Spiritual Gifts: The Good Stuff

As promised (’cause I like to keep my promises, especially promises regarding Baskin Robbins that I make to myself), today is the follow-up post to yesterday’s post, Spiritual Gifts: Who Needs ‘Em?. Turns out, most of you believe in spiritual gifts after all. Cool. You even believe in the taboo, swept-under-the-rug, crazy, “charismatic” gifts like prophecy. Doubly cool.

With that in mind, I thought today I’d just share a little bit about how to actually discover your own gift, if you are so inclined, which you should be ’cause knowing your gift is crucial and will have tremendous impact on your identity in Christ.

So, let’s get to it…

I’ll start by acknowledging that some people don’t think the label of a spiritual gift is important or necessary. “Pish psoh.” they say, “I’m just going to serve Jesus. No labels needed.”

Well, I certainly agree with this sentiment, insofar as, I don’t think you need the title of a spiritual gift in order to dive in and make waves in the Kingdom…but man, does it help.

Here’s why: Firstly, God wants us to know our gifts. Paul reminds of us of that, remember? Secondly, if God didn’t care one way or the other if we actually used or understood our spiritual gifting, then why bother giving them to us?

I don’t know about your experiences with the Lord, but usually, when He gives me a gift I’m like “Wow, totally awesome, super-cool, thanks Dad!” I don’t take the gifts God gives me, thank Him, then proceed to stick them on a shelf to collect dust.

I wanna rip that pretty wrapping paper right open and see what’s inside. And what’s inside is the gift specifically, personally, and intimately chosen by God and distributed by the Holy Spirit to you. You! Suh-weeeet. That is the good stuff.

Okay, now that my rambling portion is over, how’s about I get to the point? How can you discover you own awesome gifting (or help others discovers theirs, as well)?

1. Pray. Seems simple enough, I know, but uh, you know how we can be…sometimes we forget to start with prayer.

2. Read up. The Bible is pretty stinkin’ clear, in my opinion, on the topic of spiritual gifts, so why not read all that it has to say on the subject. Something might pop out at you. Something might click. Reading the Word combined with #1 has been known to produce some stellar results in the past, after all. Start with 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, Romans 12,  and Ephesians 4.

3. Take a spiritual gift test. Okay, yes, these can be a bit corny. I don’t even agree with some of the theology behind certain tests (for example, I don’t think “music” or “worship” is a spiritual gift. It ain’t listed in the Bible, so why add it?), but they can point you in the right direction. If, for instance, you are debating between a few gifts possibly being yours, a gift test can help narrow down the possibilities. Here’s one I have used in the past.

4. Ask questions…of yourself. Look, you can be honest with me. I know you already talk to yourself, in the mirror, with a hairbrush as a microphone, oh wait, that’s just me…uh….Well, ask yourself questions anyway. Here are a few great questions to help determine your spiritual gifting:

  • What motivates you in the Kingdom?
  • What most frustrates you in the Church?
  • What do you most love about the Church?
  • When do you feel most connected or in-tune with the Lord?
  • When have you felt most fulfilled in doing ministry?

These questions are simple, but they help shed light on why we do what we do–which leads to us understanding our gifting. Let me just say also that I  believe in the difference between “manifestation gifts” i.e. tongues, prophecy, words of knowledge and the primary gift given to each believer.

That being said, my primary gift is the gift of exhortation. I am, in other words, an exhorter. Which explains why I like to give advice, admonish people, and encourage believers. It is why I give books, suggest sermons, even write this blog, because I desire to see people apply God’s Word to their daily lives. That is what motivates me. That’s also why, when people aren’t following God’s Word and are pickin’ their noses, I get frustrated. See questions above. Cool how that works, right?

Some of you shared your gifting already, but tell me again if you know your spiritual gifting. If you don’t know, but would like to know tell me in the comments. Let me ask you these same questions and see if we come up with an answer. Any other theological questions regarding gifts? Bring it on!

26 thoughts on “Spiritual Gifts: The Good Stuff”

  1. Yah! I was totally looking forward to this all week…I’m a nerd, anyway…spiritual gifts have me wondering a lot. There one of those things that really made me wish I had a spiritual mentor or something, maybe named paul, that would sit down with me for coffee or something!

    I met with my pastor a couple weeks ago and started to realize that maybe I’m a little more perceptive than the average person. (?discernment maybe?). I told him a few things that were going on in the church that I though were REALLY REALLY obvious, backed up by multiple people confirming it to me and he had a bit of an idea, but it had just come to his attention that week. (it had been going on for a LONG time.)

