By Peggy Park
Finding your spiritual gifts can be compared to searching through a drawer full of gloves in a department store. My fingers are too short for most gloves, so it is a real achievement when I find a pair that fits my fingers as well as the width of my hand.
We experience meaningful ministry when we discover and exercise our spiritual gifts. This brings fulfillment and satisfaction in our service as well as in our Christian life.
Spiritual gifts have been categorized in a variety of ways based on biblical passages such as 1 Corinthians 12:8-12, Ephesians 4:11-13, and Romans 12:4-8. None of these lists is meant to be definitive or exhaustive, but they help us begin to see avenues of service available to us through the working of God’s Holy Spirit.
There are no superstars in kingdom work. Some gifts may be more visible than others, which may lead us to regard them—and even ourselves—as more important than others. But each gift has a purpose. The Lord’s work advances when we accept each other’s gifts and work together as a body in unity without competition and strife. Nor should we try to emulate the gifts of another. We may be inspired by observing others operating in their areas of giftedness, but we must guard against jealousy and envy and the desire for gifts we don’t possess. We should be motivated to discover and work within our own unique abilities.
It may surprise us to learn what gifts we have, and at first we may be hesitant to put them to use. Before I started speaking to women’s groups at programs and retreats, my mentor kept telling me to “put yourself out there” as a speaker. After I heard this from her several times over a period of months, I told the Lord I was willing to speak for him if he would open the doors.
A few days later a Christian sister invited me to participate in a series of meetings her church was holding during Easter. She gave me four speaking assignments on a program that ran around the clock from Wednesday morning until Friday night. I said, “Lord, I believe I heard you.” The scope of the assignment prevented me from wondering, “Should I, or should I not?” Following this confirmation I enrolled in two different training programs for speakers to prepare to be the best possible representative for the Lord.
Finding Your Gift
A number of tests have been designed to help Christians discover their spiritual gifts. In addition, Christian friends and family members may observe us in areas of service and suggest that we have a particular gift. Pay attention to their observations. We find fulfillment and satisfaction when we serve in our areas of giftedness. Frustration results when we try to make ourselves fit into areas of ministry we’re not gifted to do.
Finding our gifts is a matter of prayer as well.
Many of us have taken on ministries at church and jobs in the community because someone felt desperate to fill a position and came to us for help. If we agree to work outside our areas of giftedness, it may be that the person for whom the job would have been a perfect fit is deprived of the opportunity.
On the other hand, we may need to be stretched—to exercise our gifts in ways and circumstances that are outside our comfort zones. A friend of mine is a gifted servant. She often accompanies people to their medical appointments. At one point she used her serving gift repeatedly to minister to a friend whose husband was killed in a plane crash. The victim’s family had to appear often before the responsible airline. This required a significant investment of time on her part and would not have fit me at all—although I filled in for her one day on a doctor’s appointment and the Lord gave me the grace to sit and wait.
The Purpose of Gifts
Spiritual gifts are given to assist us in fulfilling the Great Commission (Mark 16:15) where we are told to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The gifts also give us a means to serve others—believers and unbelievers. The unity demonstrated when we accept each other in our gifts without competition or comparison can also be a witness to the world around us as they see us working in unity and cooperating with each other. As we use our gifts to build up the body of Christ, we must also support others as they use their gifts.
A friend of mine uses her gift of evangelism to share her faith everywhere she goes. Several people have come to Christ because of the way she faithfully exercises her gift. In addition she labors in prayer for many people.
Christians who are gifted in the area of evangelism must guard against letting their passion to present the gospel override their sensitivity to the person or setting they are in, and instead should use discernment to determine the right timing. Jesus modeled the gift of evangelism as he fulfilled his earthly ministry. (He, of course, exercised all of the ministry gifts perfectly.)
In today’s setting, the gift of prophecy should be seen as the ability to speak for God by declaring his truth with accuracy and clarity. The caution with this gift is to speak the truth in love and without rigidity. This gift may involve calling believers to repentance. John the Baptist is an example.
Teaching involves sharing truth and practical applications. A gifted teacher must be careful not to come across as a “know it all”; instead, he or she should teach with compassion and humility. Paul was a teacher, having penned much of the New Testament.
Exhortation calls forth the best in others so they grow and mature in the Lord. Exhorters help people move from a problem to a solution. People with this gift must be careful not to become dogmatic, and not to condemn if the advice offered is not followed. They must be sure their counsel is scripturally sound. Elisha is an example of an exhorter.
People with a shepherding gift are skilled at providing spiritual oversight to individuals or a body of believers. They nurture those under their care. The person with this gift must be careful not to control others, but rather help them mature and develop a measure of self-sufficiency in their spiritual growth. Paul was a shepherd and passed much of his knowledge on to Timothy and Titus.
Those with the gift of mercy help and encourage people in distress. They are sensitive to words and actions that may hurt others. They must be careful not to let the recipient come to depend on the mercy giver excessively, but be encouraged to develop dependence on the Lord. The Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable modeled mercy.
Serving is meeting the practical needs of individuals and the church body. Servers usually do not consider any task beneath them. The caution is not to expect or invite attention while serving; instead work as unto the Lord, and do not seek recognition. Martha was a server; however, she did call Jesus’ attention to her service.
Giving involves sharing money, time, and resources. Givers must be careful to use good judgment, and if it involves money, offer a “hand up” and not just a handout. Gifted givers respect the recipients’ dignity and help them see ways they can give back. Barnabas was a giver.
Leadership and organization are keys to the gift of administration. Those with this gift can see the big picture and organize people and events. They must be careful not to get so involved with planning that they disregard the feelings of others. Nehemiah was an administrator.
Take a spiritual gifts test, listen to your friend’s comments about your strengths, note what makes you feel fulfilled, and listen to your heart. Pray that the Lord will confirm what he designed you to do.
Peggy Park is a freelance writer in Lexington, Kentucky.
DiscoverYour Spiritual Gifts Online
Ephesians Four Ministries Church Growth Institute
This inventory contains 108 questions. At the end it provides a bar graph with scores for each gift, a description of dominant gifts, and several pages of analysis. This site also has an option for group gift analysis.
Ministry Tools Resource Center
This quick inventory has 35 questions focusing on the seven gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8.
This assessment contains 125 questions and examines 25 spiritual gifts, focusing on how gifts function in the broader body of Christ.