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How to Discover Your Primary Spiritual Gift, Part 1

From the series Your Divine Design

God has given to each of His children a supernatural ability - it’s called a Spiritual Gift. Chip walks you through a step-by-step plan for discovering your primary spiritual gift.

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Message Transcript

Understanding your primary spiritual gift, and how it fits with the purpose God has for your life, is absolutely empowering, and can incredibly give you some focus to your life about what you really need to do.

Now, if you’re sitting here right now, I hope you’re asking, “So, what’s the breakthrough? I mean what helped you? What moved you from this, you understand spiritual gifts in general, to it being a focal, absolute point for you to understand, this is who God made you to be, and this is what He wants you to do?”

I want to tell you what helped me the most in unwrapping my spiritual gift. Put another way: How to discover your spiritual gift. So, are you ready? Let’s dig in together. Let’s look at the framework.

As you look at spiritual gifts, you study the New Testament, what you’re gonna find, there are four basic passages: Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4. And what I can tell you, if you look at those in columns, you can say, “Okay, Romans 12. Okay. Here are the gifts. There are seven gifts there.” Okay, you can move on. First Corinthians 12, early part of the chapter, gifts are mentioned; how they’re used, later part of the chapter. Ephesians 4, you’re gonna look at primary ministry – some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastor/teachers.

And then, 1 Peter 4, Peter actually gives you his paradigm. If you walked up to the apostle Peter and said, “Peter, what do you think about spiritual gifts?” he’d say, “Well I think there are two kinds: speaking gifts, and serving gifts.” And then, he’s gonna say, “Let him who speak, as it were the very words of God. And let him who serve, serve by the strength which God supplies.” And so, all I want you to know is that any study of spiritual gifts, you’re gonna land in these four passages.

Now, here’s the question: How do you organize them? How do you look at them? Do you look at them as just beads, and you look up every gift? And there are maybe 28, 29 different gifts, whatever. And you say they’re just randomly put in there. Or was there a message to the church at Rome, a different message to the church of Corinth, a different message to the church of Ephesians? Is it possible that God, for us, has taken these, and laid them out in a certain way that there’s a lens to look through, that can have it all fit together, that would make sense for us?

Now, I believe there is. And I think that paradigm, or that framework, is found in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. Notice what he says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of workings, but the same God who works all of them in all men.”

Now, this is written to the church that seems to have, at least, more gifts operating than any other church, but also the church that seems to be more carnal, more confused, and misusing them. And so, it seems that God here, through the apostle Paul, is giving a framework about all these different gifts, and how they fit together.

You’ll notice that I put there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. And that word for gifts is charismata. That’s our general word. It means “a grace gift; something, an endowment, supernatural ability given from God.”

But then, he goes on to say, “There are different kinds of service” – also referring to spiritual gifts. And that’s our word diakonian. And the word deacon . . . It just means “a waiter of tables.” It has the idea of “service.”

And then, the third word – it says there are different kinds of workings. That’s the idea – the Greek word is energematon. And I put that there, not necessarily to impress you – although I don’t pronounce them very well. But I put it there – can anyone see an English word that might come out of that? Energy. You see, it’s energy.

And so, with the apostle Paul, when he wants to take a framework, he says there are certain, what I could call, “motivational gifts.” There are certain passions. There are certain drives. There are certain ones that every believer has, I will argue. And then, he’s gonna say that every one of us will have one of them – and I’ll develop that point in just a minute. And then, he’s gonna say, but that one, strong, motivational drive will then be manifested in different arenas of service, or ministries. And then, as your motivational drive’s primary gift comes out in different ministries, then the effects, or the energy, or the manifestation of what the Spirit of God will do, will show up in the body of Christ in various ways.

Let me summarize it this way: There are three kinds of spiritual gifts. Every believer has one primary motivational gift. And by the way, this is not from Sinai. And here’s what I mean by that: I’ve read tons of books on spiritual gifts. I have studied them all. There are lots of people that have lots of good ideas about spiritual gifts. Okay? This is the paradigm that has helped me the most. Okay?

So, you need to do what those good Berean Christians do: Examine the Scriptures after you hear what I say. Look at these passages and say, Hmm, does this make sense? Does it line up with God’s Word? And spiritual gifts are not an area for disunity or argumentation. The whole goal is – what? Build each other up in love.

