Strive to Excel in Building up the Church
Thursday, January 10, 2019 - Devotional for Day 4
So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 1 Corinthians 14:12 (ESV)
What are you striving for?
Perhaps you’re striving for a degree, a promotion, an increase in health or financial security. Perhaps it’s increasing holiness, a deeper prayer life, more generous giving or a Christ-centered marriage. Whatever you’re striving for, have you ever thought about “striving to excel in building up the church?” (1 Corinthians 14:12)
Right on the heels of the famous chapter of love, 1 Corinthians 14 begins: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…” Pursue love first, because it will never end. Gifts will pass away. Pursue love first. But be sure that you also earnestly desire the gifts.
It is striking that Paul, in writing to a church plagued by all kinds of trials and internal strife, would call the people to pursue love and to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. The gifts, Paul tells us, are meant for the “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (verse 3) of the people of the church.
Do you have a gift? 1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us that each of us has at least one and that they are a “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” All gifts are given by the Spirit, but they vary dramatically. 1 Corinthians 12 lists wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy and tongues, among others. Romans 12 includes serving, teaching, encouragement, financial giving, leadership and acts of mercy. There are more.
And, they are meant for the common good, for the upbuilding of the church. They aren’t given to show that we are special. They aren’t given so that we can look down on others. They aren’t given according to our desires. They aren’t always flashy. Sometimes they are hidden (such as a gift of giving or many types of serving and encouragement). Often, they are thankless. However, they are always given according to the will of the Spirit. They are given for the upbuilding of the church.
If you don’t know what your gifts are, then ask a trusted friend or mentor. Offer your service in church—especially in the unglamorous roles—and see what comes of it. You may find that you have gifts you never imagined. You may find that you gain far more than you give. And strive to excel in those roles. Thank God for the opportunity to serve and ask for help to do faithfully and joyfully those things that may go unnoticed and unappreciated. Take the opportunity to grow in Christlikeness among God’s people. And especially, strive to excel in building up the church.
Dear Lord, as we consider Your church, we confess that we too often see its flaws and failures. We harp on what we dislike and fail to pray for it. We confess that we do not encourage its leaders and the many volunteers as we ought, and overlook many of their contributions. Far too seldom do we strive to excel in building it up. Change us, Lord. Heal us. Make us people with Your priorities. And let it start in the church. Lord, make us people who strive to excel in building up the church.
Ministry Fellow, Christian Union at Yale