I want to take a look at spiritual gifts. This is something which has become very popular in the church. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact it is good for people to know what their spiritual gifts are and to strive to use them in accordance with God's will. However, there are some dangers too.
We should look first at what spiritual gifts are and what they are not. They are not gifts that a person is born with; i.e. natural talents. They are not meant to be gifts that bring glory or wealth to the person who has them. They are gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit, to bring glory to God and to enable the body of Christ as a whole to do His work. They are meant to compliment each other, not to compete with each other. They are to be used to build up the body not to cause division. 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
We do not choose which gift or gifts we get, yet we are told that it is okay to desire certain gifts. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV) Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.
I won't go into what all the gifts are or what they consist of, there are plenty of books out there that will explain those things. Rather I want to look at how we find out what our gifts are and how we use them.
There are many different 'spiritual gifts' tests that claim to be able to tell you what your spiritual gifts are and how to use them. There are several different courses or seminars that also will help you find your spiritual gifts. These all work basically the same way. They give you an overview of the spiritual gifts and then through a subjective questionnaire they tell you where your gifting is.
There are some pitfalls and dangers to finding your spiritual gifts this way. For one all these tests are very subjective. You answer questions about how you act and feel in given situations. Are we all honest with ourselves? No, we often think we act a certain way because that is the way we would want to act, but the truth is we don't. Secondly, this is more of a personality test then a spiritual gifts test. You are answering the questions about how you act and therefore who you are more then who God has enabled you to be. For example if you gave any of the spiritual gifts tests to non-believers you would still get a wide variety of spiritual gifts represented among the group. You would have people whose 'gifts' are prophecy, leadership, mercy, helps, teaching, and even shepherding. But yet none of that is true, because as I said earlier spiritual gifts are given only to believers by the Holy Spirit. A non-believer does not have a spiritual gift. They may well have talents that fall into these areas, but they do not have spiritual gifts.
Even believers can come up with 'talents' rather then spiritual gifts. There is a difference. God gives us special gifts to build up and support the body of Christ. We may well have talents which will also build up and support the body, but they are not the same thing. That is not to say that a person who has a particular talent will not also be given a gift in that area.
God gives gifts as He sees fit, not how we see fit. We may have a talent for teaching others, but if we don't have the spiritual gift of teaching then our teaching in a Christian setting will fall flat, because it is not the area in which God has gifted us. We may have the ability to empathize with hurting people and that is good and needed, but if we are not gifted by the Holy Spirit to minister to these people then there will be something lacking that only a person who has the gift of mercy can bring to that situation.
So if these tests are all subjective and therefore prone to error, how are we to tell what our spiritual gift is? The problem is that we are more concerned about what our gifts are then just being concerned about serving God. If we just serve God, we will find our gifting. The best way for a mature Christian to know what their spiritual gift is, is to look around at what they are doing to serve God. They will find that they are serving in their gifted area if they are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. God will not gift a person and then send them into an area to serve where they have not been gifted.
There is often another problem with the way people look at spiritual gifts. For example a church may feel that someone who can 'get' a bunch of people to do something is a leader. But is that true? Well maybe it is but maybe it isn't. Is true leadership, getting people to do things, or is it leading people? I believe it is leading people. Pushy people who intimidate others are often able to get people to do things, but that is not leadership, it is being pushy and intimidating (which by the way are not spiritual gifts). Remember what Paul said: 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. I don't define common good as being pushed or intimidated.
Leadership is first and foremost leadership by example. If a leader is the first one there and the last one to leave and is seen as helping and appreciating the people who are there to help, he will be much better respected. He will find it much easier to get volunteers the next time something needs to be done. This example revolves around work done in the service area, but the same holds true of any leadership within the church. If the Pastor wants the church to pray, he needs to be the first one on his knees. You can't make yourself a good spiritual leader, it is a gift from God. If you don't have it, then allow someone who does to lead.
Don't shun gifts, because you never know what God has in store for you. On every spiritual gifts test I have ever taken I scored high on prophecy and discernment and rock bottom in mercy. I figured since God gifted me that way, He would never put me in a position where mercy was needed. Well guess what, He has done just that on a number of occasions. He has sent me people who were hurting and needed biblical advise. I guess I could have sent them away to look for someone who has the gift of mercy, but I figured if God sent them to me He must want me to help them. Once I had that attitude I was surprised by what God did. He gave me the spiritual gift of mercy for the time period that I needed it.
It was not about me, it was about God and how He comforted and helped one of His children. God is capable of using even a hard core prophet to be merciful or helpful. I also don't have the gifts of serving or hospitality but again God has used me in those areas in the past. See it is not about what your gift is, it is whether you are willing to allow God to use you in 'any' area He chooses.
This takes me back to how a person can tell what gift they have. It is really a simple matter, you don't need a seminar, you don't need a test, all you need is a servant's heart that is willing to go where God leads you. Just go through the doors that God opens to you and do what you feel led to do. One day you will look around and realize that you are a teacher. Not because of the answers to a test but rather because you are teaching by God's power. Or you may realize that you are a person that God uses to show mercy to others or that you are a leader.
If you are willing to allow God to use you, it does not matter if you know what your gift is or not, He knows what it is, He gave it to you. The real danger of spiritual gifts tests are that they tend to make people think they know better then God what their gift is. "Oh, I can't teach the children, I have the gift of leadership. I will find someone else to teach." Was that an open door you just stepped away from because you think you are a leader?
I did not ask God to give me the gift of prophecy, I did not even understand what the gift of prophecy was. All I knew was that I had the feeling that God wanted me to post my testimony on my website. I figured no one would ever see it anyway, so why not? After posting it I started to get a lot of hate mail and questions from visitors to my site. I still did not know what the gift of prophecy was, but I knew in my heart that if God was sending these people to me, I should try to answer them and show them His love.
I got several messages from Satanist and to be honest I had no idea how to answer them. I went to the church and asked for advise and what I got was 'don't answer those people, just delete the messages and forget them.' Something just didn't seem right to me. If God had really asked me to post my testimony and if He was really bringing people to my site, then it just didn't seem right to ignore them.
I prayed about it and I got out my Bible and started answering those people. Have they all fallen on their faces before God and repented? No. I have had curses put on me, I have been threatened and harassed, but He who is in me is greater then he who is in the world!! Through the power of God, I have proclaimed His word boldly.
I now understand the gift of prophecy. It is to proclaim God's message to a dying world that often does not want to hear it, boldly and without fear. It is also to proclaim God's word to the body of Christ (that often does not want to hear it), again boldly and without fear.
I don't have the gift of prophecy because I was born stubborn, bullheaded and opinionated, although many times prophets appear to process those attributes. No, I have the gift of prophecy because God gave me the gift of speaking to people's needs biblically. I can take no pride in that, because it is not my talent, it is God's gift. He is willing to use me despite the fact that I am stubborn, bullheaded and opinionated, not because of it.
My point is not to discourage the use of spiritual gifts tests, but rather to caution people about their use. We should all be looking for ways to serve God. We should look for those open doors so that we can go through them. We only short change ourselves and the Body of Christ, when we proclaim what our gift is and what our gift is not and base our service on that subjective assumption alone, instead of following Christ and allowing Him to gift us as He pleases.
These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.
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