Saturday, May 2, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 66: Distinguishing of spirits

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.  1 Corinthians 12:7- 10 NASB 

Our current series started as a study on the Model Prayer as given in Luke 11. The chapter continued with lessons on prayer and, in Luke 11:13, Jesus promised that our heavenly Father would give the Holy Spirit to us if we ask for Him. To understand what receiving the Holy Spirit involves, we have taken a detour through the passage in 1 Corinthians 12. Today, we come to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit whereby the recipient has the ability of distinguishing of spirits. 

Matthew Henry describes this as the ability or power to "distinguish between true and false prophets, or to discern the real and internal qualifications of any person for an office, or to discover the inward workings of the mind by the Holy Ghost. (One example would be Peter/Ananias in Acts 5:3) MacArthur clarifies this further. "Christians with the gift of discernment have the God-given ability to recognize lying spirits and to identify deceptive and erroneous doctrine." 

Discernment is critical, for, without it, we are easy prey for any scheme of our enemy, Satan. This manifestation works for the common good in several ways.

1) To discern false doctrine: The "prosperity gospel" is certainly appealing but even a cursory examination of Scripture will reveal how unlike Christ that idea of God's blessing leading to great wealth is. That's an obvious example, but without discernment, people can easily be led astray by doctrine that has the appearance of truth but does not actually agree with Scripture.

2) To discern deceptive leaders: Some years ago, several friends who were members of a mega-church invited me to attend services with them. They had a very popular minister who was widely known, and they were eager for me to meet him. When he approached us, I felt uneasy. By the time I had met him, listened to his message, and sat through the service, I wanted to run out the back door as fast as possible. There was something about this man that made me so uneasy that I did not trust him. My strong reaction was so unlike that of my friends and the people in their church that I distrusted it. Several years later, I learned of his involvement in a terrible scandal that had been ongoing at the time I met him. I wept that I had not said something about my uneasiness earlier. It was a Spirit-given manifestation of discernment that allowed me to avoid being swept up in enthusiasm for this charismatic leader.

3) to pray effectively for each other: When, as believers, we are burdened and oppressed by the enemy, it is helpful to recognize the lying spirit doing the oppressing. For example, when someone is overwhelmed by worry, fear may actually be at the root of the problem. In that situation, 2 Timothy 1:7 is a helpful focus Scripture. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind." When we are overwhelmed by fear, we can know that is not from God and we can claim the promise that not only has He not given us fear, but He does give us power, love, and a sound mind. In addition, discernment allows us to pray effectively, whether for ourselves or for others.

4) to to effectively battle evil: (This is closely related to #3) Ephesians 6 is very clear. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." The purpose of the armor of God is to not only protect us from those forces but also allow us to do battle. Our only offensive weapon is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. When we have the discernment to recognize the enemy against which we are to battle, we can more effectively use Scripture as a weapon, whether that enemy is fear, anger, greed, lust, death, idolatry or some other spirit. I tend to think of these "spirits" in terms of the Ten Commandments: idolatry, rebellion, pride, murder/death, adultery/lust, stealing/coveting, and lying. In general, most sin falls into one of those big categories, and Scripture can be used to ward off our propensity to indulgence in those sins. Recognizing the spirit of the sin helps us to combat it. 

5) to restore our focus: Our battle is against the spiritual forces of wickedness, but our focus should not be on the spirits of the battle. Our focus should always be our Lord. When we recognize (discern) the deception of the evil one, that discernment should point us back to the Lord and away from the deception. Redirecting our focus, however, requires that we discern the misdirection. The Holy Spirit, then, manifests in such a way that our focus can be restored and we can be protected from heading in the wrong direction.

6) to protect us from ourselves: Humans have a tendency to listen to the loudest voice and follow the most persuasive leader. Christians are as susceptible as anyone (perhaps more so) and this should not be. I am often shocked by the way we embrace alarmist doctrine and causes without actually checking Scripture in an attempt to discern truth. Before we run off in every direction, we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit for God-given discernment so that we can recognize truth and discern falsehood.

