A few weeks ago I preached on the section of Romans 12 where Paul mentions about spirituals gifts: “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement” (Romans 12:8). This verse has always stood out for me because in one of my first years of my seminary studies I had a professor say to me, “you don’t have the gift of encouragement do you?” It had never stood out me that I tended to be analytical and critical, but it’s never left my mind since then.
Ever since then I’ve believed (at least in part) it wasn’t my job to encourage, because ‘it wasn’t my gift.’ I’ve focused on playing the devil’s advocate, I’m comfortable being a contrarian, and I have no issue with confrontation. But what I do struggle to do is encourage people around me, except in obvious situations.
Around this same time, I received a card from an elementary-aged child in my church, telling me that when I lead worship he is inspired. Some of the children at my church have started writing a thank you card every week for a different person. The card reminded me how easy encouragement is. If a 4th grader can do it, you can too.
In preaching this section of Romans I challenged my church to specifically and intentionally encourage 7 people over the course of the next 7 days.
This shouldn’t even be difficult to accomplish. Encouragement costs nothing but blesses the encouraged beyond measure.
I chose this specific application for my sermon because I firmly believe people never develop the gifts they don’t practice. Maybe I don’t have the gift of encouragement because I never encourage? Somehow, despite my lack of encouragement gifting, I was able to accomplish this 7 encouragements in 7 days challenge.
Yes, some gifts are given by God immediately following the Spirit indwelling, but most often I think God works through what we put our time and energy towards, and He more greatly allows those things to develop in us.
One thing is for certain, I am who I am today because of the encouragement many others have given me for the past three decades of my life. You would not be where you are had it not been for the encouragement of others either.
Put plainly, all of us should seek to encourage others, whether we sense it is our gift or not. Yes, for some, encouragement oozes out of their pores all day, every day.
For some, encouragement takes more effort and intentionality (I am one of those people).
But all of us should be encouragers.
The Body of Christ is missing out when you choose not to stretch your encouragement muscle.