Witness for Jehovah and Do Not Tire Out
“Consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners . . . that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—HEBREWS 12:3.
1, 2. What convincing proof did Jesus give to his disciples that he had been resurrected?
“I HAVE seen the Lord!” With those startling words, Mary Magdalene broke the news of Jesus’ resurrection. (John 20:18) This marked the beginning of 40 days packed full of exciting events for Christ’s disciples, previously saddened by his death.
2 Jesus wanted to leave no doubt in the minds of his disciples that he was actually alive. Thus, as Luke relates: “By many positive proofs [Jesus] showed himself alive after he had suffered, being seen by them throughout forty days.” (Acts 1:3) In fact, on one occasion “he appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time.” (1 Corinthians 15:6) Certainly, there was now no further room for doubt. Jesus was alive!
3. What question regarding the Kingdom did Jesus’ disciples put to him, and why did his answer surprise them?
3 Jesus’ disciples then thought only of an earthly “kingdom of God,” one restored to Israel. (Luke 19:11; 24:21) So they asked Jesus: “Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” No doubt his answer surprised them, for he said: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction; but you will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you, and you will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8) What a challenge was now set before the disciples! And what a responsibility! How could they accomplish such a task? The answer soon came in a startling manner.
Accepting the Challenge
4. Describe what happened on the day of Pentecost.
4 Luke relates: “While the day of the festival of Pentecost was in progress they were all together at the same place, and suddenly there occurred from heaven a noise just like that of a rushing stiff breeze, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. And tongues as if of fire became visible to them and were distributed about, and one sat upon each one of them, and they all became filled with holy spirit and started to speak with different tongues, just as the spirit was granting them to make utterance.” So great was the noise that it attracted the attention of a multitude of Jews staying in Jerusalem for the festival. They were amazed to hear in ‘their own tongues about the magnificent things of God.’—Acts 2:1-11.
5. To what extent was Jesus’ prediction at Acts 1:8 soon fulfilled?
5 Peter lost no time in giving a dynamic talk, proving beyond any doubt that “Jesus the Nazarene,” whom they had impaled, was the “Lord” foretold by David in the words: “Jehovah said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.’” Stabbed to the heart, Peter’s listeners asked: “Men, brothers, what shall we do?” In reply Peter urged them: “Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins.” The result? Three thousand were baptized! (Acts 2:14-41) Already the witness was being given in Jerusalem. Later on, it widened out into all Judea, then Samaria, and finally “to the most distant part of the earth.” So rapid was the expansion of the Kingdom-preaching work that about 60 C.E. the apostle Paul could say that the good news “was preached in all creation that is under heaven.”—Colossians 1:23.
Kingdom Expansion and Persecution
6, 7. (a) How did Kingdom expansion and persecution of Christians go hand in hand during the first century? (b) What urgent need arose among the Christians in Jerusalem, and how was this need filled?
6 Not long after Pentecost 33 C.E., Jesus’ disciples had reason to recall his words: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) The Jewish leaders were enraged when “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much.” On false charges, the disciple Stephen was stoned to death. That appeared to be the signal many were awaiting, for “on that day great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”—Acts 6:7; 7:58-60; 8:1.
7 The persecution temporarily subsided. But shortly afterward, Herod Agrippa I killed the apostle James. Peter was imprisoned but was released by an angel. Later the brothers in Jerusalem became materially impoverished, and aid had to be sent to them by fellow believers elsewhere. (Acts 9:31; 12:1-11; 1 Corinthians 16:1-3) During a visit of the apostle Paul to Jerusalem, religious fanaticism was evident as a multitude screamed: “Take such a man away from the earth, for he was not fit to live!” (Acts 22:22) Certainly, those Christians living in Jerusalem and Judea needed much encouragement to keep on faithfully witnessing about the Kingdom. Jesus had promised his disciples that “the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name,” would act as a “helper.” (John 14:26) But how would the Father now provide such needed help or comfort? The answer, in part, was through the apostle Paul.
Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews
8. (a) What prompted Paul to write his letter to the Hebrews? (b) Upon what aspect of his letter are we going to focus our attention, and why?
