Look it up: “Paper Towel Sniffer” is a paying job. Somebody has to check paper towels are odor-free before they leave the factory. You probably haven’t seen that job on a list of career choices. Or “Dog Surfing Instructor.” Lists of possible careers are not exhaustive; they can’t possibly include becoming a “Water Slide Tester.” The same principle applies to lists in Scripture of “spiritual gifts.” Perhaps you have been asked what your spiritual gift is and are confused. Some say there are only 7 gifts listed in the Bible, so yours must be one of those 7. Others count 12. But when you understand what a spiritual gift really is, it is misguided to limit the possibilities by those few examples.
Here is the clearest definition of spiritual gifts:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV84))
As the Holy Spirit’s life in a believer grows, He brings about basic changes in their attitude and character. Eventually, these changes are seen externally as “fruit of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, etc. (See “Recognizing the Holy Spirit in You”). As this process continues, the Spirit manifests or reveals His invisible presence in a more tangible and practical way. He “gifts” each believer with the ability to do something that will contribute to the common good of the community of believers. For example, the Spirit might empower a person to preach. Another person might discover a new aptitude for empathy and use it to counsel those who are hurting. Someone else might come alive with a newly found passion for generosity. I know a man who was gifted by the Spirit with a knack for knowing when a hinge needed oiling or a screw needed tightening.
It is important to understand these gifts are not simply natural talents. The energy and ability involved in using these gifts is derived from the Spirit. Sometimes the Spirit will manifest Himself in a way that enhances an existing natural talent – say, playing the piano – filling this talent with new power and purpose. Other times, His manifestation will enable a person in a completely new way. But the end result is not personally beneficial, but rather, building up the gathered body of believers.
Also notice, from the definition above, the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in “each one.” That means every follower of Jesus eventually is empowered to bless the others. Each gift is essential for the body of a church, no matter how insignificant it may seem to be, just as is true for a human body. If your ankle itches in the night, you really need the giftedness of your toenail, eh? There is no such thing as an unimportant spiritual gift.
If you have trusted Jesus, you have, or will receive, a spiritual gift. What is it? Look for an ability that seems to be powered up beyond your own personal resources, one that is consistent with the character and commands of God, and which contributes to the common good of your church. See if it energizes you and blesses the rest of your church. If so, likely it is your spiritual gift.