Help Others Walk Worthily of Jehovah
“We . . . have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may . . . walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work.”—COLOSSIANS 1:9, 10.
1, 2. What in particular can be a source of joy and satisfaction?
“WE LIVE in a trailer on a farm. By keeping our life simple, we have more time to reach people with the good news. We have been richly blessed with the privilege of helping many to dedicate their lives to Jehovah.”—A married couple, full-time ministers in South Africa.
2 Would you not agree that helping others brings joy? Some try regularly to help the sick, deprived, or lonely—drawing satisfaction from doing so. True Christians are certain that their sharing with others a knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ constitutes the greatest help they can offer. Only this can lead others to accept Jesus’ ransom, develop a good relationship with God, and then come in line for everlasting life.—Acts 3:19-21; 13:48.
3. What sort of help merits our attention?
3 However, what about helping ones who are already serving God, who are following “The Way”? (Acts 19:9) Your interest in them is no doubt as great as ever, but you may not see how you can do more or extend ongoing help. Or your situation may seem to limit you as to helping them, thus limiting the satisfaction you could get. (Acts 20:35) Regarding both aspects, we can learn from the book of Colossians.
4. (a) Under what circumstances did Paul write to the Colossians? (b) How was Epaphras involved?
4 When the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Colossae, he was in Rome under house arrest, though he could have visitors. As you would expect, Paul utilized his limited freedom to preach about God’s Kingdom. (Acts 28:16-31) Fellow Christians could visit Paul, perhaps some even being confined with him at times. (Colossians 1:7, 8; 4:10) One was the zealous evangelizer Epaphras from the city of Colossae in Phrygia, in the plateau country east of Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Epaphras had been instrumental in forming a congregation in Colossae, and he labored for the congregations in nearby Laodicea and Hierapolis. (Colossians 4:12, 13) Why did Epaphras travel to see Paul in Rome, and what can we learn from Paul’s response?
Effective Help for Colossians
5. Why did Paul write what he did to the Colossians?
5 In order to consult with Paul about conditions in the Colossian congregation, Epaphras made the arduous trip to Rome. He reported on the faith, love, and evangelizing efforts of those Christians. (Colossians 1:4-8) Yet, he must also have shared his concern about negative influences threatening the spirituality of the Colossians. Paul responded with an inspired letter that countered some of the views that false teachers were spreading. He focused particularly on the central role Jesus Christ should play.a Was his help limited to stressing key Bible truths? How else could he help the Colossians, and what lessons can we learn about helping others?
6. To what did Paul give emphasis in his letter to the Colossians?
6 Early in his letter, Paul provided insight into a form of help that we might overlook. It was a means of giving help that was effective from a distance, Paul and Epaphras being far away from Colossae. Paul affirmed: “We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray [footnote, “praying always”] for you.” Yes, these were specific prayers for Christians in Colossae. Paul added: “That is also why we, from the day we heard of it, have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.”—Colossians 1:3, 9.
7, 8. Our personal and congregational prayers often touch on what matter?
7 We know that Jehovah is the “Hearer of prayer,” so we can trust his readiness to hear our prayers offered in harmony with his will. (Psalm 65:2; 86:6; Proverbs 15:8, 29; 1 John 5:14) When it comes to our praying for others, though, what are our prayers like?
8 We may often think and pray about ‘the entire association of our brothers in the world.’ (1 Peter 5:9) Or we may approach Jehovah about Christians and others in a region hit by a disaster or tragedy. When first-century disciples elsewhere heard of the famine in Judea, they must have offered a multitude of prayers for their brothers even before sending relief funds. (Acts 11:27-30) In our day, prayers about the entire brotherhood or about a large group of brothers are often heard at Christian meetings, where many need to understand and be able to say “Amen.”—1 Corinthians 14:16.
Be Specific in Prayer
9, 10. (a) What examples show that praying about specific individuals is fitting? (b) How was Paul the subject of specific prayer?
9 Yet, the Bible provides us with examples of prayers for others that were more specific, individualized. Reflect on Jesus’ comment recorded at Luke 22:31, 32. He was surrounded by 11 faithful apostles. All of them would need God’s support in the difficult times ahead, and Jesus prayed for them. (John 17:9-14) Still, Jesus singled out Peter, making unique supplication for that one disciple. Other examples: Elisha prayed that God help one specific man, his attendant. (2 Kings 6:15-17) The apostle John prayed that Gaius continue well physically and spiritually. (3 John 1, 2) And other prayers focused on limited groups.—Job 42:7, 8; Luke 6:28; Acts 7:60; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2.