8 In about 61 C.E., Paul was imprisoned in Rome, but he was aware of what was happening to his brothers in Jerusalem. Therefore, under the direction of Jehovah’s spirit, he wrote his timely letter to the Hebrews. It is full of loving concern for his Hebrew brothers and sisters. Paul knew what they needed to have their faith and confidence built up in Jehovah as their Helper. Then they could ‘run with endurance the race set before them’ and confidently say: “Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 12:1; 13:6) It is upon this aspect of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews (chapters 11-13) that we now wish to focus our attention. Why? Because the situation those early Christians faced is the same as that facing Jehovah’s Witnesses today.
9. What issue facing Christians in the first century faces Christians today, and how only can it be met?
9 Within our generation, multitudes have responded positively to the Kingdom message by dedicating themselves to Jehovah and getting baptized as his Witnesses. However, along with this expansion of true worship has come violent persecution, many Christians even forfeiting their lives as did Stephen, James, and other faithful first-century witnesses. Hence, the issue is the same now as it was then: Who will be able to stand the test of their integrity in the face of mounting opposition to the Kingdom message? Furthermore, who will be able to face up to the awesome happenings as the unparalleled “great tribulation” soon descends upon this present generation? (Matthew 24:21) The answer is, those prepared to “fight the fine fight of the faith,” those who are “solid in the faith.” These are the ones who will finally be able to say: “This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—1 Timothy 6:12; 1 Peter 5:9; 1 John 5:4.
Benefiting From Faithful Examples
10. (a) What is faith? (b) How did God feel about men and women of faith of old times?
10 What is faith? Paul answers: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld. For by means of this the men of old times had witness borne to them.” (Hebrews 11:1, 2) Paul then backs up his definition of faith by showing faith at work. He captures the highlights in the lives of some “men of old times,” as well as women like Sarah and Rahab. How encouraging it is to find that “God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God”! (Hebrews 11:16) Can God say the same of us because of our faith? May we give him no cause to be ashamed of us as each day ends.
11. How can we today benefit from the “cloud of witnesses surrounding us”?
11 Following the account of these faithful men and women, Paul says: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Although now sleeping in the grave, are these exemplary faithful witnesses alive in our mind? Do you know them and their experiences well enough to answer yes? This is one of the many rewards of regular Bible study, using all our senses to relive the exciting experiences of this “cloud of witnesses.” Truly, taking to heart their faithful example will greatly help us to overcome any lack of faith. In turn, this will help us to give a bold and fearless witness to the truth under all circumstances.—Romans 15:4.
Not Tiring Out
12. (a) How can Jesus’ example help us not to ‘get tired and give out in our souls’? (b) What are some present-day examples of those not tiring out?
12 Our greatest example of faith is Jesus. Paul urges: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. . . . Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.” (Hebrews 12:1-3) How “closely” have you considered Jesus’ example? How “intently” have you been looking at him? (1 Peter 2:21) Satan wants us to ‘get tired and give out in our souls.’ He wants us to stop doing the work of witnessing. How does he do this? Sometimes by outright opposition from religious and worldly authorities, as in the first century. Last year, the Kingdom-preaching work was restricted in some 40 countries. But did that cause our brothers to tire out? No! Their faithful work resulted in 17,000 and more being baptized in those lands in 1988. What a stimulus this should be to all those living in countries where there is relative freedom! Let us never tire out in preaching the good news of the Kingdom!
13. (a) What are some of the subtle things that could cause us to become weary in our preaching work? (b) What was ‘the joy set before Jesus,’ and how can we acquire a similar joyful attitude?
13 However, there are other more subtle things that could cause us to become weary. These include opposition in a divided home, mental distress, health problems, peer pressure, discouragement due to a lack of positive results in our preaching work, or perhaps a feeling of impatience because the end of this system of things has not yet come. Well, what helped Jesus to endure mental and physical suffering? It was “the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus was sustained by the joy of making his Father’s heart glad by vindicating Him and by the anticipation of the later happiness he would experience in administering the marvelous blessings of the Messianic Kingdom. (Psalm 2:6-8; 40:9, 10; Proverbs 27:11) Could we follow more intently this joyful attitude of Jesus? And remember Peter’s assurance at 1 Peter 5:9: “The same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” Knowing that Jehovah understands, feeling the warmth of the worldwide brotherhood, and keeping our eyes on the joys ahead of us under Kingdom rule—all of this will help us not to tire out in serving Jehovah in faith and in preaching when the end is so close at hand.
