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About this series
Your Divine Design
How to Discover, Develop, and Deploy Your Spiritual Gifts
Do you know how God has uniquely wired you? Every believer was created to play a strategic role in the body of Christ, with the gifts God has given them. But many of today's Christians face one difficult question: How do I discover my spiritual gifts and then use them effectively in my church? This series will unpack key passages from Romans, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians to explore the role of spiritual gifts in the believer's life, while helping you to pinpoint your own. With biblical insight and practical steps, you'll learn how to discover, develop, and deploy your spiritual gifts so you can live a life of greater impact.More from this series
Spiritual gifts. You knowing your spiritual gift, you developing your spiritual gift, and then, you using your spiritual gift is serious business. I’m going to say that for a couple reasons, but I think what has happened is, we view, in the Church, many times, spiritual gifts as, like, a dessert bar. You know? The real meat and potatoes are, you walk with God, you pray, you obey, you do the best you can. And then, yeah, some people really know their gifts. But it’s kind of like dessert: You don’t really need it for the meal. It’s a nice addition.
And what I want you to know is that it’s a part of the core of God’s meal for growing His Church. There’s been an empirical study done, worldwide, over six continents.
They did it in hundreds and hundreds of churches. They did it in multiple languages. They did it in every kind of church – a sociological study. This was not an opinion poll. It was an empirical study to find out what caused churches – what were the core elements of churches, whether they were charismatic or non-charismatic, whether they were denominational or nondenominational, whether they were state run, small, large, or mega.
And they came back with about eight characteristics, biblical characteristics, that were common in all churches that were growing, both qualitatively and quantitatively. One of those eight characteristics – in fact, one of the most important – was a gift-oriented ministry, churches that trained people in their giftedness, and then allowed them to serve in their giftedness.
Christian Schwarz, in his book, Natural Church Growth, as a result of this study, writes, “When Christians serve in their area of giftedness, they generally function less in their own strength, and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, ordinary people can accomplish the extraordinary.”
And then he writes, as a researcher, “The interesting corollary result of our research was the discovery that probably no factor influences the contentedness of Christians more than where they’re utilizing their gift. Our data demonstrated a highly significant relationship between gift orientation, my personal ministry involvement matching my gifts, and people’s joy in living. None of the eight characteristics showed nearly as much influence on both the personal life of the believer, or the impact of the church, than gift-oriented ministry.”
I’ve got five reasons you need to develop your spiritual gift. Before we dig in – because I want to convince you. I want to take about four or five minutes and convince you. I don’t want this to be a sheet of paper where you know more about gifts. I don’t want you to even get a model or a paradigm, where you can say, “You know, I know there are motivational gifts. I know there are ministry gifts. And I know there are these manifestations.”
I don’t want you just to get more educated. I want you to be willing to do the hard work, to do the research, to look inside your soul, to jump in the water of ministry, to do whatever it takes to discover how God wired you. Because you are His workmanship. You have been created in Christ Jesus, to do – what? Good works. What good works? The works that He preordained that you should walk in them.
And I want to tell you, you are that paintbrush. The grace of God, using your gift, painting the Spirit of God’s work through the Word of God in community to change people’s lives. And you need to know what kind of paintbrush you are.
Let me give you five reasons. And these are purely to just get you motivated. Reason number one is direction and purpose for your life. When you understand your gift clearly, your key motivational gift, and then the ministry gifts where it operates, it will give you direction and purpose for your life.
Number two, freedom to embrace and enjoy who you are. Key word: freedom. We’re just people, and we grow up. And as you grow in the Lord, there are people that you associate with, or you admire. And we unconsciously try to be like them. You know how liberating it is to discover who God made you to be, and just say, “Wow. I don’t have to be like anybody else. I don’t have to talk like anyone else. What is holy, and wonderful, and winsome is the freedom to be the man or the woman God made me to be”?
Reason number three is joy, the joy that results from impacting lives, the joy when you meet needs by the good works God has called you to do. In fact, our word for gifts – charismata – you have the word charis, which is the root word for grace. Well, if you keep making that word smaller, the word is joy. Joy, gifts, and grace all come from the same word. When you are in your giftedness, you’re going to experience amazing joy.
Reason number four is affirmation of your victory with Christ. This is a real theological one, but we covered Ephesians 4:7: “What does it mean that He ascended, except He descended into the lower parts of the earth?” – Ephesians 4:7. And that entire passage is talking about Christ’s victory over sin, Christ’s victory over death, Christ’s victory over Satan.
And the evidence is, He gave gifts to men. When you operate and know your gift, each time you use it, you ought to get a sense of, I have this gift because I am a co-victor with Christ. And it affirms your value to God. It affirms that you’re on the winning team. It affirms that life is difficult; it is a fallen world. But I have a supernatural ability that reminds me, Christ is the victor. And I’m a coheir with Him.
Reason number five is accountability, as you will be held responsible for the stewardship of your gift. The first four were kind of exciting. Rah! Go! I mean, man you can’t afford not to miss it. But number five is, there is a day when I will stand before what’s called the Bema Seat, or the Judgment Seat of Christ, and I will be judged. And this is not a judgment for salvation. That’s taken care of at the Cross, when I trust in Christ. But I will be judged, as a believer, for my rewards.