10 Paul’s letters bring to the fore the matter of very specific prayers. He asked that prayer be offered for him or for him and his associates. Colossians 4:2, 3 reads: “Be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving, at the same time praying also for us, that God may open a door of utterance to us, to speak the sacred secret about the Christ, for which, in fact, I am in prison bonds.” Consider, too, these other examples: Romans 15:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; Hebrews 13:18.
11. When in Rome, for whom was Epaphras praying?
11 The same was true of Paul’s associate in Rome. “Epaphras, who is from among you, . . . sends you his greetings, always exerting himself in your behalf in his prayers.” (Colossians 4:12) The word rendered “exerting” can suggest “struggling,” as by a gymnast in the ancient games. Was Epaphras fervently praying simply about the worldwide body of believers or even about true worshipers all over Asia Minor? Paul indicated that Epaphras was praying specifically for those in Colossae. Epaphras knew their situation. We do not know them all by name, nor do we know what problems confronted them, but imagine some possibilities. Perhaps young Linus was battling the influence of prevailing philosophies, and Rufus may have needed strength to resist the draw of his former practices in Judaism. Having an unbelieving husband, did Persis need endurance and wisdom to rear her children in the Lord, and did Asyncritus, who suffered from a terminal illness, require extra comfort? Yes, Epaphras knew those in his home congregation, and he earnestly prayed about them because both he and Paul wanted such devoted ones to walk worthily of Jehovah.
12. How might we be more specific in our private prayers?
12 Do you see the pattern for us—a way for us to help others? As noted, public prayers at Christian meetings are often broader, in view of the diverse audience. But our personal or family prayers can be quite specific. While we may at times ask God to guide and bless all traveling overseers or spiritual shepherds, can we not sometimes be precise? For instance, why not pray by name for the circuit overseer visiting your congregation or the conductor of your Congregation Book Study? Philippians 2:25-28 and 1 Timothy 5:23 show Paul’s individualized concern about the health of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Can we similarly reflect such interest in sick ones we know by name?
13. What sort of situations are appropriate matters for us to include in personal prayers?
13 Granted, we must avoid meddling in others’ private matters, but it is proper for our prayers to manifest genuine interest in those we know and care for. (1 Timothy 5:13; 1 Peter 4:15) A brother may have lost his job, and we cannot give him another one. Yet, we can mention him by name and focus on his difficulty in our personal prayers. (Psalm 37:25; Proverbs 10:3) Are we aware of a single sister who has grown older without a husband and children because she is determined to marry “only in the Lord”? (1 Corinthians 7:39) In your private prayers, why not ask Jehovah to bless her and to help her continue loyal in her service? As another example, two elders may have given counsel to a brother who erred. Why could not each of them mention him by name in their private prayers from time to time?
14. How are specific prayers related to helping others?
14 The possibilities abound for you to include in your personal prayers individuals you know who need Jehovah’s support, consolation, wisdom, and holy spirit, or any of its resulting fruits. Because of distance or other circumstances, you may feel limited in what material or direct help you can provide. But do not forget to pray for your brothers and sisters. You know that they want to walk worthily of Jehovah, yet they may truly need help to do that lastingly. A key to helping is your prayers.—Psalm 18:2; 20:1, 2; 34:15; 46:1; 121:1-3.
Work to Strengthen Others
15. Why should we be interested in the concluding part of Colossians?
15 Fervent, specific prayer is not, of course, the only way to help others, especially those near and dear to you. The book of Colossians makes that clear. Many scholars hold that after Paul supplied doctrinal direction and practical counsel, he appended mere salutations or personal greetings. (Colossians 4:7-18) On the contrary, we already have found that this final portion of the book contains noteworthy counsel, and there is more to learn from this section.
16, 17. What can we say about the brothers mentioned at Colossians 4:10, 11?
16 Paul wrote: “Aristarchus my fellow captive sends you his greetings, and so does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, (concerning whom you received commands to welcome him if ever he comes to you,) and Jesus who is called Justus, these being of those circumcised. Only these are my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and these very ones have become a strengthening aid to me.”—Colossians 4:10, 11.