And so, what I want to say is, one, every believer has one primary motivational gift. And those are found in Romans 12:6-8. And then, I’m gonna argue that we’re to concentrate on discovering and developing this gift. The second thing that I’ll argue is that the motivational gift, out of Romans 12 – this driver ability – can express itself through a variety of ministry gifts. And we find the ministry gifts in Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12:28, and following. And third, when we exercise our motivational gift through our ministry gift, the Holy Spirit then determines what manifestation, or impact, the believer will receive.

Open your Bibles with me, if you will, to Romans 12, and let me see if I can build my case. Romans 12. We know, verse 1, you’re a living sacrifice, right? Verse 2: Don’t be conformed to this world, be transformed. Verse 3: Have an accurate view of yourself. And verses 4 and 5, that we’re an interdependent body, just like the physical body. And then, when he talks about unity and diversity, he says to us, “But we have different gifts according to the grace given us.” Can’t take any credit. It’s grace given us.

Then, notice this command: “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it into the proportion of his faith. If it’s in serving, let him serve. If it’s in teaching, let him teach. If it’s encouraging, let him encourage. If it’s in contributing to the needs of the saints, let him give generously. If it’s in leadership, let him govern diligently. If it’s in showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Now, notice the little phrase “let him,” “let him,” “let him,” “let him.” You might put a little line under that in your Bible. Kenneth Wuest talks about this. He says, “It’s the locative of sphere, grammatically.” And what he means by that is that the idea is that the one with the gift, for example, of teaching, should remain within the exercise of the sphere of that gift.

Now, the reason I’m gonna tell you that I think Romans 12 gives these timeless, motivational gifts is because, in Romans 12, you can go through the Bible, and we are commanded to obey all seven of those things. We’re commanded to do what? We’re commanded to serve. We’re commanded to exhort. We’re commanded to show mercy.

The second thing this is, every church – I don’t care the background of the church – every church needs those seven things happening. The other thing is, every single believer’s life – for you to grow to be a healthy, mature believer, all seven of those things need to occur in your life from other people: leadership, mercy, exhortation, teaching, prophesy.

And so, what Kenneth Wuest says, basically, is that out of need, out of commitment, out of servanthood, we will all exercise all seven of these things. But notice, he says, “Let him who is to teach, teach.” Put your focus on teaching. Meeting needs, be a servant. But when you ask, where do you put the lion’s share of your time, if it’s service, do it in serving. If it’s prophecy, do it to the proportion of your faith. If the primary is giving, then do it liberally. In other words, it basically says, whatever the primary motivation God has given you, maximize it; focus on it. That’s where to put your energy, and your strength.

Wuest goes on to say, “It’s a wise man who stays within the sphere of service for which God the Holy Spirit has fitted him, and does not invade some other field of service for which he is not fitted.” That doesn’t mean that we don’t serve other people, and do all these things on occasion. But what it means, as you go through the pipeline of discovering God’s will, and His purpose for your life – and if you go back to Ephesians 2:10, there is a good work that God has prepared in advanced that I am to walk in. Whatever that good work is, He has a primary motivational gift, a tool in me, to use to build the body of Christ. I need to figure out which one this is, so that I know whether it’s supposed to be leading, motivated by exhortation. Is it motivated by service? Or is it something else?

Now, the second thing: You’ll notice there, that, in Romans 12, you have prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy. But you’ll notice there’s a whole ‘nother set. There are ministry gifts. These ministry gifts are areas of service. There are people that are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, a worker of miracles, someone who’s gifted in healing, helping, tongues, administration. And when you study those, what you find is, those are actual ministries. Those are actual services to people.

And the final category, the workings – 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. These are, literally, manifestations, or effects. When someone is motivated by a certain gift, and then, in this ministry, then what you see is, people get a word of wisdom, or a word of knowledge, or faith, or healing, or miracles, or prophecy, or discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues.

Now, just before some of you get a little uncomfortable, and wonder where we’re going, in our next time together, I’m gonna go through every single one of those gifts. And I’ll give you a definition, and I’ll give you some historical background, and we’ll look at them. Today, think, I want to get the big picture. I want to get the paradigm.

