Romans 12:8 – the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
1 Corinthians 12:8 – For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit…
Today, we’ll continue looking at speaking gifts including encouragement, leadership, wisdom, and knowledge.
Place in Scripture: Romans 12:8
Defined: The gift of encouragement (also called the gift of exhortation) involves motivating, encouraging, and consoling others so they mature in their walk with Jesus. To encourage someone is to literally pour courage into them to strengthen and sustain them.
General makeup: Christians with this gift have an unusual sensitivity for and are attracted to those who are discouraged or struggling. As a result, people tend to pursue them for healing words, gracious truth, and compassionate counsel. These people also tend to have a high degree of patience and optimism. They may have a knack for one-on-one relationships and prefer working with an individual or small group.
Warning: People with this gift can be so hopeful for someone that they lack discernment in seeing evil and even folly in others. These people can also struggle with conflict and having to say and do hard things, because they know that others will not approve of their leadership. People with this gift can also have a hard time with truth tellers, direct leadership styles, and those who are more prophetic and discerning because their methods seem less loving and patient.
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Jesus told us to love even our enemies and do good to them (Luke 6:27–35), and exhorted people to “leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). We are told that, “there is…encouragement in Christ” (Philippians 2:1).
Illustrated biblically: Barnabas, whose name means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36), encouraged Paul (Acts 9:27) and John Mark (Acts 15:39). Paul had this gift (Acts 14:21–22; 16:40; 20:1) as did Judas and Silas (Acts 15:31–32). Paul says that the Bible is written so that “through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” because our god is “the God of endurance and encouragement” (Romans 15:4-5). Lastly, the New Testament repeatedly encourages Christians to “encourage one another” (Romans 1:12; 1 Corinthians 14:3, 14:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11, 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:12).
Illustrated historically: The Great Reformer Martin Luther sought to purify the church and, in doing so, split the church into Catholicism and Protestantism. Involved in continual opposition and controversies, his life was in constant danger, his friends rejected and opposed him, his church rejected him, and as a result, Luther struggled mightily with deep depression. The ill health of his final 10 years further contributed to his depression. His wife, Katherine, was a gifted encourager who strengthened, supported and counseled her husband as he spearheaded the Reformation. Without her gift of encouragement, it is doubtful Luther would have had the strength and will to continue pressing forward with his calling from God. The couple lived in great poverty with great responsibility. They had three boys and three girls during their first nine years of marriage. Tragically, one daughter died at the age of 13 months and another at 13 years in the arms of her devastated father. By all accounts, Katherine was a wonderful mother and Martin a loving and fun father who spent his evenings playing music for his children and teaching them the Bible, which was a welcome and joyous diversion from his busy and stressful life. Martin’s old 40-room monastery became their home, and Katie quickly went to work cleaning the bachelor pad, including throwing out the straw bed Luther had not changed in more than a year, decorating the home, planting a garden for fresh food, changing Martin’s diet to nurse him to health and help overcome his legendary flatulence problem, and growing herbs, as she was a bit of a naturopath. Their home was bustling with activity. Martin was constantly studying and publishing to fuel the Protestant Reformation, preaching and teaching, working on translating the entire Bible into German, traveling, and keeping up a vast correspondence with ministers across many nations. Katherine often sat with Martin as he wrote letters, for they frequently included sections about what Katherine was doing at the time and the greetings she sent. Their home was constantly filled, and as many as 25 people lived with them at any one time, not to mention the 11 orphans they sheltered. Dinners there often fed more than 100 people. Something that helped them learn to live together in love was their willingness to dish out and take a joke. For example, when one would start to nag, the other would commonly retort that perhaps a little prayer should occur before “preaching a sermon.” His letters often teased her, but Katherine certainly could hold her own. Martin often struggled with severe depression, and it was very difficult to pull him out of his funk. But Katherine found creative ways to do so. On one occasion she dressed up like a grieving widow in black mourning attire and met Martin at their door upon his return home. “Are you going to a funeral?” he asked. “No,” she replied, “but since you act as though God is dead, I wanted to join you in the mourning.” Luther quickly recovered! Through their years together, the Luthers built a genuine friendship. This is easily noticed in the letters we have from Martin to his wife. His favorite title for her was “Lord Katie.” He also called her his “dear rib,” “Sir Katie,” “the empress,” “my true love,” “my sweetheart,” and “a gift of God.” When he suffered from catarrh, kidney stones, constipation, insomnia, dizziness, and a buzzing – “not a buzzing but a roll of thunder” – in his head, she nursed him back to health. When he would fall into his frequent bouts with severe depression, she would hold him, pray for him, comfort him, and read Scripture to him. She drove the wagon, looked after their fields and gardens, purchased and pastured cattle, brewed beer, rented horses, sold linen, helped edit his writings, prepared meals, kept house, raised kids, entertained guests, and was often awake by 4:00 a.m. and working until 9:00 p.m. She was such an incredibly hard worker that Martin had to frequently urge her to relax and even offered to pay her to sit down and read her Bible. She reportedly had a keen theological mind and often sat with Martin and visiting theologians to discuss and debate theology—something unusual for a woman in that day. The tenderness with which Martin spoke of his wife increased throughout their marriage. He wrote, “I am a happy husband and may God continue to send me happiness, from that most gracious woman, my best of wives.” As their loving friendship grew, his perspective matured as suggested by statements such as, “The greatest gift of grace a man can have is a pious, God-fearing, home-loving wife, whom he can trust with all his goods, body, and life itself, as well as having her as the mother of his children.” After preaching what would be his final sermon, Martin died at the age of 62, while away from his beloved Katie. In his will he said, “My Katherine has always been a gentle, pious and faithful wife to me, has loved me dearly.”
