Can’t tell you. I have none. Okay that is not entirely true, but I do resemble Bones (from the TV show) just to give you a clue as to who I am. The gift of mercy involves knowing when to punish and when not to punish. I need a definition to follow, and mine is, when the person repents stop the punishment. Punishment is to bring the person to repentance so they will not repeat the act. When the purpose, repentance, has been accomplished, no more is needed. People with the gift of mercy do not need a definition. They instinctively know what a person needs in order to be right with Christ, and can show love and compassion as soon as it is needed. That does not mean they condone sin. It just means that they are the first to see when punishment should change to much love and are quick to give it.
Don’t worry if this is not you, just be aware and jump on board when you see someone you know who flows in this gift lavishing praise and comfort on someone you recently wanted to kill and know you need to change as well. Now there are people who want to love everyone all of the time. This is not mercy, this is indiscriminate affection. It is immature since it often enables people to believe that it is okay to sin and hurt others. These people are annoying because they get in the way of others who are truly trying to help the person overcome whatever it is that is affecting their lives. A person who flows with mercy does not do this. They do not enable people. They just know exactly when to show love, how to show it so the person best receives it and when it is inappropriate to do so. They are awesome people to be around, since they are very affirming. And they are good for you since they do not flatter and lie to make you feel better. This is why it is a spiritual gift. Many can flatter and lie, or give ‘love’ to everyone, but the Bible tells us that flattery is wicked, and that there are times to punish, reprimand and leave people alone in there sin. People with the gift of mercy know this, and can give ‘love’ without forgetting that these other things need to be there as well.
The gift of apostle is a much-debated gift. Not everyone agrees as to what this is. To me, after much study of scripture, it is a church planter. The term ‘apostle’ means one who is sent out, and it implies that he has a message from someone important like a king. In scripture we see apostles planting churches, and then moving on once the church is established (and not always well established) to plant another. Many of our missionaries may have this gift. I was blessed to speak with a couple that planted over 30 churches in Europe before they went to be with the Lord. This is who I see having this gift today.
These people are skilled at telling people things they do not want to hear in ways that help the person become motivated to change. These people should be counselors and often are. They should not however be put in charge of anything or given any administrative duties (unless somehow they flow in that gift too). Why? Because these are the people who can talk to a person who needs someone to listen and guide them until the problem is solved. They are unaware of time, and often do not care how much resources are used, as long as the person is getting better. Unfortunately someone some times needs to keep an eye on both time and resources. Also, since these people care only that the person is moving in the right direction they overlook the fact that the person is not there yet. They give people a lot of encouragement and truly believe they can do it. Unfortunately the people they help often fail. This is not a problem for the person with the gift of exhortation, as they will pick up with the person where they are and continue as long as the person is willing. But the person they are exhorting’s failures often affect the group, and exhorters do not always account for this. They could not be good at exhorting (encouraging, but with a practical edge) if they did not believe the person would succeed, but some times it is good to have a more unbiased eye looking at the overall picture. One who can be a little more honest about where the people they are encouraging actually are in life.
When dealing with our adopted children I was the exhorter in the family. When the children left the house and returned to some of their parent’s ways I was crushed. I believed, hoped, that they would not do these things. My other children were relatively unaffected. When I asked why they were not more upset they said, ‘We knew they would go.’ I couldn’t see the reality because I was the one pushing, talking and hoping. My children loved their siblings, but also knew what was currently true. An exhorter though has a tendency to hope, sometimes a little too much.
This is also not a gift my husband and I have. While we are part of a few salvation stories, we have met people who are a part of many, many other’s path to salvation.
My favorite is Pastor Bill. Now Pastor Bill is an extreme case. He could walk through a park, meet someone, lead them to the Lord, then be invited to their home to tell their spouse about the Lord (who also ‘got saved’). One day we were going somewhere with the karate club and Pastor Bill decided to tag along. We stopped for gas, and then waited, and waited for Pastor Bill to come out of the gas station. We waited so long that we had to ask why it took him so long to come out. He said that he stopped at the coffee area to get coffee when a man approached him and asked him about his hat. (Now we were all wearing the same hat, a baseball cap with the club logo on the front and Psalms 144:1 stitched across the back.) Pastor Bill explained and the man asked what he needed to do to be saved. So Pastor Bill led him through the sinner’s prayer right beside the coffee pot. (I would not be surprised if some who were listening accepted the Lord as well.) This is an example of an evangelist. Many preach the Word, but this person seems to be the one God uses to close the deal.
Another great story. There is a very famous Bible teacher who told this one. Because I will probably get some of the details wrong I won’t share her name, but the point of the story is the same. She had a friend who had the gift of evangelism who told her about her dishwasher repairman accepting the Lord when he came on a service call. Now this woman teacher was convicted, since in her ministry, which is to mature many who are already saved, she rarely sees people come to the Lord. Well lo and behold her refrigerator breaks and who does God send but a Muslim repair man. Throughout his visit the speak of the Lord, but their is no conversion. Years later her refrigerator breaks down again and the same man comes to fix it. He remembers her as a very nice woman, but he is still not saved…
Gifts are like that. Some function in the gift their whole life, others for a specific time, but we do not typically receive all of them. God likes us to work together as a body and He has a plan for everything. Just make sure you do your part!
