Are You Training Now for the Trials Ahead?
“Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.”—2 Pet. 2:9.
1, 2. (a) How serious is the world situation? (b) What is the meaning of present world events?
HUMANKIND faces extremely severe trials ahead. All the evidence points to this conclusion. The human family has reached its most critical time in history. In fact, the world situation is deteriorating so rapidly that world leaders believe that the very survival of humankind is in danger. The New York Times of January 6, 1969, reported: “The politicians and social scientists of Russia, China and America probably would agree on one thing: Unless remarkably positive steps are taken in the next five years, the chances of the world celebrating the dawn of New Year’s in the year 2,000 are far dimmer than at any moment in recorded history.”
2 When present-day events are examined in the light of the prophecies of God’s Word the Bible, the conclusion is forced upon us that these are the foretold “last days” of this system. (2 Tim. 3:1; Matt. 24:3-14) This means that we have reached the days of which the Bible prophecy speaks: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” (Dan. 2:44) The evidence in God’s Word is that this kingdom of God, the very one for which Christians have long prayed, was established in heaven in this very generation, in the year 1914. (Matt. 6:9, 10) At that time the enthroned King Jesus Christ proceeded to cleanse the heavens of the Kingdom’s angelic opposers.
3, 4. (a) What heavenly war was fought at the time of the establishment of God’s kingdom, and what was its outcome? (b) What, therefore, lies immediately ahead?
3 The Bible describes the results of this heavenly war in this way: “So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come to pass . . . the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ . . . On this account be glad, you heavens, and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.’”—Rev. 12:7-12.
4 Think of it! The Bible says that at the coming to pass of God’s kingdom in heaven Satan and his angelic forces were cast to earth. Here on earth they have been stirring up great trouble because they know their destruction is near. Has it not been apparent that the nations have been driven on madly by demonic forces since 1914? What, therefore, lies immediately ahead? There can be no doubt about it. Demon-inspired woes are certain to increase, and the Bible says that the increased wrath of the ousted Devil will be particularly directed against those “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Rev. 12:17) This means that the faith and loyalty of all Christians are certain to be tested. Severe trials of their faith lie ahead. Are you training now to meet these trials successfully? If you are, you can take comfort in the assurance: “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.”—2 Pet. 2:9.
APPRECIATE THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING
5. (a) What frame of mind should we avoid? (b) What should be our mental attitude, and why?
5 It would be foolish to conclude that somehow you are an exception, and that your faith will not be tested. The Devil would like to lull you into such a frame of mind. He does not want you to train. He would be so pleased if you would forget entirely the divine warning: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him.” (1 Pet. 5:8, 9) Yes, show yourself to be wise by heeding this divine warning. Be on guard against any thinking, regardless of its source, that would discourage you from preparing for the difficult tests of faith ahead.
6, 7. (a) What favorable circumstances existed during the last year of Jesus’ earthly ministry? (b) What shows that Jesus did not allow these circumstances to prevent him from training for the trials ahead?
6 Jesus Christ set a fine example in this connection. He did not allow favorable circumstances to lull him into thinking that he would not have to undergo severe tests of his faith. For example, consider the circumstances during the last year of his earthly ministry. Great crowds of people had come to him in the mountainous region near the Sea of Galilee. There Jesus healed their lame, crippled, blind and dumb. Also, because they had stayed with him for three days and were hungry and tired, Jesus miraculously fed the “four thousand men, besides women and young children” on just ‘seven loaves and a few fishes.’ (Matt. 15:29-39) As a result Jesus was well received by the people. In fact, not long before, after performing a similar miracle, the crowds attempted to seize him and make him king. (John 6:10-15) Yet, Jesus did not allow his favor with the people to lull him into thinking that the difficult trials foretold in the Bible would not soon come upon him.—Isa. 50:6; 53:5-12.
7 When Jesus and his disciples had traveled farther north and were near Mount Hermon, the Bible record says: “Jesus Christ commenced showing his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.” How remote such sufferings must have seemed to them! The apostle Peter, therefore, “took him aside and commenced rebuking him, saying: ‘Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.’” (Matt. 16:21, 22) How would Jesus respond? After all, Peter meant no harm in contradicting his Master. He truly loved Jesus, and did not want him to be disturbed by what then seemed such remote possibilities.
