Spiritual Growth

What Are Spiritual Gifts?

Brittany Yesudasan


God is the most generous gift-giver you can ever know. Think about it for a moment. Here are just some of the gifts the Bible says God has given us:

  1. Breath in our lungs (Genesis 2:7).

  2. Family (Psalm 68:6).

  3. Wisdom (James 1:5).

  4. Joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

  5. Freedom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

  6. Peace (John 14:27).

  7. Eternal life (John 3:16).

But the ultimate gift God offers us is Himself. The Bible tells us that God gave Himself to us in physical form in the person of Jesus. And when the time came for Jesus to return to His Father in heaven, He gave His presence to His followers to live within them — His Holy Spirit.

So God gives Himself as His greatest gift. One of the ways He gives Himself to us is by empowering us with what we call spiritual gifts, or gifts of the Holy Spirit. When you intentionally develop and use these gifts for God, His own Spirit is working in and through you as you trust in Him.

So what does that mean for you and me? If gifts come from God and are given to every Christian, how do you figure out which gifts you have? And how can you learn how to use them?
 

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The Origin of Spiritual Gifts


Before Jesus was crucified, He told His followers that He would return to heaven, but He promised to leave them with a helper: the Holy Spirit.

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, New International Version)

The Holy Spirit would not only comfort and be with them, but He would help them continue the work Jesus started on earth, sharing the good news of what Jesus had done through His death and resurrection and inviting others to believe in Him.

The Holy Spirit gave Jesus’ followers spiritual gifts to continue taking the message about Jesus to the world (Acts 1:8; 1 Corinthians 12:7).

Those gifts were essential for spreading the gospel, leading the church, building up believers, and serving others as an example of God’s love.

Sometimes spiritual gifts are referred to as “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” Whichever term you’re using, it’s vital to understand that we’re talking about gifts that are only within people who believe in Jesus, because His Holy Spirit is within them.

Spiritual gifts are not just special skills that some followers of Jesus just have in the way people in general have natural abilities. No one should become proud for possessing spiritual gifts, because they are simply God expressing Himself through people as they depend on Him.

This is why, shortly before Jesus promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to His closest friends, the disciples, He gave them an instruction that also serves as a warning:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

Apart from Him, you can do nothing. This needs to be the foundation on which you seek to discover and develop the spiritual gifts God gives you.

Find out more about who the Holy Spirit is and how you can experience more of God in your life.

What Exactly Are Spiritual Gifts?


Everyone is on a unique spiritual journey with God. God never changes, but how He expresses Himself through His individual followers can differ. This reflects the fact that God has a plan for each person’s life that plays a specific part in His master plan of making Himself known to the world.

So the spiritual gifts God gives people are part of His perfect plan for their lives. He gives each of His followers the same Spirit, because it’s His Spirit. But He knows each person perfectly, so He knows which gifts are part of His plan to work in the world through them. Not all of His followers receive the same spiritual gifts.

All of the spiritual gifts the Bible describes are significant, and they work best when used in the context of life within a community of other Christians.

Spiritual gifts are different from talents. Talents are specific abilities, like skill at the piano or in a sport. Talents can be practiced and developed through hard work. People who do not have the Holy Spirit within them still have many talents, and some of them might look like the gifts listed below. But they cannot access the enabling power of the Holy Spirit in exercising those talents.

If you are a follower of Jesus, as you continue growing spiritually, your gifts may become clearer. Over time, God uses circumstances to help you better understand your gifts and use them as part of His plan.

But remember, you cannot work harder to earn a particular gift. When the Bible talks about grace, it’s describing things God gives to us that we do not deserve and cannot earn. Spiritual gifts are gifts of grace.

There’s one more thing it’s crucial to know about spiritual gifts: God gives them to His followers for the benefit of the wider Christian community. One of the most important passages that teaches about spiritual gifts in the Bible says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV).

As you read the descriptions of spiritual gifts in the next section, remember that whichever gift you’ve been given by God, it’s not meant only for your personal growth as a Christian but also for the good of the people He has placed you alongside.

Different Types of Spiritual Gifts

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12, New Living Translation)

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (Romans 12:6-8, NLT)

The Bible describes several spiritual gifts and the ways Jesus followers should use them. All gifts are significant, and all come from the same Spirit. They are all meant to point people to God, and they are to be used for the good of His people.

Christians have different viewpoints about whether all of the spiritual gifts the Bible talks about are still active today. This article focuses on describing the gifts that most Christians agree that God gives to believers now.

Let’s take a closer look at some specific gifts so you can begin to figure out which ones God might be inviting you to grow in as part of your journey with Him.
 

Administration

(1 Corinthians 12:28)

With this gift, the Holy Spirit enables followers of Jesus to organize, direct and implement plans to lead others in different settings. Those with this gift help others accomplish their goals.

