TONGUES—THE “LESSER” GIFT
By: Paul Anderson
Right. What is the less of perfection? The brother of Jesus knew: “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17). Lesser, like five billion is less than five billion twenty. It is lesser in the sense that in corporate worship, prophecy is more valuable.
Some may choose to bypass the lesser gift for a greater gift like prophecy. They miss the point. Tongues prepares us to prophesy. It build us up so we are not focused on ourselves and can build others up: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (I Cor. 14:4).
If the apostles started with tongues when the Spirit fell, that’s not a bad place for us to begin: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4). The same pattern occurred two more times as the Spirit fell in Caesarea and Ephesus.
Most of us need to confess to having stewarded this perfect gift poorly. We are weak and need the gift of tongues to build us up. We succumb to discouragement without the comfort of the Holy Spirit. We give in to frustration, resentment, taking up offenses, or biting back with sarcastic words. Our flesh needs to be crucified because it will never be Christianized. Our spirit needs to be built up. And tongues serves us well for that.
It awakens our spirit because we are prone to drowsiness in the early morning. We are tempted with passivity in the face of tests and tension. We need a fighting spirit, and tongues comes to our aid. Who wouldn’t want to be offering to God perfect pray and praise consistently? Who wouldn’t want his or her spirit being built up?
We sometimes find the Scriptures hard to understand, though we know that God reveals His truth to the babes, not the brilliant. Tongues enable us to receive revelation.
But here’s the deal: We can’t tell that our spirits are being built up. It is not an emotional experience. We must take it by faith. But that is what we must do with prayer in English, and in fact, with everything in the Christian life. “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). So faith invites us to a regular and frequent use of the marvelous gift of tongues, strengthening the inner man, giving God what He deserves, linking up with heaven, and opening the door to many other gifts of the indwelling Spirit.
We have yet to unlock the joys and benefits of speaking in tongues. I just heard recently that at a drug center they were striking out until they prayed for the gift of tongues and used it consistently. It brought deliverance and freedom. I am convinced that depression will leave under the persistent use of this gift.
If the veteran apostles uncovered rich treasures from a generous use of the gift of tongues, should not we want to discover its value as well? Rather than discounting the gift because of our lack of experience, far better to expect rich dividends from a gift of heaven and begin to search diligently for them by exercising it in faith. Jesus marveled at two things—great faith and the lack of it. I would not want to hear God rebuke me as I entered heaven, “You devalued a gift I gave to you to strengthen your inner man, increase prophetic awareness, facilitate more effective intercession, and open the door to other gifts. Why didn’t you use it more?” I would rather hear Him say, “I gave it to you, and you were a good steward of it!”