Courtney Jacob

Unsung Virtues

Do you ever wonder, “What can I do to serve God?”

When we contemplate what spiritual gifts are necessary to serve in ministry, we probably think of gifts that directly relate to sharing God’s word like preaching, evangelism, and speaking in tongues— all gifts well suited to being a pastor or a missionary. We may include gifts like leading worship or teaching a Bible study. But if that’s the limit to what we consider spiritual gifts, it’s no wonder many Christians feel ill-equipped to do God’s work. We have the desire to serve God and his people, but we don’t think we possess the right gifts. What are ordinary Christians like you and me to do? What spiritual gifts might we have that we can we use to give glory to God?

The Apostles provide answers to these questions in their letters to the first-century believers; both Peter and Paul list gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows upon believers to empower them to live out their faith. In our Groundwork series, “Unsung Virtues,” we’ll explore four of these virtues that seem ordinary or mundane to us, but that the Apostles declare are unmistakably spiritual and vital to God’s mission.

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Preaching, evangelism, and speaking in tongues are unmistakably spiritual gifts. But would you ever consider throwing a party, caring for a sick friend, serving at a soup kitchen, or giving a donation to be spiritual acts of ministry?

Most of us would not regard these actions, or the giftings behind them,  as distinctly spiritual. Likely, these are just things we do, maybe because they interest us, because we’re good at them, or because they give us joy. Yet, both the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter include hospitality, mercy, service, and generosity in their discussion of spiritual gifts. So what makes these seemingly ordinary traits spiritual?

Gifts are spiritual when given to us by God and bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. These gifts are developed in us after we’ve been saved by grace. In fact, according to Peter, spiritual gifts are various forms of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10). Christians base their knowledge of spiritual gifts on three particular passages: 1 Peter 4:8-11, 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12:3-13. Yes, the obvious spiritual gifts are listed: speaking/preaching, discerning the spirits, teaching, speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, healing, miraculous powers, and prophecy, but so are seemingly simple virtues like faith, hospitality, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, generosity, service, encouragement, and leadership.

Peter and Paul make it clear that every believer receives spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10 begins, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.” Paul echoes that same expectation in 1 Corinthians 12:7 when he writes, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…”

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

God intends for us to use our spiritual gifts to help and serve each other. Peter writes in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others.” And similarly, if we finish reading 1 Corinthians 12:7 we read, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

In both Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares how we use these gifts to how a body functions. All parts are interconnected and need each other. Dallas Willard summarizes Paul’s point beautifully in his book, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives:

“The diverse gifts or graces of the Spirit—all of which are needed in some measure by each person from time to time—are distributed among the separate members of the body of Christ, the church. The unity of the body rightly functioning is thus guaranteed by the people reciprocating in needs and ministries” (187).

Peter shares one more important detail regarding the purpose of our spiritual gifts. In 1 Peter 4:11 he writes that we use our gifts in service to God “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” In using our spiritual gifts, we give glory to God!!

Ordinary and Extraordinary

If you desire to serve God in ways that bring him glory, I invite you to grow in your understanding of four of his ordinary, yet extraordinary gifts through our Groundwork series “Unsung Virtues.”

  • The Gift of Hospitality - Genesis 18:1-8, 1 Peter 4:8-11, and Romans 12:9-13
  • The Gift of Mercy - Romans 12:4-8, 17-21, Matthew 9:10-13, and Luke 6:36-38
  • The Gift of Service - 1 Corinthians 12:1-7, John 13:12-17, and Romans 12:1-3
  • The Gift of Generosity - Romans 12:6-13 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Together we’ll seek to better recognize, understand, and apply these spiritual gifts in our lives.

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