For much of my Christian upbringing, I was under the impression that the only "real” calling from God was a "call to preach” and the most important ability that anyone could have was a God-given "spiritual gift” to stand up in front of a crowd and preach sermons — and the louder and more extemporaneous the better!
But as I have matured in my faith and biblical understanding, I discovered that mentality to not only be wrong, but actually harmful.
While Scripture clearly places importance on local church pastors and elders as well as spiritual gifts, it also clearly teaches that every believer has all kinds of gifts, abilities, and knowledge that can and should be used for his glory and to "build up” the church (Ephesians 4).
Paul wrote extensively on this topic in his letters, such as when he told the Corinthian church that: "there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit... varieties of service, but the same Lord; and... varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).
In this passage, we can clearly see that every one of us has all kinds of capabilities that were all given to us by God. A capability is essentially the “power to do something.” It is a skill that we have or at least a propensity for a skill that we could develop.
No matter what the skill is, we were either born with it, we learned it along the way, or God supernaturally (or spiritually) gifted it to us after our salvation.
Figuring out our gifts is important because when we do not use our God-given capabilities to minister to others in our unique calling, not only will we miss out on personal blessings and spiritual growth, but others will miss out on our ministry and the Church will suffer without our contribution.
How Do We Figure Out What Gifts We Have?
The first step is to discover our gifts through evaluation.
One way is to take an assessment or survey, such as any number of spiritual gifts tests or even a strengths-finder type assessment that many workplaces give out.
However, these kinds of tests are short-sighted in that they will only tell us what our capabilities already are based on our experiences.
For example, a gifts test may illuminate someone's musical, communication, or leadership abilities while ignoring their yet-to-be-discovered culinary, administration, or carpentry skills.
Another way we can try to identify our abilities is to take some time to do some self-evaluation or even ask others (especially our pastor or ministry leader) to evaluate us. However, while this approach might be effective in many ways, it tends to be more subjective and not always based on reality.
For example, our own ears or our friends’ ears may tell us that we can sing well while an objective piano may demonstrate that we are off-key.
Both of these approaches are good and helpful, but to make up for their downfalls, someone wanting to find out what their gifts and abilities are should also simply start doing something.
It is very often the case that trying to learn and do something new with openness, willingness, and honesty will quickly show someone whether or not they have the capability or at least the propensity for it.
It is my opinion, that the world’s fastest runner, strongest lifter, best singer, smartest thinker, etc. was never discovered because each of those people either neglected to use their abilities, never learned how to develop their abilities, or were never given the chance to excel in their abilities.
Similarly, the late D.L. Moody is quoted as famously saying: "The world has yet to see what God can do with [someone] fully consecrated to him.”
But identifying our capabilities (whether we were born with them or they were spiritually gifted to us), is only part of the battle. A second important step in identifying (and using) our gifts is to train to get better.
Continually Using Our Gifts
When we work to further develop our capabilities, not only do we find out just how gifted we really are in that area, but we also become more "useful” in ministry and "ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1; 2 Timothy 2:20-21).
A Christian's work ethic should be stronger and aspirations higher than the world's because we are ultimately serving the "King” of the universe, and we know that our life has eternal significance (1 Timothy 1:17; Matthew 6:20, 10:42).
The world is watching us to see if what we say we believe motivates us to live all-out for God (Titus 2:7-8). This is why Paul said to "...fan into flame” our gifts (2 Timothy 1:6), because while God gave us our gifts and abilities, how well we apply ourselves, how hard we work, how much we strive to learn, and how much we "master” our capabilities is our responsibility.
We may never be the best at something — but we can work to be our best!
There is an old adage that says, “Pray as though everything depended on God; work as though everything depended on you.”
Whether that is right or not, we absolutely should do everything we can to hone our skills, better our abilities, and increase our knowledge to become more effective.
The Old Testament contains many wise proverbs about hard work and diligence. In the New Testament, Paul says to "work heartily” (Colossians 3:23), to "aspire to... work” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12), and to "not grow weary of doing good...” and to not "give up” (Galatians 6:9).
He taught Timothy that only the "hard-working farmer” will get to enjoy his crops (2 Timothy 2:6).
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25 about three servants that a landowner entrusted his property to before going on a journey. Since the master knew what each servant could handle, he gave each different amounts of resources to care for his property.
The first two servants put their money to work and doubled it, while the third servant hid his in the ground for fear of losing it. When the master returned, he was pleased with the faithfulness of the first two servants yet angered by the third servant's laziness.
Not only did the master praise the faithful servants, but he also took away the resources from the one who had the least and gave it to the one with the most because he knew he could handle it.
In response to this parable, Jesus made this statement: "For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).
When we value our capabilities and respect the God who gave them to us, we will utilize them to their fullest potential, making a way for God to even equip us with more capabilities and a greater platform to use them.
Your current situation may very well be a test to prove your faithfulness to God and the leadership over you because, as Paul says, "those who serve well... gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13).
Identifying our natural and spiritual gifts is a crucial part of figuring out God's calling on our lives.
Because while the modern-day Church (and ultimately the world) certainly needs people that are gifted in communication and leadership to fill the role of pastor or preacher (1 Timothy 3), it also needs people who embrace their abilities and step up into the countless other roles to "minister” wherever they live, work, learn, or play.
Being the Body of Christ
Apostle Peter clearly laid this out when he wrote: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's very grace... in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11, ESV).
If you are still struggling with determining what your capabilities are or where you fit into the body of Christ, know that your greatest ability is actually your availability.
God loves to use men and women who simply present themselves to him as "living sacrifices” in response to his grace (Romans 12:1).
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Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Mykola Sosiukin
Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, and most recently as the Lead Pastor and Planter of Village Church in Churchville, Virginia. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the Gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.