Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 12

Three basic truths about spiritual gifts

  1. A spiritual gift is like a part of the body because every part belongs and has a reason for being in the body.

  2. A spiritual gift is also like a part of the body because every part needs the other parts.

  3. A spiritual gift is like a part of the body because it does something for the body.

How do you discover the gift God has given you through faith?

  1. Spend time praying to the One who gave you the gift.

  2. Study the Bible.

  3. Ask those who know you well.

  4. Serve!


When I was home one Christmas with my family, we watched movies of when I was a child. One clip was a Christmas morning where my five sisters and I ran into the living room filled with gifts. Each of us ran to our stack of toys and began to open boxes and take out everything from skates to a BB gun. It was funny to see me dressed up in a cowboy outfit with my new rifle chasing my sisters around the room. We all laughed when my father stopped me abruptly to allow my sisters some peace to play with their new toys.

[Presenter: get a video or movie clip from a childhood Christmas to portray the same event.]

Like children running to open their gifts on Christmas morning, followers of Jesus should have the same anticipation and excitement to unwrap their spiritual gifts. God is a gift-giving God. He does not give simply to secure our eternal relationship with Him, but He gives the gift of salvation and spiritual gifts so we can participate in what He is doing to redeem people to Him.

Every Christian needs to know that "to receive God's grace for salvation is to receive God's gift for service." Jesus did not pay the price of a crucifixion death so we can sit happily at home with a remote control in our hand or so we can have the latest "Fast and Furious" version of a Honda Civic. Jesus paid the price so we could have a life of eternal purpose for His glory. He gave each one of us a gift of His Spirit in order to be a functioning member of his body, the church.

The Bible teaches

  • That each follower of Jesus has a spiritual gift that translates into a function within the church. (1 Cor. 12:7)

  • This gift is for the common good of the church, not a special attribute of personality or a talent.

  • This gift is a manifestation of God's Holy Spirit in the follower's life that supernaturally empowers him or her to serve as a member of the body of Christ.

Here are some basic truths about spiritual gifts that can help you in your quest to live as God created you. Spiritual gifts are like parts of a body.

1. Every part belongs and has a reason for being in the body.

Paul, the missionary, used this analogy: The eye can't say to the ear that because it is not an eye, it doesn't belong to the body (1 Cor. 12:14-16). No, if the whole body were an eye, no one would smell anything! So, no matter the gift God has given you, you belong to the body of Christ. No one can say you don't belong.

The Bible says, "But now God has placed the parts, each one of them, in the body just as He wanted." 1 Cor 12:18 (HCSB). If you have trusted Jesus as your Lord, you belong to the body of Christ.

[You could play the tune, "If We Are the Body," on Casting Crown's self-titled CD, here to illustrate how everyone belongs because of the price Jesus paid.]

2. Every part needs the other parts.

Again, Paul reminds us that the eye (who must be pretty proud of himself because he keeps telling the others they aren't needed) can't say to the hand, "I don't need you." If that were true, you could see the food but couldn't get it to your mouth. An eye without a hand would be a disadvantage. No, the eye and hand need each other.

Even those parts that seem less important are necessary for the health of the body (1 Cor. 12:24-25). For example, although the thyroid gland is small and unseen, if it gets sick, the whole body gets sick. You can't say to anyone in your group "We don't need you." God has made it clear that everyone who is part of the church has a useful function-even if you can't see that clearly. They may be a thyroid gland, and you are looking for an arm.

3. Spiritual gifts contribute to the body.

Your gift is to be used in order to help the body of Christ function in the world. For example, the spiritual gift of service is the hand of Christ in the world. People with this gift perform acts of service that demonstrate God's love to others. Their service may take the form of setting up chairs in the youth center to carrying food to a family in need. Another example is the gift of exhortation or encouragement that can be viewed as the arm of the church that you put around those who are discouraged or need someone to walk alongside them.

[I have matched body parts with each of the gifts in Jesus on Leadership Student Edition. You could show these comparisons in a presentation slide or give them in a handout to illustrate the point.]

You have a gift given by God when you trust Jesus. That gift means you belong to the body, and you have a place of service in the body.

So, how do you discover the gift God has given you through faith?

1. Spend time praying to the One who gave you the gift.

Prayer is conversation with God. The more time you spend talking with God, the more opportunity you have to learn what He has gifted you to do as a part in His body. Like an apprentice who asks the master craftsman how to use a tool, your prayerful questions will lead you to God's plans for why He has given you the gift. The Giver of the gift is the best guide to show you how to use it.

2. Study the Bible.

God has revealed his purposes for your spiritual gift in the Bible. Read and study passages like 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:1-8, and Ephesians 4:11-13. Knowing these verses will help you sort through all that has been written and spoken about spiritual gifts. Go to the Bible first, then, read what others have written about the gifts.

3. Ask those who know you well.

Since your spiritual gift is intended to be lived out in community, those who know you best can help you discover how God has gifted you for service. For example, a friend may say, "I am amazed at how easily you can talk to our friends about Jesus. I get so scared." A comment like this may be confirmation of your spiritual gift of evangelism. Someone else may comment on how well you help them to understand the Bible. This can be encouragement of your teaching gift. Listen to what others in your community of faith say about how you function as a follower of Jesus.

4. Serve!

When I got that BB gun for Christmas I started using it that day. I became pretty good at shooting it, too, but that never would have happened if I had left it in its box. The best way to learn how God has gifted you to serve as a member of the body of Christ is to serve (1 Peter 4:10). Start with what you are asked to do and see what makes your heart beat fast or what comes easiest to you. We think God always asks us to do what we can't do and what we don't want to do. It makes more sense that what you love to do for God may be the very thing He gifted you to do all along for Him.

God has placed a gift under the tree for you to open. Who would know there was a gift for him or her and not open it? You know you wouldn't. In faith, now begin to unwrap the gift God has for you.