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"Spiritual Gift Primer" 5/24/24

Dear brothers & sisters,

As promised, I am writing to you all about discerning one's spiritual gifts. The following thoughts are only a primer, a guide.

1 - A spiritual gift is not necessarily something you are naturally good at. The Apostle Paul writes concerning the gifts God gives to each member of the body "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (1 Corinthians 12:11). Notice that no mention is given to a person's natural ability, rather the Spirit empowers individuals to do the work He wishes them to do. Certainly we should use all of our unique strengths and acquired skills for the sake of Christ's Kingdom, but natural giftedness is not identical to a spiritual gift. The reason is simple, a person may be incredibly gifted by nature and yet not have the Spirit of God. As J. I. Packer wrote in his book Experiencing God's Presence, "Among the variety of God's gifts, some are natural abilities and character qualities sanctified, while others correspond to nothing that was previously seen in the person's life." Yes, God can use our natural abilities, but he is not first concerned with our talents. Instead He cares about whether we worship Him, whether we trust Him. Henry Blackaby rightly commented "once a person's talents become a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit, that person is of no use to God." Instead of relying on your talents, trust in his strength and seek the will of God. You may be surprised at where he leads, but you may be sure that He will provide what is needed as you follow his lead.

2 - A deep and abiding passion for a particular ministry is a good indicator of one's gifting. I say that it is a good indicator, because we can (in our enthusiasm) run ahead of God and walk according to our own desires and will rather than that of God. But nonetheless one of the chief marks of a particular gift is an accompanying desire to carry out that ministry, to make use of that which the Spirit has worked in us. We see this for example in the ministry of the Apostle Paul who wrote "the love of Christ compels us... therefore we are ambassadors of Christ, God making his appeal through us." (2 Corinthians 5:14, 20). The us is Paul and his co-workers who were compelled by Christ's love to go and preach the gospel. Now, we may certainly apply this text in a general sense to our own calling to proclaim Christ in word and deed. But the point I am seeking to make is this: The calling of God and his gifting us each for various ministries is normally accompanied by a corresponding drive, an affection, a passion for that ministry.

3 - The Body of Christ together functions to confirm the gifts and callings of particular individuals. God did not design the members of the body to function alone. The confirmation of the body of Christ is important in discerning the difference between our thoughts and preferences and what God is calling us to. Take the example of Timothy. He didn't go off one day on his own and decide "I think I'm an evangelist". We read in Acts 16:2 "he was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium" and that "Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him". In the same way, we too should seek confirmation of the work that God is doing in us from the local church.

4 - Don't be afraid to ask for and seek various opportunities to serve

Most (though not all) of the gifts are not for a select few, but are commands given by God for all the church. For example, all are to show mercy, all to exhort one another. We have no excuses then not to care for the needs of our brothers & sisters. We have no excuses not to encourage one another daily. These are a part of the calling of EVERY CHRISTIAN. At the same time, some are especially given grace to focus on (as per our example) acts of mercy or exhortation. Perhaps you are not gifted as an encourager, this does not mean that you cannot encourage others, or grow in that grace with the help of Christ. Perhaps, you are not a teacher, yet you too can instruct someone in the ways of Christ and point them in the direction of God's word for answers. A great deal of the matter of our giftings will be sorted out if we are less concerned with "what is my gift?" and more concerned with following our Lord and being willing to serve even in areas we may feel particularly unqualified. For God delights in the humble, those willing to serve.

5 - Don't expect perfection of yourself or others. Paul wrote to Timothy "fan the flames of the gift of God" (2 Timothy 1:6), a reminder that the fire of the Spirit's work in us, requires us to stir the embers by intentionally seeking the Lord. The gifts of the Spirit are not a superpower that instantly makes a person a remarkable teacher or encourager or charitable person. Rather God has so purposed that we would rely continually in Him for strength and so be conformed more and more to the image of His Son. So Paul wrote "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5) and again he said "we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Friends, I am far from an expert on such things. I have much to learn about discerning the gifts among us, but I am sure of this that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.

Grace & Peace, 

Matt

Matthew Deneault


Pastor at Christ Community Fellowship

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