One of the reasons I have sometimes made stupid decisions that have had costly consequences is that I have not always asked for discernment. Jesus was clear. If we ask for the Holy Spirit, He will give Him to us. My lack of discernment is no one's fault but my own.

The manifestation of the Spirit that allows "distinguishing of spirits" is critical if we hope to live effectively and victoriously as disciples. It is critical if we hope to pray for ourselves and others, and it is critical if we hope to effectively battle evil. The only way to be certain of our decisions is to have the aid of the Holy Spirit, and the only way to have that is to ask. Just ask.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 65: prophecy

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, 1 Corinthians 12:7- 10 NASB 

Before we begin this section, we need to clarify something. I've heard quite a few people say that we no longer have prophets, we no longer have prophecy, and that God has given all the prophecy He will ever give. If you read Scripture at all, you know that's not true. Our Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If He spoke through prophets in the past, (and He did) He still does today. The Word would not mention the manifestation of prophecy if it were not a manifestation. We do not serve a God who offers something then says, "Sorry, I was just kidding." He tells us the Spirit will manifest through prophecy because He will.

Surely the Lord G OD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel 
To His servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7 NASB)

God does not send judgment without warning His people. He tells one of His prophets. It is the prophet's job to tell the people what God has told them, and God will give the prophet a platform by which to deliver the message. When a prophet has a message, they must deliver it, despite the consequences of the delivery. 

The word translated as "prophecy" is prophēteiaVine's defines it as "a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden, especially by foretelling future events." 

The one who has the gift (or manifestation) of prophecy will, of necessity, be one who spends considerable time in prayer, listening more than talking, as well as time studying the Word of God. The one with the manifestation of prophecy will take note of the world around him (or her) and consider carefully how current events relate to Scripture. Not everyone who claims to be a prophet actually is, but that does not invalidate the prophetic truth of those who do speak for God. 

I spoke to a women's group at a church that emphasized prophecy several years ago. As a gift to me, the ladies had spent considerable time in prayer for me as I prepared to speak. They had also asked that God give them a "word" for me and, after I spoke, there was a time for them to share what God had put on their hearts. A couple of the ladies were so confident of what they had heard in prayer that they had written it down on a card to give to me. When I read what they had written, I was struck by the absolute truth of it. Their words spoke to a need in my heart that had not been shared with anyone but God. They didn't understand what they had written nor how it applied to my life, but I did.

Some months ago, I attended a conference. My roommates (previously strangers) and I prayed together in the evenings. The second night, they offered to pray for me instead of just with me, and to prophecy over me. I had no idea what to expect, because I didn't know the ladies well and they didn't know me. As the women prayed for me, they spoke whatever God placed in their hearts. One woman spoke about my gift for intercession with such precision that I knew it had come from God. Another woman spoke with such clarity about my life, my profession, and my future that it could only have come from God alone. What she said God was going to do was such confirmation for what I thought I was supposed to do, that it was incredible encouragement for me. Neither of these women knew enough about me to have made these things up. It could have only come from God.

Later, I had another experience of people I did not know praying for me. One woman, who had no idea whatsoever about my life and with whom I had never had a conversation, prayed for me. There had been a situation not long before in which I had done exactly what God had put in my heart. People I love and respect had criticized me for it and it had hurt. In obedience, I had carried on, but it was made harder by the disdain of others. When this particular woman rested her hand on my shoulder, a warmth spread through me. When she began to pray, I was utterly shocked. She spoke specifically about the very instance for which I was criticized. She said, "You obeyed and God was pleased. Do what you hear Him say." I cannot begin to tell you how comforting that was! 

James Dobson and David Wilkerson are people who have been considered modern-day prophets. They have looked at modern culture in light of Scripture and, over decades, predicted which direction our nation would go with accuracy, but they have not always been well-received. Prophets are not usually popular, because they often tell us what we do not want to hear.