Because here’s what happens: We study all these gifts. Now we have 20-some things to choose from. We learn a little about them. We often even take a little test – and we took the test. Now, has that test made any big difference in what you’re doing in your life?

See, what I’m gonna suggest is, if you understand there’s one primary motivation, and that one primary motivation will get expressed in multiple ministries . . . Where the confusion happens is when you experience – the way you experience your giftedness is what I call the two “F”s: the fulfillment factor, and the fruitfulness factor. When you’re in your giftedness – if it’s in a ministry gift, there’s something that happens inside of you, a joy wells up, and it affects people’s lives positively. And so, often, we confuse our ministry gifts with our motivational gifts.

Okay. Enough talking. Are you ready? Let me paint a few pictures, you know, give you three or four examples. And then, let’s get down to what you really want to look at, and that’s, Would you go through each of those motivational gifts, and describe them, and help me figure out which one of these might be mine?

Let me give you a couple examples. I work with a guy, and have worked with him for a number of years now. He was the chief of staff back at Santa Cruz Bible. When the radio ministry came here, he came here. His name is Greg. His primary motivational gift is service. He is a servant. He loves to serve. In other words, what motivates him is, he sees needs, and he wants to serve. It can be with his hands. It can be in multiple ways.

But his ministry gifts are twofold. His ministry gifts are in the area of administration, and in the area of pastor/teacher. And so, Greg has this amazing desire, but his drive is always to serve, to serve, to help, to fix, to make things right, to care, to be behind the scenes, to go away from the limelight and to make everyone else work. In an organization, this guy comes in, and he’s like oil. I don’t care what’s going on in the organization, once he begins to work in the relationships, things just start working better. Because he has the ministry gift of administration.

So, he’s ended what? He’s a project manager for Cisco. He’s been in upper management. Why? ‘Cause he knows how to organize, and cast vision, and help people work through problems. He ends up in HR all the time. But, also, he ends up counseling people, because he has this pastoring/caring gift. When he administrates through – But his motivation is not to be an administrator.

See, what happens, he administrates so well, people keep trying to elevate him. And like, you know, he was chief of staff. Well, then people want to make him – “Why don’t you be the chief operating office of this group over here, or this company over here?” And he goes, “That’s not what I’m made to do. I want to serve. I implement the vision of a visionary. I do it primarily through the gift of administration, the ministry there, and by pastoring and shepherding people.”

And because he understands that, when he does that, guess what happens? People get a word of knowledge: Oh, I’m in the wrong fit in my job. People get a word of wisdom: Oh, I guess the way I talk to other people in the organization is offending them, and that’s what the barrier is. People get healing as they understand what went wrong in a relationship. Do you see what I’m saying?

But see, what happens, though, is, if you confuse motivational gifts with ministry gifts, you can really go in directions. ‘Cause everyone pulls you where they see you operating. But it may not be your primary motivation.

The second example I’ll give you is my wife: She has the gift of exhortation. We’ll learn what that is, but, at the essence, it’s the ability to come alongside people, and both comfort them, and bring wholeness, and challenge them to really walk with the Lord. Well, her ministry gifts are administration, teaching, and, actually, apostleship. She, over and over, finds herself – she wants to help people. And she’ll see something that needs to be done.

So, where we were, she started with a box of books – and apostleship is someone who likes to start and launch things. She’ll see a need. And she’ll do it out of encouraging people. So, she started with a box of books, and built a whole library. Why? To encourage people to learn how to walk with God, she developed, and recruited, and actually prayed in a team of about ten ladies to help her. And more counseling occurred in our library than any place else in the church.

How did she do that? Well, she had a ministry gift of administration to organize it. So, guess what everyone wants Theresa to do? They always want her to start new things, or be some admin. That’s not what she wants to do.

The other thing she always did is, she found the most hurting, lonely, unlovely people in any church we’ve ever been to – and she is drawn to them like a magnet. Because she sees the hope. And so, she ends up mentoring and counseling individual ladies. But when she does that, and teaches, it did real well when we had people –

So, we put it on the radio once. And then, we got all these requests – this church, this church, this church: “Will your wife come and speak?” “Come and speak.” “Come and speak.” “Come and speak.” It was great. She goes, “No.”

