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“What’s Your Spiritual Gift?”—The Question I Always Dreaded

“What’s your spiritual gift?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked at far too many small group meetings. That question and conversations around it have always made me uncomfortable, and I’ve only recently begun to articulate why.

What started as “time to share your spiritual gifts” often turned into a time for people to share personal skills or personality traits, and then label these with biblical-sounding names of spiritual gifts. These conversations were self-focused, and it seemed that many people confused talents for spiritual gifts.

I also wondered why no one in my church shared about spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues or prophecy. Were these kinds of gifts obsolete, or were my church members and I missing out?

In more recent years, searching for clarity around these questions has exposed two significant misconceptions I didn’t realize I held about spiritual gifts. It has helped me understand, seek, and appreciate them on a whole new level.

 

Spiritual Gifts Are Different From Talents

I spent one summer as an intern for a youth program, and the position required speaking at several youth events throughout the summer. Generally, I am a terrible public speaker. It is not a natural talent of mine.

The first few times, I tried speaking by my own talent and ability. As expected, I got nervous; the students were distracted; I didn’t speak clearly; and by the end of my time, I think everyone was uncomfortable and thankful it was over.

Fortunately, our natural talents and strengths are not the same as spiritual gifts. Sometimes, God surprises us by enabling us to do something we are not naturally gifted at.

There was one particular event that summer where I was expected to speak. Instead of relying on myself this time, I released control of planning, and prayerfully sought God’s will to learn what and how I should share with the students. And as it turned out, God’s Spirit led and directed the message I shared. The students were engaged and very responsive. In a very real way, I experienced the spiritual gift of teaching.

Of course, sometimes God does develop the natural gifts we have and uses them for His work. Spiritual gifts and talents can overlap. I think the key difference is that talents and strengths can be developed by human effort, apart from the Spirit. Spiritual gifts, on the other hand, are completely empowered by the Holy Spirit and beyond our own achievements.

Additionally, God never uses spiritual gifts for the glory of man. Spiritual gifts work through God’s people for the purpose of furthering His Kingdom and His glory.

 

Miraculous Gifts Still Happen

In 1 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul writes about gifts of healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. But the churches I grew up in avoided talking about these things. When we discussed spiritual gifts, the focus was always on leading, serving, teaching, encouraging (Romans 12:6-8). . . you know, the safe, non-controversial gifts.

While it’s true that the manifestation of God’s Spirit doesn’t look the same to everyone, it is also true that our God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore (Hebrews 13:8). I haven’t personally spoken in tongues, or witnessed the miraculous healing of a deformed limb. And I know some Christians believe that these miraculous gifts ceased soon after the age of the apostles. But lately, I’ve learned that just because I haven’t experienced something, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

In fact, God has recently endowed several of my close friends and family members with spiritual gifts of prophetic words, visions, speaking in tongues, and even the gift of healing. In the past when I heard of accounts like this, I was tempted to rationalize and minimize them, because they were so foreign and unfamiliar to me. But lately, when I hear testimonies from people who  are experiencing spiritual gifts in a way that is honoring God, it prompts me to praise God. It also leads me to earnestly desire to experience these gifts myself (1 Corinthians 14:39-40).

I have confidence that God’s power is still the same today as it was yesterday. God is so big and so powerful. Rather than discounting how God works through His people, we should trust that He will gift us in a variety of ways, always according to His perfect plan and perfect timing.

Continue to Seek the Spirit

Being able to distinguish my natural talents and abilities from gifts of the Spirit has helped me immensely. As someone who doesn’t feel particularly talented in any one area, I now understand that God will absolutely work through me—even if I’m not the best at any certain thing. That’s because it isn’t about me and my abilities at all. It’s about God and the power of His Spirit!

God gives us exactly what we need to fulfill His purpose. Sometimes that provision looks like serving, teaching, encouraging, or giving. Other times, it looks like gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, or prophesying. I know that God is all-powerful, and He displays that power in many different ways. Accepting this moves me to praise God and seek Him even more!

Why Don’t Miracles Happen Anymore (Or Do They)?

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

When we were kids, I watched my brother nearly lose his life more than once as he underwent open heart surgery. The surgeon sat us down once, and told us that if my brother survived the night, they’d likely have to amputate his leg.

I watched as tears fell down the doctor’s face. I wanted to curl up in a ball and go back to a few days before when we were playing together outside and everything was fine. Never had my little heart prayed harder than in those following hours.

Only by God’s power did my brother make it through that night, and only by God’s grace did the nurses manage to discover a blood condition he had that was causing a 12-inch blood clot in his leg. Slowly, they figured out what was causing him to become so sick, and day by day, he started to improve. It took 28 days, but he pushed through, one step at a time. There were lots and lots of tears and setbacks and bumps along the way, but God held us together and got us all through it.