Ministers often speak prophetically when they teach the word of God and explain how it relates to our lives. When they "cast a vision for the future", they may be sharing a kind of prophecy.

It is important that we are not blown about by every wind that blows, or led about by every person who claims to be a prophet. Scripture is clear about the possibility of false prophets and how important it is that we not be led astray. When someone speaks a "prophecy" to me, I always ask God for confirmation. I never want to be led exclusively by the words of someone else, nor do I make life-changing decisions on the basis of what someone who claims to be a prophet says. It is the Holy Spirit's job to guide me and speak to me. If He chooses to speak through a prophecy, He will confirm it in at least one other way.  

I had just begun to write full-time but was very uncertain about it. Over a period of two weeks, God confirmed that decision in no less than five different ways by people who, while praying for me or speaking with me, spoke about a "creative outpouring unlike anything you have previously experienced." In every instance, the person speaking had no knowledge of what the other person had said nor any intimate knowledge of me. The final instance was so dramatic and surprising that there was no denying it had come from God.

How does this happen? People who pray prophetically do not just pray their own words. They get still and quiet, then listen for the Still, Small Voice in their hearts. They pray whatever they hear, whether it makes sense to them or not. 

Can we experience the manifestation of the Spirit through prophecy? Yes. When we seek God's will in a particular situation and He gives direction about specific actions to take, that is "divine inspiration declaring the purposes of God". In a way, it is prophetic, but even more, it is a place to begin. If God never does anything without telling His prophets, (and His word says that is true) we can be sure He has told someone. If it concerns us, He will be sure that we get the message. After all, He is more concerned about our obedience and our understanding than we ourselves are. Do you want to know God's will? Just ask Him. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 64: Miracle

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, 1 Corinthians 12:7- 10 NASB 

There is a common misperception among people of faith that miracles no longer occur and also a tendency to discount supernatural events as nothing more than an overactive imagination. Perhaps we don't say it aloud, but our refusal to believe in the possibility of healing, miracles, and all the other manifestations of the Holy Spirit is nothing more than lack of faith. When we refuse to believe what Scripture clearly says is true, we are denying God and the truth of His Word. 

Did those words make you cringe? I understand. If I fail to see the miraculous in my life, it must be that the miraculous no longer happens, right? No. Of course not. My failure to recognize the Hand of God in no way limits His ability to act on my behalf. 

We serve a God who can do whatever needs to be done. He is omnipotent, which means He has unlimited power, and omniscient, which means He has unlimited knowledge. He knows everything and sees everything. God has not stopped being God simply because we are too busy to pay attention to what He is doing.

As if the facts that the sun still hangs in the sky and the earth still rotates on its axis were not miracle enough, our God is actively involved in our daily lives. He is still aware of our needs and acting on our behalf. Miracles still happen.

One miracle that comes to mind from years ago happened during a storm. Workmen were adding a front porch to our house. They had not anticipated rain and had left without securing the roof. When the storm started, rain began to pour into my house at the junction between the house and the addition. The rain was coming in at an incredible rate and there was no way to contain it. Visions of water damage danced in my head as Ryan and I desperately tried to catch the water in pitchers and basins, mopping what I missed with towels and praying nonstop. It was a mess and getting worse. 

A phrase keep repeating itself in my mind. "You will do greater works than I have done." I had no idea what that meant in this particular situation, but after a few minutes I realized that it was time for a great work of some kind. Ryan and I went downstairs, stepped out onto the front porch, raised our hands and began to pray. The image of Jesus lifting his hands and telling the storm, "Peace. Be still," came to mind, so that's what we did. We raised our hands toward heaven again and, in the name of Jesus, asked God to make the storm be still. "Peace. Be still," we said.

Then, a miracle happened. I can see it like it was yesterday. The storm continued to rage all around my house, but the rain stopped completely over my house. Not another drop of rain poured into my house. Not one drop. It was a miracle. There is nothing else you could possibly call it. 

