The gift of encouragement is listed in Romans 12:8 as a spiritual gift (some translations use "exhortation"). What is this gift?
The word encouragement used in this verse is from the Greek word parakletos that can mean to exhort, come alongside of, comfort, or encourage. The Holy Spirit is referred to as our Paraclete in John 14:16 as One who comes alongside the believer to comfort and help in times of need.
All Christians are called to encourage others: "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Believers can encourage one another through time together, encouraging words, letters, prayers, and other means.
Paul sought to encourage believers through his visits (Romans 1:11-12), his many letters, and his prayers. For example, his teaching regarding the rapture of believers was concluded with, "Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
However, some believers are especially gifted in encouragement. One of the strongest examples found in the New Testament is Barnabas. Barnabas sold a field he had to give the money to the church (Acts 4:36-37). He would become known as a son of encouragement and later helped bring Paul into the church as a leader. God revealed his giftedness through his life lived for Christ.
Another example can be found in the life of Moses. He was commanded to encourage Joshua who would be the leader to take the Israelites into the Promised Land: "Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it" (Deuteronomy 1:38).
When King Josiah helped return his people to the Lord in the Old Testament, he used encouragement to assist in the process: "He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the LORD" (2 Chronicles 35:2).
How can you know if you are gifted at encouragement? Start with encouraging other people today. We are all called to encourage. As you do, you may notice you have a special ability in this area. In addition, your encouragement may take place through a particular means, such as music, writing, or a particular ministry. Use all of your abilities and opportunities to encourage and be part of helping someone grow closer to the Lord.