How does God give spiritual gifts? Will God give me the gifts I ask for?
It is clear each believer has at least one spiritual gift. First Corinthians 12:6-7 notes, "there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
This same passage teaches spiritual gifts are given for the common good. In other words, gifts are shared according to what best helps the larger body of Christ rather than for the self-improvement of the individual. Spiritual gifts are given to use for serving others.
No one has every spiritual gift. First Corinthians 12:8-11 notes that one person is given a certain gift, and another person is given a different gift. A believer may have more than one spiritual gift, but no believer has every gift.
How does God decide which gift to give? Will God give me the gifts I want? First Corinthians 12:31 states, "But earnestly desire the higher gifts." Does this mean I should seek out additional gifts?
The answer is found in part in the verses that follow 1 Corinthians 12:31. Paul notes, "And I will show you a still more excellent way" to conclude chapter 12, followed by a chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13. First Corinthians 14 then discusses prophecy and speaking in tongues (or languages) as two important gifts because of their ability to reach unbelievers and help believers grow.
An overview of these chapters reveals that the apostle Paul taught love was the most excellent way that all believers were to seek. In addition to love, God gives spiritual gifts to help one another in the church and to reach those outside of the church. He concludes with, "But all things should be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40). Both showing genuine Christian love and the practice of spiritual gifts together in church gatherings are to take place with respect and order that honors God and helps others.
One final note also provides a profound look at God's care in designing us with certain gifts and abilities. When God called the prophet Jeremiah to serve Him, He said, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). Though this passage was written specifically to Jeremiah, God prepared us before we were born to serve Him in a particular way as well (see Psalm 139 and Ephesians 2:10). We need not compare our gifts or abilities to those of others. We are called to grow in love and to serve according to His will with the abilities He has given us.
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