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Christian Counseling - Confusion About Spiritual Gifts

It is understandable that teens and people in their 20's are trying to figure out what spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit has given them. But it may be surprising to know that many people in their 50's, 60's and 70's continue to look for answers about the gifts, and even His will. Does God make them hard for us to find? Are we so dense we don't get it?  How do we understand people's confusion and doubts about their gifts?

It is unlikely that God hides His gifts from people, since He freely gives us all things and wants to build up the church. If we were incapable of perceiving the gifts in us, why would God bother to administer them to us? Most people I know have attended classes, read books and taken tests to learn about and identify their spiritual gifts, but most seem to remain in a quandary. Perhaps this is one reason why 10% of the people in the church do 100% of the work.

It appears the problem is not God, not education and not a lack of human capacity. Therefore, the only thing left to scrutinize is one's attitude and behavior--limited faith, laziness, fear, insecurity, etc. I have no doubt these things can interfere in the recognition and use of spiritual gifts, but, they are not the central issue. I believe the problem is that Christians assume the theology or beliefs underlying today's training, teaching or education about spiritual gifts is accurate. After all, if so many godly people believe and are presenting it the same way, how could they all (or most) be wrong?

Generally, the contemporary approach teaches there is one set of gifts as described in the Bible, primarily in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4, and a scattering in other verses. Many assume there are no other gifts beyond them. But is that limiting God? No where does the Bible say, "Th, th, th, That's all folks!" (Porky Pig, if you don't watch cartoons, and no I am not relating God to a pig, get real). What about the gift of craftsmanship seen in the Old Testament or kindness, compassion, peace, unifying people or photographic memory, etc.? I believe there is no end to the list of possible spiritual gifts. However, if one believes there are no other gifts beyond those mentioned in a few passages, and one doesn't desire or can't see any of them in his or her life, then confusion and doubt will be a likely visitor.

A second teaching is that we are to find the treasure of gifts the Holy Spirit has unilaterally decided to give to us, accept them and use them. Though it is clear the Holy Spirit is the giver of gifts, the gifts themselves and their use is interactive between the Spirit and each person. It is not simply a matter of discovering your gifts, it is about collaboration and working it out with the Spirit and God. Consider Romans 12, which tells us our use of gifts is limited by our character--prophecy according to one's faith, giving to be done with liberality, leading with diligence and mercy with cheerfulness (the less we have of these qualities the less the gift will be exercised and be of benefit to others). Consider also these enlightening words from 1 Corinthians 12:31, "But earnestly desire the greater gifts." Do these words surprise you? The clear idea here is that we are to pursue spiritual gifts according to our desire and, by implication, we will, to some degree, achieve success in our pursuit of them. If we couldn't, why would God tell us to do so? The giving of gifts is not just a random act, its an interactive process. Would the Spirit give the gift of teaching or preaching to a person who is introverted, socially inhibited and has a life-long public speaking phobia? No doubt He could, but what's the likelihood?

What gifts or talents do you believe you have? What primes your pump or ignites your fuel? In the giving and use of spiritual gifts, what you desire, are motivated by and level of character development matter. I believe the Spirit takes these things in consideration when dispensing gifts. For example, if a person had no passion for a specific gift, would the Spirit give that gift to that person? A gift without passion would seriously affect the edification of others. Again, God could use anyone for most anything, but is that His regular course of action? No, there also needs to be a harmony between the person and the gift.

In the end, the Spirit has the final say. Yet, we are to seek greater gifts and develop them. During that time, be sure to listen for confirmation of your gifts from others. If it isn't there, look to other gifts. We all know each of us has at least one.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Anonymous wrote:
How much more freeing it is to love and serve a God who is enlessly creative and welcomes such give and take in the relationship. He's not the God I hear about in most of my Christian circles, but He is the one I want to follow. Thanks for the encouraging post. It's given me a lot to think about.

08/12/2010 @ 3:38 AM

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