THE disciple James wrote: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (Jas. 4:8) Yes, Jehovah is not too lofty nor too far removed to hear our expressions to him, despite our imperfections. (Acts 17:27) How can we draw close to God? We can do this by building a close personal relationship with Jehovah that includes earnest prayer. (Ps. 39:12) We can also cultivate intimacy with God by regularly studying his Word, the Bible. In this way, we get to know Jehovah God, his purposes, and his will for us. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Thus, we learn to love him and develop a wholesome fear of displeasing him.—Ps. 25:14.
2 Closeness with Jehovah, however, is possible only through his Son, Jesus. (John 17:3; Rom. 5:10) No human could ever give us better insight into the mind of Jehovah than Jesus did. He was so intimately acquainted with his Father that he could say: “No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” (Luke 10:22) So when we study the Gospels to learn about the way Jesus thought and felt, we are, in effect, learning how Jehovah thinks and feels. Such knowledge enables us to draw closer to our God.
3 Under the headship of God’s Son, we cultivate intimacy with Jehovah by staying close to the visible channel that helps us learn how to do God’s will. As foretold at Matthew 24:45-47, the Master, Jesus Christ, has appointed “the faithful and discreet slave” to provide “food at the proper time” for the household of faith. Today, the faithful slave supplies us with an abundance of spiritual food. Through this channel, Jehovah counsels us to read his Word daily, to attend our Christian meetings regularly, and to have a meaningful share in preaching the “good news of the Kingdom.” (Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20; Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:1-3) Never would we want to have a fleshly viewpoint of the faithful slave. We should endeavor to stay close to the visible part of Jehovah’s organization and respond to its direction. This will draw us closer to our God, Jehovah, and will serve to strengthen and protect us despite trials.
WHY TRIALS ARE INCREASING
4 Perhaps you have been in the truth for many years. If so, you certainly know what it means to endure tests of integrity. But even if you have only recently come to know Jehovah and associate with his people, you are aware that Satan the Devil opposes anyone who submits to Jehovah’s sovereignty. (2 Tim. 3:12) So whether you have endured little or much, there is no reason for you to become fearful or discouraged. Jehovah promises that he will sustain you and reward you with deliverance and future life.—Heb. 13:5, 6; Rev. 2:10.
5 All of us may yet be subjected to trials during these remaining days of Satan’s system. Ever since God’s Kingdom was established in 1914, Satan has not been permitted access to Jehovah’s heavens. He was hurled down to the earth, where he and his wicked angels are confined. The increased woe on the earth, including the intensified persecution of Jehovah’s dedicated servants, is a result of Satan’s anger and is proof that we are living in the last days of his wicked rule over mankind.—Rev. 12:1-12.
6 Infuriated by his debased condition, Satan knows that his time is short. With his demons, he makes every effort to interfere with the Kingdom-preaching work and to destroy the unity of Jehovah’s servants. This puts us at the battle lines of the spiritual warfare described as “a struggle, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” If we are to come off victorious on Jehovah’s side, we must not let up in the fight but keep our spiritual armor intact. We must “stand firm against the crafty acts” of the Devil. (Eph. 6:10-17) This calls for endurance on our part.
7 Endurance means “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity.” In a spiritual sense, endurance refers to a quality of firmness in doing what is right in the face of hardship, opposition, persecution, or any other factor designed to turn us away from our course of integrity to God. Christian endurance must be cultivated. This takes time. Our ability to endure increases as we make spiritual progress. By enduring minor tests of our faith that come at the beginning of our Christian course, we become stronger, able to endure more difficult trials that are sure to come. (Luke 16:10) We cannot afford to wait until major trials come along before making it our determination to stand firm in the faith. Our firm decision must be made before the test comes. Pointing out that endurance is to be cultivated along with other godly qualities, the apostle Peter wrote: “Put forth all earnest effort to supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.”—2 Pet. 1:5-7; 1 Tim. 6:11.
Our endurance is built up day by day as we face and overcome trials
8 The importance of cultivating endurance is called to our attention by James in his letter: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith produces endurance. But let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (Jas. 1:2-4) James says that Christians should welcome trials and be joyful about them because they help us to produce endurance. Have you looked at matters that way? Then James shows that endurance itself has a work to perform in perfecting our Christian personality and making us fully acceptable to God. Yes, our endurance is built up day by day as we face and overcome trials. Endurance, in turn, produces other desirable qualities that we need.
9 Our endurance is pleasing to Jehovah; it will move him to grant us the reward of everlasting life. James further stated: “Happy is the man who keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving Him.” (Jas. 1:12) Yes, it is with life in view that we endure. Without endurance, we cannot stay in the truth. If we succumb to worldly pressures, we will be forced back into the world. Without endurance, we will not continue to have Jehovah’s spirit and therefore we will not produce its fruitage in our life.
10 If we are to keep on enduring in these difficult times, we need to cultivate the proper attitude toward suffering as Christians. Recall that James wrote: “Consider it all joy.” That may not be easy to do, inasmuch as physical suffering or mental anguish may be involved. But remember that future life is at stake. An experience of the apostles helps us to see how we can rejoice during sufferings. The account is found in the book of Acts, and it reads: “They summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking on the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go. So they went out from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” (Acts 5:40, 41) The apostles understood that their suffering was proof that they had been obedient to Jesus’ command and that they had received Jehovah’s approval. Years later, when writing his first inspired letter, Peter commented on the value of such suffering for righteousness’ sake.—1 Pet. 4:12-16.