    Now I’m kicking myself for not speaking up sooner instead of griping about how he wasn’t doing anything about it….oops!

    This is such an important conversation about how to function as the body of Christ, yet looking back I can only think of a couple times where more mature christians have encouraged me in the area. Time to do some digging I guess, instead of, well, you know sitting around and griping! (it’s a bad habit for me.)

    1. Jenn,
      Could be discernment. However, discernment in reference to spiritual gifts is referred to as “discerning of spirits” which is something else entirely.

      Discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability to distinguish between good and evil–on a much higher level than the average Christian.

      Sounds to me like you might have the gift of wisdom, which allows you to look at a situation that seems unsolvable and yet you are able to find a correct/Godly/right solution.

      What do you think? Do you think that sounds like you?

      Do you find friends come to you with problems or issues are you are able to offer solutions easily that are in line with God’s Word?

      Do you get frustrated by foolishness in thinking or behavior within the Church?

      1. Hmm Interesting…I think you might be right…and when I looked up wisdom, commonly in the definition is “the ability to dicern…” ect. within the body. I never thought about mercy either but Mercy would be a big one for me, I think mercy is one of those things that comes so naturally to me, and is in general encouraged within christian and NON-chrisitan circles that I never would have looked at it as a gift, just a part of me. Sometime though I get frustrated that other’s don’t feel the same….maybe because they weren’t totally meant too.

        Doesn’t everybody get frustrated by the foolishness in the church?? ;)

    2. Hi there!My family and I are pnanling to drop by Jakarta this 26th May. I am actually scouting for places to do a family/baby photoshoot (both indoor and outdoor) in Indonesia and i stumbled upon your website. May i know what kind of packages do you have and how are your rates? I look forward for your reply. RegardsEzan Haslir (Singapore)

  2. I’ve taken so many of those tests in the past that it makes my head spin. I took the one you linked to and again had many of the same results at the top. In this recent one, Encouragement and Writing were at the top with music and pastoring close behind it.

    Like you, I don’t consider “music” a spiritual gift. It’s a way I can connect to God and point others to Him but that’s not a gift per se.

    I’ve always been frustrated with my spiritual gifts because they’re not usually welcome in many churches. Encouragement is always welcomed because most people like someone who pumps them up but most churches don’t know what to do with someone who has a talent for writing. Don’t get me started on how most churches feel about someone within their ranks that tests high on gifts of pastoring. Usually it just marks them as someone who needs to be marginalized and controlled.

    I keep praying God gives me the chance to use the gifts He’s given me. Haven’t really had them yet but perhaps someday He will deem me worthy.

    1. Jason,

      I have never heard of “writing” as a spiritual gift. It is not in the Bible that’s for sure. I think a lot of these “gift tests” group spiritual gifts alongside talents or skills.

      This makes the process that much more confusing. God gave each of us skills and talents where we are able to excel. However, spiritual gifts are exclusively to be used to edify and equip the saints. Our talents can coincide with our gifting and vice versa, but they are two distinct things.

      That being said too..”encouragement” is not the name of the spiritual gift in 1 Cor 1. It is called “exhortation” which is my gifting. Exhorters admonish, equip, and encourage the saints.

      It is a speaking gift primarily. DO you find that you like to give practical advice on living out God’s Word to those who need it?

      Do you hear a sermon and think..”Ooh, I know just who needs to hear this” or read a book and then give it to another person who you know would be encouraged by it as well?

      Exhorters are practical too and they need concrete, applicable teachings of God’s Word.

      Sound like you? Or perhaps you are a shepherd.

      What do you love within the church? What brings you the most joy and contentment within the body?

      P.S. Jason, you are worthy! God has already deposited within you a spiritual gift–from the moment you chose His Son. Chances are you are already using your gift to His glory. Now, it’s just about uncovering what that gift is. Chances are you are already using your gift to His glory.

      1. Yeah, that’s the fun thing about these “spiritual gift tests.” (Fun being used sarcastically.) The titles for the gifts rarely match up with the Bible itself. I’m with you in that people want to try and put talents and abilities (which can completely be God given) and lump them into “spiritual gifts.” I was using in my comment the “results” from the test you had linked to in your original posting just to try and be consistent with your OP.

        I don’t doubt I have a gift of exhortation. It’s certainly where my heart lies. I think that the reason I went into radio for 20 years and spend so much time writing blogs & other things to talk about living out our faith.

        When I get asked a question like your “what brings you the most joy and contentment within the body?” I know my answer. Over my walk with Christ I’ve had a few opportunities to speak to groups about Him or about things He’s done in my life. I’ve never felt as alive as I did in those moments.

