Today’s blog post is from my friend and fellow writer, Siv Ricketts. Siv has graciously shared a fantastic post about Spiritual Gifts – what they are all about how to find out which one(s) you have been blessed with, and how to put them into every day practice.
Do you appreciate the insights you receive from personality assessments? Not fluffy magazine quizzes like “What’s Your Home Decor Personality?” but assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Enneagram Personality Test, and the Five Love Languages?
Psychologists and thought leaders have invested years of research into these typologies that can help us understand the unique individuals God created us to be.
Knowing our various types can offer greater awareness on how we perceive the world, what energizes us, how we interact with others, how we give and receive love, and the strengths we share with the world.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, have you also taken a spiritual gifts assessment?
What are Spiritual Gifts?
Simply put, God gives each member of His family an ability we use to serve others. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Paul writes, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Reading further in 1 Corinthians 12 and also in Romans 12:4-8,
Paul compares the Church to a body; our bodies have different parts for different purposes and we need all the parts—feet to walk, hands to hold, eyes to see, etc. And so the Church—composed of people around the globe and throughout time, each possessing different gifts for different purposes—comes together as one whole, diverse, and powerful Body of Christ.
This article includes brief descriptions of 18 spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible:
- Speaking in Tongues (aka: Shepherding)
Some also include Craftsmanship among the gifts, mentioned in Exodus 31 as a gift God gave to artisans tasked with building, designing, and decorating the Tabernacle.
Additionally, there may be gifts the biblical writers didn’t think to include or that wouldn’t have made sense culturally. For example, a woman who volunteered with the high school group at our church showed up every week with at least one plate of home baked cookies.
She watched and listened for the lucky duck God would place on her heart, and offered them cookies as an encouragement. A gifts assessment might point to encouragement or helps or even prayer, but truly, her gift was baking cookies.
Spiritual gifts and your identity.
Spiritual gifts often overlap with other aspects of your personality and/or skills you possess, and they might not. I wrote stacks of papers in college and I practice daily to hone my writing skills, yet I don’t always exercise my spiritual gifts when I write.
Case in point: unless you happen to find an analysis on “To be, or not to be?” more encouraging than philosophical, you probably won’t feel spiritually encouraged by my papers on Hamlet.
Religious leaders mostly agree that your gifts remain the same for the long haul. As much as you might like to swap with a friend, spiritual gifts aren’t available for lunchtime trades. However, God certainly retains the freedom to hand you another gift for a special occasion.
Some believe that God gave certain charismatic gifts—such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing—exclusively to the Early Church. [You’ll read why shortly, but I believe God still extends all of His good gifts like the fabulous rainbow of colors in the big box of Crayolas].
Why does knowing your spiritual gift matter?
While personality assessments help you understand who you are individually, in relationships, and at work, knowing your spiritual gifts can help you identify the roles you can play in strengthening the Body of Christ. If you’re involved in ministries, you’re likely already exercising your gifts.
Or perhaps you’re filling a position, doing good things and wondering why it feels forced and unfulfilling. Knowing your spiritual gifts can increase your effectiveness in the work of God’s kingdom and help you find your best fit among all the available options. Let me summarize my top three reasons that knowing your spiritual gifts matters:
God gave you a gift and wants you to enjoy it.
Imagine you gave a carefully selected gift to your friend Lucy. You wrapped it in fancy paper and set a glittering bow atop the package. And you couldn’t wait to watch Lucy open the gift but instead, she set it aside and brushed off your suggestion to open it.
You know she’d enjoy your gift yet time has passed and Lucy still hasn’t opened it. God gives us good gifts; let’s not treat them like Lucy did.
We’re all connected.
Have you ever lost your voice, or strained a muscle that made it difficult to go about your daily activities? We take for granted having all our parts in working order until suddenly some part doesn’t function properly.
Consider Paul’s body analogy: which part of the body might you be, and what would we all miss if you didn’t play your part? Also, what would we miss if you try to play the wrong part, filling the role someone else would play if you stepped back?
Taking the analogy one step further: we each use our individual gifts to strengthen the whole body, like exercise. When we stretch and strengthen each muscle, the whole gets stronger and more effective. When you strengthen your serve muscle, it affects my motivation to strengthen my serve muscle, and together we grow stronger.
We have work to do.
We have different gifts for different purposes, but as a whole the Body of Christ has one mission: to love God and others so that others know they are loved by God, too. Love may sound simple yet we know that love can be complicated, messy. We exercise our gifts to build each other up for the hard work of love.
Shortly before He was betrayed Jesus told His followers: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
We use our gifts to love one another and to get better at loving one another so that our love shines good news into a dark world.
Siv’s Spiritual Gifts Story:
I’ve been involved in church my entire life. If a church service or activity had been planned for my age/stage, I was there. I said an enthusiastic YES anytime a church leader requested anything of me, even when it made me uncomfortable; door-to-door evangelism will never be my sweet spot, and trial-and-error is also an effective teacher.
I volunteered for every available leadership role, attended a Christian college, and almost before I knew it, I was working at a church and enrolled in seminary. (Read more about Siv’s ministry experience here, particularly as a woman in professional ministry).
I first took a spiritual gifts assessment in my 20s. My primary gift? Prophecy. I instantly saw a neon Moses in the wilderness, flashing staff pointing the way.
My conversation with God went like this: Uh, no thanks? Aren’t prophets a) men, b) that no one likes, c) who speak words no one wants to hear? I’m a woman who likes to be liked. I want my words to matter. I want us all to be at peace, and I’m super-uncomfortable being the bearer of bad news.
Getting comfortable starts with being uncomfortable.
Still, my friends confirmed my ability to listen and speak God’s truth. Yay? I asked an older respected man why God would give the gift of prophecy to an introvert who prefers to let others speak. He replied, “Precisely because you’re an introvert who thinks before she speaks. Extroverts blurt out every nonsensical thought that races through their mind. Introverts work through the words first.”
My other gifts include exhortation and teaching, both of which sit more comfortably. I love to offer encouragement, and I enjoy opportunities to teach people how to follow God with their whole heart.
When you look at the three side-by-side, the picture becomes clearer: prophecy, exhortation, and teaching all require that I listen to God first and follow through by speaking truth to others. These gifts work in tandem, and they’re good gifts for someone who often writes about Christian faith and practice.
My gut reaction wasn’t unfounded, though: it’s been much easier to use my exhortation and teaching gifts than prophecy. People appreciate encouragement, and many like to hear (or read) thoughtful lessons.
God used prophecy to propel me into ministry leadership where I had a behind-the-curtain peek at decision-making, if not always a voice at the table.
My voice, perhaps in particular because I am a strong woman, was not always welcome … even when I knew with every fiber of my being that God had asked me to speak.
Like I said, love is hard work. We show up for God, for ourselves, and for one another because God loves us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to live and die and live again to show us the way back to God.
Because God is love. Because God loves us, we love. Because we love, we use our gifts.
Siv Ricketts writes to encourage you to have hope, seek beauty, and live joyfully. She has recently been published in The Joyful Life Magazine and in Fathom Mag. A graduate of Westmont College and Fuller Theological Seminary, she has focused her career working in and writing for the Church. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two sons, and their menagerie of pets. You can find her on her blog and on Instagram.