And the stewardship will be, not: did I do as much as Billy Graham, or not did I do as much as this pastor, or that missionary, or some great layman. God will ask me, “Chip, what did you do with what I gave you? I entrusted you with ‘X’ amount of time on the earth, ‘X’ amount of wealth, ‘X’ amount of energy, and these spiritual gifts. What did you do with what I gave you?” And I don’t know about you, I don’t want to look up at the Lord and say, “Could You go over the gifts part one more time? Because I never really quite figured out what mine was.” And I think the Lord’s going to say, “Chip, it was right there in My Word.”
Now, are you motivated? Are you willing? Because when we get to the end of this, I’m going to give some specific applications that are going to take you out of your comfort zone. It’s going to take some work. It’s going to take some energy. The last thing you need is one more colored notebook on a shelf that says, “There’s the spiritual gift one. I remember when I took that.”
So, with that said, for you to not just discover, but really develop your spiritual gift, I think three things need to happen. Number one is clarity. Developing your gifts begins with clarity. And this is a little review. There are three types of spiritual gifts. First, every believer has one primary motivational gift – Romans 12:6 to 8. We are to concentrate on discovering and developing this gift. Remember our little story about the waiter, and he dropped the tray? One of those seven motivational gifts, I believe, every one of us in this room has. It’s our primary motivation.
Second, that motivational gift, that drive, that ability, can express itself through a variety of ministry gifts. And we looked at that second column in Ephesians chapter 4, and 1 Corinthians 12:28.
Third, when we exercise our motivational gift, through our ministry gifts, the Holy Spirit determines what manifestations, or effects, will most benefit people. So, as we understand, Here’s my core motivation. And then, I’m going to minister in these ministry gifts, God chooses, as He wills, to manifest gifts and impact in lives of people.
Now you say, “Where do you get that?” 1 Corinthians 12:4 to 6, we get the paradigm. It says, “There are many different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. And there are different kinds of workings, but the same God who works all of them in all men.” And remember, this isn’t from Mount Sinai. This is from Chip. Okay? And I’ve studied, and I’ve looked at this. When I look at 1 Peter 4, and it says, “Let every person exercise the gift” – singular – “that they have,” when I look at Romans chapter 12, “If you have the gift of teaching” – singular – “exercise it” – “exhortation,” singular – “let him exercise it,” I think there’s good, biblical evidence.
But what we know is, there’s a broad base of teaching on spiritual gifts. But what you have are all these gifts. What we have, these three columns you have, is one way – I think an effective way – one way, a model, a paradigm to break down the gifts in such a way that help us put them into practice.
Now, let me give you an example of how this works, in reality. I have a friend who is a business person. He’s high up in corporation. He’s got a leadership gift, natural ability in leadership, and he is in a financial area. So, guess where they put him, in every church? They want to make him a member of the board – right? – they want to put him on the finance committee, and they want him to make all the decisions, removed from people.
And so, he did that for years and years and years – good, godly man. Gets up, reads his Bible. Prays. Wants to be the man, the husband God wants him to be. Didn’t know anything about spiritual gifts. He was the kind of guy always buying an extra commentary, and reading, and looking, and digging in, and asking questions that made people crazy – because that’s what people with the gift of teaching do. They care about those things.
But all the while, people kept putting him in his natural abilities. Then, he learned about gifts. And he realized that his motivation is the gift of teaching. He also realized that he’s best in a teaching environment, not even pastoring. And he got in a large Sunday school class. He got out of his board responsibilities – because you can only do so much, right?
He said, “Yeah, you know what? I do run a big company. And I do understand financials and P&L statements. But you know, when I come to church, that’s about the most boring, uninteresting, non-motivating thing you could ever ask me to do. Am I good at it? Yes. Do I want to do it? No.”
And he began to free himself up from church activities, and teach. And then, he teamed up and realized he needed a team of people – because that’s the way gifts work – and he began to build one of the largest Sunday school classes, with multiple small groups. And he began to each God’s Word. And he said, “The joy I experienced…”
And then, the manifestation. What began to happen is, wow, people were getting wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding, and marriages were being healed because they got the knowledge of what God’s Word said about it. And business people would come because he had high respect in the business community. And people would get their finances in order because – what? He would teach on finances, but God gave him a platform.
Do you see how, once you understand your gifts, it really begins to give you direction, focus, purpose, joy, affirmation from God? And that there are these three categories?
And then, notice – I love this last verse. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Let’s remember, I mean, ultra-remember, this is not about a little inward query of looking down at your spiritual naval and saying, “Oh God, oh God, oh God. Show me my gift. Show me my gift. Show me my gift.” It’s a grace gift. What’s the goal of the gift? God has deposited a supernatural enabling in you, in order to serve other people.
I like to think of it as a grace-giving gift, is that what you’ve been given is something that it’s really no good, unless you give it away. And the preoccupation is not all about you, and, What’s my gift, and how does it work, and how many inventories and tests can I take? The real issue is, Lord, how can I understand how You made me? How can I understand the environment or ministries that I best can be used, so that more people, or in deeper ways, can experience Jesus at a fresh and new level? Do you get it?
So, I think number one is clarity. You’ve got to get clear on that. And by the way, if it’s still a little bit foggy, you know how it really works? It happens in real life. We’re going to go over this in just a little bit. But this is the cognitive side. Really discovering, developing, and deploying your gift – you’re going to have to get in on the game. You’ve got to be involved in a ministry. You’re going to have to be involved in relationships. And God will show you, as you are in that process.
