“We are fellow workers for your joy.”—2 CORINTHIANS 1:24.
1. What did Paul hear about the Christians in Corinth that made him very happy?
IN THE year 55, the apostle Paul heard that the brothers in Corinth were arguing with one another. He loved them as a father loves his children, so he sent them a letter to correct them. (1 Corinthians 1:11; 4:15) Paul also asked his friend Titus to visit them and then meet him in the harbor city of Troas to tell him what happened. Some months later, Paul was waiting in Troas for Titus to come and tell him how the brothers in Corinth were doing. He was still worried about them. Sadly, Titus did not come, and Paul then sailed to Macedonia. But he was very happy when Titus met him there some time later. Titus told him that the brothers in Corinth had obeyed Paul’s counsel and that they really wanted to see him. When Paul heard this, he “rejoiced yet more.”—2 Corinthians 2:12, 13; 7:5-9.
2. (a) What did Paul write to the Corinthians about faith and joy? (b) What questions will we answer?
2 Not long after that, Paul wrote another letter to the Corinthians. He told them: “Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, for it is by your faith that you are standing.” (2 Corinthians 1:24) What did Paul mean by that? And what can elders in the congregation learn from those words?
OUR FAITH AND OUR JOY
3. (a) What did Paul mean when he said: “It is by your faith that you are standing”? (b) How do elders today imitate Paul’s example?
3 Paul mentioned two important qualities Christians must have: faith and joy. First Paul mentioned faith and wrote: “Not that we are the masters over your faith” and, “It is by your faith that you are standing.” Paul knew that the brothers in Corinth were serving God loyally because of their own faith in God, not because of him or any other human. He was sure that they really loved God and wanted to do what was right. So Paul did not need to control his brothers’ faith, and he did not want to do so. (2 Corinthians 2:3) Today, elders imitate Paul and believe that their brothers have faith in God and serve him with good motives. (2 Thessalonians 3:4) They do not make strict rules for the congregation. Instead, they help their brothers to make decisions by using Bible principles and by following the direction from Jehovah’s organization. Elders today are not the masters over their brothers’ faith.—1 Peter 5:2, 3.
Elders believe that their brothers have faith in God and serve him with good motives
4. (a) What did Paul mean when he wrote: “We are fellow workers for your joy”? (b) How do elders today imitate Paul?
4 Paul also said: “We are fellow workers for your joy.” Who were these “fellow workers”? They were ones who had worked hard with Paul to help the Corinthians. How do we know? Because in the same letter to the Corinthians, Paul mentioned two of them when he wrote that Jesus “was preached among you through us, that is, through me and Silvanus and Timothy.” (2 Corinthians 1:19) Also, whenever Paul mentioned other “fellow workers” in his letters, he always referred to those who worked hard with him in the preaching work, such as Apollos, Aquila, Prisca, Timothy, and Titus. (Romans 16:3, 21; 1 Corinthians 3:6-9; 2 Corinthians 8:23) So when Paul said: “We are fellow workers for your joy,” he was telling the Corinthians that he and those working with him wanted to do all they could to help the congregation serve God with joy. Today, elders want the same. They want to do all they can to help their brothers “serve Jehovah with rejoicing.”—Psalm 100:2; Philippians 1:25.
5. What question were some brothers and sisters asked? What should you do as we discuss their answers?
5 Recently, some zealous brothers and sisters living in different parts of the world were asked the question, “What words and deeds of an elder have added to your joy?” We will now discuss their answers. As we do, think of things the elders have said or done that have made you more joyful. And you can also think about what you can do to help your congregation be a happy one.*—See footnote.
“GREET PERSIS OUR BELOVED ONE”
6, 7. (a) What is one way in which elders can imitate Jesus, Paul, and other servants of God? (b) Why do our brothers feel happy when we remember their names?
6 Many brothers and sisters said that they feel happy when elders show that they are interested in them. One way elders do this is by imitating David, Elihu, and Jesus. (Read 2 Samuel 9:6; Job 33:1; Luke 19:5.) These servants of Jehovah showed that they cared about others by using their names. Paul too knew how important it was to remember and use the names of his brothers and sisters. At the end of one of his letters, he mentioned more than 25 brothers and sisters by name. One of these sisters was Persis. Paul said about her: “Greet Persis our beloved one.”—Romans 16:3-15.
When an elder remembers the names of his brothers, they feel that he cares about them
7 Some elders find it very hard to remember names. But when an elder makes the effort to do so, the brothers and sisters feel that he cares about them. (Exodus 33:17) They also feel happy when elders call on them by their names to comment during the Watchtower Study or other meetings.—Compare John 10:3.
“SHE PERFORMED MANY LABORS IN THE LORD”
8. What was one important way Paul imitated Jehovah and Jesus?
8 Paul also showed others he cared about them by praising them. This is another way elders can help their brothers and sisters serve God with joy. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he told them that he was proud of them. He said: “I have great boasting in regard to you.” (2 Corinthians 7:4) We can be sure that Paul’s words made the brothers in Corinth feel loved. Paul also praised other congregations for their good work. (Romans 1:8; Philippians 1:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:8) And after he mentioned Persis in his letter to the congregation in Rome, Paul added: “She performed many labors in the Lord.” (Romans 16:12) Persis must have felt encouraged when she heard those words. When Paul praised others, he was imitating Jehovah and Jesus.—Read Mark 1:9-11; John 1:47; Revelation 2:2, 13, 19.
