Acts 2:42 mentioned four spiritual disciplines, or practices, of the Christian faith: Bible study, fellowship, worship, and prayer. These basic disciplines should be a part of every believer’s life throughout their faith journey. But they are not the only disciplines that we should practice. This article will look at a fifth that should be incorporated early in your walk as a believer. God has gifted each of us to serve within the body of Christ. But it is up to us to use the gifts he has given us.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Table of contents
What Are Spiritual Gifts?
Spiritual gifts are abilities that God has given you that enable you to serve within the body of Christ. One of the analogies for Christ’s church is a body. Each of us is a part of that body. And each of us has been equipped to be able to function as that part. Every believer has a role to play in the life of the church. And our gifts enable that service.
What Are the Gifts?
There are several places in Paul’s writings where he mentions gifts. The most extensive of these is in 1 Corinthians 12. In this passage, he gives two lists of gifts. While they are mostly the same, there are some differences. Ephesians 4:11 contains a list of Christ’s leadership gifts to the church. And in Romans 12:6-8, he mentions several other gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10
- A message of wisdom
- A message of knowledge
- Gift of healing
- Miraculous powers
- Spiritual discernment
- Speaking in tongues
- Interpretation of tongues
While there are quite a few gifts listed here, you should not make the mistake of seeing this as a comprehensive listing of all of the spiritual gifts. Nor should you assume that God has equipped every church with each of these gifts. God gives them as he sees fit. Not according to our desire or wisdom.
Gifts vs. Talents
A frequently asked question concerns the difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents. Is there a difference between them? And, if so, what is it?
Some will argue that spiritual gifts are given to us after we become Christians and are distinct from natural talents that we have always had. But, while there may be some validity to that argument, it does not matter as far as using your gifts in service to the body. God might have equipped you from birth or later in life. But, as believers, we should always seek to serve the body with whatever talents/abilities/gifts we have been given.
Why Does God Give Them to Us?
In 1 Corinthians 12:7, Paul tells us that “to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The manifestation of the Spirit refers to the spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. And the reason these gifts are given to us is for the common good of the body. I am gifted by the Spirit, not for my benefit. But for the benefit of the body as a whole.
Paul goes on in this chapter to describe the human body. A body is composed of various members, each of them different, and each is essential for the proper functioning of the body. So, in the body of Christ, we have different roles to fill. Each of these roles is important in the life of the church. And God equips his church with all of the necessary components it needs to function well.
Ephesians 4:16 gives us another look into the reason God gifts the members of the body: “From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Each of us contributes to the functioning of a healthy and growing church. All of us have a role to play. And only as each of us serves the body using the gifts God has given us will the body be whole.
How Do I Discover and Develop My Gifts?
It is easy to acknowledge that we all have gifts since the Scripture clearly says we do. But it is quite another thing to identify your specific giftedness and develop and use it in the life of the church.
Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts
It would be great if God would clearly tell us what our spiritual gift was. But generally, we do not receive the kind of clear direction that we would like. And many times, we look at the lists of gifts in the Scripture and fail to see anything that looks like us. So how can we know how God has equipped us to serve? What follows is by no means a comprehensive list. But hopefully, it will provide some helpful guidance.
- What is your passion? Where do you sense God leading you? If God calls you to serve in a specific area, he will also equip you for that service.
- Listen to what other people are telling you. If you find people commenting on your ability in some area, that is a good indication that God may have gifted you there. It is important to distinguish between sincere affirmation and false praise though. Many good-intentioned people will compliment you on a job to make you feel good. If you question the affirmation you are receiving, ask someone you trust to be honest with you. If you find you are truly good in some area of service, especially if coupled with passion, you have likely discovered your area of giftedness.
- But if you have not found something that moves you and you are good at, don’t give up. Try different things. It could be something you would have never discovered apart from giving it a try.
- Don’t restrict your search to just the gifts listed above. They are only representative of the kinds of gifts God can give. The church in different places and at different times has different needs. No list of gifts can be comprehensive across the history of the worldwide church.
- And, most importantly, pray. Ask the Lord to guide you in your search. And be sensitive to where the Spirit may lead. If you are faithful to seek, you will find.
