Romans 12:8 – …the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Romans 12:13 – Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
1 Corinthians 12:10 – …to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
There are many gifts that are considered serving gifts such as mercy, hospitality, discernment, helps/service, administration, giving, and faith. Over the next couple of days, we will look at these in more detail. Today, we will look at mercy, hospitality, and discernment and, tomorrow, will look at the remainder.
Place in Scripture: Romans 12:8
Defined: The gift of mercy is the capacity to feel and express unusual compassion, empathy, and sympathy for those in difficult or crisis situations and provide them with the necessary help and support to see them through tough times. People with the gift of mercy and people who are hurting, struggling, broken and overwhelmed find one another so that loneliness can be reduced, a hurt can be healed, and a person at the end of their rope gets a knot to hang on to.
Warning: People with the gift of mercy need to be careful that they do not rush to conclusions by only hearing one side of the story from a hurting person. To accurately assess a pain or problem, both sides must be heard, otherwise the gift of mercy can result in taking up an offense for someone, which only makes matters worse. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Additionally, those with the gift of mercy tend to be less judgmental than others, but they can overlook the ways that a hurting person may be reaping what they have sowed through bad choices in life. To truly be merciful to someone, we need to have compassion for their hardship they are enduring to help them heal up in the present, and also help them see how wiser life choices in the future could greatly help them move forward and avoid repeating the pain in the future.
General makeup: The ability to “walk in another’s shoes” and to feel the pain and burdens they carry. They desire to make a difference in the lives of hurting people without being judgmental. People with this gift understand the ministry of presence – that some painful things are hard to explain or fix, but it is a great blessing to have someone sit with you so that you are not alone but comforted.
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Jesus taught on mercy (Matt. 5:7; 9:13; 23:23). He is repeatedly described as having compassion which is the most frequent emotion mentioned of Jesus in the Bible (Matt. 9:36; 15:32; 23:37; Luke 7:13) and was so filled with mercy that He sometimes wept (John 11:35). Jesus’ mercy included an attentiveness to and concern for women including the rejected Samaritan woman (John 4:7-26), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:10-11), a widow (Luke 7:12-13), a woman with a bleeding disorder (Luke 8:48 cf. Matthew 9:22; Mark 5:34), and a woman bent over for eighteen years (Luke 13:12). In the ancient world, single men who were religious leaders did not have much interest in children, but children came to Jesus because He loved them (Matt. 19:14). Jesus’ ministry to individual children include Him traveling to the bedside of Jairus’ daughter to lovingly heal her, the favorite Bible story of one of our daughters when she was little (Luke 8:40-56).
Illustrated biblically: Dorcas “was always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). Also, the good Samaritan is one of the most classic stories ever told on the subject of mercy (Luke 10:30–37).
Illustrated historically: Amy Carmichael was a missionary of the Dohnavur Fellowship with a compassionate heart for those in need. In India, she witnessed many “child widows”, young girls who grew up to be temple prostitutes. In the 20th century, Amy fought this practice by rescuing many girls out of this situation and into the Christian community. She elevated the status of women, showing them that Jesus loved and had compassion for them as the God of all mercy.
Do you have this gift?
- Do you find yourself being drawn to people who are needy, hurting, sick, overwhelmed, disabled, or elderly?
- Do you often think of ways to minister to those who are suffering and see people who are hurting but often overlooked?
- Do you sense a great deal of compassion for people having personal, spiritual, relational, and emotional problems?
- Do a lot of people choose you as their wise counsel or confidant to talk about issues in their life with you?
- Are you more of a “feeler” than other people you know who are more of a “thinker”?
- Do you find that when you visit those who are suffering it brings you joy to share with them rather than it depressing you?
- Do you find yourself responding to people more out of compassion for what they are going through rather than judgment for the choices they made that contributed to their troubles?
- Do you tend to see Jesus more as a priest who intercedes for people in love with patient compassion?
- If you had to define yourself as more tough like Jesus the Lion or tender like Jesus the Lamb, would you pick the tender lamb?
Place in Scripture: Romans 12:13
Defined: Hospitality is the ability to welcome strangers and entertain guests, often in your home, with great joy and kindness so that they become friends. Hospitality is supposed to include one’s family (1 Tim. 5:8), friends (Prov. 27:10), Christians (Gal. 6:10), and strangers who may not be Christians (Lev. 19:34).
General makeup: These people tend to have an “open home” where others are welcome to visit. This gift is often combined with abilities like interior design, cooking, and event planning. People with this gift like to find new people, introduce people to each other, host events, throw parties, and create memorable occasions where people can make relationships and memories, which is a way of practicing for the Kingdom.
Warning: Importantly, hospitality is NOT to be extended to evil people or false teachers who Satan sends to harm your family and/or church family (2 John 10–11). When sheep welcome wolves into the pen, the result is not ministry but misery. For this reason, hospitality also requires discernment.
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Jesus spent time befriending social outcasts (Matt. 11:19), often ate with His disciples, and has welcomed us into the family of God, which includes an eternal home (John 14:2) and an eternal party (Isa. 25:6–9; Rev. 19:6–9). Jesus was very close with two sisters and one brother named Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He often stayed with them, ate at their home, and their hospitality to Him resulted in a close relationship with them (Luke 10:38-41; John 12:1-2).