Today, my brother is living a normal life. He takes blood thinners and though he did have a blood clot a couple years ago, his leaking heart valve is repaired and he can do anything everyone else can do. He’s now a nurse at a hospital, helping those who are sick as he was when he was a child.

Looking back, I can say without a doubt that God performed a miracle to keep my brother alive.

 

Everyday Occurrences

But such extraordinary events are usually few and far between. Some of us may have the opportunity to witness them in our lifetimes but not for the majority of us.

Why don’t things that happened in the Bible happen anymore?

Why aren’t blind people given sight? Why can’t people walk on water? How come none of us can change water into wine, or multiply a few loaves of bread into enough to feed thousands? Why aren’t people spared their lives after being swallowed by a whale?

Instead, we witness people drowning in boating accidents, parents struggling to feed their children one meal a day, family and friends suffering from illnesses.

Why don’t miracles happen anymore?

As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a miracle is:

  1. an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
  2. an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

Though what we see today might not be as extraordinary as in the biblical times, I would argue that miracles are still as evident as ever. We wake up each day, heart beating, blood pumping through our veins, adrenaline rushing. We walk outside to the sun shining down on us, rain falling from the sky. We observe the seasons changing, leaves falling, crops sprouting, farmers harvesting. These are things we have grown so accustomed to, that have lost their uniqueness, their wonder and awe.

But let’s take a step back and relook these “everyday occurrences”. Think of a baby being born. She comes out of the womb, takes a breath, cries, and knows how to suck in order to get nutrients from the mother. Without being taught, without being told what to do, the baby just knows what it needs to do to survive.

Consider the sun, the moon, and the stars and the beautiful creation of oceans, mountains, hills and valleys. They’re placed precisely where they need to be in order to maintain life on earth.

You see, the miracles in the present age are different from what we read in the Bible, but they are as evident as ever before. What we view as impossible―the diagnosis of what appears to be no hope, the loveless marriage that is headed for divorce, the circumstances in which you feel forgiveness will never be granted―we see these negative situations and feel there is no hope, but then we see God move and soften hearts and flip the situations around. It’s just like what is said in Luke 18:27, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Why are these miracles different from those of the Israelites or the apostles back in the day? Why can’t we ask the Lord for something in prayer and it be granted to us, since we can no longer physically touch Jesus for healing like they did in the Bible? We don’t know for sure why the miracles vary, but regardless, God is still moving and He is still present. He is all around us, at every moment, and He hears our cries and pleas and is working everything together for our good (Romans 8:28).

A miracle doesn’t have to be a huge display of completely amazing happenings, it can be found in the simplicity of the ordinary. Every breath we take is a miracle. Every day we wake up, we’re given another chance to carry out another day. If life in itself isn’t a miracle, then I don’t know what is.

When God Didn’t Heal Me

Written By Juan Carlos Tulalian, Philippines

For the past few days, I had been down with a bout of flu. Fortunately, I was cured after taking some medication. I thank God for healing me; I believe that divine healing can take place through medicine. It got me thinking, however, about miracles—and why God sometimes doesn’t heal us.

When I was young, I followed a Christian television program that featured an evangelist-faith healer. His miracle-healing ministry caught my attention and gave me hope that God would heal me of the abnormality in my right abdomen. Once, the pastor said that if we were to give such and such amount, the Lord would pour out His blessings, there would be divine healing and great revival, the gates of heaven would open to a flood of blessings, and so on and so forth. “Wow!” I thought. “This is awesome!”

I felt my faith come alive, and immediately gave a pledge of 500 Philippine pesos together with a prayer request. I followed the pastor’s prayer and believed wholeheartedly that God was going to heal me and solve all my problems. I was expecting a great miracle, together with signs and wonders.

But nothing happened. I received no healing, no deliverance, no revival, and no change . . . nothing. I didn’t stop believing in God, but I was most disappointed, frustrated and discouraged. “Why was God delaying?” I asked. “Why didn’t He answer my sincere prayer for a miracle or divine healing?”

Over time, I became skeptical about miracles. I became someone who needed evidence before I would believe something I was told. I would not easily believe claims of a miracle—that the blind could see, the lame could walk, the deaf could hear—or anything involving supernatural power. I would not believe anyone who said he saw heaven or hell, or claimed to have seen signs and wonders.

Years later, I was still asking the same questions. “If God is sovereign,” I asked, “then why does He seem to limit His power regarding miracles, divine healing, divine interventions, or signs and wonders?”

Why we don’t get more miracles

Some believe that God doesn’t give us what we want for two main reasons: we lack faith, or we have sin. But these reasons didn’t seem to explain why God doesn’t always give us divine healing. Perhaps, I thought, there were other reasons.

