Aug 10 - Time For Myself And Others

Time For Myself And Others

August 10, 2014

1 Corinthians 14:1-26

1 Corinthians 14:1-26
August 10th, 2014

1 Seek after spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy (rather than tongues).  2 For the one who speaks in tongues is speaking to God, not to people, because no one can understand him as he voices mysterious things in the Spirit.  3 But whoever speaks prophetically, speaks to people because he builds them up, encourages, and comforts them.  4 Whoever speaks in tongues builds up himself, but whoever speaks prophetically builds up the church.  5 I wish you could all speak in tongues, but I wish far more that you could prophesy.  The prophet is above the one who speaks in tongues, unless the latter interprets as well, so that the church is built up.  
6 How is it of any benefit to you if I come to you and speak in tongues, but do not bring you some revelation, knowledge, prophecy, or teaching?  7 If lifeless musical instruments, a flute or harp, do not produce clearly differentiated sounds, how can one discern what (melody) is being played?  8 Or if a bugle sounds an unclear tune, who will get ready for battle?  9 The same is true of you if you speak in tongues but do not produce one intelligible word.  Who can understand what is being said?  You are simply speaking into the air.
10 Who knows how many languages there are in the world, and everyone speaks one.  11 If I do not know the meaning of what is spoken then I am a foreigner to the one who speaks, as he is to me.  12 And so it is with you (when you speak in tongues only).  Since you greatly desire spiritual gifts, strive to use them in order to build up the church.  13 Therefore, the one who speaks in tongues should pray that he can also interpret what he is saying.  14 For if I only speak in tongues, then I will pray with my spirit but my mind remains unfruitful.  15 So what should I do?  I will not only pray in the spirit, but also with my mind.  I will not only sing (to God) with my spirit, but also with my mind.  
16 If you give thanks only with your spirit, how will it be possible for someone who is visiting with you to say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not understand what you are saying?  17 No matter how good your thanksgiving may be, the other person is not being built up by it.  18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any one of you.  19 Nevertheless, in the church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others than 10,000 words in tongues.  20 Brothers, do not remain as children in your thinking.  Be infants with when it comes to evil, but grown adults when it comes to your thinking.  
21 The law states, “’Through people who speak other languages and with foreign lips, I will speak to this nation; yet even then they will not listen to me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 28:11-12).  22 So is speaking in tongues really a sign for unbelievers and not for believers, and prophecy really a sign for believers but not for unbelievers?  23 When the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and the uninstructed or unbelievers come to visit, will they not say that you are crazy?  24 But if everyone prophesies, and an uninstructed person or an unbeliever visits, then his conscience will be convicted, he will be called to account by all, 25 and everything that is hidden in his heart will be exposed.  And so he will fall on his face, worship God, and declare, “Truly, God is among you.”  26 So what should happen, brothers?  Whenever you come together (each one of you contributes): one has a song, another instructs, another brings a message; one speaks in a tongue, another gives its interpretation.  Whatever is done (publicly) must build up the church.

The main point that Paul is getting at in this portion of his letter, is that when the believers in Corinth meet together, they should use spiritual gifts that are helpful and beneficial for those who attend.

To speak or sing in tongues – something that seemed to have gotten out of control in the church in Corinth - is of NO benefit to other believers, unbelievers, or visitors to the church because no one can understand what is being said or sung unless the person who speaks also interprets what he or she is saying.  In fact, speaking in tongues in a public setting can be detrimental.  It has the potential of turning off those who are seeking for spiritual truth and the potential of causing division in the church.  Our passage strongly indicates that the gift of interpretation was relatively rare or was not used at all in Corinth.

Now Paul thought highly of the gift of tongues when used in private.  He speaks in tongues more than anyone in the church at Corinth (v.18), he prays and sings in the Spirit (v.15), yet he will limit himself in his public ministry to giving a word of revelation, knowledge, prophecy or teaching (v.6) because these are intelligible, understandable, and therefore spoken for the benefit of his hearers (cf. v.19 probably indicates Paul refused to speak in tongues in the assembly), his primary concern.  To do otherwise is to simply speak to the air (v.9).  

