“Let Endurance Have Its Work Complete”
“Let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”—Jas. 1:4.
1, 2. Why do all Christians face the question of endurance? (Matt. 10:22, 36)
NO PERSON having faith in God can avoid undergoing a test of his faith. This is because the spirit of the world is opposed to faith in God, and its tendency is to put pressure on one having faith, in order to break it down. The Christian, therefore, is going to face the question of endurance.
2 The test on faith can come in many ways. It may be direct opposition from others, even family and friends. It may be ridicule, hatred, being misunderstood, falsely accused or defamed. It may be physical persecution, and may even be connected with sickness.
3. What questions can the Christian ask himself as he faces trials?
3 The question before the Christian is, How will I take these things? Will my faith be undimmed through such trials? Will I endure with understanding, and with a feeling of joy that my faith is producing an enduring quality? Will my motive be to endure for the sake of righteousness, to glorify God, not self?—Matt. 5:10.
ENDURANCE SERVES A FINE PURPOSE
4, 5. Using the apostle Peter’s words at 2 Peter 1:5-7, show, from God’s standpoint, how endurance serves a purpose.
4 The apostle Peter shows how endurance works. He says: “Supply . . . to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.”—2 Pet. 1:5-7.
5 From God’s standpoint, then, your endurance serves a purpose—to produce people of godly devotion, people who have brotherly affection. Additionally, it will develop in them greater love and move them to express it toward their fellow humans in this world. These are the kind of people that God wants to live in his new system of things. Of course, Jehovah God does not enjoy seeing his servants on earth being forced to suffer and endure hardships, but he wants to refine them so that they are naturally, from the heart, able to fulfill completely what he asks from humans, namely, “to exercise justice, and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with [their] God.” (Mic. 6:8) The way God does this is through our endurance. Therefore, endurance is of very great importance.
6, 7. From the Christian’s standpoint, what good things does endurance do for him?
6 From the individual Christian’s standpoint, endurance produces God’s approval. God is pleased with him and draws closer to him. (Rom. 5:3-5; Jas. 4:8) From his experience in successfully enduring, the Christian has greater devotion to God. During severe trials, he learns that he has to lean wholly on Jehovah and no one else, for only Jehovah, through Jesus Christ, can supply his needs and the necessary strength. (Phil. 4:13) As a consequence of his own endurance, he develops deep affection for his brothers who are undergoing trials—different trials but equally heart-searching. It helps him to sympathize, not criticize, when their problems and weaknesses cause them to make mistakes.—1 Pet. 5:9.
7 All of this increases the Christian’s appreciation for the undeserved kindness of God, which is expressed in so many ways. He loves God for this. Moreover, he develops more mercy in his heart toward those not in the truth. He sees the difficulties under which they labor and groan. (Rom. 8:22) And his love extends out to them to help them in their need of the life-giving message of truth.—Matt. 9:36.
TO “KNOW” GOD THE VITAL THING
8. How do the words of the apostle Peter at 2 Peter 1:8 show that endurance, with the qualities that it develops in the Christians, helps him to be complete?
8 But how does “endurance have its work complete,” and how is the Christian thereby made “complete and sound in all respects”? (Jas. 1:4) Peter goes on to explain: “For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge [“personal knowledge,” Rotherham] of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:8) Therein lies the key—accurate personal knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is because to know Jesus Christ is to know Jehovah God, for Jesus said: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.”—John 14:9.
9, 10. What is the Bible usage of the word “know” in scriptures such as Matthew 11:27, John 17:3 and 1 John 4:8?
9 Jesus explained what the above words mean when he said: “All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one fully knows the Son but the Father, neither does anyone fully know the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” (Matt. 11:27) The surpassing importance of this knowledge was further emphasized by Jesus when he declared: “This is what the eternal life is, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3, Byington.
