Be of Good Courage!
“Be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper.’”—HEBREWS 13:6.
1. What boldness was displayed by those who learned God’s truth in the first century C.E.?
IT WAS the first century of our Common Era. The long-awaited Messiah had come. He had taught his disciples well and had launched a vital preaching work. It was time for people to hear the good news of God’s Kingdom. Hence, men and women who had learned the truth boldly declared that wonderful message.—Matthew 28:19, 20.
2. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses need courage today?
2 The Kingdom was not established in those days. But the King-Designate, Jesus Christ, had prophesied about his future invisible presence in Kingdom power. It would be marked by such things as unparalleled warfare, famine, pestilences, earthquakes, and worldwide preaching of the good news. (Matthew 24:3-14; Luke 21:10, 11) As Witnesses of Jehovah, we need courage to cope with these conditions and the persecution we experience. It will therefore be beneficial to consider Bible accounts about courageous Kingdom proclaimers of the first century C.E.
Courage to Imitate Christ
3. Who provides the best example of courage, and what was said about him at Hebrews 12:1-3?
3 Jesus Christ provides the best example of courage. After citing the ‘great cloud’ of courageous pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah, the apostle Paul focused on Jesus by saying: “Because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Hebrews 12:1-3.
4. How did Jesus display courage when tempted by Satan?
4 After his baptism and 40 days of meditation, prayer, and fasting in the wilderness, Jesus bravely opposed Satan. Tempted by the Devil to turn stones into bread, Jesus refused because it was wrong to perform a miracle to satisfy personal desire. “It is written,” said Jesus, “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” When Satan challenged him to jump off the temple battlement, Jesus refused because it would have been a sin to tempt God to rescue him from potential suicide. “Again it is written,” Christ stated, “You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.” Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the world for one “act of worship,” but Jesus would not apostatize and support the Devil’s challenge that humans would not remain faithful to God under test. So Jesus declared: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” At that, the Tempter “retired from him until another convenient time.”—Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:13.
5. What can help us to withstand temptation?
5 Jesus was in subjection to Jehovah and was opposed to Satan. If we similarly ‘subject ourselves to God and oppose the Devil, he will flee from us.’ (James 4:7) Like Jesus, we can courageously withstand temptation if we apply the Scriptures, perhaps even quoting them at the time we are tempted to do something sinful. Is it probable that we will yield to temptation to commit thievery if at that time we repeat to ourselves God’s law: “You must not steal”? Are two Christians likely to succumb to sexual immorality if even one of them courageously quotes the words: “You must not commit adultery”?—Romans 13:8-10; Exodus 20:14, 15.
6. How was Jesus a courageous world conqueror?
6 As Christians hated by this world, we can avoid its spirit and sinful conduct. Jesus told his followers: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) He triumphed over the world by not becoming like it. His example as a conqueror and the outcome of his integrity-keeping course can fill us with the courage to imitate him by remaining separate from this world and undefiled by it.—John 17:16.
Courage to Keep On Preaching
7, 8. What will help us to keep on preaching despite persecution?
7 Jesus and his disciples relied on God for courage to keep on preaching despite persecution. Christ boldly fulfilled his ministry despite persecution, and after Pentecost 33 C.E., his persecuted followers continued to proclaim the good news even though Jewish religious leaders tried to stop them. (Acts 4:18-20; 5:29) The disciples prayed: “Jehovah, give attention to their threats, and grant your slaves to keep speaking your word with all boldness.” And what happened? “When they had made supplication, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken,” says the account, “and they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.”—Acts 4:24-31.
8 Since the majority of people today are not receptive to the good news, boldness is often needed to keep on preaching to them. Especially when persecuted, Jehovah’s servants are in need of God-given courage in order to bear thorough witness. (Acts 2:40; 20:24) So the courageous Kingdom proclaimer Paul told a youthful, less-experienced coworker: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind. Therefore do not become ashamed of the witness about our Lord, neither of me a prisoner for his sake, but take your part in suffering evil for the good news according to the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:7, 8) If we pray for courage, we will be able to keep on preaching, and even persecution will not rob us of our joy as Kingdom proclaimers.—Matthew 5:10-12.
