Sharpening our spiritual gifts
Jesus came to restore our relationship with God. He equips every believer with spirituals gifts so that we are able to continue His critical mission to reconcile the lost and hurting to Him. Let us actively sharpen our gifts, and not squander them, or worse, use them against God’s will.
(See Chinese versions: 简体中文 > 磨砺我们的属灵恩赐 | 繁體中文 > 磨礪我們的屬靈恩賜)
1 Peter 4:10 ESV As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
The purpose of spiritual gifts
There are various forms of spiritual gifts, all of which are meant for “the common good”. They may be given to us individually but they are not meant for our personal benefit. Neither are God’s gifts a reflection of particular favour on any individual. He knows we are sinful and still chooses to entrust us with spiritual gifts, because this is one way He trains us to become more like Jesus.
1 Corinthians 12:4,7 ESV Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit… To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Spiritual gifts should:
- Help the Body of Christ move towards “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”. (Ephesians 4:13)
- Be exercised in love, never in spiritual pride. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
- Be “earnestly desired”, particularly the gift of prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:1)
- Be developed, so we are not taken in “by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”. (Ephesians 4:8,14)
- Evolve as we mature in Christ.
The Bible lists many gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. There are some gifts, such as administration, helping or teaching, that we may develop because of our secular training and exposure. Others, which are more spiritual in nature, can only be given by God. Examples of the latter include the gifts of tongues or prophecy.
|1. Administration||Helps to effectively plan, organise and keep track of church projects and ministries.|
|2. Apostleship||Reconciles different groups to God and raises people to build churches.|
|3. Discernment of spirits||Distinguishes God’s truth from falsehoods taught by demons and identifies the specific evil spirits at work.|
|4. Evangelism||Shares the gospel with non-believers and leads them to salvation through Jesus Christ.|
|5. Exhortation||Encourages believers to persevere in their faith with one’s words and actions.|
|6. Faith||Lives in one’s spiritual calling based on personal experiences with God and complete trust in His Word.|
|7. Giving||Contributes one’s talents and resources to meet the needs of other people.|
|8. Healing||Brings miraculous healing to the physically, mentally and spiritual unwell, as God leads.|
|9. Hospitality||Creates welcoming environments to host individuals or groups.|
|10. Interpretation of tongues||Clarifies a message spoken in tongues in a language listeners can understand.|
|11. Knowledge||Speaks revelations of the truth based on God’s Word, as led by the Holy Spirit.|
|12. Leadership||Guides groups of people to live for Jesus Christ and establish His kingdom on earth.|
|13. Mercy||Empathises with and supports those who are suffering.|
|14. Miracles||Brings God glory by demonstrating His power in achieving results that are impossible for humans.|
|15. Prophecy||Edifies, encourages and comforts people to follow God’s will, as guided by the Holy Spirit. May involve the revelation of God’s plans for them.|
|16. Service||Helps to accomplish tasks as needed by the Body of believers.|
|17. Shepherding||Disciples and guides believers so they grow spiritually and are not led astray.|
|18. Tongues||Speaks in a known or unknown language through the Holy Spirit to uplift oneself or speak on His authority.|
|19. Teaching||Correctly handles and presents God’s Word with clarity and conviction to build up believers.|
|20. Wisdom||Discerns God’s will from His Word and brings wise counsel into situations.|
Romans 12:6-8 ESV Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
1 Corinthians 12:7-11,27-28 ESV To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills…Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
How to sharpen our spiritual gifts
1. Seek God first
One real danger in exercising our spiritual gifts is that we can focus on ministry over our relationship with God. Like the example of Martha in Luke 10, we can become “distracted with much serving” instead of loving God first. Our first priority should always to nurture and honour our relationship with God.
Luke 10:39-42 ESV And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
2. Check our motives
It is also important to check our motives for wanting to develop our spiritual gifts, because Satan will tempt us to corrupt our gifts to glorify ourselves and put others down. This is a very real temptation that we can easily fall for if we are not careful.