10 What does it mean to “know” the Father? Does it mean to know that God exists? or, further, to recognize God as Sovereign and to be baptized as a servant of his? Knowing these things, yes. But much more is meant. The Greek word translated “to know” carries a deeper meaning than our English word “know” generally implies, though often when we say we know a person we mean that we understand him and his qualities. In these Bible contexts the verb form of “to know” means “to come to know, to get acquainted with, to understand.” In John 17:3 it indicates a continuing relationship between God and the person that brings ever-increasing knowledge of God and Christ; what is known about God is not merely partial information but is of value or importance to the one who grows in knowledge. It also implies a closeness of trust and confidence. (John 17:3, Kingdom Interlinear) In fact, the apostle John says: “He that does not love has not come to know God.”—1 John 4:8.
11, 12. What, then, will a person be like who knows God?
11 So to know Jehovah God would be to attain to an understanding friendship with him. Since heart knowledge, not mere head knowledge, is meant, to know God the Christian would be in tune or “rhythm” with God and his ways. He would feel as God feels about matters. He would see things through God’s eyes, as it were. And he would immediately “sense” something wrong when confronted by false notions about God and His ways. He would not blame God for his trials and hardships.—Jas. 1:13.
12 The Christian who knows God will be a person who ‘through use has had his perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.’ (Heb. 5:14) He will not generally have to go to some Bible commentary or to someone else to see what is right or what is wrong about a matter. Because of his Christian training, it will become a part of him to love what God loves and to hate what God hates.—Rom. 12:9.
13. How did Jesus’ actions toward what is bad show that he really knew God?
13 Jesus was a fine example of this advanced development in knowing God. He said: “Righteous Father, the world has, indeed, not come to know you; but I have come to know you.” (John 17:25) Jesus, being perfectly in tune with his Father, had an innate love of good and a hatred of bad; he was acting from his innermost heart when he instantly rejected Satan’s proposals and the wrong advice of Peter. (Luke 4:1-12; Matt. 16:21-23) He was deeply hurt by any reproach on God’s name, or lack of faith on the part of God’s professed people.—Mark 3:5; 8:11, 12; Rom. 15:3.
14. How did Jesus’ actions toward his disciples show that he truly knew God?
14 Yet Jesus said that no one was good except God. (Mark 10:18) So he was not “righteous overmuch” so that he found fault or looked for faults in his disciples, as a ‘spiritual policeman.’ (Eccl. 7:16) Neither did he burden or discourage them, in a Pharisaical manner, making their consciences feel bad by demanding perfection of them. (Luke 6:1-4; 11:46) He loved them and had deep sympathy with their feelings and concerning the sad situation into which sin had brought the human race.—John 11:33-36.
15. How did the principle that ‘endurance must have its work complete’ apply in Jesus’ case?
15 The principle that ‘endurance must have its work complete’ applied even in Jesus’ case, for it is written: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Heb. 5:8, 9) Because of Jesus’ perfect endurance under suffering “we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.”—Heb. 4:15.
16. (a) How do we see that to be “complete” one has to endure at all times? (b) What did the apostle Paul mean by his words at 1 Corinthians 13:12?
16 We can see from Jesus’ example what becoming “complete and sound in all respects” means. We can understand that one has to be a Christian at all times, enduring through trials. The apostles recognized this. Paul said: “On account of [Christ Jesus] I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in union with him . . . so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and a sharing in his sufferings.” (Phil. 3:8-10) As the apostle Paul said, his goal was: “At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known.” (1 Cor. 13:12) While Paul knew God, he realized that the pinnacle of knowledge of God and the most intimate relationship with God would come when Paul would receive the full reward of his Christian course.
17. May a person serve God for a long time without coming to know him? Illustrate.
17 On the other hand, some persons may serve in the congregation of God for years without actually coming to know God. The Israelites were an example of this. They had God’s law. They saw his dealings and even his miracles. Yet God said to them: “Your forefathers made a test of me with a trial, and yet they had seen my works for forty years. For this reason I became disgusted with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they themselves have not come to know my ways.’”—Heb. 3:9, 10; Ps. 95:9-11.
