The Sustaining Power of God’s Word
A CUT flower can last only a few days before it withers and dies. But a tree planted in a well-watered area can grow large and strong and may live for hundreds or even thousands of years. Interestingly, the Bible likens the person whose “delight is in the law of Jehovah” to “a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither.”—Ps. 1:1-3.
A tree having a good water supply is able to grow strong and maintain its fruitfulness. Similarly, a person who regularly drinks of the precious life-sustaining truth of God’s Word through serious study and meditation is able to grow strong spiritually and continue to bear fruitage.
Just as water is essential to sustaining both plant and animal life, so truth contained in God’s Word is vital to maintaining spiritual life. Today Jehovah’s servants are in a life-or-death struggle. As the apostle Paul pointedly said: “We have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against . . . the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Hence, Christians must wage spiritual warfare against powerful, superhuman creatures. In efforts to destroy the relationship that Jehovah’s servants have with God, these wicked spirits resort to violent frontal attacks like persecution and subtle pressures, such as temptations involving immorality and materialism.
In view of the superhuman strength and cunning of our enemies, we really have no hope of surviving their attacks in our own strength. However, as God’s servants, we can rely on the strength that Jehovah supplies. As long as we put our complete trust in the Almighty God, we can have the confidence displayed by the apostle Paul, who declared: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Phil. 4:13.
Paul’s declaration was not a piece of high-sounding rhetoric. He wrote with a conviction born of long years of personal experience. According to his own testimony, the apostle was ‘in prisons plentifully, in blows to an excess, in near-deaths often.’ (2 Cor. 11:23-27) But by the power imparted to him by God, he was able to endure faithfully in godly activity, right up to his death at enemy hands.
However, to acquire spiritual strength and the ability to face the future as an integrity-keeper, a Christian must have a good knowledge of God’s Word. By means of the Scriptures, our loving heavenly Father has given us an indispensable guide to happy living and an incomparable source of spiritual strength. God’s Son certainly appreciated the life-sustaining value of his Father’s Word, as can be seen by his quoting it and saying in answer to one of Satan’s temptations: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’”—Matt. 4:4.
Time and Effort Required
Nevertheless, we cannot expect God miraculously to grant us knowledge of the Bible. In order to have a good grasp of God’s Word, we have to expend time and effort in studying the Bible and meditating on what we learn from it.
True, due to human imperfection, very few of us have a so-called ‘photographic memory’ that might enable us to remember everything we study. But if we have made a serious effort in studying the Bible, we can rely on Jehovah’s spirit to bring to our mind Scriptural thoughts that will provide the guidance and encouragement needed to face various trials and the information required to defend our faith. Jesus assured his disciples: “When they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.”—Matt. 10:19, 20.
Of course, it is not always a case of giving a testimony before rulers or those who demand an explanation of our faith and Christian activities. Very often it is a matter of suffering hardships and persecution, even prolonged imprisonment. Does God’s Word have sustaining power under such circumstances? Indeed it does.
Many of God’s servants can testify to the wonderful sustaining power of God’s Word. For example, consider true Christians in China, some of whom endured much hardship in prisons and labor camps. For many years, they did not have copies of the Bible and had no opportunity to associate with fellow Christians. Yet what they had learned from God’s Word before their incarceration sustained them through years of trials.
One of these individuals was Stanley Jones, who was arrested in 1958 and was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment. Though not having a Bible, he was able to recall many scriptures and drew much comfort and strength from meditating on these. One text that gave him much comfort was Romans 12:12, which reads: “Rejoice in the hope. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer.”
Another example is that of Harold King, who was arrested and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in China. Brother King had studied God’s Word for 26 years. In fact, for 22 years he had made constant use of the Bible while engaging in the full-time preaching work. This enabled him to have a good grasp of God’s Word. When he found himself in jail and separated from all his spiritual brothers, he prayed to Jehovah about the situation, asking when and how this trial would end. Jesus’ words at Matthew 6:31-34 came to mind and his anxiety disappeared. It was as though Jehovah was saying to him: ‘Live your life one day at a time and do not worry about tomorrow. I shall look after you well, as I always have.’ Brother King also thought of God’s prophet Jeremiah, who once was lowered into a miry cistern and apparently was left there to die. (Jer. 38:6) However, Jeremiah was delivered out of that seemingly hopeless situation. Thinking about this ancient example of faithfulness, Harold King felt that Jehovah eventually would deliver him, so that he would be able to return to his brothers and continue his service in freedom.
