How to Stand Firm in This Time of the End
“Behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ . . . Standing firm . . . for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents.”—Phil. 1:27, 28.
1. (a) What circumstance has existed ever since the first couple sinner, and who are involved? (b) How is Jehovah maneuvering matters, and what will be accomplished?
EVER since the day that Adam and Eve bit into the forbidden fruit, mankind has been under pressure from Satan the Devil. This is because, from that day on, bitter warfare has existed between Jehovah God and this wicked adversary. (Gen. 3:15) It has been a warfare that has increased in intensity down through the centuries. And today it is rapidly reaching its climax. Every man is involved in it, especially the servants of Jehovah, for they are targets of the Devil and his demons. If you are one of God’s servants, you know how true this is. Also you should know that, very soon, a great attack upon Jehovah’s people will be launched by these wicked ones. This was foretold by Ezekiel in these words: “And you [Satan] will be bound to come up against my people Israel [Jehovah’s witnesses], like clouds to cover the land. In the final part of the days it will occur, and I shall certainly bring you against my land, for the purpose that the nations may know me when I sanctify myself in you before their eyes.”—Ezek. 38:16.
2. What should Christians do now for protection?
2 How urgent, very urgent, it is that we draw close to Jehovah God and grow in awareness of our dependence upon him for protection in all circumstances of our daily lives. We should do this, just as a young animal keeps very close to its mother for protection when some lurking foe is near. And, as for us Christians, our lurking foe is a “roaring lion, seeking to devour” by destroying our spirituality or by breaking our integrity to God. (1 Pet. 5:8) We need to appreciate the need to draw close to Jehovah, our heavenly Protector.
3. What arrangement has Jehovah made for keeping Christians spiritually strong, and what admonition does Paul give in his letter to the Hebrews?
3 Through Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave” organization God has provided a very helpful and balanced diet to make us spiritually strong. (Matt. 24:45-47) Think of it! Five spiritual ‘meals’ are scheduled every week in each of more than 27,100 congregations world wide. It is not only important, but imperative, that we let nothing interfere with our conforming to this meeting arrangement. Paul, in his admonition to the Hebrews, mentioned that we should “hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering” and “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.” Notice that the apostle was strongly admonishing the Christians nineteen hundred years ago not to neglect the association with the congregation, especially in our day, “as you behold the day drawing near.” This coming together for taking in spiritual nourishment is far more urgent for our existence than our regular three meals that we eat daily for physical sustenance.—Heb. 10:23-25.
4. Besides attending meetings, what else should we do that will be very beneficial to us? Why?
4 Not only is it beneficial to attend all meetings for Bible study, but, more importantly, we should participate in them. Of course, participation means preparation. In this respect, have you ever noticed which paragraph in the Watchtower lesson you remember more readily? Is it not the one, or ones, that you yourself commented on? The reason is that this paragraph receives so much more consideration. You have studied and meditated on it, thereby making it possible to comment well. Further, you have related it verbally. You have actually trained your mind on the thought of the material in that paragraph far more than the others. The same is true of the scriptures that are cited in the paragraph. The information is retained to a far greater degree when you look up the cited scriptures. The reason is that you have taken the time to read them and analyze the association with the subject under consideration. This is most helpful in aiding you to remember the information and making it your own, besides improving your comprehension of the subject.
5. How important is personal study?
5 Regular personal study of the Bible is very necessary, and we should do this just as diligently as we attend meetings. For example, if you set a certain time aside for studying, maybe only a fifteen- or twenty-minute period at a time, do not let other things interfere with this schedule. This spiritual nourishment fortifies us to cope with daily problems: at work, in the home, and in the field ministry. Furthermore, it helps us to avoid many problems by applying Bible principles and laws with which we have become familiar through our Bible reading. Thus we know how to use the wisdom gleaned from God’s Word. (Prov. 2:10, 11) Bear in mind at all times that there is a single source from which we can procure spiritual strength, and that is Jehovah. Beyond this, we can accomplish nothing without His spirit.
