Enduring to the End
THE way that leads to life is not an easy one. It is not for those wishing to follow the lines of least resistance. Fair-weather friends will not last long on it. It is a way being trod, not by the many, but by the few: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matt. 7:13, 14, NW.
To get on the road that leads to life we must dedicate ourselves to the service of Jehovah God and then continue therein in spite of all the opposition that the world and the Devil can bring against us. As Jesus stated: “He that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved.”—Matt. 24:13, NW.
Thereafter we have no more choice in the matter. Having put our hand to the plow we may not even look back with longing. (Luke 9:62) On the contrary, we must ever look forward and press forward, eagerly taking hold of every privilege of service that is extended to us, viewing it as an opportunity to show our love of God and our appreciation of what he has done for us. And as we accept these privileges of service, we must resolve to endure in them in spite of all the efforts of the Devil to turn us aside. There is danger in taking just a single backward step. One of such steps leads to another, and soon we are back in the world, on the broad road leading to destruction.
For wise and loving reasons Jehovah God has arranged that those in his service must weather the test of endurance. For one thing, it takes time to demonstrate that our integrity is unbreakable, to prove that we meant what we said when we dedicated ourselves to God’s service. If we grow faint and lose hope just because the time may stretch out longer than we once thought, with persecutions increasing, God will not count us worthy of everlasting life. That is why we are counseled: “For you have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.”—Heb. 10:36, NW.
JEHOVAH’S EXAMPLE OF ENDURANCE
Jehovah God has helped us to endure to the present time and he can and will continue to do so until the end of the test of endurance if we will but make use of provisions contained in his Word, the Bible. Not only does it contain striking examples of endurance and pointed admonition as to what is needed if we would endure, but to spur us on to endure it also points out the fruits of endurance.
The greatest and foremost example of endurance recorded in God’s Word, strange though the thought may seem to some, is that supplied by Jehovah God himself.
Jehovah was not compelled to give us this example of endurance, as though he could not help himself, but he chose to do so of his own free will. Instead of complaining, as some do, Why has God permitted all this wickedness? it would be far more becoming to such human creatures to ask, Why has God endured, yes, put up with, if you please, all such wickedness for the past six thousand years? He, who of all persons in the universe has been most undeserving of misrepresentation and reproach, while his unlimited power could have put a full and sudden stop to all such rebellion any time he pleased.
Truly, imperfect humans can ill afford to complain. Did not our first parents forfeit the right of existence of all their offspring? and therefore has not God’s manifestation of the endurance of wickedness resulted in mercy’s being shown to all of us? For “God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much longsuffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy”. (Rom. 9:22, 23, NW) And particularly is it true regarding our day that God’s patient endurance means salvation to many of his creatures.—2 Pet. 3:9, 15.
While God’s endurance has thus resulted in mercy’s being shown to many of fallen mankind, that has not been his chief or primary purpose for manifesting it. Satan the Devil, having succeeded in deflecting our first parents, falsely charged that God could not put on earth men and women that would remain faithful to him under pressure and temptation. Jehovah knew that that base charge was false, but to demonstrate that fact to others he had to give Satan the Devil free hand in endeavoring to prove his charge. However, when God has uncontradictably demonstrated the falsity of Satan’s charge and after he has fully demonstrated his supremacy by bringing forth his promised kingdom in spite of all the efforts of Satan and his hosts to prevent it, then God will give expression to the wrath he has restrained all this time. Then, at last, his endurance will end.
And what, eventually, will Jehovah God have to show for his having thus exercised endurance? He will have a royal family of divine creatures in heaven, consisting of 144,000 and head over them will be his firstborn Son, Christ Jesus; and a recovered and perfected human race on a paradise earth, all inheritors of everlasting life. Surely then it will be apparent to all that Jehovah’s endurance of wickedness was fully justified.