HOW TO COME TO “KNOW” GOD
18. What is one of the first things a Christian must do so that he can come to know God?
18 How, then, can a Christian make sure that he will come to know God? First, he must persistently pray for God’s spirit, since only by holy spirit can a person get an insight into God’s mind and his personality. Prayer is one of the most intimate privileges Jehovah has granted us. In pouring out his heart the Christian makes God his most intimate confidant. And prayer has power, because Jehovah actually hears and answers prayers in the way that accomplishes the most good for those calling on him.—Ps. 65:2; Rom. 8:28.
19. How must one use the Bible in order to come to know God?
19 Many times it has been said that study and meditation on God’s Word are essential. This is true. But, in addition, the Christian must put that Word into action. For example, When a question of conduct or a problem in life arises, does the Christian act on his opinion or does he check to see that he is in harmony with God’s ways? If he is not absolutely sure, before speaking or acting, does he make sure that he has Bible support for what he says or does? Are answers that he gives to others his own opinion or personal viewpoint? or can he back up what he says with plain, clear proof from the Bible?
20. (a) How did Jesus show that he really was close to God, knowing him and wanting others to know him? (b) Use some of the scriptures cited in the paragraph to illustrate how Jesus used the Hebrew Scriptures to convince his hearers.
20 One doing this is following the pattern of Jesus himself, for Jesus said: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30) It was not that Jesus looked up a scripture or even cited or quoted one every time, but, when explaining or reproving, he either quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures or expressed the principle found therein so that his hearers would know that his answer was from God. In reading Jesus’ words you will be impressed by the fact that a great portion of what he said was either a quotation from or an allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures.—Compare John 5:31, 32 with Deuteronomy 19:15; Mark 10:27 with Genesis 18:14 and Job 42:2; Matthew 10:35 with Micah 7:6; John 10:34 with Psalm 82:6.
21. How do the apostle’s words at Romans 12:1, 2 show that application is needed in order really to know God?
21 For a Christian to come to know God, therefore, takes time and experience, with application of himself to this objective at all times. The apostle Paul counseled Christians: “I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason. And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:1, 2) To prove what God’s will is we have to experience its goodness by letting it work in our lives, by applying it. By this we come to know that will and its perfectness—God’s good and perfect way of thinking. We know what is acceptable to him and in that way come to gain his approval and a fine, close relationship. Then we can feel like a son with a very loving father who cares for him and who stands by him in every time of need.
22. What is one major thing the Christian must do to transform his thinking from that of the world, as pointed out by Paul at Romans 12:3?
22 Next, the apostle, after admonishing Christians to prove to themselves God’s will, which is good, goes on to show how they can evince a mind that is not conformed to this world and its thinking and practices. He says: “For through the undeserved kindness given to me I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think; but to think so as to have a sound mind, each one as God has distributed to him a measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3) In this way the Christian will have a real regard for his brothers, not comparing himself with others or, because he has some ability, think that he is better or is entitled to greater deference and privileges. The apostle continues, explaining why:
23. What must be our relationship with others in the congregation in order to be “complete” in faith?
23 “For just as we have in one body many members, but the members do not all have the same function, so we, although many, are one body in union with Christ, but members belonging individually to one another.” (Rom. 12:4, 5) We are in the congregation for what purpose? To help one another to endure to the completing of our faith through endurance. So we should find our place in the congregation and do all we can to serve there. The apostle concludes:
24. Using Romans 12:6-8, explain the many avenues of activity in which Christians can apply themselves, and the spirit in which they should do this.
24 “Since, then, we have gifts differing according to the undeserved kindness given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy [which includes speaking and preaching] according to the faith proportioned to us; or a ministry, let us be at this ministry; or he that teaches, let him be at his teaching; or he that exhorts, let him be at his exhortation; he that distributes, let him do it with liberality; he that presides, let him do it in real earnest; he that shows mercy, let him do it with cheerfulness.”—Rom. 12:6-8.
25. How does the apostle Peter encourage us in our efforts to become “complete” in God’s eyes?
25 If we take these words to heart and follow them seriously, we will become “complete” in God’s eyes, as the apostle Peter wrote: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, who called you to his everlasting glory in union with Christ, will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.”—1 Pet. 5:10; Jas. 1:12.