Be Courageous Like Jeremiah
“Hope in Jehovah; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Yes, hope in Jehovah.”—PSALM 27:14.
1. What rich blessing do Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES dwell in a spiritual paradise. (Isaiah 11:6-9) In the midst of this very troubled world, they share a unique spiritual environment with fellow Christians, who are at peace with Jehovah God and with one another. (Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 54:13) And their spiritual paradise is growing. All who ‘do the will of God whole-souled’ contribute to extending it. (Ephesians 6:6) How? By living according to Bible principles and by teaching others to do the same, thus inviting them to share the rich blessings of that paradise.—Matthew 28:19, 20; John 15:8.
2, 3. What do true Christians have to endure?
2 However, our living in a spiritual paradise does not mean that we do not have to endure trials. We are still imperfect and suffer the pangs of sickness, old age, and eventual death. Moreover, we are witnessing the fulfillment of the prophecies dealing with “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Wars, crime, sickness, famine, and other severe hardships afflict all mankind, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are not exempt.—Mark 13:3-10; Luke 21:10, 11.
3 Besides all of that, we are well aware that outside the warm environment of our spiritual paradise, cold winds of opposition blow. Jesus warned his followers: “Because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-21) Things are no different today. Most people still do not understand or appreciate our form of worship. Some criticize, ridicule, or even—as Jesus warned—hate us. (Matthew 10:22) Often, we are the target of misinformation and malicious propaganda through the media. (Psalm 109:1-3) Yes, we all face challenging circumstances, and some of us may start to lose heart. How can we endure?
4. Where do we look for help to endure?
4 Jehovah will help us. Under inspiration, the psalmist wrote: “Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.” (Psalm 34:19; 1 Corinthians 10:13) Many of us can attest that when we put our full confidence in Jehovah, he gives us the strength to endure any hardship. Our love for him and the joy that is set before us help us to fight discouragement and fear. (Hebrews 12:2) Thus, in the face of difficulties, we continue to stand firm.
God’s Word Strengthened Jeremiah
5, 6. (a) What examples do we have of true worshipers who were able to endure? (b) How did Jeremiah react when called to be a prophet?
5 Throughout history, faithful servants of Jehovah have found joy despite difficult circumstances. Some lived during times of judgment when Jehovah executed his wrath on the unfaithful. Among such faithful worshipers were Jeremiah and a few of his contemporaries, as well as first-century Christians. Those historical examples are recorded in the Bible for our encouragement, and we can learn much from studying them. (Romans 15:4) For example, consider Jeremiah.
6 At a young age, Jeremiah was called to serve as a prophet in Judah. This was not an easy assignment. Many were worshiping false gods. Although Josiah, who was king when Jeremiah started his ministry, was faithful, all succeeding kings were unfaithful, and most of those responsible to instruct the people—the prophets and the priests—were not on the side of truth. (Jeremiah 1:1, 2; 6:13; 23:11) How, then, did Jeremiah feel when Jehovah called him to be a prophet? Fearful! (Jeremiah 1:8, 17) Jeremiah recalled his initial reaction: “I said: ‘Alas, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah! Here I actually do not know how to speak, for I am but a boy.’”—Jeremiah 1:6.
7. What reaction did Jeremiah meet in his territory, and how did he respond?
7 Jeremiah’s territory was largely unresponsive, and he often met with strong opposition. On one occasion Pashhur, a priest, struck him and had him put in the stocks. Jeremiah reported how he felt at the time: “I said: ‘I am not going to make mention of him [Jehovah], and I shall speak no more in his name.’” Perhaps you at times have felt the same way—wanting to give up. Notice what helped Jeremiah to persevere. He said: “In my heart it [God’s word, or message] proved to be like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I got tired of holding in, and I was unable to endure it.” (Jeremiah 20:9) Do God’s words have that effect on you?
8, 9. (a) What weakness did the prophet Urijah display, with what result? (b) Why was Baruch discouraged, and how was he helped?
8 Jeremiah was not alone in his prophetic work. He had companions, and that must have encouraged him. Sometimes, though, his companions did not act wisely. For example, a fellow prophet named Urijah was busy delivering warnings against Jerusalem and Judah “in accord with all the words of Jeremiah.” However, when King Jehoiakim ordered that Urijah be put to death, the prophet fled in fear to Egypt. That did not save him. The king’s men pursued him, captured him, and brought him back to Jerusalem, where he was killed. What a shock that must have been for Jeremiah!—Jeremiah 26:20-23.
9 Another companion of Jeremiah was his secretary, Baruch. Baruch was a fine support for Jeremiah, but on one occasion he too lost spiritual focus. He began complaining, saying: “Woe, now, to me, for Jehovah has added grief to my pain! I have grown weary because of my sighing, and no resting-place have I found.” Baruch, discouraged, began to lose appreciation for spiritual things. Still, Jehovah kindly gave Baruch wise counsel, and he was readjusted. He was then assured that he would survive Jerusalem’s destruction. (Jeremiah 45:1-5) How encouraged Jeremiah must have been when Baruch regained his spiritual balance!
Jehovah Supported His Prophet
10. What promises of support did Jehovah make to Jeremiah?
10 Most important, Jehovah did not abandon Jeremiah. He understood how his prophet felt and gave him the strength and support he needed. For example, at the beginning of Jeremiah’s ministry when he expressed doubts about his qualifications, Jehovah told him: “Do not be afraid because of their faces, for ‘I am with you to deliver you’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” Then, after giving his prophet information about his assignment, Jehovah said: “They will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’” (Jeremiah 1:8, 19) How comforting! And Jehovah proved true to his word.
11. How do we know that Jehovah fulfilled his promise to support Jeremiah?
11 Thus, after being confined in the stocks and exposed to public mockery, Jeremiah confidently said: “Jehovah was with me like a terrible mighty one. That is why the very ones persecuting me will stumble and not prevail. They will certainly be put to much shame.” (Jeremiah 20:11) In later years when attempts were made to kill Jeremiah, Jehovah continued with him, and like Baruch, Jeremiah survived the destruction of Jerusalem as a free man, whereas his persecutors and those who ignored his warnings either perished or were dragged off to Babylon.
12. Despite reasons for discouragement, what should we bear in mind?
12 Like Jeremiah, today many of Jehovah’s Witnesses endure afflictions. As mentioned earlier, some of these are caused by our own imperfections, others by the disarray in which the world finds itself, and still others by those who oppose our work. Such afflictions can be discouraging. Like Jeremiah, we may come to the point of wondering whether we can carry on. Indeed, we can expect to be discouraged from time to time. Discouragement tests the depth of our love of Jehovah. So let us be determined not to let discouragement make us withdraw from Jehovah’s service as Urijah did. Instead, let us imitate Jeremiah and be confident of Jehovah’s support.
How to Fight Discouragement
13. How can we follow the examples of Jeremiah and David?
13 Jeremiah was in regular communication with Jehovah God, telling him his deepest feelings and begging for strength. That is a fine example to follow. David of old, who looked to the same Source of strength, wrote: “To my sayings do give ear, O Jehovah; do understand my sighing. Do pay attention to the sound of my cry for help, O my King and my God, because to you I pray.” (Psalm 5:1, 2) The inspired account of David’s life shows that again and again Jehovah responded to David’s prayers for help. (Psalm 18:1, 2; 21:1-5) In a similar way, when pressures are heavy or our problems seem insurmountable, it is most comforting to turn to Jehovah in prayer and open our hearts to him. (Philippians 4:6, 7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Jehovah does not refuse to listen to us. Rather, he assures us that ‘he cares for us.’ (1 Peter 5:6, 7) However, it would not be reasonable to pray to Jehovah and then not listen to what he says, would it?
14. What effect did Jehovah’s words have on Jeremiah?
14 How does Jehovah speak to us? Consider Jeremiah again. Since Jeremiah was a prophet, Jehovah communicated directly with him. Jeremiah describes the effect of God’s words on his heart: “Your words were found, and I proceeded to eat them; and your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies.” (Jeremiah 15:16) Yes, Jeremiah delighted in the fact that God’s name had been called upon him, and His words were precious to the prophet. Hence, like the apostle Paul, Jeremiah was eager to declare the message entrusted to him.—Romans 1:15, 16.
15. How can we implant Jehovah’s words in our heart, and what considerations will make us determined not to keep silent?
15 Jehovah does not communicate directly with anyone today. However, we do have God’s words in the pages of the Bible. Hence, if we have a serious approach to our study of the Bible and meditate deeply on what we learn, God’s words will become “the exultation and the rejoicing” of our heart too. And we can be thrilled that we carry Jehovah’s name when we go to share those words with others. Let us never lose sight of the fact that no other people in the world today declares Jehovah’s name. Only his Witnesses announce the good news of God’s established Kingdom and teach meek ones to become disciples of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19, 20) How blessed we are! In view of what Jehovah has lovingly entrusted to us, how can we keep silent?
Let Us Watch Our Associations
16, 17. What was Jeremiah’s view of associations, and how can we imitate him?
16 Jeremiah reports something else that helped him to be courageous. He said: “I have not sat down in the intimate group of those playing jokes and begun exulting. Because of your hand I have sat down all by myself, for it is with denunciation that you have filled me.” (Jeremiah 15:17) Jeremiah would rather be alone than be corrupted by bad companions. We today view matters the same way. We never forget the apostle Paul’s warning that “bad associations spoil useful habits,” even useful habits that we have had for many years.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
17 Bad associations can allow the spirit of the world to pollute our thinking. (1 Corinthians 2:12; Ephesians 2:2; James 4:4) Let us, then, train our perceptive powers to identify harmful associations and shun them completely. (Hebrews 5:14) If Paul were alive on earth today, what do you think he would say to a Christian who watched immoral or violent movies or violent sports? How would he counsel a brother pursuing friendships with total strangers on the Internet? What would he think of a Christian who spent hour after hour playing video games or watching television but did not have good personal study habits?—2 Corinthians 6:14b; Ephesians 5:3-5, 15, 16.
Continue in the Spiritual Paradise
18. What will help us to stay spiritually strong?
18 We treasure our spiritual paradise. There is nothing that remotely resembles it in the world today. Even unbelievers comment on the love, consideration, and kindness that Christians have for one another. (Ephesians 4:31, 32) Still, now more than ever, we need to fight discouragement. Good association, prayer, and good study habits can help us to remain spiritually strong. They will strengthen us to face any trial with complete confidence in Jehovah.—2 Corinthians 4:7, 8.
19, 20. (a) What will help us to endure? (b) To whom is the following article addressed, and to whom is it also of interest?
19 Never should we allow those who hate our Bible message to intimidate us and make us compromise our faith. Like the enemies who persecuted Jeremiah, those who fight against us are fighting against God. They will not prevail. Jehovah, who is so much stronger than our opponents, tells us: “Hope in Jehovah; be courageous and let your heart be strong. Yes, hope in Jehovah.” (Psalm 27:14) With hope in Jehovah deeply rooted in our heart, may we be resolved not to give up in doing what is fine. May we be confident that, like Jeremiah and Baruch, we will reap if we do not tire out.—Galatians 6:9.
20 Fighting discouragement is a constant struggle for many Christians. Young people, though, face special challenges. But they also have great opportunities. The following article is addressed directly to the youths among us. It will also be of interest to parents and to all dedicated adults in the congregation who by word, by example, and by direct support are in a position to help younger ones in the congregation.
How Would You Answer?
• Why can we expect discouraging circumstances, and to whom should we look for help?
• How did Jeremiah conquer discouragement despite having a difficult assignment?
• What will make our hearts ‘exult and rejoice’ even in the midst of difficulties?
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Jeremiah thought that he was too young and inexperienced to be a prophet
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Even when being persecuted, Jeremiah knew that Jehovah was with him “like a terrible mighty one”