I started to wonder, do miracles really make our faith stronger? Do signs and wonders really convince more people to believe in God or in His existence?

In the four Gospels, we can see that Jesus didn’t always heal or perform miracles, signs, and wonders. When He did, the miracles were shown to selected people and were purposeful—they demonstrated the Kingdom of God, or showed that helping the poor, sick, or oppressed people had to be holistic.

In the book of Acts, too, Jesus’ disciples performed miracles, signs, and wonders in a very purposeful and significant way. The miracles convinced many people to believe and follow Christ. I do wonder, though: Did their faith become more rooted? Did all the witnesses of the miracles take up their cross, deny themselves and follow Jesus?

The right motivation

We may not know or understand why God chooses not to give us miracles or divine healing. But I do believe that if a heart longs for God’s power rather than God himself, then it misses the point. If our relationship with God is based on signs and wonders, we will not have a true, intimate relationship with Him.

Many of us today are thirsty for miracles, signs, and wonders. We long to see God’s supernatural power manifested. But we need to avoid portraying Him like the genie in the bottle who tells its holder, “Your wish is my command.”

Instead, we need to seek God himself rather than His miracles. Our relationship with God needs to be based on obedience and not demands.

God can give us miracles if He wants, according to His own will and purpose. But if we believe in God or love Him only because He performs miracles, provides healing, and gives us signs and wonders, then we miss the point. God may use miracles to evangelize, but what is more important is that people seek Him—with or without any miracle. What matters to Him is that we worship Him simply because He is God, and have an intimate relationship and fellowship with Him.

Miracles of Calvary

Miracle #1: The Day-time Darkness

It was the third hour that Christ was nailed on the cross—for our sins. That is about 9 a.m. Three hours later, darkness fell upon the land at what was supposed to be the brightest time of the day. The sun stopped shining at 12 noon and the skies remained dark till 3 p.m.

Luke 23:44-45 (NIV) It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.

This is not something that we usually think about during Easter, much less at other times. However, this event as we read it now, affirms our faith.

Who is behind this supernatural phenomenon? Who has the power to contradict the laws of nature? The answer is obvious. The Lord God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

2-miracle

Miracle #2: The Split Veil

Matthew 27:50-51 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.

Immediately after Christ’s last words, “It is finished”, the veil that separated The Holy Place and the Most Holy Place tore from top to bottom. The barrier that separated man from God was removed. This meant that anyone could enter into the presence of God. Imagine seeing this very event happening right before your very eyes! A veil exquisitely made to order by God (Exodus 26:31-34) torn into two. How would this affect you?

Only through Christ’s death could sinners be made right with God and enjoy fellowship with Him. No other works or system can open the way for us to enter into God’s presence. This miracle reminds us to dwell in God’s presence more often. There is no reason why you can’t or shouldn’t now.

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Miracle #3: The Big Shake

Matthew 27:50-51 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split.
The significance of Jesus Christ’s death and His cry of victory were amplified through the shaking of the earth and the splitting of rocks. That must have been one mighty earthquake! And it coincided with His death.

Some people might say that earthquakes happen often, however as believers, we take this timely occurrence to be caused by a direct intervention by the Almighty one.
God died for sinners. What an earthshaking truth!

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Miracle #4: The Opened Graves

Matthew 27:50-52 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open.

Following on from the earthquake, neither Christ’s body on the cross or the thieves that were hung beside Him were disturbed, but the graves of the saints. Who else could have designed such a miraculous event?

This strange scene happened on Friday afternoon before the Sabbath, and because no man was allowed to work on the Sabbath, the graves could not be closed. This miraculous effect of Christ’s death was openly exhibited.

The power of death has been broken and conquered by none other than Jesus Christ who paid the penalty of our sins.

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Miracle #5: The Cloths He Left Behind

John 20:6-8 (NIV) Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

Christ resurrected from the dead, before the stone that sealed His grave was rolled away. Peter and John saw that His clothes were exactly where His body laid. How could it be that no marks of disturbance were spotted? These are strong evidences that neither the stone nor the grave clothes could hold him back.

He has risen! It demonstrated that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. Our faith is not bogus; it is real. Therefore, preaching Christ is not senseless, and faith in Christ is not useless.

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Miracle #6: The Rising of Saints

Matthew 27:50-53 (NIV) And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

After Christ had risen, the saints arose and came out of their graves. This was the same kind of rising as that of Lazarus. There was no mentioned of their ascension into heaven. This was the biggest miracle anyone could experience and it must have caused a stir.

Jesus’ death provided the basis for the resurrection of believers who died before the Cross as well as after it. It proves that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that those who believe in Christ will not remain dead, but will be resurrected unto eternal life. That is our blessed hope!