“You Have Need of Endurance”
1. (a) Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses truly happy people? (b) But what counsel at Hebrews 10:36 applies to all of us?
THOSE who have made Jehovah their confidence are the most genuinely happy people on earth today. They know where the very best counsel on how to cope with problems of life can be found—in God’s own Word. They are not fearful as they look to the future, because they know what God’s purpose is for this earth. (Jeremiah 17:7, 8; Psalm 46:1, 2) Nevertheless, the apostle Paul wrote to fellow Christians: “You have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36) What is it that gives rise to this need for endurance?
2. Why would Jesus’ disciples need endurance?
2 Before his own death, Jesus alerted his apostles to what lay ahead, saying: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also. But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him that sent me.” (John 15:19-21) How true that has proved to be!
3. (a) How is it ‘on account of Jesus’ name’ that his disciples are persecuted? (b) In what sense do persecutors “not know” the One who sent Jesus? (c) Who is chiefly responsible for the persecution?
3 Jesus’ followers are objects of hostility because they live in the midst of a world that rejects what real Christianity represents. Christ means “Anointed One.” Jesus Christ is the one anointed by Jehovah to be King, ruling the entire earth. Thus when Jesus said that his disciples would be persecuted ‘on account of his name,’ he meant that the persecution would be because of their adhering to him as Jehovah’s Messianic King, because of their obeying Christ ahead of any earthly ruler, because of their loyally adhering to his Kingdom and not becoming involved in the affairs of human governments. Jesus added that the opposition would be because the persecutors “do not know him that sent me”—that is, they refuse to recognize Jehovah God as Universal Sovereign. (Compare Exodus 5:2.) Who is the chief instigator of this persecution? Satan the Devil.—Revelation 2:10.
4. (a) How does the fulfillment of Revelation 12:17 affect our lives? (b) What is Satan’s objective?
4 Especially since Satan was cast out of heaven following the birth of Jehovah’s Messianic Kingdom in 1914, the pressure upon true Christians has intensified. Do not underestimate it. There is all-out warfare on the part of the Devil and his demons against all who have taken their stand on the side of God’s Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ. Concerning this, Revelation 12:17 states: “And the dragon [Satan the Devil] grew wrathful at the woman [God’s heavenly wifelike organization], and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her seed [the spirit-anointed followers of Christ on earth], who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” The “other sheep,” too, find themselves in the thick of the fight. By cunning means, Satan endeavors to entice or force them to quit obeying the commandments of God. He wants to weaken and then completely destroy their spirituality. His objective is to silence the proclamation regarding Jesus as Jehovah’s Messianic King. But in this spiritual warfare loyal servants of God are coming off victorious.
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS REACT?
5. What actions have governments taken against Jehovah’s Witnesses?
5 Many government officials recognize that Jehovah’s Witnesses are law-abiding persons and that they exercise a wholesome influence in the community. Nevertheless, all human governments are part of Satan’s world system of things. (1 John 5:19; Revelation 13:2) So it should come as no surprise when some governments prohibit the meetings of those who worship the true God, ban their Bible literature, forbid their preaching about God’s Kingdom, yes, even imprison and physically abuse them. If you personally come under such pressure, what will you do?
6. (a) What attitude should we have toward government officials? (b) But what are we firmly resolved to do? (c) Even though persecuted, how can we continue to be happy?
6 The apostles of Jesus Christ were respectful of government officials. When persecuted, they did not retaliate. But when ordered to stop doing what God commanded, they firmly replied: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29; Romans 12:19; 1 Peter 3:15) Even when their lives were threatened, fear of death did not make them compromise. They knew they were serving “the God who raises up the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9; Hebrews 2:14, 15) Though persecuted, they were happy—happy because they knew they were pleasing God, happy to have the opportunity to share in the vindication of his name and to prove their loyalty to his anointed King. (Acts 5:41, 42; Matthew 5:11, 12) Is that the kind of person you are? Do you openly identify yourself with those who are undergoing such experiences? Eʹbed-melʹech was one who did not fearfully hold back. Who was he?
7. (a) Who was Eʹbed-melʹech, and why is he of interest to us now? (b) When he heard that Jeremiah had been thrown into a miry cistern, what action did Eʹbed-melʹech take, and why?
7 Eʹbed-melʹech was a God-fearing Ethiopian who lived in Jerusalem during the period leading up to its destruction by the Babylonians. He was employed in the household of King Zedekiah. At that time Jeremiah was serving as a prophet of Jehovah to the Kingdom of Judah and surrounding nations. Because he uncompromisingly delivered God’s message of warning, he became an object of intense persecution. At the instigation of certain princes in Jerusalem, he was even thrown into a cistern to sink into the mire and die. Although Eʹbed-melʹech was a non-Israelite, he recognized Jeremiah as being Jehovah’s prophet. Upon hearing what had been done, Eʹbed-melʹech promptly sought out the king at the gate of the city to intercede on Jeremiah’s behalf. Acting on the king’s orders, he quickly got 30 men, as well as ropes and old rags. He directed Jeremiah to put the rags under his armpits to ease chafing from the ropes, and then they hoisted the prophet out of the cistern.—Jeremiah 38:4-13.
