Working as a journalist in my mid-20s at a startup in New York City, I’ve asked thousands of successful entrepreneurs my age what compelled them to start their own businesses. The most common response I received was, “I saw a need in the world, and I wanted to do something about it.” No one said, “I’m doing this for myself.”
People are naturally wired to live for something greater. This desire stems from humanity’s yearning for greatness, to be left breathless and in awe of something colossal. Jesus tells us in John 14, “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” We have access to serious power and authority to do spiritual damage in the name of Jesus.
But how do we take possession of these greater things? Let’s get to know the Holy Spirit.
He affirms our identity as beloved children
Our 20s are golden years for spiritual formation. As we’re trying to figure out who we are, one temptation is to compare ourselves to people who we think are in possession of greater things than us – whether it is money, status, skills, intellect or a significant other.
Let’s stop comparing. God has given each of us different gifts in accordance with the faith He has distributed. Before we receive His gifts, we must receive the Giver.
In the story of the prodigal son, the son squanders his wealth and possessions, and upon his return, the father offers him the best robe to wear. It’s not that he deserved it; rather, the prodigal son through his father’s grace was restored to a place of honor and dignity. The robe is access to the Father through Jesus and all of the gifts of His kingdom. When we put on the robe, we are God’s beloved children. Nothing will ever change that. The more we understand our identity, the better we are able to steward our spiritual gifts.
He teaches us how to use spiritual gifts
In middle school, I received Christ at an altar call, but no one ever told me about the Holy Spirit until I was smacked with His presence in high school. I received the gift of tongues and after uncontrollably babbling in a foreign language, my pastor led me to 1 Corinthians 12 where I found a treasure-trove of spiritual gifts like wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues and the interpretation of tongues.
And then I read the fine print: “The Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” We don’t choose what gifts we get, but we’re free to discover what He gave us.
In Susan Rohrer’s book The Holy Spirit: Amazing Power for Every Day People there are three distinct varieties of spiritual gifts: supernatural (charisma), aid (diakonia) and workings (energema) gifts. For an extended list of spiritual gifts, read about them here.
If you’re not sure what you’re particularly gifted at, here’s a spiritual gifts questionnaire to start discovering them. Serving the church helped me explore different giftings. As I served in various roles, I learned how God wired me to build up the church.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:2, Paul tells us that spiritual gifts serve to strengthen people and help their faith, especially in times of trial and afflictions when it’s easy for believers to lose sight. Personally, I saw the Holy Spirit at work during a dark time in my 20s. I had lost my job and was on the brink of losing my apartment. Just then, a few brothers and sisters at my church came alongside me and started using their spiritual gifts – they blessed me through finances, meals, hospitality, job leads, prayers and words of encouragement.
I was blown away at how tangibly the Spirit revealed God’s love during this difficult time. I was determined to “suffer” through things on my own, but I realized that was prideful, and I didn’t trust God would provide good things for me. The more I received from others, the easier it was for me to break off those lies. I learned a vital lesson in my 20s: We can’t give what we don’t receive. I’m now in possession of some weighty gifts, which I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to share with fellow believers. God used my brokenness to reveal to me that I am an encourager like Barnabas and have a spirit of compassion, generosity and hospitality.
He empowers us to seek the welfare of the city
While it’s all well and good to practice our spiritual gifts in a Christian community, we’re meant to go out into our cities, establish our post and invest in nonbelievers. Jeremiah 29:7 tells us, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
The Bible teaches us to bring the power of the Holy Spirit into the darkest places. When I moved to New York five years ago, I couldn’t help but wonder how long I’d last in this city. I was aware of the spiritual battles and temptations to build my career in a culture saturated by selfish ambitions and vain conceits. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to escape the toxic environment, so I went on a mission trip to China. It was an opportunity to get outside of myself without being too discouraged by the brokenness I saw in my city.
When I returned home, the way I viewed people in New York drastically changed. I actually cared for them. I knew it wasn’t my own doing because naturally I get uncomfortable talking to strangers on the streets and walk around with headphones on. Over time, the Spirit inspired me to take out my ear buds, pay attention to my surroundings and share God’s love through encouragement and prayers.
As I pray for people, I’ve seen the Spirit heal broken hearts and save lives. Not only does God move in supernatural ways, but He also works in our daily moments. We the church can take ownership of His spiritual gifts to bless our city, workplaces, friends and family.