"You have the gift of exhortation."
In the early years of following the Lord, an older woman in the faith spoke those words to me. Since I didn't exactly know what she meant, I went home and looked up the meaning:
Beseech, exhort, call upon, to encourage and to strengthen. The primary means of exhortation is to remind the hearer of the powerful and amazing work of God in Christ, particularly in regard to the saving work of Jesus in the atonement.
I read in one place that this spiritual gift is given in order to strengthen and encourage those who are wavering in their faith. This may involve motivation to stay the course, but also challenge in the form of rebuke with the end goal being spiritual growth or action.
Since hearing my friend's words to me, I've viewed myself as a spiritual cheerleader of sorts. When others are despairing, I share Scripture to lift them up; when they are stumbling in sin, I exhort them to do battle and press on in obedience.
So, here's a little bit of cheering coming your way...
This week my kiddos are on spring break from their studies. We're completely out of our routine, sleeping in way too late, binging on Easter candy and forgetting our daily responsibilities. And it's only Tuesday morning. Seems like whenever my routine is interrupted--holiday breaks, vacations, summer time--my spiritual journey is interrupted too.
Perhaps I'd gotten into a great routine of digging in the Word each morning or praying diligently each day. Throw in a school break and it's a guaranteed disruption of my disciplines. Sometimes, though, it's the routine of things that can create a boredom or a weariness that I don't want to endure. I've seen this time and time again in Bible studies over the years--women begin strong then fizzle out by the end of the study.
While we're blessed to have breaks in our daily routine--they can be true refreshers--we must stay the course when it comes to our spiritual growth. I praise God that He never takes a break from working in me!
...He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1: 6
Let me pick up my poms poms now and cheer you on. Are you weary from getting up early and praying? Have you become bored with your Bible reading? Is it that you're just not "feeling it" when you go to worship service? Do you think you can skip Bible study and do it on your own? Well, ladies, press on. Endure. Do not grow weary in doing good. In your moment of temptation (to sleep in, to glaze over the words when reading, to skip church or Bible study), God meets you and strengthens you more than you could ever imagine if you just press on through the temptation.
I praise God that Jesus endured through every temptation that was thrown His way--from in the wilderness to the garden of Gethsemane. Because of His faithful work, we have the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us to overcome temptation and sin. We can chase after more of His Spirit and leave behind more of our flesh.
As summer approaches, I encourage you not to take a vacation from God. Surround yourself with good godly friends who will be your own personal cheerleaders to continue strong on your spiritual journey. Do the hard thing. Press on through your 'feelings' and excuses. You will see tremendous blessing on the other side.
We always do what our heart desires. If you are making excuses not to meet with God or His people, then I ask you one thing: Examine your heart. What is keeping you from drawing nearer to God and growing in faith?