First is clarity. But the second thing I think needs to happen is this: To develop your gifts, it demands a basic understanding of the New Testament gifts.
And so, if you will fasten your spiritual safety belt and some people have said that I talk fast. This could possibly be true. But you have not heard me talk fast, until you see me go through all these gifts. But here’s what I want you to do. It’s in print. What I want to do is, I want to, as best I can, give you a quick snapshot of these. Because what will happen – I’m praying that, even in this room, the Spirit of God – as you begin to narrow down your motivational gift to maybe the top two, then you’ll begin to see, as I describe some of these, Maybe this is an arena for my ministry gift. Maybe this is why these certain effects happen.
So, with that, are you ready? And some of them, by the way, are controversial. I want you to know, I’ve done a word study on all these. I’ve done a lot of research. But my name is Chip. It’s not Moses; it’s not Jesus. This is my very best understanding. And there are very godly people who have done, also, a lot of work, and may look at these things just a little bit differently.
My prayer is that you will be more noble than the Thessalonicans. And, like the Bereans, you will examine the Scriptures daily, to see whether what I’m saying is, in fact, so. If you have the gift of teaching, I know you’ll do that. It’s those other people I worry about. So, are you ready? Are you ready?
Apostleship – definition: It’s the divine enablement to start churches, or other ministries, and oversee their development. It’s the ability to minister cross-culturally, with the goal of planting churches. Now, note the distinction between the office of apostle, and the gift of apostle. Ephesians 4:11 says – okay, Jesus gave – “He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastor/teachers.” He gives four offices, and they are also gifts. That’s Ephesians 4.
Move the camera back to Ephesians chapter 2, and he’s talking about the birth of the Church. And he says, “Now, the foundation was laid” – by whom? – “the apostles and the prophets, Jesus being the chief cornerstone.” To be a New Testament apostle, to hold the office, you had to be with Jesus from His baptism, and you had to be an eyewitness of the resurrection.
Now, unless you are very, very, very old, you are not a New Testament office apostle. Okay? However, the word apostle literally means “messenger.” It just means “messenger.” And it means “someone who is going to fulfill something.” And there are other places in the New Testament where people are called a “messenger,” or an “apostle,” and it’s clear they’re not one of the twelve.
Now, what we know is, from Jesus, these twelve are going to have a moral responsibility, and there’s going to be judgment that they have. But I believe that the gift of apostleship, currently, is here, but the office of apostleship – because it’s gone. Because what did the apostles and the early prophets do? They brought new revelation. When the Church was birthed, there was no 1 Corinthians. There was no Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There was no Revelation. But when we get to the end of Revelation, what’s very clear? “If any man, or any woman, adds to this Book, all the curses in this Book will be upon them.”
So, the foundation is what you lay of the Church. And once you lay the foundation, then those gifts of offices, of giving new revelation, are done. But this gift of apostleship…I like to think of these people as the spiritual entrepreneurs of the Church. These are the people that launch things, start things. These are the people that see what could happen. They plant churches. They see what’s happening in the life of the Church, and something in them looks at, Okay, there’s ministry to kids, ministry to children, ministry to the elderly. We have an outreach program.
And they look at all that, and they say, “That’s great. But I want to launch a ministry to unwed mothers.” “That’s great, but I want to launch a ministry to the Hispanic community.” “That’s great, but I want to start Bible studies all over.”
Do you resonate with that? Could that be one of your ministry gifts?
The second gift, here, is prophecy, the divine enablement to proclaim God’s truth, with power and clarity, in a timely and culturally sensitive fashion – notice the focus – for correction, repentance, or edification. It’s the ability to reveal God’s Word, accurately. Now, notice, this can also be a motivational gift. This can be a primary motivation. But you could have the motivation of exhortation. Or you could have the motivation of, even, mercy.
I know a worship pastor whose primary motivation is mercy. His heart just goes out to people. It’s compassion. He’s always helping the underprivileged and the hurting people, and the people that are out there on the fringe, the real artistic types. But when he puts together a worship set – and he’s also an artist. When he paints, he wants to, with power, prophesy and proclaim, “This is who Christ is.” And he wants to create this environment, and this event. It’s his ministry gift.
Now, the office of prophet, like apostle, is gone. I mean, we’re not getting new revelation. We don’t have, like, 2 Revelation, and 3 Revelation. We don’t have 3 Corinthians. But as a ministry to proclaim, this is still very, very much around.
Evangelism is the third gift. It’s the ability to be an unusually effective instrument in leading unbelievers to a saving knowledge of Christ. Some with this gift are most effective in personal evangelism, while others are more used by God in group evangelism, or cross-cultural evangelism. These people are motivated, and they’re empowered to share their faith in such a way that two things happen: Lost people come to Christ, and they want to help all the rest of the Church become better evangelists.
Many of you do not have the gift of evangelism. But if you get around an evangelist, two things will happen. One, your spiritual temperature and concern for lost people will go up. It really will.
I remember being in Spain. I had a good buddy I went to seminary with. His name’s Manny Fernandez. And he started this evangelistic church-planting ministry, first in Spain, and now around the world. And a buddy of mine – we went to Madrid, and we wanted to see his ministry. And as a church, we were supporting it. And there was this open, huge, open – I don’t know what – quadrangle. That’s all I can think of to call it.
