This is my 2nd day of a 21 day fast for understanding the things to come. Like Daniel in chapter 10, I have “set [my] mind to gain understanding and to humble [myself] before God,” (Daniel 10:12). Most Christians agree that we are living in the End Times. Jesus is coming soon to Rapture His Church, and many terrible things will follow, including the final war, usually called Armageddon (although in the Bible, the name actually refers to a place, not an event). However, there are probably things that we need to do to prepare for those terrible times.
I want to make it very clear that I am not asking God to reveal to me when the Rapture will be. Jesus said that only the Father knows the day and the hour. The angels don’t know, and even Jesus, Himself, doesn’t know (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32). If the Father isn’t revealing that to Jesus, then it’s for sure that He won’t tell me.
What I want is to understand what is coming and how to help God’s people prepare for it.
This morning as I was praying and contemplating my role, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my main spiritual gift: Encouragements. In the King James Version, the gift is called Exhortation. The Spirit urged me to consider the difference between the 2 words: encouragement and exhortation.
So I looked it up in the online dictionary.
- to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope : hearten
- to attempt to persuade : urge
- to spur on : stimulate
- to give help or patronage to : foster
- to incite by argument or advice : urge strongly
- to give warnings or advice : make urgent appeals
Then I got curious about the original language: Greek. In the Greek, the word is paraklesis. Paraklesis is from the root parakletos, the word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit, and translated as comforter. That discovery is very encouraging to me. I love the thought that my spiritual gift is much like the Holy Spirit, Himself.
- a calling near, summons (esp. for help), importation, supplication, entreaty
- exhortation, admonition, encouragement
- consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment—thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
- persuasive discourse, stirring address, instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse
In contrasting these definitions, it seems that encouragement is too soft. It seems to imply jollying-along someone who is depressed or unhappy. But exhortation seems too hard and cold, almost like how a teacher talks to a lazy student. Paraklesis is precisely what I do, which includes both encouraging and exhorting, and also refreshing and comforting.
C. Peter Wagner defines the spiritual gift of exhortation as frequently being part of the pastor’s gift mix:
The gift of exhortation is the special ability that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to minister words of comfort, consolation, encouragement, and counsel to other members of the Body in such a way that they feel helped and healed. “Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow” © 1979, 1994 C. Peter Wagner, Regal Books.
Now, having defined and contrasted the definitions, I understand at least 1 thing: this time of fasting and praying for understanding is important for helping the missionaries and pastors of Europe that God puts into my path (and others who will read it on my blog or in my next book). God is good!