The word spiritual signifies these are not natural talents or abilities, but a heavenly enablement, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power displayed through believers. Human involvement and co-operation are both required for them to be evidenced. The word gift indicates something freely given, which like salvation can’t be earned, and so we can’t take any credit (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 12:11). The gifts of the Spirit are not to be confused with the fruits of the Spirit, the character qualities, as displayed by Jesus, which each believer should be developing in their life through their response to life’s challenges. These inner godly attributes are necessary to support the divine capabilities and assist the overall functioning of the church in “body ministry” – fitting together to make a functional whole with God’s Kingdom and a focus on Christ always the top priority (Rom 12:5).
All gifts come from the Holy Spirit and are given as He chooses. We are to ‘earnestly desire them’ not for our advancement or status, but offering ourselves as channels to encourage, build up and help the body of Christ to be what it should be, motivated by Godly love (1 Cor 12:4-7,31, 13:1-3, 14:1,5,12; Gal 5:22; 1 Pet 4:10).
Paul uses the analogy of our physical bodies with each part functioning and co-operating together (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:12-26). God’s gifts and calling will not be withdrawn, as He doesn’t go back on His promises, yet we can ignore these divine endowments, abuse them through wrong use, or lose them through lack of use (Mt 25:14-29; Rom 11:29). He does, however, expect a return or increase on what He has invested in us through their proper use – as we bless and minister to expand His Kingdom, aware it will require us to move beyond our present comfort zone into the realm of faith.
Such gifts (not necessarily in order of importance) include: prophesying (not just predicting the future but preaching God’s messages), serving, teaching, encouraging, giving to others, having administrative ability, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracle working power, the ability to discern spirits, speaking in tongues for the church (as opposed to private use), the interpretation of those (tongue) messages, apostolic gifting, evangelism and pastoral care (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-31, 14:1; Eph 4:8,11,12; 1 Pet 4:10,11). However, the Holy Spirit is not restricted to these itemized expressions, which are to be used in submission to His authority, not relying on human effort, emotionalism or manipulation, and recognizing we are only channels through whom the blessing and grace of God flows to others with all credit for their outworking being directed to Him (Zech 4:6; Rom 1:11,12).
Our calling is not limited to the use of specific, identifiable gifts as we can operate in other areas at various times; besides all Christians, regardless of their particular or distinctive area of ministry, are to be involved to some measure in evangelism, serving, offering hospitality and other God honouring activities on an ongoing basis.
Spiritual gifts are bestowed on people who have personalities and temperaments (or motivations) which are in keeping with that gifting – people who serve are normally very faithful and reliable, while clear thinkers who relish study may be given the gift of teaching, and preachers who declare the Word of God with power are often bold and articulate.
Timothy received his gift when mature Christians laid their hands on him (1 Tim 4:14,15; 2 Tim 1:6). When fully yielded to the Lord, and supported by the prayers of others, we can also receive a divine impartation or confirmation by serving where there is a need. Don’t be a spectator waiting for your talent to be recognised but do “Whatever your hand finds to do, [and] do it with all your might” (1 Sam 10:7; Eccl 9:10). When looking back your spiritual gift will become obvious for the discovery is made by involvement.
Do you know your place of service in the body of Christ? Do you feel drawn to a particular need or interact with a certain type of people? What are the strong and weak areas of your Christian life? Besides prayerfully examining your life, ask those who are spiritually mature and know you well for their insights. When you think you have identified your spiritual gift, ask God for the opening to serve and then apply yourself. When you serve in an area that fits your gift you will feel fulfilled. However, ensure that after starting under the Spirit’s guidance you do not revert into doing things through the flesh – the old way of life which is to be put to death (Act 8:9,13,18,19; Gal 3:3).
As we each have differing gifts and levels of development, we are not to compare ourselves to others. We need to be thankful for the abilities of others, while we humbly use our giftings and strengths to balance out their deficiencies (1 Cor 3:7-9; 2 Cor 8:14, 10:12). We are also instructed not to neglect the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit either but fan them into flame, using these resources for the benefit of others (1 Cor 12:7,11; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6; Heb 2:4; 1 Pet 4:10). Thus our responsibility is to use what we have been given, co-operating with Him so it can be said, “the Lord worked with them” to bring about His desired results (Mk 16:20).
Do I know and use the gifts the Holy Spirit has entrusted to me?
zone (1 Thes 5:19,20; 2 Tim 1:6). Do not waste the gift God has given you, for without it the church is handicapped. God designed the church to need each other to function and work together.
Because the church has increasingly failed to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and show the power of God through signs, wonders and miracles it has not impacted the world as was the norm in the early church (Act 3:7-10, 5:12,15,16…; Heb 2:3,4). Oft times Christianity is seen to be just a superficial, outward veneer on people’s lives – just speculative philosophy and rituals – instead of being a dynamic agent of change, creating believers through whom His miraculous, supernatural power flows to minister to broken humanity, but Jesus stated, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (Mk 16:17,18; Jn 14:12; Act 4:13). The early believers prayed, “Enable your servants to speak with boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Act 4:29,30). The vast majority of preaching is lacking the Spirit’s anointing, conviction of sin and power through the gifts; this is not the way the Lord intended it to be (Act 2:37). He said, “If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me” (Jn 10:37). If that standard was applied to most ministers today, they would not be believed!
Note: A natural talent can be possessed by anyone, Christian or non-Christian and used for non-spiritual purposes, while spiritual gifts are only possessed by Christians and are to be used for God's glory. The exercising of spiritual gifts is not an indication of a person’s character.