And Paul wishes his readers to do the same – all of them speak in tongues, but to do so primarily in private.

The point of everything in corporate worship is not personal experience in the Spirit, but mutual edification, the building up of each other, doing what brings us closer to God and each other.

And even if tongues are interpreted, they should not be spoken to any extent.  If you have your Bibles, look down the passage to v.27 – two or at most three – one after the other.   Paul writes that he would rather speak a few understandable words in public rather than speak on and on in tongues.   

So what does that mean for the church today?  I think that speaking in tongues has become a point of division.  Some churches still insist that the gift of tongues is THE indicator that someone has been filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit, and that speaking or singing in tongues needs to be practiced in every church service, regardless of whether or not there is an interpretation. 

Other churches insist that speaking in tongues is a gift that is no longer functional.  People are forbidden to speak in tongues, even in private.

The leadership at FCC does not believe in the cessation of tongues.  In fact, if you have the gift of tongues we consider it to be a wonderful blessing – for you personally.  However, we do not practice speaking in tongues as part of our church services, in large part because what Paul wrote in our passage.  For one, we don’t know if there will be an interpretation.  Second, because others, including newcomers and visitors and non-believers, just hear what appears to be gibberish, it doesn’t really benefit them. 

And third, tongues can be divisive, just as they were in Corinth.  

But that principle of building oneself up, edifying oneself, does not have to be limited to speaking in tongues.  Sometimes we feel guilty about doing something nice for ourselves or taking care of ourselves.

One of the pictures I like is 

1. There is nothing wrong with using my God-given gifts to fill my own emotional, mental and spiritual tank 

4 Whoever speaks in tongues builds up himself … 5 I wish you could all speak in tongues … 15 … I will pray in the spirit … I will sing in the spirit to God …18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than any one of you…. 

This may seem a rather surprising point, given how Paul deals with the abuse of the gift of tongues when believers meet together.  However he never writes that the believers in Corinth weren’t to speak in tongues.  The exact opposite is true.  We read just a few verses after our passage:  

39 … and do not forbid anyone to speak in tongues (in private or with an interpretation).   

We sometimes have a rather one-sided view of what the Christian life is to be: only self-less, giving, sacrificing, interceding for others, never doing anything for ourselves.  

But here Paul is advocating doing something for ourselves in order to experience God in a greater way.  

The question that came to my mind is whether or not this principle can be taken beyond the issue of speaking in tongues.  And I think it can.  

What always comes to mind, when I think of what I can do to look after my spiritual and emotional health, of maturing spiritually and emotionally, is the concept of filling my spiritual and emotional tank.

SLIDE – my spiritual, emotional, physical tank

a.    How do I know that my emotional, spiritual, mental or physical tank is empty?

Here are just some hints:
    We may feel overwhelmed
    We may feel inadequate
    We may be more short-tempered
    We may avoid other people – isolating ourselves
    We may be more crabby
    We may lack energy, be fatigued, always tired
    We may eat or drink more sugary, caffeinated substances
    We may have a low tolerance to stress or stressful situations
    We may be more inattentive
    We may lack motivation to do anything but veg out
Basically, if you start behaving in ways that aren’t typical for you, then it’s time to check how full your tank

b.    How do I fill my spiritual, emotional, mental or physical tank?

So many people were coming and going that Jesus said to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”                                Mark 6:31

The son of man has come.  He eats and drinks.  Because of this they said, “This glutton and drunk, this friend of tax collectors and sinners!”                            Matthew 11:19

Jesus liked to enjoy hanging around with friends or with those he was trying to turn back to God.  He drank wine, but not to get drunk.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
                                Mark 1:35

We can start with some spiritual disciples as Jesus did:

Pray.  Speaking with God at the beginning of my day, at the end, when I eat, when I drive or walk or sit. 
Read a passage in the Bible I find uplifting and applicable
Consistently look at what is good and right in my life and thanking God for it.  