8. (a) What was Jesus’ response to Peter’s well-meaning efforts to comfort him, and why? (b) What lesson can we learn from this?
8 Jesus, however, drew no comfort from Peter’s words. In fact, he did not appreciate them at all. He knew that, if listened to, this type of talk would discourage him from training and strengthening his mind and heart for the severe trials the Scriptures foretold he was soon to face. So Jesus strongly reproved Peter, saying: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matt. 16:23) Peter did not appreciate how vital it was that Jesus brace himself up for the trials ahead. Do you today appreciate the importance of training for future tests of your faith? Do not allow what may now be calm and favorable circumstances to lull you into thinking that severe trials cannot suddenly come upon you. Do not listen to any talk that would discourage you from preparing for an all-out demon-inspired attack. Only by such preparation can you be assured of experiencing Jehovah’s deliverance out of trial.—2 Pet. 2:9.
TRIALS CAN COME SUDDENLY
9. What trialsome experiences did Jesus finally suffer, and did he faithfully endure them?
9 It was less than a year after telling his disciples what would befall him that Jesus suddenly experienced the very sufferings of which he had spoken. He was in Jerusalem, in the garden of Gethsemane, when a mob armed with clubs and swords came by night and took him into custody. That night, as he was being tried, “some started to spit on him and some to cover his whole face and hit him with their fists.” (Mark 14:65) But this was only the beginning of his ordeal. The next day Pontius Pilate had Jesus “whipped” or “scourged.” (Matt. 27:26-30; John 19:1-3) Commenting on what this might have involved, the Medical World News of October 21, 1966, observed: “The tragic pantomime of crowning Christ with thorns and the heckling of the crowd may have been accompanied by flagellation. The whip (flagrum) had several thongs ending in lead balls or sheep astragalus bones.” Finally, weakened by such brutal beating, Jesus was nailed to a torture stake and hung up to die an agonizing death. But Jesus faithfully endured. He had trained for these severe trials.
10. What did Jesus say to prepare his disciples for trials they would face?
10 Jesus wanted his disciples also to be prepared for the trials they must face. So the night before his own death he told them: “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 . . . In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 15:20; 16:33) At times these tribulations came unexpectedly and suddenly upon Jesus’ followers.
11, 12. (a) What sudden opposition did Paul and Barnabas experience in Lystra, and why was it unexpected? (b) What should we learn from this, and how did Paul seek to prepare the disciples for what lay ahead?
11 For example, there was the time that the apostle Paul and his fellow missionary Barnabas were ministering in the city of Lystra in Asia Minor. Here they were well received. In fact, after they healed a lame man, the people were so impressed that they wanted to offer sacrifices to them. However, shortly afterward, the Bible record says: “Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and persuaded the crowds, and they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, imagining he was dead.” How suddenly there was a reversal and persecution came!—Acts 14:8-19.
12 This should serve as a lesson to us today. Our Christian lives may be going along quite peacefully. The preaching work may be enjoying unusual acceptance with the people. But then something can happen and difficult trials can suddenly come upon us. We must anticipate such tests of our faith and train to meet them. The apostle Paul appreciated this, and urged his fellow Christians to do this very thing. The Bible says that after Paul’s being stoned, he and Barnabas “returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to remain in the faith and saying: ‘We must enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations.’”—Acts 14:21, 22.
13. What evidence is there that trials can come suddenly upon Christians today?
13 Do not conclude that you will escape tests of your faith. God’s Word is certain on this—all true Christians will be subjected to trials. (2 Tim. 3:12) How or in what form they will come, we do not always know. But even today they can come suddenly. For example, in the African country of Malawi in 1965 and 1966 the Christian witnesses of Jehovah were enjoying reasonably favorable conditions under which to carry on their ministerial work. But then in 1967 they were banned and vilified by the government, setting off a sudden wave of vicious persecution. Homes and meeting places were burned. Women were raped and men were tortured and killed. In recent years sudden outbreaks of persecution have also been experienced by Christians in Cameroon, the United Arab Republic, Malagasy, Equatorial Guinea and other places.