Why Jehovah Disciplines
14. What benefits may result from tests and sufferings that we may have to endure?
14 Paul now throws light on the reason why we may have to endure tests and sufferings. He suggests that we look upon such as a form of discipline. Paul reasons: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines.” (Hebrews 12:5, 6) Even Jesus “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8) Surely, we also need to learn obedience. Notice the beneficial effects of allowing discipline to mold us. Said Paul: “To those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” How encouraging that is!—Hebrews 12:11.
15. How can we apply Paul’s counsel to ‘keep making straight paths for our feet’?
15 If we accept “discipline from Jehovah” in this light, we will take to heart Paul’s positive counsel: “Hence straighten up the hands that hang down and the enfeebled knees, and keep making straight paths for your feet.” (Hebrews 12:12, 13) Sometimes it is very easy to deviate from the ‘cramped road leading off into life.’ (Matthew 7:14) The apostle Peter and others in Antioch were once guilty of doing this. Why? Because “they were not walking straight according to the truth of the good news.” (Galatians 2:14) Today, we must keep listening to our Grand Instructor, Jehovah God. We need to make full use of the helps provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” This will ensure a ‘straight path’ for our feet.—Matthew 24:45-47; Isaiah 30:20, 21.
16. (a) How might a “poisonous root” take hold in a congregation? (b) Why does Paul link immorality with a lack of appreciation for sacred things, and how can we safeguard ourselves against such dangers?
16 Paul next warns that we should be “carefully watching that no one may be deprived of the undeserved kindness of God; that no poisonous root may spring up and cause trouble and that many may not be defiled by it.” (Hebrews 12:15) Becoming disgruntled, dissatisfied, finding fault with the way things are done in the congregation can be like a “poisonous root” that can quickly spread and poison the wholesome thoughts of others in the congregation. We can counteract such negative thoughts by contemplating the countless blessings that the truth has brought into our life. (Psalm 40:5) Another danger is that of having immoral tendencies or a ‘lack of appreciation for sacred things, like Esau.’ (Hebrews 12:16) Paul links these two dangers together, since the one can easily lead to the other. No Christian need succumb to such selfish desires if he applies Peter’s words: “Take your stand against [the Devil], solid in the faith.”—1 Peter 5:9.
“Realities Though Not Beheld”
17. Compare the awesome happenings at Mount Sinai with those confronting Christians today.
17 Our faith is very dependent upon “realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1) Some of these unseen realities Paul goes on to speak of at Hebrews 12:18-27. He describes the awesome happenings at Mount Sinai when God spoke directly to Israel and when Moses said: “I am fearful and trembling.” The apostle then adds: “But you have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly.” In the case of the ancient Israelites at Mount Sinai, God’s voice shook the earth, said Paul, but now He has promised, saying: “Yet once more I will set in commotion not only the earth but also the heaven.” Although these words are primarily addressed to anointed Christians, the “great crowd” of other sheeplike ones can also take them to heart. (Revelation 7:9) Do you fully appreciate what Paul is saying? We stand before an assembly of tens of thousands of angels. Of course, we stand also before Jehovah. At his right hand is Jesus Christ. Indeed, we are in a more awesome position and under greater responsibility than were those ancient Hebrews at Mount Sinai! And remember, the shaking at the coming battle of Armageddon will cause the present wicked heaven and earth to vanish. Today is certainly no time to “beg off” from listening to God’s Word and obeying it!
18. How only can we continue to witness for Jehovah, not tiring out?
18 Truly, then, we are living at the most awesome time in human history. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have been sent to the most distant part of the earth to preach the good news of God’s established Kingdom. To do so, we must have a faith that cannot be shaken, a faith that does not tire out, a faith that enables us to accept Jehovah’s discipline. If we have such faith, we shall be found among those who will “continue to have undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably render God sacred service with godly fear and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28) Yes, and we will continue to witness for Jehovah and not tire out.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why is Paul’s letter to the Hebrews beneficial to us?
□ What issue must Christians face today?
□ How can we benefit from faithful witnesses of old?
□ Why does Jehovah discipline those whom he loves?
□ What is the key to witnessing without tiring out?