6. May we ask, and expect answers prayers? What are requirements for favorable hearing of prayers?
6 Have you ever wondered about or thought of Jehovah’s condescension in his even permitting us to talk to him? In fact, in his deference to us, he acknowledges our petitions for guidance and direction. The disclosure of this is drawn to our attention at Luke 11:10-13, For “to everyone knocking it will be opened. . . . If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” How comforting it is to know that we can approach Jehovah and obtain direction through his holy spirit and his written Word! In a further statement given under inspiration to John, God again taught us that he will hear our words, no matter what we are asking according to his will. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us . . . if we know he hears us respecting whatever we are asking, we know we are to have the things asked since we have asked them of him.” (1 John 5:14, 15) It is most gratifying to know that we may expect him to grant our requests as long as these concur with his will.
7. May we expect Jehovah to grant forgiveness of mistakes and sins?
7 If we have erred, inasmuch as we all make mistakes, does not the above include our petitioning Jehovah for forgiveness? Should we not then acknowledge that He will forgive our sins? If not, then why pray? How genuinely comforting it is then to know that he does listen to our prayers and that he will pardon our transgressions.
8. (a) Whose help may we seek to aid us to carry out assignments? (b) What healthful pattern for prayer did Jesus give the disciples? (c) Is it in order to ask Jehovah’s help and direction when facing trials?
8 Whenever we are presented an assignment from Jehovah, through his organization, which may seem difficult or which we may even consider beyond us to accomplish it, instead of rejecting such privileges would it not be better to pray for Jehovah’s help first? Most assuredly so! He listens to our prayers and petitions—“the prayer of the righteous ones he hears.” (Prov. 15:29) He invites us to make requests of him—“let your petitions be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) Why not pray daily? Jesus advises us to do so in these words, “Give us today our bread for this day,” and to make other requests. (Matt. 6:9-13) This sets a very healthful, spiritual pattern. Prayer is a channel that we may use to talk with the great Creator, Jehovah. We should have every confidence that he will aid us and strengthen us under all circumstances and situations. We should then be happy when we endure trials on behalf of his name and on behalf of our commission as ministers, just as James states, “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.” When we come under strained circumstances we should remember that it is not Jehovah that tries us, because we are told that “with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.”—Jas. 1:12, 13.
OUR PATTERN OF THOUGHT
9. How important is our thought pattern, and what should be uppermost in all our thoughts?
9 We are all familiar with the proverb, “As a man thinks, so is he.” Obviously, then, the proper thoughts with which to fill our minds are those essential for eternal life. Should not, then, our attention be focused upon the Kingdom hope Jehovah has set before us? Then the thing to do is carefully to guard our Kingdom interests and make them our personal desires. This is also in conformity with Jesus’ words, when he said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) This was of utmost importance in Jesus’ life. He admonished his followers to think similarly nineteen hundred years ago, and the same is applicable for us now.
10. (a) What is required of us to stand firm in conjunction with the ministry? What may we expect at times? (b) Are we to preach only under favorable conditions?
10 With the Kingdom first in our thoughts, we will think about the Kingdom and the hope ahead, and thereby be strengthened. This will take our minds off ourselves when encountering confinement, enduring persecution, hardship or pain. This is essential to us if we are to stand firm and maintain integrity to Jehovah. Standing firm in true worship when our Christian ministry is questioned or jeopardized is obligatory. (Eccl. 12:13) We can expect governmental authorities to prohibit our preaching the good news of God’s kingdom, or to try to intimidate us as they are already doing in some lands. Should this cause us to abandon our ministerial work? Our conclusion should be the same as that of the apostles Peter and John when they were ordered to quit preaching in Jerusalem. They were commanded to preach no more in the name of Jesus. They were even beaten before they were released. This did not turn them away from their faithful course. Instead, they were “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 5:40-42) The apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy also draws to our attention the Christian’s position in regard to pure worship: “Preach the word, be at it urgently in favorable season, in troublesome season, . . . do the work of an evangelizer.” (2 Tim. 4:2, 5) This, too, shows us that the Christian is to continue standing firm regardless of whether forbidden to carry on this ministerial work or not. Jehovah’s witnesses will preach in ‘troublesome’ circumstances as well as under favorable ones.
