Relationship With Others 103: Spiritual Gifts

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God gives everyone Christian spiritual gifts

Understanding the spiritual gifts is essential to discovering our identity in Christ

  • 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:1-16, Romans 12:1-8, 1 Peter 4:7-11
  • Christians are personally responsible for their spiritual gifts

The Body of Christ has many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12)

  • The Church is one unit with a variety of parts, not merely a diverse group who meets together
  • Everyone in the Body is equally essential, and all spiritual gifts have a time and place

God gives gifts through the Holy Spirit (James 1:17)

  • The distinctions of spiritual gifts come through Christ, not through ourselves (John 15:5)
  • You can’t change them, improve them or create them apart from His design (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 11)
  • At the same time, it’s worth desiring gifts which are more useful for building up the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:5, 13:12)

There are different types of spiritual gifts

Most Christians think of spiritual gifts as one category, but there are four

A. Church position gifts

  • Given to the New Testament Church, not individuals (Ephesians 4:1-18)
  • Reflects positions Christ gave to help others to use His gifts for unified growth into a Church Body

B. Situational gifts

  • Given as God sees fit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
  • Always connected to specific situations to do God’s work and available through prayer to all fully surrendered believers

C. Sign gifts

  • Given specifically to the Apostles to start the New Testament first-century Church (1 Corinthians 12-14)
  • Sign gifts are situational gifts with far more spiritual power and authority
    • The Apostles have shown more authority and power than the world has ever seen in recorded history
  • God gave sign gifts for two specific reasons
    1. To give authenticity to the Apostles’ claims of their discipleship under the risen Christ through showing the same amount of spiritual power Jesus showed (Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43, Acts 5:12-16)
    2. To give an authoritative source of divine revelation until God’s revelation to man through the Scriptures was finished, systematically arranged, and declared absolute (John 17:13-17, Revelation 22:18-20)
  • Several types of signs proved the Apostles’ authenticity
    1. Sign healing restored limbs and resurrected the dead (Acts 3:1-10, Acts 9:37-40, Acts 20:9-12)
    2. Sign miracles had a variety of powers ranging from protecting a ship’s crew to not dying from a poisonous snake (Acts 27:31,44, Acts 28:3-6)
      • The wide variety of sign miracles looks strikingly similar to Old Testament miracles
    3. Sign revelation was through an Apostle who gave the same authority and accuracy as Scripture (1 John 4:1-3)
      • Sign prophecy had so much authority that it became the New Testament (2 Peter 1:20-21)
      • Sign tongues included the ability to communicate in unlearned languages that others knew (Acts 2:4-11)

D. Motivational gifts

  • God gives motivational gifts to every Christian of every age
  • Most Christians who talk about “spiritual gifts” are talking about spiritual motivational gifts
  • Unlike the other gifts, these gifts come from special motivations (Romans 12:1-8)
    • These motivations should build up members in the Body of Christ and ultimately increase the entire Church’s strength
    • Motivational gifts are the Holy Spirit’s continuous internal drive shown through our personalities
    • Motivational gifts create supernatural results but usually start with simple motivations

God gives spiritual motivational gifts according to believers’ personalities

Teaching is motivated to dive into the intricacies of God’s Word and communicate its findings to others precisely, and thoroughly with little regard to a “formal” teaching setting (Romans 12:7)

  • Genuinely enjoys studying God’s Word, even for long hours and tons of effort
  • Tends to be exceptionally thorough in both studying and presenting Scripture
  • Deep, inner motivation to know the “whole truth” along with a sincere desire to explain it to others
  • Deep frustration with anything in others’ teaching which appears to be superficial research, inaccuracies or inconsistent uses of words
  • Tends to test the knowledge level of others who teach them
  • Able to explain complicated biblical truths in a way people can understand and benefit
  • Consistently tries to improve teaching method and help people understand more clearly
  • People influenced by them feel a greater sense of understanding

Prophecy/declaration is motivated to declare God’s Word to others boldly, uncompromised, and without corruption (Romans 12:6, 1 Peter 4:11)

