Ask Pastor Dave: How Do I Know What My Spiritual Gift Is?

Q&AThere are some questions that have so many tangential questions to them that it can make answering the original question difficult. This is one such question. Questions about spiritual gifts often have many arms. I will try to avoid answering questions that were not asked and stick to the original request.

Figuring out our spiritual gift is important. Paul stresses its importance in Ephesians 4, saying that spiritual gifts are important for the equipping of the body, the striving together in unity, and even for growing in our knowledge. So he writes:

But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”  9 ( In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)  11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,112 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,1 to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:7-16)

Our spiritual gifts are important because they are designed to aid in the corporate growth of the church. It’s important, then, that we ask this question, “What is my spiritual gift.”

People have developed all sorts of ways to answer this question. There are Spiritual Gift Inventory quizzes that you can take, sort of like personality quizzes. They will ask you a series of questions compile your answers and tell you what your gift is. I have taken such quizzes in the past, and if I may be frank, I don’t think they’re all that helpful. I think discerning our spiritual gifts is a bit more simple and a lot more action/service-oriented. That is to say, if I am not sure what my gift is I should simply start serving wherever I see needs. It’s a lot less spectacular, I know, then taking some quiz and hearing some voice, but the truth is that if spiritual gifts are designed to help build up the body then wherever the body has a need there is an opportunity for me to serve and meet that need. We can discover God’s gifts for us simply by serving.

The reason many of us don’t know our gifts is partly because we don’t understand Spiritual gifts. So, for some, the idea of discovering our gifts by simply serving others just doesn’t seem right, but that is because they’ve misunderstood the role of gifts. Again, the Bible emphasizes the role of spiritual gifts as service-oriented. For many the idea of just meeting various needs until I discover my gift is not all that exciting. For others there is a tendency to think that they need one of the gifts mentioned on the various spiritual gift “lists” found in Scripture. Those lists are a great starting place but they are not intended to be exhaustive. In fact all our talents, desires, skills, and services to the church are gifts from the Spirit. There is nothing we do or have that we did not receive from God (1 Cor. 4:7). All gifts are spiritual gifts. So maybe your particular present gift is not mentioned on one of the lists found in Scripture (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:7, 12:8-10, 28; and Eph. 4:11), but that does not necessarily mean that you have not in fact discovered your gift. Lastly, many don’t realize that they may have been given a gift for a specific season of life, but there may be another gift God wants them to use in this season. Often throughout Scripture God gives gifts to individuals for a season, that is temporarily. You may not possess a particular giftedness for your whole life. That’s why serving others is the best means to discovering our gifts, because your gift may change.

This is an important question and I am so glad it was asked. The related questions about the Charismata – questions about the nature and continuance of the miraculous gifts – are important too, but they can so quickly distract us from the importance of using whatever gifts we have to serve the church. That’s why I think the best, most helpful, and simplest answer to the question “how do I discover my spiritual gift” is to take every opportunity to serve the body. Through service I will discover my present gift, and through service I will develop my gifts, and through service I can identify if my gifts are changing. I love the way theologian Sam Storms discusses this subject, he and I are on the same page when he writes:

If we spend less time searching to identify our spiritual gift(s) and more time actually praying and giving and helping and teaching and serving and exhorting those around us, the likelihood greatly increases that we will walk headlong into our gifting without ever knowing what happened. God will more likely meet us with his gifts in the midst of trying to help his children than he ever would while we’re taking a spiritual gifts analysis test. (The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, 164-165)

So, if you want to discover your spiritual gifts, friends, get busy serving your church.

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  1. […] Taylor). Furthermore, it is worth our time to consider more the role of the spiritual gifts as a means of service and not simply focus on the miraculous […]

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