“Be courageous and strong. . . . Jehovah your God is with you.”
1, 2. (a) What qualities will help us to cope with trials? (b) How would you define faith? Illustrate.
JEHOVAH’S service brings us joy. Yet, we do face hardships common to mankind, and we may “suffer for the sake of righteousness.” (1 Pet. 3:14; 5:8, 9; 1 Cor. 10:13) To cope with such trials successfully, we need faith and courage.
2 What is faith? The apostle Paul wrote: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Heb. 11:1) Another translation reads: “Faith is the title-deed to the things we hope for. Faith is being sure of things we cannot see.” (The Simple English Bible) If property has been deeded to us, we are confident that we own it. Since we have faith that God always fulfills his word, it is as though we are holding a valuable deed. Our faith makes us certain that we will see the fulfillment of the Bible-based promises we hope for, and we are sure about spiritual realities, although we cannot see them.
3, 4. (a) What is courage? (b) What is one way to strengthen our faith and courage?
3 Courage has been defined as “spiritual, emotional, and moral fortitude to speak and act without fear in the face of obstacles and dangers.” (The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible) If we have courage, we are strong, valiant, even bold at times.
4 Faith and courage are desirable qualities. But suppose we sense a personal need for more faith and do not feel courageous. Well, thousands of individuals of Bible record have been exemplary in displaying these qualities. So one way to strengthen our faith and courage is to consider some of those examples.
JEHOVAH WAS WITH JOSHUA
5. To succeed in his assignment, what did Joshua need?
5 Let us turn the clock back some 35 centuries. Forty years have passed since millions of Israelites were delivered from Egyptian bondage under the mighty hand of Jehovah. The prophet Moses has taken the lead. Now at the age of 120, he views the Promised Land from a distance and then dies atop Mount Nebo. His successor is Joshua, a man “full of the spirit of wisdom.” (Deut. 34:1-9) The Israelites are about to take possession of Canaan. To succeed as their leader, Joshua will need God-given wisdom. He will also have to exercise faith in Jehovah and prove to be courageous and strong.
6. (a) Joshua 23:6 calls for courage to do what? (b) What do we learn from the words of Acts 4:18-20 and Acts 5:29?
6 The wisdom, courage, and faith shown by Joshua during the long conquest of Canaan must have strengthened the Israelites. In addition to valor in battle, however, they needed what might be called quiet courage to do what Joshua urged them to do. At the end of his life, in his farewell address, he said: “You must be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses by never turning away from it to the right or to the left.” (Josh. 23:6) We too need the courage to obey Jehovah at all times. This includes occasions when mere men demand that we act contrary to God’s will. (Read Acts 4:18-20; 5:29.) If we prayerfully rely on Jehovah, he will help us to take such a courageous stand.
HOW WE CAN MAKE OUR WAY SUCCESSFUL
7. To act with courage and have success, Joshua needed to do what?
7 To have the courage needed to do God’s will, we must study and apply his Word. That is what Joshua was told to do when he became Moses’ successor: “Be courageous and very strong to take care to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. . . . This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Josh. 1:7, 8) Joshua followed that counsel, and ‘his way was successful.’ If we do likewise, we will have greater courage and success in God’s service.
Our yeartext for 2013: “Be courageous and strong. . . . Jehovah your God is with you.”
8. The yeartext for 2013 is drawn from what scripture, and how do you feel that those words will help you?
8 Joshua must have been greatly strengthened when he heard Jehovah’s further words: “Be courageous and strong. Do not suffer shock or be terrified, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9) Jehovah is with us too. So let us “not suffer shock or be terrified” regardless of our trials. Especially noteworthy is the statement: “Be courageous and strong. . . . Jehovah your God is with you.” Those words of Joshua 1:9 have been chosen as the yeartext for 2013. They will surely strengthen us in the months ahead, as will the words and actions of other examples of faith and courage.
THEY COURAGEOUSLY TOOK THEIR STAND
9. In what ways did Rahab show faith and courage?
9 When Joshua sent two spies into Canaan, Rahab the prostitute hid them and misdirected their enemies. Because of her acts of faith and courage, she and her household were spared when the city of Jericho fell to the Israelites. (Heb. 11:30, 31; Jas. 2:25) Of course, Rahab abandoned her immoral life so as to please Jehovah. Some who have become Christians have had the faith, courage, and moral strength to make similar changes to please God.
10. Under what circumstances did Ruth take her stand for true worship, resulting in what blessings for her?
10 After Joshua’s death, the Moabitess Ruth courageously took her stand for true worship. As the widow of an Israelite, she likely knew something about Jehovah. Her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, had lived in Moab but decided to move back to the Israelite town of Bethlehem. Along the road, Naomi urged Ruth to return to her own people, but the Moabitess replied: “Do not plead with me to abandon you, to turn back from accompanying you . . . Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Ruth meant that. In time, Naomi’s kinsman Boaz married Ruth, who bore a son and became an ancestress of David and of Jesus. Yes, Jehovah blesses acts of faith and courage.
MANY RISKED THEIR LIVES!
