If you stop long enough to see the display of God's amazing power, it will not take you long to realize it is everywhere you look. The tiny ants crawling in and out of their intricately dug tunnels beneath the earth. The beauty of the sun glistening off the freshly fallen snow and quickly frozen tree limbs. The awe of a brightly painted evening sky at the setting of the sun. The tiny miracle of new life held closely in your arms. The radiant heat of the sun on a cold day. The soft melody of the chirping bird enjoying the feeder in the yard. There are "signs" or "displays" of his power everywhere. It does not stop in nature - it is within each of us, as well. Scripture declares, "Each person is given something to do that shows who God is..." We are each given some amazing way to express the power and greatness of our God - we sometimes just need to embrace this expression and go with it!
God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful: wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when. (I Corinthians 12:4-11 MSG)
The Holy Spirit is at work "putting on display" what God has given to us to reveal who he is to this world we live in. If you study the scriptures, you will find the Holy Spirit is spoken of as bringing into evidence nine "fruits" within our lives and making available to us the display of nine "gifts", as well. These differ, but all come from God in order to put on display within our lives the evidence of who God is. What better "canvas" for God to use than the lives of messed up, hurting, and broken people! In the work he does within our lives, he is seen and he is understood. Fruit is evidence of growth. Gifts are evidence of who has provided the growth. Each serves a purpose - to put God's power on display.
So, what are the nine gifts of the Spirit and how do they actually put God on display through our lives? If we were to examine these individually, we might just begin to see how they display his power. Today, I'd like to look at two of these gifts - the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom. Depending on the translation you are reading from, these might be called something like wise counsel (word of wisdom) and clear understanding (word of knowledge).
- Word of Knowledge: We begin by understanding God's knowledge as infinite (omniscient) and ours as limited by a set of very finite learning opportunities. We might understand gravity exists because we studied it and see it is a force which keeps us "grounded". Yet, we don't understand how it exists. God does, though, because he has infinite knowledge. Some things can be "known" because we have this limited knowledge. We might "know" two and two add up to four because we have taken two apples and added them to a bowl of two other apples and find we now have four. We might "trust" the term "pi" to equal 3.14159265, but the "why" behind what "pi" equals might not be as clear. We learned in school that it is a "constant" number which represents ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. I guess this is important if I want to go around measuring circles! In my life, I don't use "pi" very often, but I know what it means.
There is a difference between the knowledge we have because we learn something and the knowledge God gives which "outreaches" our knowledge base. We call this latter type of knowledge a "word of knowledge" or "clear understanding". It isn't your own mind figuring something out - it is the Spirit within you giving you the knowledge into a matter at hand. As far as when this gift might be manifest in our lives, it is usually when we need insight into a matter for which we really don't possess the ability to "know" the correct answer. Now, don't get the idea this gift is for the times when we haven't studied for a final exam and expect God to "gift" us with the answer! This gift is often given when we are facing a moment when we need insight - there is something not perceivable in "natural" knowledge, so we need the insight of God in order to fully perceive. We definitely need this gift in our lives since our own knowledge is so "finite" and God's is so supernaturally "infinite".
- Word of Wisdom: One person in scripture stands out as an example of using this gift to solve a very important matter - Solomon. Two women come to him one day, in a terrible squabble over who actually "owns" a little baby - one claims to be the mother, the other makes the same claim (I Kings 3). Now, if you have ever been in this type of circumstance, perhaps a time when your two children were each pointing fingers at the other and proclaiming neither of them "did it", you might have actually received a "word of wisdom" in helping you to get to the truth of the matter! The word of wisdom is often given when we need "supernatural" knowledge and the ability to apply it as you should. I often heard clearly from the Spirit when my kids weren't telling me the truth - knowing how to use this wisdom so I could bring my kids to a place of telling me the truth on their own was often a matter of "supernatural" wisdom.
As you can see, these two gifts seem to go hand-in-hand. You are correct. One may exist without the other, but they often exists side-by-side. You receive insight you don't possess AND the ability to know how to apply or use it in the circumstances you are faced with. Two gifts - each unique - yet often manifest together. When you gain insight you don't naturally possess, this is a manifestation of his power and often of his grace! When you know how to apply this insight, this is a manifestation of "wisdom" which supersedes your ability to "put two-and-two together", so to speak. We need both - and it is good to know both are available to us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Just sayin!