“These are my fellow workers for the Kingdom of God, and they have become a source of great comfort to me.”—COL. 4:11.
SONG 90 Encourage One Another
1. What stressful situations are many faithful servants of Jehovah facing?
AROUND the world, many servants of Jehovah are facing stressful, even painful, situations. Have you noticed this in your congregation? Some Christians are dealing with a serious illness or with the death of a loved one. Others are enduring the intense pain of seeing a family member or close friend leave the truth. Still others are coping with the effects of natural disasters. All such brothers and sisters need comfort. How can we help them?
2. Why did the apostle Paul at times need to be comforted?
2 The apostle Paul faced one life-threatening situation after another. (2 Cor. 11:23-28) He also had to endure “a thorn in the flesh,” possibly some sort of health problem. (2 Cor. 12:7) And he had to cope with disappointment when Demas, his onetime fellow worker, abandoned him “because [Demas] loved the present system of things.” (2 Tim. 4:10) Paul was a courageous spirit-anointed Christian who unselfishly helped others, but at times even he felt discouraged.—Rom. 9:1, 2.
3. From whom did Paul receive comfort and support?
3 Paul received the comfort and support he needed. How? Jehovah certainly used His holy spirit to strengthen him. (2 Cor. 4:7; Phil. 4:13) Jehovah also comforted him through fellow Christians. Paul described some of his fellow workers as “a source of great comfort.” (Col. 4:11) Among the ones he mentioned by name were Aristarchus, Tychicus, and Mark. They strengthened Paul, helping him to endure. What qualities allowed these three Christians to be so comforting? How can we follow their fine example as we try to comfort and encourage one another?
LOYAL LIKE ARISTARCHUS
4. How did Aristarchus prove to be a loyal friend to Paul?
4 Aristarchus, a Macedonian Christian from Thessalonica, proved to be a loyal friend to Paul. We first read about Aristarchus when Paul visited Ephesus on his third missionary tour. While accompanying Paul, Aristarchus was captured by a mob. (Acts 19:29) When he was finally set free, he did not seek his own safety but loyally stayed with Paul. Some months later, in Greece, Aristarchus was still at Paul’s side even though opposers continued to threaten Paul’s life. (Acts 20:2-4) In about 58 C.E. when Paul was sent to Rome as a prisoner, Aristarchus accompanied him on the long journey, and together they endured shipwreck along the way. (Acts 27:1, 2, 41) Once in Rome, he apparently spent some time in prison with Paul. (Col. 4:10) Little wonder that Paul felt encouraged and comforted by such a loyal companion!
5. According to Proverbs 17:17, how can we be a loyal friend?
5 Like Aristarchus, we can be a loyal friend by sticking to our brothers and sisters not only in good times but also during “times of distress.” (Read Proverbs 17:17.) Even after a trial ends, our brother or sister may still need to be comforted. Frances,* who lost both her parents to cancer within a three-month period, says: “I think that difficult trials affect us for a long time. And I appreciate loyal friends who remember that I am still in pain, even though some time has passed since my parents died.”
6. What will loyalty move us to do?
6 Loyal friends make sacrifices in order to support their brothers and sisters. For example, a brother named Peter was diagnosed with a very aggressive terminal illness. His wife, Kathryn, says: “A couple in our congregation took us to the appointment where we found out about Peter’s illness. They decided then and there that they would not let us go on this painful journey alone, and they have been by our side whenever we have needed them.” How comforting it is to have true friends, who can help us to endure our trials!
TRUSTWORTHY LIKE TYCHICUS
7-8. According to Colossians 4:7-9, how did Tychicus prove trustworthy?
7 Tychicus, a Christian from the Roman district of Asia, stands out as a loyal companion to Paul. (Acts 20:4) About 55 C.E., Paul organized the collection of relief funds for Judean Christians, and he may have let Tychicus help with this important assignment. (2 Cor. 8:18-20) Later when Paul was imprisoned in Rome for the first time, Tychicus served as his personal messenger. He delivered Paul’s letters and messages of encouragement to the congregations in Asia.—Col. 4:7-9.
8 Tychicus remained Paul’s trustworthy friend. (Titus 3:12) Not all Christians back then were as dependable as Tychicus. About 65 C.E., during his second imprisonment, Paul wrote that many Christian men in the province of Asia avoided associating with him, possibly because they were afraid of opposers. (2 Tim. 1:15) In contrast, Paul could rely on Tychicus and gave him yet another assignment. (2 Tim. 4:12) Paul surely appreciated having a good friend like Tychicus.
9. How can we imitate Tychicus?
9 We can imitate Tychicus by being a trustworthy friend. For example, we not only promise to help our brothers and sisters in need but also do practical things to assist them. (Matt. 5:37; Luke 16:10) When those who need help know that they can depend on us, they are genuinely comforted. One sister explains why. She says, “You do not have the added stress of wondering whether the person who offered to help will be there on time to do what he promised.”
10. As stated at Proverbs 18:24, from whom can those coping with a trial or disappointment find comfort?
10 Those coping with a trial or disappointment often find comfort by confiding in a trusted friend. (Read Proverbs 18:24.) After the disappointment of seeing his son disfellowshipped, Bijay said, “I needed to share my feelings with someone I could trust.” Carlos lost a cherished congregation privilege as the result of a personal failing. He says, “I needed a ‘safe place’ where I could freely express myself without fear of being judged.” Carlos found that safe place with the elders, who helped him get through his problem. He was also comforted in knowing that the elders were discreet and would keep what he said confidential.
