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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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
My dream and my goal is to help you discover your primary spiritual gift. 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.
I want to tell you what helped me the most in unwrapping my spiritual gift. Put another way: How to discover your spiritual gift. Here’s how I want to develop this.
First of all, I just want to give you some facts. And I want to walk through this very logically. Here are the facts – there are four major passages on spiritual gifts.
Then, what you’re going to see is, you’ve got to develop some sort of paradigm, or framework, to organize those in a way that makes sense. So, I want to give you a framework. It’s not from Mount Sinai, okay? But it’s a framework. It’s very helpful.
And then, I want to go through the description of what I’m going to call “the motivational,” or “the core gifts,” that I believe everyone in this room has at least one of the seven that I’ll describe. And we’re literally going to go through a process, where I will describe the gift, give you the characteristics, talk about some dangers, and have you say: “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.”
So, all I want to do is put you in a funnel, so that when you get to the end of this session, you may not say, “Oh, that’s the one,” but you’ll go from a general knowledge, maybe down to, “I think it’s probably one of these two.” 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 going to find, there are four basic passages: Romans chapter 12, 1 Corinthians chapter 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. 1 Corinthians chapter 12, early part of the chapter, gifts are mentioned; how they’re used, later part of the chapter. Ephesians 4, you’re going to 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 he says, 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 going to 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 going to land in these four passages.
Now, here’s the question: How do you organize them? How do you look at them? 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 chapter 12, verses 4 to 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 diakonia. And the word deacon…it just means “a waiter of tables.” It has the idea of just “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.
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 going to say that every one of us will have one of them. And then, he’s going to 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, verses 6 through 8. And then, I’m going to 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 chapter 12, and let me see if I can build my case. Romans chapter 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 going to tell you that I think Romans 12 gives these timeless, motivational gifts is because, in Romans 12, you can go through the Bible, and I am commanded to obey all seven of those things. I’m commanded to do what? I’m commanded to serve. I’m commanded to exhort. I’m 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 another whole 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 through 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 going to 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 twenty-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 going to 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, 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. 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.
But his motivation is not to be an administrator. See, what happens, he administrates so well, people keep trying to elevate him. And 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 – because 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 really 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.
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 fifteen, eighteen years, I thought it was leadership, because I always found myself in leadership areas. And to be a pastor, and if you’re going to 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 is 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 my ministry gifts are 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 going to 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 really 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 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? Because 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 going to 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 going to tell you, those are my applications. It doesn’t matter where I preach. I’m going to 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. But now I know that.
So, here’s what you’ve got: a category of ministry gifts. You’ve got a category of motivational gifts, and then, effects, when those things happen. And so, what I see when I get to preach and teach. Or I was at Moody, and I had a chance to speak prophetically – not in telling the future, but, “This is the call of the Church.” I have never felt such joy.
And we got emails from people around the world who were listening on the Internet, and by way of the radio, because that’s just – that happens to be the brush God made me. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it’s not more important, not less important. It’s the divine endowment given to me. What’s yours?