Developing Your Gifts
Once you have discovered your gift(s), you should seek to develop them. Generally, your gift is not given to you fully developed. It will be up to you to develop your gift, allowing you to use it most effectively.
One way to develop your gift is to use it. The saying “practice makes perfect” is not always true, but practice does indeed hone your gift. But don’t simply serve without any evaluation. Think about how you might do it better. Ask other people for feedback. Always look for ways that you can improve.
A second way you can develop your gift is by training. Work with a mentor. Take a class. Read a book. Ask your pastor or other church leaders for help in improving your skills. It is to their advantage to help you since the more effective you are, the healthier the overall body will be.
Getting to Work
Everyone within the body of Christ has been called to serve. Every one of us is a part of the body with a role to fill. None of us are called to just fill a pew on Sunday mornings or other special occasions. If you have found your area of giftedness, the next step is to determine how you can use that in the life of the church and then do that. But if you have not yet found your place, you should still serve, looking to find God’s place for you.
Most of us are not gifted to preach, teach, or sing. But all of us have some ability to serve effectively. And most often, that is helping with the mundane tasks necessary for the optimal functioning of the church and its facilities. Don’t be misled into believing that you have no gift because you do not have a visible or named spiritual gift. And don’t think that your spiritual gift needs to be “spiritual” in some fashion. Your “spiritual gift” is simply how God has equipped you to serve within the body of Christ.
Using Your Spiritual Gift
- If God has given you a bold spirit and love for the lost, do the work of an evangelist. Sharing the gospel with those living in darkness.
- If God has given you a love for his word and the ability to explain it to others, then teach.
- Are your technically inclined. The audio/visual team may be looking for you.
- If God has given you some musical ability, participate in leading worship.
- If you like meeting new people, then consider being a greeter. Or just make people feel welcome who are new or sitting alone.
- If you love babies, volunteer in the nursery and look for ways to help new mothers.
- Are you bothered by untidy church facilities? Look for a way to help keep them clean and inviting.
The Reward for Faithful Service
Jesus’ parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 provides a good lesson concerning faithfulness in serving. In this parable, a man went on a journey. But before he left, he tasked three of his servants, entrusting each of them with a certain amount of money. They did not all get the same amount though. What was given to each of them was based on their ability. When the man returned he called in each of his servants to give an account of their faithfulness. Two of the servants had been faithful and were rewarded with additional responsibilities. But the third had not used what they had been given. And he was punished for it, missing out on the joy that was given to those who had been faithful.
If God gifted me for my own benefit, and I failed to use that gift, I hurt no one but myself. But the gifts we are given are not just for ourselves. They are given for the benefit of the body (1 Cor. 12:7), to help the body grow in maturity (Eph. 4:16). So, when we fail to use the giftedness we have been given, we are hurting the church. And we will have to give account to our Lord for the harm we have caused to his church by our failure to use what he has given us. Choose to serve like the first two servants. Don’t miss out on eternity because you failed to serve and caused harm to the body of Christ.
Some Questions to Consider
- What are you good at? Do you consider that a spiritual gift? And are you using it to serve God?
- Does every local church need the same gifts? Or might the gifts vary from church to church and from time to time? Might your giftedness change over time and circumstances?
- Are you willing to help other believers discover their giftedness by affirming what you see as their strengths? And encouraging them to use them in some way?
- What do you expect to hear the master say to you when you stand before him? Well done faithful servant? Or, depart from me?
You are welcome to respond to these questions in the comment section below. If you do, be sure to check the “Notify me” checkbox just above the Post Comment button so you can get any feedback. Note that all comments are moderated. Only respectful comments relevant to the topic will be posted.