And there were buildings all around, and people, and fountains. And Manny was walking across it, like this, and he stopped me, like this, in an archway. And there were thousands of people.
And he looked at me, he said, “Chip, look. Just look.” And I’m thinking, There are people. Okay. “No look.” And I’m thinking, My eyes are open. I can’t look any harder than I’m looking. And he said, “Do you realize, less than one and a half percent of those people know Jesus? It’s true, all over Spain.” And tears just started coming down his eyes. And when I was with him, I think he was going to share his faith with statues. Just in case.
Lost people matter to people with the gift of evangelism. I remember, they interviewed Billy Graham. And they asked him – they looked back on his life and said, “How do you explain – of course it’s God. How do you explain this massive, amazing impact that God has allowed you to have on the world?” And they were expecting, “Well, it was my training.” Or, “It was my parents.” Or, “I had this wonderful spiritual experience.”
And I’ll never forget his answer. He tilted his head, and he said, “Well, I don’t know that I can really explain it, other than maybe one thing.” He said, “I feel like God has a love for people who don’t know Him. I think God has a passionate, deep love for people who don’t know Him. And I just feel like God took His love for those people who don’t know Him, and He just placed it in my heart. I just love them. I just love them.”
And by the way, this is a good example, too, of some gifts. Imagine a gift, rather than as the color blue, or this gift the color red – imagine a gift as the color blue, but with a variety of shades of blue. So, dark blue might be mass evangelism, big groups. And real light blue might be personal evangelism. One of the greatest evangelists I ever met was a guy named John Saville. John came to Christ late fifties, maybe early sixties, had a CPA firm in Dallas, very shy man, except the supernatural gift of evangelism. And John would go into prisons once a month, or more, with Bill Glass, and go to death row, and share Christ.
But John shared Christ everywhere. I’d go to meet with him at lunch. I still remember, we get on an elevator. I mean, I don’t know, forty-five floors, and glass buildings, and really nice, very sophisticated people in their business suits. Really looking cool. And John turns to this nice, young lady, “Hi, how you doing?” And she goes, “Fine, thank you very much.” And he had this smile. It was just contagious. And he’s an older guy, so she knew he wasn’t coming on to her. And then, he looks at her. He said, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?”
And I’m thinking, Oh, John. There is a way to do this, and this is not seeker sensitive. Oh. I’m thinking, John, what are you doing? And I’m waiting for her to take her purse and whack him, or something.
And he turned to her and said, “You know something? I just have to tell you, I wasted most of my life.” We’ve got less than two minutes on the elevator. “And Jesus has made all the difference. And I just can’t help believe that He just wants you to know how much you matter to Him. If you ever want to talk about Jesus, you know what? Here’s a business card, and our company’s up on the something-something floor.”
And I’m expecting her to take it, throw it on the ground. I don’t know anybody who could do this. She melts in his presence. Looks at him, takes the card and says, “You have no idea what I’m going through right now. Thank you Mr. Saville. Would it really be okay to come and talk?”
And you know what? It’s called the gift of evangelism. It doesn’t have to be in a big group. But this is a gift that God gives people, to care, and to reach out to lost people. Maybe that’s you.
Notice, as we move on, next gift is pastor/teacher. It’s the only dual gift in the New Testament. “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as” – there’s only a singular article. It’s not “some as pastors and some as teachers.” Literally, it’s “some as” –singular article – “the pastors/teachers.”
Let’s find out what it is. Pastor/teacher is a person with this spiritual gift, who has the ability to lead, nourish, protect, and personally care for the needs of a flock of believers.
Not all people – listen carefully – with the office of pastor – or even an elder, or overseer, have a need for the gift. In other words, you don’t have to have the gift of pastor/teacher to be a pastor. You can pastor, that office, out of an exhortational gift. For me, it was a prophecy gift.
And then, notice, it goes on: And many with this gift do not need or have the office. In other words, you’ve met some people who pastor, and shepherd, and love people, and they love being small group leaders, or, some of those Sunday school classes where they have teams.
This is the person that is always wondering, Well, I wonder how Betty is. She’s not here. I wonder how Bob is. “Hey Bob, how are things going? Last week you shared…”
They shepherd. That’s what this word means. The word pastor comes from the root word to shepherd. It means “to give oversight.” This is the ability to promote spiritual growth. It’s a dual gift. It not only has a caring. It means you can nurture, care. And what does a shepherd do for sheep? A shepherd protects, leads, guides, and feeds. And this person has that mix, and also the ability to teach God’s Word in such a way to help the person grow spiritually.
And this does not have to be – I think this has not been taught. A lot of people with this gift get lost in the body of Christ, because they think, I’m not called. I don’t have any calling from God to go to seminary, or Bible school, and be a pastor. But I want to shepherd people. And by the way, this is not gender specific. The spiritual gifts – see, we have gotten so used to the office of pastor, we think of the pastor as a role, or an office. This is a gift.
How about you? Are you a shepherd? You a teacher?
The gift of teaching – the divine enablement to understand and give detailed explanation of biblical truth. It’s the ability to search out and validate truth that has been presented. Notice, this is a motivational gift, but it’s also a ministry gift. And so, we won’t go into a lot of explanation, other than when I think of this one, especially in this country, if you listen on the radio to what I think are some really quality teachers – if you listen carefully, their ministry gift is teaching, but they teach out of different motivational gifts.
