Question from a Site Viewer
I was always curious about spiritual gifts. I have recently come across the opportunity to speak in tongues at a retreat. The pastor at the retreat encouraged people to come up on the last night of the retreat and pray for the gift of tongues. I tried but I didn’t receive it. I was just wondering what could have prevented me from receiving it? I thought at first that it was because I didn’t want it enough or something like that. But later, after the retreat, I read in the Bible that the gifts are all given by the one Spirit, and He gives them as He determines. Does that mean that it is possible for me to ask and not receive the gift of tongues, but to receive a different gift such as prophecy? Will I not receive the gift that I want, but the gift that the Spirit determines is best for me?
Thank you for your question. I much appreciate that you sought out Scripture to interpret your experience. That is as it should be.
Spiritual gifts are the blessing of God to His people so as to empower them to serve His church. That gifts are given to serve others is well supported in Scripture. There are four basic passages of Scripture that teach us concerning spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8; I Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:11-16; and 1 Peter 4:10-11). Romans emphasizes that we do not all have the same gifts, but that gifts are given by God according to His grace and in relation to one another. 1 Corinthians emphasizes that gifts are given by the Spirit for the profit of all, and they are given as the Spirit wills. Ephesians again emphasizes that God is the one who gives the gifts and the purpose is for the edification of the church. Finally, 1 Peter 4 emphasizes again the gifts are a gift from God and they are to be used to minister to one another. Each passage teaches that God gives the gifts and that they are given for the purpose of ministering to one another.
Each of these passages is also clear that there are many gifts and different gifts are given to different people as the Spirit desires. While Scripture affirms that we can seek gifts, there is no assurance that the Spirit will give us the gift we seek.
The problem I see with the gift of tongues is that it sometimes becomes a “sign” that we have arrived spiritually. People take it as a sign that the Spirit has controlled them. Yet, I think, as Paul seems to argue in Galatians, the only real evidence of the Spirit in control of one’s life is the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control) in the life (Galatians 5:22-23). I remember talking to a lady once whose husband would speak in tongues in the church and then beat her up when they arrived home from church. While such clear abuses do not denigrate the gift of tongues when used properly, it illustrates that to walk with the Spirit should be our focus. Someone who speaks in tongues and does not love others is a noisy and empty Christian, at least that is what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:1. If we walk in the Spirit, then the fruit of the Spirit will be the evidence.
I think sometimes we yearn to see the supernatural in our lives, to know that God is with us in a tangible way. The gift of tongues helps to satisfy that yearning for the supernatural. And sometimes God gives us our requests to experience the supernatural. But I think far more often it is in the quietness of our devotional life to God and in the daily effort to do good works that we most experience the supernatural. He comes in that still small voice, guiding and leading those who train their hearts to listen for His voice.
It may be that you will live your life and not know what gift the Spirit has given to you. I know for some this seems like heresy. But it is not. The purpose of gifts is not to build you up, but to build others up. You do not necessarily have to know how it is God is using you in the lives of others. You simply need to be faithful to love and serve as the Spirit gives you ability.
While it is proper to seek a gift, my encouragement to you is to focus the majority of your desire on seeking the Giver of the gift. When you seek to see, know, understand, and love Jesus Christ both in word and deed, you will find yourself possessing the true riches of God. He is made for us our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. He is our life.
I hope this helps. May His blessings be upon your life as you seek to serve Him.
a fellow pilgrim,