I may not have made it through Seminary without my friend who had the spiritual gift of encouragement. Encouragement? Yes, that is a spiritual gift (Romans 12:8). Sometimes people believe the myth that spiritual gifts are only things that are dramatic and spectacular, but there is more to spiritual gifts than miracles.
Certainly things like healing can be gifts of the Spirit, but the New Testament describes many different spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 27–28; 1 Peter 4:8–11; and perhaps Ephesians 4:7–11).
Giving is also a spiritual gift—anyone can give (and all the pastors said, “Amen”), but the Spirit enables some people to thrive when they are giving. I see the gift of serving present in people who regularly and cheerfully stay behind after a church event to stack chairs and mop the floor. I see people using the gifts of helping, mercy, administration, leadership, and hospitality at the community center my church has started.
None of these gifts sound all that supernatural. In fact, they sound quite normal. But these spiritual gifts are all supernatural in the sense that the Spirit is involved. The Bible affirms, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
Sometimes people aren’t aware of the gifts the Spirit has given them. After all, when people have the gift of administration, or any other less dramatic gift, they don’t start shaking, talking funny, and speaking like the King James Version of the Bible—“thus saith the Lord.” Instead, they just serve with excellence as enabled by the Spirit.
I hope this will be encouraging to some of you who thought you had no spiritual gift just because you don’t have a more noticeable gift, like prophecy or speaking in tongues. Perhaps you thought you didn’t measure up to those whose gifts were more dramatic.
We don’t all have the same gifts, and that is the way it is supposed to be. The Scripture says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us” (Romans 12:6).
You can find a lot of spiritual gifts in the New Testament. There could be even more. Some people from church history have claimed to have the gift of prayer, tears, and visions.
It is evident from looking at the lists in the Bible that none of the biblical authors intend to provide a list outlining what all the spiritual gifts are. For example, teaching and prophecy appear in three of the passages, whereas encouragement only shows up in Romans 12, and healing only in 1 Corinthians 12.
Instead of providing an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts, the biblical authors simply explain some of the many ways the Holy Spirit works through people. And the Spirit clearly works in both dramatic ways, and in ways that we might even say are ordinary.
In addition to believing the myth that spiritual gifts are only dramatic activities, many people in Pentecostal-Charismatic circles define the spiritual gift of prophecy too narrowly. When they say someone “prophesied over” them, they usually mean that someone told them something about their future. This shows that they belief the myth that prophecy is only about the future.
More than the Future
Prophecy can refer to much more than the future. In fact, when Paul mentions prophecy in his discussions of spiritual gifts in Romans and 1 Corinthians, he doesn’t mention any predictive element.
Furthermore, when we look at the content of prophecy in the Old Testament, we find that prophecies were generally more concerned with contemporary events than with the future. Their message was usually something like, “Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices” (Zechariah 1:4).
When we look at the content of prophecy in the Old Testament, we find that prophecies were generally more concerned with contemporary events than with the future.
Prophecy, then, can also occur when someone speaks up when they see a problem of sin. Moreover, Paul added that prophecy takes place when “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3).
I once had a student sitting in my office, slouched over on a chair. He was feeling worthless and insecure about his abilities as a student, though I could see he was doing good work. I could tell by the marks on his arms that his depression had plagued him previously in life.
As I spoke with him I encouraged him and reminded him of his identity as a child of God and as someone who is made in the image of God. I did not shake or speak in a strange voice, which many people seem to think is a necessary marker of prophecy.
I never told the student I was prophesying. Yet when the student left, I was certain God had used me to prophesy to him. I had a sense of the Spirit’s presence, and I knew the words I shared were not something I had come up with on my own. And my experience fit well with Paul’s description of prophecy occurring spontaneously when “a revelation comes to someone” from God (1 Corinthians 14:30).
Prophecy is not always about the future. And like the other gifts of the Spirit, it might not always appear so dramatic and spectacular. That’s no myth!
*This is an edited excerpt from, Simply Spirit-Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit, by Dr. Andrew K. Gabriel, © 2019 by Emanate Books, an imprint of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
Andrew K. Gabriel, Ph.D. is the author of four books and serves as Associate Professor of Theology and Vice President of Academics at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, Canada. You can follow Dr. Gabriel’s blog at www.andrewkgabriel.com/welcome.