Do you have this gift?
- Do you find yourself attracted to help people who are fearful, struggling, or discouraged?
- Do you find that you often have more courage than most people in tough situations and people borrow courage from you?
- Do people seek you out for advice and encouragement?
- Do you enjoy walking with someone through difficulties?
- Are you attracted to those who are hurting and needy?
- Are you patient with people?
- Would you rather speak personally with someone about their problems rather than send them to someone else for help?
- Do you find it easy to express joy in the presence of those who are suffering?
Place in Scripture: Romans 12:8
Defined: The spiritual gift of leadership is found in people who have a clear, significant vision from God and are able to communicate it publicly or privately in such a way that they influence others to pursue that vision.
General makeup: These people tend to gravitate toward the “point position” in a ministry. Others tend to have trust and confidence in their abilities. They best serve others by leading them. They tend to operate with a strong sense of destiny.
Warning: Sometimes a leader can be so confident in their own abilities that they do not consider the input of others and, as a result, make bad decisions from an unhealthy degree of independence. Some leaders like to be over others but do not like to have others in authority over them. Wise leaders seek godly, healthy, and wise oversight to help them be even better leaders as they follow leaders over them. Because a leader is often out front, they can struggle with feeling lonely and discouraged by not only calling the shots but taking the shots and they need to constantly seek wise counsel and care to remain holy, healthy, and hopeful. Lastly, leadership begins with yourself, and your family, and some people want to lead in ministry without having their priorities in order as leadership starts at home.
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Jesus was such a gifted leader that in His day thousands followed Him and today billions follow Him as the greatest leader who has ever lived. When Jesus recruited others by saying “follow me”, He was establishing Himself clearly as the Leader of all other Christian leaders as Matthew’s Gospel repeatedly reveals (Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21, 19:28, 20:29)
Illustrated biblically: Examples abound, including Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Josiah, Paul, Peter, and James. In some ways, the Bible is largely about the work of the Holy Spirit for, in, and through human leaders.
Illustrated historically: Athanasius is widely regarded as one of the most important theological leaders in the history of the Christian faith. He was born between AD 296 and 298 and at some point, early in life, came to love Jesus Christ and God and spent a great deal of time reading the Bible. As a young man, he was discovered by the prominent theologian Alexander who hired him to serve as an assistant. Another Christian theologian named Arius was roughly 40 years Athanasius’ senior and was born around AD 256. In AD 319, Arius sparked a vigorous theological debate that gripped the church for some 60 years. The Arian controversy attacked three of the most important Christian doctrines. First, it denied that Jesus Christ is eternal and existed prior to his incarnation. Two, it denied that Jesus is fully God. Three, it denied the doctrine of the Trinity, which states that there is one God in three persons – Father, Son, and Spirit. The Arian controversy was causing great division both in the church and the Roman Empire, so Constantine called a council in Nicaea in AD 325 in an effort to mediate the conflict. The Council of Nicaea was attended by approximately three hundred bishops as well as other Christian leaders who were not bishops, such as Arius and Athanasius. Many of the bishops in attendance bore the marks of their conflict, such as scars on their bodies, and one bishop was missing a hand and another missing an eye from persecution over the issue. The debate raged from May until August. The Nicene Creed resulted from the Council at Nicaea and confirmed that Jesus Christ is eternally God and the second member of the Trinity. This document has served as the definition for Christian orthodoxy in every generation since and explains why many refer to Athanasius as the “father of orthodoxy.” His book “On the Incarnation”, which he penned while still in his twenties, remains one of the most important theological books ever written because it cogently and biblically argues that Jesus Christ is eternally God and the second member of the Trinity who became a man to redeem men from their sin. Although a man of slight build and gracious demeanor, Athanasius fought boldly for his Trinitarian God and Lord Jesus Christ. Members of his churches were murdered, including men who were hung and women who were slaughtered. Athanasius’ enemies routinely brought false charges against him; they ran him out of town into exile on five occasions, for a total of 17 of his 45 years as bishop. Pastor Athanasius was dearly loved by his people and was warmly welcomed by them each time he returned from exile. He died in AD 373 as an elderly man, loving pastor, and pastor to fellow pastors. Eight years after his death, in AD 381, Athanasius was finally vindicated when his doctrines about Jesus Christ were officially confirmed as biblical orthodoxy at the Council of Constantinople, some 60 years after the Arian controversy erupted. Though he was not a bishop, Athanasius emerged as the leader of Christian orthodoxy. His leadership began not from his position, but by God elevating him during a time of crisis to lead Christianity away from heresy and into orthodoxy.
