Second Corinthians 9:10 says that God supplies on two different levels – seed for sowing and bread for eating. We have already considered the fact that He gives us the Holy Spirit at salvation like a seed and multiplies His work in our lives through the baptism in the Holy Spirit as an abundant harvest. I encourage you to enjoy both the seed and the harvest. Take the whole loaf to feed yourself and share with others. And that loaf includes much more than just the ability to speak in tongues. In fact, there is a whole array of supernatural abilities that the Holy Spirit desires to impart to us so that we will have something supernatural to give to the world.

 These gifts that the Holy Spirit has for us occur in three categories. First are the gifts of revelation. The word of wisdom is knowing how to act wisely now because of how it will affect the future. The word of knowledge is knowing something that is impossible for you to discover at the moment. Discerning of spirits is knowing what motivates people – their human spirits, demonic spirits, or the Holy Spirit. Next are the gifts of power. The gift of faith is a supernatural level of believing God to work on your behalf. The gifts of healing confer supernatural authority to set people free from sicknesses, diseases, and injuries. The working of miracles, which in the original Greek language meant the “demonstration of power,” is the showing forth of God’s supernatural forces as the ability of God works through us. In the last category are the gifts of inspiration. The gift of prophecy is a divine ability to speak words of edification, exhortation, and comfort without having planned the message. Speaking in tongues occurs in three different manifestations. The personal use of tongues is to offer prayer or praise to God. (I Corinthians 14:2, 14-16, 28) It needs no interpretation since God understands it. Tongues can also be a sign to unbelievers. (I Corinthians 14:22) This was the operation functioning on the Day of Pentecost when people of sixteen different languages heard the apostles speaking in their languages without having learned them. (Acts 2:8) Obviously, this usage of tongues needs no interpretation since the hearers understand automatically. The third manifestation of this gift is in giving a message for the church. (I Corinthians 14:13, 27) Unless there is a supernatural interpretation of the message, this gift is being used outside its proper scriptural order. The interpretation of tongues is the supernatural ability to translate the message given in tongues.

 From the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians, we learn a lot about what these supernatural manifestations are, but we need to follow up that revelation with a thorough comprehension of the scripture in order to understand exactly how to function in these gifts properly. Our functioning in the gifts is in direct proportion to our faith. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3) The operation of the gifts is unprofitable and useless unless we are motivated by love. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3) Grace – the God-given oil of affability, courteousness, cordiality, and politeness that oils the gears so that we can live and work together – is the next necessary ingredient. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (I Peter 4:10-11) I remember one lady who – after being filled with the Holy Spirit – decided to prove a point to her pastor and congregation by standing up and speaking in tongues in every service. Of course, her actions were totally out of order and the motivation behind her utterances was totally mean-spirited. Before long, she was physically hauled out of the building and forbidden to ever return. Obviously, there was no grace in her use of the spiritual gift and, therefore, nothing good was accomplished. However, when these attributes (faith, love, and grace) are in place in the life of the one who desires to operate in the gifts of the Spirit, the stage is set for a powerful manifestation of divine authority that will change the situation in which the ministry functions. Let’s take a few minutes to put each of these gifts “under the microscope” and examine them a bit more in detail.

 Many people feel that the supernatural gift of the word of wisdom is the same as the superior wisdom that King Solomon demonstrated when he directed that a baby be cut in two when two women claimed the same infant. (I Kings 3:16-28) Others contest that this gift has to do with foretelling the future. Actually, the matter is similar to the old Certs commercial where two individuals are arguing whether Certs is a breath mint or a candy mint. The answer was that they were both right. This gift has to do with making wise choices that will have lasting future effects as if you were able to predict the future. I once witnessed a situation in which the manager of a business felt that a certain employee had stolen a rather expensive piece of video equipment. He called in the employee and said that he had received the report that the equipment had gone missing within the past few minutes and needed him to go look for anything suspicious while the police were on their way.  A few minutes later, the young man returned with the stolen item and a tale of having found them behind the building with the explanation that the thief must have stashed it there with the intent of coming back later to take it away. Everyone thought that the manager had operated in extreme wisdom to reclaim the goods while making the culprit aware that he had been caught up with even though he was allowed to save face by not being confronted directly. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. A few months later, this same young man was killed in the process of trying to hold up a local convenience store. Had the office manager been operating in the supernatural gift of the word of wisdom, he would have been able to see the future implications of letting the young man off without making him directly confront his wrongdoing and his dishonest heart. The young man’s life and destiny were lost because someone relied on human wisdom rather than the gift of God’s wisdom.

