Endurance—Vital for Christians
“Supply to your faith . . . endurance.”—2 PETER 1:5, 6.
1, 2. Why must all of us endure to the end?
THE traveling overseer and his wife were visiting a fellow Christian in his 90’s. He had spent decades in the full-time ministry. As they talked, the older brother reminisced about some of the privileges he had enjoyed over the years. “But,” he lamented as tears started streaming down his face, “now I am not able to do much of anything.” The traveling overseer opened his Bible and read Matthew 24:13, where Jesus Christ is quoted as saying: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” Then the overseer looked at the dear brother and said: “The final assignment all of us have, no matter how much or how little we can do, is to endure to the end.”
2 Yes, as Christians all of us must endure to the end of this system of things or to the end of our lives. There is no other way to receive Jehovah’s approval for salvation. We are in a race for life, and we must “run with endurance” until we cross the finish line. (Hebrews 12:1) The apostle Peter emphasized the importance of this quality when he urged fellow Christians: “Supply to your faith . . . endurance.” (2 Peter 1:5, 6) But what exactly is endurance?
Endurance—What It Means
3, 4. What does it mean to endure?
3 What does it mean to endure? The Greek verb for “endure” (hy·po·meʹno) literally means “remain or stay under.” It occurs 17 times in the Bible. According to lexicographers W. Bauer, F. W. Gingrich, and F. Danker, it means “remain instead of fleeing . . . , stand one’s ground, hold out.” The Greek noun for “endurance” (hy·po·mo·neʹ) occurs over 30 times. Regarding it, A New Testament Wordbook, by William Barclay, says: “It is the spirit which can bear things, not simply with resignation, but with blazing hope . . . It is the quality which keeps a man on his feet with his face to the wind. It is the virtue which can transmute the hardest trial into glory because beyond the pain it sees the goal.”
4 Endurance, then, enables us to stand our ground and not lose hope in the face of obstacles or hardships. (Romans 5:3-5) It looks beyond the present pain to the goal—the prize, or gift, of eternal life, whether in heaven or on earth.—James 1:12.
5. (a) Why do all Christians “have need of endurance”? (b) Into what two categories may our trials be divided?
5 As Christians, all of us “have need of endurance.” (Hebrews 10:36) Why? Basically because we “meet with various trials.” The Greek text here at James 1:2 suggests an unexpected or unwelcome encounter, as when a person is confronted by a robber. (Compare Luke 10:30.) We meet with trials that may be divided into two categories: those that are common to men as a result of inherited sin, and those that develop because of our godly devotion. (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 3:12) What are some of these trials?
6. How did one Witness endure when faced with a painful illness?
6 Serious illness. Like Timothy, some Christians must endure “frequent cases of sickness.” (1 Timothy 5:23) Especially when faced with a chronic, perhaps very painful, illness do we need to endure, to stand our ground, with God’s help and not lose sight of our Christian hope. Consider the example of one Witness in his early 50’s who waged a long, hard battle against a fast-growing malignant tumor. Through two operations he remained steadfast in his resolve not to accept blood transfusions. (Acts 15:28, 29) But the tumor reappeared in his abdomen and continued growing near his spine. As it did, he experienced unimaginable physical pain that no amount of medication could suppress. Yet, he looked beyond the present pain to the prize of life in the new world. He continued to share his blazing hope with doctors, nurses, and visitors. He endured right down to the end—the end of his life. Your health problem may not be life-threatening or as painful as the one experienced by that dear brother, but it may still pose a great test of endurance.
7. What kind of pain does endurance involve for some of our spiritual brothers and sisters?
7 Emotional pain. From time to time, some of Jehovah’s people encounter “the pain of the heart” that results in “a stricken spirit.” (Proverbs 15:13) Severe depression is not uncommon in these “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Science News of December 5, 1992, reported: “Rates of severe, often incapacitating depression have increased in each succeeding generation born since 1915.” The causes of such depression are varied, ranging from physiological factors to painfully unpleasant experiences. For some Christians, endurance involves a daily struggle to stand their ground in the face of emotional pain. Yet, they do not give up. They remain faithful to Jehovah despite the tears.—Compare Psalm 126:5, 6.
8. What financial trial may we encounter?
8 The various trials we encounter may include serious economic hardship. When a brother in New Jersey, U.S.A., suddenly found himself without a job, he was understandably concerned about feeding his family and not losing his home. However, he did not lose sight of the Kingdom hope. While he was looking for another job, he took advantage of the opportunity to serve as an auxiliary pioneer. Eventually, he found a job.—Matthew 6:25-34.
9. (a) How may the loss of a loved one in death call for endurance? (b) What scriptures show that it is not wrong to shed tears of grief?
9 If you have experienced the loss of a loved one in death, you need endurance that lasts long after those around you have returned to their normal routine. You may even find that it is especially difficult for you each year about the time that your loved one died. Enduring such a loss does not mean that it is wrong to shed tears of grief. It is natural to mourn the death of someone we loved, and this in no way indicates a lack of faith in the resurrection hope. (Genesis 23:2; compare Hebrews 11:19.) Jesus “gave way to tears” after Lazarus died, though He had confidently told Martha: “Your brother will rise.” And Lazarus did rise!—John 11:23, 32-35, 41-44.
10. Why do Jehovah’s people have a unique need of endurance?
10 In addition to enduring the trials that are common to all humans, Jehovah’s people have a unique need of endurance. “You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name,” warned Jesus. (Matthew 24:9) He also said: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) Why all the hatred and persecution? Because no matter where we live on this earth as God’s servants, Satan is trying to break our integrity to Jehovah. (1 Peter 5:8; compare Revelation 12:17.) To this end Satan has often fanned the flames of persecution, putting our endurance to a severe test.
11, 12. (a) Jehovah’s Witnesses and their children faced what test of endurance in the 1930’s and early 1940’s? (b) Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses not salute the national emblem?
11 For example, in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses and their children in the United States and Canada became objects of persecution because they did not salute the national emblem for reasons of conscience. The Witnesses respect the emblem of the nation in which they live, but they comply with the principle set forth in God’s Law at Exodus 20:4, 5: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” When some Witness schoolchildren were expelled because they desired to direct their worship only to Jehovah God, the Witnesses set up Kingdom Schools for their instruction. These students returned to the public schools when the Supreme Court of the United States acknowledged their religious position, as enlightened nations do today. However, the courageous endurance of these youngsters serves as a sterling example especially for Christian youths who may now face ridicule because they endeavor to live by Bible standards.—1 John 5:21.
12 The various trials we encounter—both those that are common to humans and those we face because of our Christian faith—indicate why we need endurance. But how can we endure?
Endure to the End—How?
13. How does Jehovah supply endurance?
13 God’s people have a definite advantage over those who do not worship Jehovah. For help, we can appeal to “the God who supplies endurance.” (Romans 15:5) How, though, does Jehovah supply endurance? One way he does so is through the examples of endurance recorded in his Word, the Bible. (Romans 15:4) As we contemplate these, not only are we encouraged to endure but we also learn much about how to endure. Consider two outstanding examples—the courageous endurance of Job and the flawless endurance of Jesus Christ.—Hebrews 12:1-3; James 5:11.
14, 15. (a) What trials did Job endure? (b) How was Job able to endure the trials he faced?
14 What situations put Job’s endurance to the test? He suffered economic hardship when he lost most of his possessions. (Job 1:14-17; compare Job 1:3.) Job felt the pain of loss when all ten of his children were killed by a windstorm. (Job 1:18-21) He experienced a serious, very painful illness. (Job 2:7, 8; 7:4, 5) His own wife pressured him to turn away from God. (Job 2:9) Close companions said things that were hurtful, unkind, and untruthful. (Compare Job 16:1-3 and Job 42:7.) Through all of this, however, Job stood his ground, maintaining integrity. (Job 27:5) The things he endured are similar to the trials that Jehovah’s people meet with today.
15 How was Job able to endure all those trials? One thing in particular that sustained Job was hope. “There exists hope for even a tree,” he declared. “If it gets cut down, it will even sprout again, and its own twig will not cease to be.” (Job 14:7) What hope did Job have? As noted a few verses later, he stated: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? . . . You will call, and I myself shall answer you. For the work of your hands you will have a yearning [or, long for].” (Job 14:14, 15) Yes, Job saw beyond his present pain. He knew that his trials would not last forever. At most he would have to endure until death. His hopeful expectation was that Jehovah, who lovingly desires to resurrect the dead, would bring him back to life.—Acts 24:15.
16. (a) What do we learn about endurance from the example of Job? (b) The Kingdom hope must be how real to us, and why?
16 What do we learn from Job’s endurance? To endure to the end, we must never lose sight of our hope. Remember, too, that the certainty of the Kingdom hope means that any suffering we encounter is relatively “momentary.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Our precious hope is solidly based on Jehovah’s promise of a time in the near future when “he will wipe out every tear from [our] eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) That hope, which “does not lead to disappointment,” must guard our thinking. (Romans 5:4, 5; 1 Thessalonians 5:8) It must be real to us—so real that through eyes of faith, we can picture ourselves in the new world—no longer battling illness and depression but waking up each day in good health and with a clear mind; no longer worrying about serious economic pressures but living in security; no longer mourning the death of loved ones but experiencing the thrill of seeing them resurrected. (Hebrews 11:1) Without such hope we can become so overwhelmed by our present trials that we give up. With our hope, what a tremendous incentive we have to keep fighting, to keep enduring right to the end!
17. (a) What trials did Jesus endure? (b) The intense suffering that Jesus endured may possibly be seen from what fact? (See footnote.)
17 The Bible urges us to “look intently” at Jesus and ‘consider him closely.’ What trials did he endure? Some of them resulted from the sin and imperfection of others. Jesus endured not only “contrary talk by sinners” but also the problems that arose among his disciples, including their repeated disputes over who was the greatest. More than that, he encountered an unparalleled test of faith. He “endured a torture stake.” (Hebrews 12:1-3; Luke 9:46; 22:24) It is difficult even to imagine the mental and physical suffering involved in the pain of impalement and the disgrace of being executed as a blasphemer.*
18. According to the apostle Paul, what two things sustained Jesus?
18 What enabled Jesus to endure to the end? The apostle Paul mentions two things that sustained Jesus: ‘supplications and petitions’ and also “the joy that was set before him.” Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was not ashamed to ask for help. He prayed “with strong outcries and tears.” (Hebrews 5:7; 12:2) Especially when his supreme trial was approaching did he find it necessary to pray for strength repeatedly and earnestly. (Luke 22:39-44) In response to Jesus’ supplications, Jehovah did not remove the trial, but he did strengthen Jesus to endure it. Jesus endured also because he looked beyond the torture stake to his reward—the joy he would have in contributing to the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the ransoming of the human family from death.—Matthew 6:9; 20:28.
19, 20. How does Jesus’ example help us to have a realistic view of what endurance involves?
19 From the example of Jesus, we learn a number of things that help us to have a realistic view of what endurance involves. The course of endurance is not an easy one. If we are finding it difficult to endure a particular trial, there is comfort in knowing that the same was true even of Jesus. To endure to the end, we must repeatedly pray for strength. When under trial we may at times feel unworthy to pray. But Jehovah invites us to pour out our hearts to him ‘because he cares for us.’ (1 Peter 5:7) And by reason of what Jehovah has promised in his Word, he has obligated himself to supply “power beyond what is normal” to those who call upon him in faith.—2 Corinthians 4:7-9.
20 Sometimes we must endure with tears. For Jesus the pain of the torture stake was not in itself a reason for rejoicing. Rather, the joy was in the reward that was set before him. In our case it is not realistic to expect that we will always feel cheerful and elated when we are under trial. (Compare Hebrews 12:11.) By looking ahead to the reward, however, we may be able to “consider it all joy” even when we meet with the most trialsome situations. (James 1:2-4; Acts 5:41) The important thing is that we remain steadfast—even if it must be with tears. After all, Jesus did not say, ‘He that sheds the least amount of tears will be saved’ but, “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matthew 24:13.
21. (a) At 2 Peter 1:5, 6, we are urged to supply what to our endurance? (b) What questions will be considered in the next article?
21 Endurance is thus vital for salvation. However, at 2 Peter 1:5, 6, we are urged to supply godly devotion to our endurance. What is godly devotion? How is it related to endurance, and how can you acquire it? These questions will be considered in the next article.
The intense suffering that Jesus endured may possibly be seen from the fact that his perfect organism expired after just a few hours on the stake, whereas the evildoers impaled alongside him had to have their legs broken to hasten death. (John 19:31-33) They had not experienced the mental and physical suffering inflicted on Jesus during the sleepless all-night ordeal preceding the impalement, perhaps to the point where he could not even carry his own torture stake.—Mark 15:15, 21.
How Would You Answer?
□ What does it mean to endure?
□ Why do Jehovah’s people have a unique need of endurance?
□ What enabled Job to endure?
□ How does Jesus’ example help us to have a realistic view of endurance?
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Kingdom Schools were set up to teach Christian children expelled from school because of directing their worship only to Jehovah
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Determined to honor his Father, Jesus prayed for strength to endure