There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."
Taken from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12
It's interesting that this portion of Scripture starts with the words, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant," implying that it's very possible to be a Christian, note the use of the words "brothers," and still be ignorant of the existence of spiritual gifts.
I take comfort in this verse, because until recently I lived in complete ignorance about my spiritual gifts. I recently took a test that helped me identify them. The test was different from other "spiritual gifts" tests I had taken in the past (and I had taken many...). Instead of identifying how my natural interests or personality traits blended in with the church, the test actually identified the way in which the Spirit had imparted his supernatural power to me and how that was usually made manifest.
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good..."
I had high scores in a few areas, but the highest score was in "discerning of Spirits." When I read the explanation of this gift, a light bulb went off and I saw parts of my life and my past with new eyes.
What's interesting to me is that, as long as I can remember having the Holy Spirit in my life, I actually functioned within my gifts, even though I was ignorant of the fact that I had them or that they even existed. I did this supernaturally, I guess, because there was no other way for me to do it, really.
Take the gift of "discerning of spirits" as an example. I looked back and saw that as I was lead by the Spirit of God, I would "discern" that someone needed prayer about something in particular. How would I know this? I don't know. A look, a word... sometimes I'd just be sitting alone with God, no one else around, and I'd get an impression. Many times these people had not asked for prayer or confided in me about what was going on in their private lives. I just knew what they were going through. There was no way I should have known, but I did. And, as I was lead by the Spirit, I would pray for them, sometimes. Other times, I would just ignore the impressions as my imagination. But, it usually happened that weeks later, the news about them would be public and I would find out that my impression was right, that just as I was praying for them or thinking maybe I ought to pray for them they were in the midst of their struggle.
Other times, I would discern that a person had false motives, a wicked or a dangerous heart... How did I know this? I don't know for sure. I just did. I just knew stuff they would never tell people in a million years. And, I would respond to these impressions naturally and accordingly. I'd get angry or upset about people, especially those within the church. When Dwayne would ask me why I didn't like so and so or why I was rude to them, I usually didn't have much to go on. "I just don't trust him," I'd say or "Something's deeply wrong that person." I knew I sounded suspicious and judgmental, but I had nothing "substantial" to go on, never enough to convince Dwayne that there was anything to be concerned about, other than to be concerned about my obvious bent towards condemning seemingly guiltless people without any evidence that they'd done wrong.
My ignorance about my gifts hindered me in two ways, specifically and I share these personal examples because I wonder, if you are ignorant of your gifts, too, are you also being hindered?
First, I didn't know for sure that my "gifts" or these "bents of mine" as I called them, were from God, that they were good and something that I should submit to His guidance and be seeking to move forward using. Therefore, out of a desire to please God, I actually tried not to function within them for a very, very long time. I'd weep when I thought about someone's pain, pain they hadn't told anyone they were in. When my husband or anyone else asked what was wrong with me, I'd say, "I'm fine. I'm just praying for _." and he or they'd look at me like I was weird and think that I was just "overreacting," too caught up in what was going on in my own imagination. While those people would praise me for being so sincere and concerned, they'd also go on to warn me not to be so dangerously oversensitive. I took their advice and tried not be so lead by my "emotions," when in reality my emotions were often just a healthy expression of what I was somehow supernaturally made aware of. I do not fault my husband, my leaders or even myself for taking the counsel of godly people I respected. Their advice was well meant and I really wanted to please God. It seemed like a good thing, being more "in control of myself." But, unfortunately, Christians, even the best of us, tend to be uncomfortable with the supernatural elements of our lives in Christ. As much as we want God to be able to move in power and "be himself" with us, we are also uncomfortable when God tries to reveal His nature to us or in us and do supernatural things. Christians are often, unfortunately, just as suspicious of the Holy Spirit as our worldly peers tend to be.
Being unaware of my gift not only prevented me from using it as God intended, it also lead me straight into a life of fear. Fear is, in fact, a very natural response to being made subconsciously aware of demonic activity going on around you. And, you can beat the enemy took advantage of my ignorance. I mean, I knew that demons were real in the Biblical sense, but what did they have to do with me? As a Christian, after all, I had nothing to worry about. And, I was only an average Christian at that, so what did I have to be afraid of? But, in fact, something demonic would approach me and I'd be afraid and set on edge, for obvious reason. But, even while I was very afraid, I was also very truly ignorant of the reality of the situation, that it was more than "just my imagination" or some mental weakness of my own. Because of my fear combined with my ignorance, the demon would be able to oppress me, even after I was mature in the Lord, and they'd oppress me so that I couldn't even move or breath. I'd cry out to God for help and answers and he'd "make it stop," but all the while, I continued to remain under the delusion that I was just having "really bad dreams" or a childish, "overactive imagination." And, once again, I was no more aware of the supernatural elements in my life than my godless peers would be.
Luckily, I sought guidance from our current church leaders in private and luckily, they did not dismiss what was happening as "imagination." They had experience with this stuff, so that while they deemed it serious, they were also not intimidated. They called me "sensitive," yes, but it turns out that my sensitivity was a strength in God's economy and not a weakness. They taught me that it was actually a sin to be afraid and something that needed to be confessed and forsaken, since it was a way that I, unwittingly, gave the enemy the right to harass me.
So, now, when I sense the approach of evil, I recognize what's happening for what it is and I move forward without doubt about the supernatural, free from fear that it can harm me and in the authority that God gives every Christian to resist evil, sometimes even physically manifested evil. And, now, when someone comes to my mind and my heart is moved for them, I pray without hesitation, confident that it is very much possible that the Holy Spirit could be the one supernaturally prodding me to intercede for that person.
My natural bent is to write about everything, you know, even the stuff that's usually deemed "off limits." So, I wanted to write about this, hoping that my testimony may shed some light into other people's lives. I realize some people will just think I'm crazy. But, I figure those people will have labeled me "crazy" a long time ago, when I said things like "God spoke to me..." or "Jesus lives in my heart..." I realize that the rest of you, those who get what I am talking about, may not be entirely comfortable with everything I've said, but, I figure, at the very least, you will be able to relate to it.