When the miracle of the storm happened, it changed something in me because I suddenly understood that nothing is impossible with God. That understanding expanded my willingness to pray "big" prayers because I know there is nothing too big for God to handle. He can do anything He wants to do. The night of the storm, He chose to do a transforming work for a frightened woman and her young son and it changed our lives forever.

Space does not allow for the telling of every miracle I've seen God do, but that was not the only time I asked for a miracle and it was not the only time I've received one. 

Lest you think, "Oh, she has the gift of miracles and that's why she got a miracle," let me clarify. My spiritual gift is not that of miracles. That miracle of the storm had very little to do with me. I asked for a miracle, but it was God who delivered it. My asking was not to test God or see if He could do it. My asking was because nothing but a miracle would be enough, and God delivered us.

If I were reading this instead of writing it, I would be thinking, "How can I get a miracle, too?" I don't have an easy answer for that, but the story of King Hezekiah and Rabshakeh comes to mind. Hezekiah had done right in the eyes of the Lord, he had torn down the places of idol worship, had restored worship in the kingdom, and had led his people to greater faith in God. Assyria had already captured Samaria and Israel. Their threat of destruction against Judah was very real. 

When Assyria threatened to destroy them, Hezekiah didn't waste time worrying or making a plan. Hezekiah presented his problem to the Lord and asked God to deliver Him so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God. (2 Kings 19:19) Hezekiah wasn't asking for deliverance just to see a miracle. He was asking that God deliver His people in such a way that God alone would be glorified. When God moved, that's exactly what happened. He delivered Judah in such a way that only He could do it. He received the honor and the glory and all the people praised Him.

Seeing the miraculous intervention of God begins with a relationship of intimacy with Him, the faith to ask God to do what only He can do, and the humility to give Him all the credit. Do you need a miracle? Take your need to the only One who can do what needs to be done and wait with expectation. God is still in the miracle-working business. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 63: The Manifestation of Healing

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:7- 9 NASB 

*** As a physician myself, I feel compelled to insert this caveat. I am not recommending that we should abandon all medical treatment. I am not recommended that we should only pray and not seek medical care. Please do not use this post as an opportunity to stop taking medication that has been prescribed for your medical problems. Please do not use this post as an excuse to avoid seeking medical care.***

Today, we continue our study of the manifestations of the Spirit in the lives of believers by looking at the manifestation of healing. In our society, there is a tendency to think that all physicians have the "gift" of healing and that only physicians have the spiritual gift of healing, but this is not the case at all. One of the best surgeons I know readily admits that he has the gift of hospitality, not healing. (Healing is not my spiritual gift, either.) This manifestation of the Spirit in the form of healing is not the ability to learn a vast store of medical knowledge, understand the workings of the human body, recognize its disease state, and choose appropriate treatment, although God can and does work through this knowledge.

The manifestation of healing is also not a divine treatment that brings a measure of improvement or controls a physical problem with a medication. In this verse, the manifestation of the Spirit is "a healing", a divine resolution of the physical problem. When Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood, she received a divinely imparted healing, as did the lame, the blind, the deaf that He healed. That same risen Lord, working through the Holy Spirit, still heals.

Why, then, do we not see more healings? Let's read what James has written. 

Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:14-16 NASB)

In this passage, the Scripture is very clear. Is anyone sick?  Confess our sins, pray for one another. Call for the elders to pray over them. 

These verses give some very clear steps in the process of seeking a divine healing. First and foremost is the recognition of sin in our own lives, without which we cannot confess it, repent of it, or relinquish it. A request is to be made of the elders of the church and they are to pray over the sick person and anoint them with oil. Because Jesus said that some things only come out by prayer and fasting, the discipline of fasting should be a part of any search for healing.

