You Need Endurance
“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.
1. (a) Why was it expected that the years following 1914 would be difficult ones? (b) What are some of the difficulties so accurately foretold?
THE years following the rising up of nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom in the year 1914 have been difficult ones for the human race, but it should not have been expected that they would be otherwise. Bible prophecies about these times in which we live indicated that there would be “food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another” and that all these things would be but “a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matt. 24:7, 8) Revelation 12:12 foretold that it would be a time of “woe” on the earth because the Devil knows he has only “a short period of time.” The apostle Paul, in 2 Timothy chapter 3, showed why these “last days” would be “critical times hard to deal with,” a time when many people would be without faith or integrity.
2. What trying conditions would Christians have to endure?
2 In addition, the prophecy of Jesus at Matthew chapter 24 foretold how true Christians in these days would be hated by all the nations, some even being betrayed and killed. It would be a time when there would be false prophets in the earth, when lawlessness would increase, when the love of people would grow cold. And after describing all these coming conditions, Jesus stated: “But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matt. 24:13; Rev. 12:17.
3. (a) What does the parallel account at Luke 21 indicate would happen to Christians? (b) Why, then, is endurance so important?
3 That endurance in times like these is very necessary for the servants of God is also emphasized in the parallel account of Jesus’ prophecy, in Luke chapter 21, which reports on the sufferings and persecutions due to befall faithful Christians at this time. There Jesus put it this way: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.” Gaining everlasting life, then, is involved.—Luke 21:12-19.
4. (a) In spite of all the difficulties of the ‘time of the end,’ what special work do Christians have to perform? (b) What proves it is being done world wide?
4 Along with this endurance and suffering through years of difficulties, Christians were destined, according to Bible prophecy, to engage in preaching the good news of the Kingdom in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before the end of this system of things comes. The 1973 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that such preaching is being done now in 208 lands around the world.—Matt. 24:14.
5. How is the example of Jesus Christ of aid to us?
5 What is it that helps Christians to endure in these “last days”? Many years have passed since 1914, when the first world war began, and during this period God’s servants have experienced numerous tests. Under such trying conditions one thing that has helped them very much is Christ’s example of endurance under sufferings. Peter draws it to our attention: “In fact, to this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:21-23) We remember how Jesus Christ relied on his Father and kept praying to him. We too must petition Jehovah for the help to endure.—Matt. 26:39, 42, 44.
6. (a) Why must one beware that one does not fall? (b) Why can we rely upon Jehovah for help when under temptation?
6 Besides enduring suffering, there is also the need to resist temptations. Paul’s above description of mankind’s bad conduct in the “last days” indicated what a strong influence for wrongdoing would be present in the earth. Therefore, Christians must continually be very careful and constantly rely upon Jehovah to help them in time of temptation. At 1 Corinthians chapter 10 Paul outlined some of the temptations to which the early servants of Jehovah were subjected, such as idolatry or fornication, and then said: “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall. No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But 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. 10:12, 13.
7. (a) What sources of encouragement are there for us? (b) What proof can you give to show that some allow themselves to be spiritually weak?
7 Jehovah helps us to endure temptation and withstand suffering by giving us spiritual guidance and encouragement. Also, Jehovah has given his people a tremendous worldwide increase in fellow witnesses, and this encourages us. Because we have love for one another, we should be found always encouraging others in our family and in the congregation. It is evident that many need to be helped to be conscious of their spiritual need because, after being enlightened and beginning to serve Jehovah, some allow themselves to become spiritually weak; they lose appreciation for Jehovah’s righteousness and fall into inactivity as far as spiritual things are concerned. (Matt. 5:3) Those who thus become inactive in the ministry should wake up and become reactivated. This, then, opens up a great field of work for us who are strong.*—Gal. 6:1.
8. How serious is it to become inactive, and what questions does this raise?
8 It is sad to see someone begin to serve Jehovah and then slow down, because it can mean the loss of an opportunity for everlasting life for such an individual. (Rev. 3:15, 16) Likewise serious is the position of those who yield to temptation, commit serious violations of God’s laws, and, as a result, must be put out of the congregation. Where disfellowshiping is concerned, it is always done because God’s Word sets the standard for members of the congregation. (1 Cor. 5:9-13) The question is, How can we prevent these things from happening to ourselves or to others near us? What can be done to increase our endurance?