 The word of knowledge is the divine operation in which God supernaturally reveals something to us that we could not possibly know in our natural human mentality. We see a number of examples of this supernatural gift in both the Old and New Testaments. Some men of God were so powerfully used in this gift that they became known as “seers.” (I Samuel 9:9) Samuel was able to tell who people were and define what they were doing and thinking as soon as he met them. (I Samuel 16:4) Peter was able to know that Ananias and Sapphira had hidden money yet making a pretense that they had sacrificially given all their wealth to God. (Acts 5:3) One of the most dramatic stories of this gift in operation comes from the life of Lester Sumrall. Howard Carter had invited him to join him in ministering around the world. When Bro. Sumrall had made his arrangements to leave the States on this adventure, he had no idea where to find the older minister. He finally decided to book passage on a steamer and head to Australia with the intention of starting at the bottom of the world and working his way up until their paths crossed. The ship’s first port of call on the way to Australia was a twenty-four-hour stopover in Wellington, New Zealand. During the layover, Bro. Sumrall walked the streets of the city asking people if they knew of a church “where people raised their hands and shouted hallelujah.” When someone directed him to such a church, Sumrall went to the house next door to the church, assuming that it was the parsonage. When a gentleman came to the door, Lester started to introduce himself but was greeted with the response, “You are Lester Sumrall from America!” After recuperating from the shock of this reception, he asked how in the world the pastor would know that. The response was that Howard Carter had told the pastor to go to his home and wait for Lester’s visit that afternoon and, when the young man came, to tell him to meet Carter in Australia in a few weeks! The gift doesn’t always operate this dramatically, but it does operate with the same accuracy.

 Similar to the two gifts of the Spirit that we have just looked at, the gift of discerning of spirits also has to do with supernatural revelation. In this case, it is the ability to recognize what is happening in the spiritual world. This is a very significant gift in that sometimes we don’t even know what spirit is motivating ourselves. (Luke 9:55) Sometimes, we are able to discern angelic operations (Hebrews 13:2, II Kings 6:15-17); sometimes, the revelation concerns the operation of demonic spirits (Mark 8:33, Acts 5:3); and sometimes, it is the exposure of the human heart (Acts 8:23). A new employee transferred into our offices from another facility within the ministry. Since he was already an employee, there were no background checks done when he came to us. Unfortunately, it turned out that there hadn’t been any checks done when he was hired at the other facility either. Apparently, he had served as a volunteer and was hired on with the assumption that all he had claimed about himself was accurate since he had proven himself to be an excellent worker in his role as a volunteer. However, there was one thing that set him apart from all the rest of us in the office – he always wanted to be addressed as “Doctor” rather than “Brother” or “Pastor” as did all the rest of us. Every time I heard him referred to with that title, I would also hear a little voice inside me say, “He’s not a doctor.” Eventually, I went to one of the authorities, told him about my suspicion, and suggested a background check. The result was that we discovered that he really wasn’t a doctor. In fact, he had never even completed his bachelor’s degree. But the more important disclosure was that he had a record as a pedophile! What’s so significant about this is that he was being considered for the position as a personal counselor for the junior high boys at our Christian school! There is no way to even imagine how much damage was averted by the gift of the Spirit that allowed me to discern that spirit of deception!

 The gift of faith is in operation when the Lord supernaturally drops into our hearts an above-average ability to believe for a certain thing. The story that I want to share here is so extraordinary that you may actually need a gift of faith to accept it. However, it is documented fact. When Hurricane Gloria was racing toward a landfall at Virginia Beach in 1985, an evangelist was inspired to stand on the shore of the ocean, point his finger at the approaching storm, and command it to turn out to sea. The background to this bold act of faith was that the violent winds and destructive waters imperiled the entire Christian broadcasting facility that he had labored so many years to build and that so many partners had given so sacrificially to make it a reality. Pat Robertson knew that he could not stand by and watch it all be washed away. It was at that point, that something bigger than anything he had ever known before welled up inside him and he decided to act. The weather system made an abrupt turn out to sea!

 Maybe there are no hurricanes threatening to ravage your life, but there are probably plenty of other storms that are wreaking havoc in your health, finances, family, and other areas of your life. If so, claim this supernatural infusion of faith to stand up, point your finger at the tempest, and make it back off. Join the great men and women who exercised this gift and turned the tables of their destinies.