Do you have this gift?
- Do others have confidence in your ability to lead?
- Do you enjoy being the “final voice” or the one with the overall responsibility for the direction and success of a group or organization?
- When a difficult situation arises, do others look to you for input and leadership?
- Do you usually take leadership in a group where none exists?
- Do you find yourself carrying burdens for people and things that others do not?
- Do you find leadership enjoyable rather than frustrating and difficult?
- Do others look to you to make the major decisions for a group or organization?
- Do you tend to have clear vision for a better future that others agree with and rally around?
- Are you able to bring other leaders with giftings different than yours together to accomplish tasks?
Place in Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:8
Defined: The gift of wisdom is the ability to have insight into people and situations that is not obvious to the average person, combined with an understanding of what to do and how to do it. It is the ability to not only see, but also apply the principles of God’s Word to the practical matters of life by the “Spirit of wisdom” (Ephesians 1:17).
General makeup: These people often have an ability to synthesize biblical truth and apply it to people’s lives so that they make good choices and avoid foolish mistakes. These people today function well as coaches, counselors, and consultants. They tend to be very practical about what to do and not do. Whereas teachers love books of the Bible like Romans, people with the gift of wisdom like books of the Bible like Proverbs.
Warning: Sometimes people with the gift of wisdom see things differently, find creative solutions, and like to be agents of change. In their shadow side, this can lead to a spirit of criticism, pointing out problems without offering any solutions, and becoming negative and jaded. This can also lead to a desire for new ideas and perspectives that can lead into false teaching and an attraction to things that go beyond the Scriptures in the name of being innovative, groundbreaking, or reforming. Romans 1:22 says, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” Satan’s first temptation was to become “wise” by rebelling against God’s authority. Lastly, some people with the gift of wisdom give wise counsel to others but do not apply it to their own lives, which is hypocrisy.
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Luke 2:40–52 says that Jesus was “filled with wisdom” as a boy and “grew in wisdom” as a young man so that the scholars of His day were “amazed at his understanding.” Crowds who heard Jesus teach said, “What’s this wisdom that has been given him” (Mark 6:2). In Matthew 12:42, Jesus said that He was wiser than Solomon. And in Luke 21:15, Jesus said, “I will give you words and wisdom.” We are also told that Jesus is the “wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30).
Illustrated biblically: Throughout the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4:6) and New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:5), leaders were chosen because they were “wise”. Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9; 1 Kings 5:7; 2 Chronicles 2:12), Solomon (1 Kings 3:5–28), and Daniel (Daniel 1:17–20; 2:19–23) all have this gift. There is an entire genre of literature in the Bible called “wisdom literature” that includes Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and James.
Illustrated historically: A.W. Tozer was born into a poor home in the hills of western Pennsylvania. Forced by his home to forfeit education, Tozer entered the ministry without either high school or college training. Tozer came to Christ at age 15, after hearing a lay preacher speaking at a street meeting at Akron, Ohio. He went on to a lifetime of faithful pastoral ministry. Thousands regularly listened to his preaching on the Moody Bible Institute radio station. He became a very gifted writer and spent a number of years editing the Alliance Witness magazine. Tozer’s only education was years of diligent study with a constant prayerful seeking of the mind of God, often for hours on end, kneeling and asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom in prayer with his Bible open. For example, when he desired to understand the works of Shakespeare, he read them through on his knees, asking God to help him understand their meaning. Tozer wrote dozens of books, including “The Pursuit of God” while on his knees. With no teacher but the Holy Spirit and good books, Tozer became a theologian, a scholar, and a master craftsman in the use of the English language. His teaching was intensely practical as he taught how to integrate deep theological truths into practical daily living. He has become a world-renowned Christian teacher because of his supernatural wisdom from the Holy Spirit.