IN THE FIRST CENTURY C.E.
9. (a) What conditions and circumstances made endurance so vital to the Hebrew Christians of the first century C.E.? (b) What helps us to understand the kind of pressures experienced by the early Hebrew Christians?
9 An interesting example of how to help others to endure has to do with the Hebrews who became Christians after Pentecost in the year 33 of the Common Era. They had left behind practices that were carried on under the law covenant, including the offering of animal sacrifices, recognition of the priesthood and support of the temple. They had accepted the new and better arrangement of God, which was made operative through the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus. These Christians lived during the “time of the end” of the Jewish “system of things” and had endured bitter, fanatical opposition from fellow Jews at Jerusalem and in Judea. Paul himself had experienced the same fanatical Jewish persecution before being sent away to Rome to present his appeal before Caesar. (Acts chapters 22 and 23) In spite of such pressure conditions, the Hebrew Christians had to keep integrity. Additionally, there was just ahead of them the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy at Luke 21:20-24, which we now know was a very difficult time for them. Roman armies would be moved into the area because of the rebelliousness of the Jews (66 C.E.), and then such armies would be suddenly withdrawn, allowing an opportunity for those who heeded the prophecy of Christ to flee. Surely it would become a test to any who put much value on material things. To abandon homes and possessions and flee Judea, they must really have faith. So there was, in fact, a small-scale fulfillment of Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21, which have a larger fulfillment in our time. By the conditions in our day we can understand, to a certain extent, what kind of pressures faced the Hebrew Christians over a period of years in the first century C.E.—See The Watchtower, December 15, 1968.
10. (a) Why did Paul write to the Hebrews? (b) How did Paul encourage them, and how can looking back at past tests help one to face the next test courageously?
10 When it appeared that a number had begun to cool down in their devotion, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to encourage them. (Heb. 13:22) By observing what the apostle Paul said, we can learn how to help ourselves and encourage others also to gain endurance. One good way to encourage a person is to remind that one of how Jehovah has sustained him in the face of great tests. Paul said: “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you were being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations, and sometimes while you became sharers with those who were having such an experience. For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession. Do not, therefore, throw away your freeness of speech, which has a great reward to be paid it. 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. 10:32-36) Yes, they had passed through some severe tests and had lost some of their possessions, but they were still alive, having clothing, food and other necessities. So they could be thankful to Jehovah and keep on serving him. Above all, they had the prospect of gaining everlasting life by endurance. By all of this they should see that Jehovah is able to take them through many tests in the future, so why fear the next one? Such encouragement was designed to keep those Hebrew Christians strong in appreciation of Jehovah’s things and the prize to be gained by keeping integrity.
11. What indicates that some of the Hebrews had lost their spiritual alertness, and why is it dangerous to be in such a condition?
11 Paul wrote very frankly to these Christians. They had ‘become dull in their hearing.’ (Heb. 5:11) This did not mean that their ears failed to function, but, rather, their spiritual hearing and alertness to spiritual things were weak. They had shown some indifference toward Jehovah’s Word and purposes, being careless about their spiritual needs. Perhaps they did not realize the danger of their position. Someone had to alert them. So Paul described their current need as requiring someone to teach them from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God.
12. (a) What is the best way to assist one who has become dull in spiritual hearing? (b) What did Paul say to encourage them not to be satisfied with elementary truth, but to make a recovery?
12 That is exactly the formula for helping those who become inactive and fall asleep spiritually, namely, to teach them the truth over again. If they become dull in their hearing of spiritual things they fail to take in the solid food of God’s Word. Spiritually they become like babes, taking only milk, not appreciating the strong truths of God’s Word. (Heb. 5:13) A baby needs someone to care for it, because it cannot care for itself. It cannot make decisions on right or wrong. Christians certainly cannot afford to be like that, because to make the wrong decision may mean losing Jehovah’s favor and life itself. If they are to endure they must take in solid food, using their perceptive powers and the Scriptures, and have a basis for determining what is right and what is wrong. In the case of the Hebrews, Paul moved them to add to their knowledge of the truth and to press on to maturity. (Heb. 6:1, 2) Those Christians were not classed by Paul with ones who had fallen away beyond recovery, but, rather, he said: “In your case, beloved ones, we are convinced of better things and things accompanied with salvation, although we are speaking in this way. For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering. 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.” (Heb. 6:9-12) Those words of Paul are very encouraging to us too.
