The New Testament affirms that believers in Christ have been given at least one gift by the Holy Spirit, with which to serve within the body of Christ. At the same time, it should be admitted that there is no specific formula laid out in the Scriptures on how to discover a spiritual gift. So, this article is not necessarily something like “five or ten steps” to discovering your spiritual gift(s). However, we can glean some conceptual guidelines that could lead one to find the area of gifting the Holy Spirit has equipped them with for service.
First things first
Reading from 1 Corinthians 12: 1-6, we discover that there are several fundamental truths about spiritual gifts stressed by Paul. It is important to understand these truths even before the question of “what is mine?” is raised.
Firstly, it should be noted that all members of the Godhead, namely, God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are in agreement about the distribution, manner of operation, and purpose of these gifts (v.4-6). Paul mentioned this to emphasize that there is no way one could use a spiritual gift to do a ministry or offer a service that discredits or dishonors one member of the Godhead and glorifies another (v.1-3).
Secondly, one should know that these gifts are distributed by the Holy Spirit as He wills or as He sees fit. Here, the thought of any impostors, or indeed any other person claiming to be the source of spiritual gifts is trampled on by Paul. Equally, [young] believers must quit looking elsewhere for spiritual gifts, apart from the Holy Spirit himself. However, because believers are encouraged to pray for others (1 Timothy 2:1), and for all things (Philippians 4:6), we can ask other believers to pray for us on our way to finding our area of gifting. Also, believers may, with sincere motives, ask other believers about what gifts are more pronounced in them. This is different from looking at these people as a source of spiritual gifts, – spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit not human beings, not even the pastor, and certainly not oneself.
Thirdly, the gifts are given for the good of the body of believers (v.7). Understanding this is very crucial. It means that one cannot [must not] use spiritual gifts for personal gain or fame. Just like Simon Peter rebuked Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:18-21, we should not be willing to sell spiritual gifts and the works thereof. God’s manner of operating is “unity in diversity”; in His own wisdom, God has given or distributed spiritual gifts differently across His people with which they should minister one unto another. God’s goal is the unity and edification of believers, which ultimately glorifies Him. If this is the goal, it is likely that one may possess more than one gift, but very unlikely that they would possess all of the gifts. The Spirit of all wisdom would very unlikely give one individual all the spiritual gifts there are, lest that person will see no place for other people’s ministries in his own life, and gather glory for himself.
What conceptual guidelines can I use?
Consult God’s Word: As we have already seen, one can be aware of the fundamental truths concerning Spiritual gifts through a study of God’s Word. In the Word, one can also see what gifts there are or rather the Holy Spirit has given in the Church. One could take an intentional study of the primary passages about spiritual gifts such as 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Romans. 12:4-8, and Ephesians 4:7-12. Although it can be argued that these passages are not exhaustive about spiritual gifts, studying them allows one to pursue spiritual gifts within the guides of God’s Word.
Prayerfully seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit is the giver or distributor of these gifts. He, therefore, knows which gift(s) He has given a particular believer. There can be nothing wiser and more helpful on the believer’s part than to ask the giver in prayer what their gift is and how it works. Romans 8:5-15 stresses that the indwelling Holy Spirit leads us. He constantly teaches us and lays things on our hearts for us to do in accordance with His will. Yielding to the Holy Spirit, one is led to discover their spiritual gift(s) as He lays it on their heart.
Faithfully giving yourself to service: Sometimes, the Holy Spirit may point to us something in form of a need to be met or a ministry to be carried out. The more we give ourselves to those needs in the body of Christ (the church), the more we are led to finding our area of gifting. Sometimes, the testimony of how the Holy Spirit has used us to meet such needs in service encourages us to continue. In 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11, we learn that one resulting aspect of being saved in Christ is building up one another. Therefore, there is a God-intended purpose that we discover in our lives when we edify others with our gifts.
Listen to the faithful testimony of other believers: There is such a thing as “other believers’ confirmation” (1 Timothy 4:14). God sometimes works through others to make certain things known to us. This may include our area of gifting. We serve in the midst of other believers. Sometimes these believers may come to us and encourage us accordingly. The Bible actually urges us to spur one another toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). Sometimes we can take an intentional step of going to these believers with a sincere motive, and asking specific questions about our ministry. How has my ministry been? How has it benefited you as a fellow member of Christ’s body? What can I do better? What gifts do you think I have? Why have you given each of the answers you gave? The honest answers to these believers can help us find our right place and gifts in ministry. There is a risk of anterior (self-centered) motives here, but there is always a way of doing something with sincerity.
By faith exercise the gifts: Give yourself to the gifts that have been revealed to you. When we give ourselves by faith to the usage of the revealed God-given gifts, we become more effective with them as we minister in the body of Christ.