Have you ever met a person who just seemed to be gifted in a certain area? Maybe you've studied under a person with a gift for teaching, or you've listened to someone with a gift for music. Gifted means a person's ability is exceptional. It means that person has a special skill that many of us do not possess.

Yet no matter how gifted an individual is in a particular area, rarely, if ever, will one individual be exceptional in every area of life. No matter how good the surgeon may be, he still must depend on other people to fix his car or paint his wife's portrait. This is no less true within the church.

My friend Chuck recently took a job in another country, and he believed that God wanted him to give his minivan to the church for Kingdom use rather than sell it to strangers. Not only did his action serve as a huge blessing to others, the timing couldn't have been better. Chuck is not gifted in every area of his life, but he excels in the areas of giving and service.

What is a Spiritual Gift?

Unlike other kinds of gifts, a spiritual gift is God-given. Through these gifts, God gives His people the ability to excel in particular areas of ministry in order to serve others and further His kingdom.

In 1 Corinthians 12:27, the Apostle Paul teaches, "Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it." Because Christ's church is made of many individuals with different gifts, God expects us to depend on others in the areas in which we don't excel. In 1 Peter 4:10, we learn that "based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God." In my own life, for example, I know that any success I've had in ministry was completely dependent on the undergirding prayers of spiritual warriors who have surrounded me over the years.

Throughout his letters, Paul mentions several spiritual gifts, including wisdom, faith, discernment, teaching, administration, service, mercy, hospitality, and encouragement. (See 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Romans 12:3-8; and Ephesians 4:11.) But many interpret his lists as a sampling of the kinds of gifts God has given to His people for serving the body, not necessarily a conclusive list.

There is a distinction, though, between spiritual gifts and natural talents, although both are to be used for God's glory. While most people are born with certain abilities, only believers receive spiritual gifts. For example, a woman might be a naturally talented story teller, but that's not a spiritual gift; however, God may give her the gift of teaching, allowing her to use her ability to bring His Word to life for others.

Opening Your Spiritual Gifts

Any gift that's left unopened or is disregarded is useless. God gives us specific spiritual gifts as the primary avenue for Him to use us in His church to bless others. Every Christian should watch for opportunities to minister to others, to use their gifts as a blessing and an encouragement to others. Even the newest Christian can serve others.

Spiritual gifts are not meant to draw attention to ourselves. God gives them so we can bless and build up others. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul basically says, "If I have all the gifts but do not have love, I am nothing." Conceit, pride, and selfish motives will cancel out the blessing your gift was meant to be.

If others are not encouraged, honored, built-up, strengthened, equipped, or edified through your gift, you may be serving in the wrong ministry or misdirecting your efforts.

Philippians 2:3-4 challenges us to "do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others."

There have been several people over the years who not only used their gifts effectively but were a gift of God to me and our church. Pray that you would be such a person to others.

This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

Dr. Tom Blackaby serves as the Director of International Ministries for Blackaby Ministries International. He is the second son of Henry and Marilynn Blackaby. He is married to Kim and they have three children: Erin, Matthew, Conor. They reside in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada.