Last night I was back up north, speaking at the Christian Union in the University of Ulster in Coleraine. (Is it really that long since I attended CU as a student?
They’d asked me to speak on the theme of what I can do for God: the aim was to take a look at the way God equips us through spiritual gifts.
I spoke from 1 Corinthians 12 on the identity, variety and unity of the gifts that God gives. Some of the gifts he gives are spectacular and some seem more ordinary. The body analogy is given to make sure that we neither descend into an inferiority complex (‘I don’t belong, there is nothing for me to do’) nor raise ourselves up into a superiority complex (‘you don’t belong here because you are not as significant as me’).
I used the following remarkable story from Charles Spurgeon: although some people might want to classify it as a “word of knowledge” (about which the New Testament says very little) it seems to be an example of the effect of prophecy as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 14:24, where he talks about an unbeliever who is convicted as the secrets of his heart are laid bare in the church meeting.
“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, ‘There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence!’ A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, ‘Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the man, ‘I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul’”
(The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon [London: Curts & Jennings, 1899], 2:226-27).