Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. — 1 Corinthians 12:1 NIV
Your spiritual gifts were not given for your own benefit but for the benefit of others. ~ Rick Warren
I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves — one above another — and the taller we grow, the easier we can reach them. Now I find that God’s gifts are on shelves — and the lower we stoop, the more we get. ~ F. B. Meyer
You have been gifted for greatness.
Is there anything more fun than watching children open Christmas presents? My wife, Stacey, and I have three children. Christmas morning in our house is wild! Our children leap out of bed at the crack of dawn and race down the stairs to see what Santa has left them under the tree. When they find presents with their names on them, bows and paper fly in every direction!
As their father, I take special pleasure in watching each one enjoy the moment. My heart is filled with love as their eyes brighten with the excitement of discovery. I am delighted when they ask me to show them how to use the gifts. (“Some assembly required. Batteries not included.”) Satisfaction fills my soul as I watch them begin to actually play with these things Stacey and I picked out especially for them.
Now picture this same wonderful scene, only with spiritual gifts. When God planned the masterpiece He would make of your life, He decided to give you certain gifts that would enable you to effectively share His love and make your own unique contribution to His Kingdom. He placed these spiritual abilities within you and waits eagerly for you to discover them. I’m certain it fills His heart with joy as He watches us discover and start using the spiritual gifts He has given us. We should be as excited as children on Christmas Day about unwrapping these treasures.
In his book, 19 Gifts of the Spirit, Leslie B. Flynn writes: “You are a gifted child of God. Since you are also given an outlet for your gift, you are a minister too. For every gift He bestows, the Spirit has planned a sphere of service. Thus, no child should have an inferiority complex. Rather, awareness that he is a gifted child with an area of ministry should meet every child of God’s psychological need to feel wanted and to possess a sense of worth.”1
Too often, I see people carrying heavy loads of frustration because they are trying to serve in areas for which they have little or no ability. On the other hand, the most fulfilled and effective people I see are functioning in areas that precisely match the gifts God has given them.
For many years, Trisha believed she was “only” a coordinator for a ministry — and she felt vaguely dissatisfied about it. Then, in her fifties, she finally understood that God had gifted her to be the team’s administrator. “It seems the team functions more effectively when I use my gifts, and when others use theirs,” she says. “From now on, I’m going to enjoy this wonderful opportunity to express what God has given me.”
Perhaps you believe you don’t have a gift at all. Brent, a lifelong member of Saddleback Church, once murmured, “I only run the computerized music program for our college ministry.” But when he looked at his life through the lens of spiritual gifts, Brent realized that his gift of serving was crucial to the success of the college ministry.
Or maybe you are like Jeff and Joy, who said to me, “We are just parents. We don’t have a lot of time to make a contribution with our lives right now.” When they learned God had given them gifts of encouragement, leadership, administration, and mercy, they were thrilled to realize God had shaped them to help their four children become everything God planned for them to be.
Understanding Spiritual Gifts
At first, this whole issue of spiritual gifts may seem mysterious, complicated, and difficult — but in fact the opposite is true. God has given us wonderful gifts, and He doesn’t make it difficult to discover and use them.
In 1 Corinthians 12:1, Paul says,
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
The word ignorant here does not mean “unintelligent” or “naive.” Rather, Paul is telling us that if we are uninformed, we will miss out on the wonderful gifts God has given us. Your heavenly Father wants His children to be fully informed so they can unwrap every single gift they have received. Your gifts are the key to fulfilling the Kingdom Purpose He has set aside just for you. When that truth finally sank in for me, it was sobering. Suddenly I felt a deep desire to understand the entire subject of spiritual gifts.
As a pastor, I hear several questions about spiritual gifts that come up over and over. As we examine what the Bible says, we discover God’s answers to those questions.
What Are Spiritual Gifts?
Let’s start by clarifying what they are not. First, your spiritual gifts are not the same as your personality traits. A personality test is not an adequate indicator of what spiritual gifts you possess. Your personality traits, however, do provide natural vehicles for expressing your gifts. For example, if God wired you to be outgoing, then your gifts will work best as you actively engage other people. If you are more reserved by nature, your personality will complement your giftedness.
Second, spiritual gifts are not the same as natural talents. You can be a very talented architect, salesperson, or manager, but those are not spiritual gifts. Leslie B. Flynn explains, “Talents have to do with techniques and methods; gifts have to do with spiritual abilities. Talents depend on natural power, gifts on spiritual endowment.”2
Third, spiritual gifts are not the same as the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of the Spirit reveal Christ’s contribution to our character, while our spiritual gifts reveal the contribution we make to God’s kingdom.
So what are spiritual gifts? For this study, let’s define a spiritual gift as a God-given special ability, given to every believer at conversion by the Holy Spirit, to share His love and strengthen the body of Christ. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 4:10 that God is the gift giver:
God has given each of you a spiritual gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. — NLT
I love how Os Guinness, in his book The Call, talks about the role of giftedness. Os says, “The purpose of giftedness is stewardship and service, not selfishness.”3
God gives us these special abilities for specific reasons. Spiritual gifts only work in spiritual ways. Designed to bring great color and clarity to your life, they can only be used to their full potential when empowered by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the life of every believer.
Only those who have entered into a personal relationship with Christ have these gifts.
Why Does God Give Spiritual Gifts?
In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says,
A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church. — NLT
The spiritual gifts God gives you are neither for you nor about you. They weren’t given to boost your self-image or to serve as some kind of special reward from God. They were not given to raise you up to some level of worldly greatness or success. They are yours for the express purpose of blessing the body of Christ — the Church. That is why you need to be part of a church family. Discovering your spiritual gifts is not the ultimate goal — using them to bless others is.
Does Everyone Get a Gift?
The Bible assures us that every believer receives gifts from God:
Each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. — 1 Corinthians 7:7b, NIV
You may not feel tremendously gifted, but God says that you are. Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift.
In my role as pastor of ministry and S.H.A.P.E. discovery at Saddleback, I have seen that people discover their gifts as they minister to others. The more you serve God in ministry, the more clearly you will see your gifts.
God gives gifts to everyone, not just “special” people. There are no special qualifications needed, no special level of maturity required, not even a particular time span needed in your journey with Jesus. If you are a believer, then you have the Spirit living in you. If you have the Spirit living in you, then you have spiritual gifts to use for God’s glory and the benefit of others.
You may not have discovered the gifts you have or begun to use them yet, but you definitely have them. You have God’s word on it. He is the one who decided which gifts to give you. How many gifts you have is not nearly as important as discovering and developing the gifts you do have.
- Leslie B. Flynn, 19 Gifts of the Spirit. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1974, 1994, 17–18.
- Ibid., 27.
- Os Guinness, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life. Nashville: W Publishing, 2003, 45.
Excerpted with permission from S.H.A.P.E. by Erik Rees, copyright Erik E. Rees.
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You have spiritual gifts! Even if you don’t feel particularly gifted, you are! Let’s ask the Lord to show us what gifts He has given us that give Him glory and begin to practice them more! ~ Devotionals Daily