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What should Christians do if they can't find their 'spiritual gift'? John Piper answers

John Piper
Theologian John Piper gives a sermon at Passion 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Jan. 1, 2020. |

Theologian and author John Piper recently addressed the question of whether it is possible for a Christian not to have any spiritual gifts. 

In an "Ask Pastor John" podcast episode posted to Desiring God's website, a woman named Cara said that she did not "seem to have any 'spiritual gifts," adding that she felt "like a talent-less and sinful mess."  

"Does this mean that the Spirit does not actually dwell in me? How can I discover my purpose in Him and fulfill 1 Peter 4:10?" she asked, referring to the Bible verse which reads: "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." 

In response, Piper stressed that "Cara does have spiritual gifts." 

"I'm going to take Cara's word for it that she has been a Christian for about a dozen years. I'm going to assume — and I think it's right to assume — that she's truly a daughter of the living God through faith in Christ," Piper wrote. "That's how I know she has a spiritual gift because God said it in his word."

Piper, the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who pastored Bethlehem Baptist Church for 33 years, said it's essential for Christians to understand that "spiritual gifts" are "simply the outworking of our experience of the grace of God expressed through our personality." 

"And then, we set our hearts to love people by God's grace, to show God's grace to people, to channel God's grace through ourselves, through our God-given personalities in whatever way feels natural to us," said Piper. 

Piper advised Cara to stop trying to find her "spiritual gifts" when she should be more focused on her pursuit to honor and glorify God with her life, adding that he believed when Christians pursue God first, their God-given talents are bound to find them. 

"Cara, don't make it your aim to discover your gift. I know that's counterintuitive. Rather, make it your aim to love people for Christ's sake. And then, do it in as many ways that feel natural to your personality as you can. I think in doing that, you will discover your purpose, and you will fulfill 1 Peter 4:10," Piper said. 

Piper noted that there's "a fundamental difference between talents and sins" and that if someone does not have any talents, that "would not be a spiritually serious problem."

"God does not judge us on the basis of whether we have talents or not. But to be a sinful mess is a huge problem. God does judge sin. He hates sin," Piper warned. 

"If Cara's life is spiraling down into sin, that's a very urgent matter. And my warning is this: Fight that, Cara, as we all must, with all your might — with all God's might in you."

Piper referenced Romans 12:4-8, which explains that in the same way that every Christian is part of the body of Christ, all believers are given "gifts" and "functions" from the Holy Spirit. 

He said many might not even realize that they are operating in their spiritual gifts, but that doesn't mean the gifts are not there. 

Piper shared verses from 1 Corinthians 12:15–18, which state: "If the foot should say, 'Because I'm not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make him any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I'm not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. ... But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose." 

"My conclusion from these texts is that to be a Christian is to be a member of the body of Christ. And to be a member of the body of Christ is to have a role in the body that is essential to the body — not flashy, not prominent, but essential," Piper said.  

While there are gifts that might not be viewed as gifts, the pastor said every person with any gift should be respected, edified and uplifted in their talents as part of the Church. 

"Paul is willing to go so far as to say that the gift that some people have in the body of Christ is to be weak and needy so that others may have the opportunity to show them special care," Piper said.  

"Now, I doubt that's the case with Cara. I mention it so that she will perhaps reorient her thinking about the body of Christ and perhaps not have expectations about the nature of spiritual gifts that make her feel so inadequate."

Nicole Alcindor is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: nicole.alcindor@christianpost.com.

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