Further drawing on the sustaining power of God’s Word, Harold King tried to recall as many scriptures as possible, just as Stanley Jones did. If these two Christians had failed to make a serious and diligent study of the Bible previously, would they have been able to recall many scriptures that could help to sustain them spiritually?
Then there is the example of Nancy Yuen, who spent 20 years in prisons and labor camps in China. During her long detention, she was separated from her family besides being under constant pressure to renounce her faith. However, she was able to survive the long, hard ordeal by relying on Jehovah for strength and drawing on the sustaining power of his Word. By the help of God’s spirit, she was able to recall scriptures that seemed most fitting in meeting her needs under various circumstances. As she put it: “There were always appropriate scriptures that came to my mind to give me proper guidance and strength to cope with every situation.”
For instance, when Sister Yuen was confronted with threats of violence and physical abuse, she recalled Jehovah’s comforting words to the prophet Ezekiel: “Do not be afraid of them; and of their words do not be afraid.” (Ezek. 2:6) When she missed her family sorely, these words of Jesus came to her mind: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37, 38) This filled her with renewed determination to maintain her integrity, no matter how great the cost.
When Sister Yuen was deliberately humiliated and maltreated, she recalled how Jesus’ apostles reacted to being flogged for preaching the “good news.” She bore in mind that they “went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of [Christ’s] name.” (Acts 5:40-42) So she was able to bear the shame gladly. When suffering from material privation, she recalled that ‘man does not live by bread alone.’—Luke 4:4.
Sister Yuen thought of many faithful servants of Jehovah who had maintained their integrity to God through hardships and trials. She drew much comfort from the fine examples set by Job and Daniel, as she felt that she was undergoing experiences similar to those endured by those faithful men of old. Of course, the greatest example of all, that of Christ Jesus, was a constant source of encouragement.
In many other cases, God’s modern-day servants in different parts of the world have endured long, hard trials of faith. These Christians, who have triumphed over trials, are just ordinary men and women like all of us. But their complete reliance on God has enabled them to endure tremendous hardships. Indeed, ‘the power beyond what is normal is God’s and not that out of themselves.’—2 Cor. 4:7.
God’s Word Is “Alive and Exerts Power”
True, not all worshipers of Jehovah are required to undergo the same hard trials, such as being incarcerated for their faith. But all of God’s servants have to go through trials of one kind or another in order to have their faith thoroughly tested. The trials may come in the form of opposition from family members, immoral temptations, pressures from fellow companions to follow some unscriptural course, anxieties of life, ill health, various personal problems, and so forth. However, no matter how difficult the trials may be, we can be sure that the comfort and strength drawn from God’s Word will be of invaluable aid to us in our time of need, enabling us to stand firm and maintain our faith in God.—Rom. 15:4.
Thousands of Jehovah’s people can testify to the sustaining power of his Word. They have been able to endure opposition from family members day in and day out for many years. It has been possible for them to maintain fine Christian conduct in an increasingly immoral and lawless world. They have been able to display firm faith despite jeers and contempt from a faithless society. These actual, living examples show that God’s Word is “alive and exerts power.” (Heb. 4:12) It may be likened to a sword for both offensive and defensive purposes. However, a sword is not of much use in the hand of an individual who has never been trained to use it. So God’s Word is of little benefit to a person who has very limited knowledge of it and does not know how to apply it in life.—Eph. 6:17.
God’s Word is the product of Jehovah’s holy spirit, which is the most powerful force in the universe. For a proper understanding of this Word, we need to study it prayerfully with the help of God’s spirit and in association with the congregation of his people. (Matt. 24:45-47; Acts 8:30-35; 1 Cor. 2:10) Although this world is undergoing a period of unprecedented turmoil and trouble, resulting in very trying conditions, we can draw strength from the Scriptures. Now, indeed, is the time to study God’s Word diligently so as to benefit fully from its marvelous sustaining power.