“Let us consider one another . . . , encouraging one another, and all the more so as you see the day drawing near.”—HEB. 10:24, 25.
1. Why did the apostle Paul exhort the early Hebrew Christians to encourage one another “all the more so”?
WHY should we intensify our efforts to be encouraging? The apostle Paul gives us the reason in his letter to Hebrew Christians. He told them: “Let us consider one another so as to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking our meeting together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) Within just five years, Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem would see a “day of Jehovah” approaching and recognize the sign Jesus had given them to flee for their lives from that city. (Acts 2:19, 20; Luke 21:20-22) That day of Jehovah arrived in 70 C.E. when the Romans executed Jehovah’s judgment on Jerusalem.
2. Why should we today be increasingly concerned about encouraging one another?
2 Today, we have every reason to believe that the “great and very awe-inspiring” day of Jehovah is near. (Joel 2:11) The prophet Zephaniah said: “The great day of Jehovah is near! It is near and it is approaching very quickly!” (Zeph. 1:14) That prophetic warning also applies to our time. In view of the proximity of Jehovah’s day, Paul tells us to “be concerned about one another so as to incite to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24, ftn.) We should, therefore, be increasingly interested in our brothers, so that we can encourage them whenever needed.
WHO NEED ENCOURAGEMENT?
3. What did the apostle Paul state about encouragement? (See opening picture.)
3 “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up.” (Prov. 12:25) This is true of all of us. We all need a word of encouragement from time to time. Paul showed that even one who has the responsibility of encouraging others needs to be built up himself. To Christians living in Rome, he wrote: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you for you to be made firm; or, rather, that we may have an interchange of encouragement by one another’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Rom. 1:11, 12) Yes, Paul, who gave outstanding encouragement to others, at times needed to be built up himself.—Read Romans 15:30-32.
4, 5. Whom can we encourage today, and why?
4 Those who live a life of self-sacrifice should be commended. Among these are the faithful pioneers. Many have made great sacrifices in order to make room in their lives for the pioneer service. The same is true of missionaries, Bethelites, circuit overseers and their wives, and those who work in remote translation offices. All of these make sacrifices in their lives in order to devote more time to sacred service. They, therefore, ought to receive encouragement. And those whose heart is still in the full-time service but who for various reasons have had to limit their activity also appreciate receiving encouragement.
5 Brothers and sisters who remain single because they want to obey the admonition to marry “only in the Lord” make up another group that merits encouragement. (1 Cor. 7:39) Likewise, hardworking wives appreciate hearing upbuilding words from their husbands. (Prov. 31:28, 31) Also, Christians who remain faithful through persecution or illness need to hear encouragement. (2 Thess. 1:3-5) Jehovah and Christ comfort all these faithful servants.—Read 2 Thessalonians 2:16, 17.
ELDERS STRIVE TO BE ENCOURAGING
6. What is the role of the elders as described at Isaiah 32:1, 2?
6 Read Isaiah 32:1, 2. Jesus Christ, through his anointed brothers and supportive “princes” of the other sheep, provides encouragement and guidance to despondent and discouraged ones in this time of need. That is as it should be, for these elders are not “masters” over the faith of others but “are fellow workers” for the joy of their brothers.—2 Cor. 1:24.
7, 8. In addition to sharing words of encouragement, how can the elders build others up?
7 The apostle Paul set an example to be imitated. He wrote to the persecuted Christians in Thessalonica: “Having tender affection for you, we were determined to impart to you, not only the good news of God but also our very selves, because you became so beloved to us.”—1 Thess. 2:8.
8 Showing that just a word of encouragement does not always suffice, Paul told the elders from Ephesus: “You must assist those who are weak and must keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said: ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” (Acts 20:35) Paul was willing not only to encourage his brothers but also to “spend and be completely spent for” them. (2 Cor. 12:15) Similarly, elders should not only encourage and console their brothers with words but also build them up by showing sincere personal interest.—1 Cor. 14:3.
9. How can the elders give counsel in an encouraging way?
9 Building one another up may involve giving counsel, but here again, elders should follow the example given in the Bible about how to give counsel in an encouraging way. An outstanding example in this respect was given by Jesus himself after his death and resurrection. He had some firm counsel to give to certain congregations in Asia Minor, but notice how he went about it. Before giving them counsel, he gave warm commendation to the congregations in Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira. (Rev. 2:1-5, 12, 13, 18, 19) He told the congregation in Laodicea: “All those for whom I have affection, I reprove and discipline. So be zealous and repent.” (Rev. 3:19) Elders would do well to imitate Christ’s example when they need to give counsel.
