What are some natural abilities and spiritual gifts that Christians are equipped with?
During the many years that passed before I became a Christian, I frequently overheard Christians discussing their “spiritual gifts”, and their “natural abilities” They would talk about their ability to sing, teach, or carry out a particular task, and whenever they did so, it seemed to me that these capabilities were nothing more than “natural abilities.” I concluded that those crazy Christians just had a language all their own and a strong desire to see everything as a gift from God. I came to this conclusion after observing them for some time (when they could more easily be described in natural terms).
After I committed my life to Christ, I started to recognize several skills that had been latent but were now beginning to surface in my own life. Were these simply dormant skills, or was there something to the idea that people have “spiritual gifting”? It seemed like the right time to take a fresh look at the concept of “spiritual gifts” and evaluate them in light of what I had previously referred to as “natural abilities.”
Even before I began to investigate the distinctions between “gifts” and “talents,” I was already aware that they all originated from the same pool of resources. Even if we are inclined to attribute our abilities to genetics or environment, they must ultimately come from the source of genetics and environment: the God who created everything in the first place.
If we accept the premise that an all-powerful God is the creator of all matter and life, then it is reasonable to conclude that our abilities must ultimately come from the source of genetics and environment: the God who created everything in the first place. We can argue about whether something is a talent or a gift, but as thoughtful Christians, we must be careful not to interchange the two words as if they had the same meaning when we do so. They don’t do that.
Everyone was born with some sort of natural ability. You might not believe that you have a lot of talent, but if you examine yourself more closely, you’ll notice that there is one ability that you have in greater abundance than others. You also have increased ability in this area in comparison to your other skills and aptitudes, and there may be someone else in the world who is even better at this particular ability. However, that’s not the point at all. Perhaps you are more talented as an athlete than as a musician, or perhaps you are more talented as an artist than as a mathematician.
You are aware of the areas in which you excel and those in which you do not. But how can you tell the difference between a “natural talent” and a “spiritual gift” when it comes to a particular ability you’re thinking about? First things first, let’s see what the Bible has to say about the various spiritual gifts that are available to us. In the following three passages, Paul discusses spiritual gifts:
- 1 Corinthians 12:7-11
However, the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good is given to each individual. 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 another gift of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the working of miracles, and to another prophecy, and another the discerning of spirits, to another a variety of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. However, only one Spirit is responsible for all of this, dispersing to each person according to his or her unique needs.
- Romans 12:3-8
To each of you, I say via the grace entrusted to me: Do not exalt yourself above what God has assigned to you as a measure of faith; rather, do not exalt yourself beyond what God has assigned to you. For just as we have many members in one body, and not all of them perform the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ and members one of another. As a result, we should each use our gifts by the grace bestowed upon us:
if the prophecy is our gift, we should use it in proportion to our faith; if service is our gift, we should use it in service; if we teach, we should use our teaching; if we exhort, we should exhort. We should also use our gifts with generous hearts; we should lead with diligence, and we should show mercy with joy.
- Ephesians 4:10-12
He who came down from heaven is also the One who ascended to great heights above all the heavens so that He could fill everything up.) And He gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and others as pastors and teachers, to prepare the church’s members to do the job of ministry and contribute to the growth of the body of Christ;
Now, when Christians read these verses, there is a school of thought that asks whether or not the “gift list” described here is exhaustive. Are these the only kinds of skills that can be referred to as “spiritual gifts?” Are there any more that I can see? Given that Paul wrote these three letters to three separate groups of believers and did not routinely repeat the same list of gifts, it is probably safe to assume that there are additional spiritual gifts that are not listed here. This is because Paul did not routinely repeat the list. Therefore, the question that needs to be answered is as follows:
“What are the key distinctions between natural abilities and spiritual gifts, and how can we recognize a spiritual gift when we come across it?” When discussing talents and gifts, theologians may have different opinions from one another; however, several distinctions are readily apparent.