For example, when I hear Chuck Swindoll, I can tell you right now, his primary gift is probably exhorter. But don’t you hear him? Even as he talks, he puts his arm around you, and he gives you very specific, practical ways to teach. I think of another fellow on the west coast, who is very clear, very accurate, but he’s very dogmatic: “This is the way it is!” I mean, there’s not a gray area when he teaches. I’ll guarantee, he teaches out of the gift of prophecy.
And so, you can listen to different people teach, and you need to realize, maybe you have a ministry gift. You want to teach, but you think, Well, I don’t see myself as a teacher. Well, maybe you’re going to teach out of a different gift. Because when you teach out of an exhortational gift, you’re going to be counseling a whole group of people. A prophetic gift, you’re going to call people to repentance, and to really grow.
Miracles – 1 Corinthians 12:10 and 28. It’s the ability to serve as an instrument through which God accomplishes acts that manifest supernatural power. Miracles bear witness to the presence of God, and the truth of His proclaimed Word, and appear to occur most frequently in association with missionary activity. The Gospel Message carries its own authority, but God sometimes graciously uses miracles to authenticate and open doors for the proclamation of forgiveness and life in Christ. Jot down in the corner, Hebrews 1:2 to 4. It talks about signs and wonders, and we’ll touch on it in a minute.
But imagine when the Early Church, and especially in countries where there are competing worldviews, where people really wonder, Should I believe I this religion, or that religion? Or imagine being an early apostle, and walking to downtown Ephesus, or Corinth, and there’s a god on every single corner. And you’re going out to tell people, “Jesus is the Messiah. God has visited the planet. He’s raised from the dead. I’m an eyewitness.” And people are going, “Yeah, right.” And so, God says, “Well, I think we need to do some things to authenticate that these are My messengers, and we need to do some things to authenticate that this really is My Word.”
And so, that’s why you see, there are major periods of miracles in Old and New Testament. You have Moses, giving of new truth. You have Elisha/Elijah, giving of, restoring new truth. And you have the early apostles. But this is a gift. God, on occasion – and, it seems, especially overseas, where the need for authentication and verification is greater – He’ll do miracles. He’ll choose to go outside the bounds of what we call “natural laws,” and do a miracle.
Notice healing – 1 Corinthians 12:9, 28, and then 30. It’s the ability to serve as a human instrument through which God cures illnesses and restores health. The possessor of this gift is not the source, but the vessel who can heal only those diseases the Lord chooses to heal. We all know there are times where people were healed, and times when they’re not. This spiritual gift should not be confused with signs and wonders performed by Jesus and the apostles, and it should not be discredited because of the abuses of grandstanding and faith healers.
See, the early apostles – Jesus raised people from the dead. Paul raised people from the dead. They took handkerchiefs off Paul. Peter’s shadow. There were signs and wonders that were unique to authenticate the first-century Church. That’s not this.
But the other thing is, I think we get to the point where we think God never does any of this. We have a command in James chapter 5: When someone is physically ill, anoint him with oil, pray. And I will tell you, as a pastor, over the years, we have, in faith, prayed, anointed people with oil, and then I’ve watched them die of cancer. I can also tell you that we have anointed people with oil, prayed, and I can tell you a lady who had a brain tumor this big, and she went back for the checkup two weeks later, and it was completely gone. How and why, I do not understand.
God chooses to heal. And He does it in response to what He’s doing in people’s lives. And there are times where that’s His manifestation, to bring glory and honor to Himself.
And in China you think of what’s going on there, the lack of the Scriptures. They went from about a million, or maybe two million believers, in the 1940s, to probably well over a hundred million now. God has done miraculous things in the Church, where there’s little education, little of His Word, little training, to authenticate His work. God chooses to do what He wants to do, when He wants to do it.
Administration/leadership – this word, different from the word in leadership, appears only once in the New Testament. And it is used, outside of Scripture, for the helmsman who steers a ship to its destination. This suggests that the spiritual gift of administration is the ability to steer a church or Christian organization towards the fulfillment of its goals, by managing its affairs, and implementing necessary plans.
A person may have the gift of leadership, without the gift of administration. I am a living example of this. The gift of administration is the enablement to understand what an organization needs to run efficiently and effectively, and then, the spiritual ability to plan, execute, achieve, and produce the organization’s ability to work through people to accomplish its God-given goals.
And some of you, it is just – you know how to organize. You know how to orchestrate. You know how to implement. In fact, when things are not well organized, it just makes you nuts. You just can’t believe that people can’t see it.
By the way, that’s one of the indications of your spiritual gift. It is so natural. It’s so much the lens that God has you see through. Often, your spiritual gift is most realized in your reactions to things, instead of your actions. Because you react because you can’t understand why this isn’t being taken care of, because it is so easy for you to see. Gift of administration.
The gift of leadership often asks the “what” question: “What is it we need to do?” The gift of administration answers, “How do we need to do it?” and “What do we need to do to get there?”
The gift of wisdom – it’s the ability to apply the principles of God’s Word, in a practical way, to specific situations, and then, to recommend the best course of action, at the best time. The exercise of this gift skillfully distills insight and discernment into excellent advice. These are people that are saturated in the Scriptures. They have a gift of wisdom.
