Are you familiar with the concept of spiritual gifts? Christians believe that the Holy Spirit gives one or more spiritual gifts to each and every believer to equip each one to strengthen and uplift other believers and to build up the Church (people, not buildings) for daily life on planet Earth and in preparation for eternity. The gift or gifts match the believer’s personality, skills and talents, and unique life direction. The principles used in exercising the gift of exhortation can apply to believers and non-believers alike, so the gift of exhortation can be helpful with anyone struggling with life experiences. Many non-believers have personality traits and emotional characteristics that are useful for secular exhortation, so this post can be of interest to all readers. It is my hope that you will enjoy this simple introduction to a powerful force for good, the gift of exhortation.
If you would like to know more about all of the spiritual gifts described in the Bible, here are a few places to get you started:
WHAT IS EXHORTATION?
Merriam-Webster defines the verb exhort as “to incite by argument or advice : urge strongly” (transitive) and “to give warnings or advice : make urgent appeal” (intransitive). In other words, this is a gift that is expressed in compelling words. The gift of exhortation is also called the gift of encouragement (as in “take heart”, “keep pushing on”). Our modern-day usage of the noun encouragement is definitely watered down in comparison to the forcefulness of exhortation.
The Greek word for this gift is Parakaleo. It means to beseech, exhort, or call upon in order to encourage and to strengthen. The primary means of exhortation is to remind the hearer of the powerful and amazing work of God in Christ, particularly regarding the saving work of Jesus Christ through His resurrection. We see Paul commanding Titus to use this gift in Titus 1:9 and throughout chapter 2, particularly Titus 2:11-15. He also charges Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2. The gift of exhortation is the special ability to minister comfort, encouragement and advice to other people in a way that they feel helped and healed. Although everyone who is a Christian is called upon to encourage other believers, some are given a particularly significant ability to carry out this important ministry. In my experience, the gift of exhortation is often coupled with the gift of discernment of spirits. The Holy Spirit gives the gift of discernment to enable certain Christians to clearly recognize and distinguish between the influence of God, Satan, the world, and the flesh in a given situation (more on this below).
HOW CAN EXHORTATION BE HELPFUL?
Exhortation can be:
1. Encouragement – Hey, well done! (not empty words or platitudes, but a sincere recognition of something planned and accomplished despite tough circumstances)
2. Advice – I think it is better to finish your studies before starting a job. (only given if requested and best coupled with an explanation of why the exhorter believes in the advice)
3. Comfort – I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother’s death. What can I/we do to help you through this tough season? (words + an action plan)
An exhorter’s central motivational drive is to encourage believers to mature in Christ and to grow spiritually. Exhorters often seek to stimulate that development by discipling, teaching, and counseling others.
- An exhorter usually regards God’s sovereignty (there is no force or power that can overcome or supercede God or change His good and perfect character) as his or her “favorite” characteristic of God.
- Exhorters regard trials as opportunities for growth. Since God is in control, they recognize that whatever happens has potential to glorify God and to conform believers to the image of Jesus Christ. The exhorter sympathizes with the suffering Christian but sees the pain through the lens of God’s sovereignty rather than through the lens of suffering. (A person with the motivational gift of mercy, on the other hand, would see the pain through the lens of suffering.)
- Exhorters express love through availability.
- Given a choice of helping someone “spiritually” or helping with a physical need (such as taking a meal or mowing a lawn while that one is in the hospital), the exhorter prefers to offer spiritual help. Given a choice of encouraging by empathy or encouraging by exhortation, a person with this motivational gift is most likely to exhort when the person is in an emotional place to receive it.
- Wise counsel flows from the heart of an exhorter who can identify precepts and principles in God’s Word skillfully.
- Exhorters love to encourage, encourage, encourage! Exhorters are usually more interested in the positive than the negative. They seldom use “Thou shalt not” to get people to act. Instead, they use ideas and methods that make the right way seem better, more exciting, or more practical to that person than the wrong way. They are the cheerleaders for the individual or team.
- Exhorters and mercy-givers make a good team for counseling someone who is discouraged. The person with the gift of mercy empathizes—he or she knows how the downhearted person feels. The exhorter exhorts—he or she knows how the person has the potentialto feel! The exhorter’s job is to give hope by sharing a Biblical perspective on the situation and reminding people of God’s power, love, and faithfulness. An exhorter is less likely to simply sit in the ashes weeping with others (as the mercy-giver would weep) and more likely to work on strategies to rise from the ashes – past the pain once the initial overwhelming grief has passed – to take advantage of the peace, comfort, and new growth that comes from even the most painful life experiences. I am an exhorter and my husband is a mercy-giver and retired marriage and family therapist, so I know this is true.
- An exhorter responds to problems by working out a plan of action steps. The goal is to make the plan so easy to comprehend – and tailored to the person and his or her gifts and abilities – that the one receiving the exhortation will understand it, see its potential, embrace it, and grow as a result of carrying it out.
(these include my experiences with a list found here: https://iblp.org/questions/what-spiritual-gift-exhorting)
HOW DOES DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS FIT IN? I mentioned earlier that I find the gift of exhortation is often coupled with the gift of discernment of spirits (understanding which spiritual factors are operating in the person’s life and how they may be influencing that person’s thoughts, words, and actions). I believe that a discerning of spirits can be very helpful in knowing HOW and WHEN exhortation should be expressed to the individual wishing to receive it. Further, I believe that the gift of exhortation is most successfully exercised one on one or in a small confidential group (as opposed to the gift of evangelism, for example) so that the person or persons receiving the exhortation can react quickly and easily.
WELLNESS AND SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Many people talk about alignment as a key contributor to overall wellness and wholeness. Have you determined your spiritual gift or gifts? Knowing which gifts you have received helps tremendously in understanding your path and purpose in this life and may also open doors to new opportunities to reach your full spiritual potential.
Wellness Made Simple helps you to simplify the way YOU do well…for life!