“Praised be the God . . . who encourages us in all our trials.”—2 CORINTHIANS 1:3, 4, footnote.
1. When Adam and Eve rebelled, how did Jehovah give encouragement and hope to mankind?
JEHOVAH is a God who gives encouragement. He has been doing this ever since humans sinned and became imperfect. In fact, immediately after Adam and Eve rebelled against God, He provided a prophecy that, once understood, would give courage and hope to humans who would be born in the future. This prophecy is found at Genesis 3:15 and promises that Satan the Devil and all his evil works will be destroyed.—1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:9.
JEHOVAH ENCOURAGED HIS SERVANTS IN THE PAST
2. How did Jehovah encourage Noah?
2 Think of how Jehovah encouraged his servant Noah. People who lived during his time were violent and immoral, and only Noah and his family worshipped Jehovah. Noah could have become discouraged. (Genesis 6:4, 5, 11; Jude 6) But Jehovah gave Noah the courage he needed to keep worshipping Him and doing what was right. (Genesis 6:9) Jehovah told Noah that He was going to destroy that wicked world, and He explained what Noah had to do so that his family could survive. (Genesis 6:13-18) Jehovah was a God of encouragement for Noah.
3. How did Jehovah encourage Joshua? (See opening picture.)
3 Later, Jehovah encouraged his servant Joshua, who had a huge task ahead of him. He had to lead God’s people into the Promised Land and conquer the powerful armies of the nations that lived there. Jehovah knew that Joshua had every reason to be afraid, so He told Moses: “Commission Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, because he is the one who will cross over before this people and he is the one who will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deuteronomy 3:28) Then Jehovah himself encouraged Joshua, saying: “Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and strong. Do not be struck with terror or fear, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1, 9) How do you think these words made Joshua feel?
4, 5. (a) How did Jehovah encourage his people in the past? (b) How did Jehovah encourage his Son?
4 Jehovah also encouraged his people as a group. For example, Jehovah knew that the Jews would need encouragement when they were captives in Babylon, and he gave them an encouraging prophecy, stating: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10) Later, Jehovah encouraged the early Christians, and he encourages us in the same way.—Read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
5 Jehovah also gave encouragement to his Son. After Jesus was baptized, he heard a voice from heaven say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matthew 3:17) Can you imagine how much strength these words gave Jesus during his ministry on earth?
JESUS ENCOURAGED OTHERS
6. How can Jesus’ parable of the talents encourage us?
6 Jesus imitated his Father by encouraging others to be faithful. He did so in the parable of the talents, where he said that the master told each faithful slave: “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23) These words encouraged his disciples to keep serving Jehovah faithfully!
Jesus encouraged Peter and even gave him the assignment to strengthen others
7. How did Jesus encourage his apostles, especially Peter?
7 Even though the apostles often argued about who was the greatest, Jesus was always patient with them. He encouraged them to be humble and to serve others, rather than wanting others to serve them. (Luke 22:24-26) Several times Peter made mistakes and disappointed Jesus. (Matthew 16:21-23; 26:31-35, 75) But Jesus never rejected Peter. Instead, he encouraged Peter and even gave him the assignment to strengthen others.—John 21:16.
ENCOURAGEMENT IN ANCIENT TIMES
8. How did Hezekiah encourage the military chiefs and the people of Judah?
8 Even before they had Jesus’ example to follow, Jehovah’s servants knew that they needed to encourage others. Think of Hezekiah. When the Assyrians were about to attack Jerusalem, he gathered the military chiefs and the people to encourage them, and they ‘were strengthened by his words.’—Read 2 Chronicles 32:6-8.
9. What can we learn from Job about giving encouragement?
9 We can also learn about giving encouragement from Job. Although he needed encouragement himself, he taught others how to be encouraging. Job told the men who came to comfort him that if he were trying to comfort them, he would have said things to strengthen them and make them feel better, not things to cause them pain. (Job 16:1-5) But Job finally did get encouragement from Elihu and from Jehovah himself.—Job 33:24, 25; 36:1, 11; 42:7, 10.
10, 11. (a) Why did Jephthah’s daughter need encouragement? (b) Whom can we encourage today?
10 Jephthah’s daughter also needed encouragement. Her father, Judge Jephthah, was going to fight the Ammonites. He promised that if Jehovah helped him to win the battle, the first person who met him when he returned home would go to serve Jehovah at the tabernacle. Israel won the battle, and the first person who came to meet Jephthah was his daughter, his only child. Jephthah’s heart was broken. But he kept his promise and sent his daughter to serve at the tabernacle for the rest of her life.—Judges 11:30-35.