OTHER EXAMPLES OF ENDURANCE
The next great example of endurance the Bible has for us is that of Jehovah’s Son, Christ Jesus. And what an example he set for us! No wonder we are admonished, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Heb. 12:1-3, NW.
Consider also the example of Abraham, concerning whom Paul tells us: “But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For . . . after Abraham had shown patience, he obtained this promise.”—Heb. 6:11-15, NW.
Abraham was 75 years old when God first called him. He was about 125 years old when God confirmed his promise to him with an oath because of Abraham’s willingness to offer up his beloved son Isaac, at that time about 25 years of age. And then Abraham traveled in that land as a stranger for another fifty years, to die at the age of 175 years. Have we endured in God’s service for 100 years?—Gen. 22:1-18; Ps. 105:9-15; Heb. 11:8-19.
The disciple James also brings examples of endurance to our attention. “Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah. Look! we pronounce happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and compassionate.” (Jas. 5:10, 11, NW) Not just for historical purposes, but that some might also be helped in this twentieth century to uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty was the record of those faithful ones given us. If we endure as they did we too can be counted “happy”.
Nor would we overlook the example that the apostle Paul gave us. He did not seek an early release from the ministry because of hardships and trialsome experiences. He did not retire on a pension, but kept on even though an old man. (Philem. 9) He performed the duties of an apostle with “all endurance, and by signs and wonders and powerful works”.—2 Cor. 12:12, NW.
No hardship was too great for Paul to endure for the sake of the ministry. “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with; but in every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties, by beatings, by prisons, by disorders, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times without food, by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by holy spirit, by love free from hypocrisy, by truthful speech, by God’s power; through the weapons of righteousness for offense and defense, through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as deceivers and yet truthful, as being unknown and yet being recognized, as dying and yet, look! we live, as disciplined and yet not delivered to death, as sorrowing but ever rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor. 6:3-10, NW) Have we endured as many things as Paul did?
OTHER AIDS TO ENDURANCE
At times of weariness we may ask, How shall we stand up and last in this test of endurance? How? By loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, is how. If we have love we will show it by keeping his commandments. For “love is longsuffering and obliging. . . . It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails”. (1 Cor. 13:4, 7, 8; 1 John 5:3, NW) Unless it is out of love that we endure our endurance not only will be short-lived but will not count with God. But if it is out of love that we bear up under afflictions and burdens we shall be able to continue, and not only shall we continue, but it will have the effect of deepening our love for God.
Love of God will help us to avoid the snares that love of money will lead us into, which would make it impossible to endure. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains. On the other hand, you, O man of God, flee from these things. But pursue righteousness, godly devotion, faith, love, endurance, mildness of temper.”—1 Tim. 6:10, 11, NW.
Further, knowledge of the truth and the holy spirit will give us strength to endure. A person having knowledge of Jehovah God and of the great issue concerning his name and sovereignty is strong. There is a secret source of strength in our knowing for whom we are privileged to endure hardship and persecution. “Walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God, being made powerful with all power to the extent of his glorious might so as to endure fully and be longsuffering with joy.” (Col. 1:10, 11, NW) And having God’s holy spirit upon us to make up for our weaknesses we are made still stronger for keeping in God’s service with the right attitude of mind.
Another aid to endurance is joy. “The joy of Jehovah is your strength.” (Neh. 8:10, AS) Anything undergone for the sake of bringing honor to God’s name and upholding his cause is reason for joy. That is why we read that the apostles, after they had been beaten, “went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” Their rejoicing so counteracted the suffering and shame that without letup they continued to teach and to preach the good news. (Acts 5:40-42, NW) We can do likewise if we will not let our minds dwell on the physical sufferings and mental grief of the reproaches but rather on the reasons why we should be joyful.
