I’ve played a few card games in my life. My family plays games as a way to connect and spend time together. Would I say I’m the best at card games in my family? Maybe. My brother might disagree… and my sister… and my mom… But when I play cards with some friends, I can be great to the point of being annoying. To some, it seems I have the best reflexes, the fastest mind, the biggest vocabulary, the strongest strategy. But to me, I’m just like everyone else in my family. At home I’m just… average.
Talking about giftings can raise a lot of questions, not least of which is: “How do I know what my gifts are?” Personally, I’ve seen that distinguishing a gift can be confusing because in one group, you might be called “gifted,” but in another, you might seem just like everyone else.
As a spiritual example, I’ve seen a few people receive physical healing over the years when I prayed for them. Some of you might never have seen anyone healed in front of you when you prayed, so you might say I have the gift of healing. But I have been part of small church groups where I had seen the least miracles of anyone.
So how does it work? Do I have a gifting in one group, but not in the other? Did we all have the gift of healing in that small church? Or did none of us have any real “special” gifting? Are certain spiritual gifts for everyone while others are only for some? In order to address these questions about spiritual gifts, we first have to understand their purpose.
Spiritual gifts are given to us to help the church as a whole grow into the fullness of Christ.
This means that the gift of evangelism, for example, is not just for those who evangelize well, but for those who are capable of empowering, inspiring, and mobilizing the collective group in the area of evangelism. Yes, those who are skilled will lead by example. But a gifting is God’s grace in giving some a head start in the race toward Jesus’ character, and they are asked to bring the rest of us along until we all catch up with them in that area.
Jesus himself modeled this for us when he said, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Sounds like Jesus tried hard to work himself out of a job. Sounds like he wanted to raise up followers to look like Him and even surpass Him in gifting and ministry.
What if our giftings were meant to have a kind of expiration date? What if my area of skill or gifting could be passed on to others so effectively that, after a while, I am running alongside those I trained and mentored, so there is no sign anymore that I was once gifted in that area?
What if we looked around the church and instead of feeling specially gifted, we just felt like we were a part of something because so many others were manifesting their gifts as well?
Spiritual gifts are not just for your own ministry, but are often for the ministries of others.
Giftings and passions are often (but not always) closely attached. If you have a hunger for the body of Christ to wake up and grow in a particular area of manifesting the love and character of Jesus, that area may be a gifting God is giving you to pioneer towards. He may say in one season of life, “Look forward, run the race, grow in this area personally, hone this skill.” In another season of life, He may say, “Slow down, look around you. Who can you equip to follow in the areas you’ve already been walking in? Who can use your foot holes in the snow that you had to work to get through? How can you make it easier for others where it was painful for you?”
Paul writes in Ephesians 4 that God gave us these people in the church to equip us and to build us up. We are being prepared to become unified in mind and heart with Jesus, just like a bride with her groom, and these gifts He gives us are needed to get us there.
While discovering and naming our giftings can be helpful, these gifts should never replace our identity as children of God who are a part of a greater whole, the Body of Christ.
Jesus, we ask for more of your gifts through your Spirit to empower us to look like You in your depth of heart and beauty of character.