“When I am weak, then I am powerful.”—2 COR. 12:10.
SONG 73 Grant Us Boldness
1-2. What challenges do many Witnesses face?
THE apostle Paul encouraged Timothy and by extension all Christians to accomplish their ministry fully. (2 Tim. 4:5) All of us take Paul’s counsel seriously. Yet, there are challenges. For many of our brothers and sisters, it takes real courage to share in the preaching work. (2 Tim. 4:2) Think, for example, of our brothers who live in lands where our work is restricted or even banned. They share in the ministry at the risk of their freedom!
2 Jehovah’s people must deal with a variety of problems that could dishearten them. For instance, many have to work long hours just to provide the basic necessities for their family. They would like to do more in the ministry, but they have little energy at the end of the week. Others are severely limited in what they can do because of chronic illness or advancing age; they may even be confined to their home. Still others are constantly plagued by feelings of worthlessness. Mary,b a sister who lives in the Middle East, says: “It takes so much effort to fight my negative feelings that I’m left emotionally exhausted. Then I feel guilty because it takes time and energy away from my ministry.”
3. What will we consider in this article?
3 Regardless of our circumstances, Jehovah can empower us to cope with personal challenges and still serve him to the extent that our circumstances allow. Before we consider how Jehovah can help us, let us examine how he strengthened Paul and Timothy to accomplish their ministry despite challenges.
STRENGTH TO ACCOMPLISH THE PREACHING WORK
4. What challenges did Paul face?
4 Paul faced many challenges. He especially needed strength when he was beaten, stoned, and imprisoned. (2 Cor. 11:23-25) Paul openly admitted that he at times battled negative emotions. (Rom. 7:18, 19, 24) He also endured “a thorn in the flesh” of some sort, which he desperately wanted God to remove.—2 Cor. 12:7, 8.
5. What did Paul accomplish despite the challenges he faced?
5 Jehovah empowered Paul to carry out his ministry despite all the challenges he faced. Consider what Paul accomplished. For example, while he was housebound—in custody in Rome—he zealously defended the good news before Jewish leaders and perhaps before government officials. (Acts 28:17; Phil. 4:21,22) He also preached to many in the Praetorian Guard, and he witnessed to all who visited him. (Acts 28:30, 31; Phil. 1:13) During that same time, Paul wrote inspired letters that benefit true Christians to this day. Furthermore, Paul’s example strengthened the congregation in Rome, which resulted in his brothers’ having “all the more courage to speak the word of God fearlessly.” (Phil. 1:14) Although at times Paul was limited in what he could do, he made the most of his situation, and it “actually turned out for the advancement of the good news.”—Phil. 1:12.
6. According to 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10, what enabled Paul to accomplish his ministry?
6 Paul realized that everything he did in Jehovah’s service was with God’s strength, not his own. He acknowledged that God’s power was “made perfect in weakness.” (Read 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.) By means of His holy spirit, Jehovah gave Paul the power to accomplish his ministry fully—despite the persecution, imprisonment, and other challenges he faced.
7. What challenges did Timothy have to overcome in order to accomplish his ministry?
7 Timothy, Paul’s younger companion, also had to rely on God’s power to carry out his ministry. Timothy accompanied Paul on long missionary journeys. Moreover, Paul sent him on additional trips to visit and encourage congregations. (1 Cor. 4:17) Timothy may have felt inadequate. Perhaps that is why Paul admonished him: “Never let anyone look down on your youth.” (1 Tim. 4:12) Furthermore, during this time, Timothy had his own thorn in the flesh—“frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Tim. 5:23) But Timothy knew that Jehovah’s powerful holy spirit would give him the strength he needed to preach the good news and serve his brothers.—2 Tim. 1:7.
STRENGTH TO REMAIN FAITHFUL DESPITE CHALLENGES
8. How does Jehovah strengthen his people today?
8 Today, Jehovah gives his people “power beyond what is normal” so that they can continue to serve him faithfully. (2 Cor. 4:7) Let us consider four provisions Jehovah makes available to strengthen us and to help us remain faithful to him: prayer, the Bible, Christian association, and our ministry.
9. How can prayer help us?
9 Strengthened through prayer. As recorded at Ephesians 6:18, Paul encourages us to pray to God “on every occasion.” In response, God will strengthen us. Jonnie, who lives in Bolivia, experienced that support when he underwent a series of trials. His wife and both of his parents became seriously ill at the same time. Jonnie struggled to care for the needs of the three of them. His mother died, and it took a long time for his wife and father to recover from their illnesses. Looking back, Jonnie says, “When I was under extreme pressure, what always helped me was to be specific in my prayers.” Jehovah gave Jonnie the strength he needed to endure. Ronald, an elder in Bolivia, learned that his mother had cancer. She died a month later. What helped him to cope? He says: “Praying to Jehovah allows me to pour my heart out and vent my feelings. I know that he understands me better than anybody, even better than I understand myself.” At times, we may feel overwhelmed or unsure about what we should pray for. But Jehovah invites us to pray to him even if we find it hard to put our thoughts and feelings into words.—Rom. 8:26, 27.
