Spiritual gifts are the expression of God’s heart through His people into the world around them. Not only do they serve to build up His church, but they also reveal His character to a broken, hurting world. (For a general overview of the types and purpose of these gifts, see “The Life-giving Expression of Spiritual Gifts.”)
To a certain extent, your spiritual gifts are “hardwired” into you. They manifest through your personality, your strengths, your interests, and so on. But over the years, I’ve also learned that God is never finished imparting His gifts to us. Spiritual maturity leads to being entrusted with new assignments; in turn, these new assignments usually require us to walk in a new dimension of gifting. We’re always growing, and He’s always equipping.
So how can we nurture and develop our spiritual gifts?
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:20)
This is perhaps the most important advice I’ve ever been given. I tend to have very strong opinions (putting it mildly). As a young leader, this got me in trouble sometimes because I could be extremely critical and I could run right over others. Right before I moved overseas to do youth ministry in a church for a year, a mentor cautioned me to be teachable. I took his words to heart, and in many ways, this changed my life.
When you determine to be teachable, everything becomes an opportunity to learn and grow.
When you determine to be teachable, everything—and I do mean everything—becomes an opportunity to learn and grow. You will absorb so much more from the good examples in your life because you are intentional about receiving. If you sit under a bad leader, deal with an unjust situation, or work alongside a difficult colleague, you avoid the trap of bitterness because you are asking, “What can I learn from this?” (Learning what not to do is every bit as valuable as learning what to do.)
Choosing to be teachable leaves your heart wide open to the Holy Spirit. He is free to lead, shape, stretch, correct, and move through us when we are always seeking to learn from Him. This becomes especially important as you develop spiritual maturity or are given positions of influence—you never outgrow the need to be teachable. God has an eternity’s worth of things to teach us.
Know your strengths.
In an effort to avoid being prideful, we often downplay our strengths in order to "stay humble." In reality, humility has more to do with the overall attitude and heart we bring to each day; in other words, humility is about the atmosphere in which we use our strengths and the value we give to people (see Phil. 2:3, 4). You can know what you are good at, and be confident in the skills God has given you, while still maintaining a humble heart because you understand who has given you these gifts and that He is trusting you to steward them well.
God has wired you a certain way for a reason. Why do you think He gave you the strengths you have? Why has He given you the personality you have? It’s all part of the way He wants His gifts to be demonstrated through you.
Don't get trapped by narrow thinking.
Remember—spiritual gifts have supernatural purpose. Your strengths, skills, and passions can only take you so far. You can learn all about the gifts, be mentored by people on how to use them, and step out in faith to minister to others, but in the end, it is about what God is wanting to do in you and in someone else's life.
Remember—spiritual gifts have supernatural purpose.
Don’t be discouraged if it seems He is not using you the way you want to be used, or the same way He used you another time. There is a bigger picture we cannot see. Our place is to follow Jesus’ example and do whatever we see the Father doing.
You will likely notice patterns over time. Maybe when you pray for people, they frequently seem to be healed. Maybe you often hear words for others. Maybe you are the one who notices when there is a task that needs to be done and quietly moves to do it. Maybe you love preparing food for people or opening your home. These patterns are indicators of the primary gifts you function in, but they are not restrictions about the only gifts you will ever function in.
Pay attention to the season of life you are in and the lessons God is teaching you. Chances are, He is going to call you into new gifts as He stretches you and reveals more of Himself to you. Embrace it.
Note: A Google search for “spiritual gifts tests” brings up several websites that help you assess your gifts. These can be a helpful starting place, although they should not be taken as the final word on your gifts.