NOT THE EXCLUSIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE ELDERS
10. How can all of us share in building one another up?
10 Being encouraging is not the exclusive responsibility of the elders. Paul exhorted all Christians to speak “what is good for building up as the need may be, to impart what is beneficial” to others. (Eph. 4:29) Each of us should be alert to observe “the need” that others have. Paul counseled Hebrew Christians: “Strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, and keep making straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but, rather, may be healed.” (Heb. 12:12, 13) All of us, including young ones, can build one another up by words of encouragement.
11. How was Marthe helped during a period of depression?
11 Marthe, * a sister who went through a period of depression, writes: “One day when I was praying for encouragement, I met an older sister who showed me affection and compassion, which I was in particular need of at the time. She also shared with me her own experience with the kind of test I was going through, and I felt less alone.” Possibly, the older sister did not realize the good effect that her words would have on Marthe.
12, 13. In what positive ways can we apply the advice given at Philippians 2:1-4?
12 Paul gave this advice to all the members of the congregation in Philippi: “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any spiritual fellowship, if any tender affection and compassion, make my joy full by being of the same mind and having the same love, being completely united, having the one thought in mind. Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with humility consider others superior to you, as you look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Phil. 2:1-4.
13 Yes, all of us should endeavor to look out for the interests of others, offering a “consolation of love,” “spiritual fellowship,” and “tender affection and compassion” to encourage our brothers and sisters.
SOURCES OF ENCOURAGEMENT
14. What can be a source of encouragement?
14 News of faithfulness on the part of those we have helped in the past can be a real source of encouragement, as it was for the apostle John, who wrote: “No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.” (3 John 4) Many pioneers can attest to how encouraging it is for them to learn that some of those they helped into the truth years ago are staying faithful and perhaps are even serving as pioneers. Simply reminding a discouraged pioneer of past joys can be a real source of comfort.
15. What is one way that we can encourage those who are serving faithfully?
15 Many circuit overseers have stated how encouraged they and their wives felt after receiving even a short note of gratitude for their visit to a congregation. The same can be true of elders, missionaries, pioneers, and Bethel family members who receive a word of appreciation for their faithful service.
HOW ALL OF US CAN BE ENCOURAGING
16. What does it take to encourage someone?
16 It would be an error on our part if we believed that we cannot be encouraging because we are not particularly communicative. It does not take much to be a source of encouragement—perhaps no more than a warm smile when greeting someone. If there is no smile in return, it could mean that there is a problem, and just listening to the other person may bring comfort.—Jas. 1:19.
17. How was one young brother helped during a time of distress?
17 Henri, a young brother, was greatly distressed when his close relatives, including his father, who had been a respected elder, left the truth. Henri was encouraged by a circuit overseer who took him to a café for a cup of coffee and allowed him to open his heart. Henri realized that the only way to help his family come back to the truth was for him to persevere faithfully. He found great comfort in reading Psalm 46; Zephaniah 3:17; and Mark 10:29, 30.
18. (a) What observation did King Solomon make? (b) What suggestion did the apostle Paul make?
18 The examples of Marthe and Henri show that we can be encouraging to a brother or a sister who is in need of comfort. King Solomon wrote: “A word spoken at the right time—how good it is! A cheerful glance makes the heart rejoice; a good report invigorates the bones.” (Prov. 15:23, 30, ftn.) Additionally, reading from The Watchtower or our website can invigorate someone who is downcast. Paul shows that singing a Kingdom song together can be a source of encouragement. He wrote: “Keep on teaching and encouraging one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs sung with gratitude, singing in your hearts to Jehovah.”—Col. 3:16; Acts 16:25.
19. Why will mutual encouragement become more and more important in the days ahead, and what should we do?
19 Mutual encouragement will become more and more important as we see Jehovah’s day “drawing near.” (Heb. 10:25) As Paul said to fellow Christians of his day, “keep encouraging one another and building one another up, just as you are in fact doing.”—1 Thess. 5:11.
^ par. 11 Names have been changed.