“Praised be the God . . . who encourages us in all our trials.”—2 COR. 1:3, 4, ftn.
1. What encouragement did Jehovah give at the time of the rebellion in Eden?
EVER since humankind fell into sin and imperfection, Jehovah has proved that he is a God who gives encouragement. Immediately after the rebellion in Eden, he gave Adam’s future descendants reason to take courage. All was not lost for the human family. Once understood, the prophetic promise written at Genesis 3:15 would give humankind hope that eventually “the original serpent,” Satan the Devil, and all his evil works would be destroyed.—Rev. 12:9; 1 John 3:8.
JEHOVAH ENCOURAGED HIS SERVANTS OF OLD
2. How did Jehovah encourage Noah?
2 Jehovah’s servant Noah lived in an ungodly world where the only people who worshipped Jehovah were members of his family. With violence and sexual perversion rampant all around him, Noah could have become discouraged. (Gen. 6:4, 5, 11; Jude 6) But Jehovah gave him information that infused him with the courage he needed to persevere in his efforts to ‘walk with God.’ (Gen. 6:9) Jehovah told Noah that He was going to put an end to that wicked world and instructed him about what he must do to ensure his family’s safety. (Gen. 6:13-18) Jehovah proved to be for Noah a God of encouragement.
3. What encouragement did Joshua receive? (See opening picture.)
3 Later, Joshua had the daunting task of settling God’s people in the Promised Land. This involved conquering powerful armies of the nations that occupied the territory. Joshua had every reason to be apprehensive. Knowing this, Jehovah instructed Moses to reassure Joshua. God said: “Commission Joshua and encourage him and strengthen him, because he is the one who will cross over before this people and he is the one who will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” (Deut. 3:28) Before Joshua went into action, Jehovah encouraged him, saying: “Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and strong. Do not be struck with terror or fear, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:1, 9) What reassuring encouragement!
4, 5. (a) What encouragement did Jehovah give to his ancient people? (b) How did Jehovah encourage his Son?
4 Not only did Jehovah encourage individuals but he also gave words of encouragement to his people as a group. In prophetic terms that would prove to be of comfort to the Jews held captive in Babylon, Jehovah stated: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be anxious, for I am your God. I will fortify you, yes, I will help you, I will really hold on to you with my right hand of righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10) The early Christians had the same assurance, and so do God’s people today.—Read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.
5 Jesus himself received encouragement from his Father. At his baptism, Jesus heard a voice from heaven say: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17) How those words must have strengthened Jesus throughout his earthly ministry!
JESUS GAVE ENCOURAGEMENT
6. How does the parable of the talents provide encouragement?
6 Jesus imitated his Father’s example. The parable of the talents, given in Jesus’ prophecy about the conclusion of the system of things, encourages faithfulness. The master honored each of the faithful slaves with the words: “Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21, 23) What strong encouragement to continue serving Jehovah faithfully!
7. What encouragement did Jesus give to his apostles and to Peter in particular?
7 Jesus’ apostles often quarreled over who was the greatest among them, but Jesus patiently encouraged them to humble themselves and to become servants, not bosses. (Luke 22:24-26) Peter in particular disappointed Jesus several times. (Matt. 16:21-23; 26:31-35, 75) Rather than reject Peter, Jesus encouraged him and even commissioned him to strengthen his brothers.—John 21:16.
ENCOURAGEMENT GIVEN IN ANCIENT TIMES
8. How did Hezekiah encourage the military chiefs and the people of Judah?
8 Even before Jehovah’s Son came to earth and set a perfect example of how to impart encouragement, faithful servants of Jehovah were conscious of the need to be encouraging. When threatened by the Assyrians, Hezekiah assembled the military chiefs and the people of Judah to encourage them. “And the people were strengthened by [his] words.”—Read 2 Chronicles 32:6-8.
9. What does the book of Job teach us about giving encouragement?
9 Although in need of consolation himself, Job gave his three “troublesome comforters” a lesson in giving encouragement. He told them that if he had been in their place, he ‘would have strengthened them with the words of his mouth, and the consolation of his lips would have brought them relief.’ (Job 16:1-5) Finally, Job received encouragement from Elihu and from Jehovah himself.—Job 33:24, 25; 36:1, 11; 42:7, 10.
10, 11. (a) Why did Jephthah’s daughter need to be encouraged? (b) Who today deserve similar encouragement?
10 Another example in ancient times of someone in need of encouragement is Jephthah’s daughter. Before going out to combat the Ammonites, Judge Jephthah vowed that if Jehovah gave him the victory, the first person who would come out to meet him after the battle would be devoted to Jehovah’s service at the sanctuary. It so happened that it was his daughter, his only child, who came out to celebrate his victory with him. Jephthah’s heart was broken. But he kept his vow and sent his virgin daughter to Shiloh to serve at the tabernacle for the rest of her life.—Judg. 11:30-35.
