Talents are natural and inherited. They are natural endowments received through one’s parents at birth, from generation to generation. A talent gives you unique abilities. When you discover the talent that God has given you and use it effectively you will demonstrate your uniqueness and excel.
Spiritual gifts are supernatural and received directly from God at the time of the new birth. Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit. Lists of spiritual gifts are found in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:10-12. Therefore, only saved people receive spiritual gifts. However, both natural talents and spiritual gifts are from God.
There are unsaved people who are talented in music, mathematics, athletics etc. A person who is talented in music must learn to play an instrument and practise intensively. Talents are developed through hard work, practice and perseverance.
God can stir up the talent in someone for a special service. In Exodus 31:1-5, the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze, in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of workmanship.”
History has a record of talented atheists, deists and agnostics. Examples are: Charles Darwin (naturalist, geologist and biologist), Thomas Edison (inventor and businessman), Sigmund Freud (neurologist), Benjamin Franklin (polymath, author, politician), Andrew Carnegie (industrialist, business magnate and philanthropist) and Julian Huxley (evolutionary biologist). These people exploited their natural talents and made great contributions to the world.
Spiritual gifts need to be exercised as the believer stays spiritually connected. He has to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Exercise of spiritual gifts requires spiritual growth and maturity. Spiritual gifts are for the purpose of perfecting the saints, for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4: 12).
Both talents and spiritual gifts are given to benefit others and for the glory of God. However, spiritual gifts are specifically for special spiritual tasks, while talents can be used entirely for non-spiritual purposes.
Talents possessed by believers ought to be surrendered and consecrated to the Lord and used for His honour and glory. For example, a talented organist may play to praise and worship God and a talented singer may use his or her voice to sing for the Lord.
Unlike talents and spiritual gifts, skills are acquired through training. We learn a lot of skills in our lifetime to earn income. When our talents are honed through skills training, we are better equipped to carry our mission by serving others in the most effective ways. We are able to solve other people’s problems as experts or professionals.
Another expression is strength. A strength is the ability to provide excellent performance in a specific activity. Your strength is created when you combine your talent, knowledge, skills, and practice. For example, to persuade others to buy your product, you have to combine your talent with product knowledge selling skills and soft skills. But your talent is the most important because it is innate and cannot be acquired.
When the Spirit of God leads someone to work in his area of talent, he will perform exploits. He will excel and people will benefit from his services. God has promised in Isaiah 42:16, “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them. And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them. And not forsake them.” Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”