We Can ‘Endure to the End’
“He who patiently endures to the end, will be saved.”—MATTHEW 24:13, THE EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT.
1. (a) For us as individuals, what may be “the end” Jesus mentioned, as recorded at Matthew 24:13? (b) What is vital for salvation?
JESUS CHRIST, in the great prophecy regarding his “presence,” made this hope-inspiring statement: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:3, 13) For us as individuals, “the end” may be either “the conclusion of the system of things” or our death, perhaps after long, hard testing. Yet, for ultimate salvation, faithful endurance is vital.—1 Peter 1:8, 9.
2, 3. (a) Why can we be confident that we, though being imperfect, can attain to salvation? (b) What will we now consider?
2 Jesus provided a perfect example of endurance. (Hebrews 12:1-3) But as imperfect humans we can be faithful to God despite intense suffering and persecution “for righteousness’ sake.” (Matthew 5:10) Yes, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness we can attain salvation to everlasting life through the ransom sacrifice of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.—John 3:16; 1 John 2:1, 2.
3 The apostle Paul, though he was an imperfect human, furnishes us a fine example of endurance leading to salvation. In considering a portion of his defense recorded at 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, we have learned that in labors and sufferings he was “more outstandingly” a ‘minister of Christ’ than were Corinth’s “superfine apostles.” As we shall see, he also surpassed them as ‘Christ’s minister’ in journeys, dangers and various hardships.
Perilous Travels to Further the Good News
4. To what travels did the apostle Paul refer when indicating he ‘journeyed often’?
4 In journeys often: Paul traveled frequently to proclaim the good news, far outstripping his Corinthian opponents in this regard. (2Co 11 Verses 23, 26) Of course, he faced dangers common to travelers in the Roman world. But his journeys were very extensive and quite fatiguing. His travels took him to such cities as Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea, Athens and Corinth.—Acts 13:14–14:26; 16:11–18:17.
5. What made Paul’s journeys especially taxing and dangerous, and how could he endure such arduous travels?
5 The apostle’s journeys were even more taxing and dangerous because he was ‘an object of hatred on account of Christ’s name.’ (Matthew 10:22) Nevertheless, Jehovah gave Paul the vitality and courage needed for his arduous travels. (Isaiah 40:28-31) Certainly, as a hardworking minister, the apostle set present-day witnesses of Jehovah a fine example in promoting Kingdom interests.—Matthew 6:33.
Faithfully Enduring Many Dangers
6. To what “dangers from rivers” could the apostle have been referring?
6 In dangers from rivers: Since there were comparatively few bridges, Paul’s life must often have been endangered while he forded flood-swollen rivers. For example, during his first missionary tour and the return trip, he journeyed through Pisidia, where rushing mountain rivers posed great dangers. (Acts 13:13, 14; 14:21, 24) From Paul’s endurance under such circumstances Jehovah’s Witnesses—especially missionaries and other ministers in remote areas—can draw encouragement.
7. (a) What “dangers from highwaymen” confronted Paul? (b) How can Witnesses today endure similar dangers?
7 In dangers from highwaymen: Jesus’ illustration of the neighborly Samaritan shows that a first-century traveler could ‘fall among robbers, who might strip him, inflict blows and leave him half-dead.’ (Luke 10:25-37) Bandits were common in many areas through which Paul traveled. For instance, when he and Barnabas journeyed northward from Perga to Antioch in Pisidia, they passed through bandit-infested mountainous terrain. (Acts 13:13, 14) Such dangerous criminals would ambush victims in desolate areas and would not hesitate to use violence. Possibly, Paul himself was attacked by highwaymen. Modern-day witnesses of Jehovah may face similar dangers and need to exercise caution. Like the apostle, however, they can endure faithfully, not succumbing to fear but being confident of Jehovah’s protection.—Compare Psalm 56:4.
8. Why did fellow Jews hate Paul and even want to kill him?
8 In dangers from my own race: Paul was preaching about an impaled and resurrected Messiah, who was rejected by his own countrymen in general. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24; 2:2) Moreover, he taught that a person would be declared righteous, not by works of the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:20; 5:18-21; 6:14) Hence, fellow Jews considered Paul an apostate, hated him, beat him and even wanted to kill him. (Acts 9:23-25) Those of his own race also seemed upset because he was winning over to Christianity some Gentiles that the Jews had sought to make proselytes to their own religion.—Matthew 23:15; Acts 17:1-10.
