I am terrible at tennis. But I do know about the “sweet spot.” It refers to the place on the racket at the center where the ball will rebound with the most velocity. It’s easier to experience this for yourself than to explain to others. Simply put, when you find the sweet spot, you know it.
"As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace…" 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)
There is also a “sweet spot” when it comes to our spiritual gifts. There are some areas in which we will serve (no pun intended) that will have greater “bounce” than others. It is exhilarating to discover a need in the church or in the world, and then meet that need using the unique combination of gifts and abilities God has given you.
But what if you aren’t sure what your particular gift is? What can you do to discover and develop it? Here are three practical things you can do to find your spiritual gift “sweet spot.”
1. Commit to a local church
Because spiritual gifts are a means of serving one another in the Body of Christ (1 Peter 4:10), it's unlikely that we will discover our gift in isolation from a local church. A healthy, biblically functioning church is like a greenhouse in which spiritual gifts grow. But it’s only by putting roots down into the soil of that community that our particular gifts can be identified and cultivated. This means actually committing to be an accountable, serving member of a local church. This is where our radically individualistic culture messes us up. We are told that to find our true abilities we must be free from all constraints. As Elsa has famously sung, “It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free!”
But that is not the way God has designed us to find our gifts and flourish in the church, or in this world. For example, to produce a soaring improvised jazz solo, the musician must submit to tempo, song form, and harmonic chord progression. To win an Olympic medal, the swimmer must submit herself to a rigorous practice routine and the instruction and discipline of a coach. And it’s no different in the church. As long as we are determined to be “free” of all commitments and constraints, we will never be able to discover and develop our spiritual gifts.
2. Serve where needed
Once we have become committed to a local church, the next step is to simply serve wherever there is a need. This doesn’t mean you should simply look for a church program. To the contrary, you may find that your spiritual gift is best expressed in very informal, non-programmatic ways in the church, or perhaps that it is used effectively outside the context of the local church (such as the gifts of evangelism, mercy, or hospitality). But when you do encounter a need and use your gifting to meet it, you will experience a sense of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment that indicates you are headed in the right direction.
3. Get Feedback
Once you are serving in the context of the local church, you will find that you are drawn to certain things more than others. This is a further sign that you are headed in the right direction. But a word of caution is necessary. Just because we enjoy doing something does not mean we are particularly gifted or effective at it. (Think of all the thousands of people who audition for The Voice because they love singing, sincerely believe they are good at it, and want to share that gift with the world.)
In the church, we discover what we are good at not only by doing what we enjoy, but also by seeking honest feedback from others who know us, love us, and observe what we are doing. This is not easy to do, because it requires humility. But if we can gather the courage to ask questions (“What do you think I am good at around here? How do you see the Lord using me in ministry? What do you see are my strengths and weaknesses?”), we will probably get some enlightening and encouraging, and yes, sometimes humbling answers.