Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Discovering and Using Your Gift - Spiritual Gift or Natural Talent (Part 2)

By Ray Stedman

One common area of confusion—and one fact we must clearly understand—is that a spiritual gift is not the same as a natural talent. It is true that talents such as musical ability, artistic skills, athletic coordination, and the like are also gifts from God. But they are not spiritual gifts. They are gifts on a physical or social level only, given to benefit mankind in the natural realm.

Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are given to benefit mankind and the church in the realm of the Spirit, the realm of an individual's relationship to God. The effect of a spiritual gift is to enhance a person in his own spirit's enjoyment of the life and love of God—to bless him, in other words. Moreover, since the spirit is the most fundamental part of person's being, from which all other relationships flow, it is clear that the exercise of spiritual gifts operates at the deepest level of human existence, and strikes right at the root of all human problems.

Talents deal more with the surfaces of life. Though useful or entertaining, talents do not permanently affect and change people as spiritual gifts can do. Talents, obviously, are distributed to men and women quite apart from any reference to their spiritual condition. Non-Christians as well as Christians have talents, and both can find many opportunities for useful expression of their talents in both religious and secular ways. Only Christians have spiritual gifts, because these gifts are given only to those in whom the Spirit of Christ has come to dwell (1 Corinthians. 12:7).

It is quite possible, therefore, for a Christian to have a talent for teaching, for instance, but not to have the spiritual gift of teaching. If that is the case and he were asked to teach a Sunday School class, for example, he would be quite capable of imparting considerable information and knowledge of facts to his class—but his teaching would lack the power to bless and advance his students spiritually. This fact helps to explain the many qualified secular teachers who do not do well at all as Sunday school teachers. On the other hand, many school teachers also possess, as Christians, the spiritual gift of teaching and are greatly used of God in Bible classes and Sunday school teaching.

It is also quite possible to exercise a spiritual gift through the channel of a natural talent. This is frequently seen in the ministry of Christian singers. We have all heard Christian soloists with great voices whose musical talents would have pleased secular audiences anywhere. But in addition to their talent, they possessed great power to impart spiritual enrichment through their singing, leaving their audiences spiritually refreshed and strengthened. Most often it is the gift of exhortation that the singer is exercising, but it is being carried by his or her musical talent just as a telephone wire carries a human voice.

Of course we have all been treated also to the disappointing experience of listening to a Christian performer sing without exercising any spiritual gift. It may have been a virtuoso performance, a triumph of technical artistry, yet we find our hearts are left cold and unmoved. The lesson is clear: Don't try to use your natural talents alone to accomplish the work of God, for talent alone cannot operate in that sphere. But if you use your talents as channels or vehicles for your spiritual gifts, then you will find they dovetail beautifully, just as you might expect they would since both talents and gifts come from the same God.

Perhaps the question most pressing upon you right now is, "How do I discover my spiritual gifts? If they are the doorway to a new world of fulfillment and challenge, then I surely want to know what mine are! But where to I begin to discover them?" The answer is really very simple. You discover a spiritual gift just like you discovered your natural talents!

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