The question came during a new Bible study on the Holy Spirit with the ladies of my church. At one point, the friend next to me asked what I thought about spiritual gifts tests. My answer? “You probably don’t want to know.”
But then we talked about it anyway. And yes, we should have been paying closer attention in class.
I usually try to avoid answering this question. If the topic comes up in a group I may stay silent or just walk away. Why? Because my opinion is different than most and I don’t want to start any doctrinal debates.
But after my conversation with Kimberly that day, I decided I would share my thoughts with you. Maybe a thoughtful conversation about spiritual gifts tests can reorient our focus.
Spiritual Gifts are not about Us
Sadly, spiritual gifts is one of those areas of faith where we believers tend to make it all about us instead of about God. We ask, “What can I do for God? How can I use my gifts and talents?” Instead, we should be asking, “How does God want to use the gifts He gave me?”
In their book, What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts? (LifeChange Books), authors Henry and Mel Blackaby caution that spiritual gifts tests are limited by their nature:
“It can help identify how God has used you since you’ve become a Christian. But it shouldn’t be used as a guide for how God desires to use you in the future, for God’s purposes are based upon His strengths, not yours alone. He may choose to take you into areas of service in which you’re naturally weak, to reveal His strength and bring glory to Himself.”
At their best, spiritual gifts tests may identify spiritual gifts and natural talents and abilities. But at their worst, since they cannot distinguish between them, the tests could actually encourage believers to “serve” according to our natural talents rather than relying on the power and equipping of the Holy Spirit.
When you think about it, using a spiritual gifts test is a little like trying to put out a forest fire with a water pistol. They attempt to determine the work of God with a test devised by human logic.
So, while I think spiritual gifts tests can be a useful tool when kept in the proper perspective, I think too often they can do more harm than good.
Here are 3 of my concerns about spiritual gifts tests:
- They can replace God’s purposes with our purposes – Since spiritual gifts tests tend to reveal our own strengths and talents, we may use the assessment to find ways to “serve” in our own power. We will miss out on God’s greater purpose.
- They can limit the Holy Spirit – Even when the test does reveal a true spiritual gift, we may find ourselves only serving in ways that use that specific gift. We forget that as a believer we have the entire person of the Holy Spirit residing within us. We have access to all of His power to follow and obey God in any way He leads. Yet, we may hear God’s call but reject it because “that’s not in our area of gifting.”
- They can become an excuse – We may conveniently use the test results as our guide instead of the Holy Spirit. It’s much easier to pull out that pat answer – “That’s not my gift” – than to lay aside our own plans and seek God’s will and direction. It also gives our “no” a “spiritual” reason.
I have taken spiritual gifts tests in the past. But I have also followed God to work in areas that didn’t line up with the results of any test. And He did things that only He could do! I am so glad I didn’t rely on that test.
What about you? Are you limiting what the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through your life because of the results of a spiritual gifts test? Has God ever done anything through your life contrary to the results of a spiritual gifts test?
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Kathy, thank you for sharing this with us! I wasn’t sure exactly how to articulate how I disliked the spiritual gifts test, however you just did! Very encouraged and blessed by the wisdom God has given you!
Fonda, thanks for the words of encouragement. I have hesitated over the years to share my thoughts because it seems to be an “unpopular” opinion. But I feel it’s biblical. The tests have always made me uncomfortable as well. It took me a few years to be able to understand why!
I totally agree. I am talking about gifts as one small part of my April 9 teaching… With two of those concerns! How timely for me to read this, thanks, Kathy.
I like the words caution and perspective used in regard to spiritual gifts. Testing is only a tool.It can help people discover why they are more comfortable in different areas of service. When we are called outside of our comfort zone(and we will be called), we step out on faith. We see God fill in the gaps (whether it be the Holy Spirit or the gifts of others). When we retreat back to that comfort zone it’s a little bigger, as is the faith that got us to step out.
Amen! When we are outside of our comfort zone God gets the glory!
Thank you so much for this, Kathy! My husband and I have often been asked why we don’t sanction spiritual gifts tests, and we have given the answers you have given. Thank you for the encouragement — and for the boldness to explain on your site!
Thank you for the words of encouragement Luann.
Thank you so much for this. Could you recommend one or two tests pls.
I agree with you, Kathy. We should never put God in a box. A wise leader once told me: “You will never know the power of the Holy Spirit until you are in a place where you are helpless without Him.” I’ve remembered that over the years as God has called me in unexpected ways. He is still the God of the impossible.
Love that wisdom you received! So true!