What is Your Spiritual Gift?

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:

  • Administration
  • Apostleship
  • Discernment
  • Evangelism
  • Exhortation
  • Faith
  • Giving
  • Healing
  • Helps
  • Hospitality
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Mercy
  • Prophecy
  • Serving
  • Speaking in Tongues (aka: Shepherding)
  • Wisdom

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.

Pretty Little Gifts

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A merciful heart for all people.  Would give you the shirt off her back.  Capable leader.  Encouraging to others with an aura of peaceful acceptance.  Wise and patient teacher.  Meek and soft-spoken woman of God.


Skeptical.  Brazen.  A little too honest.  Calls individuals out on their wrongs.  Rude.  Blunt.  And permanently stamped by our society with the all-time, most misunderstood and infamous label – judgmental.

Argh. Yep.

The first time I heard about spiritual gifts when I was about twenty-six.  I had only been a Christian for about 4 years and was chomping at the bit to figure out what my spiritual gifts were. 

Aside from brown eyes, a love for all things ornithological, and a passion for crocheting, to think that God personally blessed me with a spiritual gift since birth was exhilarating. My one true calling was to be laced with a special gift to enhance my walk to glorify Jesus!

And then I took the test.

Discernment. With a small side of Craftsmanship and a spoonful of Faith.  I was puzzled.  Frustration set in.

And where was my “pretty” spiritual gift?

My waitressing days in college had prepared me to serve others hospitably with everything from enchiladas to spilt iced tea. Leading a small group of ladies or dogs was not a problem, and I received affirmation from others that I was capable. Giving gifts is my love language, hands down!

As my spiritual gift was unfolding in front of me, a wave of overwhelming dread mixed with fear swept over me with incredible force once I started researching a textbook description of spiritual discernment:

  • Distinguishing between spirits
  • Recognizing the motive behind circumstances
  • Immediately “knowing” whether a person’s true intention is good or bad

My fervor for sharing and growing this gift waned quickly, resulting in spiritually running the other direction, chasing what I thought to be more pleasing, socially admired gifts.  This lasted for fourteen years.

Right after I turned forty, I attended a women’s worship night at my church.  I sang, I praised, I laughed.  A lady who I held in high regard in our church who was leading the women’s worship night gently picked up the microphone and sweetly described the night’s subject we were about to discuss.

Spiritual Gifts.

My head irked.  I felt my eye twitch.  I thought surely my gift had changed because I had changed, knowing that I was not the same person I was the first time I took this test, so let’s go… but my gut was nagging me.

Fifteen minutes later, I sat and stared at the results of the “new” test, whose black and white words echoed a very familiar black and white answer.

Discernment again. 

Something told me I was not going to outrun my circumstances this time.

I couldn’t help feel a tiny wave of green-tinted disappointment wash over me as I quietly questioned, “Are you sure, Lord… Hospitality, Giving, Mercy… those all sound much nicer.”

I enjoyed discussing spiritual gifts with all kinds of people, and learning about the *sparkly* gifts that had not been in God’s design for me.  I couldn’t wrap my head around the feeling as if I were walking along a dry desert of inequity.

My focus broke as one of my friends beamed at her results, “Oh, WOW – I got Compassion!”  And it fits her.  She’s blonde, sweet, beautiful and always smiling.  Always.

Another lady across the room beamed, “I love this, it was spot ON.  Serving others is such a passion of mine!”  Okay, I don’t even know you, but can you get a sister a diet coke?  I’m negotiating with God over here.

But the hits kept fluttering around the room, ladies giggling and glowing excitedly at the “pretty” spiritual gifts their test results had revealed. 

To top it off, another friend of mine looked over my shoulder, smirked and said rather flatly, “Well look what you got.  Totally fits.”  She got Encouragement.  Interesting.

Before I could finish uttering a response, the merciful leader lady reached for the microphone again and flowed into a melodic series of instructions for each of us to divide into groups, according to our spiritual gift.  I stood up, grabbed my purse and moseyed over to my designated side of the sanctuary.

The “D-List” corner.

As I was finding my way amongst the Mercy girls, the Leadership ladies, and the gracious Givers, I cringed at the fact that I might be one of the lowly few women with the same, odd-girl-out gift.

I found a chair and settled into my station.  Another lady sat down.  And then a few more until there were about forty of us.  All different ages, different backgrounds and hair color.  My heart secretly lept – I was not alone!  For years, I thought I was isolated in every church I ever attended.  With this gift:  my spiritual discernment gift.

Before long the “D-Listers” were comparing stories:

  • Consistently described as blunt
  • Accused of being skeptical and rude
  • Unwavering distrust of certain individuals within seconds of meeting them
  • Carried a heightened sense of knowing when danger or foreboding evil was present
  • The first to sniff out a fake

God never makes mistakes.  I struggled for too many years with the notion that I was burdened with a spiritual gift that scared and intimidated me.  It also fascinated me and proved time and time again it saved my neck or someone else’s throughout my life. 

I didn’t think it was a pretty, more desirable gift.  Far from it.  It is a vital gift.  As is everyone’s gift.

Discerners are part of the church, the body of Christ, working alongside those whose blessed with Healing, Prophesy, Exhortation, together for the good of His kingdom.

A watchdog for false teachers and doctrine.

A blunt and skeptical watchdog.

I sipped my Diet Coke and smiled. I had a lot of work to do.

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