Courage Strengthened by Love
“God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.”—2 TIMOTHY 1:7.
1, 2. (a) What can love impel a person to do? (b) Why was Jesus’ courage exceptional?
A NEWLY married couple were scuba diving near a town on the east coast of Australia. They were about to surface when a great white shark rushed at the woman. In a heroic act, the man pushed his wife aside and let the shark take him. “He gave his own life for me,” said the widow at the funeral service.
2 Yes, love can impel humans to show outstanding courage. Jesus Christ himself stated: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Less than 24 hours after Jesus said these words, he gave his own life, not for just one person, but for mankind. (Matthew 20:28) Moreover, Jesus did not offer up his life in a spur-of-the-moment act of bravery. He knew in advance that he would be ridiculed and abused, unjustly sentenced, and put to death on a torture stake. He even prepared his disciples for this outcome, saying: “Here we are, advancing up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and will deliver him to men of the nations, and they will make fun of him and will spit upon him and scourge him and kill him.”—Mark 10:33, 34.
3. What contributed to Jesus’ great courage?
3 What contributed to Jesus’ extraordinary courage? Faith and godly fear played a major role. (Hebrews 5:7; 12:2) Above all, however, Jesus’ courage stemmed from his love, both for God and for his fellow humans. (1 John 3:16) If we cultivate such love in addition to faith and godly fear, we too will be able to display Christlike courage. (Ephesians 5:2) How can we develop such love? We need to recognize its Source.
“Love Is From God”
4. Why can it be said that Jehovah is the Source of love?
4 Jehovah is both the personification of love and the Source of it. “Beloved ones,” wrote the apostle John, “let us continue loving one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born from God and gains the knowledge of God. He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7, 8) Godlike love, therefore, can develop in a person only when he draws close to Jehovah through accurate knowledge and acts on that knowledge in heartfelt obedience.—Philippians 1:9; James 4:8; 1 John 5:3.
5, 6. What helped Jesus’ early followers to develop Christlike love?
5 In his final prayer with his 11 faithful apostles, Jesus showed the connection between knowing God and growing in love, saying: “I have made your name known to them and will make it known, in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” (John 17:26) Jesus helped his disciples to develop the kind of love that existed between him and his Father, revealing both by word and by example what God’s name represents—God’s wonderful qualities. Hence, Jesus could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.”—John 14:9, 10; 17:8.
6 Christlike love is a product of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22) When the early Christians received the promised holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E., they not only recalled the many things Jesus had taught them but also grasped more fully the meaning of the Scriptures. This deeper insight evidently built up their love for God. (John 14:26; 15:26) The result? Even at the risk of their own life, they boldly and zealously preached the good news.—Acts 5:28, 29.
Courage and Love in Action
7. What did Paul and Barnabas have to endure on their missionary tour together?
7 The apostle Paul wrote: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Paul was speaking from personal experience. Consider what he and Barnabas went through on their missionary tour together. They preached in a number of cities, including Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. In each city, some people became believers, but others turned out to be hostile opposers. (Acts 13:2, 14, 45, 50; 14:1, 5) In Lystra an enraged mob even stoned Paul, leaving him for dead! “However, when the disciples surrounded him, he rose up and entered into the city. And on the next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.”—Acts 14:6, 19, 20.
8. How did the courage shown by Paul and Barnabas reflect their deep love for people?
8 Did this attempt on Paul’s life frighten him and Barnabas into giving up? On the contrary! After “making quite a few disciples” in Derbe, the two men “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.” Why? In order to encourage the new ones to remain strong in the faith. “We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations,” said Paul and Barnabas. Clearly, their courage came from their deep love for Christ’s “little sheep.” (Acts 14:21-23; John 21:15-17) After appointing elders in each of the fledgling congregations, the two brothers offered prayer and “committed them to Jehovah in whom they had become believers.”
9. In what way did the elders from Ephesus respond to Paul’s love for them?
9 Paul was such a caring and courageous person that many early Christians grew to love him deeply. Recall what took place at a meeting that Paul held with the elders from Ephesus, where he had spent three years and experienced much opposition. (Acts 20:17-31) After encouraging them to shepherd the flock of God entrusted to them, Paul kneeled down with them and prayed. Then, “quite a bit of weeping broke out among them all, and they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him, because they were especially pained at the word he had spoken that they were going to behold his face no more.” What love these brothers had for Paul! Indeed, when the time came to part, Paul and his traveling companions had to ‘tear themselves away,’ so reluctant were the local elders to let them go.—Acts 20:36–21:1.
10. How have Jehovah’s modern-day Witnesses displayed courageous love for one another?
10 Today, traveling overseers, congregation elders, and many others are deeply loved because of the courage they show in behalf of Jehovah’s sheep. For example, in countries racked by civil war or where the preaching work is banned, traveling overseers and their wives have risked their life and freedom in order to visit congregations. Likewise, many Witnesses have suffered at the hands of hostile rulers and their minions because of not betraying their fellow Witnesses nor revealing from where they obtained spiritual food. Thousands of others have been persecuted, tortured, and even killed because they would not stop preaching the good news or cease associating with fellow believers at Christian meetings. (Acts 5:28, 29; Hebrews 10:24, 25) May we imitate the faith and love of such courageous brothers and sisters!—1 Thessalonians 1:6.
Do Not Let Your Love Cool Off
11. In what ways does Satan wage spiritual warfare against Jehovah’s servants, calling for what on their part?
11 When Satan was cast down to the earth, he was intent on venting his anger on Jehovah’s servants because they “observe the commandments of God and [bear] witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:9, 17) One of the Devil’s tactics is persecution. Often, however, this strategy backfires because it draws God’s people even closer together in the bonds of Christian love and moves many of them to greater zeal. Another tactic of Satan is to appeal to sinful human inclinations. Resisting this ploy calls for courage in a different way because the fight is an internal one, against improper desires within our own ‘treacherous and desperate’ heart.—Jeremiah 17:9; James 1:14, 15.