11. How can we be a trusted friend and confidant?
11 To be a trusted friend and confidant, we need to cultivate patience. When Zhanna’s husband left her, she found comfort in sharing her feelings with close friends. “They patiently listened to me,” she says, “although I probably said the same things over and over again.” You too can prove to be a good friend by being a good listener.
WILLING TO SERVE LIKE MARK
12. Who was Mark, and how did he show a willing spirit?
12 Mark was a Jewish Christian from Jerusalem. His cousin Barnabas was a well-known missionary. (Col. 4:10) Mark’s family appears to have been materially well-off, yet Mark did not put material things first in his life. Throughout his life, Mark showed a willing spirit. He was happy to serve others. For example, at various times he served alongside both the apostle Paul and the apostle Peter as they fulfilled their responsibilities, with Mark possibly attending to their physical needs. (Acts 13:2-5; 1 Pet. 5:13) Paul described Mark as one of his “fellow workers for the Kingdom of God” and as “a strengthening aid” to him.—Col. 4:10, 11, ftn.
13. How does 2 Timothy 4:11 show that Paul appreciated Mark’s faithful service?
13 Mark became one of Paul’s close friends. For example, when Paul was imprisoned for the last time in Rome, about 65 C.E., he wrote his second letter to Timothy. In that letter, Paul asked Timothy to come to Rome and to bring Mark along. (2 Tim. 4:11) Paul no doubt appreciated Mark’s past faithful service, so he asked for Mark’s presence at that crucial time. Mark helped Paul in practical ways, perhaps supplying him with food or items for his writing. The support and encouragement that Paul received likely helped him to endure the final days leading up to his execution.
14-15. What can Matthew 7:12 teach us about assisting others in practical ways?
14 Read Matthew 7:12. When we are going through a hard time, how we appreciate those who offer support in practical ways! “There are so many routine things that seem to be impossible to do when you are suffering,” says Ryan, whose father died unexpectedly in a tragic accident. “Practical assistance—even when it seems very little—goes a long way.”
15 By being attentive and observant, we can likely find practical ways to help others. For example, one sister took the initiative to help Peter and Kathryn, mentioned earlier, get to all their medical appointments. Neither Peter nor Kathryn could drive anymore, so the sister made a schedule that enabled volunteers from the congregation to take turns providing transportation. Did this arrangement help? Kathryn says, “We felt as if a burden had been lifted off our shoulders.” Never underestimate how comforting your practical yet simple acts of kindness can be.
16. What important lesson about providing comfort do we learn from Mark’s example?
16 The first-century disciple Mark certainly was a busy Christian. He had weighty theocratic assignments, including writing the Gospel that bears his name. Yet, Mark made time to comfort Paul, and Paul felt free to ask for Mark’s assistance. Angela, who had to cope with the violent death of a family member, appreciated the similar willingness of those who comforted her. “When friends genuinely want to help, they are approachable,” she says. “They don’t seem reluctant or hesitant.” We can ask ourselves, ‘Am I known for being willing to comfort fellow worshippers in practical ways?’
DETERMINED TO COMFORT OTHERS
17. How can meditating on 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 motivate us to offer comfort?
17 We do not have to look far to find brothers and sisters who need comfort. We may even be able to share the same encouraging thoughts that others have used to comfort us. Nino, a sister who lost her grandmother in death, says: “Jehovah can comfort others through us if we allow ourselves to be used by him.” (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4.) Says Frances, quoted earlier: “There is real truth to 2 Corinthians 1:4. We can pass on to others the comfort we receive.”
18. (a) Why may some be afraid to offer comfort? (b) How can we genuinely comfort others? Give an example.
18 We need to take the initiative to act despite our fears. For instance, we may fear not knowing what to say or what to do for someone who is in a distressing situation. An elder named Paul remembers the efforts some made after his father died. “I could tell that it was not easy for them to approach me,” he says. “They struggled with their words. But I still appreciated their desire to offer comfort and support.” Similarly, after experiencing a powerful earthquake, a brother named Tajon said: “I honestly don’t remember every message that people sent me in the days following the earthquake, but I do remember that they cared enough to check on me.” We can be effective comforters if we show that we care.
19. Why are you determined to be “a source of great comfort”?
19 As we get closer to the end of this system of things, world conditions will deteriorate and life will become more challenging. (2 Tim. 3:13) And the problems that we bring on ourselves because of inherited sin and imperfection mean that we will continue to need comfort. The apostle Paul was able to endure faithfully to the end of his life, thanks, in part, to the comfort he received from fellow Christians. May we be loyal like Aristarchus, trustworthy like Tychicus, and willing to serve like Mark. By doing so, we can help our brothers and sisters to remain firm in the faith.—1 Thess. 3:2, 3.
The apostle Paul experienced many difficulties in his life. During hard times, certain fellow workers were of great comfort to him. We will identify three specific qualities that made these fellow workers so good at comforting others. We will also consider how we can follow their example in practical ways.
Some of the names in this article have been changed.
SONG 111 Our Reasons for Joy
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Aristarchus and Paul endured a shipwreck together.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Tychicus was entrusted with delivering Paul’s letters to the congregations.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Mark assisted Paul in practical ways.