Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Is it possible people doubt them because people don’t operate in them perfectly?

I’m curious if some Christians have a hard time accepting the gifts of the Holy Spirit as real because they’re operated in by imperfect people. What seem like flaws in the operation of the gifts are certainly no fault of God’s but instead lay at the feet of the earthen vessels God so graciously uses. I don’t think people would doubt the need for preaching the gospel because some preachers are not skilled at preaching. Perhaps it is reasonable then not to doubt the need for the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit because some who operate in these gifts are still learning. (I’m thinking of how in the Bible there was a school of the prophets. If people went to school for that, there must be a lot to learn and glean from teachers, or those with more experience and understanding.)

I consider it understandable to have a very high bar set for the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But I also think we need to remember what God is working through here—us humans.

Any thoughts?


It may have more to do with personal responsibility than doubt. We each have gifts of the spirit and to operate in them requires discipline. Like any tool, if unused, it will become rusty; like any talent not sown, it won’t grow. In order to use our gifts we must use them. Watching Netflix does little to develop them. Our intentionality and purposeful use of time is key.

We use doubt to explain a lot, but Nike had it right: Just Do It! Allow the enemy no voice by disciple. Making time to pray in the spirit daily is one of the biggest keys to unlocking the gifts of the spirit and walking by spirit and not flesh.

Make a daily commitment to just do it. Allow no doubt. The devil gives us many excuses to rob us of our gifts. Take every one of them captive to Christ’s obedience.

Fellowship with others who do the same. To best use your gifts, it’s best to sow together for support and sharing Then, together you’ll grow a garden full of good spiritual fruit.

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I think you have stated it very well.

Leah, I think this is a great question and one that’s become more personal to me over the last year or so. And, I’m assuming when you say “gifts” you mean the more visible gifts like tongues, words of knowledge, prophecy, etc. because there’s not much controversy surrounding the gifts of preaching, teaching, hospitality, and the like. I think, like most issues, there’s probably more than one reason behind the disbelief of the gifts. Some key objections may be an abuse of the gifts, lack of knowledge, lack of experience, and even a dis-allowance by worldview. I understand those reasons, I even held them to some degree, but when we press into each objection it becomes a little less formidable.

To give some example, consider abuses of the gifts. Have they been abused? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean we should toss the baby out with the bathwater? No, it means we should stop abusing the gifts. We don’t deny the accuracy of the scriptures if a pastor abuses them, so why the gifts? Or, how about the lack of experience? It’s not a good argument because even though I’ve never been to Canada doesn’t mean that it isn’t a real place with people and culture. Similarly, a lack of knowledge nor not having space in a worldview doesn’t impact the validity of the gifts.

I think you nailed it when you said we’re human and we mess up. You even cite preachers misteaching scripture, which happens almost daily across the globe because no person is all-knowing or infallible when interpreting God’s Word, and that is an excellent example. You also state the need to have a high bar and I think I agree with you. The bar that I’ve commonly found to be set is two-fold. First, the gifts cannot be operated without the power of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit isn’t present it usually means we’re acting on our own and Jesus said, ‘I do nothing on my own accord but only what I see the Father doing.’ It’s no bueno to be contrary to Jesus. Second, the gifts affirm the character of God and do not contradict the scriptures. For example, when someone says, “God told me _____” it shouldn’t be in opposition to biblical teaching or make God evil/unloving/etc. So, if the Holy Spirit is present and God’s character and Word are being affirmed I think we can be open to whatever happens through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I didn’t grow up in a tradition that embraced the charismatic visible gifts. When I encountered them I didn’t have a framework to deal with what I experienced. That led me to study the gifts and I was surprised by what I found. Not only is there sound logic and good theology but there’s also life-giving power when operating in the gifts through the Holy Spirit. In fact, there’s so much power in the Spirit that I know of individuals who have been healed in my local church (unfortunately, I didn’t get to be a witness of the process).

If you’re looking to lean into the gifts more, I’d like to share some resources that helped me: JP Moreland’s book “The Kingdom Triangle” was helpful, especially the last 1/3 which focuses directly on the gifts and his many youtube videos like this one. And, two more books “Suprised by the Power of the Spirit” and “Suprised by the Voice of God” both by Jack Deere. Those materials paired with being around people who God regularly uses through the gifts have changed my walk with Him.

I apologize for the wordiness but I hope you find this helpful :smiley:


Thank you for your response. I appreciate your heart in that. I’m totally convinced the gifts are real and needed. Your reference to doubt as an excuse got me to thinking of how doubt still hinders me because I question my ability to discern the leading of the Holy Ghost. There’s never any lack of room to grow.

Regarding spiritual gifts, scripture tells us to covet earnestly the best gifts (I Cor. 12:31). The scripture comes to mind (James 4:2) that says ye have not because ye ask not! If we want to be used in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we should ask for that! And if we’re unsure in this new territory, we can pray like you said. The Lord is faithful and gracious.

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Hey, that is definitely helpful. I am a believer in the gifts based on the Bible and experience/observation similar to what you mentioned.

Thank you for the breakdown. A basic checklist like that of what something should and should not look like creates understanding and gives both a good starting point and home base. I appreciate the examples and references also.

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