“Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works.”—HEB. 10:24.
1, 2. What helped 230 of Jehovah’s Witnesses to survive the death march at the end of World War II?
AS THE Nazi regime collapsed at the end of World War II, an order was given to eliminate thousands who remained in concentration camps. The inmates of the Sachsenhausen camp were to be evacuated to seaports where they would be loaded on ships and sunk at sea. This was part of a strategy later known as the death marches.
2 Thirty-three thousand of the prisoners from Sachsenhausen concentration camp were due to march 155 miles (250 km) to Lübeck, a port city in Germany. Among them were 230 of Jehovah’s Witnesses from six countries, who were ordered to march together. All had been weakened by starvation and disease. How were our brothers able to survive the march? “We continually encouraged one another to keep going,” said one of them. Along with God-given “power beyond what is normal,” their love for one another helped them survive the ordeal.—2 Cor. 4:7.
3. Why do we need to encourage one another?
3 Today, we are not on such a death march, but we do face many challenges. After the establishment of God’s Kingdom in 1914, Satan was ousted from heaven and confined to the vicinity of the earth, having “great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Rev. 12:7-9, 12) As this world approaches Armageddon, Satan is using trials and pressures in an attempt to weaken us spiritually. Added to this are the stresses of day-to-day life. (Job 14:1; Eccl. 2:23) Sometimes the cumulative effect of our difficulties can wear us down so much that whatever emotional and spiritual strength we muster up may not be enough for us to cope with the discouragement. Consider the case of a brother who over many decades had helped scores of people spiritually. In his later years, he and his wife experienced ill health, and he began to feel very discouraged. Like that brother, all of us need “power beyond what is normal” from Jehovah as well as encouragement from one another.
4. If we are to encourage others, what counsel of the apostle Paul must we take to heart?
4 If we are to be a source of encouragement to others, we must take to heart the exhortation that the apostle Paul gave to the Hebrew Christians. He said: “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.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) How can we apply the counsel contained in these meaningful words?
“CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER”
5. What does it mean to “consider one another,” and what effort does doing so require?
5 To “consider one another” means “to take into account the needs of others, to think about them.” Can we closely consider the needs of others if we limit our conversations with them to a quick greeting at the Kingdom Hall or a discussion of only trivial matters? Not really. We, of course, want to be careful to ‘mind our own business’ and not to ‘meddle in other people’s affairs.’ (1 Thess. 4:11; 1 Tim. 5:13) Nevertheless, if we want to encourage our brothers, we truly need to get to know them—their situation in life, their qualities, their spirituality, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They need to view us as their friends and be assured of our love for them. This requires spending time with them—not just when they face problems and get discouraged but at other times too.—Rom. 12:13.
6. What will help an elder to “consider” those in his care?
6 The older men in the congregation are exhorted to ‘shepherd the flock of God in their care,’ doing so willingly and eagerly. (1 Pet. 5:1-3) How can they carry out the shepherding work effectively unless they really know the sheep in their care? (Read Proverbs 27:23.) If elders make themselves available to fellow believers and enjoy being with them, the sheep will be more likely to ask for assistance when needed. The brothers and sisters will also be more inclined to reveal their true feelings and concerns, enabling elders to “consider” those in their care and render needed help.
7. How should we view the “wild talk” of those who are discouraged?
7 When addressing the congregation in Thessalonica, Paul said: “Support the weak.” (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14.) “Depressed souls” are weak, in a sense, and so are discouraged ones. Proverbs 24:10 says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” The words of a deeply discouraged person may become “wild talk.” (Job 6:2, 3) When ‘considering’ such ones, we need to keep in mind that what they say may not be a true reflection of what they really are at heart. Rachelle, whose mother became severely depressed, learned this from personal experience. Rachelle says: “Many times Mom would say something very hateful. Most of these times, I tried to remind myself of the kind of person Mom really is—loving, kind, and generous. I learned that depressed people say many things they do not mean. The worst thing that one can do is to return evil words or actions.” Proverbs 19:11 states: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.”
8. For whom do we especially need to “confirm” our love, and why?
8 How can we “consider” someone who feels downhearted because of the shame and despair that he still experiences as a result of a past transgression, even though he has taken steps to correct matters? Concerning a repentant wrongdoer in Corinth, Paul wrote: “You should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him.” (2 Cor. 2:7, 8) According to one lexicon, the term rendered “confirm” means to “ratify, validate, make legally binding.” We simply cannot assume that the person understands our love and concern for him. He needs to see it demonstrated by our attitude and actions.
“INCITE TO LOVE AND FINE WORKS”
9. What does it mean to “incite to love and fine works”?
9 “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works,” wrote Paul. We need to motivate fellow believers to display love and engage in fine works. When a fire is about to die down, we may need to stir the coals and fan the flames. (2 Tim. 1:6) In the same way, we can lovingly incite our brothers to show their love for God and for neighbor. Appropriate commendation is essential to incite others to fine works.
