Have you ever taken a spiritual gift test? These are quizzes that typically ask about your likes and dislikes, how you view your personality, and what you think about God and the Bible. Most spiritual gift tests will then tell you who you are and what your spiritual gift is (at least according to the people who made up the test).
A pastor told me he’d discovered that the best way to discern one’s spiritual gift is to see what the person likes to do. He said likes, abilities and spiritual gifts usually end up being in alignment, and that taking spiritual gift tests only served to confirm this for most college students he worked with.
One thing I’d add is that the Bible doesn’t have a single spiritual gift test in it. Not one.
The Bible does have a spiritual inventory, though.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5;22-23.)
You’ll notice these are called fruit of the Spirit rather than gifts. I think it’s good to focus on the way we exercise the gifts God has given us rather than spend time trying to identify what the spiritual gifts themselves may be.
Spiritual Matters in the Life of a Christian
The passage on the Spirit’s fruit in a person’s life comes immediately after a very different list:
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. … The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. (Galatians 5:17, 19-21.)
As the passage says, these things are contrary to what the Spirit desires in our lives, the fruit the Spirit wants to bear in us. Yet in our flesh (apparently the Bible’s name for desires working in us that are not from God) we still do these things to varying degrees. Sometimes we can even fool ourselves into thinking that an act of the flesh is a fruit of the Spirit.
How can we tell the difference at any given moment?
There’s a simple way to identify whether actions are in line with one or the other. An earlier portion of the passage introduces the two contrasting lists:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14.)
That’s it. If you are acting in a way that truly loves your neighbor, or yourself if other people are not affected (and they are rarely unaffected by your actions in some way), then it’s a good bet you are showing evidence of the Spirit’s fruit in your life rather than an act of the flesh.
So don’t start by analyzing whether you’ve engaged in debauchery, selfish ambition, lust and the like. First look at whether you are showing love for your neighbor and yourself.
If you are, then I think it’s safe to say you will see the fruit of love and self-control, gentleness and peace, joy and faithfulness, goodness and kindness and patience as the Spirit works out God’s divine desires in you.