Supply to Your Endurance Godly Devotion
“Supply to your faith . . . endurance, to your endurance godly devotion.”—2 PETER 1:5, 6.
1, 2. (a) Starting in the 1930’s, what happened to Jehovah’s Witnesses in lands under Nazi control, and why? (b) How did Jehovah’s people fare under this harsh treatment?
IT WAS a dark period in 20th-century history. Starting in the 1930’s, thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses in lands under Nazi control were unjustly arrested and thrown into concentration camps. Why? Because they dared to remain neutral and refused to heil Hitler. How were they treated? “No other group of prisoners . . . was exposed to the sadism of the SS-soldiery in such a fashion as the Bible Students [Jehovah’s Witnesses] were. It was a sadism marked by an unending chain of physical and mental tortures, the likes of which no language in the world can express.”—Karl Wittig, a former German government officer.
2 How did the Witnesses fare? In her book The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity, Dr. Christine E. King noted: “Only against the Witnesses [in contrast with other religious groups] was the government unsuccessful.” Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole stood their ground, even though for hundreds of them, this meant enduring to the point of death.
3. What has enabled Jehovah’s Witnesses to endure severe trials?
3 What has enabled Jehovah’s Witnesses to endure such trials not only in Nazi Germany but all over the world? Their heavenly Father has helped them to endure because of their godly devotion. “Jehovah knows how to deliver people of godly devotion out of trial,” the apostle Peter explains. (2 Peter 2:9) Earlier in the same letter, Peter had advised Christians: “Supply to your faith . . . endurance, to your endurance godly devotion.” (2 Peter 1:5, 6) So endurance is closely linked with godly devotion. In fact, to endure to the end, we must ‘pursue godly devotion’ and manifest it. (1 Timothy 6:11) But what exactly is godly devotion?
What Godly Devotion Is
4, 5. What is godly devotion?
4 The Greek noun for “godly devotion” (eu·seʹbei·a) may be translated literally as “well-reverencing.”* (2 Peter 1:6, Kingdom Interlinear) It denotes a warm heartfelt feeling toward God. According to W. E. Vine, the adjective eu·se·besʹ, literally meaning “well-reverential,” signifies “the energy which, directed by holy awe of God, finds expression in devoted activity.”—2 Peter 2:9, Int.
5 The expression “godly devotion” therefore refers to the reverence or devotion for Jehovah that moves us to do what is pleasing to him. This is done even in the face of difficult trials because we love God from the heart. It is a loyal, personal attachment to Jehovah that finds expression in the way we live our lives. True Christians are urged to pray that they may lead “a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion.” (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) According to lexicographers J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida, “in a number of languages [eu·seʹbei·a] in 1 Tm 2.2 may be appropriately translated as ‘to live as God would have us live’ or ‘to live as God has told us we should live.’”
6. What is the connection between endurance and godly devotion?
6 We can now better appreciate the connection between endurance and godly devotion. Because we live as God would have us live—with godly devotion—we incur the world’s hatred, which invariably brings trials of faith. (2 Timothy 3:12) But there is no way we would be motivated to endure such trials if it were not for our personal attachment to our heavenly Father. Moreover, Jehovah responds to such heartfelt devotion. Just imagine how it must make him feel to look down from the heavens and observe those who, because of their devotion to him, are striving to please him despite all manner of opposition. No wonder he is disposed to “deliver people of godly devotion out of trial”!
7. Why must godly devotion be cultivated?
7 We are, however, not born with godly devotion, nor do we automatically acquire it from godly parents. (Genesis 8:21) Instead, it must be cultivated. (1 Timothy 4:7, 10) We must work to supply godly devotion to our endurance and to our faith. This, Peter says, takes “earnest effort.” (2 Peter 1:5) How, then, can we acquire godly devotion?
How Do We Acquire Godly Devotion?
8. According to the apostle Peter, what is the key to acquiring godly devotion?
8 The apostle Peter explained the key to acquiring godly devotion. He said: “May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to you by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, forasmuch as his divine power has given us freely all the things that concern life and godly devotion, through the accurate knowledge of the one who called us through glory and virtue.” (2 Peter 1:2, 3) So to supply godly devotion to our faith and endurance, we must grow in accurate, that is, full, or complete, knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.
9. How may it be illustrated that having accurate knowledge of God and Christ involves more than just knowing who they are?
