Through the Word in 2020 – May 26 / Gifts and Godliness

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Solomon is at once a profound example of someone who has great gifts from God, and also a profound example of why giftedness, even from God, is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the great lessons Christians and the Church at large need to revisit in our day of celebrity pastors, preachers and other leaders.  We’ll talk about that a bit more on today’s edition of Through the Word in 2020 – I’m your host Reid Ferguson – thank you for joining us today.
If you are following our reading assignments, you know that today finds us in 1 Kings 2:13–5:18; 2 Corinthians 12:11–13:10; and Mark 12:38–44 . And as I’ve already mentioned, King Solomon, David’s son and successor is our focus today. In answer to his prayer for wisdom to lead Israel well in Ch. 3, we read in 1 Kings 4 –
And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.
God was not only pleased with Solomon’s request, He blessed Solomon far above and beyond what he asked for. But, in the end, all the wisdom in the world wasn’t sufficient in and of itself to keep Solomon from falling headlong into life-dominating, destructive patterns of sin. He does not end well.
He was gifted. Supernaturally gifted. Wiser than all who came before him and after him. But giftedness in leaders, is not the supreme quality we need to look for: Godliness is.
In our day, especially in our media oriented society, we tend to gather around those who are most gifted as communicators. If they are winsome, articulate, have charismatic personalities and speak with polish and passion – or simply reiterate the things we want to hear – we are quick to give them leadership roles. Let me be clear -this is a natural tendency. But it is far from safe or best.
I am reminded of how the Apostle Paul’s detractors camped on this very point in rejecting both his message and his leadership. In 2 Corinthians 10 they complained that his letters were weighty and strong, but that in person, he was pretty underwhelming. He was not an imposing figure, and they said his “speech was of no account.” In other words, he wasn’t the polished persuasive orator they would have preferred. They were not as much interested in the message he brought, as they were his presentation skills. They wanted their version of a leader – not God’s.
Throughout the centuries, incalculable damage has been done to the Church and the souls of Christians by those who Romans 16 says “by smooth talk and flattery” have deceived the “hearts of the naive.” Follow those who follow Christ, not those who simply say they do. Follow those who model Christ, not those who talk a big game. Look to the lives and the message they bring and refuse to be fixated by outward attractiveness or giftedness of any kind.
Giftedness is good. But if it is not coupled with the qualities which issue from the Spirit of Christ producing the character of Christ – those gifts may not only fail to do you good, they might do you actual harm.
Following Christ takes not only wisdom to see and know the truth and our own sin, but the willingness to die to sin, the wherewithal to battle sin skillfully and the courage to take on our own sin consistently. Those who lead in these places, are the ones I want to follow. Even if they are as Paul, outwardly weak, not very impressive, or unpolished. Do they feed me God’s Word? And live it themselves?
Let that soak into your soul today beloved.
God bless. And God willing, we’ll be back tomorrow.

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