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Being Christ-like sometimes means holding your tongue, speaking in love and being a peacemaker, while at other times, it means exercising the gift of exhortation.
That trait is just one of 7 listed in Romans 12:6-10, which are: prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and mercy.
What is Exhortation?
Part encourager and part disciplinarian, a person who possesses this spiritual gift is a mentor to others, connecting with them in meaningful ways so that all may grow in their relationship with Jesus.
If exhortation is your primary strength, then you more than likely are:
Able to convey words of truth in love, speaking in love.
Able to redirect behaviour using appropriate words and actions.
If you have the gift of exhortation, you naturally guide others to Christ. But tread carefully – know when to pick and choose your battles, or else you might do more harm than good when trying to be effective for God’s Kingdom. If you don’t work at it, your gift will be a hindrance, rather than a help.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
More than just a cheesy 80’s song, love is the key to effective exhortation. All things done or said are on the basis of love for Christ, and His love for us. You can read an article on how much Jesus loves me.
What you say or do fills people with hope, or leaves them feeling unfulfilled. The famous WWJD or the phrase, “What Would Jesus Do?” fits here. Put another way – How would Jesus respond in love to a given situation? Speaking in love is key to finding true happiness in life.
The Root of Your Motivation
The Bible says to speak the truth in love, which may very well lead to saying things that the recipient of the said truth doesn’t want to hear. In such cases, it’s all in how you say what you say, and what your intent is.
It’s easy to placate people OR argue with them, depending on whether your motivation is to make them feel good or if it’s to make them see the error of their ways. When done without positive motivation, it can turn into insincere flattery, or else a disagreeable lecture.
But when done appropriately, you will boost someone’s self-esteem and confidence, providing the constructive criticism needed to make a change.
Lying or Scolding?
Far from just saying things for the sake of what someone wants to hear, the Bible sheds light on what it means to speak the truth in love by starting with its source as being Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13) who provided different spiritual gifts to people in different ways. Why? So they (we) can use those gifts of building up the Kingdom of God until everyone has obtained spiritual maturity and full knowledge of Christ.
But what about keeping people from getting hurt? Is it okay to lie to make them feel better? It goes back to your motivation. What is that Jesus wants the recipient to know? Is it possible to convey a message in a loving manner without talking down to someone?
Here are some Biblical truths on how to speak in a loving way:
1. Walk in a newness of life that you were granted upon receiving Jesus as your Savior (Ephesians 4:22-24). In other words, don’t revert to your old way of life and way of talking or thinking when handling conflicts and discussions, but love one another in the same way Christ has loved you (John 13:34-35).
2. Speak the truth, because what you say affects everyone and not just you and who you’re speaking with (Ephesians 4:25-27 and also Zechariah 8:16). If you lie, it has the potential to damage you or the other person, while causing a chasm between both of you against the rest of the believers in Jesus you have in common.
3. Build up others according to what they need and from which they may benefit (Ephesians 4:29). Going hand-in-hand with #2, don’t underestimate the weight of your words.
4. Practice kindness, compassion, and forgiveness as often as you can (Ephesians 4:32). These traits are not optional – they are necessary to keep you from straying from your objective.
5. Fulfill the will of God, not your own desires (John 7:18). When you have your own agenda, rather than God’s, it’s so much easier to cause conflict, rather than resolution.
6. Seek the Holy Spirit before speaking or doing (John 16:13). By staying in tune with what God dictates, choosing your words carefully, you save yourself from needless heartache.
7. Be humble in how you serve others (Galatians 5:13). Every interaction with others provides you with the opportunity to serve someone, and when you can do that in earnest, it is the essence of love.
8. Obey God’s word (1 Peter 1:22). Obedience to God’s ways helps you develop a real love for others, which will, in turn, be God living within you and seen by others (1 John 4:12).
Freedom of Choice
Because of free will, you can choose to encourage others or not. Whatever your ministry or calling, you can only do it as effectively as the effort you put into it. No one can do it for you, nor can you take the place of God in someone’s life – only point him or her to God.
The breakdown comes when you stop giving the Lord credit where credit is due and instead pat yourself on the back for the results. When that happens, all it does is keep you from growing in your walk, and from hearing the wisdom God offers when we seek Him in all matters before proceeding.
Make each day count, and stay the course! Spend regular time with God in prayer, but also fellowship with your church family too. As you learn about the Lord and your church body, you will deepen your relationship with them and understand them better, and you will then respond accordingly.
Build and extend trust, so the words you say and the things you do in Christ are respected, giving further glory to God. Finally, learn to rise about your mistakes and be willing to admit error if you want others to see Christ at work in you.
Speaking in Love
by Natasha Polak
Mind On Jesus