When It's Not Your Spiritual Gift

I’ll never forget the first spiritual gift inventory I took. I bubbled in all the circles, eager to confirm what God had been revealing to me about myself. I wasn’t surprised by the results, but my pastor was.

 “You scored highest on Pastor/Teacher and Administration,” he said, and I could see him mentally penciling me into the substitute Sunday school teacher roster. 

“. . . and you scored lowest on . . .” a frown creased his face, and he looked up at me with a puzzled expression. 


I nodded shamefacedly, acknowledging what I knew to be true. 

“Well,” he said, closing the folder with a snap, “I guess we won’t nominate you to the hospital visitation committee.” And that concluded our meeting. 

Spiritual gifts – every believer has at least one. They’re mentioned in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4, and are supernatural graces given by the Holy Spirit to help fulfill the mission of the church. Romans 12:6 states, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” When we operate within our spiritual giftedness, God moves in and through us in extraordinary ways to accomplish his work. I’ve watched this happen over and over again. 

One of my husband’s gifts is evangelism. It is a driving force in his life, enabling him to boldly direct a counseling session right to the heart of the matter. He shares his faith fearlessly, sometimes with complete strangers. Operating with our strongest gifts is satisfying and effective, and wise church leaders allow and encourage their members to serve within their areas of giftedness. 

But what happens when we sense the Lord calling us to serve outside our areas of strength? 

Do we say no because it’s not our spiritual gift? 

Remember my low score on the spiritual gift inventory in the area of mercy? Mercy was on the absolute bottom of my list of gifts, but it was only slightly below the gift of hospitality. Even though I’m not wired, gifted, or inclined this way, God often calls me to serve him through hospitality. In fact, God commands us all to practice hospitality. 

Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13) 

It’s the same with giving. And evangelizing. And teaching. And *gasp* yes, even showing mercy. We’re not exempt just because these gifts are not our primary gifts. As believers, we share the same Holy Spirit, the giver of these gifts, and he calls and enables us to serve even in our weakest areas (1 Cor. 12: 4-5). 

The first time God called me to take a big step of obedience in the area of hospitality came shortly after we moved into our home. He made it clear that my husband and I were to invite a young Pilipino girl to live with us for three months. 

Although it was way out of my comfort zone and not something for which I would have volunteered, God worked beautifully through my obedience. Evangeline ultimately married a dear friend of ours and became a very special friend herself. She and her husband moved to Colorado years ago, but we keep in touch and pray for each other often. 

Other acts of obedience haven’t been quite so involved or long term. Sometimes God calls me to invite a struggling friend over for lunch. Other times he’ll prompt me to open my home for a youth Bible study or a prayer meeting. Occasionally we’ll host students or missionaries as they travel through our area. 

 Every act of obedience requires me to go outside my comfort zone, serve outside my area of giftedness, and surrender my preferences in order to minister to someone else. And every time, God blesses me much more than the people I serve. It’s the spiritual principle of sowing and reaping and the oxymoronic truth that it’s more blessed to give than receive. 

Proverbs 11:25 puts God’s smile on our acts of kindness and hospitality: 

“A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” 

This year, we’re again hosting a lovely young woman for the summer. The college-aged daughter of missionary friends, our newest “daughter,” has already brought life, laughter, and amazing back massages into our home. As we minister to her, we enable her parents to serve the Lord undistracted, because they know their precious daughter is safe and cared for. 

 I sometimes think about that spiritual gift inventory I took so long ago. The results help me channel my efforts and energy into areas of service where I am most effective. They also remind me of what God can do despite my inadequacies when I say yes to him. 

I’d love to hear your spiritual gift story. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re an email subscriber, click here, then scroll to the bottom of the post and click on Comments to share your thoughts. 

If you don’t know what your spiritual gift(s) is/are and would like to take a test, click here for a spiritual gift inventory. 

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  1. Thank you for this, Lori. I think I know what mine are, but have looked for an inventory. I need to be willing to say yes!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I hope the inventory is helpful to you. I'm praying now that you'll get clear direction and courage to say YES! It will be the beginning of an adventure :)