The Gift of Exhortation
By Charles F. Stanley
Are you concerned about correcting error wherever and whenever you find it? Do you care deeply that those who are about to make mistakes avoid them, and that those who have made mistakes repent of their ways and return to a walk of righteousness before God? You may be a person who has been given the motivational gift of exhortation.
One of the key biblical figures who exemplifies the gift of exhortation is the apostle Paul. Here is the heart of Paul's motivation for ministry:
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Col.1:28-29)
The word "warning" in this passage has also been translated as "admonishing" or "exhorting." Exhortation always has element of caution and concern about it. The exhorter desires to see every believer stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to both heavenly and earthly rewards.
Characteristics of the Gift of Exhortation
The Gift of Exhortation is Characterized by the following eight principles:
1. The person with a gift of exhortation desires to see others mature in their faith. The exhorter desires to see that others are growing in their spiritual lives. Exhorters are people oriented, discipleship oriented, growth oriented, and maturity oriented. Read again what Paul said to the Colossians: "warning every man... that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:28). The exhorter is quick to ask, "Where are you in your spiritual life? Are you growing? In what ways?"
2. The person with a gift of exhortation desires to see others discover their spiritual potential. The exhorter does not want another person to be anything less than what God has called him or her to be. The person with this gift usually can discern the potential of another person and can visualize his spiritual achievement. The exhorter has insight as to what God might do in and through a person if that person yielded all of his or her talents, abilities and energy to the Lord.
Once the exhorter sees your potential, the exhorter feels compelled to encourage you to reach your potential and to turn away from anything that detracts from or might diminish your growth in Christ. The exhorter does not want another person to be anything less than what God has called him or her to be.
3. The person with a gift of exhortation is quick to ask questions about a person's general welfare, often in an attempt to discover the individual's spiritual welfare. The exhorter will do his utmost to find a way of communicating with another person. The exhorter is "other oriented." He will ask questions and probe until he is satisfied that the person is growing in Christ Jesus. If he discovers an error or blockage in another's growth, he will be quick to point it out and to identify the steps that need to be taken for the person to get back on track with the Lord or to continue to grow.
A number of people with this gift seem to gravitate toward a career in counseling. They are people who want to see others grow, develop, and become sound in their faith.
4. The godly exhorter must always point others toward Christ Jesus. The truth of God's Word and the truth of Jesus Christ's life and death on the cross must always be central to exhortation. Otherwise, the exhorter is only giving human advice and human wisdom. Truly to be operating with the spiritual motivational gift of exhortation, the exhorter must identify ways in which a person can and must turn to Christ and to the Holy Spirit, following Jesus Christ as his example, and trusting in the Holy Spirit for daily guidance. This is true not only for the exhorter, of course, but for any person who wants to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ.
5. The gift of exhortation includes the ability to give precise instructions about how a person might grow in relationship with Christ. Those with this gift have an ability to understand precisely what is necessary for people to make corrections in their lives and move forward without hindrances. Exhorters are "step one, step two, step three" people. They understand the steps necessary for people to apply the truth of God's Word to their lives. Throughout his letters, Paul writes step-by-step instructions for believers to mature in their faith. His arguments for the faith are well organized and completely thought through so that those who read his admonitions understand clearly what Paul is saying and desiring on their behalf. The exhorter must identify ways in which a person can and must turn to Christ and to the Holy Spirit...for daily guidance.
6. The person with the gift of exhortation has learned value in suffering. The exhorter desires to see a person avoid suffering and to come through suffering victoriously. But the godly exhorter also has learned suffering can have great value in a person's life in breaking old patterns of sin and in causing adoption of new patterns of right behavior. Paul learned the lessons associated with suffering. He wrote to the Corinthians, "He (Christ Jesus) said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, them I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10)."
7. The gift of exhortation is concerned with the application of God's Word. The prophet wants to make sure the truth is proclaimed. The teacher wants to make sure it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth that is taught. The exhorter asks, "How can this be applied to life? What should a person do with this truth?" Paul is always concerned with how a person is to follow Christ and what a person must do to manifest godly behavior and grow in faith.
8. Those with a gift of exhortation want to be with people and "see" firsthand how they are growing in their faith. Exhorters are usually very good at reading body language and facial expressions. Paul wrote again and again to the churches, "I long to be with you," "I can hardly wait to see you again," "I was so grateful to hear about you from someone who recently was with you."
The person with this gift delights in being around people who are very interested in deepening their spiritual lives. He often has little patience with those who want only to live superficially. Each person needs to have at least one person who functions in the role of an exhorter in his or her life. This is a person who asks periodically, and sincerely, "What is God doing in your life? What are you doing to develop your relationship with the Lord? In what ways is the Lord working in your life to make you more like Christ Jesus?" If you allow a person with these qualities to help you as he or she receives guidance from the Holy Spirit, you will be greatly blessed!
Characteristics of someone with the gift of exhortation:
- Wisdom - to understand the Word of God and how it applies to you.
- Discernment - to be able to "slice open mentally and see the truth for what it is."
- Faith - to believe God can take you from where you are to where He desires you to be.
- Discretion - to keep what he knows about you in confidence.
- Love - to desire the best in your life. Offers God's truth without judgment or condemnation.
- Creative - to recognize that you are a unique individual and God's Word must be applied to your life creatively.
- Enthusiasm - to be able to inspire you to desire more in your Christian walk.