More than a decade ago, a woman came to see me for a significant problem of her lower legs due to venous disease. She had first taken her physical need to the elders at her church. She had confessed, they had prayed and fasted, but she had not experienced the healing she expected. Instead, one of the  elders had recommended that she make an appointment with me. The elders committed to pray for us both, and they did. 
The problem was clear, treatment was instituted, and the problem resolved. She was fitted with compression stockings which she wore with excellent control of her problem and very rare exacerbation. In this case, her acute problem was healed, but not at all in the way she expected. It was still a divine intervention, and resulted in her underlying problem being controlled.

A ministry I deeply respect had an intense prayer time recently, (preceded by a time of fasting). They reported that a man who required a cane even to walk with difficulty was there and requested prayer. He was healed and able to walk with no difficulty afterwards. He experienced a divine intervention and dramatic healing.

Many years ago, I had an overwhelming problem with headaches. When medical treatment failed to improve the condition, I requested a "healing service". I agonized at length before asking for a healing service, mostly because of pride and fear. It seemed unprofessional and irresponsible to seek a divine healing, rather than a medical one, and I held back for months. Finally, I requested the healing service and I was healed. 

When I fractured my finger, shattering the bone, I prayed nonstop and went for an x-ray. I did not have a healing service before surgery (I still wish I had) but, when the post-op healing did not go as hoped, members of a local church (not my own) prayed for my hand. In the end, the problem was resolved.

I've written more words than I intended trying to make the manifestation of the Spirit through healing clear while balancing my profession of medicine. The take-away point here is that God still heals. When we are healed, it is always a divine intervention. In places where medical care is less readily available, divine healing is seen more often, probably because it is requested more often. Healing is no less available in this country than in the "third world" countries. Our lack of miraculous healing may simply be due to the failure to ask for it. 

Do we want healing? Scripture says it begins with humbling ourselves, confessing and repenting of our sins, and requesting the prayers of our elders, who are to not only pray but anoint us with oil and pray with expectation that God will move. The decision to request that healing is ours to make. When we are willing to confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) We can count on spiritual healing every time we humble ourselves and ask for healing. The decision to heal physically belongs to God alone, but it is more common than we think. 

Do you long to experience the manifestation of the Spirit through healing? Scripture is clear. The possibility of healing begins with one step. Just ask. 

Teach us to pray, part 62: Faith

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:7- 9 NASB 

For the last few days, we have been studying the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believer. As I've written, I've fretted that the information might not be something that we could use in our daily lives. This morning, I've seen it a little differently. When I understand the manifestations of the Spirit in the body of Christ, I can better understand the body of Christ and the ways that we serve each other. That understanding can also help me understand where I can best serve. 

For example, if the Spirit manifests (or works) in me with the word of wisdom, I will most effectively serve the body of Christ by living my faith in practical ways that others can see, as well as by teaching the truth of Scripture in simple language that all can understand using practical applications that all can follow. When (if) serving with the word of wisdom is what I will do best, I will be most content serving in that way, and most effective, no matter what my other abilities include. Understanding the way in which God intended me to serve for the common good, then, is important for the body of Christ but also for my own contentment in service.

Over the next few days, we should all be able to recognize our area of service. If the current area doesn't fit, it probably fits someone we know and can help us to encourage each other to greater service in our area of equipping.

With that said, let's look at another manifestation of the Spirit of God, faith. The word translated as faith is pistis, and is a word we've studied before. The woman with the issue of blood was healed because of her pistis, her faith, and the woman with the alabaster vial was saved because of her pistis, her faith. (You may want to read both of those posts, and you can follow the links to open in a new window.)

This pistis, or faith, is a rock-solid certainty that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the One through whom we receive salvation in the Kingdom of God. The one with this kind of faith lives their life on the understanding that "God said it, and that settles it." It is an unwavering conviction that God is not only able to do what He says He can do, but also willing to do what He says He can do. 

The one with faith can look at a situation, no matter how grim, consider ways in which God could work in mighty and miraculous ways, then pray with the boldness to ask for those miraculous ways and the faith to expect God to move. This kind of faith is given "for the common good", and the one with this faith will lead the body of Christ in greater leaps of faith. 