        The problem I’ve run into is that most churches don’t really want to raise up people from within their ranks (no matter how much they say they do when asked.) It’s a lot easier to get a Bible college grad that’s been pre-vetted and without any baggage than to take someone who has a passion for writing or speaking and help them step into their gifting.

        So the fact I have this passion to write and speak and no place to use it within the church frustrates me to no end. Sure, I can help park cars or hand out bulletins or show up to paint the church building or hand out food at an outreach event but it’s not as satisfying to my soul as what I love to do. When you’re written off by most because you’re 40, have had issues to work through and am introverted in most interpersonal connections you usually get dismissed and labeled as not worth the time to invest effort.

        Just being honest, I’ve started thinking of ways to use my gifts without the church because I just don’t find support, encouragement or direction there. I’m not going to knock myself out playing politics just to use the gifts God’s given me.

  3. In college, it seemed all I was good for was turning over the overhead projected words during our Thursday night InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meetings. I wasn’t gifted in anything specific, and when I filled out a test, it came up with some gift that, basically, was the equivalent of “Overhead Projection.” So that’s what I considered my gift to be. :)

    Later in my Methodist church, running through a series of Bible studies called “Discipleship”, there was a chance to try to figure out your own spiritual gift, and to help others clarify what they had. I hate figuring these kinds of things out on my own…it often feels braggish to me. Not sure why.

    Anyway, nearly everyone in the group came up with the same one for me, and while the exact name escapes me (hey, it’s 7am where I am, and barely any coffee in me), it related to teaching and being a pastor kind of stuff. Studying and teaching others about it.

    Anyway, I figured that was good, as I’m a teacher by trade. My pastor had me start exploratory work on joining the ministry, but I really am not sure it’s for me. So I do my teaching job, I write my blog, and things seem pretty ok there.

    So that’s my story/comment! :)


    1. Josh,
      You are certainly more than the overhead projector guy!

      Perhaps you are a teacher, but sometimes people vocations gets confused with their gifting. This is very often the case with teachers, that I have known.

      They are teachers by trade but not necessarily in spiritual gifting.

      Have you ever taken a spiritual gift test? Just curious. They are not 100% accurate by any means, but they can be helpful in narrowing down the field.

  4. Nicole,

    This is a huge topic. I wish I could say more, but I have no desire to write a 4 page treatise on your blog.

    I did take that linked “spiritual gifts test”. It tells me my spiritual gift is faith. Hmm. I dig this. I reckon this means I am God’s “Yes man”.

    I would say that it is common to mistake a personality trait with a spiritual gift because it “feels so right”. Surely God has given us gifts imbedded in our personalities, even pre-Salvation. What say you about that, Miss Nicole?

    Like I said, HUGE topic, my friend. The surface has only been scratched on the tippiest tip of this iceberg.

    1. Indeed to that, Donald. Books can–and have–been written.

      I agree wholeheartedly that we have have natural talents, traits, etc., as well as those that are cultivated (music as an example), that are not at all spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given upon salvation. Similarly, I believe that gifts can be cultivated (as Ephesians 4 says, “for the equipping of the saints). This is why we need the body. Prophets typically need Mercies around them, to help temper them (my dad and brother are prophets, and this is a common pairing I see among those prophets marry). Leaders need Administrators so they’re not always so big-picture. Shepherds need Evangelists. And the list could go on.

      Indeed only scratched, and I’m sure Nicole will be writing more in the future. I look forward to it.

  5. I love spiritual gifting discussions. My gifting is pretty equally pastoring/shepherding and mercy. There’s nothing I like better than spending time with others, walking/empathizing with them through their lives, and encouraging them to grow closer to God.

    And, Nicole, you are indeed an exhorter. I feel like you have prophetic tendencies, too. Maybe that will be something that will pop up more in the future. Great post!

    1. Josh,
      My husband is a shepherd/pastor. He loves enfolding people into the flock and helping them to feel welcomes, connected, and loved. I love watching shepherds in action! They inspire me.

      It’s funny too that you say I have prophetic tendencies. My mother-in-law describes me as an “exhorter with a prophets edge.” I like that. Not sure how it will show up more in the future though, since I don’t really pay special attention to this fact.

      Seems that God allows it to take place when He needs…just like God.

  6. I think my spiritual gifts are prophecy and wisdom. Two years ago was a huge year of searching and seeking God’s direction in terms of spiritual gifts. I had an inkling that I was gifted in prophecy and Paul says to be eager for that gift, but I really had no idea what it looked like today (i.e if it had changed since the old testament, etc.).

