Gift of Exhortation

What is exhortation?

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.

Exhortation can be:
1. Encouragement - Hey, well done!
2. Advice - I think it is better to finish your studies before starting a job.
3. Comfort - I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother's death.

The power of encouragement

Proverbs 12:25 (NIV) An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.

Proverbs 16:24 (NIV) Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Proverbs 25:11 (NIV) A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Exhortation is every Christian's role

Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another ­­and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Encouragement is not an empty use of words

James 2:15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

Words, instead of being comforting, can even cause negative feelings. When a person has a genuine need, and we are in a position to help, but all we do is simply to give words of comfort, this can be taken as insincerity. Therefore, before we speak words of comfort, always ask ourselves whether there is something tangible we can do.

Remember that exhortation is not just words. Sometimes the best way or even the only way to exhort is through actions. Supposing, we have a friend who is going through the stress of examinations. Instead of just "wishing him all the best", don't you think that a more encouraging way is to tell the person that we are praying for him or even offer to help in his studies if it is within your means.

Acts 4:34­37 (NIV) There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.

We were told that Barnabas got his name, which means Son of Encouragement, not because he is so good with words of encouragement, but because he helped in tangible ways and his actions were an encouragement to all.

We must be careful to address the real need

It is impossible to encourage someone if we do not know his fears, anxiety, needs. We have to be sensitive to decipher the true underlying feelings behind his words. One way is to ask questions to probe further how he feels.

Example 1
My parents sure know how to hurt a guy. I ask them for a miserable $50 to buy a stereo set and they tell me that rock music is from the devil.

Surface feelings : My parents are so stingy.
Underlying feelings : My parents never approve of anything I do.

Example 2
Next week is my big day all right. I've always hoped I will find the right girl because tying the knot means forever. Nowadays so many people are getting divorced. But not me. I couldn't be happier. I know mine will work out.

Surface feelings: Feeling happy about his wedding. Underlying feelings: Feeling unsure about the whole thing and needs reassurance.

Give the person an opportunity to share his feelings. We will never know that if we do not give them a chance to speak but hurry with our own advice.

Proverbs 18:13 (NIV) He who answers before listening­­ that is his folly and his shame.

There are some needs that are so well hidden that no amount of listening can reveal. We need not despair because we can always appeal to the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what the real problem is.

Hebrews 4:13 (NIV) Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

We need to make ourselves approachable so that people will want to come and tell us their problems. Sometimes it helps to share our own experiences so that the other person can open up and share his. But don't share so much that you become the person that needs encouragement instead and don't make a person more depressed after your sharing.

What does it take to be an exhorter?
An exhorter has faith in a person when others have given up hope in them.

When Paul arrived in Jerusalem for the first time after his conversion, the church was unwilling to accept him thinking that he was a spy. Only Barnabas was willing to take him in. It is inconceivable what Paul would become if it not for Barnabas who believed him.

Acts 9:26­28 (NIV) When he (ie Paul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.

When Paul would not accept Mark on a missionary journey, it was Barnabas who insisted and as a result parted ways with Paul.

Acts 15:36­40 (NIV) Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.

As a result of Barnabas' perseverance, Mark was later reconciled to Paul.

2 Timothy 4:11 (NIV) Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.

Likewise when a person feels discouraged that he has failed and lost the trust of other people, an exhorter is there to encourage him by continuing to believe in him and give him another chance.

An exhorter uses not just words but also actions to exhort others.

Barnabas was one of the first to sell his possessions to help the Christians in Jerusalem.

Acts 4:34­37 (NIV) There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.

An encourager is strong in faith and can see the Lord's hand regardless the circumstance.

We were told that Barnabas was a man of faith.

Acts 11:24 (NIV) He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Practical ways to encourage people

Call your friends who are having difficulties (eg going through certain trials or exams, etc) and let them know that you are praying for them.

Tell someone how much they have blessed you through their ministries or teaching.

Call those who are experiencing difficulties and share some bible verses with them.

Encourage someone by helping out in practical ways. Remember the example of Barnabas. When the church was in need of money, he encouraged them by selling his land and giving the money to the church.

Call someone who is in grief and just spend time listening to them.