We’ve just discussed how the Holy Spirit uses our talents and abilities. Our Seek the Gifts series on the gifts of the Spirit continues with the “rubber meets the road” issues of how to receive and use our gifts.
These are the practical matters after we have studied the gifts. This is the part many people start with. But I wanted to start with studying and understanding of the gifts before we talk about how to use them for God’s glory and the encouragement of the saints.
Let’s begin the practical understanding of the gifts by talking about how we receive them. It sounds like such a simple question, but it is foundational to knowing how to begin in the gifts. Let’s dive in to see how we receive the gifts of the Spirit.
Prayer and Discovery
As with anything we do, we must begin with prayer to receive the gifts. Paul tells us to earnestly desire the greater gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:39). But desiring a gift is not the same as receiving it. We can desire a gift besides the greater ones.
But what do we do when we desire a gift? We go to prayer, asking God for the gift we want. This doesn’t mean we will receive that gift per se. The Holy Spirit decides to whom he gives which gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11).
The Holy Spirit is always in charge of which gifts He uses in whom He chooses and when He backs uses them. But through talking to Jesus, we ask Him to have gifts that minister to His body. And that must be the goal in our asking.
We must not ask for gifts based on our selfish desires, or what we think will work for us. Our desire should be to encourage and help the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit knows us much better than we know ourselves. He knows which gifts work best with who we are.
You may want a “blockbuster” gift that puts you center stage in front of everyone else. But that’s not the kind of gift you will receive if that is your motive. I have found that the Spirit chooses the humblest of people to deliver the most powerful messages.
We must not forget the level of maturity we need to properly use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He does not look for what we consider the greatest among us. God looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) and chooses those who humble themselves to serve others (Matthew 18:4).
But when our heart, attitude, and motives align with the Holy Spirit’s objective, He gives us the perfect gift that suits us. We all go through times of growing into maturity. The same is true of asking for and discovering your gifts.
I will talk further about how to discover our gifts in this post and in others. Discovering our gifts calls for several methods and steps. But I started with prayer because this is the priority of those who seek anything from the Lord.
Discover Your SHAPE
Prayer is the divine conversation between God and us concerning our desire for gifts. It must begin with the spiritual enterprise of prayer. There are other factors many have pointed out along the way. But these must not be our first considerations to receive gifts.
The acronym SHAPE helps us see where we fit into ministry in the body. It is not a foolproof way to decide where we minister. God decides that. But it helps us see some of the ways He has designed us to function within the Church.
S is for “Spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 7:7). The Holy Spirit decides which gift to give to which person. Everyone receives at least one gift. And no one has all the gifts, or the body would not need one another.
That means the Holy Spirit gives at least one gift to you. You may receive more than one gift. It is His decision which gifts and how many you receive. He may operate on a principle of maturity and effectiveness. The more we mature, the more God entrusts to us. We learn to be good stewards and everything He gives.
H is for Heart (Philippians 2:13). Each of us has things we like to do more than others. But what do you love to do? The Holy Spirit takes this into account as he commissions you for ministry and gives gifts to you.
Even as a pastor, there are things I love to do, and things I wish to delegate to others. If you don’t love what you do, you won’t grow in it or stick with it. The Holy Spirit does not give us responsibilities that are a drudgery to us. He knows us.
A is for Abilities (1 Corinthians 12:5-6; 1 Peter 4:11). We’ve spent almost all our series talking about gifts of the Spirit. But our abilities refer to our natural skills and talents. As I discussed in the previous post, God gives us all these abilities, and He uses them in ministry.
P is for Personal style (Ephesians 2:10). Your style affects how you minister to people. Your personality affects how and where you serve. God doesn’t take a shy person and put them on the stage. Many shy people find background ministries, like working with A/V, or helping with kids and youth.
God did not abolish your personality when you met Jesus, or completely change it to something else. He made you the way you are. And He sanctifies your personality to make you more like Him. The more you walk with Jesus, the more your personality fits His character.
Take Peter, for example. He spoke before he thought. He said things he couldn’t back up with actions. He said he would go with Jesus to death, but then denied Him three times to avoid being associated with Him. And yet, Jesus used Peter’s personality on the Day of Pentecost to win thousands to His Church.
Jesus can use your personality, situating you in the best place in ministry. It will fit you like a glove because Jesus designed you for the place He puts you. Trust Jesus has that place for you. And you will shine in that position because He knows exactly what to do with your personality.
E is for Experience. Jesus gives you all kinds of experiences that prepare you to minister to the right person at the right moment. He uses your spiritual experiences (Hebrews 5:12-14), educational experiences (Proverbs 4:13), and ministry experiences (2 Corinthians 9:13).
It may surprise you, but Jesus also uses your painful experiences (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). He uses these experiences because you share in suffering with your brothers and sisters in Christ. When they experience a painful trial you have already been through, you offer valuable insight and comfort in their time of need.
Jesus uses your SHAPE to put you in the right ministry, and your gifts are a large part of that. Nothing about you surprises Him. He chose you for this ministry and put you in this place because He knows you will be the most effective for Him there.
Studying the Gifts
As you continue to pray, see where you fit into ministry and what gifts may fit you, and continue your discovery process, studying the gifts helps you see all these pieces fit together. The more you understand each of the gifts, the more you see how the Spirit chooses yours.
One way to study the gifts is through God’s Word. We have seen throughout our study which gifts of the Holy Spirit uses in Jesus’ body. But we have also seen with the illumination of the rest of Scripture how those gifts work and are defined.
We get a clearer picture of each gift the more we study its descriptions and uses throughout the Bible. We also have the gift of Bible teachers who help us understand each gift better. All these are ministries of the Spirit to help us see our place in our gifts.
Another way we study the gifts is in their operation. It’s one thing to have “book smarts” about the gifts. But you also need to see them in action. Then you will understand why the Holy Spirit leads the way He does and uses the gifts He wishes.
It gives you a better understanding of how He might use your gifts through you to benefit the body of Christ. Do not be afraid to observe how the gifts operate in a service. But you won’t always understand everything the Holy Spirit does from a limited, cumin perspective. Don’t limit what you see, or be critical of it. Seek the Spirit as you observe the gifts in action.
When to Receive the Gift
The Holy Spirit decides when to use the gift He has given you. But when do you receive your gifts? When Jesus baptizes you in the Holy Spirit, you receive your gifts. This doesn’t mean they are set for life.
The Holy Spirit decides which gift to use in you, and when to use it. He may use you in a gift you don’t normally operate in. But this is His divine prerogative. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to follow His prompting instead of just operating in your gift.
Is you ask for new gifts, when the Holy Spirit gives those gifts to you, you can operate in them. You must trust the Spirit’s lead. Don’t get ahead of Him. But don’t ignore or question His prompting. This is the lesson we learn as we grow more effective and mature in our gifts.
We have only begun to explore the practical side of the gifts of the Spirit. As we continue through the final leg of our series, we will flesh out some of these principles in more detail. It’s an exciting start! How did you receive your gifts? How did you know what they are?