The Down Payment
I think everybody yearns for significance, don't you? They yearn for their day-to-day life to have meaning. A couple of years back I wrote a whimsical prose-poem about this. It was called Providence: A Story (and a Question). Some people responded to it by saying, "Yeah, that's exactly how I feel sometimes." Others, by saying, "Huh?" But the point is, we don't live random lives, caught up in a meaningless whirl of activity that has no permanent significance. When we pray that God would use us for his Kingdom purposes (and I hope that's what you're praying), we are saying we want to be part of a bigger picture than that which the eye alone can see, and that God would be glorified through us.
As I said yesterday, we want to see ourselves as part of a larger story. And it's the message of the Gospel that, in fact, we are. God is working his plan, even through us, his children. It's a scary thought sometimes, for we know we're not "qualified." Still, we pray, we yearn, we cry out. And the Spirit, in the providence of God, equips, encourages, guides, etc. This is not something we are simply to take on faith, but to experience. God wants us to be actors in this great play of his, and he's even assigned us our roles.
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Cor 12:8-11And what's the result? Not that we are noticed and praised for our gifts, but that God, the gift-giver, is praised. People feel they have stepped into the big picture, they have gained an eternal perspective, they have seen great things, and all to the praise of God's glorious grace.
In my opinion, it is the burden of any great poem, story, song, painting, or film to give just this perspective. Naysayers will say it's just a comforting illusion. Believers, the power of God. Evidence on our behalf is the Holy Spirit, proving to us that this hope we profess is no children's tale, this "eternal perspective" no wishful dream.
There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere lately about cessationism vs. "charismatism." For what it's worth, I stand with the latter. God did not pour out the Spirit temporarily. The downpayement spoken of by Paul is not given only to one generation, only to be withheld (or severely restricted) from all others. As Gordon Fee has said, we do not worship a Trinity made up of the Father, the Son, and the Bible.