Encouragement vs Exhortation

(Understanding how the Gift of Exhortation is meant to function)

I thank God for the gifts of the Spirit.

One of the gifts I am very grateful for is the gift of exhortation. True spiritual exhortation always points to the throne-room.

A distinction needs to be made here. Encouraging someone to “hang in there” is not the same as the gift of exhortation. Heartfelt and sincere encouragement can often make the difference between life and death when one is facing some of the darkest moments of their life.

For example, just recently a friend of ours reached out to rally us to pray on behalf of their young daughter who ran away. While many of us mobilized and “got on the wall,” a certain brother in Christ encouraged that family to “hold on…with both hands…” (as I type this, I get choked up at the dunamus power his timely words released). Meanwhile, our corporate intercession travailed until she safely returned home, which she soon did.

We need this. All of us at times… will need this. Let me repeat, please. I cannot express the beauty and authority behind that voice of hope. We ALL need moments of encouragement! 

Now… let’s move on. All things in balance. Family, this is not the same as the spiritual gift of exhortation.

  • Encouragement soothes within the situation.
  • Exhortation points to the throne-room, with the blueprint on how to get there. 

Exhortation carries with it the spiritual insight from Father’s heart. It carries with it the understanding of what course of action needs to be made in order to cooperate with the Lord. It exhorts one to go forth and press into the kingdom with specific direction from the mind of God.

When this gift is operating, the Holy Spirit ministers to the recipient 2 things:

  1. Specific direction on how to cooperate with God, and only then…
  2. Encouragement to carry out that course of action

The Body of Christ is under the “spiritual knife” in this season. The Lord is doing some very deep surgery in the heart and beliefs of those who are answering the call to press further into Him. Here is the problem the Lord is addressing in this hour:   

Why does a thriving Church need so much constant encouragement? You see, we are not meant to merely “hang in there.”  We are destined for more than that.

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Phil 3:15

Family, our heavenward call in Christ is intimacy with Father-God. Everything that comes after that will be the natural outflow that results from deep and uncompromising intimacy with Him.

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” Phil 3:10

Are we being encouraged more than we are actually being fed? Are we edifying one another more than we are teaching on the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, and the process of being conformed into His image and nature?

Have we replaced the Lordship of Jesus Christ on the throne of our souls, with soulish comfort?  Is it possible we have taken the gift of true, godly exhortation, and made it an idol in order to avoid looking at the painful things the Lord wants to uproot and heal within us?  

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” Heb 5:12-13

Righteousness is a gift. It means our self-worth is established in His never-changing love and acceptance for His children.  

If we ever want to move on to the deep intimacy and thriving spiritual relationship we are invited to be partakers of, we will need to learn how to identify why we are depressed, fearful and scared. Then… we need to destroy those strongholds.

My dear brothers & sisters… Father is always faithful. He will always get us through the “dark night.” But, He calls us to walk and live above the carnal issues of this realm. Our mind, will, and emotions are only affected by a situation to the degree we have not renewed our thinking.

Everything in balance. Encouragement and exhortation have their place. It’s in the Bible. (Rom 12:8, 1 Cor 14:3) But we must be very careful to examine if we have made it an idol in place of His truth on the throne of our heart. Much of what we call exhortation today is focused on ourselves rather than on helping us get our eyes on the reality of our walk with Jesus and where He desires to conform us.

When we fail to point our souls to the cross, we abuse the gift of exhortation and pervert its purpose.

The result is a person who fails to enter into greater intimacy through the struggle and painful emotions. In the end, that believer has only assuaged until the next encounter. This is a counterfeit to the intention of the Father.

Consider this verse:

to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:11-13

NOTE:  The purpose of building us up is to grow in intimacy with Jesus and the full stature of Jesus. He is Life. We are to be encouraged to enter into Christ.

When we turn only to comforting words and refuse to partner with the Lord about rooting out some of the lies that we are in bondage to, we turn encouragement into idolatry.  What’s worse is we stop short of the full counsel of the Lord. We must seek direction, not just temporal comfort. We need the full counsel of the Holy Spirit; both encouragement, AND direction, (ie. the mature gift of exhortation in action). This is key during this season.

At this moment, I know of many dear brothers and sisters who are in the thick of things… working out their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in regard to their thinking. They are tearing down lies and actively partnering with the Holy Spirit to heal and restore. It is painful. It is scary. It is raw. 

Encouragement alone, without teaching and co-laboring with the Lord to deliver us from the bondage of our fears and pain, is in direct opposition to the ultimate desire of His heart. (Eph 4:11, 2 Pet 1:19, John 8:36, Rom 12:2, Isaiah 42:3, 2 Cor 3:18, Heb 10:19-22, Rev 3:20)       

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Rev 3:20

Let Him in.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Cor 10:5.

Knowing you are reconciled, loved, and  “accepted in the Beloved” requires more than listening to, and reading well-intentioned words to “not give up” and to “know that God loves you.” We have already heard this 1,000 times. There is more for us. So much more. There is also a blueprint that is meant to be given.

Begin to ask the Holy Spirit:

  • “Why do I struggle with this emotion/thought?”
  • “What do I truly believe about myself?”
  • “What belief is behind this painful emotion?”
  • “How do I truly think You feel about me?”
  • “What is the true motive of my heart and the true emotion behind my actions?”

We are made the righteousness of Christ. (2 Cor 5:21) This means our self-worth is forever seen as the same as Jesus in the eyes of the Father. Period. The end. No Mas. It is finished. We are fully pleasing in His eyes. (Col 1:21)  So what is the problem? Ah…..

This… is what He wants from inside our very being. Give it to Him.

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Heb 5:14

  • God’s truth about us being made absolutely complete and fully pleasing and loved… are good.
  • The lies we cling to that cause us depression, fear and shame… are evil.

Encouragement alone will never grow the Church into full maturity in Christ. The lack of training on examining our beliefs has led to a pandemic need to comfort our wounds. We should be getting healed of them instead.

“Who by constant use have trained themselves…”

Begin examining our daily interactions and what emotions are arising during the day and week.  We need to invite the Lord to take an inventory on our beliefs.

“For as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Prov 23:7

The next time we read another word of exhortation, ask yourself, “What lie am I struggling with that makes me need this encouragement so strongly?”

Then, begin to take these lies captive to the obedience of Christ.( 2 Cor 10:5)

I pray this message strengthens, encourages and comforts. More than that however, I pray it offers some road-map toward deliverance from pain and fear. Above all, my heart’s desire is that it points you to Christ, and into great union with the Father. Go for it.  His Sabbath rest is waiting for you… always waiting.

All my love, Family~

———————-

postscript~

To my dear brothers and sisters who have already been digging into this process of renewing the mind and allowing Him to heal your wounds and expose the lies and replace with the power of the Living Gospel:

This IS the time to hang in there. in the name of The Ancient of Days, and by the authority of His name to hold and sustain you, I say: Do not give up!!

He who began the good work in you IS faithful to complete it. Keep digging in, and know you are loved beyond measure. He sees your desire and will never turn away those who have turned to Him.

Even now, as you read this prayer and word of encouragement, know He is ministering healing to your soul, ripping out those pains, renewing your mind and establishing your steps forever. Not by power, nor by might, but by HIS SPIRIT this is being accomplished. All He ever needed was your willingness to let Him speak to you. Rest in His strength. He alone is your exceedingly great reward.  

So be it.

 

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