You may be thinking, what on earth is exhortation? I thought that too when I first heard it, but it simply means encouragement.
The dictionary definition of encouragement is: To give support, confidence or hope to (someone).
To encourage someone means to literally give someone courage for a situation. It is such an affirming, uplifting and exciting thing to do and yet one we probably don’t even think of much or even see as a spiritual gift, am I right?
I have grown to understand and realise the impact of and power of encouragement in helping people become all they have been called to be.
It says in the bible,
Roms 12:6-8 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Someone with the spiritual gift of encouragement can often identify areas where someone is not growing spiritually and speak into their lives and also encourage those who are growing to push forward for more. It is often closely linked to the gift of the prophetic (more about that in the next post). When you encourage someone you give an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to help move people from pessimism to optimism or to bring comfort and spur them on.
Since someone told me I had this gift I really hadn’t realised and even though I loved to encourage hadn’t recognised it as a gift. After they said that I thought ‘oh, maybe I have, that’s fun’ and I have since been seeking to create an atmosphere of encouragement wherever I am. This means at work, church, in my family and in my friendship groups.
This can be by doing simple things like smiling at someone as you pass them in the corridor, leaving a note on someone’s desk, buying someone a gift or thanking people for the little things they do, that often go unnoticed and leave them feeling taken for granted or unnoticed.
Using the gift of encouragement can be really fun, especially if you go out with a courage buddy to actively seek out people to encourage on the streets, in shops or even just waiting at the station. People love to be encouraged and are usually incredibly open to words of encouragement that can often lead to opportunities to talk about God. But, even if they don’t that doesn’t matter because it’s about making someone feel appreciated and seen in their everyday.
At the heart of encouragement you are seeing people through God’s eyes and ‘calling out the gold’ in them. We all have gold buried deep within us, the qualities and identity God has placed within us that gets buried deep beneath the dirt and mess of everyday life. We all need people to call out the gold within us and speak truth over us. When we do this people flourish and you can literally see people re-inflate (imagine a balloon that you blow up) as they start to realise their worth as you speak it over them.
Remember your words are powerful and can bring life or death. Create a culture in your life that is full of encouragement and life giving to those around you.
Prov 18:21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
If you are still wondering today what your giftings are, this on-line questionnaire is particularly helpful and a god place to start. This can be used to point you towards giftings that you have or gifts that are emerging in you. Talk to friends and see what they think your giftings are, speak to someone at church and see what they think and don’t forget to ask God too. Then stir up the gifts that God has given you and get together with people who have similar gifts to you so you can encourage each other to use them and grow together in them.
2Tim 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
Just as we have all been created uniquely, God will use this gift of encouragement creatively and uniquely in you-how exciting!!
How can YOU get creative with encouragement?
How will YOU encourage the people around you this week?
Other Gifts of the Spirit in this series: