Gifts of the Spirit
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on 120 believers in Jesus, establishing the Church. The Holy Spirit is the presence of the Risen Christ, living in the lives of His followers. This Spirit of the Living God gives power to witness, leads believers into truth, grants peace in the storm and grows the spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in our lives.
The Holy Spirit is also the Giver of spiritual gifts to enable Christ-followers to do ministry. These spiritual gifts include the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gift of faith, the gift of healing, the gift of miracles, the discernment of spirits, the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues, the gift of serving, the gift of encouragement, the gift of giving, the gift of leadership, the gift of mercy, the gifts of apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, shepherding (pastoring) and teaching.
Spiritual gifts are not the same thing as natural talents. Other young men had physical talents that allowed them to play football or basketball or baseball in school. I had the abilities of understanding math and grammar and of studying and writing. These natural abilities have served me well in fulfilling my calling to be a pastor.
Spiritual gifts are supernatural gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul teaches about these spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, in Romans 12 and in Ephesians 4. He makes it clear that the Spirit gives the gifts to whom He wills, when he chooses.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11 NIV)
All the spiritual gifts are available to the believer, as the Holy Spirit chooses to give them. They are not badges of honor. They are not signs of special holiness. They are not earned or deserved because we are super Christians. They are gifts. And they are meant for ministry.
Note that we do not give gifts to our children because they deserve them. We give gifts to them because we love them. Truth is, every believer who has Jesus living in their heart has spiritual gifts. We may not always be aware of them or understand them, but if Jesus is present, His gifts are present.
Paul gives some guidelines for the spiritual gifts. He encourages these things:
Desire the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31). Don't fear them. Don't get weirded out by them. Embrace them. Receive them.
Exercise the gifts in orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:26-33). The spiritual gifts are not meant to bring chaos, they are meant to instruct and encourage the Body of Christ in worship, and to enable believers to minister to others.
Exercising the gifts should be done in humility (Romans 12:3-8). The moment we begin to think, "I must be somebody special because God has given me the gift of..." we are defeated. If the gift is serving, serve in humility. If the gift is giving, give generously, and so forth.
The greatest gift of all is the love of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:3). The "more excellent way" is love. The gift that directs all the others is love. The character trait that allows us to exercise the spiritual gifts in humility is love. "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:14 NIV)
If we want to experience more of the enabling spiritual gifts, we must not focus on the gifts themselves. The right prayer is not "Lord, give me the gift of prophecy so I can tell the world a thing or two," or "Lord, let me have the gift of healing so the world can see your power." The path to experiencing the Gifts of the Spirit is immersion in the Holy Spirit. It is the path of obedience to the Holy Spirit. The more we submit our will to His, the freer He is to give us the gifts.
The arena of the Gifts of the Spirit is ministry. Focus on ministry, and the gifts will become evident. Engage in ministry to others and the Gifts of the Spirit will be made manifest in your life - often in surprising ways.
This broken, hurting world needs believers in Jesus Christ who are filled with His Spirit, who are committed to serving others, and who operate in the Gifts of the Spirit for the good of the Kingdom of God. Let's let our prayer be, "Lord Jesus, use my life in ministry to others with the spiritual gifts you desire to operate through my life." And then let's serve passionately and humbly and let Him work through us.