Yesterday I, Pastor Todd, spoke on the spiritual gifts of Intercession and Exhortation. You can hear the full message here for June 2nd, 2019. Today I’d like to reflect a bit more on these two gifts.
Intercession and Exhortation are two of a plethora of gifts that can be referred to as “unsung.” What does that mean? In years past, I would occasionally watch the local news station. Throughout the week, the anchors would often give a shout out to what they called “unsung heroes.” These were local people who found themselves in proximity to either a tragedy or a situation that required immediate action or bravery (i.e. foiling a robbery, rescuing a stranger’s child that darted into a busy intersection, etc.). They were examples of the goodness of humanity present without social or news media. They didn’t do it for attention. They did it because it was the right thing to do. Acts like these happen all the time and go unnoticed and unreported. “Unsung” spiritual gifts are kind of like that. They don’t get a lot of attention or press. They aren’t regularly recognized, but those with the gifts continue on because it is the right thing to do. Intercessory prayer and Exhortation are two such gifts. So let’s look at these two oftentimes hidden treasures in the spiritual gifts chest.
The gift of exhortation is one of the necessary gifts in the church. At some point or other, every Christian encounters difficult challenges to their faith by the harsh realities of the fallen world we live in. Even leaders and elders encounter times of crises, personal doubts, and self-questioning. If left untreated, these challenging times can shape a person in negative ways and lead them to become either toxic leaders or to abandon the faith. It is times like these in a Christian’s life where those with the gift of exhortation prove to be extremely necessary.
Those with the gift of exhortation have a knack for seeing people the way God sees them. They can identify with a person’s challenges and have a keen insight into the heart of a matter–the root cause. In addition, they can see what the person needs to get back on track.
Where some of the more public gifts like leadership and apostle have the potential to lead the gifted person to isolation, exhortation is by nature relational. The more connected an exhorter is to believers, the more insight they have into their spiritual needs. That means the more capable they are of encouraging them to stay on or get on track with the Lord.
Due to the relational nature and the special insight exhorters have, they know when it is necessary to speak words of encouragement. They also know when a verbal kick in the pants is warranted. Because of a myriad of personality types, some people respond better than others to different approaches. Mature believers gifted with exhortation tend to be adept at knowing which is needed and when.
Many a leader and preacher has been called to get back up and continue the work of the ministry at the behest of an exhorter in their midst. Exhortation is a powerful gift that many don’t see. It is easy to see the public gifts like teaching, prophecy, apostle, etc. Not many really notice the subtle power and influence exhortation has. At the end of the day, teachers, prophets, apostles need exhortation. There are times when the public gifts (as well as all Christians) are down and need a pick me up. Exhorters are those who do heavy lifting to help pick them up.
It is an amazing thing that exhortation is part of the spiritual gifts in the Church. Without them, many potential leaders would not be as effective for the kingdom due to those times when it feels like nobody believes in them.
Another unsung gift in the body is the gift of intercession. In modern times, intercession has been linked to the prayers of spiritual warfare. Where for many other gifts in the church, prayer is a disciplined act that regularly takes effort to engage in, for intercessors, it’s what they truly enjoy doing. They’re the type to wake up looking forward to times of prayer. They look forward to any opportunity to pray especially for what they’ve been called to intercede on behalf of.
It is necessary that a local body have intercessors burdened to intercede for the local body. In addition, there may be others in the church burdened to intercede for a broader location ranging from the city to the county, to the region, to the nation and variations in between.
In addition to praying for areas and organizations, at the core, intercessors are spiritual soldiers that protect sacred spaces. They gather to pray against spiritual forces either from the devil and his angels or the powers of the world. Sacred space is essentially the body of Christ, yet can be extended to places. When we pray the Lord’s prayer “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are interceding for the Lord’s kingdom to come to earth. In the end that is a major sanctifying event. All the earth will be the Lord’s temple, a sacred space.
Intercessors see that as one of their callings in prayer.
We all know the Lord’s prayer has been around since the beginning of Christianity. So believers and intercessors have been praying it and derivatives of it for millennia. In that sense, these prayers of faith are akin to Abraham’s faith that God promised him a son and to become a great nation. For decades, Abraham never had a son. In death, Abraham never saw his great nation. Neither did Isaac and Jacob. But Abraham believed. So it is with intercessors. They are interceding for promises and events that they have never seen, trusting the Lord will bring it to pass because he said he would.
For intercessors devoted to the local body, it is their consistent heart of prayer and faith that ensures kingdom work takes place. Their task as spiritual soldiers who defend the sacred space of God’s church and kingdom is crucial for the success of the church’s mission. Leaders, preachers, evangelists, elders, and others depend on having space to do the holy work of Jesus. That holy space is defended and guarded by the intercessors.
Many prayers from intercessors will never be seen, known, or realized. As a result, they will often be unrecognized by other members of the community. That can be a frustrating place to be. However, intercessors don’t do it for attention. They do it because it is what God planted deep in their hearts. One day, all their efforts, prayers, and faith will be rewarded with a potent reality of God’s will and kingdom manifesting on earth–a fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer.
So those are a few of my thoughts on the gifts of Exhortation and Intercession. I hope this post has blessed you and helped you better understand two of the “unsung” gifts in the plethora of spiritual gifts and of how important they really are.
Have a great week, and seek the Lord to better encounter his