It is one thing to know the Bible. It’s another thing to see the chaos, and problems, and struggles in life, or problems. It is the gift of wisdom that takes the truth and the insight of God’s Word – the struggles, challenges, problems, or opportunities – and brings these things together, and to understand how this word and insight given by the Holy Spirit can address, out of this truth, those situations.
As a young pastor, there was a guy named Bill Carter. And he traveled a lot and had the gift of teaching. I learned, probably, more from him than I did at any seminary class. He would study sometimes six or seven hours a night on the road. And, often, I would come with just my…have you ever felt like your life is like a ball of twine that’s gotten just totally all messed up, and no matter what you do you just can’t unwind it?
I would take my ball of twine issues – issues in my marriage, issues in parenting, issues in the ministry – and I would bring them to Bill. And I would just lay out all this junk, and, “I don’t know what to do. And I know part of it’s my attitude, and maybe it’s the season. and…” You know whine, whine, whine, moan, moan, moan.
He was a godly, older man, and he said, “Chip, it would seem to me…” And he would just open the Word and say, “You know, there’s a timeless principle here,” and then, he would describe it. And he said, “As you think through this…”
And then, little by little, about forty-five minutes later, he had taken my ball of string, and he would deliver six pieces of string, nicely laid out, about what to do, why to do it, God’s character, issues in my life, how to respond. And it was just like, whoo. Some of you have that gift. Some of you have that gift.
Prof, as we called him, he was eighty-one years old, and so, I said, “Prof, do you have plans for breakfast?” He said, “No.” I said, “Could I eat with you?” He said, “Well, sure.” And so, we made a time.
And so, we ate breakfast. And he’s a very direct guy, so we did a little small talk for about forty-five seconds. And then, basically, I thought, How many times will I get this? And I laid out, “Here’s my season of marriage, and grown kids, and this is different, and I know these are my insecurities. You’ve known me for twenty-five years, and…” Blop! “And here’s this other really big issue that I don’t know what to do with.” And, man, I’ll tell you what, then I ate my eggs.
And I came back and told Theresa what he shared, about how you love grown kids, and in-law issues, and what happens in your fifties, and what happens in your sixties, and what you need to do now so you finish well. And Theresa said, “Chip, you’d better go write that down.” And so, I did. It’s the gift of wisdom.
Knowledge – the ability to discover, and analyze, and systemize truth for the benefit of others. Just amazing knowledge. With this gift, one speaks with understanding and penetration. But the word of knowledge can also involve supernatural perception and discernment, for the purpose of ministering to others. This is when God reveals something to someone that they couldn’t know in a natural way. By the way, this is one of the most abused gifts in the body of Christ. Turn on the TV, and you’ll see how not to do this.
But Peter – right? Ananias and Sapphira come up. Peter doesn’t know anything. And he says, “Hey, we sold the field for this amount of money.” And Peter goes, “Ananias, why have you conspired to lie to the Holy Spirit?” He knew exactly what was happening. He knew his heart; he knew the situation. Well, how? He got a word of knowledge. God, sometimes, to prepare you for ministry, may give you insight into things that you couldn’t know.
Now, I’m going to go out on a little limb here. Some of you need to either relax, and some of you don’t get too excited, depending on your background. All right? But this is really abused, when people get all this, “God revealed that you’re supposed to divorce your wife, take this job, do this, do that.” You know what? If God wants to speak to you, He probably will call you on your phone, instead of on someone else’s.
And when it’s used in these vague, “I know, somewhere, somehow, someone, someday, in some part of America has this issue. And God’s healing it, right now.” I’m looking at that and going, Hello.
But sometimes we throw out the baby with the bathwater. What if God needs to prepare you for ministry, it doesn’t violate Scripture, it equips you to do what God wants you to do? And I think this is kind of rare. I don’t understand this gift. By the way, a lot of these gifts, I don’t understand. I’m giving you my best explanation. Some of them are just a mystery.
But I can tell you, before I ever heard anything about gifts, I was a Christian, about three years old in the Lord. And I’m down on spring break, my senior year, went down with a couple buddies. And since I was a believer, I just played outdoor basketball every day, and really thought I had a good time, and went to Florida to do it, and then jumped in the water.
And then, we spent some time, I remember being on the beach, completely clear, just reading my Bible. The sun’s going down. And I don’t know about you, but I wish that every time prayed, I had those sweet, intimate times with God. But I don’t. But that was one of those times, where it was just like I could reach out and touch God. And the ocean was there, and the sun coming down. And I was a growing Christian, and I just sensed and felt His presence.
And in the far, far distance – it looked like a little stickman; he was really far away – a guy was walking down the beach. And this thought comes this clear in my mind: “The guy walking toward you is a homosexual. He’s going to come and sit down. I want you to tell him about Me.” And I’m thinking, Did I have enchiladas last night? What’s going on here? And I’m thinking, Well, I’m making stuff up in mind.
So, I keep reading my Bible; he gets closer and closer. And I look up at him again. “The guy walking up here is a homosexual. He’s in desperate need. I want you tell him about My love.” And I’m going…now, by the way, this has happened to me very rarely. I’m just telling you. I don’t know why, or how.
So, long story short: The guy walks, walks, walks. He gets right to the edge, and I’m thinking, Keep going. You know? Keep going. And think about thirty years ago. And this guy turns and walks up.