WHY GOD PERMITS TRIALS
14. What fact shows that God has good reason for permitting his people to suffer trials, so what are we wise to obtain?
14 But why, someone may inquire, does Jehovah God allow his servants to suffer trials? Why is Satan the Devil permitted to go about like a roaring lion causing so much suffering and distress? There is good reason for this. This is shown by the fact that God says, “He that is touching you [people of mine] is touching my eyeball.” (Zech. 2:8) Now think about it: Would God permit suffering upon his beloved people, which has the same painful effect upon him himself as a jab in the eyeball, if he did not have good reason for permitting it? Of course not! We are wise, therefore, to obtain a proper understanding of why God allows Satan to bring terrible suffering upon His servants.
15. Who enticed the first human pair to turn away from God, and of what challenge of his to God is there unmistakable evidence?
15 The Bible shows that an issue of universal importance between Jehovah God and Satan the Devil is involved. It reveals that, after God created the first human pair and placed them in a paradise home on earth, a mighty angelic creature intervened and by means of a slanderous lie successfully enticed them to disobey their Creator. (Gen. 3:1-6) This troublemaker thus became the Devil, or Slanderer. The Scriptures indicate that the Devil later challenged God in claiming that he could turn away from God all the yet unborn offspring of that first human pair. Unmistakable evidence to this effect is found in connection with the faithful servant of God named Job.
16. (a) As indicated in the conversation recorded in the book of Job, what is involved in the issue between Jehovah and Satan? (b) Was this issue new in Job’s day?
16 The inspired Bible record takes us into heaven itself, revealing an important conversation there. It says: “Now it came to be the day when the sons of the true God entered to take their station before Jehovah, and even Satan proceeded to enter right among them. . . . And Jehovah went on to say to Satan: ‘Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? . . . But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.”’ This shows that involved in the issue between God and Satan is the question: Will humans remain faithful to God under test? Satan obviously maintained that they would not. So to settle the matter, at least in connection with the man Job, Jehovah said to Satan: “Look! Everything that he has is in your hand.” But, regardless of the trials that Satan brought upon him, Job maintained his faith in God. He proved the Devil to be a liar, even as had faithful men before him, such as Abel, Noah, Abraham and others.—Job chapters 1 and 2; Heb. 11:4-38.
17. What has the Devil continued to attempt to do, so what questions do each one of us face?
17 Although down through the centuries the faith and endurance of God’s servants have time and again proved Satan to be a liar, Satan has refused to slow down in his insane course. He continues in his attempts to turn humans from true worship. Yet lovers of Jehovah have remained faithful to God despite whatever trials the Devil has brought upon them. Will you be able to withstand Satan’s final onslaughts just prior to his destruction by God? Will you contribute to the evidence that humans will serve Jehovah God because they truly love him? Whether you will be able to do so depends upon whether you avail yourself of important aids.
AIDS TO ENDURING TRIAL
18. (a) Why did Job’s faithfulness make Jehovah’s heart rejoice? (b) Therefore what will aid us to remain faithful to God under trial?
18 Consider, for example, how happy Jehovah God must have been with the course taken by faithful Job. Satan had said, in effect, that nobody would keep integrity to God under trial. Yet, Job’s course of life was testifying before the entire universe, ‘You are a low-down liar, Satan, for until I die I’ll remain faithful to God!’ (Jas. 5:11) How happy Jehovah is when persons like Job faithfully serve Him and thus prove his Adversary a liar! This is indicated by God’s loving appeal: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) So consider the privilege you have of making Jehovah’s heart glad! Your faithfulness to Him under trial will add to the “reply” he can make to his taunter Satan the Devil. Your remembering this will serve as an invaluable aid to you to endure trial.
19. Keeping what else in mind will aid us to endure trials?
19 Another important aid to enduring trial is to consider its temporary nature. Really, the trial does not amount to anything in comparison with the blessings with which God will reward his faithful servants. (Rom. 8:18) Although Job suffered terribly at the hands of Satan, the Bible record says: “As for Jehovah, he blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12) And of even greater importance, Job’s faithfulness assured for him the blessing of a resurrection from the dead to enjoy eternal life. How wise, therefore, it is to serve God faithfully! The Bible explains: “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.”—Jas. 1:12; Matt. 5:10-12.
20. (a) Are the trials we may undergo different from those experienced by other Christians? (b) How can considering the experiences of others aid us to endure trial?
