Take Courage!—The Millennium Is at Hand
“In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 16:33.
1. Why would Jesus’ disciples need to be very courageous?
THESE were Jesus’ parting words of counsel to his disciples, spoken on the eve of his own arrest and execution. He himself displayed that quality of courage to a remarkable degree, and he wanted his devoted followers to do likewise. They would need to be very courageous, for Jesus had just told them: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also. But they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him that sent me.”—John 15:18-21.
2 However, what is embraced in Christlike courage? Does it mean “foxhole” bravery, as shown by soldiers in the heat of battle? No, it means much more than that. Christian courage calls for the display of exemplary moral strength at all times. It demands unswerving support for God’s kingdom under any and all circumstances. It requires steadfastness, endurance and a sustained loyalty to right principles. True courage includes resoluteness and a positive determination to press onward and to succeed, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming opposition and difficulty. It embraces the resolve that the apostle Paul expressed, saying: “There is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal.”—Phil. 3:13, 14.
DANIEL’S EXAMPLE OF COURAGE
3. What exemplary courage did Daniel and his companions show with regard to food and drink?
3 God’s Word abounds with accounts of great courage displayed in the face of faith-testing trials. One who displayed such courage on a number of occasions was God’s prophet Daniel. As a young man enslaved in Babylon, he “determined in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the delicacies of the king and with his drinking wine,” and in this he was joined by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. (Dan. 1:8-19) This took courage, similar to the courage that has been required on the part of young witnesses of Jehovah in some lands today, for example in refusing school lunches that contain blood products.—Acts 15:28, 29.
4 Later, when those same three companions of Daniel took a firm stand on the issue of idolatry, Daniel no doubt loyally approved of their stand. Under inspiration he recorded that event in great detail, for our admonition in these critical days.—Dan. chap. 3.
5. (a) Why did it take courage for Daniel to speak before Nebuchadnezzar, and later Belshazzar? (b) How is similar courage required of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
5 It took courage for Daniel to stand before mighty Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and to make known the interpretations of that ruler’s dreams—especially since Daniel’s prophesying indicated the eventual crushing of the Babylonian Empire, as well as humiliation for the king. (Dan. 2:36-38, 44, 45; 4:24, 25, 33) Also, at the time of Belshazzar’s idolatrous feasting, when handwriting from Jehovah appeared on the wall of the king’s palace, Daniel was required to be very courageous in informing the king and his grandees that great Babylon was finished and would be given to Medo-Persia. (Dan. 5:1-6, 17-28) Similarly, it has required courage on the part of many of Jehovah’s Witnesses today to speak out boldly concerning God’s judgments against Babylon the Great and other doomed systems of this world.—Rev. 16:12-16, 19.
IN THE LIONS’ PIT
6, 7. (a) Why did Daniel come into prominence during Darius’ reign? (b) How only could his enemies find occasion against him? (c) What similar situations have arisen in our time?
6 In their trialsome experiences, Daniel and his companions had relied heavily on Jehovah in prayer. (Dan. 2:17, 18) And it was in connection with prayer that Daniel was again called upon to show unswerving courage. Babylon had fallen, and now Darius ruled over Medo-Persia, the fourth world power of Bible record. Because of the “extraordinary spirit” granted him by his God, the aged Daniel came to be more distinguished than all the other officials of the kingdom. These notable men, being jealous of Daniel’s wisdom and position, sought some way to bring about his destruction. But they well knew that they could find no pretext, unless they did so in connection with “the law of his God.”—Dan. 6:1-5.
7 Being aware of Daniel’s custom of praying and offering praise to his God three times each day, the conspirators caused the king to sign an edict that anyone who made a petition to any god or man for 30 days, except it be to the king, must be thrown into the lions’ pit. The edict became the unchangeable law of the Medes and the Persians. (Dan. 6:6-9) This is similar to the situation today in many lands where petty officials or clergymen, stung by the refusal of Jehovah’s Witnesses to become part of the world or to soft-pedal their Kingdom activity, and jealous of God’s blessing on their work, try to “get” the Witnesses and put them out of action. These opposers know well that Jehovah’s people are usually the most law-abiding and honest persons in the community. So they trump up issues involving idolatrous ceremonies and salutes, and the shouting of partisan or patriotic slogans, such as “Heil Hitler,” “Viva Franco,” and others.