Illustrated biblically: Church leaders are to exercise hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). Peter enjoyed the hospitality of Simon (Acts 9:43) and Cornelius (Acts 10:48). Paul enjoyed the hospitality of Lydia (Acts 16:15) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34). Much like many current churches that have large meetings in public spaces, and small groups in private homes, the early church met in larger areas like the local synagogues and central “temple” as well as, breaking bread in their homes…” (Acts 2:46 cf. Acts 5:42).
Illustrated historically: In the turbulent social chaos of the 1960’s and 70’s, God raised up a loving couple to address a lost and rebellious generation with the truth of Jesus Christ. Francis Shaeffer was a widely known apologist, theologian and evangelist. What is not as widely known, though, is the impact his wife had on his ministry. As their renowned pupil Os Guiness said, “Mrs. Schaeffer is the secret of Schaeffer.” Together, they built an international ministry in the Swiss Alps called L’Abri, which means shelter. With modest beginnings, their ministry grew quickly as lost university students, eastern mystics, rebellious church kids, hippies and adherents to other faiths from around the world came to visit L’Abri. Francis would teach, debate and give answers for the faith. Edith illustrated it with a life of hospitable service. Over a hundred students would live with them at a time. Edith provided clean bedding, home cooked meals, fresh flowers, neat decor, paintings, sculptures, sketchings, music, endless hot cookies and table settings she considered art. She even published a book titled “The Hidden Art of Homemaking” to teach others about hospitality.
Do you have this gift?
- Do you enjoy having people in your home?
- Do you enjoy watching people meet and have fun at parties and events you helped to plan and host?
- Is your home the kind that most people feel comfortable in and can drop by to visit unannounced?
- Do you feel that something is really missing in your life when you cannot have guests into your home, host events, throw parties, plan vacations, and have fun on the calendar?
- When you think of your home, do you view it from the perspective of guests who will visit so that they feel most welcome and relaxed?
- Do you consider your home as a place of ministry for others and not just a retreat for you?
- Do you tend to enjoy going all out for birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations?
- When there is a room full of people having a good time, do you find your joy in seeing their joy?
Place in Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:10
Defined: The spiritual gift of discernment is the ability to quickly perceive whether such things as people, events, or beliefs are from God or Satan.
General makeup: People with the gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit know that Satan and his demons disguise themselves as holy (1 Corinthians 11:14–15). They also know that Satan empowers counterfeit miracles (Exodus 7:11–22; 8:7; Matthew 7:21–23; 2 Timothy 3:8) to deceive people (2 Thessalonians 2:9), and that he empowers false teachers (2 Peter 2:1), false prophets (Matthew 7:15), false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13), and false doctrines (1 Timothy 1:3; 6:3). People with this gift can distinguish more easily and accurately the difference between what God creates and Satan counterfeits.
Warning: Those with the gift of discernment are more prone to be the first to see a problem with a person, teaching, or ministry. If not careful, they can become negative, jaded, distrusting and critical of others in a way that is unholy and unhelpful. People with the gift of discernment need to operate in faith, hope, and love while seeking to help make things better rather than just pointing out what was wrong.
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Isaiah 11:2 promised that “…the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him [Jesus], the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” John 2:24-25 [NLT] says, “Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.” Jesus was able to know the presence of Satan (Matthew 4:1–11), see when someone was influenced by Satan (Luke 22:31), and know when someone’s words were influenced by Satan (Matthew 16:23).
Illustrated biblically: John (1 John 4:1), Paul (Acts 16:16–18), Peter (Acts 5:1–11), and the disciples (Matthew 10:1) all demonstrated the gift of discernment. In Philippians 1:9-10, Paul said, “it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”, which is the purpose of discernment.
Illustrated historically: At the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther had a clear belief in the cosmic battle between God and angels and Satan and demons, including speaking against the demonic in the hymn he penned “A Mighty Fortress is our God”. A noted historian on Luther wrote an entire book on Luther’s experience with and teaching about the devil and his experience with the demonic titled Luther: Man between God and the Devil. In his magazine Table Talk, Luther wrote of the devil more times than the Bible, gospel, grace, and prayer. Luther also speaks of multiple visits from the devil including appearing in his room at the Castle of Wartburg, Germany, as Luther sat down to translate the Bible. Startled, Luther grabbed his inkwell and threw it at the devil. Luther’s discernment brought him to question and correct some erroneous teaching in the Catholic church such as indulgences, purgatory, praying to dead saints, and justification by faith alone without the contribution of any religious works, which he called the issue on which the church stands or falls.
Do you have this gift?
- Have you felt a special responsibility to protect the truth of God’s Word by exposing that which is wrong?
- Do you often make a swift evaluation of someone or something that was said that others did not see, but yet proved to be correct?
- Do you have a solid understanding of Scripture and a sensitivity to the leading of God the Holy Spirit?
- Are you keenly aware of moral sin and doctrinal heresy?
- Can you read a book or hear a teacher and almost immediately uncover any false teaching?
- Do you have an awareness of demonic presence and how to help people be free of demonic oppression?
- Do you have a gut feeling about people or things that proves to be right most of the time?
- Do people who are confused about a doctrine, leader, or teacher often ask you what your evaluation is to help them get clarity amidst confusion?
Do you see in yourself or has anyone ever told you that you have the gift of mercy, hospitality, or discernment? If not, it’s ok, we’ll continue to learn about more spiritual gifts over the next few days.
To find the 100+ page study guide and sermon series that accompanies this devotional series, or to find a free mountain of Bible teaching, visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.