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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
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.