Posts in the Discipleship Series
- Bible Study – Discipleship 101
- Spending Time Together – Discipleship 102
- Worshipping Together – Discipleship 103
- Drawing Near in Prayer – Discipleship 104
- Understanding Who God Is – Doctrine 201
- What Is Humanity – Doctrine 202
- What Is Sin? – Doctrine 203
- Jesus: Our Savior – Doctrine 204
- Gifted to Serve: Discipleship 301
- Meditation, Solitude, and Fasting: Discipleship 302
- What Is the Bible? – Doctrine 401
- The Nature and Work of the Holy Spirit: Doctrine 402
- What Is Jesus’ Church?: Doctrine 403
- Creation and Providence – Doctrine 404
- The Doctrine of the Kingdom of God
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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6 thoughts on “Gifted to Serve: Discipleship 301”
Amen brother. It is good to be used by the Lord. I thank you God for giving you this wisdom. You have helped me to better understand, and things to consider.
You are quite welcome. It has been my privilege to help.
Thank you Ed. Actually, our church believes similarly to this view. I do too, but more from a Biblical revelation. As we study God’s Word He reveals things that most people would not ordinarily understand. I believe God will reveal a perspective that may go above and beyond what the words say- messages that sometimes makes us stop and ponder – go deeper and to consider further. Sometimes when I teach I feel God is speaking to our group through me and bringing greater meaning and understanding. Whenever it can’t be supported by Scripture directly I will be sure to say, “I will not be dogmatic on this point, but I believe God is saying…”
I love God’s Word. I love studying and researching. I listen to others, like yourself and often God confirms what I feel through others. I wonder if the gift of prophecy is related to knowing and desiring to know more of God’s Word. It’s like He knows your heart and let’s you see things that are not normally seen. And uses us to bring His Word alive.
Do you think this could be the case?
Thank you again for your time. Like I said before, I love your commentaries and frequently share them with our Home Bible study group.
I think we make a mistake in trying to too sharply define specific spiritual gifts. The labels we have are convenient in discussing them and seeing the kinds of ways that God equips us to serve. But the Holy Spirit is not limited to giving just those sharply defined gifts. I see that my primary gift is as a teacher. But not all teachers are equipped in the same way. I suspect I have a little of what Paul calls the gift of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 12. But that may simply be the Holy Spirit illuminating my mind as I meditate on his word. I do not think of myself as being a prophet. Yet there are times when I feel God prompting me to say something. And is that not prophecy? In the end, God has equipped me as he saw fit to serve him where he has placed me. Regardless of what I might choose to call that gifting, or equipping, it is given to me for the benefit of the body of Christ. And I am thankful that he has seen fit to use me in the way that he has. This website, and all that it contains, are a result of what he has equipped and prepared me for over the decades of my life.
I am thankful that you find value in these words and that you share them with others. May God be glorified in it.
I love these daily commentaries. Thank you.
My question pertains to the gift of prophecy. In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul speaks of an order of sorts, first apostles, second prophets, etc. Then later in 14:1 he again points to the gift of prophecy as a gift most desired. This emphasis on prophecy seems important. But what really is this gift in the church today? Obviously in the Old Testament God used the prophets to speak to the nation of Israel. It’s often thought of as a foretelling gift, and some churches believe that is true today; that some are gifted by revealing special messages to the benefit of others. But, I have reservations about that because, there are very few people, if any(?) who we actually see using such gifts. Other churches see this as a “forth telling,” where God uses people who are gifted in understanding His Word to proclaim what God has already said. I tend to believe this description of prophecy, though our church does not see it that way. I am a teacher in our church and struggle with trying to be obedient to our church’s teachings on this. Any thoughts to help me in the gift of prophecy?
Thank you for your time and God bless you!
Prophecy is, I believe, often misunderstood. The prophet is one who forth tells a message from God. That may involve the future, but usually not. I believe that 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 can be helpful in understanding what this gift is. In this passage, Paul is discussing orderly worship. And he suggests that two or three prophets should speak when they gather, each in their turn, so that everyone can be instructed and encouraged. The role of the prophet might be like Agabus, who on two occasions in Acts, delivered a message about the future. But in 1 Cor. 14, the prophets were giving instruction and encouragement. And this was not a gift that was limited to men. In Acts 21:9, Phillip had 4 unmarried daughters who prophesied.
While I am not convinced of it, I am inclined to believe like anytime God lays something on your heart to share with another person, you are prophesying, delivering a message from God. It might be a few simple words shared in private. Or it might be longer and shared publically. But if God gives you a word to share, that would seem to be prophecy.