9. What “dangers from the nations” did the apostle face, but did such perils silence him?
9 In dangers from the nations: Gentiles, or people of the nations, also persecuted Paul. (Acts 19:11-41) In fact, his Jewish foes sometimes incited Gentiles to violent action against the apostle. (Acts 14:1-7, 19, 20) However, such dangers from Jews and Gentiles never silenced that fearless Kingdom proclaimer. Similarly, persecuted Christian witnesses of Jehovah today fearlessly preach among people of their own race and others.—Acts 17:30; compare Psalm 59:1-4.
10. How was Paul endangered “in the city”?
10 In dangers in the city: In one way or another, Paul was persecuted in such cities as Damascus, Jerusalem, Lystra and Ephesus. (Acts 9:23-30; 14:19; 19:29-31) Gentile opposers at Philippi said that Paul and Silas were ‘disturbing their city.’ As a consequence, those evangelizers became victims there of mob action, beatings and imprisonment. (Acts 16:16-24) But this did not stop those Kingdom proclaimers, even as similar violence has not silenced Jehovah’s Witnesses in our day.
11. What were the possible “dangers in the wilderness”?
11 In dangers in the wilderness: The apostle did not restrict his activity and movements to populous areas and well-traveled roads. His journeys also took him through sparsely inhabited regions, even “the wilds.” (Today’s English Version) There the possibility of starvation, exposure to storms, getting lost, being stalked by wild beasts and experiencing ambush by bandits were potential dangers that Paul faced courageously.
12. What “dangers at sea” did Paul face, and did these deter him from carrying on his ministry?
12 In dangers at sea: When activity in spreading the good news or aiding fellow believers called for travel “on the high seas” (TEV), there were dangers from violent storms, as well as the possibility of shipwreck. Yet Paul did not let such perils deter him from carrying on his ministry, even as many of Jehovah’s Witnesses in our time courageously endure similar dangers when traveling in order to promote Kingdom interests.
Imperiled by “False Brothers”
13, 14. (a) Who were the “false brothers”? (b) Why were the “false brothers” especially dangerous? (c) How have Jehovah’s Witnesses been fortified spiritually for defense against “false brothers” who may infiltrate congregations?
13 In dangers among false brothers: Most dangerous of all, and doubtless especially trying to Paul, were treacherous “false brothers” or “pseudo-brothers.” (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) Such persons have been found among Christ’s followers since the time of traitorous Judas Iscariot. In Paul’s day these “false brothers” may have included Corinth’s “superfine apostles.” “False brothers” were especially dangerous because they treacherously posed as friends while they were actually disloyal traitors. Such men were trying to find some accusation against Paul.—2 Corinthians 11:5, 12-14; compare Daniel 6:4, 5.
14 Among the “pseudo-brothers” were those active in “the congregations of Galatia.” But Paul never yielded to such men, “in order that the truth of the good news might continue with” his fellow believers. (Galatians 1:1, 2; 2:4, 5; compare Jude 3, 4.) As Jehovah helped Paul, He has fortified His present-day witnesses spiritually so that “the truth of the good news” continues with them. In such writings as the divinely inspired letters to Corinthian and Galatian believers, they find spiritual aid needed for defense against “false brothers” who may infiltrate congregations.
Enduring Hardships in “Sacred Service”
15. To what did Paul refer when he said he was “more outstandingly” Christ’s minister “in labor and toil”?
15 In labor and toil: Paul next cited hardships making him “more outstandingly” a ‘minister of Christ’ than his opponents. (2Co 11 Verses 23, 27) The “labor and toil” here mentioned could pertain partly to fatiguing manual work that Paul performed to sustain himself in the ministry. (Acts 18:1-4; 1 Corinthians 4:11, 12; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 8) But everything the apostle did was centered around Jehovah’s service. Hence, this “labor and toil” doubtless included his exertions and resulting weariness due to rigorous travels, exposure to the elements, privations and other hardships endured in “sacred service” to Jehovah.—Romans 12:1.
16. What accounted for Paul’s frequent “sleepless nights”?
16 In sleepless nights often: Because of Paul’s desire to avoid placing a financial burden upon those to whom he preached the good news, he labored manually “night and day,” probably with frequent and considerable loss of sleep. (1 Thessalonians 2:9) Of course, all of this was associated with the apostle’s activity as a ‘minister of Christ.’ His “sleepless nights” did not result from anxiety over material necessities, for Jehovah sees to it that His servants have these. (Matthew 6:25-34) But some of those wakeful nights could have been spent in prayer or in deep concern for fellow believers. (Compare Luke 6:12-16; 2 Corinthians 11:28, 29.) On one occasion he found it necessary to speak to the assembled brothers “until midnight,” yes, even all night “until daybreak.” (Acts 20:7-12) Moreover, many of those nights without sleep must have resulted from bodily discomfort, dangers and other hardships endured while the apostle was performing his ministry.
