When we are born again our dead spirit is enlivened by the Holy Spirit. As we let the Lord give His life to us, and live His life through us, He activates and enlivens our soulical senses according to His timetable and purposes. Outwardly there are often distinct effects, such as healing and a sense of His Presence. The activity of supernatural gifts is also an evidence of His work in our lives. Regardless of our beliefs or recognition, if we have experienced Resurrection Life we are already ministering out of His life, through the supernatural gifts. But because we want to be active participants in what He is doing in our lives and in the world around us, we want to learn to cooperate with Him and learn how to knowingly minister in His gifts. The following is not exclusive; if you’re learning a different way to learn, and it is bringing you into dependence on the Lord for the movement and success of the gifts, then by all means continue on! But if you are not objectively functioning in the gifts, for whatever reason, or if you are struggling to achieve a certain level or goal, these general guidelines may be helpful:
Desire the Gifts God Has for You
1. Acknowledge that the gifts that are available to and working in you are to be used in dependence and cooperation with the Lord. As a son of God, each of us has both the authority and responsibility to grow into wholeness, being willing to put aside those attitudes and habits that keep us living out of our own strength.
2. Be Available: By now you should be habitually waiting and cultivating quietness as a lifestyle. Both of these habits are quickening your inherent desire for using supernatural gifts. It is because of the love of God for His people, and therefore our love for His people, that we are willing to be available to Him so He can accomplish His purposes.
3. Study: As with any new venture, set your mind that you will have to set your mind. You will not only be developing your inherited supernatural abilities, but the self-control and discipline to be able to handle them according to His direction. Though there will be a great deal of information we can gain from others’ experiences, and we should seek that out, much personal knowledge will come only directly from the Spirit. (Think through the many stories in the scriptures and notice how many miracles and expressions of power and faith were only done once—are you willing to be the first one to try something?)
4. Training: Ask the Lord for training in a specific gift. If you already have a desire to learn a specific gift, ask the Lord if this is what He’d like to be working on. Set aside time for training from the Lord apart from waiting and study. Ask the Lord for ideas on how to develop a specific gift. For instance, if you want to develop a word of knowledge, look for ways to hear details from the Lord objectively. Here are just a few ideas:
* When the phone rings, before answering, ask the Lord who it is.
* When driving, when you pull up to a stop sign or red light, ask the Lord what color clothing the driver that pulls up next to or behind you will be wearing.
* When watching sports, ask the Lord who’s going to win and by how much.
* Likewise, say you were interested in healing. A great place to start is by studying the human body, then practicing letting the Lord guide you to different places on an illustration as you consider someone you know who is not feeling well. Likewise, when you speak with a friend or even are out in public amongst strangers ask the Lord to identify any illnesses, then follow up with asking Him if they are things He’d like to address. If so, remind yourself how much God loves them and you, determine the source of the illness, take authority and release healing as directed by the Lord. The person doesn’t need to know what’s going on—it’s not our job to draw attention to the Lord’s healing in other people’s lives. If He wants the attention, He’ll make the arrangements. Keep focused on the training aspect, and you won’t get caught up on your success rate or be concerned with being rejected or exalted.
Obviously each of these will increase your confidence that you are hearing from God. At each step, check with the Lord for how to proceed. “Lord, is this something you want to deal with?” “Lord, what do we do next?” “Lord, are we done here?” The goal is to depend on the Lord, not perfect the gift.
5. Practice: Look for opportunities to practice throughout the day. The Lord will draw your attention to those circumstances that He has arranged in order to train you the way He wants you to go. Don’t wait for conditions to be “right”—they never will be! There is no substitute for practice under safe circumstances—and you can have confidence that the more you make yourself available to the Lord, and are in the process of having your supernatural senses tuned, the Lord will use you more and more to accomplish His purposes.
6. Review: Set up a regular schedule to review your progress with the Lord regarding your use of the gifts and other opportunities the Lord may present to you. Since He is the one training you, He will let you know how you are doing. God has a high regard for what is His, and expects us to treat both His people and His gifts, and ourselves, with respect and devotion: We are to be “zealous” of the gifts.
7. Adjust: Because we are all in the learning process, we all make mistakes, both in using the gifts and being corrected by others. One of the reasons we want to learn to be dependent on the Lord as our Mentor and Trainer, instead of a church or group leader, committee or team, is that they are just as likely as you to make mistakes! Here are a few examples of incorrect corrections of those learning to use the gifts. If you know what rejections may come your way ahead of time, you are less likely to be overly-affected by them.
“Forbid not.” Many churches and groups forbid the function of the gifts under all, or even some circumstances, because either they have been hurt or there is a fear that someone will get hurt. Rather than run that risk, and have to learn how to deal with it, the easiest and least profitable, and least respectful approach is to simply forbid the gifts completely. This prohibition does a great disservice to both God and His people, and for those who desire to know God, choices will need to be made as to with whom to have fellowship.
