One Wish

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

1 Kings 3:5

Solomon had just become king over the people of God. This huge responsibility weighed on him. Then God came to him in a dream one day and essentially gave him one wish.

If God did this with you, what would you ask for? Or, in an attempt to say the “right” thing, would you assume that in humility you shouldn’t ask for anything?

Solomon did ask for something. He understood the difference between real humility and false humility. False humility doesn’t ask for anything, assuming that’s the right thing to do in this situation. Real humility doesn’t shrink back from asking for God’s blessings and gifts, but asks for things that will benefit others.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

1 Kings 3:7-9

Remember that Solomon is asking for this in a dream. We can’t fake it when we are standing before God and especially not in a dream. Solomon was in a situation where God was seeing the true contents of Solomon’s heart. What Solomon truly wanted was a discerning heart so that he could rule over the people with wisdom and justice. God loved this about Solomon.

Notice God’s response. God doesn’t say, “Because you were humble and didn’t ask for anything…” No, God didn’t have time for that kind of false humility. God loves that Solomon truly wanted a gift from God that would ultimately benefit all of the people of God and not just himself.

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

1 Kings 3:10-13

So what would you ask for if God let you pick one thing? We all could use a little more wisdom, but we’re not all kings, so wisdom may not be the thing that would be most beneficial. Would it be more love? More grace? More power? More authority?

When we start talking about God’s power and authority many Christians get squeamish. I’ve noticed that people get skeptical about those who would ask for more of God’s power or more of God’s authority. People automatically assume poor motives when power and authority enter the conversation.

If someone asks you, as a follower of Jesus, if you want more of God’s power and more of God’s authority, do not shrink back into the lie of false humility. Many Christians think they are being humble and holy by saying, “Oh no, I’m not interested in getting more of God’s power or authority.” But this is the epitome of false humility.

The purpose of God giving you more of His power and His authority is not about you; it is for the sake of others. With an increase of God’s power and authority in your life, you will be used to help set others free from things that oppressively hinder their life with Christ. It could be sickness and disease. It could be demonic oppression. Whatever it is, you’re going to need all the power and authority you are able to carry in order to help that person get free. By shrinking back in false humility, you’re essentially saying you have no desire to help others get free.

Imagine that a group of people are being held captive, and you’ve been assigned the mission to help them get free. Then someone comes up to you and says, “Before you go in there, I want to give you the gear that will help you accomplish the mission. I want to give you these weapons and this armor. Further, I want to deputize you as a federal marshal so that everyone understands you are operating in the authority of this government. All of this is going to greatly increase your chances of getting those people free.” Now imagine your response to that is false humility. Image you say, “Oh no, I don’t want all of that. I just want to stay humble.” Can you see the problem here?

The truth is that when God gives a person more of His power and authority, it is an incredibly humbling experience. Just as there is a weight to carrying heavy armor and heavy guns for the sake of other people’s freedom, there is a heavy weight to walking in the power and authority of God. It is a huge responsibility. But God is looking for those willing to take up the challenge.

So, if God asks you what you want, don’t be afraid to ask for more of His power and more of His authority. One of the most humbling things you can do is to ask for more power and authority because you know that, if He gives you more, it won’t be for you. Your life is not your own. You will now be commissioned to go and help others get free. Just know that whatever you ask for will come with its own weight, its own responsibility. God’s gifts are not toys for self-glorification. They are expressions of His love and weapons of spiritual warfare.

Gracelets

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:8-11

We who are followers of Jesus have been given the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has in turn given us gifts. The word used in the Greek for “gifts” is simply the word for grace (charis) with a suffix on the end (either -ma or the plural form -mata). One way to translated the word gift (charisma) is “grace-enablement” or “gracelet.” Each gift is a little droplet of the grace of God pouring through the Holy Spirit in us. Each gift is the grace of God in a different form.

The purpose of these gifts is clear–to serve others. They aren’t given to us to serve ourselves or our own glory. They are meant to give glory to God as we serve others. They are divine enablements that empower us to built others up. They are gracelets that operate in our lives so that we can love others well. We are to steward these gifts, knowing that they didn’t originate in us but came from the Holy Spirit. They are things we try to steward well as a way of honoring the Source from which they came. The whole purpose of having and using these gifts is that “in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

To not use the gifts we’ve been given and to not grow in the gifts we’ve used is just as dishonoring to God as misusing the gifts of the Spirit. We all are wary of gifted people who misuse their gift in a way that is selfish and destructive. But are we as wary of those who never use the gifts they’ve been given? Are we as wary of those who have the seedling form of a gift but never allow it to grow through the use and development of that gift? Both misuse and un-use of the gifts of the Spirit are damaging to the Body of Christ.

We can’t be so afraid of misuse that we scare people into never using and developing their gifts. Living in this kind of fear paralyzes the Church. We need healthy risk-taking and discerning wisdom that allows room for mistakes and yet creates an environment of growth for the gifts. This is the only way gifts can flourish and mature into health.

Grace of Giving

There is this interesting tension in Scripture where we are encouraged to pursue, be zealous for, and excel in something that is categorized as a “grace.” 

The word grace in Greek is “charis.” When Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14 the word translated as “gift” is “charis-ma.” The word translated as “gifts” is “charis-mata” the plural form. It’s simply the word grace with a suffix. One could just as easily translate the word “gracelet” or “grace-outworking” instead of “gift.” 

So it’s clear that gifts of the Spirit are not earned. They are pure grace. They are droplets of grace working in our lives. And we know it is the Spirit who “distributes them to each one, just as he determines”(1 Corinthians 12:11). 

But then Paul turns right around and says “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit”(1 Corinthians 14:1). He continues by saying, “Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church”(1 Corinthians 14:12). 

So, though these gifts are droplets of pure grace, we are still commanded to eagerly desire them, pursue them, and try to excel in them. We don’t sit around passively. We go after them. 

Paul echoes this same tension when, later, he sends a letter to tell the Corinthians, “But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving”(2 Corinthians 8:7). 

He calls financial giving a “grace” (a “charis” in the Greek). Once again we see that receiving a grace from God does not mean we operate without agency. Just like any other gift, or grace, we must engage in it for it to mature. We must practice it for it to develop. Like any other grace, the way to grow in it is to be a good steward of it. The more we engage in and practice giving generously of our finances, the more we mature and grow in the grace of giving. 

We don’t sit around passively and say something selfish like, “Well, I just don’t have the gift/grace of giving.” No, what we lack is the willingness to give. If we start giving sacrificially of our finances, we will find that grace pours down like rain.