  • Thoroughly motivated to find and clarify righteousness and confront evil
  • Tends to see moral issues as right/wrong with no gray areas
  • Feels a deep need to share inner convictions publicly out of obedience to God
  • Willing to take a decisive and controversial public stance
  • People respond to their public sharing as if it’s God’s authority and experience a deep conviction in their hearts
  • Suffers a tremendous difficulty with situations where people ignore or vaguely respond to evil
  • Deeply depends on biblical authority when speaking and communicates with an attitude of “thus says the Lord”
  • People influenced by them have more clarity about God’s perspective on a matter

Exhortation/encouragement is motivated to  encourage and build up others to God’s desired role for them (Romans 12:8)

  • Intensely driven to encourage and build others up through communicating content and principles of God’s Word
  • Has a hard time expressing anything adverse or demotivational
  • Able to see and convey a specific goal to others to inspire them to pursue it
  • Tends to inspire others to share their innermost secrets and heartaches, then comforts, encourages and motivates them through the response
  • Able to translate biblical truths into practical, real-life experiences that dramatically change lives
  • Consistently gravitates to a role of advisor or counselor
  • Frustrated with teaching and truth which seems impractical or difficult to translate into Christian growth and inspiration
  • People influenced by them feel better and stronger after the discussion

Serving is motivated to meet others’ needs with very little consideration for self-interests (Romans 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:28)

  • Driven to help others by meeting their practical needs
  • Intuitively sees others’ physical needs and immediately responds to help meet them
  • Relentless ability to serve others with joyfulness and no complaint
  • Willing to do things others might consider menial
  • Loves serving with no recognition at all, especially in helping leaders’ effectiveness
  • People influenced by them feel touched by their physical sacrifices

Giving is motivated to take care of others’ material needs without praise, as a challenge to others, and fearless of financial consequences (Romans 12:8, 2 Corinthians 9:10-11)

  • Sensitive to others’ material needs and the physical needs of God’s work
  • Sincerely wants to give whatever they have to meet others’ needs without considering personal consequences
  • Enjoys giving anonymously without drawing attention to themselves or the gift
  • Believes everything anyone owns belongs to God and only sees money as a means to an end for God’s work
  • Carries a pattern of success in handling personal finances and almost instinctively acquires wealth
  • Once matured, they’ll naturally acquire more things that God can use them to give
  • Desires to challenge others to give through example
  • People influenced by them will have their physical needs met, though they may not know where or how someone could have known

Mercy is motivated to aid and comfort heartbroken, grieving, exploited, and downtrodden people (Romans 12:8)

  • Strongly motivated to reach out to suffering people
  • Able to stay cheerful, show mercy, and not grow discouraged from the interaction
  • Able to genuinely feel others’ pain where they know someone cares for and hurts for them
  • Loves ministering to hurting peoples’ needs by openly sharing time, talent, and possessions
  • Intuitively knows when others are hurting, even with few or no outward signs
  • Internally aches for others, sometimes to the point of crying when hearing of others who were hurt
  • People influenced by them feel accepted and comforted that someone else understands what they’re going through

Ruling/administration is motivated to order, organize, lead, and manage the Church’s affairs (Romans 12:8, 1 Corinthians 12:28)

  • Intensely driven to see things done in an orderly and efficient way and feels severe unease and frustration with chaotic methods
  • Finds plenty of enjoyment in sorting out a messy management system, structuring it, and making it work smoothly
  • Tends to assume responsibility for organizing things in the absence of structured leadership
  • Intuitively understands the types of details others often overlook and comprehends the subtler elements that determine plans’ success
  • Strong desire to complete projects as fast as possible, needs tasks with clear ends to them and hates never-ending or extreme long-term tasks
  • Holds a fair and unbiased approach to the various parts and viewpoints that form a great solution, very little influence from feelings or personal desires when administering
  • Willing to carry out plan details others have created
  • People influenced by them are amazed at how smooth and well-organized things run

Faith is a motivation to implicitly and radically trust God in every situation and to lead at show God’s trustworthiness (1 Corinthians 12:8)

  • Completely unwavering in the face of overwhelming obstacles and contrasting evidence
  • Always motivated to trust God in absolutely everything
  • Can operate with little or no visible resources and fully confident that God will provide when needed
  • Can visualize what God’s work will do and sincerely grateful to Him for it before seeing it physically
  • Consistently expects God is working and will work when facing significant obstacles with little or no evidence to support the expectation
  • Trusts God will work a miracle even with no known certainty about God’s miraculous work
  • Strongly desires to motivate others to have implicit faith in God and join in expecting miracles
  • Stays unshaken in faith even when not expecting a miracle and nobody else seems to visualize the solution
  • People influenced by them will at first think that person’s crazy but later learn to trust God more

