3 Surprising Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

Karen Del Tatto

Contributing Writer
Updated Jun 13, 2024
3 Surprising Ways to Determine Your Spiritual Gifts

Years ago, my husband and I went on a marriage retreat with our friends from Bible study. During one of the breakout sessions, they asked us to come up with what we thought our spiritual gifts were. This exercise didn’t have to be done individually or as couples, but they just encouraged us to look within ourselves and ask our spouses and those who were with us.  We each set to writing down our spiritual gifts as most of us had a pretty good idea of how the Lord blessed us and what our strengths were – except my husband. My friend Donna and I literally ended up doing the questionnaire for him! Lol. He was not able to see in himself the gifts that others could see in him. And wait for it—years later, he became a pastor!

Sometimes I think we can be blinded to our spiritual gifts by low self-esteem, not wanting to appear conceited, or—this is a biggy—not feeling worthy of doing anything for the Lord. We can end up believing Satan’s lies that we couldn’t possibly serve the Lord in a meaningful way. Of course, the enemy wants us to think this because that is the biggest threat to him! If we aren’t furthering the Kingdom, his destructive agenda can move forward.

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Couple volunteering serving together planting tree

Each of Us Is Spiritually Gifted

The truth of the matter is that we all have been given special gifts by God for use to further His Kingdom. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 says: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”  

And 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 says, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts.”

No matter how insignificant you think your spiritual gift might be, it can be used to do much for the Kingdom of God. Every part of the Body of Christ has significance, worth, and function. It’s up to you to discern your gifts and to walk in them.

Not sure what your gifts are? Let’s look at three surprising ways you can determine them:

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Children playing ring around the rosy

1. Symbolic Childhood Play

When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I was a nun. I grew up Catholic and was enamored with the convent in our town. The church and its outbuildings were on a beautifully landscaped property. I can remember seeing the nuns walking around the grounds in their long black habits or in the summertime wearing white. In fact, my favorite all-time movie is The Sound of Music. (You can see a theme here I’m guessing. Lol!)

In addition to playing nun, I also pretended to be a teacher. I had an old-time flip-up desk that a school had discarded and my dad painted for me. You might say, well, lots of kids played teacher, and you might be right, but did they also play nun? Maybe… probably not. Ha! And finally, I also played secretary. I had my stapler and papers that I shuffled around my painted desk.  

Fast forward to adulthood and I did, indeed, become a secretary, and that is the type of job I held for most of my adult life. I did not become a nun, but I am a pastor’s wife and a women’s ministry leader where I have served as a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs) mentor and spoken at their events. I have also served as a children’s Sunday school teacher, a women’s  Bible study leader, and a Christian blog writer for about ten years. This isn’t me bragging about all that I’ve done, but this is to demonstrate how the way I pretended and played as a child was a glimpse into the gifts the Lord had imprinted upon me before I was even born and how they manifested themselves once I was a believer in Christ Jesus.

Take a moment to remember how you played as a child. You might be surprised at how it has manifested itself in how you serve the Lord now, or it may give you insight into what your spiritual gifts might be.

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woman speaking at podium with microphone

2. Questionable Character Trait

This subtitle here might be the biggest surprise, but bear with me…  Saul (before he became the Apostle Paul) certainly had what would be deemed a questionable character trait as far as what the persecuted Church felt. Philippians 3:5b-6a says, “As to the Law, a Pharisee;  as to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” Yet, when Saul became the Apostle Paul, he took that same zeal that he used to persecute the Church mercilessly in the name of the law to then have that zeal be turned into a spiritual gift to preach Jesus to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. 

This character trait of Paul’s caused him to go all-in on an assignment. As a Pharisee, he certainly went all-in on making sure that everyone followed the law, even if it meant killing people in the name of the law. As a believer in Christ Jesus, Paul was all-in on sharing the gospel message and made it his life’s work. He loved Jesus with that same zeal.

How do we apply this to ourselves? Maybe you have a strong personality where you speak your mind. Some might find that offensive, but when that same strong personality is used as a spiritual gift and isn't afraid to speak the truth in love or share the gospel message, a character trait that once came across as offensive is now being used to share the love of Christ without fear of what others might think.

Take a look at any character trait in your life that might come across as a bit much to others, and you might be surprised to see how you’ve already been using it to serve the Lord, or it might propel you to seek out a ministry that needs a strong, loving personality that operates without fear.

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sad woman standing outside under a tree losing its leaves

3. Area of Weakness

So... how could an area of weakness be a gift? Well, the answer might surprise you. It’s all about perspective.

I have been quite transparent about my struggle with anxiety since childhood. I would definitely say it has been a weakness of mine…  But God… He has used that weakness to become a ministry for me. Years ago, He called me to start a blog, and through that blog, I have written many posts encouraging others who struggle with anxiety to find their help and hope in the Lord. Granted, I do not at all consider myself a writer. Any words that have come through my fingers to the keyboard all point back to Him and His strength and His wisdom. The spiritual gift He gave me out of my weakness was the ability to discern what He would have me write about. It is a gift I never would’ve known I possessed had it not been for the weakness that brought it to light.

You might be someone who really struggles in social situations, yet you thrive working behind the scenes doing hospitality at your church. There’s your spiritual gift! That “weakness” of being very introverted moved you toward the spiritual gift that you were made for and is just as important as any other.  

Look at your own area of weakness. You might be surprised to see that, indeed, the Lord took that weakness and turned it into a spiritual gift that you have already been using, or you may now have ears to hear and eyes to see what the Lord is calling you to do.

Remember what the Lord tells you in 2 Corinthians 12:10b: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

I hope these three surprising ways to determine your spiritual gifts will encourage you to look further into your own gifts and walk in them… 

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

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Karen Del Tatto is a blogger, author, women's ministry leader, pastor's wife, mom, and grandmother who is passionate about the Word of God. Her blog Growing Together in Grace and Knowledge and her books Choosing to Trust God: Breaking the Habit of Worry, A 30-Day Devotional and Choosing to Trust God Companion Journal reveal her heart for providing Biblical insights to encourage women to grow in and through their struggles while equipping them to overcome. Karen and her husband live in Rhode Island and enjoy walks in the woods, owling, and spending time with their grandchildren.

Originally published Tuesday, 11 June 2024.