17 Paul there identified certain brothers who were worthy of special note. He said that they were among the circumcised, of Jewish background. There were many circumcised Jews in Rome, and some were now Christians. Still, those Paul mentioned had come to his aid. Likely, they did not hesitate to associate with Christians of Gentile background, and they must gladly have shared with Paul in preaching to Gentiles.—Romans 11:13; Galatians 1:16; 2:11-14.
18. How did Paul commend some who were with him?
18 Note Paul’s comment: “These very ones have become a strengthening aid to me.” He used a Greek word that appears only this one time in the Bible. Many translators render it “comfort.” However, there is another Greek word (pa·ra·ka·le’o) more commonly rendered “comfort.” Paul used such elsewhere in this very letter but not at Colossians 4:11.—Matthew 5:4; Acts 4:36; 9:31; 2 Corinthians 1:4; Colossians 2:2; 4:8.
19, 20. (a) What is the sense of the expression that Paul applied to the brothers aiding him in Rome? (b) In what ways might those brothers have helped Paul?
19 Those Paul named must have done more than give verbal solace. The Greek term rendered “strengthening aid” at Colossians 4:11 was sometimes used in secular texts for a medicine to relieve distress. The New Life Version reads: “What a help they have been to me!” Today’s English Version uses the phrase: “They have been a great help to me.” What might those Christian brothers near Paul have done to aid him?
20 Paul could have visitors, but there were many things that he could not do, such as purchase his basic needs—food and clothing for the winter. How would he obtain scrolls for study or buy writing supplies? (2 Timothy 4:13) Can you not imagine those brothers helping Paul with his needs, doing such basic things as shopping or running errands for him? He might want to check on and upbuild a certain congregation. Being confined, he could not, so those brothers may have made visits for Paul, carrying messages, bringing back reports. How strengthening!
21, 22. (a) Why should the words at Colossians 4:11 interest us? (b) What are some ways that we can apply the example of those with Paul?
21 What Paul wrote about being “a strengthening aid” provides insight into how we might help others. They may be walking worthily of Jehovah as to his moral standards, attending Christian meetings, and sharing in the preaching work. For that they merit our words of appreciation. Could we, though, do more, being ‘strengthening aids’ as were those with Paul?
22 If you know a sister who wisely held to 1 Corinthians 7:37 but who now lacks a family close to her, could you include her in some family activities, perhaps inviting her to share a meal or to attend a small gathering of friends or relatives? What of urging her to travel with your family to a convention or on vacation? Or ask her to join you at a convenient time when you shop for food. Much the same could be said of widows or widowers, or perhaps those now unable to drive. You could find it rewarding to hear their experiences or to tap their knowledge of things as normal as choosing fruit or selecting children’s clothes. (Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31) A corollary effect might be increased closeness. Thus they may feel freer to ask for your help if they need some medicine from the pharmacy, or the like. The brothers with Paul in Rome must have given practical, strengthening aid, as yours can be. Both then and now an added blessing is that the bonds of love are strengthened, and we are firmly resolved to serve Jehovah together loyally.
23. It would be good for each of us to spend time doing what?
23 Each of us can reflect on situations mentioned in this article. They are simply examples, but these can remind us of real situations in which we can become more of “a strengthening aid” to our brothers and sisters. The point is not that we develop the inclinations of humanitarians. That was not the goal of the brothers mentioned at Colossians 4:10, 11. They were “fellow workers for the kingdom of God.” The strengthening effect related directly to that. May it be the same in our case.
24. What is at the core of our praying for and seeking to strengthen others?
24 We mention others by name in our private prayers and make efforts to strengthen them because of this: We believe that our brothers and sisters want to “walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Colossians 1:10) That fact is connected to something else that Paul mentioned when writing about Epaphras’ prayers concerning the Colossians, that they might “stand complete and with firm conviction in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4:12) How can we personally achieve that? Let us see.
a See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, pages 490-1, and “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 226-8, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Did You Note?
• How might we become more helpful in our private prayers?
• In what sense were some Christians ‘strengthening aids’ to Paul?
• In what types of situations can we be ‘strengthening aids’?
• What is the goal behind our praying for and seeking to strengthen our brothers and sisters?
[Picture on page 18]
Can you include another Christian in your family outings?
Courtesy of Green Chimney’s Farm