 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:33-35)

 The gift of working miracles is similar to the gift of faith except that this gift has to do with what God does through you rather than for you. In the story that we just related about Hurricane Gloria, Pat Robertson didn’t do anything more than point his finger at the storm. On the other hand, the gift of miracles involves some physical involvement on the part of the recipient. We can trace this pattern throughout the scripture. When Moses wanted to draw water out of a rock, he had to strike the boulder with his staff. (Exodus 17:6) When Elijah wanted to supernaturally provide for a widow and her son, he demanded that she take the action of making a cake for him. (I Kings 17:13) When Elisha wanted to create a supernatural income stream for a widow whose boys were to be taken from the home to work as servants to pay off a debt, he told her that she had to collect a quantity of pots. (II Kings 4:3-4) When Jesus wanted to make supernatural wine, He had the servants fill huge pots with water. (John 2:7) I could relate one Bible story after another to illustrate this truth; however, I’m sure that you see the pattern by now, but let’s bring the message into our contemporary situation. If you want to see people healed supernaturally, you will have to lay hands on them. If you want to see your finances supernaturally increased, you will have to learn how to trust God more boldly by giving sacrificially in faith. If you want to see people who are tormented by demons set free, you’ll have to muster the courage to boldly confront them. In other words, miracles happen when we act! When one of my students was ministering on the mission field, a pastor asked him to go pray for a man who was beleaguered by so many demons that he was kept in a cage to protect both himself and everyone nearby. My student said that he knew in his heart that the only way the man would be free was if he would be bold enough to go inside the cage with him. Putting the key in the padlock was the action necessary to trigger the miracle. Once you find the right key, you’ll see miracles, too!

 Healing is the only gift that is listed as being plural in nature – the gifts of healing. This is because the same gift exhibits itself in many different manifestations. All the manifestations of the gift result in the healing of a sickness, disease, injury, or disability; however, different individuals seem to see particular ailments healed more frequently. Some people tend to see more results when they minister to people with deaf ears, while others seem to see more blind eyes opened. For others, it might be cancers or tumors. The final class in my course on the gifts of the Spirit was planned as a day of impartation and manifestation. I had asked the students to spend some time in prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord about what gift or gifts they should be operating in. (I Corinthians 12:31, 14:1) In that final session, I gave each student the opportunity to activate the gift that he felt God was leading him to operate in. When one young man said that he felt that he was to operate in the gifts of healing, I asked if there was anyone in the class who needed a healing. Eventually, one student acknowledged that she had sustained a serious back injury several months before. She then added, however, that she knew that a certain evangelist who had the gift of healing for back injuries would be in town in the next few months and she was waiting for his visit to be healed. At that point, I asked if she really wanted to suffer for several months while waiting for the renowned healer or if she would rather receive her healing that day at the hands of her classmate. Reluctantly, she submitted to having prayer that day and was instantly healed! The moral of that little story is that healing – and all the other gifts – is a gift of God. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whom He chooses to use to deliver His gift. Think of it this way – if you order an item from a shopping website, it makes no difference if they send it by Fed Ex, UPS, the postal service, or drop it on your front porch from a drone. All that matters is that you get the merchandise!

 I often have people challenge me concerning the next gift – speaking in tongues – with arguments that it doesn’t do anything useful. They say that the Bible says that it is better to prophesy because it blesses other people, whereas speaking in tongues doesn’t help others. Of course, their point is well founded in I Corinthians chapter fourteen.

 He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. (I Corinthians 14:4)

For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. (I Corinthians 14:17)

 However, it is pertinent that we understand that in this chapter Paul was correcting the excessive use of tongues in public meetings. Indeed, he went so far in verse twenty-three to say that the way they were operating in the gift actually made them look like crazy people. But the thing that we have to realize here is that Paul never minimized the gift itself, only the way that the members of the church in Corinth were implementing it. In fact, Paul validated the gift by saying that it was a vital part of his own life. (I Corinthians 14:18) So what is the bottom line on this issue? Speaking in tongues may not encourage and strengthen the congregation like prophesying does; however, it does strengthen the individual believer in his personal faith. (I Corinthians 14:4, Romans 8:26-28, Jude 20)  And it takes strong Christians to be able to bless and encourage others. Therefore, speaking in tongues does bless the church – howbeit, indirectly.

 Over the years, I’ve heard the issue debated many times why God instituted the gift of speaking in tongues. One of the standard answers is that tongues is a secret code language between man and God that allows them to communicate without the devil’s being able to decode their private messages. I have never accepted that argument on a couple points. First, such an explanation would undermine the power of prayer in the known language. If the fact that Satan can understand what you are saying gives him some sort of advantage, then praying in our understanding is detrimental. However, we are repeatedly commanded to pray using our normal vocabulary. (I Corinthians 14:15)  Additionally, just because the devil understands what is being said doesn’t necessarily give him an advantage. He could read every prophecy in the Old Testament predicting the coming of Christ and His redemptive death; however, just because He could read the words did not mean that he could understood the message. First Corinthians 2:8 explains that – had he understood what he was doing – he would never have inspired men to crucify Jesus. He instituted his own undoing by not being able to interpret Isaiah chapter fifty- three and Psalm twenty-two. In the book of Daniel, we find a very good example of how the devil – and his men – can read something and totally miss the message. When the Lord wrote a message to Babylon and their king on the palace wall, Belshazzar called for all the astrologers, Chaldeans, soothsayers, and wise men of his empire to try to interpret the message. Every one of the men could read the words – which all happened to be the names of coins that they all were carrying about in their purses. They had no idea why God Himself would bother with sending them a personally handwritten message about pocket change. It was only Daniel who recognized that each of the words had a second meaning – much like our term “nickel” refers to a five-cent coin but is also the name of a kind of metal. When Daniel read the message using the other meanings for the words, it spelled the doom of the nation. (Daniel 5:5-28)