11 Although this was difficult for Jephthah, it must have been even more difficult for his daughter. However, she was willing to do what her father had promised. (Judges 11:36, 37) This meant that she would never get married or have children. The family line would end. She needed a lot of comfort and encouragement. The Bible says: “It became a custom in Israel: From year to year, the young women of Israel would go to give commendation to the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.” (Judges 11:39, 40) Jephthah’s daughter makes us think of Christians today who stay single so that they can do more for Jehovah. Could we commend and encourage them?—1 Corinthians 7:32-35.
THE APOSTLES ENCOURAGED THEIR BROTHERS
12, 13. How did Peter ‘strengthen his brothers’?
12 On the night before Jesus died, he told the apostle Peter: “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has demanded to have all of you to sift you as wheat. But I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.”—Luke 22:31, 32.
13 Peter was one of those who took the lead in the early Christian congregation. (Galatians 2:9) He encouraged the brothers by his courageous actions at Pentecost and afterward. After he had served for many years, he wrote to the brothers: “I have written you in few words in order to encourage you and to give an earnest witness that this is the true undeserved kindness of God. Stand firm in it.” (1 Peter 5:12) Peter’s letters encouraged Christians of his day. And they still encourage us today as we wait for Jehovah’s promises to be completely fulfilled!—2 Peter 3:13.
14, 15. How do the Bible books the apostle John wrote encourage us?
14 The apostle John was also one who took the lead in the early Christian congregation. He wrote an exciting Gospel account of Jesus’ ministry. This Bible book has encouraged Christians for hundreds of years and continues to encourage us today. For example, only in John’s account do we read Jesus’ statement that love is the quality that identifies his true disciples.—Read John 13:34, 35.
15 The three letters that John wrote also contain precious truths. When we feel discouraged because of our mistakes, we are relieved to read that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice “cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) And if we keep feeling guilty, we will be comforted when we read that “God is greater than our hearts.” (1 John 3:20) John is the only Bible writer who wrote that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) His second and third letters commend Christians who keep “walking in the truth.”—2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4.
16, 17. How did the apostle Paul encourage the early Christians?
16 The apostle Paul was an excellent example of one who gave encouragement to his brothers. Shortly after Jesus died, most of the apostles stayed in Jerusalem, the location of the governing body. (Acts 8:14; 15:2) Christians in Judea preached about Christ to people who already believed in one God. But the holy spirit sent Paul to preach to Greeks, Romans, and others who worshipped many gods.—Galatians 2:7-9; 1 Timothy 2:7.
17 Paul traveled in the area that is now called Turkey, as well as in Greece and Italy. He preached to the non-Jews who lived in those places, and he formed Christian congregations. Life was not easy for the new Christians. Their own countrymen persecuted them, so they needed encouragement. (1 Thessalonians 2:14) About the year 50, Paul wrote an encouraging letter to the new congregation in Thessalonica. He said: “We always thank God when we mention all of you in our prayers, for we continually remember your faithful work, your loving labor, and your endurance.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2, 3) He also asked them to strengthen one another and wrote: “Keep encouraging one another and building one another up.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11.
THE GOVERNING BODY GIVES ENCOURAGEMENT
18. How did the governing body in the first century encourage Philip?
18 In the first century, Jehovah used the governing body to encourage all Christians, including those who were taking the lead in the congregations. When Philip preached about Christ to the Samaritans, the governing body supported him. They sent two of their members, Peter and John, to pray for the new Christians to receive holy spirit. (Acts 8:5, 14-17) Philip and those new brothers and sisters were very encouraged by the support they received from the governing body!
19. How did the early Christians feel when they read the letter from the governing body?
19 Later, the governing body needed to make an important decision. Did non-Jewish Christians have to get circumcised as the Jews did according to the Law of Moses? (Acts 15:1, 2) After the governing body prayed for holy spirit and reasoned on the Scriptures, they decided that this was no longer necessary. Then they wrote a letter explaining their decision and sent brothers to deliver it to the congregations. When the Christians read this letter, “they rejoiced over the encouragement.”—Acts 15:27-32.
20. (a) How does the Governing Body today encourage all of us? (b) What question will we discuss in the next article?
20 Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gives encouragement to Bethelites, to special full-time servants in the field, and to all of us. Like the brothers in the first century, we rejoice over the encouragement! Also, to encourage those who have left the truth to return, in 2015 the Governing Body provided the brochure Return to Jehovah. But should only the brothers who take the lead encourage others, or should all of us do so? We will discuss this question in the next article.