Dr. John B. MacDonald
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Brian felt dejected.

He had just finished leading the adult Bible study at his church.

He had studied the topic thoroughly, followed the curriculum faithfully, and encouraged participation tactfully.

What went wrong?

No one seemed to be engaged. He experienced no joy in what he was doing.

Brian (not his real name) had been recruited to lead the Bible study because he was knowledgeable and reliable. No one, including Brian, had asked what gifts the Spirit had given him, and how those gifts related to his cooperation with the Spirit.

Let's ask ourselves these questions:

  • How can we discover and develop our gifts?
  • How do our gifts lead us into cooperation with the Spirit’s work of making us more like Jesus?

Another cluster of the words “Spirit” and “spiritual” occurs in 1 Corinthians 12:4-13. Let’s examine this passage to see how we can cooperate with the Spirit in our transformation into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

It is helpful to remember that “spirituality is defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God.”

What are these gifts?

The gifts we are speaking of are not natural talents or abilities, although they are often compatible with our natural talents and abilities.

There are several lists of these gifts including 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4:7-13; and, 1 Peter 4:10-11. These catalogues of gifts reveal their rich diversity, mutual compatibility, and unified purpose. 

Peter writes that such gifts are “the wonderfully varied grace of God.”  

Receiving gifts

These gifts are given by the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to each of His people. In Corinthians, the focus is upon the Spirit as the giver of these gifts (12:11):

All these [gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

It is not for you to choose your gift; you receive these gifts from the Spirit.

How do you identify the gift or gifts he has given you?

Identifying your gift(s)

This is too large and important a question to answer here in detail. However, it is safe to assume that since the Spirit wants you to use your gift, he will help you identify what it is.

Other avenues of discernment include the counsel of those within your Jesus community (i.e., church), your effectiveness in the use of a gift, and your joy in serving with that gift.

Why is it that so many followers of Jesus do not seem to know what their gifts are?

Missing your gift(s)

So often we serve out of a sense of duty, or we’ve identified a need, or we’re fulfilling someone’s expectations. Of course, there may be circumstances where grace demands that a legitimate need be met. Applications abound for the 'neighbor principle' drawn from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

Is duty, need, or expectation, sufficient for the direction and motivation of your service of others? I argue that this type of motivation frequently causes us to miss our gifts.

These gifts from the Spirit are to be exercised for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 12:7), inter-dependently with others (12:14, 20), and in a mutuality of concern and purpose (12:25-26).

Above all, our gifts need to be used in cooperation with the Spirit’s purposes.

Your gift(s) and transformation

Identifying, developing, and using your gift or gifts leads you to that 'place' of cooperation with the Spirit. Anything short of this results, more or less, in working for your own purposes with your own resources.

It is in the realm of the gifts the Spirit has given you that you are taken beyond the limits of your individual purposes, abilities, and resources – you enter that ‘place’ of participating with the Spirit in divine initiatives and divine results.

In participating with the Spirit, you advance the process of your transformation into the likeness of Jesus.

What are some of your practices and experiences in identifying, developing, and using your gifts?

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