Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection:
I Corinthians 12:1-11
1Now about the spiritual gifts, brothers [and sisters], I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all [people].
7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
The apostle Paul brings up the topic of spiritual gifts at a number of places in his letters. Just to review the definition of spiritual gifts before we start out, they are special abilities that are placed within followers of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, and they are of use for doing the work of the church in the world.
Most followers of Jesus would probably be a little hesitant to describe themselves as ‘gifted.’ We tend to think that term should be reserved for people with very unusual talents. We may look at some of the more noticeable things people do in the life of the church – things like preaching or singing or playing an instrument – and we may conclude that we’re not gifted like the people who do them. But Paul says that all of us who follow Jesus are, in fact, gifted – that we are all given spiritual gifts.
In his various letters, Paul listed twenty-some different spiritual gifts – all the way from “prophesy,” (which in the New Testament usually means preaching) to gifts like healing and administration and encouragement. But I don’t think Paul meant to say that the ones he listed in his letters were all the spiritual gifts. Any special ability a believer has that genuinely contributes to the life and energy of the church of Jesus Christ is a spiritual gift. It’s easy to forget that the Holy Spirit may have prepared us to do some very important but ‘lower-profile’ work in the church. (And make no mistake – much of the most important work of the church happens behind the scenes.)
It also seems important to remind ourselves that our spiritual gifts may be different than the talents we use in our lives outside the church. In the church I served before coming to Medina, there was a man who was a CPA by profession. So naturally, the church always wanted him to be the chairman of the Finance Committee and do the other financial stuff. But it always seemed to me that this man’s most striking spiritual gift was a connection with children. The kids of the church just flocked around him as soon as he came in the door. Personally, I think that a gift for connecting with children, and connecting them with the love of God in Jesus, might just be the most important spiritual gift.
So if we all have spiritual gifts, it seems vitally important to figure out what our spiritual gifts are. There are a couple of ways you can do that. One way is just to think back to the ways you’ve been active in serving the church and its ministries. (And by the way, spiritual gifts are about people, not buildings. None of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible are about buildings and grounds. Property committees do important work, but if all you do for the church is about taking care of buildings and grounds, eventually you’ll starve the spiritual side of yourself and burn out.)
Think about times when you’ve been serving God and other people and really felt like you were doing God’s work – like you were really making a difference. Serving the poor in some way. Teaching Sunday School. Visiting shut-ins, or the sick, or people in nursing homes. Think about times when you were serving in ways like that, and really felt good when you were done – you might have been physically tired, but you were spiritually charged up somehow. Those experiences might point to your particular spiritual gifts.
You can also ask other people whose opinion you respect if they have any sense of what your spiritual gifts might be. You might be surprised by the perspective you get.
Of course, there are “spiritual gifts inventories” on-line, so you can just google that phrase and find some options. If you do this, it’s a good idea to choose one from a church or denomination that’s close to your own; other parts of the church tend to use a different vocabulary when it comes to spiritual gifts, and that can be confusing if you’re not used to it.
Here’s a link to a tool on the Ministry Matters website, which is a website of the Zondervan publishing organization: (Just copy and paste it into your browser and you’ll get there.)
But even if you take advantage of tools like that and of the perspectives of others, don’t forget to ask for the Spirit to help you see your gifts. And spend some time thinking prayerfully about times that you’ve felt like you were really making a contribution to the life of the church, and when you experienced a genuine joy and peace in your service to God. Those might be signs that you were really ‘manifesting the Spirit’ at those times.
Discovering and developing our Spiritual gifts is probably one of the most important ways we can each increase our usefulness to God’s kingdom in the world.
Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for giving us gifts we can use to help build up your kingdom in the world. Help us to discover those gifts, and to use them enthusiastically to make your love known all around us. Amen.
(The other readings for today are Psalms 62 and 97; II Kings 23:4-25; and Matthew 9:18-26.)