How do we discern our own spiritual gifts?
In Romans 12:3-8, Paul gives us three things to do:
Self-examination. Paul wants us to “think of yourself with sober judgment.” (v3) with regard to gifts. To begin with, we look at our hearts to discover gifts. We can look at our feelings. We ask: what do I enjoy doing? What kind of ministry is satisfying and attractive to me? We can look at our perceptions of needs. What problems do I most notice? Do I feel burdened for the poor? For people with counseling needs? Do I feel the church is too disorganized? In other words, it is possible that you are especially sensitive to the kinds of needs that God has called you to meet. We can look at our effectiveness. Am I any good at what I enjoy? Do people get helped? Ask those who know you to be sure that your judgment is “sober” and rigorously accurate.
Experience. In verse 6, Paul says that if someone has a gift, “let him use it.” In general, you don’t learn your gifts before you do ministry. You learn your gifts as you minister. Do you think you have a set of gifts in a particular area? Well, work in that area. You may revise your understanding of your gifts as you do ministry. It is best to try all kinds of ministry to learn your spiritual “aptitudes.”
Study the biblical lists. These lists are probably there to help readers to take an inventory. It is hard to discern your gifts without some categories of spiritual ability through which to assess yourself. So it is helpful and important to look at the spiritual-gift lists and the characters of the Bible to process better your own experience.
“Use it” (v6), “do it” (v8)! Once we have identified a gifting, we are to use it in service of others in the church. God gives His gifts as He chooses; we’re not to say: I would like a different gift! or: I want to use my gift in a different way! Part of living as a sacrifice to God is to give our abilities and gifts to Him, to be used in His service. We’ll only do this joyfully as we keep His mercies to us in view. Tim Keller