Over the years I’ve noticed that there are many true believers who sit in pews and listen to sermons every Sunday but have no confidence or motivation to serve in any way. As a result, they feel disconnected. Could that describe you? Do you sometimes feel more like a spectator than an integral part of the church you attend? If so, you are missing out on what Christ intended His church to be—His body, which is composed of many members who are gifted to serve in a variety of ways.
The truth is that if you’re a believer, you have already been equipped to serve the Lord in your local church. This doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily feel adequate or won’t need to be trained and grow in your abilities, but God has provided all you need to obey Him in this area.
His process of equipping you for service began at the moment of your salvation when the Holy Spirit regenerated your spirit and brought it to life. Then He came to live within you to empower your obedience and transform you into the image of God’s Son. But the Spirit also gave you a special spiritual gift to enable you to serve in the way God planned. He gives a gift to every believer, and you are not an exception. If you’ve been born again, you have a spiritual gift, whether you realize it or not.
What is a spiritual gift? The Greek term is charisma, which means a gift of divine grace freely given through no merit of our own but simply as an act of God’s favor toward us. It’s a special ability or enablement by which we can carry out the work He’s called us to do. We don’t have to pray for it, and we don’t get to choose which one we want because the Spirit distributes them as He desires (1 Cor. 12:11). The lists of gifts are found in Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11; and Ephesians 4:11. Our responsibility is to discover our gift and employ it in serving one another.
God has provided all you need to obey Him.
What is the difference between a spiritual gift and a natural talent? Unlike spiritual gifts, which are given only to believers, natural talents are inherited abilities and interests that are given at birth to all people (Psalm 139:13-16). However, since both spiritual gifts and talents originate from God, they often work together in our service to Him. For instance, although musical ability is a natural talent, it can be used as a channel through which we express our spiritual gift.
What is the purpose for spiritual gifts? There has been much misunderstanding in this area, and it has brought abuse, misuse, and division in the church. These gifts are not given to us for our own growth, enjoyment, and sense of satisfaction in the Lord.
Although we are blessed in employing them, they are for the benefit of others in the church. Paul clearly teaches this in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
How do I discover and employ my spiritual gift? Simply having a spiritual gift is of little value if it’s never used in the church. Our goal should be to become good managers of God’s gift of grace. Otherwise, we’re like the slave in the parable in Luke 19:12-27, who out of fear put the money entrusted to him in a handkerchief instead of investing it for his master.
According to 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, there are varieties of gifts, ministries, and effects, and it’s important to realize the distinctions. I believe we are each given one of the motivational gifts mentioned in Romans 12:6-8—prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and mercy. There is something inside us that draws us in a particular direction, drives how we respond in situations, and inspires our interests. For instance, those with the gift of teaching will desire to study Scripture; those with mercy will gravitate toward people who need help and comfort.
Ministries, on the other hand, are opportunities or avenues of service that God opens for us to use our motivational gift. For each motivational gift there are a variety of ways in which it can be expressed. And the effects are the results that come from using the gift in a particular area of ministry. For example, I have the gift of exhortation, my ministry is pastoring, and the effects are the growth of believers and salvation of the lost.
Once you discover how God gifted you and begin serving in that area in some form of ministry, your gift will be sharpened, and you’ll become more proficient and effective in that area. It may take some trial and error, but if you begin the process, God will be faithful to direct your steps. Just remember that your responsibility is faithfulness in service, not in results. God alone is responsible for the results.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by serving in your area of giftedness. So step out and start serving, and discover the joy of knowing that you are obeying the Lord and contributing to the growth and building up of your church.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. Did you know that your church’s health is contingent upon all its members functioning fully according to God’s purpose? And that includes you. When Christ saved you, He knew that you would need fellow believers for growth and encouragement, and that they would need you as well.