“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is… serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach… if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Rom. 12:6-8, NIV)
Before the Lord radically changed my life, there was a point when I was really struggling as a stay-at-home wife and mom—it took every ounce of my strength just to maintain my daily routine. Even simple chores like preparing meals for my family felt like a monumental challenge.
I remember receiving a phone call from the church we were attending during this time, asking if I would cook a meal for a family in the church who had just had a baby.
I feel sorry for the poor woman who was on the other end of the line! I launched into a discourse in which I elaborated on the fact that the mother had known she was having a baby for nine months, which should have been plenty of time for her to prepare meals in advance to put in the freezer. (I know, I know!) If anyone needed help with cooking, I informed her—it was me!
Of course, I was never asked to do anything similar in this church again! Aside from the oppression and hopelessness I lived in at the time, I also now know that my lowest rated gift is serving, and my second lowest is mercy/compassion. (You may have already guessed!)
Recurring requests of this nature fed an underlying current of frustration which factored into my unfortunate response. Thank the Lord, I’ve grown enough that I would never react that way now, but between the sorry state I was in at that time, plus building frustration, I had a bit of a meltdown.
I have come to understand that the things you are gifted to do bring you a sense of life, fulfillment and satisfaction. If you feel coerced, drained, or frustrated, you might need to re-evaluate the areas where you serve. Operating in your spiritual gifts should bring life—both to you and to others.
Spiritual Gifts 101
There are three main passages in scripture that outline spiritual gifts.
- Romans 12:6-8 lists the motivation gifts, which are “hard-wired” into us. You can begin to recognize these tendencies in others by what they gravitate towards, or what motivates them. Someone highly gifted in compassion, for example, might consistently champion the underdog, or be drawn to rescuing animals. An “exhorter” can’t help but encourage, and a “server” tends to be very good with their hands.
- I Corinthians 12:8-10 contains the manifestation gifts, which are the expression and activity of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of ministering to others. These gifts are realized after Spirit baptism and are best developed in a nurturing atmosphere that allows for instruction, activation and encouragement toward their maturity.
- Finally, Ephesians 4:11 lists the fivefold, or equipping gifts, which are meant to equip the body of Christ for unity and maturity. You might not know initially whether you have an equipping gift, as it is usually confirmed both by God and other believers over a period of time.
Freedom and Life
For thirty years as a believer, I did not receive any teaching on spiritual gifts. Then, shortly after becoming Spirit-filled, I took a spiritual gifts test through my new church, which gave me the first glimmer as to why I’d been frustrated in church life for so many years.1
Even though the information I’m conveying is basic in nature, it quite literally transformed my life. I found freedom from guilt for not serving in areas expected of me, and I more readily understood the motivations and tendencies of others.
The churches I’d previously attended offered few avenues for women to serve. Opportunities in areas more in line with my gifting (like teaching and the prophetic) simply did not exist—and to make matters worse, tasks I was pressured to do (such as food/hospitality and nursery) were done out of obligation or guilt, and I wound up feeling miserable.
Although we’re all called in some sense to serve, I can now recognize when something is not my assignment. There’s great freedom and wisdom in recognizing our God-given gifts and setting boundaries when assignments are not from the Lord.
Acquiring a basic understanding of spiritual gifts also gave me more insight into my personal relationships. For instance, I could never understand why my husband refused to state his preference when it came time to choose a restaurant. It may seem trivial, but it really irritated me when he would consistently insist that I choose.
Now I realize it wasn’t that he wasn’t engaged or didn’t care—it was that his extremely strong pastoral gift kicked in. It is genuinely more important to him that I’m happy than that his own preferences are met. He is “hard-wired” to nurture and put others first, to what can seem like the exclusion of his own desires.
Insights like these can improve relationships within families, church bodies, and workplaces, and, as an added bonus, they can free us from guilt. I used to think I was a bad mother because I didn’t like to cook—now I realize it’s related to how I’m gifted (or not gifted, in this case) to serve.
Of course I still cook and am actually fairly good at it! And I especially enjoy indulging my family on holidays and special occasions. But I no longer feel guilty that cooking’s not a priority in my life. While we ought to practice hospitality, I’ve learned to balance it with things better suited to my God-given strengths. (See Acts 6:1-4; Rom. 12:13.)
That’s what’s so special about the different gifts we have each been given—as we discover our own strengths and weaknesses, we can balance each other out. Whatever your gifts, remember that God gave them to you deliberately—not indiscriminately, and He intends them to bring great life both to you and those around you!
 A simple Google search will reveal several options for spiritual gift tests, or ask your pastor or spiritual leader if they have evaluations available.