“I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in times of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ.”—2 COR. 12:10.
SONG 38 He Will Make You Strong
1. What did the apostle Paul openly acknowledge?
THE apostle Paul openly acknowledged that he at times felt weak. He admitted that his body was “wasting away,” that he had to struggle to do what was right, and that Jehovah did not always answer his prayers in the way he hoped He would. (2 Cor. 4:16; 12:7-9; Rom. 7:21-23) Paul also acknowledged that his opposers viewed him as weak.* But he did not allow the negative viewpoint of others or his own weaknesses to make him feel worthless.—2 Cor. 10:10-12, 17, 18.
2. According to 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, what valuable lesson did Paul learn?
2 Paul learned a valuable lesson—a person can be strong even when he feels that he is weak. (Read 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.) Jehovah told Paul that His power is “made perfect in weakness,” meaning that Jehovah’s power would make up for the strength that Paul lacked. First, let us see why we should not be troubled when our opponents insult us.
“TAKE PLEASURE . . . IN INSULTS”
3. Why can we take pleasure in insults?
3 None of us like to be insulted. However, if our enemies do insult us and we are overly concerned with what they say, we can become discouraged. (Prov. 24:10) How, then, should we view the insults of opposers? Like Paul, we can “take pleasure . . . in insults.” (2 Cor. 12:10) Why? Because insults and opposition are signals that we are genuine disciples of Jesus. (1 Pet. 4:14) Jesus said that his followers would be persecuted. (John 15:18-20) That proved true in the first century. Back then, those influenced by Greek culture viewed Christians as unintelligent and weak. And among the Jews, Christians were considered to be “uneducated and ordinary,” like the apostles Peter and John. (Acts 4:13) Christians seemed to be weak; they had no political influence or military power, and people viewed them as outcasts of society.
4. How did the early Christians respond to the negative view that opposers had of them?
4 Did those early Christians allow the negative view of their opposers to stop them? No. The apostles Peter and John, for example, viewed it as an honor to be persecuted for following Jesus and sharing his teachings. (Acts 4:18-21; 5:27-29, 40-42) The disciples had no reason to feel ashamed. In the long run, those humble first-century Christians did more good for mankind than any of their opposers did. For example, the inspired books written by some of those Christians continue to give help and hope to millions of people. And the Kingdom they promoted not only is now in existence but will soon rule all of mankind. (Matt. 24:14) By comparison, the great political power that persecuted the Christians has collapsed into the ash heaps of history, whereas those loyal disciples are now kings in heaven. Their opposers, however, are dead; and if they are ever resurrected, they will be subjects of the Kingdom that was promoted by the Christians whom they hated.—Rev. 5:10.
5. According to John 15:19, why are Jehovah’s people looked down on?
5 Today, as Jehovah’s people, we are sometimes looked down on and ridiculed as being unintelligent and weak. Why? Because we do not agree with the attitudes of those around us. We try to be humble, meek, and obedient. The world, on the other hand, admires the proud, the arrogant, and the rebellious. In addition, we do not get involved in politics, and we do not join the military forces of any country. We do not fit into the world’s mold, so we are considered to be inferior to others.—Read John 15:19; Rom. 12:2.
6. What is Jehovah achieving with his people?
6 Despite what the world thinks of us, Jehovah is achieving extraordinary things with us. He is accomplishing the greatest preaching campaign in human history. His servants today produce the most widely translated and distributed journals on earth and use the Bible to help millions of people to improve their lives. All credit for these remarkable accomplishments goes to Jehovah, who uses a seemingly weak group of people to perform these powerful works. But what about us as individuals? Can Jehovah help us to be powerful? If so, what must we do to get his help? Let us now consider three specific things we can learn from the example set by the apostle Paul.