An example of the motivational gifts

A group of believers is eating at a table when someone drops an expensive gravy dish and breaks it, spills the gravy on the floor, and ruins a new suit

  • SERVING helps by grabbing a towel and rushing to clean up the mess
  • RULING/ADMINISTRATION directs someone to get a mop, someone else to get a bucket of hot, soapy water, then a third person to help move the table while explaining the need to get to the spots on the floor
  • EXHORTATION/ENCOURAGEMENT tells the person how we all have accidents and how they all know he didn’t mean to drop it, then shares how God will make it all work out for the best
  • PROPHECY/DECLARATION will share how man is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward
  • MERCY will share empathy about how it ruined the suit and how embarrassing and disappointing it must feel
  • FAITH will share some time praying with him for a new outfit and new gravy dish along with an encouragement that God will provide
  • GIVING will slip an envelope under the table with a hundred-dollar bill in it with a comforting note

Spiritual motivational gifts have a downside

God built motivational gifts into a person’s spirit

  • Unbelievers can still demonstrate some of their potential spiritual motivational gifts (a bit like moving a corpse) when human goodness inspires them to it
  • The Holy Spirit activates latent spiritual motivational gifts when they come to Christ
  • People develop spiritual motivational gifts through spiritual growth and maturity from walking by the Holy Spirit’s power

The motivational gifts’ design creates an unfortunate result

  • Christians can direct motivational gifts toward selfish and prideful ambitions apart from the Holy Spirit’s guidance
  • Operating in the wrong direction can cause tremendous damage to the Body of Christ

Teaching, when misused, turns the person into an intellectual snob

  • Desiring study and knowledge can become intellectual or doctrinal pride
  • Knowing God’s Word can create a critical attitude toward generally unteachable or less knowledgeable people
  • Emphasizing knowing things in-depth can become an obsession with unimportant Scriptural details with little practical value
  • Scriptural knowledge can be a starting point for useless arguments (2 Timothy 2:23)

Prophecy/declaration, when misused, turns the person into a jerk

  • Revelations can bluntly hurt others who receive it
  • Can become self-righteous by declaring evil to others with clarity while overlooking personal shortcomings
  • The desire to see sin judged can lead to them assuming responsibility to carry out unfair judgment themselves
  • The desire for things to be either right or wrong can make them utterly blind to other relevant factors, circumstances or motivations

Exhortation/encouragement, when misused, turns the person into a flake

  • While trying to avoid potentially discouraging things, they may refuse to confront clear sin issues or others’ failings
  • The power to build others up can also manipulate or control others, discourage them or guide them into a dependent relationship
  • Can use privileged information that others openly share with them unwisely or maliciously
  • The desire to give constructive counsel will drive them to give unsolicited advice that harms their reputation and causes division

Serving, when misused, turns the person into a guilt-tripper

  • Their self-perceived selflessness can quickly become a martyr attitude or self-pitying indulgence
  • The desire to serve might get them involved in responsibilities or situations they have no authority or permission to operate in
  • They may see others that don’t observe or act on service opportunities as uncaring or lazy
  • They might overlook others’ deeper spiritual or emotional needs in trying to meet physical needs

Giving, when misused, turns the person into a power-monger

  • They might try to gain control or power through their gifts
  • They might look for prideful recognition for giving and lose their reward with God (Matthew 6:5)
  • They might become bitter at people that consistently ask for money instead of joyfully handling the inevitable result of their gift
  • Their material blessings from God might lead them to greed, attachment to material things or wasteful living

Mercy, when misused, turns the person into a bleeding-heart

  • Their sensitive spirit needed for the gift of mercy might quickly turn into constant hurt feelings, frequent crying and hypersensitive fragility
  • The desire to show mercy might completely blur the need to hold others accountable, give appropriate discipline or practice tough love
  • They might become bitter at what they see as insensitivity in others without the gift of mercy, especially the gifts of prophecy or ruling/administration
  • The desire to help others in need can lead to foolish gullibility for anyone with a sad story, no matter how phony or exploitative, and refusing to listen to others’ warnings

