The Greatest of Gifts
By, Billy Beasley
What if you were asked what is the greatest spiritual gift? Would your answer be the power to heal, to teach, or perhaps to possess an overflowing amount of wisdom?
I don’t know what my response to this question would have been a few years ago, but thanks to a dear friend, I know what it would be today.
My friend was in the midst of a bout with cancer. He lives many miles away and we see each other once or twice a year. We stay in communication and it was during one of our talks that he stated, “Billy, you are an encourager and I consider that to be the greatest of gifts.” I have never forgotten that moment. I knew that encouraging people was important but was it a spiritual gift? Maybe even the greatest?
Often, as I circle the auditorium in prayer before the first service at Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC, I think about the people who will enter the doors who are down to their last sliver of hope.
They are broken and some may even be contemplating suicide. I pray that the staff, volunteers, and members can show some kindness from the light of Jesus Christ that resides in us and open a door of hope-a ray of light. There is no power, no wisdom I possess that can aid them but if I get out of the way and allow the light that resides in me to reach out, I believe walls can come crumbling down.
I have been in that dark pit of depression where I contemplated seriously taking my life. I had no hope. Not in God and not in myself. That is such a dangerous place to be. I can hear my wonderful, saintly, mother saying, “You have to have hope, Billy. Without hope we have nothing.” I believe a big reason I am here today is because of her daily prayers of faith over me.
Sadly, some Christians when encountering that person who has lost hope take the path of preaching to them. Maybe even compound that error by pointing out their mistakes. That is the last thing a person without hope needs to hear. They need a reason to keep moving. They need some hope…some encouragement.
Many years ago, during my last debilitating battle of depression I went to a church looking for that very thing- hope. It was a Sunday morning and during the call for prayer I walked to the front. I was in despair and hoped I might find a touch from God to help me through this horrific battle. I was so weak I asked a friend, David, who I knew to be a wonderful, humble Christian man to walk with me, which he did.
As I approached the minister and asked for prayer, his response was to quiz me, in so many words, about belonging to Jesus.
I could have said I was saved a long time ago, which was true, but I knew at that moment I was not walking on the path with both feet. I was honest and during that time in my life I knew I was not quite ready to turn the wheel of this life over to God completely. That would come many years later. I think my response was something along the lines of, “I used to.”
I can’t recall his words but I do remember the expression on his face. It was a look of annoyance and I felt immediately that he did not want to be bothered with the likes of me. I could have told him what he wanted to hear but even in my worst days I was determined to speak honestly. I believed to call myself a Christian meant more than a name on a membership role or repeating some prayer. For me, my explanation of being a real Christian was placing God’s desires above my own. Despite my dire circumstances I was not ready that day.
Perhaps the minister could have offered some spiritual help. Some measure of hope. Encouraged me in some way. He offered nothing. The only hope I garnered that day was that my friend, David, walked with me because he cared. Because he knew I was hurting. He did not preach to me about where I was. He knew right then that what I needed was help and hope. And maybe, just maybe I might string enough of those days of hope together to walk out of the darkness that consumed me.
Maybe in that instant that preacher could have done as David did that day. Maybe he could have preached the Gospel, occasionally using words.
We live in a fallen world and there are people everywhere in pain and they already know they have messed up. They don’t need you or I piling on.
As we venture out into our neighborhood, stores, our church, we should be ready to offer a smile, a word of encouragement. Sometimes people just need to know that someone cares. Plant that seed of hope and allow God to give the increase.
Be an encourager. I agree with my old friend. It truly is the greatest of gifts.
Meet the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway- a traditionally published work of faith based fiction. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read Billy's "Sunday Inspiration" column here at Pandora's Box Gazette the 2nd Sunday each month. Feel free to comment below to chat with Billy.
What do you think is the greatest spiritual gift? Have you ever been uplifted by someone who encouraged you in a time of spiritual, emotional, or physical need?