Question: "What is the gift of encouragement?"
Answer: The gift of encouragement or exhortation is found in Paul’s list of gifts in Romans 12:7–8. The word translated “encourage” or “exhortation” is the Greek word paracletos, or “paraclete,” which basically means “to call to one’s side.”
Paracletos can have several meanings, including “exhort,” “urge,” “encourage,” and “comfort.” All of these make up the gift of encouragement. For example, Paul often urged and exhorted his readers to act on something he wrote. A good example is Romans 12:1–2, where Paul urges the Romans to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices. By doing this, they would know and understand God’s will.
Interestingly, when Jesus spoke to His disciples in the upper room, He spoke of the Holy Spirit as “Helper” or “Comforter” (John 14:16, 26; 15:26), which is why the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Paraclete. The ministry of the Holy Spirit was important to Jesus and to us. A person with the gift of encouragement can use this gift in both a public and a private setting. It can be seen in counseling, discipleship, mentoring, and preaching. The body of Christ is built up in faith as a result of the ministry of those with the gift of encouragement.
The gift of encouragement differs from the gift of teaching in that it focuses on the practical aspects of the Bible. Whereas one with the gift of teaching focuses on the meaning and content of the Word, along with accuracy and application, one with the gift of encouragement focuses on the practical application of the Word. He or she can relate to others, both in groups and individually, by understanding their needs and sympathizing with them. This person can help another person move from pessimism to optimism.
Probably the best example of one with the gift of encouragement is Barnabas who is described as “the son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). We see Barnabas in Acts 13:43 encouraging the believers to continue in the grace of God. In Acts 15:36–41, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over John Mark’s involvement in their ministry. John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia. Barnabas was desirous of taking him with them, but Paul was not. While we do not know the exact words spoken, it seems very likely that Barnabas believed John Mark had potential in ministry, and he encouraged Paul to give him a second chance. Paul and Barnabas separated, John Mark going with Barnabas, but we see later that John Mark proved himself faithful, no doubt through the help of Barnabas and his gift of encouragement (2 Timothy 4:11). This is the result of the gift of encouragement; others are helped and become more effective for Christ.