 The second reason that I have rejected this explanation is that I’m not convinced that Satan cannot understand tongues. In I Corinthians 13:1, Paul explains that tongues are the languages of men and angels. Satan was originally an angel; therefore, he spoke the language of angels. I really doubt that he forgot his original tongue just because he was cast out of heaven. He also understands every language of men; otherwise, how would he be able to tempt them and put wrong thoughts into their minds?  A couple chapters ago, I told you that I was going to share an amazing experience about the supernatural gift of tongues – and it is coming up in the next paragraph – but allow me to jump ahead a bit and say that it will have to do with the Hindi language. That being said, I wish to remind you that nine hundred million people pray to the devil in Hindi each day; so, he certainly understands that language. If he understands their prayers, he can obviously understand the language if it is one that God chooses to give someone when he is speaking in tongues. I believe that the real reason God instituted the gift of tongues is that it requires men to trust Him in a totally new and radical way. When we speak in tongues, we are not in control of the words that are coming out of our mouths — a totally new foreign experience. If we can’t trust God that what we are saying is really of Him, we fail the faith test.

 When we come to the next gift that Paul listed in I Corinthians chapter twelve – the gift of interpreting tongues – we have to see it in conjunction with the gift of tongues since they go together, as Frank Sinatra would say, like love and marriage and a horse and carriage. There are conditions when the gift of tongues can operate independently – when it is a prayer language for a believer and when it is a miraculous sign to an unbeliever – but in the church, this gift should always function in tandem with the gift of interpretation. (I Corinthians 14:13, 27-28) When these two gifts are in operation, one person will supernaturally speak in a language that he or she has never learned. This miraculous utterance will be followed by someone else who will speak out the same message that was just given in an unknown language but this time it will be in the language that everyone understands. The operation of these two gifts in conjunction is a supernatural demonstration to prove the validity of the message – as we will see in the following example.

 One Sunday morning, I was at the pulpit of our church ready to receive the tithes and offerings when a lady stood up and gave a message in tongues. I asked the Holy Spirit to give me the interpretation and then spoke out the words that I felt He had inspired me to say. Once the message was given, we went on with the service. The next morning, one of my students came to me before class to discuss the event.  When I told him that it was simply the operation of these two supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, he responded by saying that he felt that I didn’t really understand what had happened. When I asked why he would say such a thing, he said, “Well, I’m from India and my native language is Hindi.  When the woman spoke, she was speaking in perfect Hindi.   Then when you  spoke, you gave an exact word-for-word translation of everything that she said.” Of course, the woman had no way of knowing even one word of Hindi – much less enough to give a full exhortation. Even though I have been to India more times than I can remember, I didn’t even know enough of the language to recognize that the lady was speaking Hindi.

 Many people think of the gift of prophecy as the ability to predict the future; however, others argue that it is not forecasting coming events since Paul defined this operation as edification, exhortation, and comfort. (I Corinthians 14:3) Again, I’d like to employ the Certs commercial in trying to answer this matter. Just because prophecy speaks to the at-hand needs of a person does not preclude that it can also speak into the future. For example: if a brother who has an issue with low self- esteem, he needs to be encouraged and built up – “edified” in biblical language. If the Holy Spirit gives someone an encouraging word to remedy the gentleman’s self-esteem issue, that is the gift of prophecy in operation. Suppose that word contains a statement like, “God is going to use you to bless others.” In that case, there is an element of futuristic prediction involved as well as present-day encouragement. For a second example: if a sister is just about to “throw in the towel,” she needs to be challenged to continue to “hang in there” – “exhortation” in King James terminology. If the Holy Spirit gives someone an inspiring word to get her “over the hump,” that is the gift of prophecy in operation. Suppose that word contains a statement like, “You are going to make it; you are not going to fail!” In that case, there is an element of futuristic prognosis involved as well as present-day inspiration. For a third example: if a couple have lost a baby, they need consolation – “comfort” in this passage. If the Holy Spirit gives someone a reassuring word to relieve their sorrows, that is the gift of prophecy in operation. Suppose that word contains a statement like, “You are going to see that baby again in heaven.” In that case, there is an element of futuristic expectation involved as well as present-day consolation. Therefore, the gift of prophecy is the ability to speak into people’s lives under the Holy Spirit’s anointing and direction in a way to help today and into the future.