Your Unique Gifts and Talents… What’s the Difference?

Have you ever been charged with a task or duty that felt awkward and energy draining for you? Perhaps other tasks you’ve been assigned felt easy to accomplish. You know that if you could practice the easy tasks and separate them from the awkward responsibilities, life would be so much easier, right? Absolutely, life would definitely be easier!


When the people in your church or organization are doing things they enjoy, things that are easy for them to accomplish, your organization will thrive. Romans 12:6 says, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us. . .” The word differing in this scripture means “different” or “excellent. We all have unique gifts that we excel at, gifts that are needed for the Kingdom of God. Learning to maximize these giftings is what helps people and organizations thrive. I want to start this three-part series on gifts by explaining what gifts are and discussing the differences between spiritual gifts and natural gifts.


The subject of gifts can be a little confusing and difficult to understand; it’s often confused with other topics such as vision, motivation, and calling. I want to begin by clarifying the difference between vision, calling, and gifts and discuss how they relate to one another. I actually shared this information in a post I wrote on vision, and I think it’s worth repeating. I believe the Lord, along with a few people in my life, helped me work through these terms and come to this realization.


Calling is the purpose or reason an individual exists. A person’s gifting (what we're talking about today) is the lens through which that calling is projected into the world. Finally, vision is the ability to imagine a future that doesn’t yet exist. Therefore, when a person’s calling and giftings come together, the individual can better align with a vision that’s true to themselves. This is why understanding the term gift is vitally important. Even more important is learning to discover your own unique gift which we will discuss in my next post.


Let’s start by discussing the word gift. The Google definition of the word gift is “a natural ability or talent.” Everyone has natural abilities or strengths. In the Christian world, we also have spiritual gifts. These two topics, natural gifts and spiritual gifts, are often confused, so I want to bring clarity to the differences between them.


As Christians, we receive both types of gifts from God. We may be born with some amazing natural abilities, like athleticism, the ability to sing well, an incredible memory; but you may notice someone who has recently been filled with the Spirit of God develop an uncanny ability to teach or preach. People may turn to this person for advice because they have developed wisdom that's helpful in the Kingdom of God. This is a supernatural, spiritual gift or ability that’s only given after a person is filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people have also described the fivefold ministry as a type of gift; and they’re very closely related, but I believe the fivefold ministry should be classified as a calling rather than a gift. For the sake of discussion, we will focus on natural and spiritual gifts today.


Scripture speaks of gifts in a few places. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 says:


Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; —To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; —To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

Paul speaks of spiritual gifts here; these are gifts from God, and they operate through the power of God in the church even today. Some may argue that these types of gifts are no longer present in the church in the twenty-first century, and I would argue that the Lord’s power is just as real today as it was during the book of Acts.


We need the gifts of the Spirit now more than any other time in history, and I stand as a witness that spiritual gifts are very much alive today. Spiritual gifts empower us to reach this world with the Gospel. In the ever-changing, morally gross world that we live in, we need these gifts for spiritual protection, provision, and empowerment to help convince others that they need Jesus to survive.


Many times, it takes a supernatural manifestation to convince someone that they need the Gospel in their lives. Jesus was very clear that we would do greater works that He, and He raised people from the dead. I need and want the spiritual gifts in my church and in my life and in the lives of the people around me. It gives me such peace of mind and rest to know that spiritual gifts are present and at work in me and around me.


Now, with that being said, though we may see them routinely in operation, we may not see spiritual gifts manifested all of the time. I think if we did, we may not even think of them as supernatural; they would become commonplace to us. These gifts are extended to everyone; they aren’t just for people involved in ministry. Not everyone will experience every gift, but every Spirit-filled person will be empowered with at least one spiritual gift. We are a vessel for those spiritual gifts. The Lord does His greatest work through us, and it is our responsibility to be tuned in through prayer and the Word of God. The purpose of these spiritual gifts is ultimately to build up the church; they’re not for our personal benefit.


As we move on to discuss natural gifts, I want to say that man’s natural abilities are so deficient compared to the supernatural abilities of God; yet our natural gifts are still extremely important in our everyday Christian lives and leadership as well as the Kingdom of God. We must understand that God is the source of both of these types of gifts. He gave us our spiritual gifts, and He also gave us our natural gifts.


Natural gifts were given to us at birth by God, and they shape the picture of our natural personalities and abilities. These natural gifts are inherited from our parents, and they’re developed in our childhood as we grow. We receive our natural gifts from our DNA and our families of origin. Think about people who have a long history of talented family members. We’re all familiar with those families who are known for their music abilities — perhaps everyone in the family is an amazing singer. There are also families like the Manning family who have amazing athletic abilities and a history of producing phenomenal NFL quarterbacks.

To some degree, everyone has some kind of natural talent. I know there’s a possibility that you think you do not have a natural ability or maybe you just have no idea what it could be, but I’d argue that you have some ability that is greater than those around you.


Another aspect of natural gifts that sets them apart from spiritual gifts is that natural gifts can be used for personal interest, whereas spiritual gifts are used for the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom. Though it’s typically okay to use our natural gifts for personal desires and interest, I do believe, as Christians, it’s very important for us to look for ways to use those same natural gifts to serve the Kingdom of God in some way. In my next post I’ll give you some tips on how to discover those natural gifts.


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