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Spiritual Gifts

June 23, 2011

Somewhere in my previous posts I’m pretty sure I mentioned that I am a member of a Wednesday evening small group Bible study.  I’ve been a member about 4 or 5 years now, most of the group has been together even longer than that.  We vary in ages, I think the youngest couple is in their late 40’s and the oldest ones are in their late 70’s.  I love the mix in our ages, in our marital statuses and, most of all, I love the mix in our Christian walks.  My Wednesday evening group is a place where I can learn and grow in my faith.  That includes learning to lead.  We trade-off the responsibility for leading the group each week.  This week is my turn.  The lesson is on 1 Corinthians 12, Spiritual Gifts.

Spiritual gifts is one of those topics that can be very divisive within a church.  Some churches don’t believe in them and some believe you need to have all of them or you can’t possibly call yourself a Christian.  My job as leader was to lead my group in a discussion of what Spiritual gifts are, their place in the Body of Christ, how to identify your gift(s) and once identified how do you put them to use.  I was looking forward to leading this group because I love the topic of Spiritual Gifts and because I am trying to determine how to use mine.

Now, I can get all bogged down discussing the definitions of each gift and the fine differences between some of them.  And I believe from a technical standpoint that is important, but we don’t live our lives on technicalities, do we?  What I want to discuss is the purpose of Spiritual gifts, their place in the Body of Christ , why they are vital to the Church, how to identify your gift and what to do with them once we have identified them. 

First I need to identify what is and what is not a Spiritual gift. 

Let’s start with what is not.  Fruits of the Spirit are not Spiritual gifts: Galatians 5:22,23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”  These are the products of living a good, Christian life. 

Natural talents are not Spiritual gifts, according to Webster a talent is “any natural ability or power; natural endowment.”  Talents come to us independent of our accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  They are gifts, just not Spiritual gifts. 

Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are abilities dependent upon our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  They may be enhancements of our natural talents or empowerment to do things we are not naturally talented at but they are all for the growth and edification of the Body of Christ. 

There are a plethoria of Spiritual gifts out there, the most commonly named ones are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing powers, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits and speaking and interpreting tongues.  Other biggees are leadership, teaching, discipleship, apostleship, administration, encouragement, evangelism, mercy, hospitality, faith and service.  There are groups, sub-groups and categories for each and every one of these.  Again, I’m not into technicalities or fine line differences.

Ephesians 4:1-16 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called– one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I know there are people out there who would disagree with this but I believe this passage in Scripture speaks to Spiritual gifts, in particular I believe it speaks to the purpose of Spiritual gifts, their place in the Body of Christ and why they are vital to the Church.  I’ve already said this but it bears repeating: Spiritual gifts are intended for the growth and edification of the Body of Christ.  All of the gifts in this passage help the Church grow, either through the spread of the Gospel and encouraging people to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior or through believers’ growth and maturity. 

As we grow in Christ and become mature we also grow in unity, which glorifies God.  Our unity as Christians gives us hope and peace in our lives.  I also believe different members of the Church have been blessed with different Spiritual Gifts.  Look at 1 Corinthians 12: 12-30: The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.  If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,   and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,  while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.  Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?  We all have gifts that complement each other, just as our eyes and ears, our heads, hands and feet all complement each other as members of our bodies.  Since our gifts are of the Holy Spirit it is the Holy Spirit that ensures each church is equipped with the appropriate “body parts” necessary for its growth and maturity.  Our unity, our hope, our Christian maturity, our peace in the loving embrace of the Lord brings glory to Him.  Glorification of God is what our earthly experience is all about. 

How do we bring glory to God?  We should a) honor all the members of the Church, showing no partiality or prejudice, b) act in love and unity, c) respect one another’s gifts and d) support each other in times of need.  We need to remember that no one Spiritual gift holds any more importance than any other.  They are all vital to the growth of the Church.  Leaders and teachers are important but so are the cooks, the dish washers and the child care providers.  The persons operating the sound equipment on Sunday mornings are just as vital as the ushers helping people find a seat in the auditorium.  When we remember this we make turning our lives over to Christ attractive to the unbeliever.  Fighting, squabbling, name calling and hypocritical behavior drive people away from God’s saving grace.  We need to learn to use our gifts wisely and we need to learn to use our gifts in concert with the fruits of the Spirit.  When we do that, we bring glory to God.

This is all well and good but how do we know what our Spiritual gift is?  Well, there are several ways we can determine our Spiritual gifts.  Notice I say gifts in plural because each believer usually has several with one or two being dominant and often supported by two or three others.  The strongest gifts work together in a person in order to create that person’s unique ministry role.  Some examples: a person with the dominant gift of hospitality often has service, mercy and encouragement as support gifts.  A person with the dominant gift of mercy might have pastor, service and encouragement as support gifts.  Support gifts usually work hand in hand with the dominant gift to round out a person’s role within their church community.   There are several steps you can use to determine what your spiritual gifts are:

  1. Pray about them.  As Christians our first step in any situation should be to go in prayer to the Lord.
  2. Study each of the gifts and meditate on how that gift may or may not fit into your life.  I suggest you read 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11 for lists of possible Spiritual gifts.
  3. Go online to a search engine and type in: “spiritual gifts assessment, test, list or survey”  and be prepared for a large number of results.  The one I referred to a great deal in compiling the information for this post can be found http://www.gregwiens.com/gifts/
  4. Ask a fellow small group member, a good friend or family member or a church leader who knows you well.  This is sometimes helpful in conjunction with meditation on the gifts or an assessment test as you can sometimes be “too close” to yourself in order to evaluate yourself objectively.  Using myself as an example, I took several online assessments as part of preparing for leading this week’s group.  One of the support gifts I scored rather highly in was teaching.  I was surprised as I do not like speaking in front of groups.  I do it, I just don’t care for it.  When I expressed my surprise to my small group none of the other members were surprised.  As a matter of fact, they all had positive reinforcement for me, telling me how much they learn when I lead.  Now I’m re-evaluating my gifts in a little different light.

For a couple of years now I believed my calling was to be a missionary.  I was ready to pack up and move to wherever the Lord directed me and to do whatever He asked of me.  I just wasn’t getting any clear direction.  In taking one of these assessments Apostleship came up as one of my primary gifts, along with Hospitality.  Service, Teaching, Mercy and Administration came up as support gifts.  Now I’m going to spend some time praying about and meditating upon how to best use these gifts for the advancement of the Lord’s Kingdom.

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