“Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works.”—HEBREWS 10:24.
1, 2. What helped 230 of Jehovah’s Witnesses to survive a death march at the end of World War II?
IT WAS near the end of World War II. Hitler’s army was losing the war. The Nazi government gave an order to kill the thousands of prisoners who were still in concentration camps. The prisoners of the Sachsenhausen camp were to be taken to seaports and then put on ships that would be sunk. This was part of what was later known as the death marches.
2 Thirty-three thousand of the prisoners from Sachsenhausen concentration camp were forced to march 250 kilometers (155 miles) to Lübeck, a port city in Germany. Among them were 230 of Jehovah’s Witnesses from six countries. The soldiers ordered the Witnesses to march together. All the prisoners were weak because of disease and lack of food. But all our brothers survived the march. How was that possible? One of them said, “We continually encouraged one another to keep going.” Their love for one another along with “the power beyond what is normal” that they received from God helped them to survive.—2 Corinthians 4:7.
3. Why do we need to encourage one another?
3 Even though we are not on a death march today, we still have to endure many problems. After God’s Kingdom started to rule in 1914, Satan was thrown out of heaven and down to the earth. He is extremely angry because he knows that “he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:7-9, 12) As Armageddon gets closer, Satan is using trials to try to weaken our friendship with Jehovah. We also suffer the stresses of everyday life. (Job 14:1; Ecclesiastes 2:23) Sometimes all these difficulties can make us feel so weak that we still feel discouraged no matter what we do. For example, one brother had encouraged many people over the years to stay faithful to Jehovah. But when he got older, he and his wife became ill, and he began to feel very discouraged. Just like that brother, we all need “power beyond what is normal” from Jehovah. We also need encouragement from one another.
4. If we want to encourage others, what counsel of the apostle Paul must we follow?
4 If we want to be encouraging to others, we must follow the counsel the apostle Paul gave to the Hebrew Christians. He said: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) How can we follow this important counsel?
“CONSIDER ONE ANOTHER”
5. What does it mean to “consider one another”? How can we do that?
5 To “consider one another” means to think about the needs of others. We will not know what the needs of our brothers are if we just greet them quickly at the Kingdom Hall or talk to them only about unimportant things. Of course, we do not want to be more curious about other people’s lives than we should be. (1 Thessalonians 4:11; 1 Timothy 5:13) But we want to try to get to know our brothers. We want to know about their situation in life, their qualities, their strengths, their weaknesses, and their feelings about the truth. They need to know that we are their friends and that we love them. We have to spend time with them, not just when they have problems and get discouraged, but at other times too.—Romans 12:13.
Our brothers need to know that we are their friends and that we love them
6. What will help an elder to “consider” those in the congregation?
6 The Bible says that elders must be willing and eager to do the work of caring for the needs of those in the congregation. (1 Peter 5:1-3) To do this work well, elders need to know their brothers and sisters. (Read Proverbs 27:23.) If the elders show that they are ready to help and that they enjoy spending time with the brothers and sisters, those in the congregation will feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it. It will also be easier for them to talk to the elders about their feelings and worries. As a result, elders will be able to give each one the help he needs.
7. What do we need to remember about the “wild talk” of those who are discouraged?
7 Paul told the congregation in Thessalonica: “Support the weak.” (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14.) “The weak” include those who are depressed and those who are discouraged. Proverbs 24:10 says: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.” If we want to support those who are deeply discouraged, we need to remember that their words may at times become “wild talk.” (Job 6:2, 3) They may say things they do not really mean. Rachelle, whose mother became seriously depressed, learned this from experience. Rachelle says: “Many times Mom would say something very hateful. Most of these times, I tried to remind myself of the kind of person Mom really is—loving, kind, and generous. I learned that depressed people say many things they do not mean. The worst thing that one can do is to return evil words or actions.” Proverbs 19:11 says: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.”
8. Who especially needs us to “confirm” our love for him, and why?
8 How can we “consider” someone who is discouraged because of a past sin? Even though he has already corrected his mistake, he may still be ashamed of what he did. Paul wrote to the Corinthian brothers about someone in their congregation who had repented of a past sin. He said: “You should kindly forgive and comfort him, that somehow such a man may not be swallowed up by his being overly sad. Therefore I exhort you to confirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2:7, 8) “To confirm” here means “to show” or “to prove.” A brother will not know that we love him and care for him unless we show it by our words and actions.
“INCITE TO LOVE AND FINE WORKS”
9. What does it mean to “incite to love and fine works”?
9 Paul wrote: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works.” We do this by helping our brothers to show love and to do what is good. To illustrate: If we want to keep a fire burning, we may need to stir the coals and fan the flames. (2 Timothy 1:6) In the same way, there are things we can do to help our brothers feel motivated to keep serving Jehovah zealously. One of the best ways of doing this is by commending our brothers for the good things they do.
