Strengthen One Another
“These very ones have become a strengthening aid to me.”—COLOSSIANS 4:11.
1, 2. Despite the dangers, why did Paul’s friends visit him in prison?
IT CAN be dangerous to be the friend of someone languishing in prison—even if your friend has been imprisoned unjustly. The prison officials may view you with suspicion, watching your every move to ensure that you commit no crime. Therefore, it calls for courage to keep in close touch with your friend and visit him in prison.
2 Yet, this is exactly what some friends of the apostle Paul did some 1,900 years ago. They did not hesitate to visit Paul in his prison bonds to give him needed comfort and encouragement and to strengthen him spiritually. Who were these loyal friends? And what can we learn from their courage, loyalty, and friendship?—Proverbs 17:17.
“A Strengthening Aid”
3, 4. (a) Who are five of Paul’s friends, and what did they become to him? (b) What is “a strengthening aid”?
3 Let us go back to about the year 60 C.E. The apostle Paul is in prison in Rome on the fabricated charge of sedition. (Acts 24:5; 25:11, 12) Paul singles out for mention five Christians who stood by his side: Tychicus, his personal envoy from the district of Asia and a “fellow slave in the Lord”; Onesimus, a “faithful and beloved brother” from Colossae; Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica and at one time a “fellow captive” with Paul; Mark, the cousin of Paul’s missionary companion Barnabas and the writer of the Gospel bearing his name; and Justus, one of the apostle’s fellow workers “for the kingdom of God.” Paul says of the five: “These very ones have become a strengthening aid to me.”—Colossians 4:7-11.
4 Paul made a powerful statement about the help his loyal friends rendered to him. He used a Greek word (pa·re·go·riʹa) translated “strengthening aid,” which in the Bible is found only in this verse. This word has a range of meanings and was used especially in medicinal contexts.* It can be rendered ‘solace, alleviation, comfort, or relief.’ Paul needed that kind of strengthening, and those five men provided it.
Why Paul Needed “a Strengthening Aid”
5. Despite his being an apostle, what did Paul need, and what do all of us need from time to time?
5 It may surprise some to think that Paul, an apostle, needed strengthening. Yet, he did. Granted, Paul had strong faith, and he had survived much physical abuse, “blows to an excess,” “near-deaths often,” and other pains. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) Nonetheless, he was human, and all humans at one time or another need to receive comfort and to have their faith fortified with the help of others. This was true even of Jesus. During his last night, an angel appeared to him in Gethsemane and “strengthened him.”—Luke 22:43.
6, 7. (a) In Rome, who disappointed Paul, and who encouraged him? (b) What kind of services did Paul’s Christian brothers render to him in Rome, thus proving to be “a strengthening aid”?
6 Paul too needed strengthening. When he arrived as a prisoner in Rome, he was not warmly welcomed by people of his own race. These Jews were, on the whole, unreceptive to the Kingdom message. After the principal men of the Jews visited Paul in his place of confinement, the account in Acts states: “Some began to believe the things said; others would not believe. So, because they were at disagreement with one another, they began to depart.” (Acts 28:17, 24, 25) How their lack of appreciation for Jehovah’s undeserved kindness must have pained Paul! His strong feelings on this matter were evident in the letter he had written a few years earlier to the congregation in Rome: “I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were separated as the cursed one from the Christ in behalf of my brothers [the Jews], my relatives according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:2, 3) Still, in Rome he did find loyal, true companions whose courage and affection soothed his heart. They were his genuine spiritual brothers.
7 How did those five brothers prove to be a strengthening aid? They did not permit Paul’s prison bonds to make them shy away from him. Instead, they willingly and lovingly provided personal services for Paul, performing tasks that he was unable to perform himself because of his confinement. For example, they acted as messengers and delivered Paul’s letters and verbal instructions to different congregations; they brought encouraging reports to Paul about the welfare of the brothers in Rome and elsewhere. They likely obtained needed items, such as winter clothing, scrolls, and writing tools. (Ephesians 6:21, 22; 2 Timothy 4:11-13) All such helpful deeds strengthened and encouraged the imprisoned apostle so that he, in turn, could be “a strengthening aid” to others, including entire congregations.—Romans 1:11, 12.
How to Be “a Strengthening Aid”
8. What lesson can we learn from Paul’s humbly admitting his need for “a strengthening aid”?
8 What can we learn from this account of Paul and his five fellow workers? Let us look at one lesson in particular: It takes courage and self-sacrifice to come to the aid of others in their adversity. Further, it takes humility to acknowledge that we may need help in times of personal distress. Not only did Paul admit that he needed help but he accepted that help graciously and commended those who gave it. He did not consider accepting help from others to be a sign of weakness or a humiliation on his part, and neither should we. For us to say that we never need strengthening aid would imply that we are superhuman. Remember, Jesus’ example shows that even a perfect human may sometimes need to cry out for help.—Hebrews 5:7.
9, 10. What good can result when a person acknowledges his need for help, and what influence can this have on others in the family and in the congregation?
9 Good results can come when those in responsible positions admit that they have limitations and that they are dependent on the support of others. (James 3:2) Such acknowledgments strengthen the bond between those with authority and those subject to that authority, promoting warm and free communication. The humility of those willing to accept help serves as an object lesson for others in a similar situation. It shows that those taking the lead are human and approachable.—Ecclesiastes 7:20.
10 For example, children may find it easier to accept their parents’ help in dealing with problems and temptations when they know that their parents too faced comparable challenges when they were children. (Colossians 3:21) Lines of communication can thus be opened between parent and child. Scriptural solutions can be shared more effectively and be accepted more readily. (Ephesians 6:4) Similarly, congregation members will be more prepared to receive help from elders when they realize that elders too deal with problems, fears, and perplexities. (Romans 12:3; 1 Peter 5:3) Again, good communication can ensue, Scriptural counsel can be shared, and a strengthening of faith can result. Remember, our brothers and sisters need strengthening now more than ever.—2 Timothy 3:1.
