If you are a believer in Christ and have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, then you have at least one spiritual gift and likely several more. Do you think these mysterious skills are something to be earned once you become a more serious, mature Christian? Do you think they are for those other, more spiritual people?
The apostle Paul warns against that kind of thinking:
“Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware” (I Corinthians 12:1).
As Paul writes to his spiritual children at Corinth, he also writes to us. What exactly about spiritual gifts does Paul not want us to misunderstand?
Paul doesn’t want us to suppose these spiritual gifts are given only to those in vocational ministry.
Paul doesn’t want us to feign humility or credit genetics. He wants us to give glory to God as image bearers.
Paul doesn't want us to assume because someone else seems more endowed in giftedness, that he or she is the better person for the job.
Paul doesn’t want us to miss that these gifts – spiritual in nature – are given directly from the Holy Spirit to each believer, for the sole purpose of building up the Church.
"You yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5).
All believers have a spiritual gift
Maybe you’re still not convinced, because it seems like your pastor, priest or Bible study leader has the market cornered on spiritual gifts. Sure, you can close a deal or throw one heck of a party, but you think anything to do with God’s Word is outside of your wheelhouse.
But here's the thing. Spiritual gifts aren’t always about preaching or praying. Often times they are about doing God’s Word through the power of His Spirit.
Spiritual gifts can be used when sweeping a floor, shuttling a loved one, running a company, cooking a meal, rocking a baby or empathizing with a friend. Spiritual gifts can range from generosity to compassion to mercy, and all are desperately needed.
God made us the way He did precisely so that we can do the work He planned.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
God has never called me to volunteer on my church finance committee or to engineer a building, and for good reason. God made me the way He did - on purpose - to calculate costs and create space with words.
We are all gifted differently yet intentionally.
“There are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good” (I Corinthians 12:6-7).
Your spiritual gift is a tangible display of the Holy Spirit, to help others become more holy.
Spiritual gifts should serve and strengthen others
Ultimately, our spiritual gifts should be used to serve others, not ourselves.
“Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God” (I Peter 4:10).
We are to be guardians of our gifts and use them to glorify God and grow the body of Christ.
“For I want to see you, so that I may impart some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine” (Romans 1:11-12).
Spiritual gifts should both serve and strengthen God’s people.
Spiritual gifts aren't about self-glory or self-worth, because all the glory belongs to Jesus, the only One who makes us worthy. Therefore, we can cast off self-consciousness or ego or perfectionism and walk in the good works God has prepared for us.
Identifying your spiritual gift
If you are unsure about which spiritual gifts God has given you, use this Spiritual Gifts Assessment Tool. It includes a list of varied gifts and a survey to help you determine how you can best serve and strengthen the body of Christ.
So now that you know your spiritual gift, do you have the gospel gumption to use it?
Yes, it's true that our gifts could lie tucked away, unopened and unshared, kept private and personal, because we are too fearful or busy.
But gifts not given serve and strengthen no one.
One of the greatest joys about using whatever gift God has given you is seeing that gift simultaneously used to grow your faith and the faith of another.
“Build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Unbelievers can be amazingly talented or gifted in any range of activities. We could marvel at the common grace they get to enjoy simply because of how good God is.
But those gifts, made of flesh and lacking Spirit, won’t strengthen the Church. Those gifts won’t strengthen their own nonexistent faith. Often, they will only serve themselves for a fleeting moment of fame or fortune. They won’t make an eternal impact.
We are called to give our gifts away
Using our spiritual gifts, in spite of our own discomfort, inconvenience or lack of confidence, is an expression of an active faith. It’s believing more in God’s ability than in our own, and it causes us to rely heavily on the Lord in the administration of that gift.
Using your spiritual gifts is walking in joyful obedience to the Lord and a natural result of abiding in Jesus.
Abide in Jesus celebrated its one-year anniversary last week. When a friend asked me how I mustered up the courage to publish my writings, I told her that I finally realized it simply wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about being the best or the most profound writer, although God does want us to be skilled and proficient in whatever we do (Exodus 35:10).
