There are several places in the Bible where spiritual gifts are written about: Romans 12:3–8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11–13, and 1 Peter 4:10–11. In this article I focus mainly on Peter’s words.
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 4:10–11)
Peter’s concise statement tells us about the nature and the necessity of spiritual gifts.
The Nature of Spiritual Gifts
Each believer has a spiritual gift.
A spiritual gift is an ability, skill, or talent God graciously gives each believer so that by using it they can help advance the work of the church on earth. The spiritual gifts are given by grace and are not based on our worthiness or personal abilities. They are given according to God’s sovereign choice.
Because every believer receives a gift to do ministry, every believer is a minister. Let that sink in. It’s significant. Too often people think only the pastor is the minister when in reality the church is full of ministers.
A closer look at Ephesians 4:11–12 makes this clear. “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (NIV, emphasis added). Individual believers are to be equipped to do the work of ministry.
The pastor is only one of the ministers exercising his spiritual gifts. And too often because people think only the pastor is the minister, they feel they are merely spectators. The result is ministry in a church is like a football game where you have a handful of players on the field badly in need of rest being watched by stands full of people badly in need of exercise! And when only a few ministers in the church are using their spiritual gifts, the overall work is stunted.
God has a “great variety of spiritual gifts” to bestow on believers by His Spirit.
If you compare the passages noted above you will see there is a great diversity of gifts.
Although there is tremendous diversity in the ways you can serve, all the gifts fall into one of two summary categories: speaking gifts and serving/support gifts.
The gifts are to be used in reliance on the power of God’s Spirit and in the strength God supplies.
This is what makes them spiritual and effective.
The Necessity of Spiritual Gifts
We are to use our gifts well to serve others for the common good.
They are to work together as the parts of a body to make a functional whole.
When believers don’t know their gifts or don’t use them, the advance of the Gospel and the church is hindered. It is like an orchestra trying to play a symphony without violins. Or like trying to cut grass with a lawn mower that has no wheels or make a cake without flour. You get the idea–the church is severely limited when only a few believers exercise their gifts.
Others are to use their gifts well to serve and minister to us.
This is the flip side we don’t often think about. It is necessary for our personal spiritual health and building up in our faith to have others use their gifts. It needs to be reciprocal. You need your pastor to use his gifts of shepherding and teaching, but he needs you or others to use their gift of helping and encouraging.
The goal of exercising our gifts is to bring glory to God by building up the church.
The opposite is also true. When we don’t use our gifts and the church isn’t built up, God isn’t glorified. Do you want to bring glory to God? Find and use your spiritual gifts.
There are spiritual gifts assessments one can take, but the simple way to discover the gift God gave you is to look at needs and opportunities around you in the church and in the community. Pick a need that resonates with you. Ask the Lord if that is something you can do. Then step out and seek to meet the need relying on the power that comes from God’s Holy Spirit. That’s ministry.
If it goes well and you enjoy it and God uses it then continue. If not, keep looking at other needs and opportunities. Above all be willing and purposeful to discover and use God’s gifts.