Talents Are Inherited / Gifts Are Received
This is likely the most notable and significant distinction between the two. natural abilities are skills that an individual possesses that were either passed down from their parents or developed within the framework of their family. Consider the Matthews family, who have a long history of success in the National Football League (NFL), as an example of a family that has a history of producing exceptional members.
We are all familiar with such individuals. If one member of a certain family does not possess the inherited ability, they will generally state something along the lines of “I didn’t get the (fill in the talent here) gene.”
Talents that come naturally are exactly that: natural. They are a result of the natural genetic material that is present within every one of us, which is then passed down from one generation to the next. On the other hand, spiritual gifts are imparted by the Holy Spirit of God; in fact, this is the very reason why they are referred to as “gifts” in the first place! According to the Bible, “the Spirit is the one who performs all these things, distributing to each person in their unique way, just as He wills.” When we are born into this world, we receive our natural abilities; when we are reborn into Christ, we receive our spiritual skills.
Talents Are Possessed by the Saved and Unsaved / Gifts Are Possessed by the Saved
Everyone possesses some kind of talent, regardless of whether they believe in God or not, but only people who believe in God have spiritual abilities. The Holy Spirit dwells in every person who professes trust in God, and the Bible says that “God has given each person a measure of faith” along with an aptitude that goes above their natural skills.
Because the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual gifts, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people who have the Spirit of God residing in them (i.e., those who have been saved) have more than natural talent; believers also have gifts of the Spirit, such as the ability to prophesy, to heal the sick, to speak in tongues, and so on.
The word of wisdom
The word of knowledge
Faith (extraordinary trust and surrender)
Gifts of healing
The effect of miracles
The distinguishing of spirits
The interpretation of tongues
The following list includes several spiritual gifts that, at first glance, may sound like natural abilities. After all, don’t you know any non-Christians who are exceptionally gifted in the areas of leadership or instruction? It is possible for people who do not believe in God to have a lot of natural aptitude in some of these areas even though they have not received a gift from the Holy Spirit.
However, in addition to the capabilities that appear to be held by non-believers, the list also includes other gifts that appear to be unique to the lives of believers. Believers are not only talented by nature but also gifted by God in addition to the many natural abilities they already possess.
Talents Are Developed and Expected / Gifts Are Matured and Surprising
Imagine for a moment that you are a gifted leader and that you later convert to Christianity. If God decides to use you in some role of leadership, you may discover that your talent is greatly amplified when God also gives you the spiritual gift of leadership. If God decides to use you in some role of leadership, you may also find that God gives you the spiritual gift of leadership. It is possible that after being saved, you will find that your leadership abilities are far superior to anything you were previously capable of performing.
God has a propensity to shock us in unexpected ways like this. By putting in a lot of effort and being persistent, every one of us has the potential to cultivate our innate abilities; through consistent practice and training, we can eventually reach the goals we set for ourselves. On the other hand, our capacity for spiritual talents grows in tandem with the development of our connection with God:
- Ephesians 4:14-16
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
When we have been gifted by God to accomplish something, we should expect the unexpected. As we mature in our relationship with God, he will surprise us by gifting us beyond our natural talent.
Talents Can Be Used Selfishly / Gifts Are Used to Serve God’s Purposes
In the Bible, we are told that God gives us spiritual abilities for a specific purpose. While we may find ourselves using our natural talent to serve our selfish interests and desires, spiritual gifts have been given to us by God “for the common good” and to the glory of God; they are given to us so we can give them back to God as we serve His purpose of building the family of believers.
Spiritual gifts are given to us so all of us might do “the labor of service, to the building up of the body of Christ”. That’s why all of us are given in some way by God. We’re not expected to sit around and watch the pastor work; instead, we’re supposed to be involved and make use of the abilities God has bestowed upon us.
Our innate abilities are shaped by both our genetic make-up and the upbringing we receive from our families. They are possessed by both believers and non-believers, and they can be employed to serve God or serve ourselves. Once we have been saved, the Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts on us. God uses them to develop His family as we grow in our faith and become more like Him when we serve others.