Article by Pastor Tom DrionElder at GraceLife London
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
If you’re born-again, God gave you a spiritual gift(s) along with your salvation. It's not necessarily a neatly defined spiritual gift, like those in 1 Corinthians 12, or Romans 12. Those lists are neither identical nor exhaustive. However you got a gift, and to find and use it, you first have to accept that you have something, since every Christian gets a gift.
Paul calls it the manifestation of the Spirit, (which means it's something new in you when you're born again and indwelled by the Spirit) and God gives it “to each one” in the body (1 Corinthians 12:7).
In 1 Corinthians 12, you can't miss the fact that God gives different gifts to different people in the same church body, so that they can carry out different functions, in order that the whole body can achieve its purpose. Your gift was given to meet a need and play a role in the church body.
Your gift is not given to you for your own benefit, but for the common good, (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10). The whole of chapter 14 makes that point well, with the concept of building-up, or benefitting the church being found explicitly in 1 Corinthians 14:3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 17, 19, 26, 31.
The reality that you must use your gift for the sake of others is reinforced by the placing of 1 Corinthians 13, with its famous teaching about love, right between chapter 12 (teaching about gifts) and chapter 14 (correcting the misuse of the gifts). In chapter 14, Paul admonishes the Corinthians for using their gifts selfishly, and rebukes them for using tongues to build themselves up, instead of for the edification of the body. 1 Corinthians 14:26 summarises the note of correction with a strong note of command: "Let all things be done for building up!"
Someone who is gifted in a particular area simply has a greater aptitude to learn that particular skill, and tends to advance more quickly and may end up out-performing others who put in the same amount of effort in learning. A gifted footballer just shines on the pitch, but you’d never know they had the gift until they begin to learn to play the game.
In the church, it's a tragedy to think that in any congregation there are probably gifted people who never discover their gifts because they never step onto the pitch, as it were, and get involved in the game. To discover your giftedness, just have a go at different avenues of service until you find out where your gifts lie.
Since the purpose of the gifts is for the edification of the church body (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26; 1 Peter 4:10), if you are to find and use your gift as God intended, you need to focus your efforts on trying to serve the body of Christ into which God put you.
It's not difficult to see why many people never find or use their gifts, since they never stay at church long enough to try anything much! If you happened to be gifted at encouraging Christians, but never stayed after the meeting long enough to talk with people, you'd never find that gift.
It's often other people who notice giftedness. In a class full of children struggling with maths, there's often one or two who just get it. They themselves may not realise they're gifted, but the rest of the class can be painfully aware of the difference!
Soldiers who need leadership naturally recognise a gifted leader. Students revising for an exam, easily spot the one student who not only understands the subject, but has a gift of teaching and can explain it to them so they understand.
Others will see your giftedness, and given enough time, you’ll also probably come to see that area of service as the place where you fit best and feel most at home.
Jesus taught his disciples to take the lowest seat (Luke 14:10). Whoever wants to be first, must make himself last and the servant of everyone (Mark 9:35). Someone who wants to discover their gift, ought to look around the church for somewhere to serve, and just find a way to help the body in one way or another.
When giftedness does show, we must always have the humility not to look with envy at someone else's gift, but to thank God for it, and try to allow them to serve more and more in the area of their strength. Spiritually minded leaders will always be on the lookout for truly gifted people whose gifts are accompanied by a servant hearted attitude!
If God gave you a gift for the sake of His body, then he also wants you to find it, and use it! Just ask for his help in this matter, and you can know you are asking according to his will.
You must ensure love governs the use of your gift. Just read 1 Corinthians 12-14, and notice that in chapter 13, the whole focus on love, is to teach us that it must rule in the use of our gift(s). If you are seeking your own benefit, or insisting on your own way in using your gift, it's not love (1 Corinthians 13:5). If you're not being patient, it's not love (verse 4), and so on! Read the list (1 Corinthians 13:4-8), and check yourself!
Don't just assume that because you're gifted it's going to be easy. Jesus was gifted, but he worked to the point of exhaustion—as did Paul. Being gifted will only leave you frustrated and depressed if you allow laziness, or intimidation (see 2 Timothy 1:6-7), or anything else to stop you labouring both to improve your gift and play your part.
Just as Paul encouraged Timothy to fan into flame the gift he had been given, which had obviously been allowed to fall into disuse (2 Timothy 1:6-7), we often need to be stirred up to keep on using the gifts. Most Christians will go through cycles in which their own sin causes them to feel unable and unworthy to serve, but unless there is actual disqualification from the use of a gift (such as preaching), the answer is always to repent and renew our efforts and determination to serve. Never, never, never give up!