Mother's Day. Father's Day. Christmas. Birthday. Anniversary. Opening up a new bank account. It seems like it's always gift-giving time. If you're a Christian, that certainly is true, although maybe not in the same sense.
Often when we hear someone play an inspiring musical piece or see an athlete perform a difficult fete, we say that person is so "gifted." What we really mean is "talented." True, everyone has at least one talent, but the Christian has something more: spiritual gifts.
Simply put, a spiritual gift is a God-given ability for spiritual service. One receives one or more spiritual gifts at the moment of salvation. Some of the gifts are: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, mercy, helps, and administration. Every believer has one or more of these gifts, and is expected to use them to build up the body of Christ and glorify God (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:11).
How do you know what your gifts are? One way is by checking your Desire, Affirmation, and Experience. Ask yourself, "What do I desire to do? How do I want to serve?" Then look for affirmation: What feedback do I get from other people? What do they say I do well or not so well?" Then think back on your experiences: "What have been the results of my work? Have people gotten saved or had their lives changed?" If what you have done in the past has been well received and borne fruit, then you have a pretty good idea of what your gifts are.
Remember that spiritual gifts are used for spiritual results. If your gift is teaching, but you are not teaching spiritual truths, then you are not exercising it properly. If your gift is the ability to help in the background, but you're not using it in a spiritual setting (church or ministry), then it's not being used properly. Of course, any setting that allows you to use the gift(s) for spiritual results is proper. For example, leading someone to Christ can be done anywhere. Showing mercy by praying for someone or giving a needy person a cup of cold water in the name of Christ is appropriate any time.
Can a person loose his or her gift(s)? The Bible does not indicate that someone can lose a gift, but it does teach that a Christian can lose his or her effectiveness. Paul disciplined himself and exercised hard so as not to be disqualified from his reward (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). He told young Timothy to not neglect the gift that he had (1 Timothy 4:14). The danger isn't so much burnout as it is rust out.
So, the good news is that you can perform a great service for God's kingdom, no matter how old you are or feel! God has given you gifts, and He wants you to share them with others. There is no retiring from this duty! Psalm 92:12-15 says:
12The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts our God.
14They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,
15proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him."
Ever get a gift that needed instructions and batteries? Spiritual gifts come with both. The instructions are simple: "Above all, love each other deeply" (1 Peter 4:8). And, the batteries are already supplied: "There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men" (1 Corinthians 12:6). It's gift-giving time!