Hope—The Power for Endurance
HOW valuable endurance is! Without it the well-known violin player would never have become famous and the renowned soprano would not have been able to captivate her audiences. Yes, endurance is not only desirable but necessary in attaining a goal. This is especially true for a Christian who is running in the race with everlasting life in view. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” urged the Christian apostle Paul. Without endurance the “finish line” will not be reached.—Matt. 24:13; Heb. 12:1.
Seeing the importance of endurance, certain questions may arise. Can a godly person endure in his own strength? Why should Christians help one another to endure? How can they provide such aid?
A NEED TO “SPEAK CONSOLINGLY”
We are living in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Many factors now make it very difficult for a Christian to endure. He can do so only if he heeds the Scriptural admonition to “go on acquiring power in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength.” Above all, godly persons must fight “against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places,” the demons under Satan’s control. (Eph. 6:10, 12) Their influence can become so powerful that a Christian may lose his confidence in God’s power and become weak in faith. Prompt spiritual assistance then becomes necessary. But what can be done?
Consider how a certain Christian elder rendered spiritual aid on one occasion. He visited a married couple who had been very active members of the congregation. Due to sickness in the family and great stress at the man’s place of employment, they had almost given up in the Christian race. But at the end of his visit the elder was pleased to hear these words: “I am so glad you came to talk to us. My wife and I have renewed strength to continue to serve Jehovah.” A similar expression was heard from another Christian family, one in which pressures and problems had resulted in a nervous breakdown and very low spirituality. What caused these families to say, ‘We have renewed strength to serve Jehovah’?
The visiting elders had encouraged their fellow believers to view matters as Jehovah does. God knows that his people are made of dust and that, due to pressures, sickness and the like, a Christian may feel dejected. (Ps. 103:14) That is how some early Christians at Thessalonica felt. Accordingly, the apostle Paul advised: “Speak consolingly” to the depressed souls.”—1 Thess. 5:14.
To “speak consolingly” means to talk soothingly, to cheer, to encourage, to uplift another’s spirit with gladdening assurance. Yes, to speak consolingly means to fortify the listener’s heart so that his horizon widens out. In the case of the two discouraged families cited earlier, it was as if bright sunshine had wiped away an early morning mist that had obscured their spiritual vision. Their hearts were lifted up with renewed hope. What is this hope?
THE HOPE THAT “DOES NOT LEAD TO DISAPPOINTMENT”
“To hope” means to desire with expectation of fulfillment. Hope, therefore, has sustaining power, a driving force, because it looks ahead to its fulfillment. Of course, a person could easily cherish a false hope, one lacking a real basis. To illustrate: For millenniums mankind has hoped for the realization of perfect human government. But this expectation has not been fulfilled because humankind is imperfect, sinful, selfish and subject to death.—Rom. 5:12; 7:14.
Reliable hope must look to God, the first Cause of everything visible and invisible. (Rev. 4:11) Indeed, true hope finds its basis in God’s unfailing purpose for mankind, and, therefore, this “hope does not lead to disappointment.” (Rom. 5:5) For instance, the prophet Isaiah pointed out that God created the earth for human habitation. (Isa. 45:18) This is God’s purpose, and it will be accomplished. God will clear the way for paradise to be restored to this earth. (Luke 23:43) This restoration will come about by means of God’s kingdom, the theme of Jesus’ preaching and the government for which he taught his followers to pray.—Matt. 4:17; 6:10.
What this kingdom of God will bring about is almost beyond comprehension. It will restore perfect health and everlasting life. Yes, death will be no more and this means that even sin will be done away with, because death is the result of sin. (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 21:4) Gone, too, will be sin’s harmful effects that have plunged man into physical and mental distress. What a relief! This hope does not lead to disappointment, because it is based on God’s promise, and he cannot lie. (Titus 1:1, 2) Why, then, do some Christians become so depressed that the future seems hopeless?
HOPE MUST BE MAINTAINED AND MADE STRONGER
The start of the loss of hope may hardly be noticeable. Perhaps fulfillment of the hope seems to drag and this makes the heart sick. (Prov. 13:12) Or, circumstances in someone’s life may cause a person to become preoccupied with himself instead of his relationship with God. The individual may become discouraged because of sickness, mistreatment or just because of negative thoughts. Maybe he becomes somewhat jealous of the material or spiritual prosperity of others. Gradually being overtaken by these things, he may cease throwing his burden upon Jehovah. (Ps. 55:22) Soon the Christian finds himself thinking negatively, so that the reality of the Kingdom hope fades in his heart and mind. Yes, hope can be lost and then individuals stop enduring in the race for life.
The very nature of hope makes it something that can easily vanish if not constantly kept before the mind’s eye. Therefore, we must fight hard to keep our hope strong. This is because we hope for something that is invisible. (Compare Romans 8:24, 25.) But this does not mean that hope is necessarily weak.
Hope has such power that it is compared to an anchor that can hold a ship so secure that it will ride out a terrible storm. In fact, hope is called “an anchor for the soul.” (Heb. 6:19) When Paul wrote these words, he was discussing God’s promise to bless Abraham. This promise is the basis for hope in the kingdom of God, for Jehovah assured that faithful patriarch: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Gen. 22:18) Jehovah added his sworn oath to this promise so that “through two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to the refuge may have strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18) Keeping in mind this sworn promise of God strengthens the Christian’s hope and makes it indeed “an anchor for the soul.” It stabilizes, makes strong, gives the power to endure.
Our hope is strengthened from day to day when we make expression of the hope within us. The more we speak about it, the more we treasure it and the stronger it becomes. In a comparable way, the expressions made by the Shulammite maiden regarding her beloved shepherd boy doubtless strengthened her love for him. (Song of Sol. 5:10-16) Concerning such love, it could be said: “Its blazings are the blazings of a fire, the flame of Jah. Many waters themselves are not able to extinguish love, nor can rivers themselves wash it away.”—Song of Sol. 8:6, 7.
The same is true regarding warm expressions about the Christian hope. Therefore, Paul admonished his Hebrew brothers to “hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering.” (Heb. 10:23) This public expression of hope, this talking about it, will strengthen our hope, making it very real to us. Such vivid mental reality forges the chains that make hope a strong anchor for the soul.
THE POSITIVE APPROACH
To revive hope, positive help is needed. Knowing that hope is such a driving power for endurance, the visiting elders mentioned earlier turned the attention of the discouraged families away from themselves and talked about the reality of the kingdom of God. Hope is something of a spiritual nature. Therefore, the mind and heart must be filled with the spiritual things of God’s Word, the sure promises of God and the sayings of Jesus. Strong communication with Jehovah God must be restored, and this will surely lead to joy. Is that not what Paul shows as the positive result of prayer? “Do not be anxious over anything,” said the apostle, “but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 4:6, 7.
To endure under tribulation, we must “rejoice in the hope” and “persevere in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) And we will be happy, even during trials, if we realize that Jehovah God is not trying to find fault and ‘does not forget our work and the love we show for his name.’—Heb. 6:10.
Hope-inspiring, too, are Paul’s words: “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. 6:11, 12) May this strengthening assurance that God is on our side help us to make the Kingdom hope our power for endurance.