11. How did Jehoiada and Jehosheba manifest courage, and what did this accomplish?
11 Our courage and faith are strengthened when we see that God is with those who put his interests and the welfare of fellow believers ahead of their own concerns. For example, consider High Priest Jehoiada and his wife, Jehosheba. After King Ahaziah died, Athaliah, his mother, killed the remaining royal offspring except Jehoash and seized the throne. Jehoiada and Jehosheba had taken the risk of rescuing Ahaziah’s son Jehoash and had kept him hidden for six years. In the seventh year, Jehoiada had Jehoash proclaimed king and had Athaliah put to death. (2 Ki. 11:1-16) Jehoiada later supported King Jehoash in repairing the temple. And when Jehoiada died at 130 years of age, he was buried with the kings “because he had done good in Israel and with the true God and His house.” (2 Chron. 24:15, 16) Moreover, the courageous deeds of Jehoiada and his wife preserved the royal line from David to the Messiah.
12. What courageous action did Ebed-melech take?
12 Ebed-melech, a eunuch in the house of King Zedekiah, risked his life for Jeremiah. The king had surrendered Jeremiah to the princes of Judah, who falsely charged him with sedition and cast him into a miry cistern, there to die. (Jer. 38:4-6) Despite the danger in which it placed him because of the existing hatred for Jeremiah, Ebed-melech appealed to Zedekiah in behalf of the prophet. Zedekiah responded favorably and had 30 men accompany Ebed-melech to rescue Jeremiah. Through the prophet, God assured Ebed-melech that he would not perish during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem. (Jer. 39:15-18) Godly courage is rewarded.
13. The three Hebrews took what courageous stand, and how can we benefit from their experience?
13 In the seventh century B.C.E., three Hebrew servants of Jehovah were given clear evidence that God rewards faith and courage. King Nebuchadnezzar assembled Babylon’s dignitaries and demanded that they worship a towering image of gold. Any who would not do so were to die in a fiery furnace. The three Hebrews respectfully told Nebuchadnezzar: “Our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” (Dan. 3:16-18) The thrilling rescue of the three Hebrews is vividly described at Daniel 3:19-30. Although we are not likely to be threatened with death in a fiery furnace, we do face tests of integrity and can be sure that God will bless us for our faith and courage.
14. According to Daniel chapter 6, how did Daniel act courageously, and with what result?
14 Daniel showed faith and courage when his enemies prevailed upon King Darius to issue a decree that “whoever makes a petition to any god or man for thirty days except to you, O king, should be thrown to the lions’ pit.” As soon as Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he “entered into his house, and, the windows in his roof chamber being open for him toward Jerusalem, even three times in a day he was kneeling on his knees and praying and offering praise before his God, as he had been regularly doing prior to this.” (Dan. 6:6-10) Courageous Daniel ended up in a lions’ pit
15. (a) Aquila and Priscilla set what example of faith and courage? (b) What is meant by Jesus’ words recorded at John 13:34, and how have many Christians shown such love?
15 Under circumstances not disclosed in the Bible, Aquila and Priscilla ‘risked their necks for Paul’s soul.’ (Acts 18:2; Rom. 16:3, 4) They courageously acted in harmony with Jesus’ words: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) The Mosaic Law required that a person love his neighbor as he loved himself. (Lev. 19:18) But Jesus’ commandment was “new” in describing love that would go to the point of giving our life for others, as he did. Many Christians have shown love by courageously ‘risking their necks’ to avoid exposing fellow believers to brutal treatment or death at enemy hands.
16, 17. Some early followers of Christ faced what test of faith, and how does this compare with the experience of certain Christians in our day?
16 Like Jesus, early Christians courageously rendered worship only to Jehovah. (Matt. 4:8-10) They refused to burn incense in honor of the Roman emperor. (See picture.) “Very few of the Christians recanted,” wrote Daniel P. Mannix, “although an altar with a fire burning on it was generally kept in the arena for their convenience. All a prisoner had to do was scatter a pinch of incense on the flame and he was given a Certificate of Sacrifice and turned free. It was also carefully explained to him that he was not worshiping the emperor; merely acknowledging the divine character of the emperor as head of the Roman state. Still, almost no Christians availed themselves of the chance to escape.”
17 Modern Christians held in Nazi concentration camps with possible death facing them were given repeated opportunities to gain their freedom by signing a declaration renouncing Jehovah. But few signed. Risking death during a genocide in Rwanda in recent times, Tutsi and Hutu Witnesses protected one another. Such trials call for courage and faith.
REMEMBER, JEHOVAH IS WITH US!
18, 19. What Biblical examples of faith and courage can help us to carry out our preaching work?
18 We are now privileged to share in the greatest work ever entrusted to God’s human servants
19 Prayer helps us to carry out the preaching work. When certain persecuted followers of Christ prayed that they might ‘speak God’s word with boldness,’ that plea was answered. (Read Acts 4:29-31.) If you are somewhat timid about preaching from house to house, Jehovah will answer your prayers for greater faith and courage.
20. What support do we have as Jehovah’s servants?
20 It is challenging to pursue a godly course in the face of trials that beset us in this evil and troubled world. However, we are not alone. God is with us. So is his Son, the Head of the congregation. We also have over 7,000,000 fellow Witnesses of Jehovah worldwide. With them, let us keep on exercising faith and declaring the good news while we bear in mind our 2013 yeartext: “Be courageous and strong. . . . Jehovah your God is with you.”