Regarding a person’s gifts, I have been asked the question, “How do I find out what my ministry is?” In some ways that is like putting the cart before the horse. The gifts will define the ministry. In a similar way a horse will not be very effective in fulfilling its function of moving a cart along if it tries to push the cart from behind. However, if the horse is properly hooked up in front of the cart, it can pull a great load and fulfill its calling, so to speak. This analogy is helpful when it comes to the discussion of gifts, ministries, and the works of God.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
(4) There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
(5) There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
(6) There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
The individual gift in one’s life is like the horse that is part of God’s creation. The horse supplies the power much like the gifts, also part of God’s creative work, can be an avenue whereby the power of God is released in various ways. This correlation continues by understanding that a cart is man-made, as are ministries (ways of serving). While the gifts in a person’s life remain constant, his way of serving will change over time due to a variety of changes in his life. Likewise, the same horse can pull different carts according to the job to be done. In the case of gifts and ministry, as well as a horse and cart, the purpose is to get work done. The horse/cart carries a load from one place to another, while gifts/ministries are intended to carry out the works of God among His people.
As a person gets clear about the gifts he has received, the type of ministry through which these gifts will be put to work becomes more focused. Discovering the individual gifts of God’s grace in your life is a process, and generally will happen in three ways. The first avenue to consider is your personal assessment of your experiences, passions, and talents. None of these should be discounted as necessarily coincidental. God watches over His children from before birth.
Psalm 139:15 and 16
(15) My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
(16) your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
In the wisdom of God, all we are and will do are redeemable for His purposes. Being self-aware is very important in this discovery process. Personality inventories can be helpful in distinguishing for ourselves how we relate to life. Generally, individuals fall into two major categories, which are relational or conceptual. A good place to start is by taking into account how you relate to the world around you because God has gifted you in a way that is consistent with your way of relating to life.
Experience is also a great teacher, and even what we consider negative experiences can be very instructive. A difficult experience I had some years ago helped to clarify for me the fact that I am more conceptual than relational. I volunteered to lead a discussion group made up of members in our church. Each week I struggled with these meetings, becoming more and more discouraged as time went on. The discussion, as well as the overall experience of the small group, suffered as well. Eventually, I asked my wife, Mary, to lead the discussions. We both realized how gifted she was at leading small group discussions and how much better the group dynamic became.
Twenty-twenty hindsight is a great teacher, and many times our individual gifts of God’s grace become apparent in retrospect. As you look back and consider times you have served others, it is helpful to take into account how the experience affected you emotionally. In 1 Corinthians 14:1, we are told to be zealous for spiritual matters, of which the individual gifts in one’s life are a part. Ask yourself, “Was I energized or drained emotionally by the experience?” Even though physically exhausting, serving in a way that allows your gifts to be used can be very energizing emotionally.
Any honorable service rendered in love to others is commendable and will be rewarded by the Lord (Matt. 10:42). However, ministry (service) produced out of the individual gifts of God’s grace in your life has the potential of the power of God energizing it so as to accomplish the purposes of God in significant ways.
Another avenue a person’s individual gifts can become apparent is through the input of others. Brothers and sisters in Christ can provide confirmation and/or prophecy to help identify these gifts. The local fellowship is an indispensable resource whereby individuals can discover their gifts of God’s grace as well as see others’ various gifts in operation. The local fellowship is a safe environment to try different ways of serving. Personal mentorship and team ministry help us sort out over time how we are equipped to serve most effectually.
It is a good exercise to be aware of what stirs us in a way that might not move others. Many times I like to put it this way: “When you look at the Body of Christ or culture in general, what screams at you that needs to be done?” Those who lack maturity tend to tell others that they should do something to meet this “obvious” need. However, many times it is not so obvious to others because they do not have the gifts with which to minister most effectively in that area of need.
Finally, God can reveal to each of us either directly or by way of Scripture, the gifts He has given us. God has given individual gifts of grace to His children so that the Body of Christ can be served and His purposes advanced.
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.