1 John 1:8-9 ESV If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
|Administration||Temptations to elevate tasks above people and push others to accomplish tasks according to one’s schedule and expectations.|
|Apostleship||Temptations to build churches according to one’s likes and dislikes, rather than how God intends.|
|Exhortation||Temptations to condemn or discourage oneself or use one’s words to manipulate others.|
|Faith||Temptations to blindly follow teachings that are not fully tested.|
|Giving||Temptations to bring credit to oneself.|
|Hospitality||Temptations to make one’s hospitality about oneself.|
|Knowledge||Temptations to not speak the truth.|
|Leadership||Temptations to lead others without love and boss people around.|
|Mercy||Temptations to develop unhealthy, co-dependent relationships or self-pity.|
|Miracles||Temptations to enjoy fame, instead of humbly refusing glory for oneself.|
|Prophecy||Temptations to say things that are untested for their spiritual source to sound important, but mislead God’s people.|
|Service||Temptations to bring credit to oneself.|
|Shepherding||Temptations to create cliques that follow one’s will and instructions.|
|Tongues||Temptations to show off the gift of tongues loudly.|
|Teaching||Temptations to correct people with a self-righteous attitude.|
|Wisdom||Temptations to judge and condemn people.|
3. Identify our gifts
Most people move so naturally in our spiritual gifts that we are not aware of them.
Hence, we may need to conscientiously find out what our gifts are. There are free online resources dedicated to helping us do so. Examples include giftstest.com and spiritualgiftstest.com.
We may also consider taking the same spiritual gifts tests on an annual basis. God gives us different spiritual gifts for different seasons in ministry. It is exciting to see how God works more of His gifts through us over time.
4. Seek guidance
It is important to submit ourselves to God whenever we act in His name. Let us seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we do His work. We can also seek the counsel of godly people, whose lives reflect a love for God and humble service for God’s glory, so that we can do the same.
5. Represent Jesus well and love first
At work, we are given set goals and targets. We face a very different set of expectations when we serve God. Our goal is always to demonstrate God’s love to others first. Numbers and targets are useful worldly measures, but they do not indicate God’s pleasure.
The best benchmark for our ministries is how well we represent Jesus and love others as He loves them. The apostle Paul describes how we are to use our spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and goes on to say there is “a still more excellent way”, which is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
6. Beware the misuse of spiritual gifts
Our spiritual gifts are powerful tools to build God’s kingdom. Satan will entice us to use our gifts to glorify ourselves or to fall into sin. We must be careful not to let our weak sinful nature overrule God’s will.
- Comparing how spiritual we are
The enemy will take advantage of any opportunity to cause division in the church body. One way is to get us to compare our gifts and envy other believers.
God used a donkey to speak up and warn the prophet Balaam (Numbers 22:22-35). Obviously, he doesn’t choose us based on our intelligence, spiritual maturity, popularity or Bible knowledge. He uses whoever is present at the right time to minister to someone. We are not amazing, only God’s love and concern for us is.
Numbers 22:27-28 ESV When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam. And Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?”
Our energies are better spent seeking to know how God plans to use our spiritual gifts for His important work on earth. Let us prove ourselves to be faithful to what He has given us to do, whether big or small
- Using them selectively to suit our agendas
We need to be true to God’s Word, and not pick and choose which spiritual gifts we like or don’t. We cannot lessen the value of some gifts, add more gifts, or ignore those gifts we don’t feel comfortable with. God chose each one of these gifts for His specific ministry purposes.
Let us honour God’s Word and seek to understand and experience all the spiritual gifts He has prepared for us, even the supernatural ones. It is the same God behind all the gifts.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
- Misleading others
There are certain spiritual gifts we will need to practice discernment on before we act on them, particularly the gifts of prophecy and interpretation of tongues. Sometimes our personal bias gets in the way and we may unintentionally express our own will and desires, rather than God’s.
Please also see: How to test for the Holy Spirit || A biblical and practical understanding of tongues || Understanding the gift of prophecy
- Mixing in New Age ideas
Finally, we must be careful not to add any superstitious beliefs, ritual or tools to our spiritual gifts. Many new age ideas or witchcraft rituals outside of God’s Word are demonic. We cannot mix the two, thinking that they will make us more powerful. This is a lie from Satan.
Ephesians 4:29-30 ESV Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
7. Persevere and grow in our gifts
Praise God that our gifts will keep evolving as we continue to pursue our Heavenly Father and build His kingdom on earth. The more we commit to building His kingdom of love, hope and peace on earth, the more generous He will be with His gifts too.
Along the way, we may face setbacks and discouragements but we need not fear or give up. We simply need to stay humble, loving and faithful, and watch His Holy Spirit do greater things in our lives that we can ever imagine.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
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