11. What particular counsel did Jesus give where hazardous situations may exist?
11 However, under hazardous situations, caution should be exercised as to the best manner in which one should carry on one’s ministry. Discretion in this respect was shown by Jesus’ words too when he advised, “I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16) Yes, it is necessary not only to be innocent of wrongdoing and of compromising one’s Christian stand before Jehovah, but in some instances also to be shrewd.
12. (a) Will Christians discontinue ‘meeting together’ if banned or if forbidden by officials? (b) What precautionary measures may be used?
12 When faced with opposition, or even being banned, spiritual nourishment for spiritual health is important. Paul’s counsel is ever applicable: ‘Forsake not the gathering of yourselves together.’ Obviously it may not be permissible to meet in large congregations as we have the opportunity to do under conditions of freedom. When this is not possible, we should be comforted by the words of Jesus, “where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20) This strongly highlights the advisability of meeting even in small groups, perhaps in private homes. In addition, when attending such meetings, it may be advisable to arrive at the meeting location singly or in twos in order to avoid suspicion. The importance of meeting together has proved to be essential under difficult conditions as well as under good conditions. It may also be well to dispense with singing of songs so as not to attract attention.
13, 14. (a) How may Christians continue spiritually healthy if they have no new Bible literature? (b) What should one do if isolated or incarcerated?
13 What about literature? Supposing you have no new Bible literature? Would it not be appropriate and proper to study whatever you have available? If you have no Bible study aids, rejoice in having the Bible itself. If you do not have the Bible, then Christians will still meet together to discuss the truths of the Bible that each one remembers, in order to refresh and stimulate their minds. The apostle Peter wrote, “I am arousing your clear thinking faculties by way of a reminder, that you should remember the sayings previously spoken by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.” (2 Pet. 3:1, 2) He was endeavoring to strengthen the Christian brothers for difficult times ahead. The same need exists today in some areas.
14 Supposing one is isolated or incarcerated and has no contact with other ministers? It would be well to make note of all the scriptures that can be recalled, and then continue adding to these as others come to mind. One would then be able to review these words of Almighty God to keep one’s mind active and alive relative to His requirements regardless of circumstances.
15. How may the preaching be done if it cannot be done openly?
15 Insofar as preaching is concerned, if it cannot be done openly, in order to avoid suspicion, one may call upon a home in one area and skip over to another, and so forth. It would still be well to keep a record of any interest found or where you may call back, as one may do when working scattered areas today. The important thing is to nourish and help those that will accept it. Some, where conditions may require it, have resorted to various means of disguise. One could wear a reversible coat, and then when a suspicious situation arises, it might be well to change the coat and thereby not be identifiable on that particular occasion. It would be a manifestation, not of fear, but rather of good strategy to avoid recognition when one is in danger.
16. What should Christians do if they find they cannot carry on the ministry from door to door?
16 When it is impossible to carry on the ministry from door to door, one can also resort to incidental witnessing. This is being done in many countries throughout the world. In a number of places, the ministers of Jehovah will strike up conversations while waiting for, or riding on a bus or train, or being in parks. One may begin by talking about world conditions or on some friendly note, in order to draw the individual into conversation. As one learns the feelings of the person, one can then determine what would be a good subject of conversational approach. Here again it is important to follow up and assist any persons genuinely interested in the Bible or God’s righteous kingdom. Also it may be necessary to exercise care in order to avoid a snare.
17. Since it is recognized that Bible studies constitute one of the best ways to assist interested persons, how can this be carried on?
17 We have learned through experience that the most successful way of assisting those showing interest is by studying the Bible with them. Certainly we are desirous of continuing this vital part of our ministry wherever possible. Under difficult circumstances, it may be necessary to call on an individual in his home at various times of day so a definite pattern does not arouse suspicion. Without doubt, as this interested person comes to a knowledge of the importance of preaching, he will soon tell others about God’s wonderful provisions for faithful people. This may assist one in following up other interested persons. This opens opportunity of continually extending one’s ministry. Certainly this is in accord with Paul’s admonition to Timothy a short time before he finished his earthly ministry: “The Lord stood near me and infused power into me, that through me the preaching might be fully accomplished and all the nations might hear it; and I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”—2 Tim. 4:17.