10. As indicated at Hebrews 4:12, why is reading the Bible and meditating on what we read so important?
10 Strengthened by means of the Bible. Just as Paul relied on the Scriptures for strength and comfort, we too can rely on them. (Rom. 15:4) As we read God’s Word and meditate on it, Jehovah can use his spirit to help us understand better how the Scriptures apply to our situation. (Read Hebrews 4:12.) Ronald, mentioned earlier, says: “I’m grateful that I cultivated the habit of reading a portion of the Bible every night. I meditate a lot on Jehovah’s qualities and his loving dealings with his servants. This helps me to regain my power.”
11. How did the Bible strengthen a distressed sister?
11 We can develop the right attitude about our circumstances by meditating on God’s Word. Consider how the Bible benefited a grieving widow. An elder suggested that she could learn helpful lessons from reading the book of Job. As she did, she was at first quick to criticize Job for his wrong thinking. In her imagination she warned him: “Job! Don’t be so negative!” But then she realized that her attitude had been very similar to that of Job. This helped her to readjust her viewpoint and strengthened her to cope with the pain of losing her husband.
12. How does Jehovah strengthen us by means of fellow worshippers?
12 Strengthened by means of Christian association. Another way that Jehovah strengthens Christians is by means of fellow worshippers. Paul wrote that he was longing to have “an interchange of encouragement” with his spiritual brothers and sisters. (Rom. 1:11, 12) Mary, mentioned earlier, treasures such association. She says: “Jehovah has used brothers and sisters who were not even aware of my struggles. They said something encouraging or sent a card, and it was exactly what I needed. It also helps to open up to other sisters who have had similar struggles and learn from their experiences. And the elders always make me feel that I am a valuable part of the congregation.”
13. How can we strengthen one another at congregation meetings?
13 One of the best places to encourage one another is at congregation meetings. When you attend meetings, why not take the initiative to strengthen others with sincere expressions of affection and appreciation? For example, before one meeting an elder named Peter said to a sister with an unbelieving mate: “You cannot imagine how encouraging it is to see you here. You always have your six children ready and prepared with comments.” Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude as she replied: “You have no idea how much I needed to hear that today.”
14. How does sharing in the ministry affect us?
14 Strengthened by means of the ministry. When we share Bible truths with others, we feel refreshed and invigorated, whether they respond positively or not. (Prov. 11:25) A sister named Stacy experienced how strengthening the ministry can be. When a family member was disfellowshipped, she was distraught, and she kept asking herself, ‘Could I have done more to help?’ Stacy could barely think of anything else. What helped her to cope with this distressing situation? The ministry! As she engaged in the preaching work, she began to focus on the people in the territory who needed her help. She says: “During that time, Jehovah gave me a Bible student who made rapid progress. That encouraged me greatly. The most stabilizing factor in my life is to get out in the ministry.”
15. What do you learn from Mary’s comments?
15 Because of their circumstances, some may feel that they are not able to do much in the ministry. If that is how you feel, remember that Jehovah is pleased if you do your best. Consider again the example of Mary. When she moved to a foreign-language field, she felt very limited. She says, “For some time, all I could do was offer a simple comment or read a Bible verse or give a tract in service.” This left her feeling inadequate in comparison with fluent speakers. However, she adjusted her point of view. She began to realize that Jehovah could use her despite her limited abilities. She says, “The lifesaving truths are elegantly simple, and those truths are what change people’s lives.”
16. What can help those who are housebound to gain strength?
16 Jehovah sees and appreciates our desire to share in the ministry even if we are housebound. He can open opportunities for us to give a witness to caregivers or medical personnel. If we compare our present activity with what we were able to do in the past, we may become discouraged. But if we recognize how Jehovah is helping us now, we will have the strength we need to endure any trial with joy.
17. According to Ecclesiastes 11:6, why should we continue in our ministry even if we do not see immediate results?
17 We do not know which of the seeds of truth that we plant may take root and start to grow. (Read Ecclesiastes 11:6.) For example, Barbara, a sister in her 80’s, regularly witnesses by telephone and by letter. In one of her letters, she enclosed The Watchtower of March 1, 2014, with the article “What God Has Done for You.” Unbeknownst to her, she had sent the letter to a married couple who were no longer Jehovah’s Witnesses. They read the magazine over and over. The husband felt as if Jehovah were speaking directly to him. The couple started to attend meetings and eventually became active Witnesses again—after more than 27 years. Just imagine how encouraged and strengthened Barbara was to see such positive results from that one letter!
18. What can we do to benefit from God’s power?
18 Jehovah provides us with ample opportunity to receive his abundant power. When we use his provisions—such as prayer, the Bible, Christian association, and the ministry—we show that we trust in Jehovah’s ability and desire to help us. Let us always rely on our heavenly Father, who delights “to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.”—2 Chron. 16:9.
SONG 61 Forward, You Witnesses!
a We are living in challenging times, but Jehovah provides the help we need to endure them. In this article, we will consider how Jehovah helped the apostle Paul and Timothy to continue serving him despite their problems. We will discuss four provisions Jehovah has made available to help us endure today.
b Name has been changed.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTION: While under house arrest in Rome, Paul writes letters to several congregations and preaches the message of good news to his visitors.
d PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Timothy encourages the brothers as he visits congregations.