Identifying & Developing Spiritual Gifts
What Are Spiritual Gifts?
The Greek word for spiritual gift is “charisma: A gift of grace, a gift involving grace” on the part of God as the donor. (Vines) Since spiritual gifts are rooted in grace: they are not earned, they are not deserved, they are not only given to “special people.”
The Role of the Spirit:
Being equipped is about God’s spirit; not our abilities. 2 Timothy 1:6-7, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Being equipped is about God’s worthiness; not about us. When we realize serving Him by using our spiritual gifts is about His power and love, we realize we don’t have to fear.
Our Part of the Whole
Spiritual gifts are one important part of the Christian life. They are not the only or the most important part. When not understood or applied they are deeply missed in the Body.
Spiritual Gifts & The Body
There are three primary scriptural texts on spiritual gifts in the New Testament: Ephesians 4:7-13, Romans 12:3-8, I Corinthians 12-14. God has provided each believer with spiritual gifts for the purpose of strengthening the Body of Believers and glorifying God. Ephesians 4:7-8, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” If you are a believer, then God has given you spiritual gifts as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in your life. Unbelievers may be talented in many ways, but spiritual gifts are absent without the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Purpose of Spiritual Gifts
Spiritual gifts are always mentioned in the context of the body of believers when discussed in Scripture. There are no “Lone Ranger” spiritual gifts!! Seeking feedback from others and being open to counsel are key features of spiritual gifts. Ephesians 4:11-12, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Romans 12:4-8 “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.”
I Corinthians 12, 13, 14
These three chapters are all part of one topic the Apostle Paul was teaching about: Diversity and Unity in Christ, I Corinthians 12 – describes God’s design for spiritual gifts as being diverse and being connected in one body, Motivated by Love: I Corinthians 13 – describes spiritual gifts must be motivated by love or they are nothing, Appropriately Used: I Corinthians 14 – describes the importance of timing and appropriate use of gifts.
How Many Gifts Are There?
This is difficult to know for sure and is a matter of considerable debate among Christians. It is important to avoid extremes. The three broad categories of gifts are ministry gifts (e.g., pastor, evangelist), service gifts (e.g., giving, mercy, administration) and miraculous gifts (e.g., tongues, healing).
There are two main positions among Christians about the miraculous gifts: Charismatics are Christians who believe the miraculous gifts continue to be expressed as they were in Bible times. Cessationists are Christians who believe the miraculous gifts have essentially ceased since the end of the first century. Since God is the giver of the gifts, He is also the one who has the power to allow or withhold their use as He sees fit.
Public & Private Gifts
Others readily observe some spiritual gifts publicly, while other gifts are used more in the background. Public gifts are often easy to observe and recognize (e.g., teaching, shepherding). Private gifts are often easy to overlook because we do not readily observe others doing them (e.g., mercy, giving). It is important to not value “public” gifts over “private” gifts in others or ourselves. Both are equally important to God!
Recognized & Overlooked Gifts
Some spiritual gifts tend to look “spiritual” while others look “common.” “Spiritual-looking” gifts have to do with things that appear to be closely linked to the Gospel message and ministry (e.g., evangelism, shepherding). “Common-looking” gifts are no less important to God, but may not appear to be “spiritual” at first glance (e.g., helps, service). People define some spiritual gifts too narrowly or too broadly, providing an inaccurate view of gifts.
Spiritual Gifts & Us
It is important to remember spiritual gifts are just one piece of our puzzle. You have been uniquely created, gifted, shaped, and molded by God. You have:
S – Spiritual Gifts – given to you by God
H – Heart – things you feel strongly about (passion)
A – Abilities – natural talents you can use
P – Personality – uniqueness in relating to others
E – Experiences – give you perspective on life
(Warren, R. (2002). The Purpose Driven Life. Zondervan.)
What are you passionate about?
Passions are strong emotions that can be given to us by God to help influence how we use our gifts.
Gifts & Talents
Everyone (including unbelievers) has an array of talents/abilities. However, in a believer’s life, God will extend and empower what a person could normally do to accomplish His spiritual purposes by exercising spiritual gifts. God often uses an individual’s talents as a platform for them to exercise a spiritual gift. (e.g., God will use an individual’s talent for organization to exercise the spiritual gift of administration. e.g., God gives a school teacher the spiritual gift of teaching.) Conversely, spiritual gifts can also be seen in ways which show God has done something beyond what a person could normally do. God gave the Apostles the ability as “unlearned men” to speak in the diverse languages of all of the hearers (Acts 2). In either situation, we acknowledge the empowerment is from God, we are motivated by God’s priorities as found in the Word and not by self-promotion, and we are a “vessel” for God’s power and not the source of the power.
Design not by Accident
Finally, God has given you an unique personality and has brought experiences into your life which have further molded and completed the SHAPE He desires you to have. God’s design in your life is pleasing to Him and is for His purposes: 1 Corinthians 12:18, “But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.”
Our Role With Spiritual Gifts
We have different roles we are called to play with spiritual gifts: In one series of bible passages, we are to Covet-Desire-Excel (I Corinthians 12:31, I Corinthians 14:1, I Corinthians 14:12). In another passage, we are called to stewardship (I Peter 4:10-11). Each gift can be a strength when it is empowered by the love of Christ. However, each gift also brings with it the potential to be a weakness. For example, someone with the gift of Mercy may be tenderhearted and compassionate, but they may also be easily hurt by others and may have difficulty dealing with conflict. In another example, someone with a strong gift of Administration may be skilled at organizing people and getting projects done, but may become impatient or “bossy” with others. The Word is clear that if spiritual gifts are not motivated by love, they are meaningless. (I Cor. 13) This love must remain our ultimate motivator for using and developing our Spiritual Gifts.