13. In the opening chapter of his letter to the Hebrews, how did Paul start to build appreciation for what Jehovah had done?
13 As we examine this letter written by the apostle Paul, we see the importance of Christians building up appreciation for spiritual things in the minds of other Christians. At the very outset of his letter, in Heb chapters one and two, the apostle mentioned how Jehovah long ago spoke to his servants through prophets (who often received information from the angels). (Compare Galatians 3:19.) The Hebrews were very familiar with history and knew how Jehovah had employed angels in dealing with their forefathers. That was something wonderful. If any one of us were spoken to personally by an angel of Jehovah it could hardly be forgotten as long as we might live. But in the first century something special had been done for the Christians. Something far grander had occurred. God had spoken by means of his Son, who had a position much superior to that of angels. “With reference to which one of the angels has [God] ever said: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet’?”—Heb. 1:13.
14. Why is it necessary to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us?
14 With an appreciation of these great truths the reasoning Christian sees how important it is to pay attention to what this Son of God says. So Paul next writes: “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved to be firm, and every transgression and disobedient act received a retribution in harmony with justice; how shall we escape if we have neglected a salvation of such greatness in that it began to be spoken through our Lord and was verified for us by those who heard him?” (Heb. 2:1-3) Therefore, if we are not inclined to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, we are bound to drift away and lose out on everlasting life.
15. (a) How might we use a boat to illustrate drifting away? (b) Describe how a Christian might drift away from God and the Christian congregation.
15 It is very interesting to see that Paul used this expression “never drift away.” Perhaps you have seen someone in a small boat hurry away when reaching the shore, without tying up the boat. If one is watching one sees that the movement of the boat away from the shore is slow at first, depending upon the currents and the wind. But as time passes, the boat drifts farther and farther out into the lake. On the other hand, if one had not been constantly watching, one might be shocked a little later to see the boat far out in the middle of the lake. So the process of drifting is generally a slow one, and this is what can happen to Christians when they stop paying “more than the usual attention to the things heard,” when they become ‘dull in their hearing.’ As the loss of appreciation for spiritual things grows, the individual gradually develops bad habits, perhaps failing to study, then missing Christian meetings. Becoming irregular in telling the good news to others is not something that happens like a speedboat rushing across the lake, but it is a slow process, as when a canoe, inch by inch, drifts away from a safe anchorage. It is really what the apostle Paul calls it, ‘neglecting salvation.’
16 Our enemy, the one who causes suffering and loss of salvation, is Satan the Devil. Through the coming of Christ Jesus the means for bringing to nothing the Devil became a certainty. Christ became the Chief Agent of salvation and suffered death to make this provision. (Heb. 2:10, 14) Certainly this glorious provision for salvation should be looked upon with great appreciation by the Christian. Paul emphasized to his suffering Hebrew brothers that Christ Jesus understands our position; he too once suffered as a man. Paul was very encouraging in pointing to this fact: “For in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.” (Heb. 2:18; 4:15, 16) Ah, yes, Christians know there is a living Christ in the heavens who is ready to come to their aid when they are being put to the test! So pray for this divine assistance the next time your endurance and integrity are sorely being tried.
That there is grave danger of failing to endure as a Christian is demonstrated by the facts. During the 1970 service year, to take one country as an illustration of the problem, the United States showed a total of 13,732 who became inactive as to public preaching of the good news, this requiring attention spiritually from the local congregation overseers. There were 4,332 other persons disfellowshiped for serious violation of God’s righteous laws. That some who are disfellowshiped repent and eventually gain readmission to the congregations is borne out in the total of 1,642 who had been put out in former years and who were reinstated during the service year 1970. All together, in the United States in 1970, 13,469 were reactivated. While these figures are small in comparison to the United States’ peak of 388,920 Kingdom proclaimers, they should serve to alert everyone to pay attention to spiritual things and keep himself strong spiritually.—1 Tim. 4:16.
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INCREASE IN KINGDOM PROCLAIMERS SINCE 1920
Jehovah has given his people a great worldwide increase in fellow Witnesses. This encourages us and helps us to endure
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In times past God spoke to men through angels, as in the case of Manoah and his wife. But in the first century God sent his only-begotten Son to speak to men. We can read the Son’s words in the Bible.