One of the biggest questions Christians who discover their gifts have is, “How do I use my gift?” We will discuss how to use your gift in this post. In our last post, we studied ways you can know what gifts you have.
I find in my research and personal experience that people have a lot of trouble answering this question. They talk about procedures, the things Paul said to do and not to do, and how to control your gifts. They don’t talk enough about when you know how to use your gift.
People teaching on the gifts tell you to “Follow the Spirit’s leading” and “Wait for His prompting,” but what does that mean? Does everyone experience the Spirit’s prompting the same way? It doesn’t get more practical than knowing how to do these things.
The Spirit Leads
First, we must follow the Spirit wherever He leads. I know this is basic, but if we don’t follow the Spirit and do what He says when He says to do it, we are using our gift in the flesh. It will hinder and interrupt the Holy Spirit’s ministry instead of blessing others.
It must not be about you or me. People who speak of the gifts of the Spirit hound this point so much because the Spirit is in charge. He gives the gifts to whom He wills for His purposes. The only way to be decent and in order (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40) is for the Spirit to orchestrate the gifts.
Who understands and knows the gifts better than the Holy Spirit? They are His. Think of the Spirit’s leading in your gifts as the great Conductor masterfully creating a symphony and using your gifts in harmony with others’ gifts.
When I played in high school concert band, our director could always tell when something was out of tune or out of place on the musical score. Sometimes, he knew exactly who was out of tune or playing the wrong notes. And he had no trouble calling you out.
When an instrument is out of tune or playing in the wrong key, or the wrong notes, the song sounds awful. It grates against the ears. It ruins the experience of everyone who listens to the music. People with a keen ear know who is ruining that experience.
The Holy Spirit wants to make beautiful music with our gifts, blessing and encouraging us, exhorting and empowering us to be more effective for Him. This is His goal in using the gifts. He wants to make this beautiful music through you and those around you.
Realizing His Prompting
Paul talks about following the Spirit by keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). He also explains that the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32). You can control your gift.
But you control your gift in conjunction with the Spirit as He leads. I rarely hear teachers explain how to realize the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Yet, this is how you follow the Spirit. This is how you let Him lead you in your gifts.
It’s essential we know the prompting of the Spirit so we do not misuse our gifts, minister out of turn, or disturb the order the Holy Spirit puts in place. Perhaps they don’t teach on the prompting of the Spirit because it is different for everyone.
When I feel the Spirit prompting me, the hair on the back of my neck stands straight up. If it’s a speaking gift for the worship service, I get an impression from the Holy Spirit of what He wants to say through me. Then I step out and speak.
I get the same impressions when I am teaching and I feel the Spirit moving in the hearts and minds of those I teach. When I preach, I often feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit taking my humble words and applying them to the people listening.
I used the word “feel” in my examples because the Holy Spirit’s prompting is often accompanied by some type of physiological sensation. Some get sweaty palms, others tingling feelings. But you must be careful not to rely on those feelings. Following the prompting of the Spirit is about obedience, not physiological evidence.
The best way to know if the Holy Spirit is using your gift to minister to others is to think about what He wants to say or do through your gift. Is it an encouraging word? Does it exhort and comfort the body of Christ? Or is it a prophetic word that lovingly challenges people or the culture?
Everything we have talked about so far concerning the gifts of the Spirit applies to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. When you get these impressions of the Holy Spirit moving in you to affect others, it must follow the Scriptures and the principles we have already discussed.
Knowing how the Holy Spirit prompts you is paramount because He may use a different gift through you than you are used to using. This has happened to me once or twice in my walk with Jesus. If I didn’t know how the Holy Spirit prompts me, I would not be able to use a new gift.
Some people hear an audible voice when the Holy Spirit prompts them. But “impression” might be the best way to describe His prompting. Sometimes I get a thought that just won’t leave me alone. But I must decide whether this is something for later or for the body now.