On the other hand, there are such issues such as getting enough rest, relaxation.
Or doing what lifts my spirits, what I love to do, and what makes me happy:

Whistling a tune or singing a song can lift my spirit.  
Having some routine may help fill my tank.  I remember when I was able to eat lunch nearly every day with Kathy.  It was energizing for both of us.
Watching our diets, for example, eating fewer carbohydrates, may help fill our emotional tanks.
Even doing the chores or jobs that we’ve been putting off will help.  Did you know that procrastination drains us because dreading the hated tasks is actually more draining than actually doing it?
Going for a walk or exercising are all helpful.
Reading a book or watching a show might relax us.
A long hot bath.
Taking deep, long breaths.
Spending time with a loved one.
Hang out with those who energize and encourage us.
Having a few hours for ourselves.
Playing a game might do the same, unless it upsets us.
Being in nature, walking the dogs, looking at a beautiful view.
Painting, photography
Laughter. Studies have shown that laughing relaxes the whole body for up to 45 minutes, boosts the immune system and releases endorphins. All of this helps to fill your emotional tank: you can’t feel anxious, upset or angry when you’re laughing. Find ways to fit laughter into your days and filling your emotional tank will be as easy as having a silly conversation with a child or reading a cartoon.
Spending time with friends (Jesus may have drank wine, but he was not someone who drank to get drunk; in any case, he enjoyed being with other people, even as he spoke to them about God).
Even 5 minutes in the shower can make a difference to our emotional tank if I see it as recharge time rather than a chore
Looking out the window
Getting up and stretching at work
Learning to take breaks instead of pushing our limits

As we fill our tank, we will feel happier, and will be much more able to deal with the difficulties and frustrations we will face.

Just as importantly, what may be very important when it comes to keeping our tank filled, is to limit the things that drain it.  

C. How do I keep my spiritual, emotional, physical tank from draining?

You may need to pay closer attention to yourself: what situations drain you emotionally, spiritually?  We need to try to eliminate or lessen the frequency of the events that drain us.  The busier our schedule is, the more depleted we may get, the more we need to practice this. 

Once we identify a person or situation that is emotionally or spiritually exhausting, we may need to learn to set boundaries, to say “no” or “not now.”  - and be OK with saying “no.”  We have to set boundaries.
We may even have to limit our exposure to people who we find very draining.    
We may have to re-evaluating our job, possibly even finding another one.
We may have to limit the amount of activities we or our children are involved in. 
We shouldn’t make commitments that we really don’t want to make because we know it will take up the little time we have for ourselves.

If we don’t fill our tank and try to plug a couple of holes, we will not be spiritually and emotionally strong.  And if this is the case, we won’t have the resources to help someone who is need or needy.  Caring for ourselves enables us to care for others.
And if we should give the very last we have, the very little we have, what are we left with?

Just a couple of things to keep in mind.  We cannot download the responsibility to fill our emotional tank on others.  We cannot say that it’s my pastor’s responsibility, my spouses’ responsibility, my parent’s responsibility, God’s responsibility, my children’s responsibility … to notice when our tank is low and to fill it, to make sure that we are spiritually and emotionally healthy.  

I also believe that if I am in need or needy, I might need someone to speak to, to hear me out, to carry my burden with me.  And that is a very good, very positive thing.  But I do not want to be an emotional black hole, so needy, so hurt, so burnt out, that I drain others dry, that I will just take and take without giving anything in return.

We also need to realize that some things to fill our tanks may need to come before others.  For example, if we are stressed out and exhausted, we will have a hard time reading our Bibles, or even praying.  

Or we may first have to recuperate and re-charge before we can figure out what went sideways in our lives, looking back over the events that brought us to the place we were at and what we can do differently in the future to avoid this place.

Two dangers:

a.    Prosperity gospel

Blab it, grab it; name it, claim it; - which completely contradicts Jesus’ world view – in this world you will suffer.  Blessed are you if you mourn, are persecuted, weep, are poor …

b.    Self-absorbed life

Looking after myself is not a bad thing, but it has to have boundaries, which many today are not finding.  

This is why the self-focused “me-generation” of the baby boomers produced Generation X, who were followed by the Generation Y, also called the millennials or “generation me, me, me”.  Time magazine calls them the most narcissistic, overconfident, entitled and lazy generation, but also the most successful when it comes to material things.  