Seven Hindrances To Spiritual Gifts
- Pride/Fear of Looking Proud
Many Christians assume recognizing they have a spiritual gift is the same as being proud. It is incorrect to label having an accurate awareness of our strengths and weaknesses as pride. Remember spiritual gifts are “bestowed” by God. You are a steward. Spiritual gifts do not refer to “giftedness” in the sense of some people are “special” while others are not. Pride is self-exaltation; spiritual gifts are not about us so we should not be exalting ourselves!
Humbly using spiritual gifts does not involve the extremes of pride or inferiority. Romans 12:3, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” Instead of making us proud or self-reliant, understanding our worth, spiritual gifts, and talents come from Christ should lead us to desire to serve Him more fully and faithfully.
- Overvaluing or Devaluing
It is easy for us to value some gifts over others. Our goal should be to have a biblical view of spiritual gifts and recognize God can use them in whatever manner He sees fit to use them in the Body. It is important to acknowledge the role of each of the gifts. They are God’s! (I Co. 12). Some ethnic and church cultures tend to value some gifts to the exclusion of others. Sometimes believers are using their spiritual gifts and don’t know it! When this happens, they tend to devalue the gifts because they don’t seem “special.”
Tunnel Vision: when someone feels strongly about a particular role, mission, or ministry, sometimes they accidentally start to view other opportunities as less important or less spiritual. This can lead people to devalue other roles and ministries…sometimes to the point of becoming judgmental. “When you have a hammer, everything else becomes a nail.”
Comparison keeps many Believers from using their spiritual gifts: “She does that so much better than me.” “I can’t do much; so why try?” Satan wins when Believers compare themselves to each other. 2 Corinthians 10:12, “…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
God never intended for us to have to be “the best” at something in order for us to use our gifts! There will always be someone better than you (e.g., looks, intelligence, money, strength, social skills, humor, etc.). The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can stop trying to perform up to impossible standards or be someone you’re not and start serving God the way He created you to be.
- Fear(s) of Failure or What Others Think
These fears can take our focus off of God’s ability and lead us to the following: not trying, avoidance, missing opportunities, worry, and procrastination.
- Unwilling to Stretch
Spiritual gifts were never meant to bring limitations on our willingness to be helpful. Just because you have a spiritual gift in one area doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help with opportunities in other areas. For example: “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with church cleaning, I only have the gift of teaching.” That said, we want to avoid trying to “put square pegs in round holes.”
- Lack of Submission
Sometimes when people feel called to a certain role or opportunity, they assume other people should either “agree or get out of the way.” Identifying a spiritual gift does not give someone license to become high-minded or be unwilling to seek and accept counsel, etc. Be cautious in the use of the phrase, “God told me.” This can be used as a way to avoid accountability. Remember the Bible repeatedly affirms spiritual gifts are to be used in the context of the body of believers.
- Expectation of Maturity
The process of growing and maturing spiritually is part of every aspect of the Christian walk, including spiritual gifts. Your spiritual gifts will move from “milk to meat” as you grow from “milk to meat.” We need to help each other grow through support, accountability, mentoring, and discipleship. Do not fall into the trap of believing someone who has a spiritual gift will find tasks in their area to be easy. How spiritual gifts are expressed in your life will likely change or shift across your lifespan.
Four Tasks For Identifying & Developing Spiritual Gifts
- Desiring Spiritual Gifts
You must first be a believer. Start by praying and asking God for His guidance and for the desire for spiritual gifts. Go to the Scripture. Meditate on the following passages: Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, 13, 14, Ephesians 4. Study what the words mean. One suggestion is to look them up in the Greek (see Vines). (e.g., the word “prophecy” means numerous things in the Bible.) It can mean foretelling what will occur in the future OR as it says in I Corinthians 14:3, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”
- Determining Your Spiritual Gifts
Pray for God’s direction. Talk with people who know you well and get their feedback. Specifically seek out spiritual mentors who know both your strengths and weaknesses. Seek counsel. Observe the areas of your life where you feel inspired to serve God and others. Take a spiritual gifts inventory. Spiritual gifts inventories can be a very helpful tool in identifying and determining spiritual gifts. However:
1.They should not be used as the sole source of information in determining spiritual gifts.
2.Realize inventories vary widely in how well they are constructed.
3.Labels used for spiritual gifts vary widely.
4.Item content and wording on scales varies widely and can affect the results. For example, some inventories ask for past experience of using gifts while others rate how appealing various tasks are to an individual.
- Developing Spiritual Gifts
Pray for opportunities. Remember you do not have to be “the best” at something to use a spiritual gift. As God gives you opportunity to use the spiritual gift(s) He has given you, it will allow you to grow in your ability to express that gift. Do not be afraid to try. Be aware of hindrances. Learn from what works and what doesn’t work. Look for small ways to grow and improve. Talk to your elder and/or ministers and get counsel.
- Doing: Use Your Spiritual Gifts
Pray for empowerment and direction from the Holy Spirit. Use what you have been given for God’s glory. Give the glory for spiritual gifts back to God. Seek to encourage others in their use of spiritual gifts. We are responsible for using our talents to the fullest (see the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30). Watch out for the tendency to point out what other people should be doing. John 21:21-22, “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.” Ephesians 4:16 “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
For complete PDF which includes Directions, PPT, Survey, & Inventory, click here.
For Further Information:
Identifying your S.H.A.P.E.
This handout helps you understand how God has shaped your life.
Spiritual Growth Assessment
This assessment, created by LifeWay, helps the reader find areas of personal spiritual growth opportunities.
Understanding & Developing Spiritual Gifts
This presentation helps you understand what the Bible says about the spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ. Common misunderstandings and issues that hinder our use of spiritual gifts are discussed. Ideas for identifying, developing, and using spiritual gifts are provided.