DO NOT RELY ON YOUR OWN STRENGTH
7. What is one lesson that we learn from Paul’s example?
7 One lesson we learn from Paul’s example is this: Do not rely on your own strength or abilities when serving Jehovah. From a human viewpoint, Paul had reason to be a proud, self-reliant man. He grew up in Tarsus, the capital city of a Roman province. Tarsus was prosperous and a famous seat of learning. Paul was well-educated—he was taught by one of the most respected Jewish leaders of his day, a man named Gamaliel. (Acts 5:34; 22:3) And at one point, Paul had some influence in the Jewish community. He said: “I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age in my nation.” (Gal. 1:13, 14; Acts 26:4) But Paul did not rely on himself.
8. According to Philippians 3:8 and footnote, how did Paul view the things he gave up, and why did he take “pleasure in weaknesses”?
8 Paul gladly gave up the things that made him powerful by the world’s standards. In fact, he came to view the seeming advantages that he formerly had as “a lot of garbage.” (Read Philippians 3:8 and footnote.) Paul paid a price for becoming a follower of Christ. He was hated by his own nation. (Acts 23:12-14) And he was beaten and imprisoned by his fellow citizens, the Romans. (Acts 16:19-24, 37) In addition, Paul became painfully aware of his own limitations. (Rom. 7:21-25) But rather than allow his opponents or his own shortcomings to cripple him, he took “pleasure in weaknesses.” Why? Because it was when he was weak that he saw God’s power at work in his life.—2 Cor. 4:7; 12:10.
9. How should we view any seeming disadvantages we have?
9 If we want to gain power from Jehovah, we must not think that physical strength, education, cultural background, or material wealth determine how valuable we are. These things are not what make us useful to Jehovah. In fact, not many of God’s people are “wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth.” Instead, Jehovah has chosen to use “the weak things of the world.” (1 Cor. 1:26, 27) So do not view any supposed disadvantages as obstacles to serving Jehovah. Instead, view them as opportunities, a chance to see Jehovah’s power working through you. For example, if you feel intimidated by those who try to make you doubt your beliefs, pray for Jehovah to give you boldness when defending your faith. (Eph. 6:19, 20) If you are struggling to cope with a chronic disability, ask Jehovah to give you the strength you need to stay as busy as you can in his service. Each time you see Jehovah help you, your faith grows and you become stronger.
LEARN FROM BIBLE EXAMPLES
10. Why should we study the examples set by faithful Bible characters, such as those mentioned at Hebrews 11:32-34?
10 Paul was an earnest student of the Scriptures. He learned a lot of facts, but he also learned from the examples of the people whose experiences are recorded in God’s Word. When writing to Hebrew Christians, Paul asked them to think about the examples set by a long line of faithful servants of Jehovah. (Read Hebrews 11:32-34.) Consider just one of these servants, King David. He had to deal with opposition not only from his enemies but also from some who at one time were his friends. As we look at David’s example, we will see what strength Paul may have drawn from meditating on David’s life and how we can imitate Paul.
11. Why did David seem to be weak? (See cover picture.)
11 David was viewed as weak by the physically powerful warrior Goliath. When Goliath saw David, he “sneered at him in contempt.” After all, Goliath was bigger, better equipped, and better trained for war. David, on the other hand, was just an inexperienced boy who seemed to be poorly equipped for battle. But David turned what seemed to be a weakness into a strength. He relied on Jehovah for power, and he defeated his enemy.—1 Sam. 17:41-45, 50.
12. What other challenge did David have to cope with?
12 David had to deal with another challenge that could have made him feel weak and powerless. David loyally served the one whom Jehovah had appointed as king of Israel, Saul. King Saul at first respected David. Later on, pride caused Saul to become jealous of David. Saul treated David badly, even trying to kill him.—1 Sam. 18:6-9, 29; 19:9-11.
13. How did David respond to the unjust way he was treated by King Saul?
13 Despite the unjust way that he was treated by King Saul, David continued to show respect for Jehovah’s appointed king. (1 Sam. 24:6) David did not blame Jehovah for the bad things that Saul did. Instead, David relied on Jehovah to give him the strength he needed to endure this difficult trial.—Ps. 18:1, superscription.
