The gift of exhortation is a beautiful gift that is multifaceted. It is not as simple as one person encouraging another person (although that definitely applies). This initial understanding of exhortation is really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The more broad definition is when someone comes alongside someone else in need. Exhortation must not be limited to just our words, however, because our actions can often times have an even greater impact.
Possessing the Gift of Exhortation
When someone possess the gift of exhortation, they see a person in genuine need of guidance and comfort and fully offer themselves up to help. This gift disdains disingenuous offers to help. This gift is willing to sacrifice to be beneficial to someone else. A wonderful example of this gift is seen in the life of Barnabas. Paul had no friends, everyone feared him and, therefore, rejected him, all except Barnabas, who loved him enough to stand by him when no one else would. If it wasn’t for Barnabas, or we could say, if it wasn’t for the gift of exhortation, I am confident that the Apostle Paul would have never realized his full potential in ministry.
Jesus’ Example for Us
This gift is not just seen in the life of Barnabas, however. As is true of all the gifts, the greatest example is that of Christ. I think of the scenes when He goes to the outskirts of town to heal the man possessed by Legion. He stood by him when no one else would. How about the lepers that He was willing to connect with? He stood by them when no one else would. And the woman caught in the act of adultery? He stood (even stooped) by her when no one else would. What about when Jesus feasted with tax collectors and sinners? Again, the pattern and His actions continued. He stood by them when no religious leader would have ever been seen in their company.
Exercising this Gift Through Words
Although actions are paramount, there is no doubt that the most common way for this gift to be exercised is through words.
Through encouraging words. When someone is struggling and stumbling, the gift of exhortation highlights the genuine positives that it sees in the one who is discouraged, it highlights the hope we have in Christ, it stays positive when all else is negative.
Through cautionary words. An ignored aspect to this gift is the warning that it gives to those who are flirting with sin. The gift of exhortation encourages someone when they are down and alerts them to the dangers and pitfalls of sin.
Through restorative words. When one is an outcast due to their former sin, the gift of exhortation refuses to camp out on their past and only points them to their glorious future in Christ. Praise God for this wonderful gift that helps others realize the hope they have in Our Father. It strengthens the weak, it warns the wanderer and it points all to our Savior!
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8 ESV
This is part of a series of articles about spiritual gifts. Click below to read more as they’re published.