Gaining Strength by Mutual Encouragement
AFTER a long and perilous journey and much delay, the prisoner Paul the apostle at last arrived in Rome. Before his entering it, however, the brothers from Rome went out to meet him, coming as far as the Market Place of Appius and the Three Taverns. “Upon catching sight of them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”—Acts 28:11-15.
Yes, even the apostle Paul appreciated receiving encouragement from his brothers, just as he had written them years before: “For I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm; or, rather, that there may be an interchange of encouragement among you, by each one through the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”—Rom. 1:11, 12.*
A word of encouragement gives refreshment, imparts confidence and gives strength—things we all so much need. Within we are beset with weaknesses that cause us to stumble, and without we are surrounded by a hostile world filled with all kinds of unrighteousness and which is constantly putting pressure upon us.
Men of the world tear one another apart and have no compunction about causing others distress. They may flatter for ulterior reasons, but flattery is not encouragement. Flattery is false, insincere or is excessive praise, meant to appeal to one’s vanity. How can it give true encouragement?—Prov. 28:23.
Second only to Jehovah God in giving encouragement was and is Jesus Christ. He gave encouragement by his words, by his zealous activity and by his example of unselfishness. (Matt. 11:28-30) His apostles were likewise encouraging. What encouragement Paul gave by means of his many letters and his personal visits! And then there was Peter, who wrote his first letter “to give encouragement.” This he did, among other things, by reminding his brothers of their hope, which hope gave them such strength that they were able to rejoice even in tribulation.—1 Pet. 5:12.
At times we may feel we need encouragement and be disappointed because of not receiving it. But instead of looking to others for encouragement, why not, rather, be looking for opportunities to give encouragement to others, since there is more happiness in giving encouragement than in receiving it? And there are so many ways in which we can do this. Sincere words of commendation can mean much and so can warm appreciation for a kindness shown. A friendly smile, an act of kindness, or just one’s fellowship at times may give encouragement. Encouraging also are a zealous example, the imparting of some gem of truth, the relating of an experience enjoyed in the Christian ministry and the showing of concern for those who may be sick by a card or a personal visit.—Acts 20:35.
And what opportunities there are for giving encouragement in the family circle! Husbands can be very encouraging to their wives by expressing appreciation for their efforts to be good housekeepers and good cooks or for their part in the Christian ministry. Wives can be very encouraging to their husbands by putting spiritual interests first and by being loyal and submissive. Nor would we overlook the obligation that parents have to be encouraging to their children so that they do not become downhearted.—Prov. 31:28; Col. 3:21.
Even children can give encouragement to their parents. How so? By expressing appreciation for all that their parents provide for them, by listening and obeying when they are spoken to, by being willing workers, taking the initiative as they see things that need to be done.—Eph. 6:1-3.
But in particular does the overseer in each congregation have many opportunities to impart strength by giving encouragement, he having so much greater influence by reason of his position. He must be careful, therefore, not to drive the brothers beyond their capacity, not expecting too much from them but showing consideration for their individual physical and mental weaknesses and limitations. He will not consider himself as being above others but will make it easy for others to come to him. He can also give encouragement by showing his brothers how to do things, by setting a fine example of zealous service himself and by dealing mercifully with erring ones, in mildness restoring them.—Gal. 6:1; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
Today Jehovah’s people have a great work to do, and to perform it faithfully requires strength. Much of the strength needed can be gained by imitating Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and the apostles in our giving encouragement to one another.
For details see The Watchtower, July 15, 1963.