The Gift of Exhortation
Can you recall a time in your life when you were struggling, and someone came alongside you and encouraged you? Where would you be without this person's kind words of encouragement?
Take a second and think about cheerleaders. Cheerleaders stand on the side of a football field and cheer their team on. But they aren't simply shouting cute phrases like "Run that ball past the next yard line. Don't stop; you're doing fine!" - they are inciting their team towards positive actions and endurance.
Who has been a cheerleader for you? Who has pointed you towards victory in your spiritual journey?
If the individual acting as your personal cheerleader is a believer, there is a big possibility that this individual has the spiritual gift of exhortation.
Understanding the Gift of Exhortation
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; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 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. – Romans 12:6-8
Cambridge Dictionary defines exhortation as "the act of strongly encouraging or trying to persuade someone to do something."
We don't tend to use the word "exhortation" very often these days. Instead, it tends to be replaced by "encouragement" – even in Bible translations. However, it is important to understand that exhortation doesn't stop at mere encouragement. It also incites the listener into action.
Those with the spiritual gift of exhortation encourage fellow believers in their faith walks and provide ideas for how they can grow in their faith. Gene Wilkes explains, "Possessors of this gift encourage members to be involved in and enthusiastic about the work of the Lord."
What the Gift of Exhortation Looks Like
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. – Acts 4:36-37
If you want to understand what the gift of exhortation looks like, look at Barnabas. When Bible readers are first introduced to him, we learn that he had such a reputation for encouraging others that he earned the nickname Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement.
Luke says later, "For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord" (Acts 11:24). Those with the spiritual gift of exhortation, like Barnabas, are passionate about encouraging others to stick close to Jesus.
Cru explains, "Those with the gift of encouragement can uplift and motivate others as well as challenge them to grow as Christians and take steps of faith. Many people with this gift can gently correct people when they are living in a way that's not consistent with the teaching of the Bible."
It's important to note that they don't stop at sharing encouraging words; those with this spiritual gift continue to share practical ideas that will help others grow in their faith.
Their encouraging manner prompts people to see that God’s way is better without being judgmental or off-putting.
With this being said, the gift of exhortation works best in relationships. It does not tend to be a one-and-done sort of situation. Instead, these individuals develop relationships with others and strive to encourage them.
How the Gift of Exhortation Serves the Church
We all need encouragement – even those who have been Christians for years.
Those with the gift of exhortation encourage us when our faith wavers.
Moreover, certain ministries in churches function even more effectively with someone who has this spiritual gift.
For instance, pastors and counselors need to both encourage and incite believers towards changing behaviors. Additionally, small group leaders, service team coordinators, women's and men's ministry leaders tend to function well when someone with this gift is part of the team.
Those with the gift of exhortation also work well as mentors in one-on-one relationships. They can turn a meetup for coffee into an afternoon of encouragement and a step towards personal growth.
Ways to Tell If You Have the Gift of Exhortation
You didn't have to be a cheerleader in high school to have the gift of exhortation. And, even if you were, it doesn't mean this is the gift the Holy Spirit has given you.
When considering whether or not you possess this gift, think about how you encourage others and what kind of encouragement you give.
Got Questions says, "Exhorters are among the first to find believers who are floundering in their faith. They come alongside the weaker ones to encourage, confront, if necessary, and model victorious living."
Does this resonate with you?
For more ways to tell if you have this gift, see if you agree with the following statements from the Spiritual Gifts Discovery Instruction Guide. If you do, you may have the gift of exhortation.
- I enjoy encouraging and giving counsel to those who are discouraged.
- I'm very fulfilled when I encourage others, especially if it's about their spiritual growth.
- I feel a need to challenge others to better themselves, especially in their spiritual growth, in an uplifting, not condemning, way.
- People find it easy to talk with me and respond well to my encouragement to become all they can for God.