“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:1-8)
Are you spiritually connected? Sometimes when I turn on my laptop I have to reconnect to my Wi-Fi. When I do, I can receive communication and information that is helpful to me and that I can share with others. Likewise in the body of Christ, when I’m disconnected from God (because of busyness or lack of trust and love for Him) and spiritually disconnected from others (because of selfishness or perceived self-sufficiency), I can’t give or receive the gifts God gives to me or others so that we can have a healthy spiritual body to the glory of God. God gives gifts to us so we can build up the body of Christ and reveal and glorify an invisible God through visible (manifestations) of His love and power. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (or “so we can help each other”). And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Cor. 12:4-7; 21) The wolf loves the lone sheep. (1 Peter 5:8)
As we have already seen in these verses the motive for why we share the gift (or gifts) God has given us is more important than the gift itself. Paul had already written 1 Corinthians in which he rebuked a spiritually rich church for using their God-given gifts for self-glory and he speaks to that also here in Romans: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound (sober) judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3) “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Exalting our gift (preaching, prophecy, giving to the poor, tongues, evangelism, discipleship, etc.) as the best gift and “unless you too are doing this you are less spiritual than I am” is rebuked by Paul. Yet since we are all in process of being sanctified we certainly can’t wait until we are perfect to exercise these gifts; in fact, it is in the process of using our God-given gifts that God can reveal and purify wrong motives for service.
How do we discern what spiritual gifts God has given us? There seems to be a flow of thought in Romans 12:1-8 as follows: When I experience the sacrificial love of God through Jesus’ death for me (John 3:16; Romans 1-11) and become a new creature in Christ, I am so grateful that I desire to love and serve Him. (Rom. 7:22) Thus I am willing to sacrifice my life for the One Who sacrificed everything for me. (See V. 1) I then seek His will “by the (continual) renewing of my mind” so I can serve Him. (See V. 2) I resist the temptation from Satan and the world system “to think more highly of myself than I ought to think” as I think about and focus more and more on God and His will and the spiritual and practical needs of others. (See V. 3) With this renewed mindset, now I can see the needs of others in my sphere (my family, my church, my friends at work and in my neighborhood, etc.) and want to help and contribute. God has already planted gifts in me at salvation and now I want to and begin to use these gifts to meet the needs I see. This both blesses and strengthens others and blesses me as I “serve the Lord with gladness.” (Psalm 100:2)
What are spiritual gifts? Though Paul lists some of these gifts in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12, these lists are not exhaustive (even as the fruit of the Spirit list in Gal. 5:22-23 is not exhaustive). God anoints and empowers even our natural talents and any action we take to please and glorify Him by serving people, the lost (through witnessing and evangelism) and saved. “ Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Col. 3:23-24)“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) Taking a spiritual gifts test may be helpful but generally we find our gifts out of our desire to love God and people by meeting spiritual and practical needs we see and desire to meet. “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
Below is an excellent and comprehensive teaching on the gifts of the Spirit by my friend and mentor Dr. Ken Boa. I will hit the highlights of this teaching in our meeting but encourage you to read it thoroughly and answer the questions at the end. I have attached a spiritual gifts test that you can use to find and/or affirm the gifts God has given you. If you use this it would be helpful to discuss the results with someone who knows you well and sees you use your gifts and/or the gifts you may feel led to begin using as a result of this test.
The Gifts of the Spirit
This material has been adapted from the Spirit-filled Spirituality facet in my book, Conformed to His Image.
1. Write out your own definition of a spiritual gift.
2. How do spiritual gifts relate to the unity and diversity of the body of Christ?
3. What is the difference between spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit?
4. What is the difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents?
5. List the three principle reasons for discovering and developing your spiritual gifts.
6. Do you fulfill the three prerequisites for discovering your spiritual gifts? What are the six steps for
discovering your gifts? How far have you moved in this process?
7. Go through the description of each of the spiritual gifts and ask these diagnostic questions as you do
a. Do I have a strong sense of concern in this area?
b. Is this something I would enjoy doing?
c. Have I shown any ability in this area?
d. Have others given me positive feedback in this area?