If the Spirit works through me by the gift of faith, when someone asks for "a little prayer", my response is likely to be, "Why ask for something little, when we can pray a big prayer?" When serving with the gift of faith, I will always expect a mighty move of God, always see the possibility of His miraculous intervention, and pray with the omnipotence of God in mind. This pistis is the kind of faith we all should have, in which we grasp, at least in part, that there is nothing our God cannot do, no power greater than He. At the same time, this faith understands that, despite that omnipotence, our God is still intimately involved in the details of our lives.

Some will be equipped to serve with exceptional faith, but all of us must follow with that same kind of pistis faith, knowing with certainty that our hope is in Christ alone, and that He makes all the difference.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Teach us to Pray, part 61: The Word of Knowledge

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit... 1 Corinthians 12:7,8 NASB

For the last few days, we have been studying the gift of the Holy Spirit and His manifestation in the lives of believers. In the previous post, we studied the word of wisdom, which is the ability to understand and skillfully interpret the Word and will of God both in your own life and in teaching to other believers.  

Today, we consider the "word of knowledge". The word translated as "knowledge" is gnōsis, and indicates intelligence and understanding. According to Thayer, this is the "deeper, more perfect and enlarged knowledge" of the Christian faith. This is a "revelatory" gift, much as Paul received the knowledge he conveyed in his epistles. 

MacArthur makes a distinction between the two gifts. "Knowledge majors on grasping the meaning of the truth; wisdom emphasizes the practical conviction and conduct that applies." Knowledge is an understanding with insight that comes only from the revelation of God. 

When I read that the word of knowledge indicates "intelligence and understanding", it is tempting to think that understanding God's word is only for the smartest, most educated believers, but that is not necessarily true. Both intelligence and understanding are gifts from God, but neither are dependent upon advanced degrees, seminary training, or excellent scores on standardized testing.

A hunger for truth that leads to life-long seeking, life-long learning is requisite for one who has the gift of the word of knowledge. That hunger leads not to a surface knowledge of information, but to a deep understanding of information and all it implies. Advanced degrees do not convey this kind of hunger for knowledge, although they may well be the result of one's search for knowledge and understanding. 

Is that clear at all? I hope so. As I see it, the ones with the manifestation of the word of wisdom understand Scripture and God's Word in a way that allows them to live it out in their daily lives and to communicate it to others. The ones with the manifestation of the word of knowledge hunger for a deeper understanding. They might study the Christian classics, the lives of the saints, Greek and Hebrew, all to gain deeper understanding of their faith and the Word of God. 

The manifestation of the word of knowledge allows a disciple of Christ to understand God's truth in a deeper, richer way because of their study, and it results in a life that is lived in even greater obedience to God's commands. At its best, the one with the word of knowledge is able to take that deep understanding and communicate in ways that others, even without the same hunger for truth, can comprehend and apply. 

Let us not overlook the fact that the manifestation of the word of knowledge (just as the other manifestations of the Holy Spirit) is not given so that the one receiving it can gain advanced degrees or an impressive title or position. The manifestation of the word of knowledge is given "for the common good." The point of all that knowledge is to help bring the body of Christ into a deeper, more vibrant walk with our Lord, and not to simply accumulate information. The one with the manifestation of word of knowledge, like the one with word of wisdom, must be actively involved in communicating the knowledge and wisdom to the body of Christ in a way that can be understood and incorporated into daily living.

Is this the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in your life? If so, it is given to you for the common good and requires that you be actively involved in working for the common good of the body of Christ. If this is not the way the Holy Spirit manifests in your life, take heart. We will consider all the manifestations over the next few days. The fact we must all remember is that the Holy Spirit manifests in every believer, including you and me, and we are all to be working for the common good of the body of Christ, helping each other along our journey as we strive to live the Christian life. 

As we continue this study, let us daily pray for understanding of God's word, for wisdom to apply it in our lives, and for faithfulness as we live the truth we know in ways that make Christ visible to those around us.