Do you have this gift?
- Do you have a pattern of making wise decisions for your life and family that helps you give wise counsel to others?
- Do you seek wise counsel from people wiser than you?
- When studying God’s Word, do you find that you discover the meaning and its implications before others do?
- Do you seem to understand things about God’s Word which other believers with the same background and experience don’t seem to know?
- When studying the Bible, do you find yourself moving toward practical actions to apply what is taught so that you can study for transformation and not just information?
- Do you get frustrated when people make foolish decisions that damage their quality of life because you know what they should have done instead?
- Do you find that when people have important decisions to make, they come to you for prayer and biblical counsel?
- Do you find that, when you counsel people, God the Spirit gives you wisdom to share with them from Scripture, which they accept as God’s truth to them through you?
Place in Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:8
Defined: The word of knowledge is the ability to research, remember, and make effective use of a variety of information on a number of diverse subjects.
General makeup: These people love to study and learn and are not content with a surface-level knowledge of topics. They are compelled to conduct thorough research and compile their findings so that others can benefit from their long hours of focused study. People with this spiritual gift love God with “all [their] mind” (Mark 12:29–30).
Warning: They can often become proud because “knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1).
Seen in Jesus’ ministry: Throughout His ministry, Jesus frequently quoted the Old Testament Scriptures from memory because He had committed Himself to studying Scripture so faithfully. Jesus also rebuked the scholars of His day because they studied the Bible but failed to love Him, which is the purpose of all study (John 5:39).
Illustrated biblically: The Bible is clear that a healthy respect for God is the beginning of wisdom so that we are humble enough to learn from God (Proverbs 1:7). Knowledge is mentioned in Proverbs more than any book of the Bible because it is foundational to wise living. Paul’s prayer for the church in Colossians 1:9-10 is that “you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… increasing in the knowledge of God…” Ezra (Ezra 7:10), Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:13; 7:25; 8:9), and Timothy (2 Timothy 2:15) all had the spiritual gift of knowledge. The Apostle Paul had the gift of knowledge as he was fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and possibly Latin. In his letters, most likely from memory, he has over 100 Old Testament quotations, in addition to numerous themes and references.
Illustrated historically: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was a French scholar who’s short 39 years produced brilliant insight into a variety of academic disciplines. Pascal was masterful in mathematics, probability science, physics, and philosophy. He was considered a child prodigy in literary circles. He wrote his first groundbreaking scientific essay on conic sections based upon synthetic projective geometry around the age of 17. He created the first working barometer, first working calculator to help his father with tax computations, laid the academic foundation for differential and integral calculus, and conducted the basic research on vacuums and hydraulics. While experimenting, Pascal invented the syringe and created the hydraulic. He also had a profound personal love for God and published one of the finest apologetically defenses of the Christian faith, Penseés. Sadly, that book is not his completed works but rather the various thoughts he had collected in hopes of writing an entire book. In it, the brilliant mind taught that a relationship with God must contain not merely information about God for the mind but experience of God for the heart. His religious philosophy was foundational for later philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Existentialist school of philosophy. Pascal is one of the most towering, brilliant minds despite his few years on the earth. He deeply and passionately loved Jesus Christ and saw his entire mental life as worshipping God with all his mind as an incredibly godly example for all Christian scholars with the spiritual gift of knowledge.
Do you have this gift?
- Do you love to study?
- Do you have a good memory that retains and compiles lots of information?
- Are you able to categorize and synthesize information in ways that most people cannot?
- Have others frequently pointed out your ability to know and understand God’s Word?
- Are you a mentally curious person who finds new things to learn a fun challenge?
- Do people often come to you with difficult problems and questions from the Bible, seeking your insight because they know you will have the answer or will find it?
- In studying God’s Word, have you found that new insights and understanding of difficult subjects come easy to you?
- Are you frustrated when you hear bad teaching from someone who has not done their homework?
- Does information, lies, and untruth bother you at a profoundly deep level?
Do you have the gifts of encouragement, leadership, wisdom, or knowledge?
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