Spiritual Gifts — Getting Past the Term

November 20th, 2008

The other night, in the discipleship & spiritual growth class I’m taking at my church, we were discussing spiritual gifts.  The question came up of how to distinguish between spiritual gifts and natural traits/talents.

Many non-believers are good at things that are also called spiritual gifts–like administration, or teaching.  But spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, in believers.  So does that mean that if you were good at it before you began to trust in Christ, then it’s not a spiritual gift?  But then there’s also Eph. 2:10, which says that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ for good works that he prepared in advance for us to do.  So he made us in ways that are suited to the tasks he has for us–natural traits are the work of God, too!  How do you figure out which is which?  Do you need to?

Maybe it’s helpful, maybe not…  The question that I prefer to think about is, “How can I act so that God works through me?  How can I serve the Body of Christ?  How can I care for the people in my community?”  When I read 1 Cor. 12, that seems to be what spiritual gifts are about.

Check out verses 4-7:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Key point: Gifts are activities.  They’re ways to serve.  These activities of service are manifestations of the Spirit, and they are intended to help the Body.

So, the major question to be asking is:  Does God work through me in this, for the good of others?

It’s not even a question of, “Am I good at this?”  Two teachers might be effectively identical in the way they teach–but the Holy Spirit might regularly move powerfully when the one preaches.  Or you might have people who are totally uninspiring & dry in how they share the gospel–but when they do, the Spirit brings people in.

And when you find a way that you can serve people–something where God works through you–don’t you want to press into that?  Isn’t that something to pursue, whether or not you know precisely what to call it?

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