When I got married, I received something I'd wanted for a long time: a beautiful KitchenAid mixer. But after setting up house, I realized I had no idea how to use the bulky contraption. It looked professional and impressive, but I already had a simpler electric hand mixer. So I found myself owning a gift I was now unsure I wanted. I'd heard its uses were amazing, but I hadn't experienced them.
Sometimes a spiritual gift feels like an expensive KitchenAid mixer; we want to have one, but we're not sure what it does and even less sure how to use it.
Life without Limits
As a teenager, I heard that we should discover our gifts by taking a spiritual gifts test. It sounded accessible and easy. A natural test-taker, I discovered a smattering of gifts that matched my personality and seemed to make sense. Some of my friends didn't seem to fare as well, feeling their tests came back all "vanilla." In the end, many lost confidence in this whole spiritual gift thing. But God gives regardless of our man-made inventories.
The lists gleaned from New Testament passages are more like starter kits, designed to get our creative juices flowing. The rest of Scripture doesn't give tidy, predictable ways for understanding the Spirit's work, so why would we expect the "gifts inventory" to be so neat and tidy? When the Spirit first filled people in the New Testament, he was like a violent wind, uncontainable and life altering. The Spirit's gifts range from speech to a donkey to prison breaks (Numbers 22:28, Judges 15:14). He's hardly limited by our list.1