“Quench not.” The gifts of the Spirit are to function in the same respect as all other actions of our lives—not only in recognition of the sole sovereignty of God, but in subjection to His rights. When we limit, restrict or put boundaries on what God can and can’t do in us individually or in groups, we are quenching the activities of the Spirit. For example, some fellowships only allow room for the movement of the gifts in their small groups, rather than in their main congregational meetings. Likewise some restrict “interruptions” of the Spirit during a message. Another example is to put emphasis on certain manifestations at the expense of others. Though it is likely that, at any given time, there will be more teaching by the Spirit on what He wants to train a group in, even at that very same time He may be leading others, within that same group and time, into a very different manifestation than what is being experienced by the rest of the group. These are just a couple of examples of how we quench, or dampen, the freedom of the Spirit. Though mistakes will be made, the loving approach to them is not to quench the Spirit but to learn from Him how to deal and heal.
“Despise not.” Learning how to function in the gifts of the Spirit is a permanent part of our relationship with God, but it is not an aspect that we ever want to take for granted. Our respect for the Lord and His character, and therefore for our new identity and that of others, is often reflected by our attitude toward His gifts. By putting in the time, paying attention, learning to take risks and giving all due diligence, we express our high regard for God Himself. If you were to lend someone your car, and they bring it back dirty, with no gas, and a fresh scratch in the paint, what does that say about what they think of you? Are you likely to lend them your car again? Though we want to be able to enjoy the functioning of the gifts in our lives (24/7/365), we don’t want to treat them casually, either. If you are moving in a gift now, ask the Lord to expand its use, as well as asking for greater opportunities. Also ask for additional gifts—remember the goal is not to get good at the gifts, but to grow in dependence. The greater the challenge, the more we need God!
“Neglect not.” We are to desire the gifts, giving them a high priority in our lives. Many believers feel that the functioning of the gifts ceased long ago. But as long as the Holy Spirit has quickened our spirit, the substance of our new life, the movement of His Spirit through us will be at least in part via the gifts. If we reject the gifts for today we are rejecting part of God’s plan for our healing, intimacy with Him, and are hindering the purpose He has for us now. Though He doesn’t condemn or shame us for this approach, we are insisting on remaining in bondage and only hurting ourselves. Similarly, there are those who don’t feel the gifts are as important as other aspects of the movement of God, such as teaching, worship, evangelism, giving to the poor, etc. But to neglect the gifts is to neglect God, and diminishes His movement in all these other areas. It is often the very movement by the Lord through the gifts that proves to unbelievers that the above activities are done according to the will of the Living God. If what we are saying and doing is by dependence on the Lord, the manifestation of the power of the Lord will in some way follow.
Overcoming the Abuse of the Gifts: Abuse occurs when the gifts are used to control, correct, intimidate or hurt another person or group. We are all susceptible to the desire to defend ourselves or our beliefs by putting God’s name on our actions, beliefs or perspective. A sure signal to ourselves that we are resting in His love for us is that unconditional love, acceptance and honor is flowing through us to those to whom we are ministering. Though there will likely be times when the ministry of the Lord will either cause pain, or be interpreted as hurtful, if we take the precaution to make sure we are resting in dependence, the Lord will likewise be free to address the response Himself. Though the manifestation of the gifts are not a basis of proving or disproving our acceptance with God, by rejecting His gifts we reject His sovereignty over our lives, and rebel against His training by being unwilling either to change or make mistakes.
8. Instruct/Encourage Others: Be willing to be used of the Lord to be an example and instructor to others of functioning in the gifts from dependence on the Lord alone. This will challenge you to be both bold in making mistakes and willing to be rejected as well as receiving ministry from the Lord, His direction, instruction, correction and feedback. As your confidence grows, know that the Lord will draw others to what He is doing in you and through you. You will also need to learn how to accept recognition from others. Because you have done the work, your response to the praise of others is not the false humility of “It’s all God”; rather, simply, “Thanks.” Part of the training of others will be to train them to honor those to whom honor is due. In some cases, that honor will be due to you.
9. Repeat: Learning to minister in the gifts of the Spirit is a never-ending cycle, since God Himself is never ending. We have no idea what the Lord has waiting for each of us; neither do we know what the cost or reward will be. We can be confident, however, that whatever the price, it will be worth it. To see the Lord work, enjoy the intimacy of His private tutorship, and share in the healing and encouragement of His people is an awe-inspiring way of life. We can trust Him that whatever He has prepared for us, as we depend on Him we will be ready. We can anticipate each day, each of life’s circumstances, whether positive or negative, as an opportunity to know Him more. Our God is an Awesome God! And the more we rest, and let Him be God, the more we enjoy His Eternal Life now! In this way our focus will be on the Lord Himself, and not the gifts of the Spirit.
Adapted from Knowing God by Dianne Thomas