So often when I think of encouragement, I think of words. And certainly words can be a great source of encouragement. But as I was studying Romans chapter 12 this week, I realized that there are many ways to encourage one another, including the use of our spiritual gifts.
A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else’s faith.-John Piper
Webster speaks of encouragement as being basically something that enables men to “encounter danger and difficulties without fear or depression of spirits.” Without it, we simply will lack the patience to “bear pain or adversity without murmuring, depression, or despondency.”
Now, God has given every human being some ability to give and receive encouragement, whether they are a believer or not. But for the Christian, encouragement does something far greater than merely causing us to look inside and muster up courage. It increases our faith and causes us to look up to the One who supernaturally strengthens us to overcome the seemingly impossible tasks or hardships set before us.
Think about it. For the Christian, what is it that causes us to bear difficulties and tragedies patiently and cheerfully? What is it that keeps us from depression and complaining and hopelessness and fear? It’s having our faith strengthened. And this is exactly what our spiritual gifts are for! Whether it is teaching, service, giving, mercy, hospitality,…whatever it is, it is given to us that we might use it to strengthen each other’s faith. So, it isn’t just words that encourage others – it’s using our spiritual gifts!
This life is full of hardships, isn’t it? From big to little, if it isn’t one thing, it’s something else – a bad accident, a health issue, a job loss, a sick child, a difficult or absent spouse, a destroyed home or reputation, a rebellious child…and the list goes on. Or maybe we’re just overwhelmed by the mundane tasks of life, or loneliness, or anger, or maybe we just feel like giving up. We need encouragement! We need our faith to be strengthened regularly, and a huge part of God’s enablement of having our faith strengthened comes through the people of God around us – many times via our spiritual gifts.
A meal, a gift card in the mail, a book, a note, a friend who will sit and just listen and empathize, a sermon, a story, or a teaching that speaks to our hearts at just the right time, a gift…. Don’t each and every one of these have the ability to strengthen our faith in hard times? They encourage us. So, don’t get too discouraged when you think you don’t say enough. It’s not only about the words we speak. We encourage each other through our actions and through our spiritual gifts as well as our words.
So, as we go through our day, let us ask God, “Who can I encourage today? Whose faith can I help strengthen so that they walk away from me with a little (or a lot) more courage to face life’s struggles and difficulties?”