One of the most important ways to discover more about our identity as artists is to look at the spiritual gifts we’ve been given. Let’s dig a little deeper and really start to explore the nature of these gifts.
I believe that God gives spiritual gifts to each person and these gifts become a big part of our identity. These encouraging words from James have been a big help to me:
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”James 1:16-17
But wait! Does it say “every good gift”? The word every is totally inclusive. Can it be true that everything that is good comes from heaven—a gift to us from God? Yes!
The Greek word used by James to describe our gifts is sometimes translated as “perfect,” but it is also translated “complete” or “mature.” So this sentence is extremely important. Every good, complete, mature gift we are given comes from God. All good things, in each of us, are a gift from the Father who, James implies, wants to fill us with heavenly light.
Here’s a crucial question for artists: does “every good gift” include our artistic talents and our imaginations—our abilities to make films and sing songs and design buildings? Yes it does! I believe that God has given us special gifts as artists, and that these gifts are good.
My friend Cindy, who had just finished her master’s degree in flute performance, went home to Ohio to play a recital for all the folks who had supported her during her years of study. In the middle of the recital, she thought that she heard God say, “Play the hymn ‘Amazing Grace.’” It wasn’t something she had planned to do.
But between two of her programmed pieces, Cindy paused and then simply said, “I am going to add something else here.” She then played the hymn quietly, without accompaniment. Cindy had no idea why God asked her to do this, but she found out at the end of the recital. An audience member came up to her and tearfully told Cindy that a physical ailment that had bothered her for years had been healed during the hymn. God’s Spirit can indeed be embedded in our artwork.
OTHER TYPES OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Our artistic gifts aren’t the only spiritual gifts we have. The apostle Paul goes into great detail about these “gifts of the Spirit” in his first letter to the folks in Corinth.
“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the Spirit is given for the common good.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-7, 11
Paul says that knowing about our spiritual gifts is important. He wants us to be informed that there are many different gifts and many different ways to use them, but all of this is from God. You can’t miss how Paul repeats “same Spirit . . . same Lord . . . same God.”
And then in verse 7, he tells us why these gifts are given: “the Spirit is given for the common good”—to bless others as well as to bless us. Paul also explains that “He (God) distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” I believe this means that God has good and unique plans for each of us. And the spiritual gifts are given to us as part of His plan.
Artists are trained by the world to believe that we learn to use our gifts so we can look good—in other words, get applause. If we receive applause and fame, we should be grateful for these good things, but God’s plan is different. We are given gifts that will bless us, and then we are told to give away the gifts we’ve received to bless others. So whether we are famous or not, a free gift to us turns into a free gift to others.
And the list of gifts is expansive. For instance, beyond my artistic gifts, I know that one of my personal gifts is to open my home (and my life) to others. People feel safe in my home when they’re here for dinner or a discussion. And they most often seem to trust me quickly—it is a humbling gift to be considered trustworthy. I also have a gift of compassion: I feel the pain and joy of others very intensely, and this sometimes allows me to ask them questions that bless them. Another gift is my intense personal love for beauty and for artistic expression. I don’t brag about any of this: these are examples of spiritual gifts that God has freely given me. My job is to remember to give them away.
What is amazing about a spiritual gift is that the Spirit of God is embedded in it. And if the Spirit of God is involved, it is possible that the use of that gift will have power that comes from outside of ourselves.
But What is the Greatest Gift?
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship but do not have love, I gain nothing. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13
Even though I had read this beautiful letter from Paul dozens of times, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I suddenly realized that the love I have been seeking my whole life is a gift from God. And my job is simply to accept the gift and then give it away to others.
As I pondered that amazing thought, I realized that all three “greatest gifts”—faith, hope, and love—are not things that I can make happen on my own. I remembered the times I would desperately try to pound it into myself that I must have more faith and must not lose hope. But it didn’t work. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make myself have more hope or faith. And besides not working, I would be exhausted and frustrated from trying so hard to make these things happen.
But this process of accepting our gifts gets tricky, because God doesn’t give all the gifts to any one person. He spreads them out among many people and then asks us to cooperate with one another so that His total plan will take shape. This is why knowing my personal identity—knowing my unique gifts and talents—is so important to my artwork and my relationships as well. The world keeps bellowing that we must do everything perfectly. So I need to sort out what my strengths and gifts are, and what they are not. Then I can focus on what I’m designed to do well and let others do the things that I am not designed to do. But no matter what my unique talents and opportunities may be, Paul says that God’s love must be present.
Artists: faith, hope, and love are gifts freely given to us, and if we are willing to accept and use these gifts in every aspect of our lives, we will have the freedom to live creative and meaningful lives.
In the Old Testament book of Numbers, Aaron, older brother of Moses, tells us that there is an important blessing that God wishes each of us to embrace. This is God’s blessing for all of us, which certainly includes us artists, that tells us that God will be with us as we walk out our lives using the gifts that He has given us.
“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face to you and give you peace.”Numbers 6:24-26
This is The Father’s Blessing that all of us can receive, even if our own earthly family didn’t know how to bless us as artists. God made us, and He filled us with gifts and He fills those gifts with His Spirit — if we are willing to let Him do that. God never gives us gifts to frustrate us; He gives us gifts that can be filled with His power, and we ourselves will be blessed when we use those gifts.
What are your spiritual gifts as an artist?
I invite you to take a few moments now to meditate on this image of God reaching out to Adam by Michelangelo. Ask God what gifts He has given you specifically, and ask Him to give you a heart that is willing to accept them.
Looking for more? Check out our previous post for help finding your own gifts and talents: The Best Personality Test for Artists
Photo credits: Taylor Wright on Unsplash; Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash; Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash; visuals on Unsplash