes, one of them said: “I like what you’re doing.” Then he and all the others walked away and left me by myself.
That was a word of wisdom. I didn’t think it up with my own creativity. It just came to me – dropped into my spirit. I didn’t respond to the guys with the fear and defensiveness that I was feeling. Instead, I simply said and did what the Spirit prompted me to. The result of my obeying a word of wisdom speaks for itself.
Here’s another example of a word of wisdom. Once as a new believer I was getting frustrated because I kept reading in the Bible how God spoke to people. (Religion had never taught me that God spoke to ordinary people.) One day I said to God in frustration: “Why don’t you speak today like you did in the Bible?”
Suddenly the words came into my mind: “The problem is not that I’m not speaking, but that you’re not listening.” Like all the gifts of the Spirit, the word of wisdom is very simple, yet very powerful.
Message (Word) of Knowledge
Do you ever wish you had more information so that you could connect better with people? When I sold books door to door, I used to ask the person whose porch I was on about their neighbors. I’d get various neighbors’ names, their kids’ names and ages, the school that their kids went to, etc. Then when I knocked on another neighbor’s door I could say: “Hello Mrs. Washington, I’ve been talking with your neighbors, the Bentons, the Stewarts, and the Easleys about something that will really help you and your son Shante at Glenn Elementary School. May I come in?”
We called that information pre-approach. I soon discovered that people are much more likely to let you in if you share some pre-approach than if you just walk up and immediately ask to come in. Pre-approach is an example of how the word of knowledge works.
God gives you a bit of information about someone. When you share it with them it opens their heart up to you and to God.
Jesus used the word of knowledge when He was talking with a Samaritan woman. (See John 4.) Jesus was a Jew and the Jews didn’t like the Samaritans. In fact, Jews weren’t even legally allowed to talk to them. Also, men weren’t supposed to publicly talk with women in Jewish culture. However, Jesus broke both of those religious rules because He saw everybody as equal.
The woman was shocked that Jesus would engage in a conversation with her. During their interaction, Jesus asked her to go and call her husband. The woman replied that she didn’t have a husband. And here’s where a word of knowledge came in. Jesus said to her: “The fact is you have had five husbands and the man you now have is not your husband.”
The woman was overwhelmed by Jesus’ supernatural pre-approach. She went and told her friends about Jesus saying: “He told me everything I ever did.” Because of her testimony, many people believed in Jesus.
That’s an example of Jesus getting a word of knowledge, but how do you get one? The Holy Spirit simply drops it into your mind or heart. Sometimes it is so simple that you might not even think that it’s worth mentioning. But share it anyway. It may not mean anything to you, but it might be life-changing for someone else.
Once I was with a group of people that was praying for a man with a broken heart. When I put my hand on him I saw in my mind a picture of a cocoon being shredded. Afterward I told him about it and his mouth dropped. He said to me: “Steve, you won’t believe this. About 8 years ago a good friend of mine who is a Pentecostal preacher told me that God showed him that I am going to be like a butterfly, but that my cocoon has to be shredded first.”
Another time a group was praying for a guy and I kept seeing a funnel over his head. After the group finished praying for him, I said to him; “I keep getting a picture in my mind, but I don’t know if it will mean anything to you.” He asked me to share it with him. When I told him about the funnel, he was amazed. He said that a few years before he had been at one of the lowest points in his life and had gone to someone for counsel and prayer. When this person prayed for him, he saw a funnel over his head and told him that God was going to pour encouragement and wisdom into him. He said that he had recently been very discouraged again and had been asking God to give him hope, so when I told him about the funnel I saw, he was greatly encouraged. If I hadn’t shared it, he would have missed a great blessing.
That’s why we need to live in the kingdom (rule) of God and not the kingdom of self. My self didn’t want to share such a simple thing. But I chose to ignore myself and share it anyway. And it proved to be from God.
The only thing that we need in order to operate in the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge is to pay attention to the words, pictures, and impressions that come to our mind and/or heart. Then have the courage to share them. Will they all be spiritual home runs? Probably not. But they will all help you to learn to experience the joy and power of early Christianity.