Spiritual Gifts and Ministries
God bestows upon all members of His church in every age spiritual gifts that each member is to employ in loving ministry for the common good of the church and of humanity. Given by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who apportions to each member as He wills, the gifts provide all abilities and ministries needed by the church to fulfill its divinely ordained functions. According to the Scriptures, these gifts include such ministries as faith, healing, prophecy, proclamation, teaching, administration, reconciliation, compassion, and self-sacrificing service and charity for the help and encouragement of people. Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God. When members employ these spiritual gifts as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace, the church is protected from the destructive influence of false doctrine, grows with a growth that is from God, and is built up in faith and love.
(Acts 6:1-7; Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11, 27, 28; Eph. 4:8, 11-16; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 1 Peter 4:10, 11.)
1. TYPES OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Just as God created each of us unique, He also gave us different spiritual gifts. When a community has a variety of spiritual gifts to work with, more can be accomplished in God’s name. That’s why each talent is important, no matter how other humans might regard it.
God knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows exactly which skills would be both a blessing to us and to those around us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 gives us a list of some of the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit grants to people.
The gift of speaking wisdom
The gift of speaking knowledge
The gift of faith
The gift of healing
The gift of working miracles
The gift of prophecy
The gift of discernment
The gift of tongues
The gift of interpretation
The Bible first talks about these gifts in the context of the early church in the New Testament. This was a grassroots movement to spread the gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and to grow the family of believers on earth.
Peter and John were blessed with the ability to heal (Acts 3:1-10), Dorcas had the gift of charity and giving to others (Acts 9:46-43), and Barnabas was always ready to offer encouragement (Acts 4:36-37).
Today, we might have a strong knowledge of medicine, resources we can share, or simply a kind word to offer when others need it. All these things are examples of spiritual gifts God has granted us.
Some people have a gift for offering wisdom and knowledge, whether it be through public speaking, writing, or mass media to reach people across the world. Those gifted with great faith can share it with others, helping them through a spiritual struggle. Others have a talent for healing, either physically or emotionally. One person might be skilled at working with teenagers while another is good at leading projects and delegating tasks.
All these things are God-given gifts which are best used for the good of others, not just ourselves. The best way to honor God with the talents we have is to use them the way He asked us to.
2. IDENTIFYING SPIRITUAL GIFTS
While there are many different spiritual gifts, the Bible tells us that each of these separate gifts have equal value in God’s eyes (Romans 12:3-8).
But how do we know what gift God has given us? And how can we know how He wants us to use it?
The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us with gifts, and He is ready to guide us in their proper use, if we ask. A heartfelt prayer for God’s guidance is always the first step.
This point is illustrated in the story of Solomon, one of the famous kings of Israel. Solomon came to the throne when he was still young. One night, in a dream, God came to Solomon and asked what kind of blessing Solomon wanted from Him.
Solomon, rather than asking for great wealth or victory in battle, asked for understanding and the ability to discern between good and evil. God granted Solomon’s request, blessing him with honor and wealth as well, and Solomon went on to become
one of the wisest kings ever known (1 Kings 3:5-14).
After asking God for guidance with our spiritual gifts, it’s a good idea to spend some time in reflection. What about your personality and behavior patterns might reveal some hidden or overlooked strengths?
As we pray daily, God may bring us into situations that help us discover the ways we’re gifted.
We can also turn to trusted sources to help us on our journey as well. One idea is to ask the advice of those who are close to God, who we trust, and who know us well. They might be able to point out things we excel at that we might have missed on our own.
But overall, we must keep our eyes open and be ready to hear God’s voice. If someone needs help, we should be ready to lend a hand. The simple act of stepping in and helping someone can reveal the skills God gave us.
3. THE USE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
It’s clear from Scripture and Christ’s example that our spiritual gifts are are most effective in the service of God and others.
So how do we make the most of our spiritual gifts? How can we be sure we’re using them the right way?
The book of Ephesians answers this question when it describes Jesus first giving spiritual gifts to the believers:
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV, emphasis added).
Paul’s letter to the Romans gives us similar instructions:
“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:4-8 ESV).
We are called to use our spiritual gifts to the best of our ability to strengthen the church and further Christ’s mission.
There are innumerable ways to spread the good news about who God is and how much He loves us—whether by teaching others and evangelizing, or by showing them through acts of service and healing.
Whatever method we use, the key is to remember who we’re working for, and that we aren’t put on this earth to serve ourselves, but to serve others.
4. CAN A PERSON LOSE THEIR SPIRITUAL GIFT?
Our spiritual gifts can be a key component in our growth in Christ, and it only makes sense that we’re supposed to use them responsibly. But what if we don’t? What happens when we put our spiritual gifts toward selfish ambition, or choose not to use them at all?
In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable about a master who had three servants. The master was going on a journey and wanted to make sure his money would be in good hands.
To the first servant, he entrusted five “talents,” or units of money. To the second servant he gave two talents. To the third, he gave one. Then he went away.
While he was gone, the first two servants immediately set to work, putting their master’s property to use. The servant with five talents made five more. The servant with two talents made two more. But the servant who had been given one talent went out, dug a hole, and buried his master’s money.
When the master returned, he called his servants to him to find out what they’d done with his property while he was gone.
The first two servants came and presented themselves before him, showing their master how they had made good use of what he had given them, and the master praised them as “good and faithful servants.”
Then the third servant explained that he knew the master stern and he didn’t want to disappoint anyone or mess things up. So, since he didn’t want to lose the property, he buried the one talent so nothing would happen to it.
The master was angry and rebuked the servant for being wicked and lazy. Then he took the servant’s talent away and gave it to the one whom he had entrusted with five talents.
Just like the servants in the story, we’ve all been entrusted with God-given talents and skills. It’s up to us to make good use out of them, and God will help us along the way.
But if we sit on them, refusing to discover how God might use us, we might as well not have the gift at all.
We see a similar situation in the book of Numbers, dealing with a man named Balaam (Numbers 22-24). Balaam had the ability to pronounce blessings and curses on people. The king of Moab came to him and asked that Balaam pronounce a curse upon the children of Israel so that he could defeat them in battle.
God specifically told Balaam that he was not to do this, for God had blessed the children of Israel. Ballam ignored God’s warnings and went all the same, but when he got to the place where the Israelites were camped, God caused him to speak only blessings. Balaam’s spiritual gift was no longer under his control.
The story of the talents and the story of Balaam illustrate a very clear point. Our spiritual gifts come from God. If we take our talents, our spiritual gifts, and use them wisely, we are being good stewards of the gifts God gave us.
But if we misuse our talents, by spending them selfishly or hiding them away, then we’re being just as lazy as the wicked servant. If that’s the case, God may take our spiritual gifts and give them to someone who will use them.
But it’s our choice. If we choose to use our spiritual gifts the way God calls us to, we can end up being an incredible blessing.
Scripture makes it clear time and again that God is the ultimate gift-giver (Luke 11:13). He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He wants us to be a blessing to the world.
The thought of possessing God-given abilities may seem intimidating, as if we’re afraid we might use our gifts the wrong way.
Fortunately, however, God is the guide for our spiritual gifts. Since it is the Holy Spirit that empowers us with these abilities, we don’t have to worry about our own insecurities or limitations. God can use a willing person for amazing things, simply because they have faith in Him.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10, ESV).