The most common question related to spiritual gifts is this: “What is my gift?” Closely related to it is this: “How can I discover my spiritual gift?” There are tests that seek to help a person discover his or her gift, but these are not the best way. The best way to discover your gift is in community. Ask others how God has used you in their lives. I find that praying with others is a great way to see their gifts on display, for a believer’s focus in prayer tends toward his or her spiritual gift. Find yourself praying for others to be encouraged? Yep. You’re probably an encourager. Do you pray for God to meet their material needs? You might have the gift of mercy or perhaps the gift of giving. Over time, one’s prayer life can help discern one’s gift.
Here’s another way. Consider the following scenario. You show up to City Group one night and discover that someone had invited a young woman she met at the library to join the group. This woman shares with the group that she had recently lost her job and the father of her two children had just walked out on them, leaving her with no money. They’re already behind on rent and are facing eviction in less than a month. She wants to work but she cannot afford childcare, and even if she could, she had been relying on his car, and he left her. She’s also not sure if she could pass a drug screen because no matter what, she continues to struggle with addiction. As if that weren’t enough, she says she found a lump in the shower a few weeks ago and she’s afraid to go to the doctor. She lost her health insurance when she lost her last job. She confesses she knows very little about religion or about Jesus. She remembers the church her mother took her to when she was a girl. That church promised that if she had faith, her life would turn out well. She tries to have faith, but she knows it’s not enough since her life is a mess. She asks why God is punishing her with all these problems.
Yes, this scenario is completely made up, and yes, I made it as big a mess as I could. In all these problems, what stands out to you? What moved you inside? Was it her lack of knowledge of Jesus? Are you immediately concerned about her faith? Perhaps your gift is evangelism. Were you moved by her pain, her feelings of isolation? Do you want to just sit with her and wrap your arms around her? You may have the gift of mercy. Did you think to yourself that you could help with rent, that with a financial gift you could remove a substantial burden from her? Your gift might be giving. Did you think of all the errors she has been taught and feel the urge to correct the false teaching she’s received by sharing the truth of Jesus? You might be a teacher. Maybe you were struck by her desire to work and her inability to pay for childcare and you thought, “Hey, I can watch a couple kids for her!” You might have the gift of service. If you wondered about inviting her over to your home just to have a nice meal and a relaxing time, hospitality might be your gift. Do you find yourself thinking that you don’t have much to offer by way of material support but you can do this: you can pray for her and pray fervently? You may have the gift of faith. Did you think, “Oh, my. Someone needs to help her with her rent, and someone needs to help her find a job, and someone needs to help her get signed up for health insurance, and someone needs to organize childcare, and someone needs to arrange meals for her, and someone needs to take her to upcoming doctor visits, and someone needs to coordinate all these things”? You might be an administrator.
Whatever your inclinations are in this scenario, they are likely the prompting of the Holy Spirit. As we saw last Sunday, a spiritual gift is the manifestation of the Spirit:
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.1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV
Though our gifts are very different, they all come from the same source. Whether you give or you organize or you sit and comfort or you teach or you encourage or you offer practical help, you are serving the Lord and thus the Spirit is manifested in your service. The great Augustine wrote about spiritual gifts and put it this way:
For not everyone has all of them, but some have these and others those, although each has the Gift himself by whom the things proper to each one are divided, namely, the Holy Spirit.Augustine, “On The Trinity”, 15
The truth is that nobody has all the spiritual gifts. However, there is one body that does: the body of Christ. Because Christ is present in his fullness in the assembly and because he sent us his Spirit who dwells among us in his fullness, we—together—have all the gifts, for the Spirit manifests himself among us in ways he sees fit. Because the Spirit manifests himself through gifted people and because followers of Jesus are gifted differently as the Lord sees fit, we need you. You are the missing piece! We need the entire body of Christ committed to serving one another according to our giftedness, so that we might function as his full and complete body. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.1 Corinthians 12:14–20 ESV
There’s only one body, and that body is the body of Christ. This means each and every part is essential, regardless of which part it is. If you do not know what your spiritual gift is, ask others. Ask those in your City Group how God uses you in their lives. They may not have an immediate answer, but ask them to pray and help you discover what your gift is. One of the incredible things about our spiritual gifts is this: we enjoy using them. When you discover your spiritual gift you will discover how much you enjoy exercising that gift, and you may well discover you’ve been using it all along, just with less intentionality than you now have. A spiritual gift is a gift, something that is intended to bless the one receiving it. If you are in Christ, you have received a gift and so God intends for you to enjoy that gift, but never forget that you yourself are the gift given to the church. This means God intends for the church to enjoy the gift he’s given to her.