Series: Spirit-filled (By Peter and Rosie Moore)
“What is this?”
“What am I going to do with this?”
These are probably some of the questions you ask yourself each time you have a birthday and someone gives you a gift (particularly if it’s your young child!)
But when we consider spiritual gifts, I think we should similarly ask two questions: “What are my spiritual gifts?” And, “What shall I do with my gifts?”
Natural and spiritual gifts
When the Bible talks about a gift, it is talking about any natural ability that God has given you. What then makes that gift spiritual? A natural gift becomes spiritual when that gift is used for a spiritual end, namely when the person using their gift is empowered by, and acts in accordance with, the will of the Holy Spirit. We often refer to this as bearing spiritual fruit. We can use our natural gifts to do and accomplish a lot of good things, even as a non-believer. However, we will only bear spiritual fruit when we are in communion with Jesus through faith and repentance. As Jesus told his disciples, “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (Jn 15:4). If we want to bear good spiritual fruit, we must remain in Christ.
And so, whatever our particular gifts and callings, we must speak and act in ways that honour the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph 4:2-6). We must always speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15; 25). And we must remain reliant on the Holy Spirit to take our words and deeds, and use them for God-honouring consequences. For, “apart from (me) Jesus, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
Are gifts miraculous or non-miraculous?
Contemporary Christianity often exalts the miraculous, but the exercise of our gifts can be spectacular and public, or ordinary and seemingly mundane. The results vary too: Some are miraculous, seeming to bypass normal laws and principles, and some may appear inconsequential. However, the Scriptures do not make this distinction between the spectacular and the mundane.
Hence, the gift of prophecy and miracles is listed alongside serving, helping, teaching, languages, communication, wisdom and discernment, shepherding, giving, leading, public speaking, encouraging, administration and being merciful (I Cor 12:28, 1 Cor 12:8-10, Eph 4:11, Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 7:7, 1 Pet 4:11). I do hope that, in reading this list (which is by no means exhaustive), you will see some of your own spiritual gifts. One thing is certain: Christ has gifted each and every Christian (Eph 4:7-8).
What’s the purpose of gifts?
It’s all very well to identify our gifts, but what exactly am I meant to do with my gifts? 1 Pet 4:11 is most helpful in showing us that gifts are given to enable us to speak and do God’s will, “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ”. And so, when spiritual gifts are discussed in the New Testament, the types of gifts described are wide and varied, because the ways we speak and act for Christ are wide and varied too. Just as the parts of the body are diverse, enabling the person to perform a varied number of functions, so too are gifts. So the gifts listed in the New Testament do not appear to be an exhaustive list, but just a sample of the infinite possibilities.
What then is God’s will for how we should use our gifts? Well, ultimately it is to bring glory to God, the very reason we were created. Although that sounds very “spiritual” and otherworldly, it is actually very practical. We bring glory to God by utilising our gifts in order to be a blessing to those around us, both inside and outside the church.
An example of how we use our gifts properly in the church would be “.. to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12, 29). Despite our diverse gifts, races and cultures, we are urged to use our gifts to keep spiritual unity through the bond of peace (Eph 4:3-4). We are always to exercise our gifts humbly, gently, patiently, graciously, “bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:2; 32). We are always to use our gifts in a way that pleases and doesn’t grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30). Abiding in Christ is the only way to bear spiritual fruit.
Outside the church, it might be that we use the gift of tongues in order that people from other tribes, tongues, peoples and nations can hear the gospel in their own language, just as they did on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:8). It may be to expose evil or show mercy (Eph 5:9,11). But either way, the proper use of spiritual gifts is always outward focused, not to draw attention to ourselves or win the approval of people. Our service must be undergirded by the gospel and the glory of God. In contrast, using gifts “unspiritually” would be doing so with a selfish motive, often manifesting in boasting, vanity, slander and rage (Eph 4:31).
So, if you can dream up a way to bring glory to God and reach people with the gospel, then go ahead. Unwrap the gifts God has given you for his kingdom, and keep using them until the day he takes you home. Just have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness while you go about your business (Eph 5:11).
Should I desire spiritual gifts?
The reality is that as a Christian, you already have spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7, 11 & 1 Pet 4:10) because everyone is gifted by God and every Christian has the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9; Eph 4:7-8). As a result, no-one in God’s kingdom can claim to be “ungifted”. Everyone has a unique purpose and a part to play. If you want to extend your giftedness, perhaps you should ask yourself the questions, “Why do I want a gift? Do I want this gift in order to be more useful in God’s kingdom, or do I want it to extend my own kingdom?” If the answer is “yes” to God’s kingdom, then “eagerly desire” and pray to be equipped with spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:1). You are never too young or too old to be using your gifts for the kingdom.
How do I identify my gifts?
You can do this by reflecting honestly (Rom 12:3) about your interests, desires and abilities. Also, honestly reflect on your effectiveness when you have taken opportunities to minister. Be brave enough to lose your defences and insecurities. Try new areas of service. Ask people around you (who know you well) to give you an honest assessment of where they perceive your gifts to be. Ask yourself whether you enjoy using certain gifts more than others. And ask God, who knows and loves you, to answer your prayers and give you wisdom in this regard (James 1:5-6).
More blessed to give than to receive
Jesus and Paul remind us to work hard and help the weak, for “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Our gifts are not ours to keep or store for a future day. With that in mind, let’s prayerfully consider the spiritual gifts God has uniquely given to each one of us, and use them for the benefit of others and for His glory.