Today in Sunday school, we talked about spiritual gifts, and how they can be best utilized in service at church. Not this kind of gift (I can't resist the gratuitous baby pic) . . .
But this kind of gift that the Apostle Paul talks about in Romans 12:
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Paul is saying that each Christian is given a special "gift" by the Holy Spirit, that helps us serve the body of Christ. These gifts are prophesy (discerning truth), service, teaching, exhortation (encouragement), giving, leadership (organization), and mercy (alleviating suffering). Although all Christians should be growing in each of these areas, we are specially equipped in one area (there is some argument about whether a person can have more than one gift). Our teacher encouraged us to try to identify our spiritual gift with the aide of a survey and several examples. Then, he asked who was gifted in each area.
Every time I have engaged in this exercise, I have noticed that some women really struggle with identifying one gift. Women by nature are inclined to be nurturing and emotional. But, crying at Hallmark commercials doesn't necessarily mean you have the spiritual gift of mercy. And, just because you like to work with children doesn't mean your gift is teaching. And, even though you may spend most of your time meeting the needs of others in your life, your spiritual gift may not be service.
One way to sort through this is to think about your passion. You may spend most of your time in service, but really get joy and feel fulfilled when you are organizing a team in a leadership role. Or, you may be a teacher by trade, but find you are most passionate about providing resources for your needy students (giving).
Another way that really helped me figure out my spiritual gift was to think about how I would instinctually approach a spiritual problem. Let's say the problem is suicide - maybe a friend's brother recently committed suicide. How would you immediately be inclined to respond? Someone whose spiritual gift is prophecy (discerning truth) may immediately contemplate what God's Word says about suicide and death, discern why the person may have been suicidal, etc. Those who are gifted in service would probably immediately think, "What can I DO for the family?" These are the people on the doorstep with food by the end of the day. Those that respond with instructions for others on how to approach the family or eventually will sit down the family and share biblical truth about death, heaven, etc. are probably gifted in teaching. Those who immediately send a loving card with words of love and encouragement are probably gifted in exhortation. They might also walk beside the family by just being there with them during the next few difficult weeks. If someone is gifted in giving, they might first think to donate to a memorial or even gather the finances to help with burial costs. Those with a gift in leadership would probably organize efforts to help the family, maybe in creating a care calendar or organizing prayer meetings. Finally, those gifted in mercy would be immediately burdened to visit the family, hug them, listen to their sorrow, and share their pain.
What would your first, instinctual response be?
Honestly, though I'm professionally skilled in acts of mercy (empathy, listening), I am most naturally gifted as an encourager. I like to fix problems and help equip others to fix problems. My heart hurts for suffering people, but I am more naturally inclined to encourage rather than to listen and empathize.
I'm curious about your spiritual gift! Please participate in my poll below.
I'm interested in helping people identify their spiritual gift, but I've never been to seminary and am not an expert in spiritual gifts. So, forgive me if my guidance here is inaccurate!