‘God Will Finish Your Training’
AN ATHLETE preparing for an important event has to train hard. He wants to get his body in shape so that on the big day, he will render his best possible performance. Christians, too, have to train hard but with a different goal. The apostle Paul said: “Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.”—1 Timothy 4:7.
Thus, a Christian has to keep himself in shape spiritually. As an athlete builds his body, the Christian builds his spiritual strength and endurance. He does this by studying God’s Word the Bible, by prayer, by regularly associating with fellow Christians, and by making public expressions of his faith.
An athlete often has a trainer, and Christians, too, have a trainer. Who? None other than Jehovah God himself! The apostle Peter pointed out Jehovah’s concern for the Christian training program, writing: “The God of all undeserved kindness . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.” (1 Peter 5:10) What training does Jehovah give us? Many kinds, and all are vital if we want to stay in shape as Christians.
Peter himself received training from Jehovah. We can learn a lot from his experience. Sometimes Peter’s training was painful. Imagine how Peter must have felt when he tried to discourage Jesus from going through with God’s purpose, and Jesus answered: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.” (Matthew 16:23) Imagine, too, how he felt many years later when fear of man led him to act unwisely. The apostle Paul administered Jehovah’s discipline on that occasion: “When Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I resisted him face to face, because he stood condemned.”—Galatians 2:11-14.
Nevertheless, on both occasions Jehovah was training Peter. He learned that “no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11) Accepting those strong reproofs as discipline from Jehovah helped Peter to get the right view of matters and trained him in the vital Christian qualities of meekness and humility.—Proverbs 3:34; 15:33.
Jehovah can train us by permitting situations to arise that are difficult to handle—sometimes these are even within the Christian congregation. We grow as Christians as we pray for guidance, put into application the Bible principles we have learned, and see how applying those principles is always the best way.
Peter was involved in personality conflicts that arose among Jesus’ apostles. When we read the accounts of this, it is interesting to see how Jesus used these conflicts—which were really the result of imperfection and inexperience—as opportunities to train his followers in the essential Christian qualities of love, humility, and forgiveness.—Matthew 18:15-17, 21, 22; Luke 22:24-27.
Paul also witnessed personality conflicts. (Acts 15:36-40; Philippians 4:2) He explained how such problems give Christians the opportunity to receive training: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Colossians 3:13, 14.
In the first century, a more sinister danger appeared among Christians. Peter warned about it: “There will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct, and on account of these the way of the truth will be spoken of abusively.” (2 Peter 2:1, 2) This experience would result in the destruction of the unrepentant “false teachers.” (2 Peter 2:3) But what of those who remained faithful?
The experience would train them to ‘rouse up their clear thinking faculties.’ (2 Peter 3:1) Their alertness in guarding against the intrusion of false teachings would call for them to review the reasons for their faith. As they saw the bad results of the actions of the “false teachers,” their confidence in Christian truth would be even stronger.—2 Peter 3:3-7.
For example, in one congregation the aged apostle John was opposed by a certain Diotrephes, an ambitious man who had little respect for John’s authority and who not only refused to receive the messengers sent by John but may even have tried to disfellowship those who did. This must have been painful to all the sincere Christians who were in the same congregation as Diotrephes. But it did give them the opportunity to show that they were not ‘imitators of what is bad’ and thus to receive advanced training in loyalty to Jehovah and to apostolic authority.—3 John 9-12.
In Dealing With Non-Christians
Jesus said that his followers were no part of the world. (John 17:16) A Christian’s first loyalty is to Jehovah and his Kingdom. He tries to maintain God’s moral standards, so his main interests and concerns are different from those of the world. However, a Christian has to live in the world, and this inevitably causes tensions.
Peter, during his long ministry, must have seen many occasions when Christians had to make difficult decisions, balancing the demands of the world with the dictates of their conscience. In Peter’s first letter, he gave fine, practical counsel as to how to do this so that Christians could “hold a good conscience.”—1 Peter 2:13-20; 3:1-6, 16.
Of course, as Christians we look forward to the time when we no longer have to consider the demands of this system of things. But meanwhile we are being trained in endurance and allowed to demonstrate our loyalty in the face of temptation and ungodly influences. As we gain experience in applying Bible principles to different circumstances and courageously act the way we know Jehovah wants us to act, we are also trained in practical wisdom and courage. Think about how much more training we will have received because of having lived in this system and successfully handled so many difficult problems!
When Peter spoke about God’s training of us, he was particularly referring to persecution. He showed that Christians should expect persecution: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Peter 5:8; see also 2 Timothy 3:12.
Peter was qualified to speak about this because he had personally suffered persecution. In the early days of the Christian congregation, he and the other apostles were flogged and ordered to stop preaching. Their reaction? They “went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.”—Acts 5:41.
Hence, Peter spoke from experience, as well as under inspiration, when he said: “On the contrary, go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory. If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.”—1 Peter 4:13, 14.
Yes, outright persecution can serve as a form of training. Under it, a Christian learns to rely even more on God’s spirit. His faith develops a “tested quality.” (1 Peter 1:7) He is trained in courage based on Jehovah’s power. (2 Timothy 1:7) He develops patient endurance, and like Jesus, he ‘learns obedience through the things he suffers.’—Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 2:23, 24.
Jehovah Finishes Our Training
Of course, the difficult problems, including persecution, that a Christian endures do not come from God. James counsels: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) Problems may arise from many causes, including when people make mistakes or do wrong of their own free will. However, since such things do happen, Jehovah uses them to train his servants in vital Christian qualities.
Job, Jeremiah, Peter, Paul, and all of God’s servants in Bible times were trained in this way. We, too, as we face various difficult situations, should view them as a source of training permitted by Jehovah. By our facing up to them in Jehovah’s strength, we will be trained in obedience, wisdom, humility, courage, love, tolerance, and many other qualities.—Compare James 1:2-4.
We are encouraged, too, by knowing that this stage of our training will one day be over. Hence, Peter comforted his fellow Christians, saying: “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 Peter 5:10) These words apply with equal force to the “great crowd” that look forward to everlasting life in the Paradise earth.
That thought in itself should help us to submit patiently to these training experiences, to be determined not to compromise. Thus, we will experience the truthfulness of Paul’s encouraging words: “So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.