By Dr. Stephen Phinney

Knowing and discovering our spiritual gifts is a fun and exciting journey.  Always know that there may be many different types of gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but it is one Spirit that works all these together.  He is the one who distributes them.  It is not something we can pray in, practice having, or even study to attain.  God gives each of these gifts as He desires.  It works that way!
If others have gifts that we believe are not as important, know this: God uses the lesser parts of our human body to support the major parts.  For without the lesser parts, the major parts could not function at all.  Can you imagine your body without the hypothalamus (one of the smallest parts of the body); for without it, your whole body would be unmanaged and short circuit itself within hours?  God places each human body part in its place in order for the whole body to function under His loving command.  All of our body parts work for doing what we are being told to do.  God’s order is for obedience.  Obedience is for fulfilling the Great Commission of the Lord.  We are gifted for His divine purpose and not our own (1 Cor. 12:11-21).
We need to give special honor – higher honor – to those we see as not as gifted as others (1 Cor. 12:22-23).  For God Himself gives more honor to the lesser than the greater.  In fact, He says he gives abundant honor to those who have smaller or behind-the-scenes gifting that lack honor (1 Cor. 12:24-25).  We should do the same.
The Body of Christ is gifted in such a way that when one member of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers.  We are to respond by using our gifting to help and comfort the suffering Body member, restoring him back to functioning within the Body of Christ.
We can perform all the works of God, such as speaking in tongues of men and angels, casting out demons, healing the sick, leading thousands to the Lord, or even moving mountains with our faith.  However, if we do not have a strong love life with God and man, these gifts are simply a lot of noise to God (1 Cor. 13:1-2).  In fact, the Word goes as far as to say that if we do not have love when using these gifts, we are nothing.  Our love life with God and man is probably the most important item on God’s agenda.
The only way these gifts profit us is if we are filled with love and are giving unto God and man for His common good.  We should desire a profit or a return on all our gifts, as this profits God.  When it profits us nothing, we function as nothing.
Don’t Act Unbecomingly
When functioning in our gifting, we are to be patient with people, kind, tenderhearted, and full of compassion (1 Cor. 13:4). Remember, many of the people who are on the other end of our gifting are oftentimes threatened by what the Lord is revealing in their lives. This is why we need to function in the fullness of His love.
We shouldn’t ever brag or boast about our gifts, as if we have something better than the other Body members do.  People who understand the purpose of their gifting do not seek their own with their gifts.  Seeking their own would be using their gifting to benefit themselves, a common problem in the church today.
Evidence that you are functioning in your gifting correctly is that you are NOT easily provoked and you are not taking an account of the wrong done to you.  Body members who are dysfunctional in their gifting rejoice in unrighteousness, instead of rejoicing in TRUTH.  Those who rejoice in the Truth bear all things people are giving to them, believe all things others are telling them, hope for the best in others at all times, and endure all things that God in His sovereignty gives to them (1 Cor. 13:5-7).
The key here is: LOVE never fails.  The gifts will cease and knowledge will end, but the Lord of God will go on forever and ever (1 Cor. 13:8-10).
The Scriptures do speak to us about a gift that stands out above them all.  God has His reasons for this.  Keep in mind that people who have this gift (love) do not receive any special blessing.  Prophets are given the same command to pure love (1 Cor. 14:1).  Remember, without love, it is all for nothing.  Therefore, we can conclude that the purpose of the gifts is to introduce the unsaved or Body members to the LOVE of God.
If we are to desire gifts, we should desire above all to prophesy.  For the people who speak prophecies speak to people for edification, exhortation, and consolation.  In general, the one who prophesies edifies the church.
Many Body members put the emphasis on the manifestation of speaking in tongues. But God says that the one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues (1 Cor. 14:5).  The goal is to edify the church and not an individual.  Prophecy is focused on the edification of the Body members within the church, as well as the church as a whole.
Tongues are a sign not to those who believe, but to the unbelievers. Prophecy is a sign not to the unbelievers, but the believers (1 Cor. 14:22).  For when unsaved people come to the church and can’t understand what is being spoken (speaking in tongues with a manifestation of interpretation), the visitor will know that God is doing something supernatural.  The unsaved person will truly know that God has given a sign (or will think that the people are simply crazy).
On the other hand, prophecy is for the believers, Body members who are familiar with the ways and wonders of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:22).  When a visitor hears and sees that the secrets of the heart are being exposed in the lives of the believers, the visitor is more apt to fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among the members of the church.
When prophecy is delivered in a gathering, it is to be done one by one, so that everyone who attends may hear what God is revealing to each person.  When prophecies are given in shotgun fashion, the Body does not have time to process what God is saying (1 Cor. 14:30-31).  The attitude should be, God is speaking here and I need to listen – even if it is not directed at me.
God is not a God of confusion, but of peace and order (1 Cor. 14:33).  If you are in a gathering and it sounds confusing, noisy, and out of order, then God is probably not the One doing the manifesting.
We need to grow up in Christ and not act like childish children.  When we were children, we thought like children, spoke like children and responded like children.  Now that we are men and women of God, we need to put away the reactions of a child.  We need to have the mind of Christ, allowing Christ to think through us.  We need to reason with the logic of heaven, not with what makes sense to the desires of man.  For we will not live and breathe in the miraculous if we function through the walls of man’s logic.  Finally, we need to speak with the voice of God through the indwelling Holy Spirit.  God can and will speak through each of us, if we set our flesh (self-life) aside and let Him do what He does best – be God (1 Cor. 13:11).
We are not to be children in our thinking; but at the same time, we are to be like babes in our responses to evil (1 Cor. 14:20).  Evil often hides itself in the church under the cover of spiritual gifts.  We need to be mature in our thinking, to protect ourselves against the subtle workings of the enemy in spiritual gifts.
If anyone thinks he/she is prophet or functioning in spiritual things, let him recognize that the Lord writes by way of command regarding our spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:37).  If no one accepts the Word’s guidelines on spiritual gifts, then God does not recognize the gifts (1 Cor. 14:38).  Ouch!
Each of us should desire earnestly to prophesy and not forbid speaking in tongues.  However, all things need to be done properly and in an orderly manner (1 Cor. 14:39-40).  Have fun using all of what God offers you.  Enjoy with the fullness of His life in you.
Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.