9 What does it mean to have accurate knowledge of God and Christ? Clearly, it involves more than just knowing who they are. To illustrate: You may know who your next-door neighbor is and may even greet him by name. But would you lend him a large sum of money? Not unless you really knew what kind of person he is. (Compare Proverbs 11:15.) Similarly, knowing Jehovah and Jesus accurately, or fully, means more than merely believing that they exist and being aware of their names. To be willing to endure trials for their sake even to the point of death, we must really know them intimately. (John 17:3) What does this involve?
10. Having accurate knowledge of Jehovah and Jesus involves what two things, and why?
10 Possessing accurate, or complete, knowledge of Jehovah and Jesus involves two things: (1) getting to know them as persons—their qualities, feelings, and ways—and (2) imitating their example. Godly devotion involves a heartfelt, personal attachment to Jehovah and is made evident by the way we live our lives. Therefore, to acquire it we must get to know Jehovah personally and become thoroughly acquainted with his will and ways as far as this is humanly possible. Truly to know Jehovah, in whose image we were created, we must use such knowledge and strive to be like him. (Genesis 1:26-28; Colossians 3:10) And since Jesus perfectly imitated Jehovah in what he said and did, accurately knowing Jesus is a valuable aid in developing godly devotion.—Hebrews 1:3.
11. (a) How can we gain accurate knowledge of God and Christ? (b) Why is it important to meditate on what we read?
11 How, though, can we gain such accurate knowledge of God and Christ? By diligently studying the Bible and Bible-based publications.* However, if our personal Bible study is to result in our acquiring godly devotion, it is vital that we take the time to meditate, that is, to reflect, or ponder, on what we read. (Compare Joshua 1:8.) Why is this important? Remember that godly devotion is a warm, heartfelt feeling toward God. In the Scriptures, meditation is repeatedly associated with the figurative heart—the inner person. (Psalm 19:14; 49:3; Proverbs 15:28) When we reflect appreciatively on what we read, it filters down to the inner person, thus stirring our feelings, touching our emotions, and influencing our thinking. Only then can study strengthen our personal attachment to Jehovah and move us to live in a way that pleases God even in the face of challenging circumstances or difficult trials.
Practicing Godly Devotion at Home
12. (a) According to Paul, how may a Christian practice godly devotion at home? (b) Why do true Christians care for aging parents?
12 Godly devotion should be practiced first at home. Says the apostle Paul: “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.” (1 Timothy 5:4) Caring for aging parents is, as Paul notes, an expression of godly devotion. True Christians provide such care not merely out of a sense of duty but because of love for their parents. More than that, though, they recognize the importance that Jehovah places on caring for one’s family. They are well aware that to turn their backs on their parents in a time of need would be equivalent to ‘disowning the Christian faith.’—1 Timothy 5:8.
13. Why may practicing godly devotion at home be a real challenge, but what satisfaction results from caring for one’s parents?
13 Admittedly, it is not always easy to practice godly devotion at home. Family members may be separated by considerable distances. The grown children may be raising their own families and may be struggling economically. The nature or the degree of the care needed by a parent can tax the physical, mental, and emotional health of the ones providing the care. Nevertheless, there can be real satisfaction in knowing that caring for one’s parents not only amounts to “a due compensation” but also pleases the One “to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name.”—Ephesians 3:14, 15.
14, 15. Relate an example of godly care on the part of children for a parent.
14 Consider a truly touching example. Ellis and five of his brothers and sisters face a real challenge in caring for their father at home. “In 1986 my father suffered a stroke, which left him completely paralyzed,” explains Ellis. The six children share in looking after their father’s needs, ranging from bathing him to making sure that he is regularly turned so that he does not develop bedsores. “We read to him, talk to him, play music for him. We are not sure whether he is aware of what goes on around him, but we treat him as though he is fully aware of everything.”
15 Why do the children care for their father as they do? Ellis continues: “After the death of our mother in 1964, Dad raised us on his own. At the time, we ranged in age from 5 to 14. He was there for us then; we are here for him now.” Clearly, it is not easy to provide such care, and the children do get discouraged at times. “But we realize that our father’s condition is a temporary problem,” says Ellis. “We look forward to the time when our father is restored to good health and we can be reunited with our mother.” (Isaiah 33:24; John 5:28, 29) Surely, such devoted care for a parent must warm the heart of the One who commands children to honor their parents!*—Ephesians 6:1, 2.
Godly Devotion and the Ministry
16. What should be the primary reason for what we do in the ministry?
16 When we accept Jesus’ invitation to ‘follow him continually,’ we come under a divine commission to preach the good news of the Kingdom and to make disciples. (Matthew 16:24; 24:14; 28:19, 20) Clearly, having a share in the ministry is a Christian obligation in these “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) However, our motive for preaching and teaching must go beyond a mere sense of duty or obligation. A deep love for Jehovah must be the primary reason for what we do and how much we do in the ministry. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” said Jesus. (Matthew 12:34) Yes, when our hearts overflow with love for Jehovah, we feel impelled to witness about him to others. When love for God is our motive, our ministry is a meaningful expression of our godly devotion.