14. What situation did the apostle Paul face that was similar to that of David?
14 The apostle Paul faced a situation similar to that of David. Paul’s enemies were vastly more powerful than he was. Many influential leaders of his day hated him. Often, they had him beaten and thrown into jail. Like David, Paul was treated badly by people who should have been friends. Some in the Christian congregation even opposed him. (2 Cor. 12:11; Phil. 3:18) But Paul conquered all who fought against him. How? He continued preaching despite opposition. He remained loyal to his brothers and sisters even when they disappointed him. And above all, he was faithful to God to the end of his life. (2 Tim. 4:8) He overcame great odds, not because he was physically strong, but because he relied on Jehovah.
15. What is our goal, and how can we achieve it?
15 Do you have to deal with insults or persecution from classmates, work associates, or non-Witness family members? Have you ever been treated badly by someone in the congregation? If so, remember the examples of David and Paul. You can keep “conquering the evil with the good.” (Rom. 12:21) Your goal is, not to sink a stone into someone’s forehead, as David did, but to embed God’s Word in receptive minds and hearts. You can achieve that goal by relying on the Bible to answer people’s questions, by being respectful and kind to those who treat you badly, and by doing good to all, even your enemies.—Matt. 5:44; 1 Pet. 3:15-17.
ACCEPT HELP FROM OTHERS
16-17. What did Paul never forget?
16 Before the apostle Paul became a disciple of Christ, he was an insolent young man who persecuted Jesus’ followers. (Acts 7:58; 1 Tim. 1:13) Jesus himself stopped Paul, then known as Saul, from terrorizing the Christian congregation. Jesus spoke to Paul from heaven and struck him blind. To recover his sight, Paul was forced to seek help from the very people he had been persecuting. He humbly accepted assistance from a disciple named Ananias who restored Paul’s sight.—Acts 9:3-9, 17, 18.
17 Paul later became a prominent member of the Christian congregation, but he never forgot the lesson Jesus taught him on the road to Damascus. Paul remained humble, and he willingly accepted the help of his brothers and sisters. He acknowledged that they were “a strengthening aid” to him.—Col. 4:10, 11, ftn.
18. Why may we be reluctant to accept help from others?
18 What can we learn from Paul? When we first began to associate with Jehovah’s people, we may have been eager to accept help from others, realizing that we were spiritual infants and had a lot to learn. (1 Cor. 3:1, 2) But what about now? If we have been serving Jehovah for many years and have gained a lot of experience, we may not be as ready to accept help, especially if it is offered by someone who has not been in the truth as long as we have. However, Jehovah often uses our brothers and sisters to strengthen us. (Rom. 1:11, 12) We must recognize that fact if we are to gain the power that Jehovah supplies.
19. Why was Paul successful?
19 Paul accomplished some remarkable things after becoming a Christian. Why? Because he learned that success depends, not on a person’s physical strength, education, wealth, or social background, but on his humility and reliance on Jehovah. May all of us imitate Paul (1) by relying on Jehovah, (2) by learning from Bible examples, and (3) by accepting help from fellow believers. Then, no matter how weak we may feel, Jehovah will make us powerful!
SONG 71 We Are Jehovah’s Army!
In this article, we will examine the apostle Paul’s example. We will see that if we are humble, Jehovah will give us the strength we need to endure ridicule and to overcome our weaknesses.
EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: We might feel weak for a number of reasons—because we are imperfect, we are poor, we are sick, or we have little formal education. In addition, our enemies try to make us feel weak by verbally or physically attacking us.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: When Paul went preaching about Christ, he left behind the things that were part of his former life as a Pharisee. These could have included secular scrolls and a scripture-containing case.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Workmates try to pressure a brother to join in a birthday party for a coworker.