20 Still another important aid to enduring trial is to consider the faithful endurance of your Christian brothers throughout the world. On occasion a person may think that his trials are unique, that no one has experienced exactly the same difficulties he is undergoing. But the Bible says: “Take your stand against him [Satan the Devil], solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9) Yes, “the same things in the way of sufferings” are befalling your fellow Christians elsewhere. You can read about this in the annual Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But since others are taking their stand faithfully against Satan under such suffering, you can too. Remembering this will help you to endure trial.
TRAINING NECESSARY TO ENDURE TRIAL
21. What part does prayer play in training for the trials ahead?
21 Besides availing yourself of these aids, it is absolutely necessary that you train for the trials ahead by keeping in close communication with Jehovah God by means of prayer. The Bible urges: “Persevere in prayer.” “Pray incessantly.” (Rom. 12:12; 1 Thess. 5:17) Just as a soldier in battle should keep in communication with his superior officer, so too Christians need always to go to God for direction and strength. Jesus encouraged his followers to pray to God: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.”—Matt. 6:13.
22. How does God answer the prayer ‘not to be brought into temptation but to be delivered from the wicked one’?
22 However, this does not mean that after praying you can simply sit back and wait for deliverance. More is required if you are successfully to endure trial. This is evidenced from the way in which God answers that prayer, “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” God does this principally in two ways. First, by giving forewarning through his Word concerning the way Satan operates. Thus, you can know what to expect from Satan in the way of trials. Being forewarned, you are forearmed. (2 Cor. 2:11) And secondly, Jehovah answers that prayer by strengthening his servants by means of his Word. This enables them to endure the trials that God permits Satan to bring.
23. What must be included in our training for the trials ahead?
23 How clear it is, therefore, that your training for the trials ahead must include study of God’s Word the Bible! This study is necessary in order to be properly forewarned and strengthened. But in addition your training must also include regular association with God’s people in congregational meetings. Here at these meetings you receive God’s spirit, and here you can receive loving help and strengthening from God’s visible organization. (Matt. 18:20) You cannot isolate yourself, for as the Bible says: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”—Prov. 18:1.
24. What grand promise do we have from Jehovah, but does this promise apply to everyone?
24 If you avail yourself of these provisions of Jehovah God for your strengthening—His Word, His Spirit and His Organization—what a grand assurance you have! Note the promise that is given in the Bible: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) Yes, no matter how great the temptation or trial may be, Jehovah will make it possible for his servants to endure it faithfully. What a wonderful assurance! But remember, this promise does not apply to everyone. It applies only to those that avail themselves of God’s provisions for their strengthening. If you do not keep in regular communication with Jehovah God by means of prayer, and if you do not regularly study God’s Word and attend congregational meetings with his people, you simply cannot expect Jehovah to make the way out for you when you are tempted. Surely this should impress the vital importance of proper training now for the trials ahead!
25. What modern-day examples do we have to show how Jehovah can help his servants endure trial?
25 To illustrate how Jehovah can make the way out for those who have availed themselves of his provisions, consider the example of God’s servants in the United Arab Republic. They were beaten on the bottoms of their feet and on their backs because they refused to share in activities that would violate their Christian neutrality. But one wrote: “While I was lying on the ground being beaten I was praying to Jehovah to help me endure this torture. I was very happy because Jehovah, the Almighty God, helped me.” Another Witness wrote: “Regardless of the amount of insulting and beatings that we received, a few seconds would pass and we would not feel anything more even though the beatings continued. We were feeling that Jehovah God was always with us.” How marvelously Jehovah can make the way out! Just as he delivered tormented Lot long ago, so Jehovah has proved time and again today that he “knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial.”—2 Pet. 2:6-9.
26. What is it absolutely essential that we do now?
26 Your faith, too, is certain to be tested. This is so because Satan the Devil knows his end is near and he will bring trials upon you in an effort to turn you from God’s service. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that you avail yourself of God’s provisions for your strengthening by praying to God regularly, by studying his Word, and by meeting regularly with his organization of people. In this way you will obtain Jehovah’s approval and will successfully endure any trial that may come upon you.
[Picture on page 110]
Jesus’ betrayal and arrest came suddenly, but he had prepared for the trials ahead of him and faithfully endured.