Even for those who understand the role of special talents or gifts in the Church, the question inevitably comes to mind – How do I know what my gift is? In this article we will look at a number of points that can help us answer that question.
Ask to See Your Gift
The starting point in ascertaining what gift we may have been given is always to ask to see the gift! We should pray to be shown what gift or gifts may have been bestowed on us and for help to utilize them as we should. Asking God this question presumes we will be listening for an answer; a good place to start is in our regular study of the Bible. Some people find it helpful to do a word search to study the specific scriptures that mention gifts, but we should be careful to read these scriptures in context. For example, Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthian church has a number of verses about spiritual gifts – we could say that 1 Corinthians is the Bible’s “gift book.” But other verses in the letter help us to see gifts in perspective and to understand how they are to be properly used. We should also remember that biblical examples of gifts given to people are not always labeled as such – we need to stay alert to examples of gifts and their use in the Scriptures whenever we study in order to come to fully appreciate and understand the range of gifts and the roles that they play.
Many people presume that their gift is something mysterious that has been somehow poured into them regardless of their personalities, background and aptitudes. This is always possible, but experience shows that more frequently God blesses us by enhancing abilities with which we were born and interests that we have already developed. It is rare indeed for Christians who feel sure they understand the nature of their own gifts to feel that they involve doing things they do not enjoy or feel a natural affinity for. We see a wonderful example of this in the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire when the Christian Olympic runner Eric Liddell explained why he ran: “I believe God made me … fast! And when I run I feel His pleasure.” If we know we have a natural proclivity, talent or skill, it is more than likely that we already know what our gift is. Humanly we enjoy what we are good at – and what we are good at is usually our gift.
Although we may feel that no one knows us better than we know ourselves, it can be extremely helpful to get the opinions of those who know us well as to what our significant strengths might be. Because we are talking about spiritual gifts, we should, of course, seek the advice of those who are of like mind to us and who understand the question from a spiritual perspective. In that sense, pastors and friends in our churches may be the best ones to ask. I remember a situation where a number of people were discussing a problem that had arisen in a local church. The responses varied greatly, from those who said “we need to pray about this” to those who said “maybe there is a bright side to this problem,“ and others who immediately suggested action to alleviate the problem. These responses fit the characteristics and doubtless the gifts of each individual – in this case the prayer warriors, the encouragers, and the leaders. Other people see how we act and react in situations like this and can often see where our strengths lie.
If we are still unsure of our gifts, one of the best ways to identify and ascertain talents we may have been given is to throw ourselves into a wide range of service activities – to serve in whatever opportunity comes our way. It is often in doing something that we realize we are good at it; a good sign that we have found our gift is the satisfaction we feel when we utilize it. But this takes a certain amount of courage and determination to experiment until we find what works best – not only for us, but also for those we are trying to serve. And we need not limit ourselves to the idea of only one gift. Sometimes we are given multiple gifts and it is only in experimenting that we discover some of the less obvious ones. Another fact to remember is that some gifts are given only for a time – while a specific need exists. Staying flexible and being willing to experiment in our service can help us find new gifts when they are bestowed as circumstances and needs change.
In considering our gifts and seeking to develop and use them as best we can, we should never lose sight of the fact that although our gifts are given for service, we can still serve apart from the use of any particular specialized gift. Sometimes people become worried or even obsessive about trying to find “their” gift, but gifts are never for our own good – they are always for the good of others – and the end is more important than the means. If it is not clear what your special gift is – even after following the principles mentioned above – you need not worry or become discouraged. Sometimes we just need to concentrate on serving as well as we can in any way we have opportunity. Sometimes it is the ability to do just that … that is our gift.