In the Bible, in chapter 6 of the book of Acts, we see a group of people being given the responsibilities of administration so that the apostles, who were the people Jesus had charged to lead the church in sharing the gospel, could focus on the specific work God was giving them to preach about Jesus. Organizing things may not feel like a very spiritual gift, but Stephen was one of this group, and in chapter seven, we see how powerfully God uses Him to spread the message of Jesus.

Some ways the gift of administration might be used are coordinating events, working in a church office and helping plan different aspects of ministry. When someone takes care of organizing and coordinating, not only are others freed up to focus on whatever God is calling them to do, but administrators ensure that the church’s efforts to build others up are carried out smoothly.

 

Apostleship

(1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)

This gift is not to be confused with the office of an apostle, which was held by Jesus’ original disciples — the men who followed Him and learned from Him during His ministry on earth. Those with the spiritual gift of apostleship often start new ministries, go into places where people have not heard about Jesus, and communicate across cultures to establish churches in challenging environments and develop leaders.

People with this gift often thrive in contexts where they are starting new things and pioneering new ways to do old things.

 

Discernment

(1 Corinthians 12:10)

Someone with the gift of discernment will know with confidence whether behaviors or teachings are consistent with the Bible. They can discern when something is not from God. This helps a community of believers to be on the alert for false teaching that could distract from or damage what God has called them to do.

People with this gift are great mentors. They might also be suited to working with various groups in a church or ministry setting in which they can protect and guide them toward biblical truth. Find out more about what Christian mentoring is and how to do it.

 

Evangelism

(Ephesians 4:11)

While all Christians are commanded to share the hope they have in Christ with others (Matthew 28:16-10; 1 Peter 3:15), some people have a specific gift in this area. People with this gift might be well-suited to roles within a church or ministry that are focused on outreach and developing evangelism skills in other Christians. They might also be great at working with populations outside of a church or specific ministry that have little knowledge of the gospel.

 

Exhortation/Encouragement

(Romans 12:8)

The Spirit of God gives this gift to people so they can strengthen and encourage those who are struggling in their faith. Those with the gift of encouragement can uplift and motivate others as well as challenge them to grow as Christians and take steps of faith. Many people with this gift can gently correct people when they are living in a way that’s not consistent with the teaching of the Bible.

People with this gift are great at building others up. This can happen in service teams, small groups and one-on-one mentoring relationships.

 

Faith

(1 Corinthians 12:9)

The Holy Spirit distributes the gift of faith to some to encourage and build up other believers in their confidence in God. Someone with this gift expects God to move and is not surprised when He answers a prayer or performs a miracle.

This is not to be confused with faith in a more general sense, which any Christian who trusts in God has.

 

Giving

(Romans 12:8)

People with this spiritual gift love to share what God has given them with others, and they do so generously and cheerfully. They are typically very hospitable and will seek out opportunities to help others.

These people help support ministries, providing the finances or resources needed to do the work they want to do. They are also well-equipped for helping charities or missions that provide practical resources for others by giving financially.

 

Helping

(1 Corinthians 12:28)

This spiritual gift is given to some believers to fill the many gaps in ministry, as well as daily life, and to meet the needs of people with other gifts, who are then able to use their spiritual gifts to build up other followers of Christ.

People with this gift are great in roles focused on caring for others. They can bring meals to those who are in a tough situation, provide rides to people going to doctor’s appointments. They can help collect donations for the underprivileged. These people look for practical needs they can meet and then jump in to meet them.

A person with a helping gift can also make an effective second in command by helping a leader with the burdens of his or her position.

 

Knowledge

(1 Corinthians 12:8)

The Holy Spirit gives this gift to some believers who love to study the Scriptures and communicate them to others in an easily understandable way. They like to study things in-depth so they have a thorough grasp of complicated subjects. They generally love helping others understand the things they are learning.

People with knowledge gifts are often experts in a field and therefore become valuable consultants when expertise is needed. They would be great at developing a Bible study curriculum for small groups or creating other content to be used by believers.

 

Leadership

(1 Corinthians 12:8)

Those with the gift of leadership care for God’s people and help them develop deeper relationships with Christ and one another. They put time and energy into helping others succeed and grow in their gifts. They inspire people to accomplish their spiritual goals. Leaders are skilled at communicating a vision that people are motivated to be part of.

People with these qualities are good as church elders, small group leaders and mentors. They are great at leading groups that do various types of Christian ministry.

 

Mercy

(Romans 12:8)

Someone with the gift of mercy feels compelled to help relieve the suffering of the people around them. They want to show compassion to the hurting and help them through the trials of life. This moves them to take action, coming alongside someone to help them feel encouraged and ease their suffering.