11 However hard this was on Jephthah, it may have been harder still on his daughter, who willingly complied with her father’s decision. (Judg. 11:36, 37) She thus relinquished the right to marry, to have children, and to preserve the family name and inheritance. If anyone, then, needed comfort and encouragement, she did. The Bible account states: “It became a custom in Israel: From year to year, the young women of Israel would go to give commendation to the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.” (Judg. 11:39, 40) Do not unmarried Christians who use their singleness to give greater attention to “the things of the Lord” also deserve commendation and encouragement?—1 Cor. 7:32-35.
THE APOSTLES ENCOURAGED THEIR BROTHERS
12, 13. How did Peter ‘strengthen his brothers’?
12 On the night before his death, Jesus told the apostle Peter: “Simon, Simon, look! Satan has demanded to have all of you to sift you as wheat. But I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.”—Luke 22:31, 32.
13 Peter proved to be a pillar in the early Christian congregation. (Gal. 2:9) He encouraged his brothers by his courageous example at Pentecost and thereafter. Toward the end of his long ministry, he wrote to fellow Christians. Explaining why, he stated: “I have written you in few words in order to encourage you and to give an earnest witness that this is the true undeserved kindness of God. Stand firm in it.” (1 Pet. 5:12) Peter’s inspired letters have continued to be a source of encouragement to Christians throughout the ages and up to this day. How we need this encouragement as we await the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises!—2 Pet. 3:13.
14, 15. How have the inspired writings of the apostle John been a source of encouragement for Christians throughout the centuries?
14 The apostle John was also a pillar in the early Christian congregation. His riveting Gospel account of Jesus’ ministry has been a source of encouragement to Christians throughout the centuries—and still is. His Gospel alone preserves Jesus’ statement that love is the identifying mark of his true disciples.—Read John 13:34, 35.
15 John’s three letters contain further gems of truth. When we are weighed down with the burden of sin, are we not relieved to read that “the blood of Jesus . . . cleanses us from all sin”? (1 John 1:7) And if our heart continues to condemn us, do we not get a lump in our throat and tears of gratitude in our eyes when we read that “God is greater than our hearts”? (1 John 3:20) John alone wrote that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8, 16) His second and third letters commend Christians who continue “walking in the truth.”—2 John 4; 3 John 3, 4.
16, 17. What encouragement did the apostle Paul give the early Christians?
16 In the first century, perhaps the apostle who did the most to encourage his brothers was the apostle Paul. It appears that in the early days of Christianity, most of the apostles remained in Jerusalem, which continued to be the location of the governing body. (Acts 8:14; 15:2) Christians in Judea preached Christ to people who because of the influence of Judaism believed in one God. On the other hand, the apostle Paul was sent by the holy spirit to preach to the people of the nations of the Greco-Roman world, who worshipped many gods.—Gal. 2:7-9; 1 Tim. 2:7.
17 Paul traveled far and wide in what is now Turkey, as well as in Greece and Italy, establishing Christian congregations among non-Jews. These newly converted Christians “suffered at the hands of [their] own countrymen” and needed encouragement. (1 Thess. 2:14) About the year 50 C.E., Paul wrote to the young congregation in Thessalonica: “We always thank God when we mention all of you in our prayers, for we continually remember your faithful work, your loving labor, and your endurance.” (1 Thess. 1:2, 3) He also exhorted them to strengthen one another, saying: “Keep encouraging one another and building one another up.”—1 Thess. 5:11.
AN ENCOURAGING GOVERNING BODY
18. How did the first-century governing body encourage Philip?
18 The first-century governing body proved to be a source of encouragement both to those taking the lead and to Christians in general. When Philip the evangelizer preached about Christ to the Samaritans, he received the full backing of those on the governing body. They sent two of their number, Peter and John, to pray for the new believers to receive holy spirit. (Acts 8:5, 14-17) How Philip himself as well as those he had converted must have been encouraged by this support from the governing body!
19. What effect did the letter sent by the governing body have on the early Christian congregation?
19 Later, the governing body was called upon to decide whether non-Jewish Christians should be required to submit to circumcision, as had been required of Jews by the Law of Moses. (Acts 15:1, 2) Under the guidance of the holy spirit and after reasoning on the Scriptures, the responsible brothers decided that this was no longer necessary, and they wrote a letter to the congregations to that effect. Representatives of the governing body were sent out to the congregations to deliver the letter. The result? “After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement.”—Acts 15:27-32.
20. (a) What encouragement does the Governing Body today give to the international brotherhood? (b) What question will be answered in the following article?
20 Today, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses gives encouragement to Bethel family members, to special full-time field workers, and indeed, to the entire international brotherhood of true Christians. And the result is the same as in the first century—rejoicing over the encouragement! In addition, in 2015 the Governing Body published the brochure Return to Jehovah, which has proved to be a rich source of encouragement to many throughout the world. But is it only those in authority who should imitate Jehovah in giving encouragement? The answer to that question will be found in the following article.