The Rewards of Persistence
SHE was a Greek woman living in Phoenicia in the year 32 C.E. Her daughter was extremely ill, and the woman was desperate for a cure. Hearing of a stranger visiting her region—a foreigner who reputedly had powers to heal the sick—she was determined to see him and beg for his help.
Upon meeting him, she fell on her knees, pleading: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is badly demonized.” In that way, the Greek woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter.
Can you imagine the courage and humility that was required on her part to do this? Jesus was an authority figure with some power and reputation, and he had earlier let it be known that he did not want anyone to learn of his whereabouts. He had taken his apostles to Phoenicia to get some much needed rest, not to work among the Gentile unbelievers. Furthermore, Jesus was a Jew and she a Gentile, and she undoubtedly knew about the Jewish aversion to association with the despised people of the nations. Nevertheless, she was firm in her resolve to obtain a cure for her child.
Jesus and his apostles attempted to dissuade the woman from seeking help at that time. At first, Jesus would not say a word to her. Then, because of her repeated, persistent cries, the apostles in exasperation told Jesus: “Send her away; because she keeps crying out after us.”
But she would not take no for an answer. Instead, she prostrated herself at Jesus’ feet, saying: “Lord, help me!”
Pointing out his primary responsibility to the sons of Israel and, at the same time, testing her faith and determination, Jesus compassionately explained to her: “It is not right to take the bread of the children [of Israel] and throw it to little dogs [Gentiles].”
Rather than being offended by the negative reference to her race, she humbly persisted in her quest by replying: “Yes, Lord; but really the little dogs do eat of the crumbs falling from the table of their masters.”
Jesus rewarded the Greek woman’s persistence by commending her faith and acting favorably on her supplications. Imagine her joy when she returned home to find her daughter completely healed!—Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30.
Like that woman of the first century, we need to be persistent in our efforts to please Jehovah and win his favor. As in the case of the Greek woman, the Bible assures us that our persistence “in doing what is fine” will be well rewarded.—Galatians 6:9.
What is persistence? Why is it needed? What factors may cause us to lose this quality, to give up or surrender? What rewards can we expect to receive if we now exercise persistence in serving our Creator and Father, Jehovah?
One dictionary defines the verb “persist” as “to hold firmly and steadfastly to some purpose, state, or undertaking, despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks. . . . to continue in existence; last.”
The Bible repeatedly exhorts Jehovah’s servants to persist in doing his will. For example, we are told to “keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom,” to “hold fast to what is fine,” to “persevere in prayer,” and not to “tire out” in doing what is fine.—Matthew 6:33; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:12; Galatians 6:9.
In the daily affairs of life, persistence is a quality all of us must possess and develop in order to survive. Without it we cannot achieve anything of true, lasting value. Consider the example of a baby trying to stand up and take its first wobbly steps. Rare is the infant who can learn to stand and walk about freely in a single day. As babes, all of us probably tried and failed many times before we finally achieved a measure of success in walking. What would have happened if upon falling for the first time, we had decided to stop trying? We might still be crawling around on our hands and knees! Persistence is essential for reaching worthwhile goals and gaining corresponding increases in skills and self-respect. As a popular saying goes, “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
Longtime pioneers realize that success is not guaranteed by special abilities or talents. It requires stick-to-itiveness, a determination to do Jehovah’s will fully, and courage in the face of temporary setbacks, even depression. The goal of sharing eternally in God’s blessings must be kept clearly in focus.
Yes, all of us who seek to gain Jehovah’s favor and who seek to win out in the race for life need persistence, perseverance, and endurance. Without these qualities, we could well lose Jehovah’s favor and the reward of the real life.—Psalm 18:20; Matthew 24:13; 1 Timothy 6:18, 19.
It is often more difficult for a Christian to be persistent in his spiritual activities than in his other obligations. A man might keep on working hard at a secular job to take care of his family’s physical needs, but he might be ‘too tired’ to conduct a regular Bible study with his wife and children. What factors make persistence in Christian works so difficult for many?
One factor is discouragement, which comes from our own individual failings and weaknesses. If we dwell negatively on our mistakes, we may despair and give up, feeling that Jehovah will never be able to forgive us all our sins.
Another factor is the worldly atmosphere of immorality, corruption, and hatred. (1 John 2:15, 16) One of the “useful habits” that worldly influence can spoil or damage is Christian persistence.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
Our persistence in the preaching work can be weakened by the public’s opposition or indifference to our sacred service. Out of frustration, we may conclude that people in our territory simply do not want the truth. This can cause us to ask, ‘What’s the use?’ and to relinquish our special privilege of ministerial service.
