What is the spiritual gift of exhorting?

Understanding the spiritual gift of exhorting

3 min

A Christian’s motivational spiritual gift represents what God does in him to shape his perspective on life and motivate his words and actions. Romans 12:3–8 describes “basic motivations,” which are characterized by inherent qualities or abilities within a believer—the Creator’s unique workmanship within him or her.

Through the motivational gifts, God makes believers aware of needs that He wants to meet through them, for His glory. Then, believers can minister to others through the ministry and manifestation gifts of the Spirit, in ways beyond mere human capability and ingenuity, with maximum effectiveness and minimum weariness.

Each person’s behavior will vary according to factors such as temperament, background, age, gender, culture, and circumstances. However, it is not unusual for individuals who share the same motivational gift to demonstrate common characteristics. Below are some general characteristics that are typically exhibited by those who have the motivational gift of exhorting.

General Characteristics

An exhorter’s central motivational drive is to encourage believers to mature in Christ and to grow spiritually. Exhorters often seek to stimulate that development by discipling, teaching, and counseling others.

  • An exhorter regards God’s sovereignty as his “favorite” characteristic of God.
  • Exhorters regard trials as opportunities for growth. Since God is in control, they recognize that whatever happens has potential to glorify God and conform believers to the image of Jesus Christ. The exhorter sympathizes with the suffering Christian, but he sees the pain through the lens of God’s sovereignty rather than through the lens of suffering. (A person with the motivational gift of mercy, on the other hand, would see the pain through the lens of suffering.)
  • Exhorters express love through availability.
  • Given a choice of helping someone “spiritually” or helping him with a physical need (such as taking a meal to him or mowing his lawn while he’s in the hospital), the exhorter prefers to offer spiritual help. Given a choice of encouraging by empathy or encouraging by exhortation, a person with this motivational gift will exhort every time.
  • Wise counsel flows from the heart of an exhorter who can identify precepts and principles in God’s Word skillfully.
  • Exhorters love to encourage, encourage, encourage!
  • Exhorters and mercy-givers make a good team for counseling someone who is discouraged. The person with the gift of mercy empathizes—he knows how the downhearted person feels. The exhorter exhorts—he knows how the person needs to feel! The exhorter’s job is to give hope by sharing a Biblical perspective on the situation and reminding people of God’s power, love, and faithfulness. An exhorter avoids weeping with others (as the mercy-giver would weep) because he sees empathy as encouragement to wallow in self-pity. The exhorter wants to “move on” past the pain and take advantage of the opportunity to become more Christlike.
  • An exhorter responds to problems by prescribing specific steps of action; His goal is to make the plan so easy to comprehend that people will understand it, see its potential, embrace it, and grow as a result of carrying it out.

An Exhorter’s Strengths

  • An exhorter uses Scripture to validate the experience.
  • Exhorters are willing and eager to come alongside a brother or sister in Christ during difficult circumstances.
  • Memorization of, and meditation on, Scripture are usually very important to the exhorter, because he wants to be able to draw wisdom from the well of truth stored in his spirit.
  • An exhorter sees every little detail, including the timing of every event, as part of God’s good and loving plan.
  • Because an exhorter sees trials in a positive light, which is opposite of the world’s way of seeing them, an exhorter continually reminds people of God’s sovereignty and love.
  • Exhorters focus on balance; they avoid extremes, especially in doctrine.
  • An exhorter seems to be able to give thanks in all seasons and circumstances, including the darkest ones.
  • Exhorters understand that time reading and studying the Word of God brings more than information; it brings transformation.

An Exhorter’s Weaknesses

  • Exhorters tend to need visible evidence of acceptance and affirmation.
  • They can easily oversimplify solutions, which ultimately results in discouragement rather than encouragement.
  • Surprisingly, exhorters can be poor listeners, even though they make excellent counselors. Sometimes they are so intent on telling you how to view your situation from God’s perspective that they fail to listen to your viewpoint.
  • Mature exhorters give wise counsel from the Word of God. Therefore, their counsel usually proves to be effective. Unfortunately, their success often tempts exhorters to promote principles as formulas, and the formulas as cure-alls.
  • Exhorters are often naïve and easily manipulated.
  • Because an exhorter wants so badly for Scripture to provide a successful step of action to eliminate a problem, he may quote Scripture out of context or imply that it says something that it doesn’t mean, rationalizing that the end justifies the means. This is a devastating trap for the exhorter.
Explore more about this topic in Understanding Spiritual Gifts

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