When the subject of Spiritual Gifts comes up, are you like me, in which I often find myself comparing myself to others? This might be my old nature peaking out, and I’m reminded that I need to immerse myself in His Word to get my head straight. One of the first stops along the way to understanding Spiritual Gifts is the following:
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. [Romans 12:6]
Sounds like our gifts aren’t something we create in ourselves, or drive ourselves to practice, like a talent or interest. It’s an outright gift from God; a result of His grace. Grace isn’t something we earn, as we’re aware of when it’s mentioned elsewhere:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. [Ephesians 2:8-9]
This puts these gifts in a special light: they’re not ours; they’re His.
We still long to know what gifts He’s given us. Before we can get there, we need to understand what they’re for:
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. [Roman 1:11]
Spiritual Gifts are intended to encourage others. These gifts may come in many forms, but our gifts are for others, to strengthen their faith.
Now the question becomes: What Spiritual Gifts have I been given… for others?
If these are intended for others, our Spiritual Gifts are selfless acts, rather than something we consider ourselves good at, that we’re comfortable with providing others. Whenever “selfless” comes up, I’m brought to Jesus’ selfless acts of love on our behalf.
Looking at the Spiritual Gifts listed by Paul in his letters, they express love for others in various forms. Love isn’t just a feeling though, and he provides a vibrant definition of love:
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. [1 Corinthians 12:31-13:1-8]
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:13]
Love is denying our own ambitions and desires, selflessly putting others before ourselves. It’s loving others because He first loved us, and it’s all to His glory.
Scripture goes on to list the signs (or fruit) by which love is manifested in our lives, but not before we’re reminded of our sinful nature and its selfishness, its responding to worldly desires.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. [Galatians 5:19-21]
As painful as these are, since many of us have memories of these behaviors from our own lives, these are listed to humble us before Him. This list is how we’re to recognize the disease by how it presents. We shudder when realizing this would be our natural state without His Saving Grace, and new life.
That New Life expresses itself in ways contrary to the flesh:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. [Galatians 5:22-26]
The most excellent spiritual gift is love. Love humbles the self. We’re to act selflessly for others, by encouraging, giving, forgiving.
As we continue our journey as believers, seeking to follow Christ in His example of encouraging, giving, and forgiving, He will reveal gifts in our lives that we’re to use for others. He will give us gifts that are intended to strengthen the faith of others in this body. Be in prayer that we all will recognize those gifts and desire to use them for His glory.