“You can do it,” a father kindly urges his son as he faces a tough task.
“You can do it,” a teacher confidently encourages a student who is grappling with a difficult assignment.
“You can do it,” bellows a coach to inspire a team who is behind at half time.
“You can do it,” positively implores a preacher to a struggling Christian.
There is power in exhortation to fuel the fainthearted, reassure the doubting, inspire the weary, and strengthen the weak.
“Exhort one another daily,” commands the Hebrew writer, “while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).
The English word “exhort” means “to urge, advise, or caution earnestly; admonish urgently.”
In the New Testament, the Greek word translated “exhort” is from the word parakalein. It is a compound word. Para means “alongside of” and kaleo means “to call.”
When someone comes alongside of us during a difficult time and offers a kind word, strengthens our spirit and renews our hope, that’s an encouraging word of exhortation.
William Barclay writes that the word was often used when sending soldiers and sailors into battle urging them to be courageous. He says, “A Parakletos is, therefore, an Encourager, one who puts courage into the fainthearted, one who nerves the feeble arm for fight, one who makes a very ordinary man cope gallantly with a perilous and dangerous situation.”
Our English Bibles translate the word, depending on the context and the version, as “comfort,” “beseech,” “encourage,” “appeal,” and of course, “exhortation.”
Paul instructed both Timothy and Titus to “exhort the brethren” in their work as an evangelist (2Tim. 4:2; Tit. 2:15). But all Christians have a role in mutual exhortation (1 Thess. 5:14).
Exhortation and encouragement are needed when we’re dealing with physical sickness, emotional distress, or spiritual weakness. When death invades our homes, breaks our hearts and snatches away those we love, we are in need to comfort. That’s what a church family does. Fellow Christians come alongside of one another, physically and emotionally to help us through a challenging time.
A reassuring word may occur through a thoughtful handwritten note, an inspiring card or even a simple text message that say, “I care” and “I love you.”
Furthermore, let us each remember to turn to scripture in times that we need exhortation to keep on keeping on. In Psalm 119:50, David wrote,
This is my comfort in my affliction, For Your word has given me life.”
Here are some encouraging words from Scripture that will exhort you to remain faithful, stand strong, and find help and hope.
♦When you are discouraged, Isa 40:28-31
♦When other people forsake you, let you down, or even seek to harm you, Ps. 27
♦When you feel weak and lack courage, Josh 1:7-9
♦When you have financial concerns, Matt. 6:19-21
♦When you need comfort in old age, 2 Cor 4:16-18
♦When you feel life is treating you badly Rom. 8:34-37
♦ When your faith wavers, Heb. 11
♦When God seems far away, Ps. 139
♦When threatened by danger, Ps 23
Among the various non-miraculous gifts listed in Romans 12 is the gift of exhortation. Commenting on this, Barclay writes, “ There is a kind of exhortation which is daunting. Real exhortation aims not so much at dangling a man over the flames of hell as spurring him on to the joy of life in Christ.”
More than ever in a complex, confusing, and corrupt culture, we need a church family that rises to the occasion and provides encouraging words and deeds of exhortation, edification, and comfort.
The blind singer-songwriter, Ken Medema, challenges our churches with these probing words in his song “If this is not a place:”
“If this is not a place where tears are understood.
Then where shall I go to cry?
If this is not a place where my spirit can take wings,
Then where shall I go to fly?
“If this not a place where my questions can be asked
Then where shall I go to seek?
If this is not a place where my heart’s cry can be heard,
Then where shall I go to speak?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman