Earnestly Desiring Spiritual Gifts (Zacharias T. Fomum)
The apostle Paul says,
“Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
He was talking to people who already possessed some spiritual gifts. He did not say to them, “Well, you already have spiritual gifts. That is alright. Take it easy.” He instead encouraged them to earnestly desire spiritual gifts especially the gift of prophecy. The same work of exhortation is addressed to all believers today. They are not to say, “If God wills and in any way that He will.” This would be a passive spirit, and God would allow such a one to go unblessed. Believers are not even just as to ask for spiritual gifts. They are not even to desire spiritual gifts. They are to earnestly desire spiritual gifts. They are to put their all into the desire and do everything that they can do to ensure that their desire is fulfilled.
Believers seeking spiritual gifts are to make as if God were unwilling to give (although He is far from being unwilling) and therefore they must be determined to “force” Him to give. The Lord Jesus taught that people are to importune in asking for the Holy Spirit. The Bible says,
“He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ And he said unto them, when you pray, say Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation” And he said to them, which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him;” and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask and it will be given you; seek, and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:1-13)
A few things are immediately obvious. First of all, the Lord Jesus expects that the gift of the Holy Spirit will be received in answer to importunate praying and that those who do not receive that gift on the first asking are not to despair, but to keep on asking, for delay is not refusal. The verb for ask implies asking and continuing to ask until the thing asked for is received. The Lord intends that people ask and keep asking for the Holy Spirit until He is received as the first disciples received Him. If asking will not do, they are to seek. Seeking is a more intense form of asking. They are to seek and keep seeking until they have found and should seeking fail, they are to enter into the most combative form of asking, which is knocking, and even that one is not once for all. They are to knock and keep knocking until it is opened for them. Something of what is involved is given to us in the Word when the Bible says,
“Upon your walls, O Jerusalem
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night they shall never be silent
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7).
When people, in their desire for spiritual gifts, importune, they will receive. When, they, all the day long and all the night long, refuse to be silent, but ask and keep asking; when they take no rest and give God no rest until He has given them the spiritual gift or gifts that they need for the ministry, He will surely do it. He will not delay when He finds those who will take no rest and are determined to give him no rest. He will arise and give the gift(s) they want, even if only for the sake of having His rest.
Obviously, people, who are prepared to press on with God in this way, are very few, and that accounts for the few who truly possess spiritual gifts. The entire matter hinges upon how seriously they take the task to which God has called them. If people see the gravity of the task and the need to have it accomplished in the shortest possible time, if they see that spiritual gifts are absolutely necessary for the rapid accomplishment of the task, and they are anxious to satisfy the heart of God, they will pay the price that is needed for spiritual gifts.
I confess that I am seeing it in a new way as I write this. Spiritual gifts are a must. The Lord Jesus needed them for His own ministry and the early disciples used them to confirm their message. The Bible says,
“And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” (Mark 16:20).
I must confess that I have gone to many parts of this country and other countries preaching the gospel. I must also admit that the Lord has worked with me. There is no doubt about this. However, part of the Lord’s working with me should be to confirm the message by signs that attend it. I want to confess that my work of church-planting, evangelism, pastoring and teaching has not been accompanied by signs to confirm it. There has been the obvious lack of miracles which should accompany and church-planting and evangelistic ministry and from this day, I will begin to do something about it, and will not rest until this deficiency is remedied. The apostle Paul said,
“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by work and deed, by the power of signs and wonders; by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as for round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” Romans 15:18-19).
The apostle Paul won obedience from the Gentiles by
The power of signs
The power of wonders
The power of the Holy Spirit
By the use of these five means, he fully preached the gospel. I want to confess, to my own shame, that I have tried to win obedience from the Gentiles to Christ by the following:
The power of the Holy Spirit.
I have not been able to win their obedience by the power of signs and the power of miracles. This means that I have been able to bring into the kingdom only those who could be won by word, deed and the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of a deficient ministry, all those whose obedience would have been won by the power of signs and wonders have been allowed to perish. This is terrible!