8. How have faithful witnesses today followed Daniel’s uncompromising example?
8 What a glowing example Daniel left as to facing such issues! The record tells us: “But Daniel, as soon as he knew that the writing had been signed, entered into his house, and, the windows in his roof chamber being open for him toward Jerusalem, even three times in a day he was kneeling on his knees and praying and offering praise before his God, as he had been regularly doing prior to this.” (Dan. 6:10) He did not cease his customary worship of Jehovah. In similar fashion, faithful witnesses of modern times do not stop their worship of God because some dictator bans or restricts their Christian activity. They may need to feel their way discreetly, such as by the staggering of house-to-house activity, or by witnessing with the Bible alone, or even by placing the emphasis on informal preaching. But worship they must! They ‘cannot stop speaking about the things they have seen and heard.’—Acts 4:20.
9. How did Daniel come to find protection, and of what encouragement is this today?
9 Because of his integrity-keeping course, Daniel was thrown into the lions’ pit. But did that mean that his God had deserted him? Why, never! Nor does Jehovah forsake his witnesses when they are thrown into filthy prisons today. Daniel had not even been abandoned by King Darius, who “spent the night fasting”—likely praying to Daniel’s God. Surely, Jehovah’s protection proved to be more powerful than the unchangeable edict of Medo-Persian law. Next morning, when the king hurried to the lions’ pit and inquired of Daniel whether his God whom he was “serving with constancy” had been able to rescue him, Daniel could reply: “My own God sent his angel and shut the mouth of the lions, and they have not brought me to ruin, forasmuch as before him innocence itself was found in me; and also before you, O king, no hurtful act have I done.”—Dan. 6:18-22.
10. How may Jehovah’s people thwart the devices of that “roaring lion,” the Devil?
10 Prayer to Jehovah is as important today as in Daniel’s time, and how effective it can be! Though Jehovah’s Witnesses may not nowadays be thrown into literal lions’ pits, they live in a world where their “adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” What must Christians do, then, when they come face to face with persecutions and other trials? They must be courageous. They must humbly submit to the trying circumstances and pray, being confident also that their brothers everywhere are praying fervently in their behalf. The apostle Peter gives fine advice: “Throw all your anxiety upon [God], because he cares for you. Keep your senses, be watchful. . . . take your stand against [the Devil], solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world. But, after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong. To him be the might forever.”—1 Pet. 5:6-11.
11. What modern-day examples are there of Jehovah’s Witnesses surviving ‘a lions’ pit’?
11 There have been many modern-day examples of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ being thrown into a “lions’ pit,” as it were. Lionlike emissaries of that “roaring lion,” the Devil, are seeking continually to devour God’s people. However, his Witnesses persevere in prayer, throwing their anxiety on Jehovah, and take their stand “solid in the faith.” For example, there was a young girl in Rhodesia who had been well taught by her parents as regards Bible principles. She was captured by guerrilla soldiers. Her parents feared for her, since the guerrillas were in the habit of violating or indoctrinating teen-age girls. All that the parents could do was pray for her safety. After several days, she returned unharmed. “What happened to you?” asked her parents. “I just kept witnessing to them,” explained the girl. So her captors sent her home. Later, the guerrilla leader came to the village and sought out her parents. He told them that he just wanted to meet the parents of such a well-trained little girl.
12. What fervent prayer may we always offer to Jehovah, and with what confidence?
12 How true it is that Jehovah cares for and stands by his prayerful servants! With confidence, we can always pray as did David: “O Jehovah my God, in you I have taken refuge. Save me from all those persecuting me and deliver me, that no one may tear my soul to pieces as a lion does, snatching me away when there is no deliverer.” Yes, we may feel at times that our “soul is in the middle of lions,” that we are among “devourers, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and whose tongue is a sharp sword.” But our fervent prayers to Jehovah, and our taking refuge in the shadow of his wings, will bring us through these trials as integrity-keepers. (Ps. 7:1, 2; 57:1-4) As Daniel “through faith . . . stopped the mouths of lions,” so may we.—Heb. 11:33.
IN “A TIME OF DISTRESS”
13. (a) In the reign of Cyrus, why did Daniel require strengthening? (b) What similar courage have Jehovah’s Witnesses needed today?
