“One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”
Romans 1:10-12 NLT
We look back at the mayhem of the last two years or so, with periods of “lock down” and societal restrictions caused by the Covid pandemic, and realise how much we depend on personal contact. The opportunity to speak to someone face to face. The opportunity to read body language as well as hear words. The times when a vulnerable person needs a kind touch or hug. Yes, technology helps with the video conference apps, but a lonely old person next door or along the street is denied such methods of keeping in touch. There is no substitute for in-person contact. Mankind is wired for social interaction. God planned it that way.
Paul, in his letter, seemed to be desperate to make personal contact with the Christians in Rome. He had heard much about them, snippets of news carried, word of mouth, by travellers making the long journey between Italy and the lands West of the Mediterranean Sea. Businessmen or merchants trading their wares perhaps. There was none of our modern technological aids in those days, and even paper-based media non-existent. And even no social media. How did they manage?
Paul wanted to visit the Roman Christians so that he could “bring [them] some spiritual gift that will help [them] grow strong in the Lord”. What a lovely reason for visiting. What an expectancy that would have brought to the Roman church.
The people in Rome would have heard all about Paul. His exploits would have reverberated around the Middle East at that time. The stories of miracles and other events encountered on his missionary journeys would have made news in those days. So the idea that he was about to come with a “spiritual gift” would have greatly encouraged them. Life for Christians in Rome at that time wasn’t easy by any means, and any encouragement should have been greatly welcomed and appreciated.
What “spiritual gift” would Paul have brought? He mentioned faith in his letter, but is that what he had in mind? If a man or woman of God was visiting our churches, what “spiritual gift” would we find encouraging? I’m sure we are all at different stages in our spiritual journeys, but God knows what we need. And Paul, through his relationship with God, would have delivered the gift needed in Rome. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul provides a list of spiritual gifts. Gifts such as wisdom, knowledge, healing, faith, miracles, prophesy, tongues and interpretation. At a God-level, the working of these gifts in people can be transforming, building up faith in the very One who is the Source of the gifts. And in 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul wrote, “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.” Paul, through the Spirit, was totally open to be God’s delivery man, equipped to bring to the Roman church what they needed to help them “grow strong” in their situation.
What spiritual gifts do we pilgrims need? Jesus said, as recoded in Luke 11:11-13, “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him”. God has available to Him the greatest gift of all – the Holy Spirit, and He is unstinting in His willingness to give Him to us. But we have to ask. Is that how we start our days, asking for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit? By not doing so, are we missing out on the greatest gift of all time? How empowering it is to be able to go into our work-a-day lives with the Holy Spirit helping us at every turn. Giving us wisdom when we are faced with a difficult decision or situation. Knowledge when we need enlightenment. We can see an application for every spiritual gift that Paul listed, but we need to ask for the Holy Spirit to be with us, enhancing and building our faith that He will help us in every situation that we meet. We may need to take small, tentative steps, but as we do, our spiritual faith muscles are built up and extend to more and more of the life issues we all encounter. What a wonderful God we serve! A loving Heavenly Father, the Giver of good gifts to His children.
Dear Father God. We are eternally grateful for all You have done for us. We worship You today. Amen.