    At the time I knew several people who were close to me that had extremely charismatic perspectives on spiritual gifts and not much of it seemed to align with Pauls call for order within the church in 1 Corinthians, so I was very hesitant to talk to many people about it.

    I felt so convicted that I needed to seek out the answer from God in the Word and through prayer, that I didn’t talk with anyone (except my husband) about it for almost a full year.

    After seeking out His answer, I felt like I came to an overall understanding of what it is, and was able to talk about it with some friends. My sort of overhead view of it is that God uses prophets to continuously point to Jesus Christ and to help the church not divert it’s gaze from Him. (This comes primarily through studying the purpose that the OT and NT prophets had among the people of God).

    So, my questions for you Nicole (and anyone else who wants to jump in): How do you think the gift of prophecy manifests itself in believers today? What purpose do you see prophets having in the church?

    I’d love to hear your thoughts, even if you disagree. :)

    1. Ashleigh,
      I knew you were a prophet from the minute I met you. Back in high school group, when you would share with the group–one of the first times, I looked at Jonathan and said “prophet.” It was so obvious to us.

      I am blessed to know God has led you to a place of truth and understanding.

      There is the gift of prophecy, a manifestation gift (available to all believers in my opinion) and the gift of prophet.

      Prophets declare God’s Truth. They tend to be misunderstood, and are often times outsiders or isolated within the body.

      They are the tests of God’s word–when someone has a “word” from God, they are the confirming (or not confirming) ear.

      Prophets are critical in the church. Sadly, most people do not understand their motivation and see them as mean, cruel, or insensitive. Prophets would do well to have mercies around them too. They need the reminder…

      What do you think about their role?

      1. Nicole,
        Your comment brought tears to my eyes. It is so encouraging to know that you and Jonathan saw that then. I certainly didn’t, but to hear that from you now is so affirming.

        I am still only beginning to understand their role. However, I think you’re right that it is to declare God’s truth. Like I said in the comment above, I think that generally looks like pointing believers back to the cross and to Christ.

        I’d love to expound, but I don’t have much time today to comment because we’re getting ready to leave for Slovakia with some high school kids! Btw, I would love your prayers for the trip. You can follow what we’re doing at our team blog http://slovakia2011.wordpress.com.

        Maybe when I get back we can get together like we’ve been talking about for so long. ;)

        (As a side note, it’s kind of funny to me now, thinking about how it has always bothered me to see the truth watered down–probably one of the reasons I appreciate your blog so much.)

  7. I am fascinated by all these comments and agree that many churches don’t want to use people’s giftings and spiritual gifts, be it those given on Salvation or talents such as music to serve the church.
    When this happens, I have had to look elsewhere and serve in several churches.
    I have been a Christian for 8 years now (am 49 years old) and I cannot find an article to thoroughly understand why pastors and leaders have no desire to develop you within the church. I speak four languages, love to sing and play several instruments. I have preached in Peru on a mission trip and loved doing this. I have taken many of those spiritual gifts tests and come out high on all of these, despite my pastor telling me you can’t have it all so am confused. I am also extrovert in character and have offered to do so many things and have been ignored. My real passions have never been cultivated and now I’m just so afraid to ask. Our church is known for having a bad clique, especially among the worship group and many people have been turned down since it seems to be ‘family run’. People have told home truths to the pastor about the clique, but he denies this. He’s a nice man in many ways, but not a good delegator. Lay people he chooses to preach seem to preach at several notches below him and he never chooses people who could do the job well.
    Is it people’s insecurities the reason for lack of inclusion?
    In fact, as much as I love Jesus and many things about the church, I have never seen such a life depleting source of good talent wasted. It just shocks. Unfortunately, from talking to others, it happens elsewhere and this is very common in the church from reading articles.
    What can be done about this?
    It makes me weep and righteously angry.


  8. Since it has been a while that this post was originally written, and our Father has a way of maturing us (yes!), I would ask this:

    When speaking of gifts, is there a difference between Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12? Are there ‘personal gifts’, given by the Spirit for the individual believer’s edification and empowerment, and also those gifts given for the common good? (Tongues is an easy example) So I could say that 1 Corinthians 12 is different than Ephesians 4:11 in that one details individual gifts, at a more local level so to speak, and the other details equipping gifts, designed specifically for The Body as a whole.

    Am I making sense? Are you tracking? What say you, Nicole?