17. When may the apostle have experienced “hunger and thirst”?
17 In hunger and thirst: Paul could have experienced “hunger and thirst” while traveling through desolate regions or hot desert areas. At times he may have been hungry and thirsty because of being dependent on strangers or on whatever provisions he could obtain through his own labors in unfamiliar locales. Yet Jehovah always saw to it that Paul survived, even though provisions were meager at times. Comparably, “the God of all comfort” provides sustenance for his present-day servants.—Psalm 37:25; Luke 11:2, 3.
18. “Abstinence from food many times” could relate to what?
18 In abstinence from food many times: Here (2Co 11 verse 27) Paul may have intended to contrast involuntary “hunger and thirst” with deliberate “abstinence from food [literally, “fastings”] many times.” On certain occasions he may have fasted voluntarily, as when devoting himself to prayer or to caring for very weighty spiritual matters. (Compare Acts 13:3; 14:23.) But if he was citing only hardships here, he meant going without food involuntarily, perhaps due to an illness, such as dysentery, or privations experienced in the ministry. (Compare 2 Corinthians 6:5.) Of course, when Paul set out on certain ministerial trips he may have realized that food and water would be scarce or unavailable. But he did not let this deter him from furthering Christian interests.—Philippians 4:12.
19. Under what circumstances may Paul have endured “cold and nakedness”?
19 In cold and nakedness: The hardships of cold and comparative “nakedness,” or “exposure,” were also endured by the apostle. (The New English Bible) But he was not “scantily clothed” because of laziness. Paul worked to provide for his needs. (1 Corinthians 4:11, 12; compare Acts 20:33, 34.) “Cold and nakedness” were hardships the apostle endured while inadequately clothed during persecution, when traveling in inclement weather or while engaging in the ministry under difficult circumstances.
‘Endure to the End’!
20, 21. (a) Why would you say that Paul was not a human tower of strength? (b) How may Jehovah’s Witnesses today be compared with the apostle Paul?
20 Having considered some of the apostle Paul’s labors, sufferings, travels, perils and hardships, one might view him as a human tower of strength. Like each one of us, however, he was an imperfect human. (Romans 7:21-25) In fact, his Corinthian opponents looked down on him, saying: “His letters are weighty and forceful, but his presence in person is weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Corinthians 10:10) Moreover, Paul had a “thorn in the flesh”—possibly an affliction of the eyes.—2 Corinthians 12:7; Acts 23:1-5; Galatians 4:15; 6:11.
21 Similarly, as Jehovah’s modern-day witnesses, we are imperfect, although we, like Paul, earnestly strive to please God. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) The world looks down on us, as some did on the apostle, even though we show deep concern for the spiritual welfare of fellow humans. (Matthew 22:39) Like Paul, many of us have some affliction. But this makes us more dependent on God’s strength, and in our weakness his power is made especially manifest among those to whom we preach.—2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
22. (a) If called upon to suffer “for righteousness’ sake,” how are we comforted by Jehovah? (b) How only can we ‘endure to the end’?
22 There is no doubt that power from above sustained Paul right down to his death as an imperfect but faithful servant of Jehovah. (2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:6-8) Comparably, it is only in God’s strength that we can ‘endure to the end’ of this wicked system of things or to our death in faithfulness. (Psalm 29:11; Matthew 10:28; 24:3, 13; Mark 13:13) If called upon to suffer “for righteousness’ sake,” we are greatly comforted by Jehovah’s holy spirit, his precious promises and his answers to our prayers. Such things make us confident that “the God of all comfort” is with us. Like the apostle Paul we may be “perplexed, but not absolutely with no way out . . . persecuted, but not left in the lurch . . . thrown down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9) Our God empowers us to proclaim the good news fearlessly in the face of persecution and hardship. And, surely, in Jehovah’s strength we can ‘endure to the end.’
Can you now answer these questions?
□ What is meant by ‘enduring to the end’?
□ To travels of what kind did the apostle Paul refer when he spoke of “journeys often”?
□ How was the apostle imperiled by “false brothers,” and how have Jehovah’s present-day witnesses been spiritually fortified against such persons?
□ Under what circumstances did Paul experience “hunger and thirst,” as well as “cold and nakedness”?
□ Though we are imperfect, as Paul was, how is it possible to ‘endure to the end’?
[Picture on page 18]
In his ministerial travels Paul often was in dangers from highwaymen
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Paul was in dangers from the nations, as in Lystra