I’m a sucker for superhero movies. The “Avengers” series, in particular, is one of my favorite. These guys all possess super duper extraordinary powers. Captain America has his dangerous shield, Thor his monster hammer, Iron Man his high speed iron suit, the Hulk his green madness, and the Black Widow her special weapons and crazy bad martial arts skills.
It’s all fantasy, of course, we could only wish . . . but I bring you good news today. If you’re a believer in Jesus you too have been given a super skill. It’s called your “spiritual gift”. While it’s not as outwardly spectacular as an Avenger’s gift, in the long run it can actually accomplish a lot more. In fact, your spiritual gift, your spiritual “Thor’s hammer”, can make a positive impact that vibrates past this life into eternity itself. Does that sound good to you? It does to me. Let’s start by asking a basic question:
What is a spiritual gift?
1. Our spiritual gift is just that – a gift from God
It’s not something that you and I create ourselves. Nor is it something that we earn or deserve. It’s a bonus given us by our Heavenly Father, a generous Being, who loves to bless his creation.
2. Our spiritual gift is given by God only to His children
Spiritual gifts are a family thing. When we believe in Jesus we become part of God’s family (John 1:12). At that time the Holy Spirit, in some mysterious way, begins to live inside of us (Romans 8:9) and we receive a spiritual gift ( 1 Cor. 12:7-11).
3. Our spiritual gift is given to help us show God’s love to others
When I put my spiritual gift into use I become, in a sense, the voice and hands of God. His love pours through me into others. This not only strengthens and encourages them, it also draws their attention to the God behind my spiritual gift. It’s easier for them to believe that God loves them because I have shown them love.
4. Our spiritual gift is our strongest way ofspiritually loving and serving others
Although you and I can serve others in a variety of ways, hitting singles and doubles, our spiritual gift is where we hit home runs. We have especially good instincts in this area and, equally important, this sort of serving attracts us and motivates us. Since we enjoy it, we’re more willing to commit and work hard in using our gift.
How can I make the most of my spiritual gift?
1. I make the most of my spiritual gift by first discovering it
I know that this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many believers, when asked what their spiritual gift is, say “I don’t know.” I’m not sure why this is, but let me encourage you – it’s not that complicated. Just pay attention to your heart – if you could do any kind of ministry, what gets you most excited? Now throw in a second question: what do you do best? The only way to answer these questions may be through trial and error. That’s fine. Jump in, serve, and see what happens.
2. I make the most of my spiritual gift by developing it
Even a naturally gifted violinist still has to practice hard to reach their potential. The same is true of spiritual gifts. God gives them to us in beginner form. If my gift is teaching, the only way to develop my gift is to teach, teach, and teach some more. As we use our gift we acquire not only improved skills, we also grow in complementary areas, like sensitivity, timing, and patience. Part of developing our gift, by the way, includes making mistakes. Don’t be afraid of them – they’re unavoidable. No mistakes, no growth.
3. I make the most of my spiritual gift by pro-actively seeking opportunities to use it
This was implied in the last point, but I want to emphasize it. A fine spiritual gift can be wasted if we’re too passive, reluctant, or lazy about its use. Don’t sit back waiting to be asked. Volunteer your gift. If a formal position isn’t offered, find informal ways to use your gift. If you’re gifted to teach, and there’s no Sunday School class available, have a small group Bible study in your home, or work one on one to disciple someone. Most gifts can be adapted and also used at home and in the community. They can be a powerful witness for Christ.
4. I make the most of my spiritual gift by being patient
When we begin using our spiritual gifts it’s fun, people often compliment us, and we’re confident that we’ll change the world. Over time though, to our surprise, we may get worn down, as people affirm us less and less, and it’s often hard to see if we’re making much difference. Furthermore, those we serve aren’t always that committed – they come and go, and may even criticize us. At this point, some of us will be tempted to back off in using our gifts. “That’s enough,” we say, “I’m done.” Don’t back off. The reality of ministry is that, although it’s often rewarding, it also requires patience and a long-term perspective. Lots of what we achieve will only be revealed in the long-term, and sometimes, only in Heaven. Paul says, in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
5. I make the most of my spiritual gift by growing in my relationship with God
Our love relationship with God is the heart and center of our Christian life. As we stroll daily in the quiet meadows of God’s love, our souls stay strong and happy. Out of this richness our spiritual gift is nurtured and strengthened. His love flows into us and then spills out of us to refresh others.
6. I make the most of my spiritual gift by consciously relying on the Holy Spirit
If your spiritual gift were a power tool, the Holy Spirit would be the electricity. Without Him, the tool is just a pretty paperweight. This is easy to forget, since our spiritual gift involves skills which can be learned and exercised even if it’s only in our own strength. We can still say and do the right things without relying on the Spirit. What makes the gift powerful, though, is not our external actions. It’s the Spirit speaking through those actions that make them spiritually fruitful. The Spirit can turn even outwardly unimpressive actions into deeply impactful ministry – a wise word, a kind glance, a thoughtful action, an attitude – all of these can be packed with power when the Spirit shines through them. Do your best to consciously turn to Him for strength, power and wisdom and you exercise your gift.
So put on your colorful super-hero costume and get going on your mission. You’ll find a list of the mighty tools of spiritual giftedness in places like Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. See which one fits you. Maybe it’s not on these lists. But, with the help of God’s Spirit, and other believers, discover your super tool – your hammer, shield, or suit. Don’t let it rust or gather dust – use it. You’ll have fun, others will be blessed, and God will be glorified.