    1. Donald,
      Great questions. Jon and I break it down as this:

      5 fold equipping gifts listed in Ephesians 4, the second and large list of spiritual gifts in 1Corinthians 12 ( and bits and pieces found other places in scripture), which we call the primary gifts, and then the manifestation gifts that God gives for a specific moment or need of the moment i.e. tongues, word of knowledge, healing, prophesy, etc.

      The 5 fold are primary gifts also though, to be clear. Just means that the Holy Spirit deposits one (maybe more, but I’m not entirely sure on that one) gift into a believer upon knowing Christ. That one gift is your primary gifting, your heart motivation, and can be one of the 5 fold or can be the others–leadership, mercy, exhorter, giving,servant, helps, etc.

      All manifestation gifts are available to all believers. Doesn’t mean tehy will operate in all of them, but they are available.

      Does that answers your questions?

  9. Thank you for your wisdom to make 1. Prayer and 2. Scripture huge driving crucibles for this discerning process. Too many times, I know I am quick to search for tools, tests, surveys, etc. The Holy Spirit speaks through all of that, but I believe sometimes, desires to give us some “Direct Downloads” when we listen to his voice in prayer, the wisdom of others, and scripture.

  10. This is a great topic, one which I think that people rarely mention. I feel like most christians go about their life feeling like their ok and because they’ve never been taught about the gifts of their spirit and they just put it aside and pretend like its not in the Bible when in actuality the gifts of the Spirit are essential for the growth of the church as a whole and for individuals. I personaly don’t think spiritual gift tests are not helpful at all. Sometimes God gives you a gift that you have never experienced before, so how would you be able to say or know you have a certain gift.

    For example, I once filled out a spiritual gifts test and the questions are based on previous experiences and your inclinations. When there was a question about whether I’ve spoken in tongues in the past I answered no and so the result at the end would say that that is not my spiritual gift. However, I’ve often thought how special it might be to speak to God in tongues and what an awsome connection that is and I desired to experience it. Then, once in a prayer meeting I was asked if I wanted to receive the gift of speaking in tongues, I said, I was prayed for with the laying of hands, I prayed asking God to fill me, then thanked him and said I received his gift, and again at the laying of hands I spoke words that I had never spoken in a language I had never heard before, I spoke a few words, after this day I tried to speak in tongues again but didn’t know how to. After this I was given a book called “The Glory Within” by Corey Russell which is about the gift of speaking in tongues, the purpose of this gift and so on. As I read this book I understood more and had a greater desire, I asked God to pour his Spirit into me to enable me to speak in tongues again. One day I was so stirred by the Spirit after reading this book and praying (in my mind) that I went in my room and just began to cry (loudly, which is very unusual for me). I then opened my mouth to pray and began to pray in a language I did not know, I cried and prayed in tongues for so long that my voice was horse afterwards and I was filled with joy as my heart was connected to God in a deeper way than I had ever experienced before.

    I wanted to share my story but also wanted to show that really all one needs to do is to ask God and seek him sincerely and ask Him to pour into you and fill you with the Spirit and literaly say that you receive Him and thank Him and he will give you a gift. God’s Spirit cannot be managed by man or calculated on a test.

    He is our father and he wants us to come to him and ask him, not to take a test made by men to find out something that only God can reveal and give to you.

    1. Deborah,
      Ah, this story bring me such joy. My husband had a similar experience. he desired to speak in tongues and so he asked God. During an encounter with the Holy Spirit, God was faithful to answer his prayer and he received the gift of tongues.

      I so agree that our God wants us to make our requests known to Him. He wants us to seek His face, not that of man, to find our purpose in Him.

      Thank you so much for sharing and encouraging me.

  11. I could not help but think of Friday night Group with this. I see the teaching of Dave Cottrell in this. Not a bad thing we need to talk about Spiritual gifts more!

  12. Spiritual gifts? I have this incredible conviction that things should be greater than they really are. My head is always in the clouds, reveling in something that doesn’t exist, because that’s the only way I can cope. Music and literature, especially fiction, are my heart; they are what I live for. They bring the true world to light and make these dirty concrete cities bearable. I believe that these things I long for must be longings for heaven, which sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud. I don’t quite know what sort of spiritual gift that is. Romanticism? Ha.

    I also have a peculiar inability to not do my best at things. Which sounds ridiculous and self-righteous but I don’t mean it that way it all. It’s actually quite a curse. I’m quite used to being complimented on going above and beyond, but it’s hardly worth it. I feel like I pour out my soul in to everything I do, and it sucks. I dread projects because they suck the life out of me. But I also do very well in everything I attempt because of this. I just don’t know how to do a half-ass job like everybody else. I don’t know that I would call this a spiritual gift. o.O

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *