During a recent quiet time during which I was praying about and reflecting on the book of 1 Corinthians, the Holy Spirit brought the following verse to my attention, along with an insight that I believe was significant.
But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them and comforts them. (1 Corinthians 14:3)
Paul makes this statement in the context of a discussion about the spiritual gifts in general and about the problems associated with undue preference for the gift of tongues. What the Apostle is telling us here is that prophesy, as a spiritual gift, is intimately connected with the gift of encouragement and brings both encouragement and comfort to the individual and to the church. The Greek word Paul uses here for encouragement is paraklesis, of the same root as Paraclete, the word most often used for the Holy Spirit. So in this one short verse, we see a divine triad consisting of the Holy Spirit, the gift of prophecy, and the gift of encouragement.
All of this may seem obvious to some of you and wonder what the big deal is and why I am writing about it. My reasons are also simple. When I read 1 Corinthians 14:3 that morning, it was the first time I had the insight of how the pairing of the gifts of prophecy and encouragement could work together. Perhaps due to the dullness of my mind I had not made this vital connection before and this fact may also explain why this new insight was such an epiphany moment for me.
The gift of encouragement seems to be one of my primary gifts. Both personal experiences over the years as well as multiple versions of spiritual gifts tests bear this out. The novelty of that morning’s insight was the pairing of this gift with prophecy. I had previously understood how the gift of encouragement connected will with my other primary areas of gifting from the Holy Spirit, principally teaching and wisdom. Armed with this new revelation, I was able to look at the issue of gifting by the Holy Spirit in a new perspective.
If you think about it, a person gifted with prophecy either needs to be additionally gifted with encouragement or, if that is not the case, have a partner who is a master of encouragement. Why? The answer is simple. If the prophet has a powerful word for the church or an individual, and especially if that word is either confrontational or requires much work from the recipient, without encouragement the church or individual is going to hear the word and feel overwhelmed and defeated. Unless there is a healthy dose of encouragement to go along with the word, the recipient may wind up in a worse situation than before receiving the word. Worse still, if the person receiving the word of prophecy is left without direction or an uplifting message that change is possible, said person may end up feeling quite hopeless.
When I think of these issues, I am reminded of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. I worked for many years in the field of Alcoholism and Chemical Dependency, right in the middle of Dade County, Florida, an area noted for drug and alcohol abuse. The 12 Step Program was the most effective paradigm in dealing with problems of addiction and I believe there are three primary reasons for its success. First, the program has a spiritual heart. In fact, spirituality is the very cornerstone of recovery. Second, the 12 Step Program, like the Christian walk of faith, cannot be walked in isolation. Instead, it is group based and group facilitated. Finally, and this is most pertinent to the topic of discussion here, the program begins by defining the problem and then goes on to offer a solution. If the addicted person admits the problem but has no access to the solution, there is no hope.
The same is true with prophecy. Without encouragement the recipient of prophecy is in a dark place, indeed. So, where does all this lead us?
From a personal perspective, I have come to believe that if you have the give of prophecy you need to do one of two things. You can pray for the gift of encouragement and earnestly ask the Holy Spirit to gift you in this vital area. Having the gift of encouragement is a perfect counterbalance to your gift of prophecy. By having both gifts, you are in a position to offer a healthy word of prophecy to an individual, a group, a church or whatever and, at the same time, offer encouragement that a solution is also possible.
Secondly, if you resist this gifting of encouragement or if you find that God does not want to gift you in this area, then I believe it is vital to partner with someone who operates primarily out of the gift of encouragement. I think you can see why this is important based on what has been said in the preceding paragraphs.
I have additionally looked at the other Gifts of the Spirit and have discovered that most spiritual gifts exist in a harmonic partnership with at least one gift. If you have an interest in studying the topic of spiritual gifting, I encourage you to read the relevant portions of scripture and pray for insight into how these symbiotic relationships of spiritual gifting might operate. I trust you will find such an endeavor quite enlightening and well worth the time spent.
© L.D. Turner 2008/All Rights Reserved