Hope is another factor that will help us to endure. No doubt it is because of the strength that our hope gives us to endure that the Devil has his world heap so much ridicule upon it. This hope plays an important part toward our ultimate salvation, for it holds us true to our course of serving Jehovah and bears us up in the midst of afflictions. Having this hope helps us to endure and, conversely, enduring strengthens our hope. (Rom. 15:4) “For we were saved in this hope; but hope that is seen is not hope, for when a man sees a thing, does he hope for it? But if we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance.”—Rom. 8:24, 25, NW.
Because of this hope we shall be able to endure persecution. The world marvels at the way Jehovah’s witnesses seem to “thrive on persecution”. That is because it does not understand or appreciate what the apostle Paul calls to our attention at Romans 5:2-5 (NW): “Let us exult, based on hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, and the hope does not lead to disappointment; because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit which was given us.”
To endure also requires self-control. We must hold ourselves in line as good soldiers of Christ Jesus. Men striving for temporary rewards exercise self-control; how much more should we with the prize of eternal life as our goal. (1 Cor. 9:25) That self-control and endurance go hand in hand in acquiring that godly devotion which will assure us God’s approval and eventual salvation is apparent from the apostle Peter’s words: “For this very reason, by your contributing in response all painstaking effort, supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion.”—2 Pet. 1:5, 6, NW.
The parable of the sower emphasized another need or requisite for our enduring, that of faith and a right heart condition. The seed that fell on the rock ledge or stony ground withered when the heat struck it. So likewise, if our hearts are stony, that is, selfish and lacking in faith, we shall not be able to endure the heat of persecution. That is why Paul warns us: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12, NW) Then Paul goes on to show how our hearts can become hardened by the deceptive power of sin.
In direct contrast with that kind of heart is the “right soil” kind of heart which retains the truth and brings forth “fruit with endurance”, some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold and some a hundredfold.—Luke 8:15; Mark 4:20, NW.
FRUITS OF ENDURANCE
Never should we think that bearing up under the test of endurance is a waste of time; for as we continue on and bear up under things that try us changes go on in us; and if we undergo these trials in the right frame of mind and heart, the change will be for the better, resulting in God’s approval. It is therefore something to be glad about, not sad. “Consider it all joy, my brothers,” writes James, “when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance. But let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”—Jas. 1:2-4, NW.
From those words of James it is apparent that the test of endurance will not be quickly over but that we shall have trial after trial, ever causing us to exercise the right qualities and awakening new ones in us, as we lean heavily on God for wisdom and guidance. But by thus continuing we shall gain a many-sided experience and a well-rounded-out understanding of how to take things and we are matured and perfected in obedience and trust toward God. So doing we shall prove our dependability toward God and will come to be among those of whose integrity Jehovah can be sure for all eternity. If we appreciate that fact we will not shrink back from tests of endurance but will consistently enter them with all we have, confident that with God’s backing we can come off victorious.
There is yet another vital reason for enduring—it serves for the salvation of others, both in that we preach the good news of salvation to others and ourselves set an example in steadfastness. As Paul expressed it: “On this account I go on enduring all things for the sake of the chosen ones, that they, too, may obtain the salvation that is in union with Christ Jesus.”—1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:10, NW.
Seeing, then, that others stand to profit by our steadfast endurance in God’s service, we are under added obligation to keep on, never quitting. If we become quitters we shall help neither ourselves nor anyone else to salvation. But by continuing on in the service of Jehovah as his ministers, regardless of what we have to face or bear, we keep ourselves in line for salvation as well as help others in the way of salvation, both by our preaching to them and by our example.—2 Thess. 1:4.
God’s promise of everlasting life in his new world is sure. The many blessings of serving God at the present time are with us. The fact that the work of preaching the good news may stretch out farther than we once thought should not dampen our zeal and enthusiasm. So, until we see Jehovah’s war chariots wheel into action against Satan’s visible organization and make it lick the dust, may there be no quitting on our part, but rather faithful endurance at our posts of service—for the vindication of Jehovah’s name, for the salvation of others, for our own salvation.—Isa. 21:8, 9.