8. What reassuring promise did Jehovah send to Eʹbed-melʹech, and why?
8 Eʹbed-melʹech was understandably worried about what the princes might do to him because of his frustrating their plot, but his concern was outweighed by his respect for Jehovah’s prophet and his own trust in God. As a result, Jehovah assured Eʹbed-melʹech through Jeremiah: “‘Here I am bringing true my words upon this city for calamity and not for good, and they will certainly happen before you in that day. And I will deliver you in that day,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and you will not be given into the hand of the men of whom you yourself are scared. For I shall without fail furnish you an escape, and by the sword you will not fall; and you will certainly come to have your soul as a spoil, because you have trusted in me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”—Jeremiah 39:16-18.
9. (a) How have the “other sheep” been like Eʹbed-melʹech? (b) So, what does Jehovah’s promise to Eʹbed-melʹech mean to the “other sheep” today?
9 How precious that promise is to Jehovah’s servants today! Like Eʹbed-melʹech, the “other sheep” see the injustices done to the modern-day Jeremiah class, the anointed remnant, and the efforts made to stop their preaching of Jehovah’s message. They have not hesitated to take whatever action they could to safeguard and support the anointed class. Rightly, therefore, Jehovah’s promise to Eʹbed-melʹech strengthens them, fortifying their confidence that God will not allow opposers to destroy them but that He will preserve them as a class through the impending world destruction into His righteous “new earth.”
10. In what areas of life do Christians experience persecution?
10 Not all who walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ are threatened with imprisonment, but all do experience persecution in one way or another. (2 Timothy 3:12) Thousands of Christian wives, and husbands, have for many years faithfully endured intense opposition right in their own homes. Children, too, because of their desire to serve Jehovah, have been disowned by parents. (Matthew 10:36-38) Christian youths may also encounter persecution at school; older persons, at their places of employment. All of Jehovah’s Witnesses get a taste of it as they share in witnessing publicly about God’s Kingdom. To all such, Jesus’ words apply: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.”—Luke 21:19.
11. (a) What other situations present a severe test to many? (b) Who else experienced these things, and why?
11 For not a few, there are other situations that put them to the test. They may have a serious illness, one that robs life of much of its joy. Or, perhaps they are confronted with very difficult economic conditions. It may be that, at times, the comments of close companions are unfair and unkind. In the case of the patriarch Job, Satan used all these means in an effort to break his integrity. How will we react if we find ourselves in similar situations?—James 5:11.
12. (a) Why did Noah especially need endurance in his ministry? (b) How has the situation been similar in our day?
12 On the other hand, what if we personally find very little favorable response to our efforts to witness about Jehovah’s purposes? That, too, calls for endurance. Remember, during all the years that Noah preached before the Flood, only his wife and sons and their wives joined him in serving Jehovah. All the rest of mankind “took no note.” (Matthew 24:39) Similarly, today, the majority ‘take no note.’ In some areas, however, where once there was little favorable response to the Kingdom message, now there is an abundant harvest of worshipers of the true God. Happy are those who endured the years of indifference or outright opposition and are now sharing in this splendid ingathering!
‘HAPPY THOSE WHO KEEP ON ENDURING’
13. (a) To keep on enduring, what must we keep in focus? (b) What do we need to recognize as to Satan’s methods?
13 To avoid losing out on the marvelous prospect of life in the “new earth,” it is vital to keep clearly in focus the great issue confronting all creation—the issue of universal sovereignty. Are we uncompromisingly on Jehovah’s side? Do we fully appreciate that there are only two sides, that there is no middle ground? If we are not going to be casualties in this war, we need to recognize that both hostility and enticement are methods used by Satan to break our integrity, to cause us to quit obeying God, to turn us aside from the vital work of bearing witness to the Messianic Kingdom.—1 Peter 5:8, 9; Mark 4:17-19.
14. (a) What relationship must we cultivate, and with whom? (b) How will he help us?
14 We must also cultivate complete reliance on Jehovah. How foolish it would be to try in our own strength alone to avoid the subtle snares of a superhuman foe! But if we trust in Jehovah with all our heart, then when we undergo hardship and face temptation we will draw closer to him. (Ephesians 6:10, 11; Proverbs 3:5, 6) Jehovah does not force us to go in a certain way. He will not lead us against our will. But if we turn to his Word for guidance, pray to him for strength and stay close to his organization, he will direct our steps. And he will fortify us with renewed evidence of his own unfailing love.—Romans 8:38, 39.
15. (a) Who should come first in our lives? (b) How should we view situations that test our faith?
15 The hardships and temptations that you undergo will put you to the test. Whom do you put first in your life? Satan’s contention is that all of us are mainly concerned about self. Most people are like that. Jesus Christ was different. Are you? Have you learned to put first the magnifying of Jehovah’s name? If so, then, instead of evading situations that test your faith, you will be able to meet them squarely, praying to Jehovah to give you the wisdom to use these to honor him. The tribulation that you undergo will produce endurance; endurance because of your love for Jehovah will call forth his approval. “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.”—James 1:2-4, 12; Romans 5:3, 4.
16. What goal should we be reaching out to attain?
16 It is not enough merely to start out in Jehovah’s service or to endure for a short while. We are in a race, and the prize goes to those who cross the finish line. Happy will all those be who are still exerting themselves with their eyes firmly fixed on the prize when this old system crashes in ruins! What glorious prospects then await them!—Hebrews 12:1-3; Matthew 24:13.