And I’m going, You’ve got to be kidding me. And then, he sits down, and you can tell his eyes are all red. And God prepared me. And he said, “You know, I just broke up with my life partner. And I noticed you had a Bible here. And I just need somebody to talk to.” And forty-five minutes later, we both prayed, and he received the Lord as his Savior.
All I’m saying is, I don’t know how God works all this, but it’s not for show. It’s not to impress people. It’s not to say, all the mystical stuff is really way out there. Has that happened a lot to me, since? Not a whole lot. Now and then, I get a prompting.
Have you ever been driving – and just a couple, three, four weeks ago, I had a prompting. There was a guy in the rain, walking. And in our day and age, you think, I don’t know if I want to pick up this guy. He’s probably an axe murder or something. And I drive by him, and I get this strong prompting: “Pick him up and take him where he needs to go.” And I’m thinking, I’ve got a wife; I’ve got kids. Ingram, slain, side of the road, not really good. And I get to the next exit, “Pick him up.” Okay.
So, I get the exit, turn around, go back, pull in front of him. And he was a guy from a totally different world and background than mine. And I said, “Do you need a ride?” And he looked at me like, Are you some weird guy that’s going to kill me? And he got in, and I took him, and I’d love to say he prayed.
All I did was a good work that God prepared me for. He didn’t pray to receive Christ. He didn’t say, “Oh, Jesus is the answer to all my world.” I just got to love him in the name of Jesus. And there happened to be a Bible there, and I was listening to something that I needed to listen to. And he got to hear five or ten minutes of it.
But a word of knowledge – maybe something God does now and then, but you always check it with Scripture. But I would say, if you ever get what I call a good nudge, a nudge to love someone, care, be sacrificial, something that lifts someone up, and doesn’t bring attention to yourself, something that means a sacrifice, Christ’s name is honored, it’s probably not from you. That’s a pretty good test that it’s probably from the Lord.
The gift of faith – the ability to have a vision for what God wants done, and to believe, confidently, that it will be accomplished, in spite of circumstances and appearance to the contrary. The gift of faith transforms vision into reality.
By the way, notice, in those three columns, when someone teaches or preaches motivationally here out of a ministry gift – it could be pastor, teacher, or prophet – as people are listening, often, then the gift of faith – bang! “Oh, I get it.”
There was a lady listening on the radio. She was listening. And at the very end, we prayed, “You need to believe God. God is sovereign. God is big. You need to believe Him.” And it’s a long story. Her name is Brooke. She brought not only her brother, her husband, her sister-in-law, all these witnesses. And she said, “Nothing’s ever happened like this. I was listening to you on the radio, and at the very end, it was on prayer. And you said, ‘You need to believe God. You need to ask Him, and believe, that God is not the God of the past, that He answers prayer, great ones, today.’”
And she talked about this long illness, and she could only take about six breaths. And they couldn’t find a cure, and she had to quit her job. And she was home and couldn’t even get up and move around. And she said, “I heard that, and it was like God gave me faith to believe. I prayed. I went to the doctor the next day. All my symptoms were gone.” Now, are we in a healing ministry? Are you kidding me? How that happened, I don’t have a clue. It’s a manifestation.
See, when you are using your motivational gift in the ministry He’s called you to, when you minister, someone will get a word of wisdom – “This is what to do” – or knowledge about, “Oh, you mean you’re supposed to give the first portion of your money to God? I didn’t know that – and get your priorities aligned.” Yeah. Or someone gets a word of knowledge: “This is what I want you to do.” Or someone gets, like in this case, a manifestation. She was healed. Can’t God do whatever?
See, I think when we study all these gifts, we divide camps. This group believes these are this way. This group believes these are that way. This group gets over-enamored with this, and dah, dah, dah. I think we miss the point. I think you have a grace gift. And I think you’re a paintbrush in the hand of God. And I think you focus on the left column – what are you motivated to do? – and then, you discern the outlets of the ministry. And you leave the right column up to how God wants to work. Gift of faith.
Distinguishing of spirits, or discernment – 1 Corinthians 12:10. It’s the ability to discern the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. With this gift, one may distinguish reality versus counterfeits, the divine versus the demonic, and true versus false teaching, in some cases spiritual versus carnal motives. God, as you soak your mind in the Scripture, as you’re doing what He wants you to do, will give some people ability to discern. When you’re in a group and need to make big decisions – for a ministry, for a board, for a church, for a family – you want this gift in the room. Discernment. Is this from God?
And these people – you know you’ve had it. Have you ever had that little – everything seems right, but you had that little something, down deep in your gut, that, Something smells here, but I can’t put my finger on it? And then, you find out later, it really stunk? And you cannot put your finger on it, you can put your whole hand on it? Often, that may be God teaching you, or wanting to find – Hey, there’s some discernment here. Check that out. Check that out.
The gift of tongues: It’s the ability to receive and impart spiritual message in a language the recipient has never learned, for other members of the body to be edified. This message must be interpreted either by the recipient, or by another person with the gift of interpretation.
Now, this is one that could take people lots of directions. The word tongues – glossolalia – it’s used also as a dialect, in Acts 2. It is a known language. You know, French, Swahili – some known language. And the second thing is that much of the teaching and the confusion about tongues is taking tongues, this gift, and then mixing it with spiritual growth, or holiness, or spiritual power.
