“I will never leave you, and I will never abandon you.”—HEB. 13:5.
SONG 55 Fear Them Not!
1. What will comfort us when we feel alone or overwhelmed by our problems? (Psalm 118:5-7)
HAVE you ever felt that you were all alone, that you had no one to help you deal with a challenge you faced? Many have felt that way, including faithful servants of Jehovah. (1 Ki. 19:14) If that ever happens to you, remember Jehovah’s promise: “I will never leave you, and I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Heb. 13:5, 6) The apostle Paul wrote those words to fellow believers in Judea about 61 C.E. His words remind us of the sentiments expressed at Psalm 118:5-7.—Read.
2. What will we consider in this article, and why?
2 Like the psalmist, Paul knew from personal experience that Jehovah was his Helper. For instance, over two years before he wrote his letter to the Hebrews, Paul made a dangerous journey through a storm-tossed sea. (Acts 27:4, 15, 20) Throughout that journey and during the time leading up to it, Jehovah proved to be Paul’s Helper in various ways. We will consider three of them. Jehovah provided help by means of Jesus and the angels, individuals in authority, and fellow believers. Reviewing these events in Paul’s life will deepen our trust in God’s promise that He will also respond to our calls for help.
HELP FROM JESUS AND THE ANGELS
3. What may Paul have wondered, and why?
3 Paul needed help. About 56 C.E., a crowd dragged him outside the temple in Jerusalem and tried to kill him. The next day, when Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin, he was almost torn apart by his enemies. (Acts 21:30-32; 22:30; 23:6-10) At that point, Paul may have wondered, ‘How much longer can I endure this treatment?’
4. How did Jehovah help Paul by means of Jesus?
4 What help did Paul receive? The night after Paul was arrested, “the Lord,” Jesus, stood by him and said: “Take courage! For just as you have been giving a thorough witness about me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) What timely encouragement! Jesus commended Paul for the witness he had given in Jerusalem. And he promised that Paul would safely reach Rome, where he would give a further witness. After receiving that assurance, Paul must have felt as secure as a child nestled in his father’s arms.
5. How did Jehovah help Paul by means of an angel? (See cover picture.)
5 What other challenges did Paul face? About two years after those events in Jerusalem, Paul was on a ship heading for Italy when the vessel encountered such a heavy storm that the crew and passengers thought they would die. Yet, Paul was not afraid. Why? He told those aboard: “This night an angel of the God to whom I belong and to whom I render sacred service stood by me and said: ‘Have no fear, Paul. You must stand before Caesar, and look! God has granted to you all those sailing with you.’” Jehovah had used an angel to repeat the assurance that He had given Paul earlier by means of Jesus. And, indeed, Paul reached Rome.—Acts 27:20-25; 28:16.
6. What promise of Jesus can strengthen us, and why?
6 What help do we receive? Jesus will support us, as he did Paul. For example, Jesus promises all those who follow him: “I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:20) Jesus’ words are a source of strength for us. Why? Because some days are difficult for us to endure. For instance, when a loved one dies, we must deal with that pain not just for a few days but likely for many years. Others must deal with the difficult days that come with old age. Still others face days on which they are overwhelmed by feelings of depression. Even so, we find the strength to go on because we know that Jesus is with us “all the days,” including the darkest days, of our life.—Matt. 11:28-30.
7. According to Revelation 14:6, how does Jehovah help us today?
7 God’s Word assures us that Jehovah helps us by means of his angels. (Heb. 1:7, 14) For example, angels give us support and guidance as we preach the “good news of the Kingdom” to people of “every nation and tribe and tongue.”—Matt. 24:13, 14; read Revelation 14:6.
HELP FROM INDIVIDUALS IN AUTHORITY
8. How did Jehovah help Paul by means of a military commander?
8 What help did Paul receive? Back in 56 C.E., Jesus assured Paul that he would reach Rome. However, some Jews in Jerusalem planned to ambush Paul and kill him. When the Roman military commander Claudius Lysias learned about the plan, he came to Paul’s rescue. Quickly, Claudius sent Paul—protected by many soldiers—to Caesarea, along a route that was about 65 miles (105 km) from Jerusalem. In Caesarea, Governor Felix ordered that Paul “be kept under guard in Herod’s palace.” Paul was out of the reach of the would-be murderers.—Acts 23:12-35.
9. How did Governor Festus help Paul?
9 Two years later, Paul was still in custody in Caesarea. Felix had been succeeded as governor by Festus. The Jews begged Festus to have Paul come to Jerusalem to stand trial, but Festus refused. Perhaps the governor was aware that the Jews had been “planning to ambush Paul and kill him along the road.”—Acts 24:27–25:5.
10. How did Governor Festus respond to Paul’s appeal to be judged by Caesar?
10 Later, Paul’s trial was held in Caesarea. Since Festus wanted “to gain favor with the Jews,” he asked Paul: “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and be judged before me there?” Paul knew that he would probably be killed in Jerusalem, and he also knew what he could do to save his life, reach Rome, and carry out his ministry. He said: “I appeal to Caesar!” After consulting his counselors, Festus told Paul: “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you will go.” Festus’ favorable decision rescued Paul from his enemies. In time, Paul would be in Rome—far out of the reach of the Jews who were seeking to kill him.—Acts 25:6-12.
11. Paul may have reflected on what reassuring words given by Isaiah?
11 While Paul was waiting to begin his voyage to Italy, he may well have reflected on a warning that the prophet Isaiah was inspired to give to those opposing Jehovah: “Devise a plan, but it will be thwarted! Say what you like, but it will not succeed, for God is with us!” (Isa. 8:10) Paul knew that God would help him, and this must have strengthened him as he faced the trials that were to come.
