Thursday, February 14, 2013

Spiritual Gifts and Natural Abilities

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, February 14, 2013:  Exodus 37:1-38:31

He also made the holy anointing oil [symbol of the Holy Spirit] and the pure, fragrant incense, after the perfumer’s art.  Exodus 37:29 (Amplified)

What is the difference between spiritual gifts and natural abilities?  This has been and continues to be an important discussion in the Church.  The reason it is important is because we need to excel in both.  We need to discover and develop our spiritual gifts.  We also need to know what natural abilities we have so that those abilities can used in God's service.

There is an old argument that says that no natural ability can be used for God.  Only the things that come directly from God are worthwhile.  In the flush of fresh spiritual outpouring, we become excited about the great things God does purely by the operation of His Spirit.  In so doing, we can at times learn to distrust "our flesh."  We only want that which is purely God and don't want anything tainted by man.

This is an extreme (and erroneous) position.  God CAN USE our natural abilities in accomplishing His supernatural purposes!  Take, for example, the anointing oil we read about today.  What does the secular skill of making perfume have to do with the worship of Almighty God!?  In the New Living Translation, that last part of Exodus 37:29 goes like this:  "...using the techniques of a skilled incense maker."

This is a picture of the wonderful mixture that God wants in each of our lives.  He is producing something supernaturally powerful -- the anointing oil (which symbolized the Holy Spirit).  He is using our natural abilities to make it -- "the perfumer's art."

We need to discover our supernatural gifts from the Holy Spirit.  Most people are either completely ignorant of these things or afraid to investigate.  Paul goads us on by saying that he does not want us to come up short concerning this supernatural realm (I Co. 12:1).  It is important.  In addition, we need to use all our natural abilities to the max.  We don't need to gloat over them and become proud, but we do need to recognize that God wants us to use those natural gifts for supernatural ends.

I grew up hearing preachers pray, "Lord, now hide me behind the Cross.  I don't want anyone to see me, but just to see You."  That sounds very God-honoring and humble.  I understand that they meant for all they did to bring praise to God.  But, it really misses the mark.  GOD WANTS TO USE REAL HUMAN BEINGS TO BRING GLORY TO HIMSELF.  I appreciate the skill of a master communicator that has been honed through years of practice.  I also appreciate the special anointing that comes on a man that carries us all to a higher place.  Should be choose between these?  We do not have to choose.  We should strive for BOTH!

I once was in a mission situation in New York City and an individual came forward declaring that God had given her "the gift of piano playing."  She sat at the piano and butchered some song the melody of which neither I nor anyone else could discern.  I guess we needed another gift -- the gift of interpretation.  In short, there is no such thing as a "gift of piano playing."  There is only a skill that can be learned and then yielded to God for His glory.

May each of us plow ahead in the great adventure of learning and using the supernatural spiritual gifts God has given us.  May we also never fail to hone our natural talents to the highest level -- not so we can be proud, but so that a beautiful aroma may surround the true worship of God.


  1. Both of our spiritual gifts and natural talents must be employed in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the self-energy of the flesh in order to please God In Christianity, spiritual gifts (or charismata) are endowments given by the Holy Spirit. These spiritual gifts are the supernatural graces which individual Christians need too...

  2. Nikki, thanks for your comment. The key point you made is "and not in the self-energy of the flesh." Many people automatically equate natural talents or abilities with "the flesh." My point is that there should be an amazing blending of the natural and the supernatural in us. Natural talents can serve the purposes of God, too.