Courage to Take Sides With Jehovah
9, 10. (a) What did first-century Jews and Gentiles do in order to become baptized followers of Christ? (b) Why did it take courage to become a Christian?
9 Many first-century Jews and Gentiles courageously abandoned unscriptural traditions to become baptized followers of Christ. Shortly after Pentecost 33 C.E., “the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much; and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) Those Jews had the courage to break religious ties and accept Jesus as the Messiah.
10 Beginning in 36 C.E., many Gentiles became believers. When Cornelius, members of his family, and other Gentiles heard the good news, they promptly accepted it, received holy spirit, and were “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:1-48) In Philippi a Gentile jailer and his household quickly embraced Christianity, and “he and his were baptized without delay.” (Acts 16:25-34) Courage was required to take such steps because Christians were a persecuted, unpopular minority. They still are. But if you have not made a dedication to God and been baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, is it not time for you to take these courageous steps?
Courage in Divided Households
11. Eunice and Timothy provided what fine examples of courage?
11 Eunice and her son Timothy set fine examples of courageous faith in a religiously divided household. Though Eunice had a pagan husband, she taught her son “the holy writings” from his infancy. (2 Timothy 3:14-17) Upon becoming a Christian, she manifested ‘faith without any hypocrisy.’ (2 Timothy 1:5) She also had the courage to impart Christian teaching to Timothy while showing respect for the headship of her unbelieving husband. Surely, her faith and courage were rewarded when her well-taught son was chosen to accompany Paul on missionary travels. How this can encourage Christian parents who find themselves in similar circumstances!
12. What kind of person did Timothy become, and who are now proving to be like him?
12 Though Timothy lived in a religiously divided household, he courageously accepted Christianity and became a spiritual person about whom Paul could say: “I am hoping in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you [Philippians] shortly, that I may be a cheerful soul when I get to know about the things pertaining to you. For I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. . . . You know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.” (Philippians 2:19-22) Today, many boys and girls in religiously divided homes bravely embrace true Christianity. Like Timothy they are giving proof of themselves, and how we rejoice that they are part of Jehovah’s organization!
Courage to ‘Risk Our Necks’
13. In what way did Aquila and Priscilla display courage?
13 Aquila and his wife, Priscilla (Prisca), set an example by courageously ‘risking their necks’ for a fellow believer. They received Paul into their home, worked with him in tentmaking, and helped him to build up the new congregation in Corinth. (Acts 18:1-4) During their 15-year friendship, they even put their lives in jeopardy in his behalf in an undisclosed way. They were living in Rome when he told Christians there: “Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who have risked their own necks for my soul, to whom not only I but also all the congregations of the nations render thanks.”—Romans 16:3, 4.
14. By risking their necks for Paul, Aquila and Prisca were acting in harmony with what commandment?
14 By risking their necks for Paul, Aquila and Prisca acted in accord 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) This commandment was “new” in that it went beyond the Mosaic Law requirement that a person love his neighbor as he loved himself. (Leviticus 19:18) It demanded self-sacrificing love that would go as far as to give one’s life for others, as Jesus did. The writer Tertullian of the second and third centuries C.E. quoted the words of worldly people regarding Christians when he wrote: “‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another . . . and how they are ready even to die for one another.’” (Apology, chapter XXXIX, 7) Especially amid persecution may we be obligated to demonstrate brotherly love by courageously risking our lives so as to avoid exposing fellow believers to brutality or death at enemy hands.—1 John 3:16.
Courage Brings Joy
15, 16. As shown in Acts chapter 16, how may courage and joy be linked?
15 Paul and Silas provide evidence that displaying courage amid trials can bring joy. By order of the civil magistrates in the city of Philippi, they were publicly beaten with rods and put in prison stocks. Yet, they did not dejectedly cower in fear. Despite their trying circumstances, they still had God-given courage and the joy that it brings to faithful Christians.