9. Why are those in the congregation happier when they praise one another?
9 Elders today also know how important it is to tell their brothers that they appreciate them. (Proverbs 3:27; 15:23) Whenever an elder praises his brothers, he shows that he cares about them and notices what they do. The brothers and sisters in the congregation need to hear encouraging words from the elders. A sister who is over 50 years old said that she almost never gets a compliment for what she does at work. People there do not care about others and compete with one another. So when an elder thanks her for something she has done for the congregation, she feels so much better. She said: “It makes me feel loved by my heavenly Father.” A brother who is raising two children by himself said that an elder recently told him how much he appreciates what he does. The elder’s words really encouraged him to keep doing his best in God’s service. It is clear that when an elder sincerely praises his brothers and sisters, he helps them to continue serving God with joy “and not tire out.”—Isaiah 40:31.
“SHEPHERD THE CONGREGATION OF GOD”
10, 11. (a) How can elders imitate Nehemiah? (b) How can an elder strengthen the faith of his brothers and sisters when he visits them?
10 What is another important way elders show love for their brothers and help them serve God with joy? They act quickly to help those who need encouragement. (Read Acts 20:28.) In that way, they imitate faithful servants of God in Bible times. For example, the Bible says that when Nehemiah noticed that some of his Jewish brothers were discouraged, he did something to encourage them. (Nehemiah 4:14) Today, elders want to do the same. When their brothers are feeling discouraged, they do what they can to encourage them. Elders try to visit them in their homes and give them a “spiritual gift,” that is, they talk about something that strengthens their brothers’ faith. (Romans 1:11) How can elders do this?
Elders notice when their brothers feel discouraged and act quickly to help them
11 An elder needs to think carefully about those he wants to encourage before he visits them. For example, he can ask himself: ‘What difficulties does this person have? What can I say to make him or her feel better? What scripture or story of a person in the Bible would encourage him or her?’ If an elder thinks ahead of time about the brother or sister he will visit, he can say things that will really help that person instead of just talking about everyday things. When he visits them, the elder allows his brothers and sisters to speak and he pays attention to what they say. (James 1:19) One sister said: “It’s so comforting when an elder listens with his heart.”—Luke 8:18.
12. Who in the congregation need encouragement? Why?
12 Who need encouragement from the elders? Paul told elders to pay attention “to all the flock.” All members of the congregation need encouragement, even those who have been faithfully serving as publishers and pioneers for many years. Why do they need encouragement from the elders? Although they have strong faith in God, they sometimes feel that they can no longer by themselves endure the problems caused by this wicked world. Such brothers and sisters too need help, as we can see from a dangerous situation that happened in King David’s life.
ABISHAI “CAME TO HIS HELP”
13. (a) When did Ishbi-benob choose to attack David? (b) How was Abishai able to help David at the right time?
13 Soon after young David was anointed to be king, he fought Goliath, a giant from the race of the Rephaim. David was courageous and killed the giant. (1 Samuel 17:4, 48-51; 1 Chronicles 20:5, 8) Many years later, during a battle between Israel and the Philistines, David fought another giant. The giant’s name was Ishbi-benob, also one of the Rephaim. (2 Samuel 21:16; footnote) But this time, the giant nearly killed David. Why? Not because David was less courageous. The Bible says that “David grew tired.” As soon as Ishbi-benob noticed that David was tired, he thought it was just the right time to attack him. But Abishai came “at once” to help David and killed the Philistine. (2 Samuel 21:15-17) David almost died! Surely he was grateful that Abishai had carefully watched over him and immediately helped him when his life was in danger. What can we learn from this story?
14. (a) What helps us to stay faithful in very difficult situations? (b) How can elders help others to stay faithful and be happy again? Give an example.
14 Jehovah’s people around the world keep serving God even though Satan and others try to make it difficult for them. Some of us have had difficulties that seemed like giants to us. But we trusted in Jehovah completely and had the strength to stay faithful in those very difficult situations, just as David had the strength to kill Goliath. But there are times when we feel we do not have enough strength to keep fighting against Satan’s world. At times like these, it becomes easier for us to be discouraged by problems that we normally are able to endure. But an elder might notice how we feel and give us the help we need at just the right time. We then feel we can continue serving God with joy. Many of us have been helped in this way. A pioneer sister who is over 60 years old said: “Some time ago, I did not feel well, and field service tired me out. An elder noticed my lack of energy and approached me. We had an encouraging conversation based on a Bible passage. I applied the suggestions he gave me, and I benefited.” She added: “How loving of that elder to take note of my weak condition and to give me help!” It is wonderful to know that we have elders who care about us and are always ready to help us, as Abishai was ready to help David.
THEY KNEW THAT PAUL LOVED THEM
15, 16. (a) Why did the brothers and sisters love Paul? (b) Why do we love our elders?
15 Elders work very hard. Sometimes they may not sleep well because they are worried about their brothers and sisters, and they may get up late at night to pray about them or to give them help. (2 Corinthians 11:27, 28) But elders are happy to do what is required of them, just as Paul was. He wrote to the Corinthians: “I will most gladly spend and be completely spent for your souls.” (2 Corinthians 12:15) Because Paul loved his brothers, he “spent” himself, or used all his energy, to strengthen them. (Read 2 Corinthians 2:4; Philippians 2:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:8) That is why the brothers loved Paul so much!—Acts 20:31-38.
We can imitate the elders by encouraging one another
16 We too love our elders and thank Jehovah that he uses them to care for us. We are happy that they show interest in each one of us and that they visit us to give us encouragement. And we are grateful that they are always ready to help us when we feel that we can no longer endure our problems by ourselves. Elders like these truly work hard for our joy.
The same brothers and sisters were also asked, “Which quality do you value the most in an elder?” Most of them said they like elders who are kind and easy to talk to. In a future article, we will learn why it is important for elders to be like that.