Jalapenos, Noel Piper, and Spiritual Gifts

By Trillia Newbell

jalapenosWhen you sit down to have a conversation with Noel Piper one would think you’d ask questions about life as a pastor’s wife, raising boys and adopting transracially, or perhaps at least about her books, Treasuring God in Our Traditions and Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God. One would think.  But not me. I talked about jalapeños. Not just about jalapeños but about how much I craved them while pregnant with my daughter. I shared that I didn’t want a hamburger but that I had to have a jalapeño burger almost every single day.


I also spoke about my family. I talked about how my son thinks he is a superhero and jumps off of all of our furniture and how my daughter twirls like she’s a princess. I shared that my husband is in real-estate and probably couldn’t wait until I got home from The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference (where I was speaking with Mrs. Piper) to do the great exchange. You know, give the kids back to me for a little while.

All she had to do was ask me a few questions and I gushed about my family and spicy foods (yes—I like spicy foods that much). Why? Because that is me and she was kind to take an interest in my life.

A Normal Bunch

Had I been alone with Mrs. Piper perhaps I would have asked her questions about her ministry. The conversation in its full context (at dinner with several women) makes sense. Yet, conversation after conversation revealed one thing to me: the women speaking at the conference were extremely normal.

I had the chance to sit down and speak with many of the speakers over lunches and dinners. They were kind and outward focused. They talked about their families and general geographic locations. They’re pretty ordinary actually.  I imagine they would be appalled that anyone would think otherwise. But it’s easy to glamorize and idolize your favorite author or speaker. I’m here to report that they eat and swallow and get tired and sleep, just like the rest of us.

What is extraordinary about these women isn’t who they are but their gifts on display for the glory of God. God is extraordinary and when we see someone actively using the gift God has graciously given them we see a glimpse of his reflection.  There’s a potential for Him to be magnified. At least He should be magnified.

His Image is Glorious Not Ours

There is something that happens within us when we see a talented person or someone using their gift. We cry when we hear a beautiful song, we laugh at comedians, we rejoice watching a person serve the poor, we cheer on the track star. When we see these “talents” on display we are really seeing glimpses of the image of God.

We are created in his image and a portion of that image is displayed through God’s creative design of varying gifts.  It’s part of being identified with God as the Creator. He gives us gifts (1 Cor 12, Rom 12, Eph 4, 1 Pet 4). We should marvel at this–not because we are marveling at ourselves–no way, rather because the Creator created us in his likeness and often we see it displayed through using our various gifts for others.

Unfortunately, our  rejoicing can be in the created rather than the Creator. We idolize our favorite athlete and we worship actors. We get a little star struck when we see a musician. Sadly we can do the same with pastors, speakers, and authors. We can esteem them highly, which is good (1 Thess 5:13, Rom 13:7), yet we can esteem them too highly and begin to worship them and depend on them rather than God. It’s no wonder that when our favorite pastor or Christian song writer falls into sin you hear of people struggling in their faith. No human-being can be our God. They will fail every time.

Perhaps part of the remedy is remembering Romans where Paul reminds us that no one is righteous, no one understands and no one seeks God (Rom 3:10-11). Sounds like a pretty level ground at the foot of the Cross to me. Another way to fight our hero worship might be to remember that we have the same Spirit as our favorite, you fill in the blank.

Same Spirit

I had a chance to listen in on Priscilla Shirer’s talk on personal Bible study at the True Woman’s Conference 2012  and cover it for the True Woman Blog. One of her points and reminders to the women was  we all have the same Spirit in us to read and comprehend the Word of God as our favorite speaker, author or pastor does. God doesn’t designate a  special Holy Spirit to gifted teachers.

Sure we all have varying gifts and varying degrees in which we walk out those gifts, but the same Spirit is in each of us. God’s word says: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7). We’ve all been given the same Spirit for the good of others. So when we are tempted to compare or tempted to worship others, perhaps we should remember the source. This remembering will cause us to rejoice—not in the gift, but the giver.

Maybe the next time I get face time with Mrs. Piper I will ask her questions about ministry. But she taught me an invaluable unintentional lesson that day. God has truly made us all in his image, equal in value and worth, with varying gifts. And like salvation, it too is a gift from God, so no man may boast.

Do you struggle with comparing yourself with others? How have you sought to fight that? Do you ever find yourself overly excited about the creature rather than the Creator?

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4 Comments to “Jalapenos, Noel Piper, and Spiritual Gifts”

  1. Kim Shay says:

    One way this tendency is squashed is when one experiences two occasions where her pastor is ousted from leadership. The first time, it was a pastor who lived a double life and was committed immoral acts. The other was a wolf in sheep’s clothing who hid his true views about inerrancy. After those two gents, I started to realize how little we can know about the people we submit to. It was a good lesson. We all have feet of clay, and we have to remember this when we place our admiration at the feet of someone.

  2. Aimee Byrd says:

    Great reflection on an interview, Trillia! At first I was wondering, “Why is Trillia sharing these details about herself in an article about an interview with Noel Piper?” And then, I got it. I’m sure Mrs. Piper is pleased with your observation in interviewing her. Anyway, jalapeños are always a good conversation topic 🙂 Thanks for the insight!

  3. admin says:

    I wasn’t actually interviewing her. I was just chatting. But it was funny to reflect on the conversations I had during the conference and this was one of the high lights for me.

  4. admin says:

    Kim, that’s tough! But you are right, going through hard things helps us realize that we are all just men (figuratively speaking) and therefore all in the need of God equally.