She understands she can, in the ministry gift of exhortation, teach, but her calling’s not to be a teacher. Her calling is to encourage people. And when she understood that, it gave her a grid to say “yes” to this, “no” to that.

The third example: a fellow named Dick, who’s a good friend. His primary motivational gift is giving. It shows up in two ministry gifts. One ministry gift is apostleship. He’s an entrepreneur; he starts things. He starts things in the marketplace, but he also starts things in the spiritual world.

And so, I remember, I was sitting across the table from him. And he became one of my mentors. About every other week, we’d play nine holes of golf, early on Thursday morning. And I would bounce all my ideas off him. And I actually went through my sermon, from about hole two to hole six – we goofed off on hole one. And then, the last three holes, it was leadership questions. And he just put his arm around – He mentored me for about five or six years.

And he was a bigwig in some huge company, and decided it was too much travel. So, he started his own business, and developed these chains of stores, like Michaels, or Joann’s. You know, the fabric stores. And he’s got the gift of giving.

And so, he heard about the opportunity for radio. I was doing five services. The last thing I ever wanted to do was start a radio ministry. I’m thinking, I’m teaching five services a weekend. This is suicidal. Start something new? Are you kidding? And he saw it. He put up the money for the first couple years, paid for the whole thing, found people to – He entrepreneured it. But he didn’t do it because he had a passion for radio. He had the gift of giving, saw impact, and what he did.

So, then, the other is his gift of helps. This is really interesting. So, he’s an entrepreneur with the gift of giving. So, guess what everyone wants to make him? Every church he went to – you know what he told me? “They always want to put me on the finance committee. I know how to make money; I know how to give it away. They put me on the finance committee. I hate finance committees! In fact, then, they want to make me a board member. I hate boards. I have the gift of helps. It’s a ministry gift.”

You know what he was good at? Putting his arm around guys like me, or meeting specific practical needs through his gift of giving. And you know what he said? “I don’t serve on boards anymore. I don’t serve on finance committees.” You know what he does? He’s an entrepreneur, who takes his money and gives it away to launch great stuff, and to come alongside and help people in practical ways. Do you see how understanding your primary motivation can really shape what you do?

Okay, last example: My primary gift is prophecy. For years, probably the first 15, 18 years, I thought it was leadership, ‘cause I always found myself in leadership areas. And to be a pastor, and if you’re gonna grow something, you’ve got to learn. Now, part of my ministry gifts – you’ll notice it says “administration/leadership.” We’ll learn, later, that word, administration, it literally means “the one who steers the ship.” It’s providing big-picture direction. That’s one of my ministry gifts.

But because of my background – you know, when someone said, “Would you like the gift of prophecy, or the gift of leadership?” I thought, Prophecy, man – that sounds like guys with long beards, out of touch, say wacky things, and you ought to shoot or stone if they don’t come out right. So, I want to be a leader. And I didn’t understand prophecy.

But what happened is, my ministry gifts are pastor/teacher, and administration in the leadership side of that. And then, I actually have ministry gifts in prophecy and evangelism. And so, I got confused.

My motivation – we’re gonna look at it in a second. My motivation has always been a passion to see life change, and impact, and see people be convicted by God’s Word, and be real practical, and make a difference. When I see the state of the Church, and when the Church is unholy, I literally – it’s one of the few things I cry about. I mean, I don’t know what it is. It’s inside me. It’s just inside me.

I long for the Church to be the Church. Why? ‘Cause God gifted me – the good works that I am to walk in, the purpose of my life is to be one of these broad-stroked . . . I’m gonna do the background on the wall, so that God will take teams of people and come back and sketch. And then, individual lives to touch up.

But He’s called me to be a prophet, to take God’s Word, in a global way, to the world, to say, “The Church has got to be the Church. We have to have a high view of God. Pastors, we’ve got to walk with God. Christians, we’ve got to live like Christians.” Give me any text, and I’m gonna tell you, those are my applications. It doesn’t matter where I preach. I’m gonna challenge you, encourage you, beg you, plead with you, comfort you, do whatever I need to do, for you to step up to the plate, and be God’s man, or God’s woman.