The need to press on and pay a great price in order to have God’s best is further brought out by what transpired between Elijah and Elisha. On the last day of their lives together, Elisha clung to Elijah. He refused to be dissuaded from going with the famous prophet. Finally, Elijah said to him, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said,
“I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9)
What if his servant had asked for half of the portion of the spirit that rested upon him. He did not ask for a half. Had he asked for the same portion of the spirit that rested on the famous prophet, one would have considered him audacious. He did not do that. He instead asked for a double portion of the spirit that rested on the great prophet. He was saying, “I want to be twice as serviceable to God and to man as you have been.” Elijah replied,
“You have asked a hard thing; yet if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if you do not see me, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10).
Elijah did not say, “Well, so you need this double portion of the spirit that dwells upon me for your ministry? Now, here it is. You can have it.” He instead gave him a specific condition under which his request could be granted. In a sense, he had to pay a price, the price of a fixed gaze on Elijah until he was caught up. He had to let go of every other thing and concentrate on this one thing. The Bible says,
“And as they still went on and talked, behold a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And ELISHA SAW IT AND CRIED, My father my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen !” And he saw him no more” (2 Kings 2:11-12).
Elijah and Elisha talked as they went on, but the talking was of secondary importance to Elisha. Whether or not he had a double portion of the spirit that rested on Elijah did not depend on his hearing Elijah. It depended on his seeing him go. So, he focussed his attention on seeing him go and then the blessed moment came and he saw him go! How tragic it would have been had he removed his eyes from him for a careless second and that second was the take-off time! He would have missed everything. He was alert and he saw. Because he saw, a double portion of the spirit that rested on Elijah fell upon him. It was not just feelings, for there have been no feelings except the feeling of loss at the departure of his father. There weren’t many words, for this was unnecessary. There was the fulfillment of the prophet’s word. He had said that if Elisha saw him as he was being taken up, then, a double portion of the Spirit that rested on him would rest upon Elisha, and it proved to be so in reality. Below are the miracles of the two prophets.
MIRACLES OF ELIJAH
He closed the heavens so that there was no rain nor dew. (1 Kings 17:1).
He caused the jar of meal and the cruse of oil of the widow of Zarephath not to fail for three and a half years. (1 Kings 17:8-16).
He brought back to life the son of the widow at Zarephath. (1 Kings 17:17-24).
He called fire from heaven to consume his offering to the Lord. (1 Kings 18:20-40).
He prayed for rain after three and a half years and there was rain immediately. (1 Kings 18:41-46).
He called fire from heaven to consume the messengers of King Ahaziah. (2 Kings 1:3-16).
He divided the Jordan. (2 Kings 2:8).
MIRACLES OF ELISHA
He divided the Jordan. (2 Kings 2:14).
He healed the waters of Jericho and rendered them whole. (2 Kings 2:19-22).
He cursed children and they were torn to pieces by bears. (2 Kings 2:23-25).
He caused water to flow for the king of Israel (2 Kings 3:13-20).
He increased the widow’s oil (2 Kings 4:1-7).
He predicted the birth of a son by the barren Shunammite (2 Kings 4:8-17).
He raised the dead son of the Shunammite (2 Kings 4:18-30).
He rendered the poisonous pottage harmless (2 Kings 4:38-41).
He miraculously fed 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44).
He healed Naaman the leper of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14).
He put leprosy on Gehazi forever. (2 Kings 5:19-27).
He caused the lost axe to float and thereby be found (2 Kings 6:1-7).
He stroke the Syrians blind and later on opened their eyes. (2 Kings 6:8-23).
His bones caused a dead man to come back to life (2 Kings 13:20-21).
Elijah performed seven miracles and Elisha performed fourteen. He had asked for a double portion of the spirit that rested on Elijah and he had received it and proved, by deed, that indeed it was so.
So a price has to be paid in order to have the gifts of God operative in the life of the believers. Those who pay all the price will manifest the full measure of gifts that God has apportioned to them. This is one of the greatest needs of the hour.