I love to be around people with the spiritual gift of mercy. They are some of the kindest people in the body of Christ. It is particularly painful for me to see them go through trails and hardship. Why do such good people have to suffer? In a few minutes, we'll explore that question, but before we do, I have another question for your consideration.
Last Sunday morning we talked about the three kinds of churches, the Watch Church, the Help Church and the Be Church. Each church derives its name from the primary activity of the members, either they watch the minister, help the minister, or are the minister. Though all three activities are present in every church, their primary function describes the whole body.
Look at the table below, it describes the three churches according to who ministers, the obligation of the members, the competition the model sets up and the burn out potential in the church.
Now for the question: Is there a difference between the Help Church and a Be Church where people exercise a spiritual gift that enables them to be helpers? Perhaps some of you experienced some frustration last Sunday as I described the Help Church in a negative light because you see your ministry as supporting or helping others in their ministry. In our text this morning, Paul calls two ministers, Aquila and Priscilla helpers. Romans 16:3 KJV Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
Their ministry was to help. Notice how their spiritual gift of mercy worked to help other ministers. As we do, let's see if there is a difference between being a minister who helps and helping the minister.
Acts 18:26 NLT When Priscilla and Aquila heard him preaching boldly in the synagogue, they took him aside and explained the way of God more accurately.
Apollos preached what he knew to be true, and he did it with enthusiasm and boldness. He believed a messiah would come and that repentance was necessary for Salvation. A good sermon; one that John the Baptist preached to point the way to Jesus, but it was an incomplete sermon. After Calvary, the good news is not that a Savior is coming and we should prepare, but that a Savior has come and we should respond.
Priscilla and Aquila, took the fiery preacher aside to correct his inadequate theology. The key to understanding their gift of mercy in this action is that they took him aside.
If my shirt tail is untucked, I'd appreciate someone telling me about it, but I'd prefer them to whisper it to me instead of walking to the microphone and bellowing the news out for the world to hear. People with the gift of mercy, still correct those who are wrong, they just do it discretely. With great kindness, they help other ministers improve. One characteristic of those with the gift of mercy is they consider other people's feelings before they correct them, but there is more.
1 Cor. 16:9 NLT The churches here in the province of Asia greet you heartily in the Lord, along with Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.
Recently, our down stairs neighbor told me that there was water coming from our Condo and leaking in his bathroom. After investigating the possible causes, he and I went to the hardware store and bought a new gasket for the bathtub and a container of plumbers putty. The helpful hardware man, explained to me how to remove the old gasket and install the new one. The new gasket would form a seal between the bottom of the bathtub and the drain pipe and hopefully, stop the leak. He also recommended I apply the plumber's putty to form a seal between the drain flange and the top of the tub. Though optional, he thought it was a good idea.
It worked. Believe it or not, your pastor with two left hands fixed his own plumbing problem. I've always thought of people with the gift of mercy as plumber's putty. They will do whatever needs to be done in a church to stop it from leaking. Their desire to see the church prosper causes them to do whatever it takes to make it happen. They are flexible, and will inconvenience themselves for the sake of others.
Yes, those with the gift of mercy consider other people's feelings before they correct them, and they will inconvenience themselves to make others comfortable, but there is more.
Acts 18:18 NLT Paul stayed in Corinth for some time after that and then said good-bye to the Christians and sailed for the coast of Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him. (Earlier, at Cenchrea, Paul had shaved his head according to Jewish custom, for he had taken a vow.)
Romans 16:3 KJV Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
For a while, Paul lived with Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth. They had a lot in common. Each of them loved Jesus and they did the same thing for a living--they were tent makers. I understand why they would assist a preacher so he could preach the gospel, but why would they assist their competition? Their sheltering Paul could cut in on their own profits, but they did it anyway.
Their spiritual gift was to assist others, but they weren't doing so because they felt they were inadequate to minister themselves, they helped out of a sense of call, according to God's gift. Those with the gift of mercy rarely call attention to themselves, they work behind the scenes to make others successful.
Can you imagine what our church would be like if we had prophets, those who value truth and "rightness" if we did not have those with the spiritual gift of mercy? We need justice, yes, but we need justice tempered with mercy. Character counts, but so does compassion.
Can you imagine what our church would be like if we had leaders, those who see the big picture and guide the congregation to seize the day, without those with the spiritual gift of mercy? We need leaders, yes, but we also need those who notice the individual and their needs, and not just the groups needs. The church needs those who will help others.
Those with the gift of mercy consider other people's feelings before they correct them, and they will inconvenience themselves to make others comfortable, and will jeopardize their own well being to assist someone else.
These were good people--we would call them the "salt of the earth," They discretely helped a preacher understand the gospel more fully, they helped another preacher by providing hospitality and serving along side him, and they helped an entire congregation by opening their home for worship.
God gives the unique spiritual gift of mercy to be the spiritual grease that keeps the wheels turning. How does God give the gift? Usually through hardship. Those who know sorrow themselves are the ones who know how to comfort others.
Acts 18:2 NLT There he became acquainted with a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently arrived from Italy with his wife, Priscilla. They had been expelled from Italy as a result of Claudius Caesar's order to deport all Jews from Rome.
Why were these good people so in tune to the needs of others? Perhaps it was because they knew pain themselves. The expulsion from Rome sent them to Corinth, a 600 mile journey as the crow flies. They were people who knew pain, who knew how to minister to other people's pain.
Perhaps God transmits the spiritual gift of mercy to those who know pain, because there is no other way they could survive the trauma, and miraculously, God uses their pain to minister to others.