What I can tell you is, the gift of tongues is a known language. The gift of tongues doesn’t have anything to do with spiritual growth or sanctification. It is a gift of speaking a language you’ve never known. And of course, then, the gift of interpretation is, someone is speaking French, or Swahili, and for some reason, God is going to supernaturally intervene, and give you understanding to translate a language that you haven’t known.
Now, can God do this? Has it happened in New Tribes Mission and some other situations? Sure. Did He do it in the early Church as a sign for unbelievers? There’s a whole teaching on tongues. Our purpose is, let’s define what they are. With that, are you ready? Take a deep breath. I did talk fast. If you’re going to develop your spiritual gift, one, you’ve got to get clear, really clear, about the paradigm, and how it works.
Second, you need to understand, I think, a quick definition, and hopefully – there’s more material, and a lot that can go under that. But I wanted to give you a quick snapshot of each gift, so you could at least say, Hmm. You know what? Now I can do a little more research on my own.
But the third thing we need to do to develop your spiritual gift – it demands you exercise them by involvement. And let me give you four areas of involvement. And then, we’ll really develop these, as we continue.
First of all, involvement in people’s lives and needs. If you really want to develop your spiritual gift, everything we’ve done so far has been cognitive, hasn’t it? This is like watching videos on swimming. Right? This is like, Okay, now we’ve learned this is the freestyle. This is the backstroke. This is the breaststroke. And you know what? We have people that have videos on swimming, and they’ve got books on swimming. What do we know? You don’t get wet; you don’t learn to swim.
Spiritual gifts are about loving people. You have to get involved in people’s lives. What’s that mean? It means ministry. And even if you’re not sure, even if you don’t know – you don’t have to sign up for five years, or until Jesus comes back. Go to your church, or find a ministry, and say, “You know something? I’m not sure what my gifts are, but I’ll give you three months in this area. At the end of three months, I’m going to pray, evaluate, and then, you need to know, I have permission to step out of that ministry.” But you’ve got to get involved in people’s lives and needs.
The second level of involvement is a small group community, a small group community. Authentic relationships. The gifts are – what? They’re designed so that the presence of Christ, and the power of Christ, and the love of Christ that resides in you, through your gift and through the Spirit, as He works through the Word in you, touches other people.
That can’t happen if your “Christian” experience is, “Yeah, I go to church on Sunday. I sit in row seventy-three. I listen to that guy. He’s really good. Listen, listen, listen. Sing, sing, sing. Leave, leave, leave. Then, I come back next week. Listen, listen, listen. Sing, sing, sing. Leave, leave, leave. I just don’t understand why I don’t have joy in my life. I just don’t understand why God isn’t using me.”
You have to be in some community where people know you, you know them, you understand one another, you share hearts, you’re vulnerable, increasingly, or you know what? You’ll never know. The people that will recognize your gift will be people who love you, who see you in the context of community and ministry.
The third level of involvement is ongoing training and education. Think of a gift as a muscle. God gives you the gift of the muscle. But there are little muscles, medium-sized muscles, and big muscles. And like any gift, like a muscle – how does a muscle get stronger, and better? By practice. So, you need to have ongoing training, and ongoing education – time, practice, maturity, feedback, training.
If you have the gift of teaching, you know how you develop it? You teach. You read. You study. I’ve gone for years – I’m almost never in my car where I’m not listening, sometime in the week, to teaching tapes of great teachers who have profoundly impacted my life. And the first thing, as I’m in my car, it’s like, Wow, God, how do You want me to respond? And then, the next is, What makes this guy so good? What is it about how he shares, or what he shares, or his preparation, or his vulnerability, or how he delivers it? God, I want to get better. And the only way I’m going to develop my gift is, I want to learn from other people.
And so, you dig in, and you figure out. You read books; you go to training. You do whatever it takes, because your gift is serious business, right? It is to God. It is to the Church.
The final thing is regular risk-taking opportunities. You can look at all these charts. You can go for coffee and say to others, “You know, I think mine is either probably teaching, or exhortation. But I I’m really not sure. Why don’t we sit around and talk, over coffee, about what we might be someday, somehow, some way?”
I’ll tell you what, after you see what we see, you need to go, Okay. Okay. I’m really nervous. I’m really nervous. I’m really scared. What if I fail? I’m really insecure, like everybody else in the whole world. Okay. But I think I got this gift, might not have this gift. People might think…
And jump in the water! You’ve just got to flat jump in the water, and say, “I don’t know what gift, for sure, I have. I’ve done some study. But I’m going to jump in the water of life, and people, and need, and ministry. And I’m scared to death. Oh, God help me.” And just start loving people. And start doing what you feel most passionate about doing.
And I’m going to tell you something: You’ll not only get wet, you’ll get strong; you’ll have joy. People will get loved. And you will no longer be one of those Christians who sit, sit, sing, sing, leave, leave. You will be a paintbrush in the hand of the Master, dipping into the multi-colors of grace. And in your spiritual lineage, you see people’s lives – this is the before; this is the after. And you will be a part of God’s extreme makeover. And I’m telling you, there are not enough letters behind your name, there are not enough zeros at the end of your portfolio, that can ever match the joy and the fulfillment that comes with doing what God made you to do, to walk in the good works that He preordained, just for you.