By John Martin
In my role with NLW International, I am blessed to meet some very talented and gifted people. Even within our own team God has blessed us with a wide range of talents and personalities! But regardless of how gifted any of us may be, we must never forget what matters most.
The greatest, most essential gift that God has given His church is the gift of love. Not only do we have His love for us but also His love working in us and displayed to those around us. This is vital if we truly want to be used by God for His glory! John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (CSB). Love is what matters most.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to the congregation to address some concerns that he has for them. One of the problems in the church at Corinth was that they were manifesting nearly every spiritual gift in existence. They were a very talented and gifted people, but they were not walking in love one for another. The Corinthians loved the flashy gifts. They loved tongues, prophecy, and other gifts that made them look spiritual in the eyes of others, but Paul wanted them to understand that God was more interested in them loving one another like He loved them.
Chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians were written to combat the problems that existed inCorinth related to the spiritual gifts and their usage in the church. Often, we look at these chapters one at a time but really, they should be read together. Here is a quick summary:Chapter 12 talks about the spiritual gifts, how they are given to us and why they are beneficial to the whole body of Christ.
Chapter 12 also speaks about how the body of Christ is strengthened and blessed when individuals use the gifts they have been given by the Lord. Chapter 14 deals with the misuse of the some of the gifts and calls the church of Corinth to deeper maturity in their walk with the Lord. Sandwiched between these two is Chapter 13.
After sharing the spiritual gifts, Paul closes Chapter 12 with these words in verses 27-31: “You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. You’re familiar with some of the parts that God has formed in his church, which is his “body”: apostles, prophets, teachers, miracle workers, healers, helpers, organizers, those who pray in tongues. But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christ’s church is a complete Body and not a gigantic, unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called “important” parts. But now I want to lay out a far better way for you” (The Message).
Chapter 13 picks up with the discussion of what matters most. What matters most is not whether you possess some flashy gift or not. What matters most is not based on how smart you are, how wealthy, how popular or how well liked, you are. What matters most is how well you love!
Paul begins with showing why love is distinct from any other gift:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all His mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps; but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, The Message)
No matter how talented we may be without what matters most, we are simply noisemakers without impact. We need to distinguish ourselves from other gifted people by pursuing what matters most.
Paul shares with us a description of true love:
Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, The Message)
True love is manifested in how we interact with those around us. It guides our conversations and shapes how we interact with and treat others. Rather than beingknown as a great singer or a powerful speaker, what matters most is that we are known as someone who loves people. Let that be how others describe us.
And finally, Paul speaks of love’s durability:
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our in completes will be canceled. When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears, and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthians 13:8-13, The Message)
Love will stand the test of time. When we understand what matters most, we put others first and we live our lives knowing that how we treat others will impact far longer than any words we may say or songs we may sing. God’s love is far greater than our ability to understand and it is what makes us complete!
So, the next time that one of us decides to “polish up the old resume” or do an inventory of our gifts and talents; may we pause, pray and remember what matters most.