The Anecdotes Don’t Help
“…I was in deep prayer, when I felt God speaking to my heart to become a pastor, so I said ‘where God?’ and he replied, ‘Well Jack, I want you to figure it out.’ Later that day on the way to the grocery store I saw seven license plates with Ohio on them. So I threw a dart at a word map, and after getting various spots in the Pacific ocean I finally hit Ohio and I knew that it was where God wanted me to go, so I have been a pastor here ever since…”
Most of us have heard stories about people discovering their spiritual gifts in crazy ways, but for most people, the Holy Spirit doesn’t take a break from converting sinners and sanctifying believers so that he can drop you hints for you to piece together to figure out your spiritual gifts. Instead, the Holy Spirit empowers and reveals your spiritual gifts by making you loving, wise, and diligent.
List or Love?
1 Corinthians 14:26
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Usually when we see these kind of passages, we want to immediately look for lists of gifts so that we can see if we fit in somewhere. That is not what these passages are about, and to do so misses the point. These passages are about love in action. The goal of all spiritual gifts are to build up and serve the common good, especially the Church. Finding your spiritual gifts can be as simple as answering the question, “What does it look like for me to love and build up the Church in a biblical way?” Notice how Paul in both passages seems to put little emphasis on the activities themselves. His main point is building up.
If you read the entirety of 1 Corinthians 12, it is clear that God’s gifts are numerous among his people and unique to the individual. This will cause radical diversity that has the ability to either be a well rounded, thriving body or an envious, cannibalizing body. We must not be jealous of one-another’s gifts but seek to build others up with even the humblest of our own.
Wise or Wild?
Believe it or not, it is possible to take a God-given gift and use it unwisely and unlovingly, and do major damage to the church. One example is when discernment ministry is done in the flesh: God gave them the gift of discerning truth from error, but rather than measured careful rebukes, there are snotty, sarcastic, and stone-hearted comments. This is the Ephesian error. The Corinthians were speaking in tongues without interpretation, and so proving that they were not concerned with one another.
Fan into Flame
In 2 Timothy, Paul urges Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God. Part of this gift is his faith, but another part is his calling to preach. This means that even with God-given gifts, diligent work is required to bring them to fruition. The musician must practice. The preacher must study. The spiritual gifts can become stronger with some hard work.
What About Me?
The spiritual gifts are numerous. You probably have not one, but many gifts. If you seek to actively love the Church, your gifts will start to show. The real miracle is not the exercising of a gift, but that you, a sinner, would love the Church. When a person is saved by faith in Jesus crucified and resurrected for their sins, the Holy Spirit is given to lead them in spiritual growth, and the greatest fruit of the Spirit is love. If you love the Church you have perfect evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Now you just get loving, and the Holy Spirit will empower your gifting.
Are you a songwriter? Write your friends songs based on the word of God. Are you a good reader? Write book reviews. Do you have a lot of money? Contribute to the needs of others and the Church. Are you amiable? Make people feel welcome at church. Are you in need? Be humble and rejoice that those who are fulfilling your needs are getting fruit to their credit! Are you good at sympathizing with others? Encourage them and pray for them. Are you good at giving haircuts? Give away haircuts to people that need them. The list could go on and on. The list is not the point. Love is the point. Grow to love your church and make your life about building it up and your gifts will be close at hand.