I’ve taught on spiritual gifts many times over the past twenty years. One of the tools commonly used in such teaching is what we call a “Spiritual Gifts Inventory.”(Here’s a sample of an online inventory.) The theory is that by filling out the inventory – often over a hundred questions – you can identify your spiritual gifts. I haven’t used inventories much lately because I’ve noticed they’re better at identifying what you like to do then what God has equipped you to do. If it’s something you’ve tried before, they’ll pick it out. Otherwise, they’ll likely miss it.
Sometimes God’s call is a direct line with what we’ve been doing – direct from our current point of view. But often it isn’t. While Moses had a desire to be used by God, his calling at the burning bush was not in line with his experience up to that point. This is why when I teach on spiritual gifts I also teach that while knowing our gifts is important, it’s more important to obey God. It is never an adequate response to God’s calling to say, ‘But God, that’s not my spiritual gift!”
God’s call in our lives has several motivations:
God’s call is first and foremost an expression of love. God loves us enough to involve us in what he is doing.
God’s call is to join in kingdom work, i.e., accomplishing his agenda for the salvation of all creation. The work to which we are called is important – it counts for something. It’s not mere busy work or hoop jumping. For some reason God is not content to do all the work himself – he wants to involve his people.
Responding to God’s call requires faith even while it builds our faith. When I go work out, it takes some strength to lift a weight. As I lift that weight more and more, I get stronger. In the same way, our stepping out in response to God’s call requires faith. But as we step out, as we go on adventure with God, our faith grows in the process.
God wants us to trust him more than we trust ourselves, our resources, and our capacities. One way Paul puts this is that God shows his strength in our weakness. If we invest all our time and energy in making ourselves strong, we leave little room for God. Why trust God when we can trust ourselves? I think that’s why God habitually calls people to do what thy can’t do by themselves.
Have you tried stepping out in faith? A good starting point is to simply say, “Lord, what is my next step?” You don’t need to know tomorrow’s or next year’s step – just your next step. Then listen to what God says. Trust God to show his love by involving you in what he’s doing.
In our weakness He is strong. I agree with what you’ve said, because quite often (I daresay 99% of the time), God’s work in my life comes out of left field, calling me to places and service and soul-stretching that never occurred to me before.