Faith and Giving
My husband has these and man is it annoying! (Not what you thought I was going to say?) People who have faith have a supernatural ability to know when something is from God and believe that everything will work out. My husband also has a gift for giving. This does not mean that he gives all the time. People with the gift of giving are very careful about where their money goes, as they should be, because God often funnels many big ticket items through their hands. Combine this with the gift of faith and you will see why I say that it can be annoying. My husband loves to give, and has no doubt that the Lord will provide. So when I see our finances take a hit, or a big item given away without thought, it can be tough, but God provides and we have never missed a cent that we have given. Often God confirms in me that we are to give, but without the supernatural gifts I am not as comfortable, nor as excited as my husband is when we do such things. I am slower to get to where we need to be.
Now here is a true story about our giving.
We once lived in a small town where the majority of the people were not as wealthy as we were. (My husband is an emergency room doctor and we lived in the middle of farm country.) We went to a small church. The church needed a sound system, and since we were both involved in the music ministry (my husband can sing) we thought we would just give all of the money. But we decided to pray first. We prayed separately. God told each of us to give- nothing. So we prayed some more. God said we could give one dollar for each of us if we really must do something. So we did. And then on Monday morning my husband went to the pastor intending to give whatever more was needed. (I did not say we were perfectly obedient!) What we found was that even though the pastor had hoped for only the down payment for what the church needed, he had received enough money, and some extra, to do the entire job. As much as God uses us to give, He does not need our money, and He has the right to tell us when to give, and when it is not for us to do so. This does not mean that a project is bad, merely that it is other people’s turn to be used. This also made it easier for us to move on when we were to leave this church. As far as I know, no church we have been to, no matter how small, has missed our tithe after we left. God always provided.
Service and Helps
Helps and Service seem similar, but they are not. A person with the gift of service serves for a long period of time. They are steadfast, reliable and willing to do everything. These are your long-term church secretaries, your regular soup kitchen volunteers and people who can say that they have taught Sunday school for thirty years.
A person with the gift of helps on the other hand is a short timer. They are the ones who love mission trips, work weekends, disaster relief etc. They burn out if you make this a steady job, but when you really need them, they are the best help you could ever ask for. And we need them. Typically life goes the way life goes, but when tough times come, these people get moving and are the ones who work until the job is done. Then they rest. They are not steady like those with the gift of service. When they are done, they are done, but they are there when you need them!
Now the problem with these giftings is that if you never use them they get antsy. They want to be doing something, so sometimes they cause the problems so they can help ‘fix’ things. So don’t be afraid to put them to use when there are things to be done! Lots of energy and little to do is a poor combination.
Neither I, nor my husband have this one! Some would argue that we do make people feel comfortable in our home, and we try, but this gift is more than just being nice and offering people drinks etc. (Which I often forget to do, so if you are in my house and are thirsty please ask!) This gift is where the people thrive on having others over. They beautify their house and make food specifically for this purpose and they are not afraid of having people mess things up. This is the difference. Many people beautify their homes and/or cook because they like to. The person who is gifted in hospitality not only likes to, but wants to see people use what they have as well. If no one comes over, or they cannot cook for someone for a long period of time they go a little nuts.
A few of my friends have had this gift. One had eight children yet had time to leave baked goods for us on the front seat of my husband’s car every now and then because she had made too much for all of them. (Think about that for a second. We had seven kids, she had eight and she had the time, and wanted to feed us too.) Another friend hosted everyone who came to the church. See also hosted Bible studies. She made all the food- awesome food, and knew when the single men of the church would be driving by her house so she could call them at work and send them on errands to shop for what she needed. (One husband was not enough for her industrious side. She was an older woman and the men loved helping in this way.) This is hospitality. The most upset I have ever seen her is when she was hosting a Christian group and the leader decided they did not have time to stay for breakfast. And as her husband said, ‘You know what my wife’s breakfasts look like.’ She had indeed spent much time on the meal, but it was not lost time that hurt her, but the inability to serve.
My husband once asked me why I enjoyed Quilting Quirks so much. I am not someone you could see naturally loving to quilt, and it shows when I quilt, but I do love going. What I told him is, I am the only ‘leader’ (okay administrator but we often lump the two together) in a room full of people with the gift of hospitality, it is the most relaxing weekend I will ever spend away from the family! People with this gift rock!
