For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Romans 12:3-8 (NIV)
A long time ago, my husband and I took a class in spiritual gifts. We filled out a form to help determine what ability God had given us that was designed to build His church and His people. Husband’s showed he had the gift of “exhortation.” He looked at me and said, “What’s exhortation?” I shrugged my shoulders and replied with another question, “Preaching?” The look of horror on his face was priceless! Later, we discovered that exhortation is the gift of encouragement. That is very true of my husband. He is a great friend who looks for ways to cheer those around him. Encouragement is my gift as well. I love nothing better than to support someone with my words and lighten their load a little. I look for ways to make people feel better about their lives or to persuade them to make good choices. That is why I enjoy Tuesdays which are Teen Court nights. Teen Court is a peer review program for first time juvenile offenders. Though I am a historian by trade, I supervise our community’s Teen Court as well. Though getting the night started and organizing the kids’ by assigning some to work as attorneys, others as bailiffs and clerks, and the rest as jurors is tedious, and though the night can be stressful when we bring lots of kids into our county courthouse and pray nothing goes wrong, I do it because I feel like it helps the kids. And I do it just to get to the end of the evening where I stand outside with the students while they wait for their parents to come and pick them up. Each week, I choose one or two, sometimes more to ask about their plans for the future. I explain how they can enroll at our local community college or vocational school while still in high school, a process called dual enrollment where they can use this time not only to get a diploma but prepare for the future. I talk to them about their choices, remind them of how much their parents and teachers care about them. Compliment them on the good choices that they have made, encourage them to stay in school, or make better choices. Suggest colleges to visit. Those thirty to forty minutes at the end of the night are some of the best parts of my week. I may not make a difference in every kid’s life, but perhaps for some, those are the only words of hope they have heard in a long time. How about you? Are you an encourager? When was the last time you brightened someone’s day with a word of support? It doesn’t have to be your gift to be an encourager. You just have to smile and say, “You’re going to be okay.” “Good work.” “Keep trying.” “I’m proud of you.” “Way to go!” “Don’t give up.” “You are: smart, amazing, talented.” Don’t hold back. Just say it and give someone courage.