February 2, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – 1 Corinthians 12:7-8; 14:26 (NRSV)
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit.
What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
Though we rightly anticipate that the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom from above when we are quiet and alone with God, we should also seek the wisdom that comes in a community of believers. The Spirit of God lives in each of us individually and among us as the body of Christ. Thus, God may give you wisdom from above, not just for yourself, but also for your Christian community. And God may give many gifts of wisdom to you through your Spirit-filled brothers and sisters in Christ. Wisdom from above comes in many ways from the God who “gives to all generously and ungrudgingly” (James 1:5).
Today’s devotion is part of the series Wisdom from Above.
In yesterday’s devotion, we reflected on how to prepare to receive God’s wisdom by getting alone and being quiet. We saw the practices of solitude and silence modeled in Scripture. Elijah heard God’s “still, small voice” as he was by himself in the wilderness. Jesus went out on a mountain alone to pray all night before he chose his twelve closest disciples.
There is no doubt that wisdom from above can come when we are alone and quiet before God. But that’s not the only context in which the Holy Spirit guides and speaks to us. In fact, in the New Testament emphasizes the presence and work of the Spirit when Christians are in community together. For example, at Pentecost the Spirit was poured out, not upon separate individuals, but upon the gathered followers of Jesus (Acts 2:1-4). Later, when the early Christians faced a challenging crisis, they found God’s guidance as they convened for extensive conversation. Through their communal discernment, they were able to come to a unanimous decision and could say with confidence that what they decided “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28).
In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul provides in-depth teaching on how the Holy Spirit empowers and guides a Christian community. “To each,” Paul writes, “is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Notice that the gifts of the Spirit are meant in this case not primarily for the individual who receives them, but for the common good, for the community of believers. The first specific gift mentioned by Paul is “the utterance of wisdom” (1 Corinthians 12:8; the Greek literally reads, “a word of wisdom”). When Christians are gathered together, the Spirit gives wisdom from above through someone who delivers this wisdom orally.
Later, in 1 Corinthians 14:26, we find this exhortation: “What should be done then, my friends? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” Though Paul doesn’t mention wisdom explicitly in this verse, it is surely one of those gifts that the Spirit gives for the “building up” of the community. It would be rather like “a lesson” or “a revelation” or “an interpretation.” Notice that each person has the potential to contribute gifts because the Spirit dwells in each one. Once again, the benefit of the community is the point of the Spirit’s gifting. Even as Paul emphasized the “common good” in 12:8, in 14:26 he notes that gifts are given for “building up” the body of Christ.
So, while God does at times give wisdom from above to individuals, divine wisdom often comes to and through communities of believers. That makes perfect sense, of course, since the Holy Spirit dwells, not only in individual Christians but also in the body of Christ together (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Corporate discernment of spiritual wisdom usually happens through conversation and prayer. But wisdom from above can also come to groups, as to individuals, in times of quiet. Waiting upon the Lord silently is something we can do, not just when we are by ourselves, but also when we are gathered with others. For example, an organizational leadership team recently sensed a need for divine wisdom related to racial diversity and justice. They reached out to the folks at Attune for help with this process. A time of guided corporate attunement – listening quietly and attentively to God and to each other – helped these leaders get clear on God’s guidance. This wisdom from above led to several new, fruitful initiatives.
So, though we rightly anticipate that the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom from above when we are alone with God, we should also seek the wisdom that comes in a community of believers. The Spirit of God lives in each of us individually and among us as the body of Christ. Thus, God may give you wisdom from above, not just for yourself, but also for your Christian community. And God may give many gifts of wisdom to you through your Spirit-filled brothers and sisters in Christ. Wisdom from above comes in various ways from the God who “gives to all generously and ungrudgingly” (James 1:5).
Can you think of a time in your life when wisdom from above was given as a group sought the Lord together? What happened? What was this experience like for you?
Have you ever been with a group of people who, in seeking God’s wisdom, spent an extended time of silence together? If so, what happened? How did you feel about it? If not, why do you think this kind of corporate silence is rare among Christians?
Are you part of a group or a leadership team that is eager for wisdom from above concerning challenges you’re facing? What are those challenges? Do you think your group might be open to a time of shared silence and discernment?
This week I’ve been inviting Life for Leaders readers to explore a spiritual discernment process known as attunement. I’ve been encouraging you to make use of a wonderful tool on the Attune website. It’s a ten-minute audio exercise that guides you through a brief attunement experience.
Now, if you’ve availed yourself of this opportunity, I expect you’ve done it alone, and that’s great. But attunement exercises can also be shared. You might wish to do this online exercise with a leadership team, a small group, or members of your family. After you’ve finished the exercise, take some time to debrief together. If you’d like more help with this sort of thing, the folks at Attune are available. You can contact them through their website.
Gracious God, thank you for giving us the gift of wisdom from above. Thank you for times when you give this gift when we are alone with you. Thank you also for the times when you give wisdom to and through the community of your people.
Lord, I pray today for the groups of which I am a member, that we would seek and be open to your wisdom. I pray also for the leaders of my church, that they would receive gifts of wisdom as they exercise their calling. Teach us all, Lord, how to seek you together, how to be quiet before you, how to be open to your wisdom. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Spiritual Gifts in Community (1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.