I've been wanting to write a study on the Spiritual Gifts found in Romans 12:6-8 for some time now. It's a bit of a pet project of mine. I think they are important and understanding them helps us to live in peace and freedom with each other. For some, a study on the Spiritual Gifts may seem redundant. You've already been there, done that. For some of you who read this, it may be the first time you've ever studied this topic. Think of it, if you will, like a birthday party and these are gifts of God -- for you! Presents to be opened and used to better your life and the lives of those around you. Whoever you are, let me challenge you to to take a(nother) look at what it means to be given spiritual gifts from God.
There are many studies out there on this topic and you'll even find some that differ slightly in theology from this one. Hopefully, though, you'll find this to be a balanced and useful approach. I will focus mainly on the Spiritual Gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 as opposed to the ones listed in Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12. I will, however, explain a bit about how these 3 sets of gifts differ in a later post. The gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8 are: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging (or Exhortation), Giving, Leadership (or Administration) and Mercy. "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." (NIV)
The gifts listed in Romans 12 are sometimes called the Motivational Gifts. The gifts listed in Ephesians 4 are sometimes referred to as the Ministry Gifts. The gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are sometimes called the Manifestation Gifts. I find it easier to remember the 3 sets of gifts by using the 3 "M" words; and, it helps to differentiate their unique purposes in the Body.
Your motivational gifts are built into your personality. They affect the way you do God's work and the way you respond to God's work. They are a part of your natural drives and human tendencies. They motivate your choices in life and are the reason you find more joy doing some things more than others. Your gifts affect how well you get along with others. Your gifts are to be nurtured and celebrated!
Your motivational gifts differ from the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Fruit of the Spirit are characteristics or virtues produced in each one of us by the Holy Spirit. We are all called to live a life that will not hinder the complete development of each and every fruit. We are to possess every fruit -- not every gift. As you discover what your gifts are it will be important to keep in mind that even though you might find that you score high in Prophecy, for example, that does not mean you are to neglect showing Mercy.
Motivational Gifts also differ from specific roles in the Church, like teaching Sunday school or helping to serve a meal. You may be a Sunday school teacher and find that you don't score very high in the gift of Teaching. However, since you are already serving as a Sunday school teacher you should definitely remain one until God directs you otherwise. These gifts will, however, affect how you do any Christian service. Your motivational gift will cause you to do this task differently than someone else who is doing the same task. Sometimes God will call you out of your zone of comfort to do a job that does not come as easily for you. A task that you find yourself literally dragging your feet to do. But what you bring to the job is your unique set of gifts that cause others to grow and stretch, too. Plus, it will cause you to exercise the other motivational gifts that are not so prevalent in your life. Not to perfect them, but to exercise them.
Let me give you an example from my own life. I typically score the highest on Spiritual Gifts tests in Teaching, Leadership and Encouraging. These 3 come easiest for me. What does not come easy for me is the gift of Serving or Giving. Every once in a while, though, I find myself in a situation where I must help with serving a meal or handing over what little cash I may be carrying for that special trip to Starbucks. I grumble a little (sadly). I do. But, doing these things helps me to exercise those areas where I fall short. Just because they are not my particular Spiritual Gifts strengths does not mean that I am allowed to neglect them or opt out of them altogether. It just means that these things do not come as easily for me. I do not jump up and volunteer for them. The do not bring me as much joy as they bring to others who do have these strengths. I used to feel guilty about not really wanting to do these things. After all, what kind of a Christian doesn't want to serve food in a soup line or give a measly $5.00 to someone more needy. Let me tell you right now it is a waste of emotion. God has equipped you in a certain way and there is freedom in allowing yourself to be who God made you to be! Hence, the Body of Christ! Many parts, one body. "Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function." (Romans 12:4, NIV)
In the sidebar you will find a link for a Spiritual Gifts test you can take online and get your results within seconds. Although this one adds two other gifts to the list found in Romans 12 (Pastor/Shepherd and Evangelism), I feel it will give you an accurate assessment without taking forever to finish. The two extra gifts listed are gifts found in Ephesians 4 and I believe they do not belong in this list. It won't hurt anything though and its the best test I could find for free. Once you've taken the test and gotten your results, do not look only for your strongest score. Instead, find your top 3 and begin to look for how they work together in your life and ministry. (If Pastor/Shepherd or Evangelism is one of your top 3 then find the fourth one on the list to replace those. We will talk about these gifts later.) If you are under 20 or still young in your faith you might want to consider taking a Spiritual Gifts test once a year for 5 years because you may not yet have a clear understanding of your desires and limitations. Your desires and limitations will grow and/or change with time. If you happen to score extremely high in one area and score average or low in all of the others, this is a good indicator, no matter your age, that this one gift is significantly present. Take heed, though. It could also mean that it needs to be tempered and refined in you. Just a little personal note: I find my scores for Teaching and Leadership to go back and forth depending on how God is using me in the Body at the time.
Through the next weeks, we will study each gift in turn. We will discuss how it works -- for good and for bad -- and its relationship to the other gifts.
Remember, these are gifts from God! He has formed you and knit you together with His loving hands to be the person you are! The gifts you have are not a mistake. They should not be taken lightly. They should be received with thanksgiving! My prayer is that this study will help you find joy in the Body.