The Bible plainly tells us that every Christian is given a spiritual gift, some ability to serve the church. But it is just that teaching that leaves many in a quandary: What is my spiritual gift? This very practical question is a good one to consider. But sometimes it seems that the answers given only further complicate and confuse the issue.
Some will say to look down the lists in Scripture in order to discover your gift. The problem with that answer is that the lists are not necessarily exhaustive; they are not complete, except in general categories.
Some say to pray for a gift, but that cannot be right, for the gifts are sovereignly given, "as it pleased Him" (I Corinthians 12:18; see also verse 11).
If you are wondering what is your spiritual gift, the following three steps may be helpful. The first two are very practical and seem reasonable; the third is the expressed answer of Scripture and so will be examined more fully.
Examine Your DESIRES
First of all, examine your desires. Simply ask yourself, "What do I want?" If God gifts you a certain way, it is reasonable to assume that he will with that gift also give you the desire to exercise it. For example, I struggled a while with the decision to preach, but it was not because I didn't want to preach. Quite the contrary. I did want to exercise that gift, otherwise there would have been no struggle! But because I felt unable and inadequate on the one hand and unwilling to endure its attending problems on the other, I had a struggle. But God gave the desire as well as the gift. You should find the same.
Now be careful! You must examine your motives as well -- they can be deceiving. Your "call to service" may in reality merely be a desire to excell or to be noticed. This was one part of the Corinthians' problem -- they wanted the gifts which made them noticed and prominent. James alludes to this very problem in James 3:1 where he commands his readers that they should not all try to be teachers. Many, it seems, have wanted to teach and lead because of the honor associated with such activity. But desire for prominence is not a proper motive; desire to serve others in the best way possible is.
Examine the EVIDENCE
Next, examine the evidence. Don't be naive like the man who was sure that he had the gift of teaching but was puzzled why no one else seemed to have the gift of listening! Now certain gifts must be developed, sharpened; but if the evidence says there is no giftedness, then find another area of service. If you have been successful in encouraging, comforting, or even patiently rebuking people in the Lord, your gift may be exhortation. And so on it goes -- simply examine the evidence in light of your desires.
Examine the OPPORTUNITIES
Finally, examine the opportunities God has given you. This is the stress of the New Testament in this regard. Simply ask what is available. Look to see what is needed. Endeavor to find how you can serve and best benefit the body. Simply look for a need which you are able to fill.
These guidelines just mentioned seem to be in keeping with related Biblical principles. But it is enlightening at this juncture to observe that the apostle Paul, in all of his discussion of spiritual gifts, nowhere gives any instruction on how to recognize your gift. He goes to great lengths to let you know that you have one and that you should use it to the good of the body, but he neither asks nor answers the question of how to discover your specific gift. This is fascinating in comparison to all the worry over the question today. The contrast is staggering! Evidently, to the New Testament writers, recognition of your spiritual gift is relatively unimportant. I say evidently -- it is evident by virtue of the fact that the question is just never discussed.
There is a reason for this. It may be that the very asking of the question could lead to a wrong answer. Let me explain. The focus of spiritual gifts is service, service for the edifying of others. Since that is the case, it would be much more in keeping with the apostle's instruction not to ask, "What is my spiritual specialty?" but to ask simply, "Where can I best serve?" Within the range of opportunities God has placed before you, where can you be most effective? What are the needs that face you? And how are you best able to meet those needs?
To answer these questions is to find your spiritual gift, and it also is a check on your motives.
We have fallen into the error, today, of finding nice, tidy answers to questions which the New Testament writers neither asked nor answered. The burden of their teaching in this regard was,
1) You have a spiritual gift, and
2) You need to serve and edify the body of Christ with it.
Any and all other considerations are at best secondary and at worst confusing -- in which case they hinder more than help.
Do you wonder what is your gift? Have you been asking that question in frustration with some of the answers given you? Then it is time to begin searching for a place of service -- teaching, giving, helping, or whatever. Having found a place of service which you are able to fill effectively, you will have discovered your gift. The gift will become evident by your very exercise of it.
The emphasis of Scripture is body function and mutual help and edification. Our emphasis must be the same.