You may have heard about spiritual gifts and that God promises that every Christian receives certain gifts in order to build up the church as a whole. Now, you may be curious to understand which of these gifts you possess—but how do we go about discovering our giftings? Here are a few steps you can take to help you understand how the Holy Spirit has gifted you in service for God’s Kingdom.
Want to know which spiritual gifts exist? Check this list (with definitions)!
Get active and serve in your church. You can start by responding to needs in the church (for teachers, ushers, nursery workers, coffee servers, etc.) whether you feel “gifted” or not. As you step out in faith and obedience with a servant’s heart, the Holy Spirit will show you the areas for which He has gifted you. This often occurs through positive feedback from people who are experiencing God’s grace through your acts of service. Sometimes you can recognize how you are uniquely gifted through the feeling you get from service—if it gives you great joy, it could easily be assumed that this is how you’re gifted and that you’re using your gifts in one of the ways God would like you to.
Invite the filling of the Holy Spirit. Your spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit in you (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11). As you surrender to and are filled by the Spirit, you give Him the opportunity to release and empower your spiritual gifts. In Ephesians 5:18, Paul specifically encourages us to “be filled with the Spirit,”, instead of being “drunk with wine.” Paul implies here that this filling is a continuous action, rather than a one-time event. We see this in the original Greek text, which best translates as him saying; “keep on being filled with the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit wants to be invited to fill you. He wants to demonstrate God’s grace through you! But just as He can be welcomed into your life, He can also be grieved (Ephesians 4:30) and quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). If you want the Holy Spirit to dwell within you and release your gifts, you cannot at the same time reject Him through unbelief or sinful attitudes, thoughts, or actions.
Ask. James says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking” (James 1:5). Asking God for wisdom about our spiritual gifts is a good place to start. Since it’s God’s will for you to exercise your spiritual gifts, you can ask with confidence that He will respond and give you direction.
Seek prayer, discernment, and blessing from your spiritual leaders. In the early church, leaders commissioned individuals into ministry. Paul (here called by his Hebrew name, Saul) and Barnabas were sent out in this way:
“One day as [the leaders of the church in Antioch] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.’ So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.” (Acts 13:2-3)
Paul, in turn, repeated this process with Timothy: “This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you” (2 Timothy 1:6).
The prayers of our spiritual leaders are one way of releasing the Holy Spirit’s gifts. In Romans 1:11, Paul says, “For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.”
When you are embarking on a ministry—or if you are already involved in a ministry and have never done this—it is valuable (and biblical) to ask your church or ministry leaders to lay hands on you (by placing their hands upon your arm, shoulder, or head) and to pray for the Holy Spirit to empower you. If you are a leader, you can do this for the people who serve in your ministry.
Look for fruit. Because it’s the Holy Spirit who empowers spiritual gifts, we should expect evidence of His presence, power, and work when we serve in our areas of gifting (1 Corinthians 2:4-5). We can call this the “fruit test.” For example, if you think you have the gift of evangelism, you can ask, Are people following Jesus as a result of my ministry?Or if you think you have the gift of mercy, you can ask, Do people feel Jesus’ love and compassion through me?
Use a spiritual gifts inventory. Though this option can be helpful, it also has its pitfalls. Even a nonbeliever can take a spiritual gifts test and come away with a list of gifts. Because of this, an online quiz is best evaluated alongside the trial and error of hands-on ministry and the feedback of others.
Still, a spiritual gifts inventory can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses and reveal patterns in how the Holy Spirit seems to use you. It may also help you identify what fulfills you when you serve—what gives you that I-just-gave-someone-a-gift feeling.
Looking for more on spiritual gifts? Read this: Your Spiritual Gifts, How to Identify and Effectively Use Them.
The New Believer’s Bible is uniquely designed to help the new Christian read, study, and understand the Bible. It includes features that help Christians develop and deepen their faith, while providing a foundation for their new life in Christ.
First Corinthians is a great place to learn about spiritual gifting from the Bible. Internationally renowned Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll brings his incredible insight and easy manner to this commentary that will help you dig deep into Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.
For even more books on how to identify and use your spiritual gifts, check out this great selection from Tyndale House Publishers.
Adapted from an original article by Arlyn Lawrence for Discipleship Journal. Used with permission from The Navigators.