Are You Willing to Suffer Hardship?
IT IS a delightful thing to come to appreciate the majesty of God, his love, his mercy and his fine way of dealing with his people. It is also a heartwarming pleasure to become acquainted with God’s people.
But in this world Christianity is not the easy way. After realizing this, if you have set out on a course of serving Jehovah God, you may find it profitable to examine yourself by asking certain questions, such as: What is my attitude when I encounter unpleasant things? Do I persevere when there is hardship? Am I determined to remain true to God if severe persecution strikes? How do I feel about facing opposition, economic difficulties, sickness, prison or other trials?
We have to be honest with ourselves: Nobody wants to suffer hardships. Suffering ‘goes against the grain’ for anyone. It is normal to have some fear. And Christians are certainly not looking for trouble or seeking to be persecuted or put to death.
Nevertheless, persecutions and other hardships will come. Jesus Christ foretold this. But he also foretold that, along with hardships, God would give his servants so much more in good things that the trouble would be light in comparison. He said to his disciples:
“Everyone that has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive many times more and will inherit everlasting life.”—Matt. 19:29.
The apostle Paul, who personally experienced much hardship, expressed agreement, writing to fellow Christians:
“Though the tribulation is momentary and light, it works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing weight and is everlasting; while we keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.”—2 Cor. 4:17, 18.
It may be that you possess many material things. Do you count these as assets only as they can help you to render better service to God? Would you be willing to give them up without regret if an issue of integrity arose? Again, the apostle Paul wrote:
“On account of him [Jesus Christ] I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.”—Phil. 3:8; Luke 14:26.
True Christians in Germany during Hitler’s regime and, in more recent times, in Malawi, demonstrated this fine attitude, sacrificing everything to maintain their loyalty to God.
DEVELOPING THE QUALITY
Obedience to God is the key to developing endurance. How quick are you to obey the things God’s Word commands? As you carry out God’s will, there are obstacles that you are overcoming practically every day. Do you willingly obey, nevertheless? This can be of great aid to you in meeting situations that require more than the usual endurance. Jesus’ half brother James counseled:
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality [or proof] 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; Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
Therefore, if you have started on the course of obedience to God you will certainly want to avoid giving in to any trial now, however small. Temptations due to desires of the flesh can bring great pressure upon Christians, both from within themselves and from the bad “atmosphere” and associations in this world. Sexual immorality, excessive drinking and the use of drugs, including tobacco, are among these things. Persecution can also bring strong pressure to sin by compromising and breaking integrity. The apostle Peter expressed the attitude and determination that the Christian should have when he wrote:
“Therefore since Christ suffered in the flesh, you too arm yourselves with the same mental disposition; because the person that has suffered in the flesh has desisted from sins, to the end that he may live the remainder of his time in the flesh, no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.”—1 Pet. 4:1, 2.
So, if you have accepted the Christian way of life, which you know includes suffering for the truth’s sake, and perhaps have already suffered to an extent for righteousness’ sake, now is no time to turn back.—Luke 9:62.
To test yourself as to whether you are developing endurance, look at what you are doing at the present time. Are you maintaining faithfulness now? Are you regularly studying God’s Word now? Do you get, not merely the “milk” of the word, the primary doctrines, but also “accurate knowledge and full discernment; that you may make sure of the more important things”?—Phil. 1:9, 10; Eph. 5:16.
Are you at the present time ‘putting yourself out’ to help others? Or do you hesitate to inconvenience yourself? (Gal. 6:10) One who is willing to undergo some difficulty in behalf of others in the interests of true Christianity is developing the quality of endurance.—Jas. 1:27.
Another essential factor is emphasized by this question, Do you recognize that your success in enduring trials is due, not to any good in yourself, but to the strength that God supplies? (1 Pet. 4:11) Do you confidently look to God for wisdom and ability, and do you recognize that all you have comes from him?—Phil. 4:13; Jas. 1:5.
THINGS TO AVOID
In our obedience to God, and in things that we have endured, we should not relax, feeling that we have reached our goal. Neither should we develop a boastful spirit, feeling that, when we have endured some trial, we are “heroes,” entitled to special consideration, or that we are more advanced toward the goal than our brothers are. It is ‘he that endures to the end that will be saved.’ (Matt. 24:13) To avoid a wrong attitude, call to mind that some of those who had endured years of suffering in Nazi concentration camps later fell prey to materialism or immorality. There is only one cause for boasting, and that is in knowing Jehovah.—Jer. 9:23, 24.
Some persons worry about specific physical abuse that they may have to endure. This is unwise. We do not know what hardships we, individually, may encounter. Not all will meet the same trials. The vital thing is to trust in Jehovah. “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.
Jehovah wants his people to be happy. He takes no pleasure in seeing his people suffer. But he does make even those enduring hardship happy because they have the opportunity now to make an everlasting record of integrity to the Universal Sovereign Jehovah God.—Matt. 5:11, 12.