Spiritual gifts aren't about us. Let that relieve you and free you. They're about what Jesus did for us. He is how we get to have the Holy Spirit within us and why we have spiritual gifts that abound from us.
Spiritual gifts are about obeying God and joining Him in the work He created specifically for you to do. No one can do that job like you can. Using your spiritual gift will allow you to experience the fullness of joy that comes from abiding in Jesus and walking in His perfect plans and purpose. What a privilege!
Spiritual gifts enable us to express love
Spiritual gifts are also one of the primary ways God enables us to fulfill both His Greatest Commandments and the Great Commission.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength … Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
We cannot love God with our whole being if we aren’t using the spiritual gifts He’s given us. We are called to give these gifts away, no matter how seemingly small or feeble. Like Mary of Bethany who poured out perfume on the body of Jesus, we are to pour out our spiritual gifts on the body of Christ, the Church (Mark 14:3).
We cannot love others the way God intends if we aren’t using our spiritual gifts to strengthen our brothers and sisters in their faith. We cannot make disciples if we aren't using the tools God's given us.
Are you an encourager? Pour out words of truth and hope. Are you an organizer? Call people to come and gather for Jesus. Are you an artist? Spread God’s beauty through song or dance or photography. Are you a defender? Wield justice like a warrior for the least of these. Are you a doctor? Heal and pray for your patients in Jesus' name. Are you a do-er? Serve as though you were serving Jesus Himself.
The Church needs all of these gifts to serve and strengthen one another.
What if I don’t like my gift?
You may not believe me and I haven't always felt this way, but the Bible tells us that all spiritual gifts, regardless of how they manifest, are equally valuable to the Kingdom of God.
“Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person … for the common good" (I Corinthians 12:4-7).
True story: All through middle school and high school, my best friend was the most talented kid at school. She had a voice like a nightingale. When she was singing, it was easy to blend into the background in full assurance that God had skipped over me when handing out any kind of gift. As an adult, she has led worship in mega churches and sang blessings in million-dollar weddings and released incredible singles. She’s basically a rock star.
Sidebar confession: I’ve often pictured myself on stage, hair blowing, lights glowing, belting out the latest tune. Anyone else? I realize God likely didn’t endow me with the gift of singing because He knows I’d misuse it and want to hog all the glory. I know, embarrassing.
Back to the point. It’s easy to assume someone else’s gift is more useful or more important because it’s more prominent. But God created each of us with intentionality and purpose.
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as He wanted” (I Corinthians 12:17-18).
Your gifting is not a mistake or a leftover from the more gifted people. It's Holy Spirit given. It's how God wanted it. So don't wish for another gift or belittle the one you have. Use it joyfully and for the glory of God.
Desire the greater gift
Once again, Paul steers us in the right direction.
“But desire the greater gifts” (I Corinthians 12:31).
What are the greater gifts if all are equally valuable before the Lord and necessary to the body of Christ? Any spiritual gift given in love.
“If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all the mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing” (I Corinthians 13:2).
This is Paul’s heartfelt plea that as we serve and strengthen others with our various gifts, we must do it in love. You have the gift of evangelism? Great! Do it in love. You have the gift of hospitality? Great! Do it in love. Don't be like petulant Martha. Be like her passion-filled sister, Mary (Luke 10:38-41).
A spiritual gift is a grace given to us by God, to be given away for God. But no matter our spiritual gift, if it is not given in love then it is worth nothing.
When we abide in Jesus and in His promises and truth, we come to understand that the spiritual gifts He’s given us are the best, most desirable gifts we could have.
Whatever the gift, when we use it in love to serve others and strengthen their faith in God, then we have used it well. God doesn’t call the most able or the most talented. He calls the surrendered and the willing. Abide in Jesus and walk in the grace He’s given you so that you can bless others with your spiritual gifts today.