I recently saw a spiritual gifts test booklet that made me cringe.
It was incredibly detailed, stretching on for 80+ pages, and included a complex set of questions and explanations. It was like the LSAT but more complicated and confusing.
As I skimmed it, I thought, Is this spiritual gifts test really necessary? Is figuring out my God-given gifts really this complex?
Thankfully, I don’t think things need to be so difficult. In fact, I think determining your spiritual gifts is incredibly simple.
God wants you to know your gifts. He’s not hiding them from you. You don’t have to embark on a lengthy, soul-searching journey culminating in transcendent mystical revelation.
Figuring out your spiritual gifts requires only two questions.
What Am I Good At?
Spiritual gifts fall into two categories: ordinary and extraordinary.
Now, to be clear, all spiritual gifts are extraordinary in that they all come from God. But some gifts operate through “ordinary” means while others are out of the ordinary (prophecy, healing, etc.).
Everyone has both ordinary and extraordinary gifts. You may disagree with this if you think the supernatural spiritual gifts aren’t for today, but that’s for a different post. For the sake of this “spiritual gifts test”, let’s focus on the ordinary gifts.
Romans 12:6-8 shows you how to identify your spiritual gifts:
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
In other words, if you’re good at something that’s probably your spiritual gift. Not super complicated here.
If you have a big capacity for serving people, you probably have the gift of serving. If you find yourself regularly compelled to give sacrificially, above and beyond your normal giving, you probably have the gift of giving. If you’re good at teaching, that’s probably your gift.
I don’t think the gifts list in Romans 12 is meant to be exhaustive. I believe God gives people loads of gifts that aren’t specifically mentioned. It’s meant as instruction for how to use our gifts (with everything in us).
You don’t need an 80-page spiritual gifts test to figure this out. If you seem to be particularly good at something, that’s probably a gift from God (unless we’re talking something like competitive eating).
These gifts are to be used to build up the church.
What Do Other People Say You’re Good At?
God also uses others to confirm our spiritual gifts.
If you have zero idea what your gifts might be, ask your friends, “What am I good at?”
Don’t do this in an annoying, fishing for compliments sort of way. Just tell them you’re trying to figure out how to more effectively serve.
If they tell you that administration is your strength, run with that. Try to find more opportunities to serve with your organization skills. If they tell you that you’re good at helping people find jobs (which is a way of serving), run hard at that. If you’re good at explaining the Bible, look for opportunities to lead Bible studies.
Again, God doesn’t want this to be complex. He wants you to know your gifts. This isn’t like those career choice tests you took in high school where you could end up as a tax lawyer or a brick layer. God makes this simple and straightforward.
You Can Grow In Your Spiritual Gifts
God wants you to know your gifts and grow in them. Spiritual gifts aren’t like your coordination levels, which top off and can never be improved. They’re like plants which can be nurtured and strengthened.
In the parable of the talents, the master gives one 5, another 2, and another 1. The focus of the parable isn’t on how many talents each was given, but what they did with them.
The first two went to work immediately, busting their butts to increase the number of talents they had. The third one went hoarder style and buried his talent in the ground.
When servants 1 and 2 doubled their talents, the master said, “Well done.” He reamed out the third one, rebuking him for being so wicked and lazy.
The point is that doesn’t matter how many gifts you have or how impressive they are, but how you use them. God desires you to use your gifts, which in turn causes them to increase. If you don’t use your gifts they’ll atrophy, like a muscle after surgery.
God says, “Well done,” to those who get busy, not those who are the most impressive.
Keep It Simple
The whole idea of a spiritual gifts test can make things way more complicated than God desires. It’s not complex. It’s not mysterious or mystical. What are you good at? What do others affirm?
If you still don’t feel like you know what your gifts are, try serving in a bunch of areas and see what sticks.
God wants you to serve him and he’ll make it clear.
Stephen Altrogge is a writer who lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife and 3 daughters. You can find out more about him on The Blazing Center.