17. How may we cultivate the right motive for the ministry?
17 How may we cultivate the right motive for the ministry? Reflect appreciatively on three reasons that Jehovah has given us for loving him. (1) We love Jehovah because of what he has already done for us. No greater love could he have shown than in providing the ransom. (Matthew 20:28; John 15:13) (2) We love Jehovah because of what he is now doing for us. We have freeness of speech with Jehovah, who answers our prayers. (Psalm 65:2; Hebrews 4:14-16) As we give priority to Kingdom interests, we enjoy the necessities of life. (Matthew 6:25-33) We receive a steady supply of spiritual food that helps us to cope with the problems we face. (Matthew 24:45) And we have the blessing of being a part of a worldwide Christian brotherhood that truly sets us apart from the rest of the world. (1 Peter 2:17) (3) We also love Jehovah because of what he will yet do for us. Because of his love, we have “a firm hold on the real life”—everlasting life in the future. (1 Timothy 6:12, 19) When we consider the love of Jehovah in our behalf, surely our hearts will move us to have a devoted share in telling others about him and his precious purposes! Others will not have to tell us what to do or how much to do in the ministry. Our hearts will move us to do what we can.
18, 19. What obstacle did a sister overcome in order to share in the ministry?
18 Even in the face of challenging circumstances, a heart stirred by godly devotion will be impelled to speak. (Compare Jeremiah 20:9.) This is shown by the case of Stella, an extremely shy Christian woman. When she first started studying the Bible, she thought, ‘I could never go from house to house!’ She explains: “I was always very quiet. I could never approach others to start a conversation.” As she continued studying, her love for Jehovah grew, and she developed a burning desire to talk to others about him. “I remember telling my Bible teacher, ‘I so much want to talk, but I just can’t, and that really bothers me.’ I will never forget what she told me: ‘Stella, be grateful that you want to talk.’”
19 Before long, Stella found herself witnessing to her next-door neighbor. Then she took what was for her a monumental step—she shared in the house-to-house ministry for the first time. (Acts 20:20, 21) She recalls: “I had my presentation written out. But I was so scared that even though I had it in front of me, I was too nervous to look down at my notes!” Now, over 35 years later, Stella is still very shy by nature. Yet, she loves the field ministry and continues to have a meaningful share in it.
20. What example shows that not even persecution or imprisonment can shut the mouths of devoted Witnesses of Jehovah?
20 Not even persecution or imprisonment can shut the mouths of devoted Witnesses of Jehovah. Consider the example of Ernst and Hildegard Seliger of Germany. Because of their faith, between them they spent more than 40 years in Nazi concentration camps and Communist prisons. Even in prison, they persisted in witnessing to other prisoners. Recalled Hildegard: “Prison officials classified me as being especially dangerous, because, as one woman guard said, I spoke about the Bible all day long. So I was put in a basement cell.” After they were finally given their freedom, Brother and Sister Seliger devoted their full time to the Christian ministry. Both of them served faithfully until their deaths, Brother Seliger in 1985 and his wife in 1992.
21. What must we do to supply godly devotion to our endurance?
21 By diligently studying God’s Word and taking the time to meditate appreciatively on what we learn, we will grow in accurate knowledge of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. This, in turn, will result in our acquiring a fuller measure of that precious quality—godly devotion. Without godly devotion there is no way to endure the various trials that come upon us as Christians. So let us follow the apostle Peter’s advice, continuing to ‘supply to our faith endurance and to our endurance godly devotion.’—2 Peter 1:5, 6.
Regarding eu·seʹbei·a, William Barclay notes: “It is the seb- part [the root] of the word which means reverence or worship. Eu is the Greek word for well; therefore, eusebeia is worship, reverence well and rightly given.”—New Testament Words.
For a discussion of how to study to deepen our knowledge of God’s Word, see The Watchtower of August 15, 1993, pages 12-17.
For a full discussion of how to practice godly devotion toward elderly parents, see The Watchtower of June 1, 1987, pages 13-18.
What Is Your Answer?
□ What is godly devotion?
□ What is the connection between endurance and godly devotion?
□ What is the key to acquiring godly devotion?
□ How may a Christian practice godly devotion at home?
□ What must be the primary reason for what we do in the ministry?
[Picture on page 18]
Endurance and godly devotion were displayed by Witnesses of Jehovah imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbrück