Encouragement. Man I could sure use it, and I assume you could too. Some are better at it than others, because some people are gifted as God’s cheerleaders, as people who spur us on to deeper intimacy with God, who challenge us to go farther, reach deeper, to be all we can be for God, to walk out our faith in integrity, humility and righteousness. And that is the purpose of the gift of encouragement / exhortation.
The gift of exhortation is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the body of Christ to minister words of consolation, encouragement, comfort, and counsel to other members of the body in such a way that they feel helped and healed.
Or as the Bible puts it:
11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The best Biblical example of an encourager / exhorter was Barnabas (His real name was Joseph, Acts 4:36, but the apostles called him Barnabas, literally “Son of Encouragement”. So his name describes his gift). The bible uses the following language to describe him:
he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. – Acts 11:23-24
When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God. – Acts 13:43
It was Barnabas that God sent to Saul after his encounter on the road to Damascus to encourage him and pray for his healing (sometimes encouragement is not in words, but in actions). It was Barnabas who took a risk with John Mark (who previously had deserted Paul and Barnabas on a mission trip), who later wrote the Book of Mark. So if Barnabas had not gone about encouraging people, almost half of the New Testament would never have been written!!
- come to the side of those who are discouraged to strengthen and reassure them;
- confront, challenge, exhort and encourage those who have gotten off track in their faith or life;
- help others change their behavior by applying biblical truth;
- often have people around them because they cheer them up by their simple attitude and demeanor and down-to-earth advice;
- emphasize God’s promises and to have confidence in the Lord’s will.
This gift is many times coupled with the pastoral gifting. People with this gift excel at:
- Worship leading – They encourage people to chase after God.
- Youth Ministry – Adolescence can be a rough time of life, and they need all the encouragement they can get 🙂
- Prison and Hospital Ministry – When you are down and out, who better to send then someone who is gifted at lifting your spirits 🙂
When you are gifted to lift people’s spirits and to encourage them, it can be hard to bring the “downer” of correction and confrontation. They can also fall in flattery if not careful.