18. What is Satan endeavoring to accomplish at this time? What strong expression did Peter make?
18 Bear in mind that the original Devil, Satan, will try to seduce Christians now as he did the first human pair upon the earth. He uses subtle means and also threats endeavoring to intimidate. We know that a lion will stalk his prey with a loud roar. Similarly, Satan, through nationalism or by means of Babylon the Great, will roar out at true Christians, endeavoring to frighten them into compromise. But under such circumstances, Peter very soberly admonishes, ‘Stand firm,’ and do not become frustrated and lose faith, because of threats of persecution, beatings or imprisonment.—1 Pet. 5:8-11.
19. (a) Should we be frightened when confronted by severe persecution? (b) What decision must we make for us to expect Jehovah’s blessing, and his answer to our prayers?
19 Some may reason, “I couldn’t take the severe persecution that Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany were called upon to endure; or the immoral attacks our Christian women in Malawi suffered.” We are comforted in knowing that Jehovah will not permit us to be subjected to bear that which is greater than we can stand, as assured at 1 Corinthians 10:13: “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.” There is however something very important that we must do. It is necessary to make a decision in our mind to stand firm. Before a decision is made, Jehovah may not act or extend his blessing. There is nothing to bless at this stage. However, after we make our favorable decision, then Jehovah gives us strength to maintain integrity. Truly it is in order for us to pray for Jehovah’s direction, aiding us to make the proper decision. Faithful servants of Almighty God have always been the target of Satan’s venomous attacks. Those who have maintained faithfulness under pressure among faithful servants from the days of Abel and John the Baptist, as well as Christians since, are set before us as examples to imitate.
WHAT AIDS CHRISTIANS TO STAND FIRM?
20, 21. (a) Who are our chief enemies? (b) What counsel did Paul express to the Ephesians for their protection? (c) Upon whom must we depend explicitly, even if we may have to die?
20 First of all, to help us to stand firm we need the strength that only Jehovah can provide. Secondly, it is important to recognize the chief of enemies, Satan the Devil, as well as the demonic horde under his jurisdiction. In order to assist us to acknowledge the provision of strength to stand against an archenemy, we might look to the fine spirit-directed counsel that Paul wrote to the Christian congregation living in the wicked city of Ephesus. The information in the final chapter provides very specific admonition. He draws attention to the attack of the invisible enemies and at the same time points to the protection. In the Eph 6 eleventh verse he urges Christians to “put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” There is no question about the enemy or his attack. We can see that worldly authorities, governments and other agencies do the bidding of the one who is in charge of this system of things, Satan. (2 Cor. 4:4) Because of the criticalness of our times, Paul advised that only a complete suit of armor from God would provide protection. Christians are to ‘put on the breastplate of righteousness, and have their feet shod with the good news of peace.’ They are to ‘take up the large shield of faith, with which to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles.’ They must also ‘accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word with every form of prayer and supplication carrying on prayer on every occasion in spirit.’—Eph. 6:11-18.
21 In the final analysis, we can see the importance Paul placed upon the protective means that Jehovah has given and then the importance of supplication in prayer on every occasion. Christians are to keep awake so as not to be overreached by persecution or temptation by the adversary. Our complete confidence in Jehovah’s guardianship, even with our life endangered, should always be adamant, while we are bearing in mind that man can only kill the body; but looking at it in this manner, we can rest assured that God will raise us up. Paul’s confidence was unshakable, and that is why, even when in chains in Rome, he was admonishing the Christians in Ephesus to stand firm in their faith.
22. What splendid comforting counsel did Paul write to those in Philippi? Are these words applicable to us today?
22 Also while Paul was in bondage in Rome he gave warm but firm counsel to those in Philippi that they could also expect trials of their faith, this prompting him to write: “Behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ, . . . standing firm . . . for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents.” (Phil. 1:27, 28) These valuable words are of equal import to us in this “time of the end.”
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Regular personal Bible study is needed if one is to stand firm
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Through prayer we draw close to Jehovah and gain strength to keep on doing his will
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When undergoing hardship, focusing your thoughts on the hope ahead will help you to stand firm
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When faced with opposition, possibly a ban, meeting together, even in small groups, is important in order to stand firm
If imprisoned for serving God, writing down all scriptures that one can remember and then reviewing them will help one to stand firm