16 About the middle of the night, Paul and Silas were praying and praising God in song. Suddenly, an earthquake shook the prison, loosened their bonds, and threw open the doors. The frightened jailer and his family were given a bold witness that led to their baptism as Jehovah’s servants. He himself “rejoiced greatly with all his household now that he had believed God.” (Acts 16:16-34) What joy this must have brought Paul and Silas! Having considered this and other Scriptural examples of courage, how can we remain courageous as Jehovah’s servants?
Continue to Be of Good Courage
17. As shown in Psalm 27, how is hoping in Jehovah related to courage?
17 Hoping in Jehovah will help us to remain courageous. David sang: “Hope in Jehovah; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Yes, hope in Jehovah.” (Psalm 27:14) Psalm 27 shows that David relied on Jehovah as “the stronghold” of his life. (Verse 1) Having seen how God dealt with David’s adversaries in the past gave him courage. (Verses 2, 3) Appreciation for Jehovah’s center of worship was another factor. (Verse 4) Trusting in Jehovah’s help, protection, and deliverance also built up David’s courage. (Verses 5-10) Helpful, too, was continued instruction in the principles of Jehovah’s righteous way. (Verse 11) Confident prayer for deliverance from his adversaries, coupled with faith and hope, helped David to be courageous. (Verses 12-14) We can build up our courage in similar ways, thus showing that we really “hope in Jehovah.”
18. (a) What shows that regular association with fellow worshipers of Jehovah can help us to remain courageous? (b) Christian meetings play what role in building up courage?
18 Regular association with fellow worshipers of Jehovah can help us to remain courageous. When Paul appealed to Caesar and was traveling to Rome, fellow believers met him at the Marketplace of Appius and Three Taverns. “Upon catching sight of them,” says the account, “Paul thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) As we regularly attend Christian meetings, we are heeding Paul’s counsel: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) What does it mean to encourage one another? To encourage means “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) We can do much to inspire other Christians with courage, and their encouragement can likewise build up this quality in us.
19. How are the Scriptures and Christian publications related to our remaining courageous?
19 To remain courageous, we must regularly study God’s Word and apply its counsel in our lives. (Deuteronomy 31:9-12; Joshua 1:8) Our regular study should include Christian publications based on the Scriptures, for the sound counsel thus provided will help us to meet tests of faith with God-given courage. From Bible accounts, we have seen how Jehovah’s servants have been courageous in various situations. Right now, we may not know how such information can help us, but God’s Word has power, and what we learn from it can always benefit us. (Hebrews 4:12) For instance, if fear of man should begin to affect our ministry, we may remember how Enoch had the courage to deliver God’s message to the ungodly.—Jude 14, 15.
20. Why can it be said that prayer is vital if we are to remain courageous as Jehovah’s servants?
20 To remain courageous as Jehovah’s servants, we must persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12) Jesus endured his trials courageously because he “offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7) By staying close to God in prayer, we will not be like worldly cowards destined to experience “the second death” from which there is no resurrection. (Revelation 21:8) Divine protection and life in God’s new world are for his courageous servants.
21. Why can loyal Witnesses of Jehovah be courageous?
21 As loyal Witnesses of Jehovah, we need not fear demon and human foes, for we have God’s support and Jesus’ courageous example as a world conqueror. Spiritually upbuilding association with Jehovah’s people likewise helps us to be courageous. Our courage is also built up through the guidance and counsel of the Scriptures and Christian publications. And Bible accounts of God’s servants of the past help us to walk in his ways courageously. In these critical last days, therefore, let us forge ahead boldly in sacred service. Yes, let all of Jehovah’s people be of good courage!
How Would You Reply?
□ How can Jesus’ example fill us with courage?
□ What gave Jesus and his disciples courage to keep on preaching?
□ Why did Jews and Gentiles need courage to take sides with Jehovah?
□ What examples of courage were provided by Eunice and Timothy?
□ What evidence is there that courage brings joy even amid persecution?
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Like Jesus, we can withstand temptation if we apply and quote the Scriptures