12. How did Julius treat Paul, and what may Paul have discerned as a result?
12 In 58 C.E., Paul began his voyage to Italy. Being a prisoner, he was placed under the authority of a Roman army officer named Julius. From that moment on, Julius had the power to make Paul’s life miserable or to make it bearable. How would he use his authority? The next day when they landed ashore, “Julius treated Paul with kindness and permitted him to go to his friends.” Later on, Julius even saved Paul’s life. How? The soldiers wanted to kill all the prisoners who were on the ship, but Julius stopped them. Why? He “was determined to bring Paul safely through.” Likely, Paul discerned Jehovah’s guidance in the actions of that kindhearted officer.—Acts 27:1-3, 42-44.
13. How may Jehovah use people in authority?
13 What help do we receive? When it is in harmony with his purpose, Jehovah may use his powerful holy spirit to cause people in authority to do what he desires. King Solomon wrote: “A king’s heart is like streams of water in Jehovah’s hand. He directs it wherever He pleases.” (Prov. 21:1) What does this proverb mean? Humans can dig a canal to divert the water of a stream in a direction that fits their plans. Similarly, Jehovah can use his spirit to divert the thoughts of rulers in a direction that is in harmony with his purpose. When that occurs, people in authority feel motivated to make decisions that benefit God’s people.—Compare Ezra 7:21, 25, 26.
14. In line with Acts 12:5, concerning whom can we pray?
14 What can we do? We can pray “concerning kings and all those who are in positions of authority” when these individuals are called on to make decisions that affect our Christian life and ministry. (1 Tim. 2:1, 2, ftn.; Neh. 1:11) As the first-century Christians did, we too pray intensely to God for our brothers and sisters who are in prison. (Read Acts 12:5; Heb. 13:3) Further, we can pray concerning prison guards who are in charge of our brothers and sisters. We can beg Jehovah to influence the thoughts of such individuals so that they may be moved to act like Julius and treat our imprisoned fellow believers “with human kindness.”—See study note on Acts 27:3.
HELP FROM FELLOW BELIEVERS
15-16. How did Jehovah help Paul by means of Aristarchus and Luke?
15 What help did Paul receive? During his journey to Rome, Paul time and again received help that Jehovah provided by means of his fellow believers. Let us consider some examples.
16 Two faithful companions of Paul, Aristarchus and Luke, decided to travel with him to Rome.b They willingly risked their lives to be with Paul, although it does not appear that either of them had received a personal assurance from Jesus that they would reach Rome. Only later, during the rough voyage, did they learn that their lives would be spared. Therefore, when Aristarchus and Luke boarded the ship in Caesarea, Paul must have offered a heartfelt prayer to Jehovah, thanking him for the help that he had provided by means of these two courageous fellow believers.—Acts 27:1, 2, 20-25.
17. How did Jehovah help Paul by means of his fellow believers?
17 During his journey, Paul was several times helped by his fellow believers. For instance, in the port city of Sidon, Julius permitted Paul “to go to his friends and enjoy their care.” And later, in the city of Puteoli, Paul and his companions “found brothers and were urged to remain with them for seven days.” While the Christians in those places cared for the needs of Paul and his companions, Paul no doubt brought great joy to his hosts by sharing upbuilding experiences. (Compare Acts 15:2, 3.) After being refreshed, Paul and his companions continued the journey.—Acts 27:3; 28:13, 14.
18. What prompted Paul to thank God and take courage?
18 As Paul walked toward Rome, he must have thought about what he had written three years earlier to the congregation in that city: “For many years I have longed to come to you.” (Rom. 15:23) However, he had not anticipated that he would be arriving as a prisoner. How encouraged he must have been when he saw brothers from Rome waiting along the road to greet him! “On catching sight of them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” (Acts 28:15) Note that Paul thanked God for the presence of the brothers. Why? Because Paul again saw Jehovah helping him by means of fellow believers.
19. As stated at 1 Peter 4:10, how may Jehovah use us as a means to convey his help to those in need?
19 What can we do? Do you know of brothers or sisters in your congregation who are suffering distress because they are ill or are facing other challenging circumstances? Or maybe they have lost a loved one in death. If we become aware of an individual in need, we can ask Jehovah to help us to say or do something kind and loving. Our words and actions may be just the encouragement that our brother or sister needs. (Read 1 Peter 4:10.)c Those whom we help may regain full confidence that Jehovah’s promise, “I will never leave you, and I will never abandon you,” applies to them. Would that not make you feel joyful?
20. Why can we say with confidence: “Jehovah is my helper”?
20 As was the case with Paul and his companions, we in effect go through violent storms on our journey through life. At the same time, we know that we can take courage because Jehovah is with us. He gives us help by means of Jesus and the angels. Also, if it is in harmony with his purpose, Jehovah can help us by means of people in authority. And as many of us have personally experienced, Jehovah uses his holy spirit to stir the hearts of his servants to come to the aid of their Christian brothers and sisters. Therefore, like Paul, we have good reason to say with confidence: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”—Heb. 13:6.
SONG 38 He Will Make You Strong
a This article considers three ways in which Jehovah helped the apostle Paul to deal with difficult challenges. Reviewing how Jehovah proved to be a Helper in the past will strengthen our confidence that Jehovah will help us today as we pass through the storms of life.