We can also be influenced by the world’s spirit of self-indulgence. Why should we struggle and sacrifice so much while everyone else seems to be having a good time or taking it easy?—Compare Matthew 16:23, 24.
To persist in doing Jehovah’s will, we need to put on the Christian personality and to live by the spirit, not the flesh. (Romans 8:4-8; Colossians 3:10, 12, 14) Having Jehovah’s view on the matter will enable us to carry on with our vital spiritual activities.—1 Corinthians 16:13.
Examples of Persistence
Jehovah has provided us with many inspiring examples of servants who remained loyal and faithful to him through many severe trials. By considering them, we see how we can develop and exercise Christian persistence and why it is so valuable.
The greatest example is Jesus, who suffered so much to glorify Jehovah’s name. The Bible encourages us to study attentively his acts of persistent devotion: “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, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 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.
The race for life is a long-distance one, not a short sprint, or dash. That is why we need Christlike persistence. The goal, the finish line, may not be in sight for the greater part of the race. The goal must be clear in our mind’s eye so that we can mentally reach out for it throughout the entire, demanding course. Jesus had such a mental image before him, namely, “the joy that was set before him.”
What is included in this joy for Christians today? For one thing, it is the reward of immortal life in heaven for a few and everlasting life on earth for many. Also, it is the feeling of satisfaction that comes from knowing that one has brought gladness to Jehovah’s heart and has played a part in the sanctification of God’s name.—Proverbs 27:11; John 17:4.
Included in this joy is a close, delightful relationship with Jehovah. (Psalm 40:8; John 4:34) Such a relationship is invigorating and life sustaining, giving one the strength to run the race with endurance and not give up. Furthermore, Jehovah blesses that relationship by pouring out his holy spirit on his servants, resulting in an increase of joy and joyful activity.—Romans 12:11; Galatians 5:22.
Considering Job’s example of persistent faith is beneficial. He was imperfect and had a limited knowledge of his situation. So at times, he lapsed into self-justification and despair. However, he consistently displayed a dogged determination to keep his integrity to Jehovah and never forsake Him. (Job 1:20-22; 2:9, 10; 27:2-6) Jehovah rewarded Job for his persistent devotion, giving him spiritual and material blessings and the hope of everlasting life. (Job 42:10-17; James 5:10, 11) Like Job, we may experience much suffering and loss during our life now, but we can also be assured of Jehovah’s blessing on our faithful endurance.—Hebrews 6:10-12.
In modern times, Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole have displayed Christian persistence in doing Jehovah’s will. For example, their persistent house-to-house work and other public preaching have brought them and their message worldwide attention. The media have made numerous references to their zeal and determination to preach the good news despite opposition and trials. One of these even featured the punch line “Nobody escapes Jehovah’s Witnesses!”—Matthew 5:16.
Jehovah has blessed the persistent efforts of his Witnesses with increased fruitage in the ministry. Note the experience of some resourceful Witnesses in Italy back in the 1960’s when there were some 10,000 Witnesses preaching to a nation of over 53,000,000 people. In one town of 6,000, there were no Witnesses. The visiting brothers received a hostile reaction to their ministry.
Every time the brothers went there to preach, many of the women, and even the men, of the town would round up the boys, encouraging them to follow the Witnesses and whistle at them and make much noise. After a few minutes of this, the brothers were forced to leave and go to another town. In an endeavor to give at least one complete witness to all the inhabitants of this town, the brothers decided to preach there only on very rainy days, in the hope that they would not be bothered by the young folk. They noticed that the people of the town were unwilling to get themselves wet just to disturb the publishers. In this way a good witness was given. Interested persons were found. New Bible studies were started. As a result, not only was a blossoming congregation established in that small town but the preaching work began to be done even on sunny days. Jehovah has continued to bless the persistence of his Witnesses in that area and throughout Italy. There are now over 200,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country.
The rewards of persistence in doing what is right are great. By the power of God’s spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been able to accomplish a feat unprecedented in human history, that of preaching the good news of the Kingdom, at the doorsteps and otherwise, to millions of people. (Zechariah 4:6) They have joyfully seen Bible prophecy fulfilled in the amazing growth and vitality of Jehovah’s earthly organization. (Isaiah 54:2; 60:22) They hold a good conscience toward God, and they delight in the hope of everlasting life. Above all, they enjoy an intimate relationship with the Creator, Jehovah God.—Psalm 11:7.
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Jesus rewarded the humble persistence of this Greek woman
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Life in Paradise is included in the joy set before Christians today