We have all enjoyed watching children explore beautifully wrapped boxes under a Christmas tree. They look, touch, pick up, and even shake the packages, asking the same questions over and over: “Which one is mine?” and “What do you think it is?” I want Christ-followers to have this much enthusiasm when it comes to identifying their spiritual gifts. It should be exhilarating to find out how the Lord has uniquely and sufficiently gifted us to use our lives to grow His kingdom.
There is a great passage concerning spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:7: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This verse reminds us that every believer has a spiritual gift. God does not give prominent Christians all the gifts and then hold out on regular Christians. God gifts every single Christian with spiritual gifts. Notice this verse also says that these gifts are “given.” We do not earn spiritual gifts. We cannot go get them. We do not seek them out. The Holy Spirit gives us our spiritual gifts and empowers us to use them effectively. Through our gifts, we bring to light and reflect aspects of the Spirit’s nature. Ultimately, our gifts are to be used for the edifying of the body, not the glorifying of self.
There are two lists of spiritual gifts given by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament – 1 Corinthian 12:4-11 and Romans 12:6-10. Most scholars and pastors (including me) do not believe Paul is attempting to make an exhaustive list. Rather, he is pointing out the various ways God’s Spirit gifts people and stressing that each is important.
Several years ago, there was an effort and movement in many churches to help Christians identify their spiritual gifts by taking a spiritual gifts inventory. To be honest, these always felt to me a little like personality tests with biblical words. I am not being critical; I have personally taken several of these tests, and the results are always fairly consistent. If you have never taken one, you should absolutely do so. But I believe there’s another, better way to understand your spiritual gifts. It involves four steps:
1 – Surrender any selfish agenda.
Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the church, and both abuse and neglect of our gifts can cause the church to suffer. Decide in advance that you want to do what the Lord has called you to do, and ask Him to reveal if there is anything in your heart that would distract you from discovering or using your gift.
2 – Seek the Lord in specific prayer and serious study.
Scripture guarantees that every Christian has at least one gift. Ask the Lord in prayer to show you your spiritual gift and how He wants you to serve Him with it. If you already know your gift, you may want to pray, “Lord, show me better ways to use my gift” or, “Lord, show me gifts that I have not discovered.”
3 – Surround yourself with godly people who will speak into your life.
Seek out feedback from mature Christians you know and interact with regularly. They will see God’s work in your life and encourage you to pursue the development of a gift you have displayed. They will also be honest enough to level with you if you are functioning outside of your giftedness and find your wheels spinning.
4 – Serve the Lord in a variety of ways.
I have never met anyone who has sat with their arms folded, disinterested in serving the church, who then suddenly discovered their spiritual gift. Find areas of need and meet those needs. Find gaps in ministries and fill the holes. Find hurting people and help them. Find where God is moving in your church and community, and go get involved. Over time, you will automatically find yourself in all kinds of scenarios and situations. You will be pushed out of your comfort zone and find your sweet spot. Along the way, as you serve, an amazing thing will happen. You will start to see your gifts manifest themselves.
I realize that, at times, the debates surrounding and the abusive exercise of certain spiritual gifts has hurt the church. But the greatest damage has always been the unused gifts of unwilling followers.
Without a doubt, you have been gifted to serve. Discover your gift. Develop your gift. Deploy your gift.