12. How does Satan use “the spirit of the world” in his attempt to weaken our love for God?
12 In Satan’s arsenal is another powerful weapon—“the spirit of the world,” that is, its dominant inclination or motivation, which is in direct opposition to God’s holy spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:12) The spirit of the world promotes greed and materialism—“the desire of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Even though material things and money are not harmful in themselves, if our love for them supplants our love for God, then Satan has gained a victory. The power, or “authority,” of the world’s spirit lies in its appeal to the sinful flesh, its subtlety, its relentlessness and, like air, its pervasiveness. Do not let the spirit of the world infect your heart!—Ephesians 2:2, 3; Proverbs 4:23.
13. How may our moral courage be put to the test?
13 To resist and repudiate the evil spirit of the world, however, takes moral courage. For example, it takes courage to get up and walk out of a theater or to turn off the computer or the TV when indecent images appear. It calls for courage to stand up against negative peer pressure and to cut off bad associations. Likewise, it requires courage to uphold God’s laws and principles in the face of ridicule, whether from schoolmates, workmates, neighbors, or relatives.—1 Corinthians 15:33; 1 John 5:19.
14. What should we do if we are infected by the spirit of the world?
14 How important it is, then, that we strengthen our love for God and for our spiritual brothers and sisters! Take time to examine your goals and way of life to see whether the world’s spirit has infected you in any way. If it has—even slightly—then pray to Jehovah for the courage to root it out and keep it out. Jehovah will not ignore such sincere petitions. (Psalm 51:17) Moreover, his spirit is far more powerful than that of the world.—1 John 4:4.
Facing Personal Trials With Courage
15, 16. How can Christlike love help us to cope with personal trials? Give an example.
15 Other challenges that Jehovah’s servants have to contend with include the effects of imperfection and old age, often resulting in disease, disability, depression, and many other problems. (Romans 8:22) Christlike love can help us cope with these trials. Consider the example of Namangolwa, who was raised in a Christian family in Zambia. When she was two years old, Namangolwa became disabled. “I was self-conscious,” she says, “thinking that people would be appalled by my appearance. But my spiritual brothers helped me to view things differently. As a result, I overcame my self-consciousness, and in time I was baptized.”
16 Although Namangolwa owns a wheelchair, she often has to walk on her hands and knees when on a sandy dirt road. Yet, she shares in the ministry as an auxiliary pioneer at least two months each year. One householder wept when Namangolwa witnessed to her. Why? Because she was deeply moved by our sister’s faith and courage. As evidence of Jehovah’s rich blessing, five of Namangolwa’s Bible students have been baptized, and one serves as a congregation elder. “My legs often ache terribly,” she says, “but I do not let that stop me.” This sister is just one of many Witnesses worldwide who are frail in body but mighty in spirit because of their love for God and neighbor. How desirable all such ones are in Jehovah’s eyes!—Haggai 2:7.
17, 18. What helps many to endure sickness and other trials? Give some local examples.
17 Chronic illness can also be discouraging, even depressing. “In the book study group I attend,” says a congregation elder, “one sister suffers from diabetes and kidney failure, one has cancer, two have severe arthritis, and one has both lupus and fibromyalgia. Sometimes they feel down. Yet, they miss meetings only when they are very ill or in the hospital. All are regular in the field service. They remind me of Paul, who said: ‘When I am weak, then I am powerful.’ I admire their love and their courage. Perhaps their situation gives them a clearer focus on life and on what really matters.”—2 Corinthians 12:10.
18 If you battle with infirmity, sickness, or some other problem, “pray incessantly” for help so that you do not become a victim of discouragement. (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 17) Of course, you are likely to have emotional ups and downs, but try to focus on positive, spiritual things, especially our precious Kingdom hope. “For me, the field ministry is therapy,” said one sister. Sharing the good news with others helps her to maintain a positive outlook.
Love Helps Wrongdoers Return to Jehovah
19, 20. (a) What may help those who have fallen into sin to muster up the courage to return to Jehovah? (b) What will be considered in the following article?
19 Many who have grown weak spiritually or who have been overtaken by sin do not find it easy to return to Jehovah. But the needed courage will come if such ones truly repent and rekindle their love for God. Consider Mario,a who lives in the United States. Mario left the Christian congregation, became an alcoholic and a drug addict and, after 20 years, landed in prison. “I began to think deeply about my future and to read the Bible again,” says Mario. “In time, I came to appreciate Jehovah’s qualities, especially his mercy, for which I often prayed. After I was released from prison, I avoided my old associates, went to Christian meetings, and was eventually reinstated. In my body, I am reaping what I sowed, but now I at least have a wonderful hope. I cannot thank Jehovah enough for his compassion and forgiveness.”—Psalm 103:9-13; 130:3, 4; Galatians 6:7, 8.
20 To be sure, those in situations similar to Mario’s have to work hard to return to Jehovah. But their rekindled love—a result of Bible study, prayer, and meditation—will give them the needed courage and resolve. Mario was also strengthened by the Kingdom hope. Yes, along with love, faith, and godly fear, hope can be a powerful force for good in our life. In the following article, we will take a closer look at this precious spiritual gift.
a The name has been changed.
Can You Answer?
• How did love contribute to Jesus’ outstanding courage?
• How did love for the brothers give Paul and Barnabas exceptional courage?
• By what means does Satan try to erode Christian love?
• Love for Jehovah can give us the courage to endure what trials?
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Paul’s love for people gave him the courage to persevere
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It takes courage to uphold God’s standards
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