10, 11. (a) Who among us need commendation? (b) Illustrate how commendation can help a person who has ‘taken a false step.’
10 All of us need commendation, whether we are discouraged or not. “My father never once said I did anything well,” one elder wrote. “So I grew up lacking self-esteem. . . . Although I am now 50 years old, I still appreciate being reassured by my friends that I am doing a good job as an elder. . . . My own experience has taught me how important it is to give encouragement to others, and I go out of my way to give it.” Commendation can stimulate all—including pioneers, elderly ones, and those who may be discouraged.—Rom. 12:10.
11 When ‘those who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust a man who has taken a false step,’ loving counsel and appropriate commendation may motivate the wrongdoer to return to the course of fine works. (Gal. 6:1) This proved to be true for a sister named Miriam. She writes: “I went through a traumatic period in my life when some close friends left the congregation and, at the same time, my father suffered a brain hemorrhage. I became very depressed. In an attempt to overcome my depression, I began to go out with a worldly boyfriend.” This made her feel unworthy of Jehovah’s love, and she contemplated leaving the truth. When an elder reminded her of her past faithful service, her emotions were stirred. She allowed the elders an opportunity to reassure her of Jehovah’s love. In turn, her love was rekindled. She ended her relationship with the unbeliever and continued serving Jehovah.
12. What can be said about using shame, criticism, or guilt to motivate others?
12 Shaming an individual by making unfair comparisons with others, criticizing him by setting up rigid standards, or making him feel guilty about not doing more may motivate him to a spurt of activity, but the results are only temporary. On the other hand, giving a fellow believer commendation and appealing to his love for God can have a lasting, positive effect.—Read Philippians 2:1-4.
‘ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER’
13. Encouraging others involves what? (See opening image.)
13 We need to ‘encourage one another all the more as we behold the day drawing near.’ Encouraging others involves motivating them to continue moving forward in their service to God. Just as inciting to love and fine works can be likened to stirring up a fire that is about to go out, encouraging others can be likened to putting fuel on the fire to keep it burning or to increase its intensity. Encouraging others calls for strengthening and comforting the downhearted. When given an opportunity to encourage such a person, we must speak in a warm and gentle manner. (Prov. 12:18) Moreover, let us “be swift about hearing” and “slow about speaking.” (Jas. 1:19) If we listen empathetically, we may be able to identify situations that discourage a fellow Christian and say something to help him deal with those circumstances.
14. How was one discouraged brother helped?
14 Consider how one compassionate elder was able to help a brother who had been inactive for several years. As the elder listened to him, it became clear that the brother still had a deep love for Jehovah. He diligently studied every issue of The Watchtower and was making an effort to attend meetings regularly. However, the actions of some in the congregation had made him feel disappointed and somewhat bitter. The elder listened empathetically without being judgmental and expressed loving concern for the brother and his family. Gradually, the brother came to realize that he was allowing bad experiences of the past to prevent him from serving the God he loved. The elder invited the brother to join him in the preaching work. With the elder’s help, the brother resumed his ministry and eventually qualified to serve again as an elder.
15. What can we learn from Jehovah about encouraging the downhearted?
15 A discouraged person may not immediately feel better or respond quickly to the help we offer. We may need to keep on supporting him. Paul said: “Keep hold of the weak, be patient with everybody.” (1 Thess. 5:14, An American Translation) Rather than quickly giving up on the weak, let us “keep hold” of them, as it were, and continue supporting them. In the past, Jehovah dealt patiently with those of his servants who at times were discouraged. For instance, God was very gracious with Elijah, considering his feelings. Jehovah provided what the prophet needed to carry on in his service. (1 Ki. 19:1-18) Because David was genuinely repentant, Jehovah kindly forgave him. (Ps. 51:7, 17) God also helped the writer of Psalm 73, who almost gave up serving Him. (Ps. 73:13, 16, 17) Jehovah is gracious and kind to us, especially when we are downhearted and discouraged. (Ex. 34:6) His mercies are “new each morning,” and they “will certainly not come to an end.” (Lam. 3:22, 23) Jehovah expects us to follow his example and treat the depressed ones with tenderness.
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER TO REMAIN ON THE ROAD TO LIFE
16, 17. As the end of this system draws near, what must we be determined to do, and why?
16 Of the 33,000 prisoners who left Sachsenhausen concentration camp, thousands died. However, every one of the 230 Witnesses of Jehovah who had left the camp came through that ordeal alive. The encouragement and support they received from one another played a key role in turning that death march into a march of survival for them.
17 Today, we are on “the road leading off into life.” (Matt. 7:14) Soon, all of Jehovah’s worshippers will unitedly walk into the new world of righteousness. (2 Pet. 3:13) May we be determined to help one another along the path that leads to everlasting life.