13 Later during the reign of King Cyrus, an angel appeared to Daniel in a vision and strengthened him, saying: “Do not be afraid, O very desirable man. May you have peace. Be strong, yes, be strong.” (Dan. 10:1-19) It required courage on Daniel’s part to receive and record the powerful prophecy that was next given him by the angel, and which we find in Daniel chapters 11 and 12. And it has taken courage for Jehovah’s Witnesses to remain “no part of the world” during the fulfillment of the final part of this prophecy, as it describes the confrontation between the Communistic “king of the north” and the capitalistic “king of the south” in this nuclear age.
14. (a) What identifies Michael as the Lord Jesus Christ? (b) How may we draw courage from the record in Daniel chapter 12?
14 Several times the book of Daniel mentions Michael, whose name means “Who Is Like God?” (Dan. 10:13, 21) Thus this great prince is identified as the Lord Jesus Christ, who contends for the vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. In speaking of this “time of the end,” the angel tells Daniel: “And during that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people. And there will certainly occur a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time. And during that time your people will escape, every one who is found written down in the book.” (Dan. 12:1, 4) May we be very courageous to do all that Daniel’s God requires of us, until that “time of distress” sweeps away Satan’s wicked world. For then, the glorious day of Jesus’ millennial reign will dawn. “Many of those asleep in the ground of dust . . . will wake up” with prospects of everlasting life on earth. The courageous Daniel, too, “will stand up for [his] lot at the end of the days.”—Dan. 12:2, 9, 13.
“BE COURAGEOUS AND STRONG”
15, 16. (a) In what earlier situation of Daniel’s people Israel was courage required? (b) As in Israel, how may the courage of God’s people today be strengthened?
15 Today, God’s people stand at the very portals of the millennium. The situation resembles that of Daniel’s people, Israel, at a much earlier period of their history. This was when they were encamped at the brink of the Jordan River, ready to cross into the Promised Land. The goal was in sight. But trials and difficulties still lay ahead. Courage was needed. Therefore, another famous prophet of Jehovah, the aged Moses, spoke these words to Israel: “Be courageous and strong. Do not be afraid or suffer a shock before [your enemies], because Jehovah your God is the one marching with you. He will neither desert you nor leave you entirely.” And to his own designated successor, Joshua, Moses gave similar admonition: “Be courageous and strong.”—Deut. 31:1-8.
16 Indeed, all the people would need to be very courageous; and, hence, Moses instructed the priests, the Levites and the older men of Israel in connection with what was to take place every seven years at the festival of booths that all would be required to keep: “Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones and your alien resident who is within your gates, in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law.” (Deut. 31:9-12) Listening to, learning and obeying the law of Jehovah was essential to the success of that nation, and this is also necessary today if God’s people are to be supplied with courage that will enable them to survive the world’s end.
17, 18. What is required to become “courageous and strong,” and why should Christian elders pay particular attention to this?
17 At that critical time in Israel, it was necessary for the older man Joshua to show exemplary courage, even as this is needful for Christian elders in the congregation today. Hence, Jehovah’s words spoken directly to Joshua, and fortifying those previously spoken by Moses, should have our close attention: “Be courageous and strong. . . . Only be courageous and very strong. . . . Be courageous and strong. Do not suffer shock or be terrified, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9) Jehovah told Joshua what was required to be “courageous and strong,” and to act wisely in every situation. And what is that? Let the scripture answer:
18 “This book of [Jehovah’s] law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.”—Josh. 1:8.
19, 20. What will be the final outcome of our being “courageous and strong”?
19 What finally resulted from the wise action of Joshua, together with the courageous obedience of the people? After all obstacles had been surmounted, after Jehovah had given Israel victory over all their enemies and when the people had at last settled in that “land flowing with milk and honey,” Joshua was able to encourage them by saying: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”—Josh. 5:6; 23:14.
20 When Jehovah’s courageous people of modern times have at last come out of the catastrophic “time of distress” to enter the millennium of Christ’s peaceful reign, they will experience the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises on a far grander, yes, on a permanent scale. May we all “be courageous and very strong” to survive into that millennium now at hand!
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As Jehovah protected Daniel, so he protects witnesses from modern-day “lions”