Ruling/administration, when misused, turns the person into a bureaucrat

  • They may misuse their ability to see the many necessary details of a task to inspire resistance to any plan or vision with unpredictable results or solutions, even the ones from God
  • They might make keeping order or efficiency through tasks more important than people or their needs
  • They could become bitter at others with other motivations who add unpredictable elements into systems
  • The need to have clear task ends might make them unwilling to take responsibility for long-term efforts with unclear end-points

Faith, when misused, turns the person into a reckless risk-taker

  • The desire to trust God for huge things might inspire pursuing foolish plans that presume God’s provision and don’t honor Him
  • The motivation of faith can lead to seeking an unwise course against all counsel to prove the greatness of their faith
  • The ability to see the completed vision of a great idea or dream can inspire destructive ignorance about practical obstacles in reality
  • The ability to motivate others to believe in a dream can make people feel taken advantage of when hard, concrete facts make the idea feel less feasible

Identify your motivational gifts with a small test

Carefully and thoughtfully read the description of each facet of the motivation and write for each category from a scale of 1 to 5 on a separate sheet of paper how much each statement describes you


  1. I deeply enjoy studying God’s Word, even for long hours and with much effort
  2. I tend to be very thorough in both the study and presenting of God’s Word
  3. I have a deep, inner motivation to know the “whole truth” along with a deep desire to explain it to others
  4. I am annoyed by teaching I view as based on superficial research or I feel is inaccurate or inconsistent in using biblical words
  5. I realize I tend to test the level of knowledge of those teaching me God’s Word
  6. I can explain complicated spiritual concepts in a way where people understand and benefit from biblical truth
  7. I make a consistent effort to improve my teaching method and content to enable people to understand biblical concepts even more clearly


  1. I have a deep motivation to identify and define righteousness and confront evil
  2. I have a strong tendency to see moral issues as either right or wrong without gray areas
  3. I often have a deeply felt need to proclaim to others my inner convictions about right and wrong out of obedience to God
  4. When I share my convictions publicly, people often respond as if I have God’s authority and are convicted in their hearts by what I share
  5. I have great difficulty handling situations where people overlook moral evil or treat it lightly
  6. I am willing to take public stands that may be both strong and controversial
  7. I tend to rely deeply on scriptural authority when I speak and may even communicate an attitude of “thus says the Lord”


  1. I have a deep inner desire to encourage and build others through communicating content and principles of God’s Word
  2. I am reluctant to share information or truth to others that may have a negative or demotivational effect on them
  3. Others frequently share their innermost secrets or heartaches with me and, after sharing, leave comforted, encouraged, and able to “go forward”
  4. I can translate biblical truth into a practical, real-life experience where people’s lives are greatly changed by it
  5. I find myself consistently in the role of “advisor” or “counselor” to others and get annoyed when others don’t listen to my counsel
  6. I get frustrated with teaching or truth that appears to me to be “impractical” or not easily translatable into Christian growth and building up
  7. I can visualize a specific goal and communicate it to others where they are eager and willing to pursue it


  1. I have a sincere inner desire to help other people by meeting their practical needs
  2. I seem to have an almost “intuitive” perception of others’ practical needs and immediately respond to reach out to meet them in an equally practical way
  3. I seem to have a virtually “tireless” ability to serve others, not only without complaining but generally with great joy
  4. I am open to doing tasks others might consider “menial” without thinking of their more abstract needs
  5. I tend to meet the practical or concrete needs of others rather than discern their more abstract needs
  6. I delight in serving, even if I don’t get any recognition for it
  7. I enjoy doing tasks that make leadership more effective


  1. I have a sensitivity to recognize the material needs for others and the work of God
  2. I have a sincere desire to give whatever I have to meet the material needs of others with little or no regard for the consequences to me
  3. I get great enjoyment from meeting others’ material needs anonymously and not drawing attention to myself or the gift
  4. I am careful in how I handle my personal finances and have a pattern of success – almost an “instinct” for wise money handling or acquiring wealth
  5. I have a deep conviction that everything I own belongs to God and I believe I “flesh out” this conviction with money and material things
  6. I tend to view money as merely a means to do God’s work and not any value in and of itself
  7. I like to give as a motivation to challenge others to give