Take the time to discover ways the Holy Spirit ministers through you. Before I became a quadriplegic, the Holy Spirit used me in speaking and teaching. I didn’t think about writing out my sermons and teaching notes. Now, I know the Holy Spirit uses me through communications of all kinds.
Every time I preach or teach, even as a quadriplegic, the Holy Spirit speaks His word to His people. I don’t always realize how He applies the teaching or the message to the people listening. Sometimes I don’t realize until later, or if someone speaks to me afterward and tells me how the Holy Spirit ministered to them.
When I feel a prompting from the Holy Spirit, the very next thing that happens (even to me as I become more mature in my gifts) is a feeling of self-doubt almost overwhelming me. Immediately when God gives me a message or tells me to use a gift, I question if I’m hearing from the Spirit or if I’m about to operate in the flesh.
Often when this happens, the Holy Spirit will be even more forceful in prompting me to use my gift. Everyone feels self-doubt when the Holy Spirit speaks to them and prompts them to use their gift. Do not let this stop you from being obedient.
This self-doubt will keep the body of believers who need to experience your gift from being blessed by the Lord through it. Self-doubt comes from the flesh, from a lack of confidence. As you grow in your gift, don’t allow self-doubt to get in the way.
When that voice in your head tells you that you didn’t receive from the Spirit, that you are misreading His leading, or you are afraid to step out because you may misuse your gift or miss the Spirit’s leading, remind yourself that this gift is necessary for the body.
Quenching the Spirit
We will discuss the misuses of the gifts of the Spirit in a later post. But I want to touch on quenching the Spirit because it is the fear of many believers before they step out and use their gift. It can hold you back and cause great consternation if you don’t follow the Spirit’s lead.
Paul talks about quenching the Spirit and connects it to the gifts (1 Thessalonians 5:19). But here’s the context of quenching the Spirit:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19–21, ESV)
Right after Paul says, “Don’t quench this Spirit,” he connects it to despising prophecy. Then he says to test everything. This goes along with 1 Corinthians 14:29 where he says other prophets way the prophecy being said, and teaches us to earnestly desire to prophesy, and not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:39).
But do you quench the Spirit if you do not follow His prompting and stop from using your gift? No. Don’t think that way in your heart if you have “missed the Spirit” or not used your gift when you felt Him prompting you. Quenching the Spirit means to not allow the gifts to be used, not for an individual to not use their gift if they are unsure that the Spirit is prompting them.
I would rather correct a person learning to use their gift as a pastor than see people not use their gifts for fear of missing the Spirit or quenching the Spirit. If we live in fear, the Holy Spirit can’t minister through our gift. The body goes without direction, encouragement, and expectation.
Decently and in Order
When you use your gift, remember what many have counseled. Paul calls for us to follow the rules laid out in Scripture. We must use our gifts in turn, allowing everyone to use their gift. We can control our gifts.
The Holy Spirit wants to minister through every gift. There is an order to using the gifts so that everyone receives ministry. God is a God of order. When you use your gift, no Paul’s counsel on how to keep things in order and allow the Holy Spirit to decide what happens when.
Some gifts complement other gifts. Don’t give a message in tongues without either knowing the interpretation, or knowing that another person has the gift of interpretation. Words of wisdom often follow words of knowledge on how to use that knowledge. If your gift has a complementary gift, make sure they are used together.
Everyone in the body of Christ needs your gift. The Holy Spirit gave you your gifts and ministers through you. Be encouraged to use your gift when the Holy Spirit prompts you. Discover the ways He prompts you, the impressions He gives you.
When we follow the Holy Spirit, He speaks and moves through your gifts. Step out and let the Holy Spirit guide you, help you mature in your gifts, and empower you to minister to others His life-giving power. What are some ways the Holy Spirit has prompted you?
Now we have discussed how to use your gifts and to know when to use them. I have talked about following the Spirit. But how do you know where and when the Spirit is leading? Next, we will study how to follow the Spirit’s leading.