People with the gift of mercy are great in places that provide care. They make great counselors. They are great with practical help, such as providing meals, hospital visits and helping meet the physical needs of anyone going through hard times.

 

Pastoring

(Ephesians 4:11)

Pastors are called and empowered by God to care for the spiritual well-being of a local body of God’s people. Those with this spiritual gift teach, guide, protect and lead other believers in the mission that God has for His church — namely, to spread the message about Jesus Christ around the world.

The Holy Spirit also provides pastors with teaching gifts to help the people they lead to understand God's Word and apply it to their lives.

 

Service

(Romans 12:7)

The gift of service is the ability to work well for the Lord, often doing behind the scenes tasks. Many people with this gift enjoy serving in vital ways that allow a ministry to move forward smoothly and effectively. This encourages people around them because they are free to focus on other things, feeling confident that behind-the-scenes jobs are being done.

People with the gift of service are a great asset to churches or ministries organizing events because they are willing to do all the smaller tasks involved. They are also great at serving the needs of the other people, such as taking care of household duties for someone who is sick or hurting, bringing a meal to someone, or helping fix a vehicle for someone who is experiencing financial difficulty.

 

Teaching

(Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11)

Those with this gift can teach, instruct, explain and communicate God’s Word in an effective way.

Those with this gift are great at leading small groups and Bible studies. They might also be great at one-on-one mentoring.

 

Wisdom

(1 Corinthians 12:8)

Those with the spiritual gift of wisdom tend to have an understanding of and a biblical perspective on different situations that arise. They can speak into these things to encourage believers to respond as the Bible would have them. This encourages the right perspective and can urge both individuals and a church body to walk well with the Lord.

Those who have the gift of wisdom are often good at counseling leaders or serving as mentors. They have an important role in the creation of content to teach and lead a group, such as Bible study material. In general, people with the gift of wisdom are great friends to talk to in the midst of confusing or stressful situations. They can provide good perspective in times of stress.

Different Perspectives on Spiritual Gifts


While most believers agree that spiritual gifts exist, there are different views about whether all the gifts we see in the Bible are still given to Christians today.

Some people believe that the Holy Spirit gave certain gifts only for a short period after Christ returned to heaven. They believe the purpose of these gifts was to reveal God’s glory and validate the message the early followers of Jesus were preaching. This was necessary because believers did not have the Bible as we do today since the New Testament had not been written yet.

Others believe that all spiritual gifts are still being given to believers today and are still being used to reveal God and draw others to Him. They believe that all the gifts are given to the church, which is what we call all followers of Christ everywhere (not to be confused with a church building). Each person’s gift and all work together to advance God’s kingdom.

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts


While each believer has specific gifts, all the gifts serve one primary purpose. They are intended to glorify God.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. (1 Corinthians 12:7, New Living Translation)

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God Himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, The Message)

Spiritual gifts are to draw attention to God’s goodness and to encourage those who believe in Him.

Spiritual gifts should never be used to call attention to yourself or make yourself appear more important than anyone else. They are to lift up everyone. The Spirit empowers believers to use their gifts in ways that point to God.

Determining What Your Gifts Are


As followers of Jesus grow in their faith and learn to recognize the Holy Spirit in their lives, they grow in awareness of the gifts they already have. This allows them to use their gifts more effectively as they walk in greater obedience to and intimacy with Jesus.

If you are a follower of Jesus, pursuing a deeper relationship with God will help you become more aware of your gifts and how you can use them. Spending time reading the Bible and praying is essential because it enables you to know who God is and what He’s calling you to be part of as you join His work in the world. This is the context in which you use the gifts the Holy Spirit gives you.

Having relationships with other believers helps you refine your gifts because they were intended to be used as a blessing to other people. Accountability with an older, trusted believer will help you nurture your spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts are not meant to be used in isolation. They are meant to be used among others, including those who do not yet know Christ. Your spiritual gifts can act as an incredible sign to the people in your life who do not know God that there is something different about you and that it has to do with your relationship with Jesus.

If you want to begin exploring your spiritual gifts, start by taking this assessment to give you an idea of what they may be.

How Knowing Your Spiritual Gifts Can Affect Your Life


Many people go through their lives without a thought for their spiritual gifts. Everyone has them, but not everyone recognizes them. But God gives these gifts to His children as an act of love.

You are significant to God. In recognizing your gifts, you gain a deeper appreciation of the way He created you and the identity He gives you when you trust in Him.

As you grow in your understanding of your gifts and what the Holy Spirit can do through you, your affection for Christ grows. You also mature in your awareness of people around you and the role God wants to play in their lives. Using your gifts as God intended is part of going deeper in your relationship with Him.

Where Do You Go From Here?


Here are some simple next steps you can take to deepen your awareness of your spiritual gifts and begin practicing them as part of your journey with God.

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