May 19, 2008
Are You Gifted?
by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7
In the early 90’s, when my twin and I were still awkward 8th graders, aptitude tests designed to determine a child’s academic promise were becoming all the rage. In fact, several new high schools in the area formed solely for the purpose of teaching students who scored highly on these tests. So, my sister and I joined our peers in filling out endless scan-tron forms with #2 pencils to see if we placed in the top percentiles. Our final scores did not disappoint. Elizabeth blew away the test measuring language and writing abilities, and I scored highly in the math and sciences. We received acceptance letters from special schools, and Mom spent the next four years interacting with parents and educators who glowingly spoke of our peers as a group set-apart, the “gifted” ones.
Lest you think such an experience went to our heads, let me share my mother’s contribution to this experience. Coming from a modest background where it was common to work hard for success, Mom had a way of stopping gifted gush-fests in their tracks: “Thanks for your enthusiasm, but I don’t really think my kids are gifted. To me, a gifted child composes a symphony before age 10 or solves un-solvable math problems in preschool. I’m proud of my girls, but I’ve only met a couple truly gifted children in my lifetime.”
If there was such a thing as the self-esteem police, she would have been arrested on the spot. But my mom’s thoughts on the matter never hurt my feelings. She loved us, “gifted” or not, and didn’t feel the need to enhance the truth (side note: as you’ve probably guessed, I never became a scientist or mathematician. I’m pretty bad at it, actually. And my twin ultimately shunned writing to become a scientist).
While the vast majority of us will never make genius marks on an IQ test or create masterpieces like Monet, Scripture tells us that those with faith in Christ are gifted in special ways. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, each believer receives certain gifts for their personal sanctification and certain gifts for the greater good of the Body of Christ.
I’ve always marveled a bit that God gives gifts to us in the first place. After all, we are sinners fallen from grace. It’s quite enough that God sacrificed on the Cross to save us, yet He chooses to go beyond saving us to lovingly bless us. I learned a lot more about this topic when I attended a conference a few years ago run by the Catherine of Siena Institute. There, we studied the various gifts outlined in Scripture and how one might identify his or her unique gifts. Here are a few key points we learned:
- Some gifts, like the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” are for our personal sanctification and all believers have access to these gifts. Other gifts are unique to our person, and God gives this second kind of gift so that we may give them away to others in a way that blesses others.
- Your spiritual gifts are basically God’s favorite ways of working through you. One way to discern your gifts is to take note when a seemingly ordinary act on your part yields extraordinary results. God’s grace is at work there.
- There’s no reason to envy others’ gifts or talents because Scripture tells us that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts, and each part is vital to the entire Body. Whatever your gifts, no matter how ordinary they appear, they matter to God. On the flip side, there’s no reason to take pride in our gifts because we cannot earn them -- they are given without merit.
- The more you grow in your relationship with Christ, the more opportunities God has to work through you in special ways.
Examples of well-cultivated spiritual gifts:
Mother Theresa, whose gift of mercy allowed her to work with the poorest of the poor in a manner that maintained their dignity.
C.S. Lewis, whose gift of writing continues to lead countless individuals to a better understanding of God’s truth.
My Oma, whose gift of faith brought her through much tragedy and hardship, inspiring those who know her to grow in faith.
Intersecting Faith & Life: What are your spiritual gifts? If you don’t know, ask God to reveal the ways He desires to work through you. Identifying your gifts can help you discern a special calling in life and can bring you much joy in your Christian walk.