John chapter 1 is not the most typical place to teach about spiritual gifts, but it turned out to be a great one for my kids this evening.
John is for me the most mystical Gospel. I won’t say “most spiritual” because mundane things can be just as spiritual as mystical ones.
When Nathanael meets Jesus in John 1:47-50, Jesus tells Nathanael that he saw him under a fig tree. Obviously, this was a significant moment in Nathanael’s day. Probably he was pondering something important. Jesus knew about it, even though he wasn’t near enough to see Nathanael.
Nathanael was impressed, and he declared him to be the Son of God and King of Israel. (See Psalm 2 for why he would use the same terminology Peter used in Matthew 16:16.)
I told my children that it is not only Jesus who can see things with the spirit and not just with the naked eye. He has given us spiritual gifts as well, which vary from person to person.
I told them two stories.
One was about a friend of mine whose son or nephew (can’t remember which) had stolen some money and would not confess. He prayed and asked God for guidance, and “somehow” he just knew the money was hidden up in the rafters. He climbed up there, retrieved the money, and dealt with the boy.
The other was an incident that happened very long ago with me. I was in the military, working on F-15’s. I was on the night shift, and the evening electrician told me he had dropped a bolt in the cockpit of one of the planes. He had spent hours looking for it, but he couldn’t find it, and he was no longer sure it was even in the jet. He wondered if it had bounced out of the cramped cockpit.
He suggested I just close up the job and not worry about the bolt. I answered him with a soft joke about the jet crashing on its next flight because of a bolt in getting caught in its cables or levers. The joke found its mark because he told me the next day he didn’t sleep all night.
I knew I couldn’t just close up the job, so I looked for the bolt for a good hour. Frustrated, I climbed down the ladder and walked around the F-15 praying. I did this for 10 to 15 minutes before God said to me, “It’s under the map case.”
I don’t mind saying, “God said,” at this point because that is where the bolt was. If it were happening today, I would say, “I think God is saying.”
The story doesn’t end there. I had to go get an extra tool from the tool room in order to remove the map case. When I got to the tool room my boss was there. I told him what I was doing, and he told me that it was impossible for the bolt to find its way under the map case.
Being an almost good airman, I obeyed, and I went back out to the plane to look for the bolt unsuccessfully for a couple hours. At three in the morning, I thought, “This is stupid.” I got down from the plane, went to the tool room, made sure my boss wasn’t around, and I got the tool to remove the map case.
First, I pulled some components that were right in front of it, then I took a long handled mirror and stuck it way down into the gap left by those components. I was thinking that I should at least try to see the bolt before I pulled the map case. At this point, I was convinced it was under the map case somewhere.
I got the little mirror down low enough to see under the map case and turned on my flashlight. The bolt could be seen in the center of the mirror. I did not even have to move the mirror. I was expecting a slow, careful search because the space under the map case was small.
The bolt was just a couple inches under the map case, and I was able to roll it out where I could grab it with the mirror.
God still speaks today. He still raises up prophets, and there are still words of knowledge and wisdom that come from him.
The question is, are you listening?