  1. I can empathize and sympathize where others know I care and hurt for them
  2. I delight in ministering to the needs of hurting people
  3. I delight in sharing unrestrained time, talent, and treasure with helpless, downtrodden, and exploited people
  4. I seem to be able to “read” when others hurt, even when there are few if any outward signs
  5. I can show mercy to hurting people without losing a cheerful spirit
  6. I “ache internally” and often weep when I learn of others who hurt, even if they aren’t personal acquaintances or friends
  7. Because of my sensitivity toward others, I sometimes feel those who don’t respond the way I do to suffering are “callous” or “harsh”


  1. I have a deep, inner motivation to see things done in an orderly, efficient manner and feel uneasy or get frustrated when they aren’t
  2. I derive great enjoyment from taking a management “mess” and sorting it out, structuring it, and getting it to work smoothly
  3. I tend to assume responsibility for organizing things in the absence of structured leadership
  4. I have an almost “intuitive” feel for the kinds of details others tend to overlook when they manage and can examine a plan regarding its many details
  5. I desire to see tasks completed as quickly as possible and need tasks that can get finished in a reasonable timeframe and dislike tasks that “never end” or that have very long terms to them
  6. I tend to be objective and fair in my approach to the ingredients and perspectives which are part of a solution and am not influenced much by feelings or personal desires when administering
  7. I am willing to carry out plan details created by others


  1. I have a deep and consistent motivation to trust God in large and small matters
  2. I can operate with little or no visible resources and maintain abiding confidence that God will provide them when needed
  3. I can visualize the work God will do and thank Him sincerely for it before anyone can visually see it
  4. I have a consistent attitude of expecting God is working and will work, even when there’s no evidence to confirm the expectation and I see significant obstacles
  5. I believe God will “work a miracle”, even in situations where there’s no known precedent for His miraculous work
  6. I have a strong desire to motivate others to have implicit faith in God and for them to join me in expecting miracles
  7. I can keep my faith unshaken even in situations without a clear solution and where a miracle isn’t forthcoming the way I had visualized


Add the numbers together for each category and your total will indicate how much you have the motivation

  • 30-35 points = You MOST LIKELY have that motivation
  • 24-29 points = You MAY WELL have that motivation
  • 17-23 points = It is HARD TO TELL whether or not you have that motivation
  • 11-16 points = You PROBABLY DON’T have that motivation
  • 5-10 points = You MOST LIKELY DON’T have that motivation

Place a star next to the gifts that you scored more than 30 points

  • These are most likely your gifts
  • 24-30 could be secondary motivations
  • If no scores were over 30, look for gifts or groups of gifts greater by at least 4 points

This test can’t track conclusions from score differences less than 3 points

  • Try grouping the highest and lowest gifts to make a more accurate assessment of your situation

You will naturally discover your motivational gifts as you walk in Christ

Observe a few behaviors to find your motivation

  • You notice you’re thinking and acting on that motivation most of the time, even with no external reason to do it
  • You can operate in an area of those motivational gifts for long periods with relatively little fatigue
  • When you work in the realm of your motivational gift, you’ll receive an exceptional response and affirmation from other mature Christians

The closer you walk with God, the more you’ll want to exercise that motivation and the more results you’ll see from it

Spiritual gifts have a crucial purpose

The entire purpose of spiritual gifts is to the benefit of the Body as a whole (1 Corinthians 12:12-20, Ephesians 4:16)

  • Every church has more than enough gifts to do what God wants, assuming people use them correctly (1 Corinthians 1:4-7, Ephesians 4:7-13)

The only valid motivation for any of your gifts is love (1 Corinthians 12:7,12:31-13:3)

  • Love is a genuine concern for another that places their well-being above yours (1 Corinthians 13:3-7)
  • To be genuinely loving you must be free from unconfessed sin, filled with the Holy Spirit and fully open for God to use your motivational gifts (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20)
  • God has created and uses all the spiritual gifts and should always receive the praise from their use (Colossians 1:15-18)

Use your gifts with boldness and authority since God will fully clarify if you’ve behaved wrongly (Romans 12:6-8)

  • As you mature in Christ, your spiritual gifts will grow along with more and better gifts (1 Corinthians 13:11-13, 1 Corinthians 14:20-21, Ephesians 4:14-15)
  • The period we live in makes using our spiritual gifts especially urgent (1 Peter 4:7-11)

While we’re still on earth, these gifts are meant to strengthen the Body to bring about more discipleship (discussed later) and evangelism

Next: Evangelism