Are you restoring and protecting your spiritual and emotional well-being?  If you aren’t, your emotional tank will run dry and you may get stuck on empty.

2. It is even better when I use my God-given gifts to fill another’s emotional, mental and spiritual tank

3 But whoever speaks prophetically, speaks to people because he builds them up, encourages, and comforts them. 4 … whoever speaks prophetically builds up the church. …12 ...  Since you greatly desire spiritual gifts, strive to use them in order to build up the church. … 26 … Whatever is done (publicly) must build up the church.

Perhaps one of the most important concepts for us to grasp, is that we need others and they need us in order to really fill our spiritual and emotional tanks.  I may be able to do all kind of things to fill my personal tank, but ultimately I also need input from others.

This is why Paul wrote that a loving or compassionate attitude is the most important aspect when it comes to dealing with others.  Studies have shown that children who do not receive enough loving input from their parents misbehave, in part, to receive more attention, even if negative.  

So how can I use my spiritual gifts to help others?  

So Paul sings the praises of prophecy.  Prophecy is always relaying a message from God to others.  It could come as advice, a sermon, through counseling, or an uplifting word.  In fact, whenever we impart some spiritual truth we are “prophesying” in this broader sense.  Unfortunately, prophecy can be extremely objective, even uninformed and wrong, based upon ignorance.  

That reminds me of a story about a pastor who like to procrastinate with his sermon preparations and who prided himself for being able to speak “off the cuff.”  He kept telling himself, “The Holy Spirit will give me my message.”  All week long he avoided preparing for his sermon, always with the words, “The Holy Spirit will give me my message.”  Finally, on Sunday, he stood before the church aloud, “All right Lord, give me a message!”  And indeed, to everyone’s utter amazement, a majestic heavenly voice filled the sanctuary:  “Tell the people … you didn’t study.”  

But encouraging and building up can take many other forms.  

As someone who is helping another or teaching another, we may think that our primary job is to point out their mistakes and short-comings.  But that isn’t always true.  When a person is constantly criticized and we come correcting them, we simply immobilize them as we reinforce the poor view they have of themselves.

In fact, we may be simply pocking a hole in their tank – just think how you feel and how you react when someone corrects you.  That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be corrected or that they shouldn’t know the consequences of their choices when it comes to their standing before God.  

Filling the tank happens when I praise someone for being right and helpful.  It is telling them that they matter and that they can in fact capable of doing the right thing.
However, I think we need to make sure we are both specific and truthful with our praise.  I am not a proponent of praising someone who is misbehaving or slacking off.  Why make statements like, “you’re so talented,” unless they have actually used their talent to do something good?

Most people can see through empty praise in seconds.  And when they do, we will lose our credibility and confuse people into thinking that their inappropriate behaviour is acceptable.  

We fill someone else’s tank when we express our appreciation.  When we say thanks.  In a church setting it is impossible for me to imagine a situation in which the church suffers because too much appreciation is expressed.
We fill someone else’s tank when we give them positive recognition.  Nothing fills a tank like being noticed.  People respond to those who notice the goods things they do.  It shows that someone is paying attention to them.  Giving recognition for positive contributions is even more powerful for unsung activities.  Attention is almost always given to the believers who are upfront and center.  When we take time to notice the more subtle contributions, then the positive impact of the recognition is even greater for being unexpected.
Listening to someone else fills their tank.  Listening may seem like a passive, inconsequential activity, but it is one of the greatest gifts we can give to another person.  

Some people simply have not learned the art of conversation.  They think that listening is only the part in the conversation where one takes a breath in order to interrupt to get on with carrying the conversation themselves.  

But an actual dialogue is a lot like playing catch.  You can’t just hold on to the ball or keep tossing it into the air and catching it.  The other person is simply standing there and the next opportunity to play catch with you, they will decline.  

When I play catch the whole point is to toss the ball back to the other person.  In conversations this back and forth also has to happen.  And it’s easy to toss the conversation ball – just ask a question – and then really hear them out without interrupting.  

Nonverbal tank fillers can be a smile, a nod, a pat on the back, a high five, or a thumbs up.  Simply being positive and smiling 

It lets a person know they are being recognized in a positive manner.