11. Why are so many today in need of “a strengthening aid”?
11 No matter where we live, who we are, or how old we are, all of us will at times face stresses in life. This is part of today’s world. (Revelation 12:12) Such physically or emotionally upsetting conditions test the quality of our faith. Trialsome situations may arise at work, in school, within the family, or in the congregation. A serious illness or a past trauma could be the cause. If a marriage mate, an elder, or a friend kindly offers encouragement with thoughtful words and helpful deeds—oh, how soothing that can be! Why, it is like balm upon an irritated patch of skin! Hence, if you notice one of your brothers in such a state, be his strengthening aid. Or if an especially troubling problem is weighing you down, ask spiritually qualified ones for help.—James 5:14, 15.
How the Congregation Can Help
12. What can each one in the congregation do to strengthen his brothers?
12 All in the congregation, including young ones, can do something to strengthen others. For one thing, your regularity at the meetings and in the field service does much to fortify the faith of others. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Your constancy in sacred service is evidence of your loyalty to Jehovah and shows that you are keeping spiritually awake despite the difficulties you may be coping with. (Ephesians 6:18) That constancy can have a strengthening effect on others.—James 2:18.
13. Why may some become inactive, and what can be done to help them?
13 At times, the pressures of life or other difficulties can cause some to slow down or become inactive in the field service. (Mark 4:18, 19) We may not see inactive ones at congregation meetings. Yet, they likely still have a love of God in their heart. What can be done to strengthen their faith? The elders can offer kind assistance by visiting them. (Acts 20:35) Other congregation members may be asked to assist too. Such loving visits can be just the right medicine, as it were, to revive those weak in faith.
14, 15. What counsel does Paul give about strengthening others? Give an example of one congregation that applied his counsel.
14 The Bible exhorts us to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) Perhaps those “depressed souls” find that their courage is giving out and that they cannot surmount the obstacles facing them without a helping hand. Can you offer that helping hand? The expression “support the weak” has been rendered “to hold fast” or “to cleave to” the weak. Jehovah cherishes and loves all his sheep. He does not view them as of little worth, and he does not wish any to drift away. Can you help the congregation “to hold fast” to the spiritually weak until they are stronger?—Hebrews 2:1.
15 One elder visited a married couple who had been inactive for six years. The elder writes: “The kind and loving concern displayed toward them by the entire congregation had such a tremendous impact that it moved them to return to the flock.” How did the once inactive sister feel about visits by congregation members? She now says: “What helped us to become active again was that neither the brothers who visited us nor the sisters who accompanied them ever showed a judgmental or critical attitude toward us. Rather, they were understanding and provided Scriptural encouragement.”
16. Who is always prepared to help those who need strengthening?
16 Yes, a sincere Christian delights to be a strengthening aid to others. And as circumstances change in our lives, we ourselves may be the recipient of strengthening acts by our brothers. Realistically, though, it is possible that in a time of need, no human aid will be available. Nevertheless, there is one Source of strength who is always available, one who is always willing to help—Jehovah God.—Psalm 27:10.
Jehovah—The Ultimate Source of Strength
17, 18. In what ways did Jehovah strengthen his Son, Jesus Christ?
17 While nailed to the stake, Jesus cried out: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) Then he died. Just hours before, he had been arrested and his closest friends had abandoned him and fled in fear. (Matthew 26:56) Jesus was left alone with only one Source of strength—his heavenly Father. Still, his trust in Jehovah was not in vain. Jesus’ loyalty to his Father was rewarded with Jehovah’s own loyal support of him.—Psalm 18:25; Hebrews 7:26.
18 Throughout Jesus’ ministry on earth, Jehovah provided his Son with what he needed to maintain integrity right up to his last breath. For instance, just after Jesus was baptized, marking the start of his ministry, he heard his Father’s voice expressing approval and confirmation of His love for him. When Jesus had need of support, Jehovah dispatched angels to strengthen him. When Jesus faced his greatest test at the end of his earthly life, Jehovah favorably heard his supplications and petitions. Surely all of this was a strengthening aid to Jesus.—Mark 1:11, 13; Luke 22:43.
19, 20. How can we be sure that Jehovah will strengthen us in our time of need?
19 Jehovah wants to be our main Source of strength too. (2 Chronicles 16:9) The true Source of all dynamic energy and vigorous power can become a strengthening aid to us in our hour of need. (Isaiah 40:26) War, poverty, sickness, death, or our own imperfections can put us under immense pressure. When life’s trials seem as overwhelming as a “strong enemy,” Jehovah can be our strength and our might. (Psalm 18:17; Exodus 15:2) He has a powerful aid for us—his holy spirit. By means of his spirit, Jehovah can give “the tired one power” so that he can “mount up with wings like eagles.”—Isaiah 40:29, 31.
20 God’s spirit is the most powerful force in the universe. Paul stated: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” Yes, our loving heavenly Father can infuse us with “power beyond what is normal” in order for us to endure all painful problems until he makes “all things new” in his promised Paradise so near at hand.—Philippians 4:13; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Revelation 21:4, 5.
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine, states: “A verbal form of the word [pa·re·go·riʹa] signifies medicines which allay irritation (Eng., ‘paregoric’).”
Do You Recall?
• How did the brothers in Rome prove to be “a strengthening aid” to Paul?
• In what ways can we be “a strengthening aid” in the congregation?
• How is Jehovah our ultimate Source of strength?
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Brothers proved to be “a strengthening aid” to Paul by offering him their loyal support, encouragement, and personal services
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Elders take the lead in strengthening the flock