Do you trust God in the area of spiritual gifts?
While talking to my brothers and sisters at church or scrolling social media, I want what other people have—specifically, their spiritual gifts, opportunities, and influence. I hear about that wonderful ministry event she spoke at, or I see how widely she’s influencing other believers, and I think, How did those doors open for her? Why haven’t I had that chance?
Or in moments of total pride: What she’s doing isn’t as neat as what I just got to do.
Five Truths to Help You Trust God
In our sinful state, our hearts wander into covetousness, comparison, and criticism when it comes to the gifts God gives his people. Instead of seeing what God has graciously given—our spiritual gifts, opportunities, and influence—we often fixate on what he hasn’t given us.
But we can trust God with the gifts he gives. Because of Christ, we’re free to celebrate the diverse spiritual gifts within his body and rest in what God has given each of us. This is the better way—and Paul draws it out for us in 1 Corinthians 12. Here, he gives us five truths that will help us trust God as he distributes spiritual gifts.
Truth #1: God’s gift of salvation propels our gifts and opportunities.
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church because some people had been abusing their spiritual gifts for selfish purposes, rather than building up the body. “This church was rich in gifts, but there were many things scandalously out of order in it,” says Matthew Henry . Their situation teaches us how necessary it is for us to take hold of Christ’s finished work of salvation before we work out our spiritual gifts—for a right use of our spiritual gifts is rooted in the gospel!
Gratitude for Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice will motivate us to serve his church, not ourselves, through our gifts. And humility before his resurrected and ascended glory will propel us to meekly accept whatever opportunities come our way, knowing we deserve quite the opposite because of our sin.
Why do you use your spiritual gifts? Are you propelled to our Lord’s work because of what he’s done for your soul? We may not necessarily say, “Jesus is accursed”—but we should examine why we’re exercising our spiritual gifts: for our glory, or his? For our good, or the good of the church?
Truth #2: God’s Spirit assigns us our gifts and opportunities.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone….All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (12:4-6, 11)
Our gifts and opportunities aren’t distributed at random, nor do we choose them; rather, the Spirit perfectly and purposefully assigns them to us:
May [the Spirit of God] not give to what persons he pleases, and in what proportion he pleases; one gift to one man, and another to another; to one more, and another fewer, as he thinks fit? Is he not the best judge how his own purpose shall be served, and his own donatives bestowed? It is not as men will, nor as they may think fit, but as the Spirit pleases.
God always does as he pleases, in unmatched wisdom. He alone knows exactly why you and I have been given the gifts we’ve been given. He knows why pastors preach and teachers teach; why some men and women are great encouragers; how others are gifted at showing mercy; and why some individuals give as generously as they do. These are divine assignments!
Truth #3: God’s sovereign choice means we needn’t covet, criticize, or compare ourselves to others’ gifts and opportunities.
If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (12:17-18)
This is where the rubber meets the road for us: If it’s true that our gifts begin with our salvation (with God, not us!) and the Spirit assigns them, then what are we doing when we covet, criticize, or compare ourselves to what others have? Aren’t we saying that God hasn’t done his job well, and that we’ve got better ideas than him?
When I’m quick to desire the influence another female teacher or writer has been entrusted with, when I’m puffed up about my own gifts, when I’m frustrated by an opportunity that’s passed me by and gone to another person, I’m questioning God’s sovereign choice. Within my heart, I’m saying to him, What you chose isn’t good.
In these moments, God in his grace points us back to Truth #1: Everything we have, whether our salvation or our spiritual gifts, comes from God through the Holy Spirit; and therefore, if we’ve declared “Jesus is Lord,” we have every reason to trust that his lordship extends even to our gifts and opportunities. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s always good.
Truth #4: God’s purpose for our gifts and opportunities is love.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (12:24-25)
The Corinthian church’s spiritual shenanigans were causing rifts within the congregation, even though God had called them to use their gifts to “care for one another.” I wonder how different our churches and ministries would be if we trusted the way God gave out his gifts, and then sought to use them in love. Often, we’re so busy competing with each other that we miss out on the beauty of God’s perfect composition! Rather than enjoying what he’s made, we envy it. Rather than looking for opportunities to love each other with our gifts, we’re looking at the gifts, themselves; they become an end—often a selfish end—rather than a means to God’s end.
But what if we viewed our gifts and opportunities as instruments of love? What if, every time I wrote something or spoke at an event, I prayed for God to use it to care for his people? How then would our perspective of other people’s gifts change?
Truth #5: God’s plan for our gifts and opportunities is unity within diversity.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (12:27-28)
God has put together a variety of gifts within his church, and his plan is that we’ll display Christ to each other and the world. That’s our goal! Diversity of gifts and opportunities is God’s plan, and when we remember this truth, we’ll more readily rejoice to serve him in our respective ways.
God hasn’t messed up in not making me like my brother or sister—he’s done so on purpose, for the sake of his Son. And how much more will the world take notice when we’re all beautifully loving one another through the use of our spiritual gifts, ultimately displaying the glory of our Savior, who first loved us?
Jesus Is Lord Over Your Spiritual Gifts
This high calling is all the more reason we return, again and again, to the first truth: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” Our gracious Lord and Savior offers us mercy and help in time of need. We can ask him to cultivate in us a deeper trust in God’s design for our gifts and opportunities by his Spirit—
And we can pray for great joy and freedom to use what God has graciously given each of us.
1. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2265). Peabody: Hendrickson.