[This is part two of a series. READ PART ONE >]
“Well, sure, but how do I figure out which ones I have?”
In almost every conversation I’ve ever had about spiritual gifts, some form of this question has been asked. And I completely understand why. The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 4:10, assures us that ALL Christians have at least one spiritual gift: “As each has received a gift…”
So then it is only natural for a curiosity to develop regarding WHICH spiritual gift (or gifts!) the Lord has given to us. But in my view, there is a problem with this approach. If not careful, it makes our spiritual gifts mostly about US, which is not why we have them. Just take a look at how Peter finishes the sentence I began quoting above: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Yes, Peter says, All Christians have received (at least one) gift, but that gift is not about you! It’s about others! It’s about serving! It’s about giving yourself away!
You may begin to see the problem if we become obsessed with what MY gift is. How has God gifted ME? Me, me, me. But no. Your spiritual gift is FAR more about other people in your life than it is about you.
Our definition from part one of this series matches this emphasis:
A spiritual gift is a Holy Spirit empowered ability, freely given to the believer for the purpose of serving others and building up the church for the common good of all.
Now granted, to accomplish the purpose statement in our definition, one does have to know what gifts they possess. So the question of spiritual giftedness is an important one, it’s just not where the conversation should originate.
When you’re ready for it, here’s a helpful approach, first recommended to me by pastor and author Tim Keller: Three places to “look” to discover your spiritual gifts.
The first place people typically look to discover their gifts is IN. Which is important, we’ll get to that. But again, starting by looking IN begins the conversation from a self-centered position. Instead, we ought to look OUT and ask, “What are the needs of the community around me? What openings could I fill? How could I serve?” And it’s interesting, because by jumping in where you are needed, you may be surprised to find out that you are gifted in an area you didn’t think you were! And what a gift that would be! (See what I did there?)
The other way you can “look out” to discover your gifts is to ask questions like these: What needs am I drawn to or stir my emotions? What is broken in the world that I am deeply compelled to fix? By considering problems that draw you in rather than push you away, you may be stumbling into an area where God has gifted you.
See, I told you this was important! And, of course, it is. God built and created YOU in a special and unique way. No one else is like you. Which means that no one else can contribute to God’s mission in this world (to make all things new again through Jesus) like you can. Hear this: You (and your gifts) ARE needed. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
So ask, “How has God made me? What am I good at? What comes easily to me? What brings me joy while I am doing it? What do I seem particularly fitted for?”
And yes, you can take an assessment! Just like personality assessments fall short at capturing the whole of who we are (and even the best ones do fall short—I’m looking at you, Enneagram), so will a spiritual gifts assessment fall short in and of itself. But it is a helpful tool on the journey. The best one I’ve found is by Pastor Jeff Carver at spiritualgiftstest.com. You can take the assessment online (you will have to create a free account on the website to do so).
Here’s the last step. It’s important, and a ton of people forget it. You see, no one in this world is better at tricking me than myself. I convince myself of stuff that isn’t true ALL THE TIME. So after you look IN to discover your spiritual gifts, you HAVE to look AROUND. Which means, you have to ask people in your life to affirm or deny your giftedness.
Ask, with true humility and an open ear: Do you see this gift in my life? Do you agree with what I think I’ve discovered?
Those are terrifying questions, are they not? But we have to ask them, and we have to be open to hearing hard things in response. Because if we aren’t, what’s the point? We’ll miss our true giftedness, and fail to maximize our fruitfulness to God’s mission.
So talk to your spouse. Your small group. Your mentors. Your friends that love Jesus. Your pastors. Ensure them that you want full honesty. And then, listen. Don’t wait to talk. Don’t formulate your rebuttal while they are still sharing. Truly listen. And if what they have to say is hard, ask them to walk with you as you discover your true gifts.
So there it is, three places to “look” to discover your spiritual gifts. They are not a list to check off, mind you, but are a framework to point us in the right direction. May we never forget who gives us the gifts in the first place. God, yes, but more specifically even, the Holy Spirit. With that in mind, we close this series with adapted prayers from the The Valley of Vision, “God the Spirit” and “The Spirit of Jesus”:
Oh Lord God, I pray not so much for spiritual gifts as for the Spirit himself, because I feel his absence, and act by my own spirit in everything. Give me not weak desires but the power of his presence, for this is the surest way to receive all his benefits, and when I have the seal I have the impression also; He can heal, help, quicken, humble suddenly and easily, can work grace and life effectually, and being eternal, can give grace eternally.
Save me from great hindrances, from being content with a little measure of the Spirit, from thinking you will not give me more. When I feel my lack of him, light up life and faith, for when I lose thee I am either in the dark and cannot see you, or Satan and my natural abilities content me with a little light, so that I seek no further for the Spirit of Life.
May his comforts cheer me in my sorrows, his strength sustain me in my trials, his blessings revive me in my weariness, his presence render me a fruitful tree of holiness, his might establish me in peace and joy, his incitements make me ceaseless in prayer, his animation kindle in my undying devotion. Teach me to find and know the fullness of the Spirit only in Jesus.