I have only experienced this gift once. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘discerning of spirits.’ It is when you know, for no earthly reason that someone or something is involved with the demonic. Now often we can logic this out, because there are signs that people are playing inappropriately with the supernatural, and often people admit to it. In our society going to have your palm read, or having a tarot card reading does not have much of a stigma, and there is not as much really dark magic available. So why is fortune telling etc so bad? Because you are going to a demon, rather than God, for information that God has decided we are not yet to know, or we are to ask Him for. You are circumventing God, and achieving your goals without Him, and this is always bad. Our ultimate goal is an intimate relationship with the Lord. Going to demons, or even liars who make things up is the exact opposite of this.
So, my experience, brief as it was, involved a woman some friends said I ‘had to meet.’ As they brought her over I had an overwhelming feeling that I cannot truly describe. I wanted to run and all I could think was why are you bringing her close to me! I stayed, and was pleasant, and examined my feelings later. Shortly after this meeting I discovered that there were a few false prophets in our area. They knew things that were correct about the future, but they used them to convince people to do things that were not godly. (One man was encouraged to leave his wife.) I never saw this woman again, but I would not be surprised if she was part of this group. This group existed within the churches, and because their predictions came true they were thought to be extremely godly, but the ‘fruit’ (the end result) of their involvement resulted in people falling away from the Lord and doing things that were obviously not right.
I do not have the gift of leadership. My husband does. That may seem strange after what I said about pastoring, but leadership is different than pastoring. A pastor directs the people in the ways they should go. A leader sets the vision. He has the long-term plan. And if it is a gift from God people jump on board and are eager to help, many times doing even more than the leader dreamed. Pastors help guide the people as they accomplish this vision. Administrators see the details. Leaders are often not detail people, so they need these people really close to them.
Administrators see the day-to-day needs and make sure they are done. They do not compete with the leader, but it sometimes seems like they do most of his work. A leader often says, ‘I do not know what I would do without (fill-in-the-name- of -the administrator),’ and he is right, a lot would be missed if these people were not there. They make sure the plans do not crumble, and that the little annoying things get done. (The pastors keep people excited and encourage them to keep their commitment, often plugging them into areas where their skills can be used. They guide the people.) It is a mistake to think either the leader or the administrator could do any big project independent of the other unless a person has both gifts (not common, probably because God likes us to work together as one body). Comparing these two types of gifts is detrimental to the project and must not be done. Leaders often look lazy or incompetent because they are not as concerned about the day-to-day needs, but without their vision there would be no overall plan and great things will not be done.
It is also a mistake to believe that only males are leaders. The Red Cross, the Girl Scouts, Mary Kay and many other organizations were started by women. These women had a vision that probably went even further than they had ever imagined. Sometimes in marriage a wife has leadership skills, where the husband is more administrative. This causes problems if the couple has been taught that only the male may ‘lead.’ The wife sees clearly the vision for the future of their family and is now upset that her husband does not see the same things and even more than she does. Often the husband is okay with following her plan. (Knowing when to use a good plan is a sign of great authority in any organization.) The problem is that the wife wants him to come up with a plan that is better than hers because that is what she was taught the man is to do. Whatever the man being the ‘head’ of the house is, it cannot be this. A good ‘head’ knows to use the people under him and to let them fly when they have an idea. God gives vision to people in authority, yes, but He also gives leadership giftings to others, and a person who has authority knows when someone else has a gift and that it is best for the group to use it! The person with a ‘leadership’ gifting therefore does not have to be in a position of authority. The person in authority merely has to let the ‘leader’ use their gift by identifying that their vision is good, and godly and setting up a situation where the person can see the vision through. (‘Leadership’ is probably a bad term for this gift, since it does not necessarily mean ‘the ultimate authority’ but it is the best we have.) By the way, I am the administrator to my husband’s leadership. That sounds like he would always be ‘in charge’ but since I am better at seeing the details that would snag his plans and I make sure the details get done the reality is that I am often the one telling him what we should do! My instructions are ultimately to accomplish what he has envisioned, but if you only see us function for a short period of time, especially if it is a time where much of the ‘work’ of the plan needs to be done, it could seem like I call most of the shots…
This is probably my main gift. It flows through everything I do. I do very little without explaining why I do it to others. My son once called me and I said that I was never very athletic. He said, ‘But you were awesome at karate.’ I said that I wasn’t and that I worked very hard for what I had achieved. He then pointed out that all of the guys lined up to learn from me. I said, ‘Ah, I am not a great doer, but if you have the skill I am great at showing you how to use it.’ That is a teacher. A teacher can break down what they know and apply it to your situation so that you can understand how to use the information. It is not that they necessarily know more than you; they can just communicate it in a way others understand and can apply to their lives. If you give a teacher new information they will likely explain it back to you. Not because they are trying to take credit for it, but because that is what they do with information. They make it real. They look at it from different angles and play with it until it becomes real, and then they share. Typically you cannot get a teacher to shut up, but some are quiet. With maturity you learn when to share and when to let the person come to their own conclusions. A teacher walks you through the process. They do not spoon-feed you but they make you think and do so that you actually learn and find the information useful. This is why not everyone who has facts can teach, and why it is a gift.