10, 11. (a) Who need commendation? (b) Give an example of how commending someone can help him to do what is right.
10 All of us need commendation, whether we are discouraged or not. One brother wrote, “My father never once said I did anything well.” So as this brother grew up, he did not really feel that he did anything right. Even though he is now 50 years old, he still feels good when others tell him that he is doing a good job as an elder. Because his own experience has taught him how important it is to give encouragement, he always looks for opportunities to commend others. We feel encouraged when someone tells us that we are doing something well. This includes pioneers, elderly ones, and those who may be discouraged.—Romans 12:10.
We feel encouraged when someone tells us that we are doing something well
11 When elders try to help someone who has done something wrong, commending the person on good things he did in the past may help him to change his thinking and do what is right. (Galatians 6:1) This is what helped a sister named Miriam. She wrote: “I went through a traumatic period in my life when some close friends left the congregation and, at the same time, my father suffered a brain hemorrhage. I became very depressed.” She started a romantic relationship with someone who did not worship Jehovah. She thought that this would make her feel better. Instead, it made her feel that she did not deserve Jehovah’s love, and she thought about leaving the truth. But an elder reminded her of all she had done in Jehovah’s service and reassured her that Jehovah still loved her. As a result, her love for Jehovah was strengthened. She ended the romantic relationship she was in and continued serving Jehovah.
12. What might happen if we compare our brothers with others, criticize them, or make them feel guilty?
12 We have to be careful how we try to “incite” our brothers to keep serving God zealously. We should not compare them with others, criticize them for not following rules we have made, or make them feel guilty about not doing more. These things might make them do better for a short time, but the results will not last. The best way to “incite” our brothers is to commend them and to help them realize that love for God is the reason we want to do our best in his service.—Read Philippians 2:1-4.
‘ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER’
13. What does it mean to encourage others? (See opening picture.)
13 Finally, Paul said that we should be “encouraging one another.” We can compare encouraging others to putting fuel on a fire so that it keeps burning or burns more brightly. Encouraging our brothers means strengthening and comforting them so that they can keep serving God. When we try to help those who are discouraged, we must speak in a loving and kind way. (Proverbs 12:18) We should also “be swift about hearing” and “slow about speaking.” (James 1:19) If we listen to our brother and try to understand how he feels, we may be able to find out why he is discouraged and say something that will help him.
14. How did an elder help a discouraged brother?
14 Consider how a kind elder was able to help a brother who had been inactive for several years. As the elder listened to him, it became clear that the brother still had a deep love for Jehovah. He studied every issue of The Watchtower and was making an effort to go to meetings regularly. But some in the congregation had done things that made him feel disappointed and upset. The elder listened carefully and tried to understand the brother’s feelings without judging him and reassured him that he was loved. In time, the brother realized that he was allowing bad experiences of the past to stop him from serving the God he loved. The elder invited the brother to go out in the preaching work with him. With the elder’s help, the brother became active in the ministry and later started serving as an elder again.
15. What can we learn from Jehovah about encouraging others?
15 A discouraged person may not immediately feel better or accept our help at first. We may need to keep on supporting him for some time. Paul said: “Keep hold of the weak, be patient with everybody.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14, An American Translation) Instead of quickly giving up on the weak, let us “keep hold” of them by continuing to help them. In the past, Jehovah was patient with those of his servants who were discouraged. For example, God was very patient with Elijah and respected his feelings. He gave Elijah what he needed to continue with his service. (1 Kings 19:1-18) Another example is David. He was truly sorry for what he had done. Jehovah saw that and kindly forgave him. (Psalm 51:7, 17) God also helped the writer of Psalm 73, who almost gave up serving Him. (Psalm 73:13, 16, 17) Jehovah treats us kindly and patiently, especially when we are discouraged. (Exodus 34:6) The Bible says that Jehovah’s mercies are “new each morning,” and they “will certainly not come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:22, 23) Jehovah expects us to follow his example and treat discouraged ones kindly.
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER TO STAY ON THE ROAD TO LIFE
16, 17. As the end of this system gets closer, what must we do? Why?
16 Thirty-three thousand prisoners left Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and thousands died. But all of the 230 Witnesses of Jehovah who had left the camp survived. They could not have survived without the encouragement and support they received from one another.
17 Today, we are on “the road leading off into life.” (Matthew 7:14) Soon, all of Jehovah’s worshippers will survive into the new world of righteousness. (2 Peter 3:13) As the end of Satan’s wicked system gets closer, let us help one another to stay on the road to life.