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Discovering Spiritual Gifts


How can I find out what my spiritual gifts are?

Steve Answers:

This is one of my favorite questions! Thatís because it puts us in touch with the supernatural, and it involves so much fun. Let me explain.

When we accept Jesus, we say that ďJesus comes into our heart.Ē Weíre not talking about a blood transfusion. Weíre talking about God being present in our mind and body, in fact, in everything. Instead of God being an impression or a still small voice thatís trying to get our attention, weíve now given God free access to us.

Just before His death, Jesus told His disciples that even though He was about to leave them, He would be coming back to them in the form of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:15-21). Thatís not all. According to John 14:12, ďAnyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the FatherĒ (NLT).*

Thatís what ďspiritual giftsĒ areóthe ability to do the things that Jesus did. And it can happen for more than three and a half years (the length of Jesusí ministry), and at more than one location (since people filled with the Holy Spirit are all over the world now).

The apostle Paul provides three presentations of spiritual gifts in his letters. You can read them in Romans 12:4-10; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; and Ephesians 4:4-16. Each of these passages talks about spiritual gifts in the context of love. And each passage uses the metaphor of the body, with each person being part of the body of Christónot the full body, but part of the body, united with the rest. Each passage also provides something unique, which can help us find out what our spiritual gifts are.

Romans 12 lets us know what to do in order to prepare to receive spiritual gifts. By reading Romans 1-11, youíll cover Paulís most comprehensive presentation of getting your relationship with Jesus straightened out. So before you receive the Holy Spiritís gifts to continue what Jesus did to minister to others, you need to get together with Jesus first! Iíll give you a hintóitís all about developing a relationship of trust with Him. So if you want to find out what your spiritual gifts are, develop a trust relationship with Jesus as the starting point.

Paulís second passage is 1 Corinthians 12. This provides the process for receiving spiritual gifts. Some translations start off chapter 12 by using the word ďignorant,Ē such as the New International Version: ďNow about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.Ē That means Paul doesnít want us to not know about spiritual gifts. He wants us to have the inside track. Thatís why all 31 verses of 1 Corinthians 12 are about spiritual gifts (followed by ďthe love chapterĒ of the Bible). Let me pick out a few key points:

Verse 4ĖThere are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Holy Spirit is the source of them all.

Verse 7ĖA spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

Verse 11ĖIt is the one and only Holy Spirit who distributes these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Verse 27ĖAll of us together are Christís body, and each one of us is a separate and necessary part of it.

Now, hereís my summary about the process of receiving spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit decides who receives which gift or gifts. Each person who accepts Christ receives at least one gift. We need to be part of the church (body of Christ) in order to pull this together, otherwise weíre like a freak show with just a few body parts instead of the full body of Christ.

Paulís third passage is Ephesians 4. Here Paul explains the purpose for spiritual gifts. Verse 12 spells it out: ďTheir responsibility is to equip Godís people to do his work and build up the church, the body of ChristĒ (NLT). Thatís pretty straightforward. God equips us with spiritual gifts to build up the body of Christ. That happens when people join the church as well as when people mature within the church.

That may not be the direct answer you were looking for when you asked how you can find your spiritual gifts, but I think itís necessary background. Hereís a five-step list that Roy Naden, one of my seminary professors, shared with me as to how to find out what your spiritual gifts are. Iíve found it helpful and an exciting way to discover my spiritual gifts based on the passages of Scripture we just talked about. I hope youíll find the same to be true for you.

1. Identify areas you think the Holy Spirit might have given you special abilities to do what Jesus did. Are there any indications that you have musical or speaking abilities? Do you have a heart that is full of compassion? Are you drawn to healing peopleóphysically or emotionally? Do you prefer to do things behind the scenes? Are you a big-time giver? As you read about what Jesus did when He was on earth, what are the types of things that you identify with?

2. Now the fun begins! Once youíve identified an area, start to experiment to see if youíre any good at it. If the Holy Spirit has given you that gift, you can do it. That doesnít mean youíll never improve, but youíll have some ability if the Spirit has given you that gift. I tried singing. I knew I didnít have singing talent, and I discovered that the Spirit hasnít given me a supernatural dose of talent to do it.

Some people are too self-conscious to try something experimental, but thatís probably because they think itís all about them. When it comes to spiritual gifts, itís not about you at all! Itís about what Jesus wants to do through you. So if you experiment and find out that the Holy Spirit hasnít given you any abilities in that area, itís no big deal. Start looking in other areas. Itís not about you!

3. Try it and see if you experience joy. When the Holy Spirit is flowing through you, thereís a lot of joy as a result. My wife is great with little children. She automatically goes to them at church. Iím good for 5 to 10 seconds, and then Iíve had enough. My wife has the spiritual gift of ministering to children. I donít.
Some people ask me, ďWhy in the world do you still work with the youthódonít they drive you crazy?Ē Thatís simple for me. I love working with youth. Itís the adults who drive me crazy. Iíve found that the Holy Spirit has given me the spiritual gift of youth ministry, not adult ministry.

Thankfully, the Spirit has given others the gift of working with adults. My daughter experiences joy when she feeds the homeless. I want to tell them to get a job instead of asking for handouts. My daughter has the spiritual gift of compassion for those who are down and out. I donít.

Youíll experience joy when the Holy Spirit flows through you by carrying out the ministry of Jesus.

4. Is there success in your ministry? This can be tricky, because we often mea-sure success by worldly standardsówhat is bigger or better or more recognized or more expensive? But those arenít the measures of success by Godís standards.

Since the purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the body of Christ, measure success by thatóeither people joining the church or maturing in their spiritual walk. When you minister on behalf of Jesus, are people drawn to Jesus? Are they wanting to become more like Him? Thatís success!

5. You need to receive positive feedback from others in the church. Since the church is the body of Christ, that body needs to help you see where you fit in. Are you a finger or a kneecap? Are you the ears or a big toe? Where do you fit into the body? You canít come up with that by yourself. If you donít get any feedback, ask others in your church, especially those who seem to be perceptive about church things.

You canít say that you have the gift of pointing out peopleís sins just because you like to nail people. When you do it the way Jesus did, others in the body will let you know. The flip side of this is that you, as part of the body of Christ, need to give others feedback to let them know what it seems that the Holy Spirit has gifted them inówhatever area youíve seen them being used to carry on the ministry of Jesus.

How can you find out what your spiritual gifts are? Read those three passages Paul wrote, then try out the five steps listed above.

Welcome to the body of Christ. Now you get to do what Jesus did: serve others. The Holy Spirit will give you the ability to do it, right along with others who are also part of the body of Christ.

*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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