11 Another experience involves Paul and Silas. When carrying on their missionary work in Philippi, they were arrested and charged with disturbing the city and proclaiming unlawful customs. As a result, they were severely beaten and thrown into prison. The Bible account tells us that while they were yet in prison with their wounds unattended, “about the middle of the night, Paul and Silas were praying and praising God with song, and the prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:16-25) Paul and his companion rightly viewed their sufferings for Christ not only as evidence of their own integrity before God and men but also as a means of giving a further witness to those who might be inclined to listen to the good news. The life of others was involved. That very night, the jailer and his household listened and became disciples. (Acts 16:26-34) Paul and Silas trusted in Jehovah, in his power, and in his willingness to sustain them in their sufferings. They were not disappointed.
12 Today, too, Jehovah has provided all that we need to sustain us during times of trial. He wants us to endure. He has given us his inspired Word to equip us with accurate knowledge concerning his purpose. This builds up our faith. We have the opportunity to associate with fellow believers and to render sacred service. We also have the privilege of maintaining close association with Jehovah himself through prayer. He listens to our expressions of praise and our earnest requests for help to keep a clean standing before him. (Phil. 4:13) And not to be overlooked is the strength derived from contemplating the hope set before us.—Matt. 24:13; Heb. 6:18; Rev. 21:1-4.
ENDURING VARIOUS TRIALS
13 The trials we face today are much like those faced by the early disciples of Jesus Christ. In modern times, Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered verbal and physical abuse at the hands of misinformed opposers. Just as in the days of the apostles, much of the opposition is instigated by religious fanatics whose false teachings and practices are exposed in God’s Word. (Acts 17:5-9, 13) At times, Jehovah’s people have found relief by claiming legal rights that are guaranteed by political governments. (Acts 22:25; 25:11) However, rulers have also imposed official bans on our work, endeavoring to put an end to our Christian ministry. (Ps. 2:1-3) Under such circumstances, we boldly follow the example of the faithful apostles, who said: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
14 As the spirit of nationalism intensifies throughout the earth, greater pressures are put on preachers of the good news to abandon their God-given ministry. All of God’s servants appreciate more fully the warning found at Revelation 14:9-12 concerning the worship of “the wild beast and its image.” We realize the significance of John’s words: “Here is where it calls for endurance on the part of the holy ones, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus.”
15 Tests that come because of wars, revolutions, or outright persecution and official bans may make it impossible for you to carry on Christian worship openly. You may not be able to meet as a congregation. Contact with the branch office may be cut off. Visits by circuit overseers may be interrupted. Publications may not arrive. If any of these things happen, what should you do?
16 The answer is, do whatever you can and as much as you can under the circumstances. Personal study should be possible. Small groups can usually meet for study in private homes. Publications studied in the past and the Bible itself can be used as a basis for meetings. Do not worry or get excited. The Governing Body will generally be able to establish some form of communication with responsible brothers in a short time.
17 Even if you do find yourself isolated from all your Christian brothers, keep in mind that you are not isolated from Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ. Your hope can remain firm. Jehovah can still hear your prayers, and he can strengthen you with his spirit. Look to him for guidance. Remember that you are a servant of Jehovah and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Therefore, make good use of opportunities to witness. Jehovah will bless your efforts, and others may soon join you in true worship.—Acts 4:13-31; 5:27-42; Phil. 1:27-30; 4:6, 7; 2 Tim. 4:16-18.
18 If, however, like the apostles and others, you are faced with the very threat of death, put your trust in “the God who raises up the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:8-10) Your faith in his provision of the resurrection can help you to endure even the most severe opposition. (Luke 21:19) Christ Jesus set the example; he knew that his faithfulness under test would strengthen others to endure. You can be a source of strength to your brothers in a similar way.—John 16:33; Heb. 12:2, 3; 1 Pet. 2:21.
19 Besides persecution and opposition, you may have to endure other difficult situations. For example, some have become discouraged because of the apathy of people in their territory. Others have had to cope with their own physical or emotional illnesses or have had to endure limitations imposed by human frailty. The apostle Paul likewise had to endure a trial of some sort that interfered with his service or made it difficult at times. (2 Cor. 12:7) Also, Epaphroditus, a first-century Christian from Philippi, became “depressed because [his friends] heard he had fallen sick.” (Phil. 2:25-27) Our human imperfections and those of others may pose problems particularly difficult to endure. There may be personality conflicts with fellow Christians or even within one’s family. But such obstacles can be endured successfully and can be overcome by those who adhere to the counsel of Jehovah’s Word.—Ezek. 2:3-5; 1 Cor. 9:27; 13:8; Col. 3:12-14; 1 Pet. 4:8.
DETERMINED TO REMAIN FAITHFUL
20 We must hold fast to the one whom Jehovah has appointed as Head of the congregation, Jesus Christ. (Col. 2:18, 19) We need to work closely with “the faithful and discreet slave” and those appointed as overseers. (Heb. 13:7, 17) By adhering closely to theocratic arrangements and cooperating with those taking the lead, we will be organized to do Jehovah’s will. We need to make full use of the privilege of prayer. Remember, not even prison walls or solitary confinement can cut off our communication with our loving heavenly Father or disrupt the unity we have with fellow worshippers.
21 With determination and endurance, let us do all we can to carry out our commission to preach, persevering in the work the resurrected Jesus Christ set out for his followers to do: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Like Jesus, let us endure. May we keep the Kingdom hope and the prospect of everlasting life clearly before us. (Heb. 12:2) As baptized disciples of Christ, we have the privilege of sharing in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy regarding “the conclusion of the system of things.” He said: “This good news of the Kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:3, 14) If we apply ourselves wholeheartedly to that work during this time, we will have the joy of entering into an eternity of life in Jehovah’s righteous new world!