“Jehovah Will Not Forsake His People”
“Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.”—PSALM 34:19.
1, 2. (a) How is Jehovah blessing his people today? (b) What are many Christians faced with, and what questions arise?
IN FULFILLMENT of Bible prophecy, Jehovah’s worshipers dwell in a spiritual paradise. (2 Corinthians 12:1-4) Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to an international fellowship characterized by love and unity. (John 13:35) They enjoy a deep and comprehensive knowledge of Bible truths. (Isaiah 54:13) How grateful they are to Jehovah that he is granting them the privilege of being guests in his spiritual tent!—Psalm 15:1.
2 While all in Jehovah’s organization enjoy spiritual prosperity, some seem to live in relative peace and tranquillity while others experience afflictions of one sort or another. Many Christians find themselves in a pitiable position for long periods of time and with no relief in sight. Discouragement is natural under such circumstances. (Proverbs 13:12) Are calamities evidence of God’s displeasure? Is Jehovah providing special protection to some Christians while forsaking others?
3. (a) Is Jehovah responsible for the adversities experienced by his people? (b) Why do even faithful worshipers of Jehovah experience human suffering?
3 The Bible answers: “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) Jehovah is the Protector and Sustainer of his people. (Psalm 91:2-6) “Jehovah will not forsake his people.” (Psalm 94:14) This does not mean that faithful worshipers will not experience suffering. The present world system of things is governed by individuals who are inherently imperfect. Many are corrupt, and a few are outright evil. None of them look to Jehovah for wisdom. This results in much human suffering. The Bible makes clear that Jehovah’s people cannot always avoid the sad consequences of human imperfection and wickedness.—Acts 14:22.
Loyal Christians Expect to Suffer
4. What can all Christians expect as long as they live in this wicked system of things, and why?
4 Although not part of the world, Jesus’ followers live in the midst of this system of things. (John 17:15, 16) Satan is exposed in the Bible as the dominating force behind this world. (1 John 5:19) Hence, all Christians can expect sooner or later to have to face serious problems. With that in mind, the apostle Peter says: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone. But take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8, 9) Yes, the entire association of Christians can expect sufferings.
5. How did Jesus make it clear that faithful Christians will experience sad things in life?
5 Even if we deeply love Jehovah and are loyal to his principles, we will experience sad things in life. Jesus made this clear in his illustration recorded at Matthew 7:24-27, where he drew a contrast between those who obey his words and those who do not. He compared obedient disciples to a discreet man who builds a house upon a solid rock-mass. Those who do not obey his words he likened to a foolish man who builds his house upon the sand. After a severe storm, only the house built on the rock-mass survives. Note that in the case of the discreet man’s house, “the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in.” Jesus did not promise that the discreet man would always enjoy peace and tranquillity. Rather, that man’s discretion would prepare him to weather the storm. A similar thought is conveyed in the illustration of the sower. In it Jesus explains that even obedient worshipers “with a fine and good heart” would “bear fruit with endurance.”—Luke 8:4-15.
6. In Paul’s illustration of the fire-resistant materials, who undergo the fiery test?
6 In writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul used metaphoric language to illustrate the need for durable qualities that can help us face trials. Such fire-resistant materials as gold, silver, and precious stones correspond to godly qualities. (Compare Proverbs 3:13-15; 1 Peter 1:6, 7.) On the other hand, fleshly traits are likened to combustible materials. Then Paul says: “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is. If anyone’s work that he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-14) Here again, the Bible explains that all of us will inevitably face some form of fiery test.
7. According to Romans 15:4, how can the Scriptures help us endure trials?
7 There are numerous accounts in the Bible of loyal servants of God who had to endure calamities, sometimes for long periods. Yet, Jehovah did not forsake them. The apostle Paul likely had such examples in mind when he said: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Consider the examples of three men who, while enjoying a close relationship with God, suffered many calamities.
What We Learn From Bible Accounts
8. What did Jehovah allow in the case of Joseph, and for how long?
8 Jacob’s son Joseph was favored by Jehovah from a young age. Still, through no fault of his own, he suffered a series of calamities. He was kidnapped and treated cruelly by his own brothers. He was sold as a slave in a strange land where he was lyingly accused and placed in a “prison hole.” (Genesis 40:15) There, “with fetters they afflicted his feet, into irons his soul came.” (Psalm 105:17, 18) During his slavery and imprisonment, Joseph no doubt repeatedly begged Jehovah for a release. Yet, for some 13 years, although strengthened by Jehovah in various ways, he woke up every morning still a slave or a prisoner.—Genesis 37:2; 41:46.
9. What did David have to endure for several years?
9 A similar case is that of David. When Jehovah was selecting a qualified man to rule Israel, he said: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man agreeable to my heart.” (Acts 13:22) Despite his favored position in Jehovah’s eyes, David suffered much. In mortal danger, he hid for several years in the wilderness, in caves, in crevices, and on foreign ground. Hunted like a wild beast, he suffered discouragement and fear. Nevertheless, he endured in Jehovah’s strength. David could rightly say from his own experience: “Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.”—Psalm 34:19.
10. What extreme calamity befell Naboth and his family?
10 In the prophet Elijah’s day, there were only 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to the false god Baal. (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4) Naboth, who was likely one of them, became the victim of a terrible injustice. He suffered the humiliation of being accused of blasphemy. Found guilty, he was convicted and sentenced by royal decree to die by stoning, and his blood was licked up by dogs. Even his sons were put to death! Yet, he was innocent of the charge. The witnesses against him were liars. The whole affair was a plot hatched by Queen Jezebel so that the king could get his hands on Naboth’s vineyard.—1 Kings 21:1-19; 2 Kings 9:26.
11. What does the apostle Paul tell us about faithful men and women in Bible history?
11 Joseph, David, and Naboth are but three of the many faithful men and women mentioned in the Bible who suffered calamities. The apostle Paul wrote a historical review of Jehovah’s servants through the ages. In it he spoke of those who “received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by bonds and prisons. They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn asunder, they died by slaughter with the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in want, in tribulation, under ill-treatment; and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38) But Jehovah did not forsake them.
Jehovah Cares for Those Who Suffer
12. What are some of the afflictions experienced by Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
12 What about Jehovah’s people today? As an organization, we can count on divine protection and safe passage through the last days and the great tribulation. (Isaiah 54:17; Revelation 7:9-17) However, as individuals, we recognize that “time and unforeseen occurrence” befall all humans. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Today there are many faithful Christians who are suffering calamities. Some endure extreme poverty. The Bible speaks of Christian “orphans and widows” who have tribulation. (James 1:27) Others suffer as a result of natural disasters, wars, crime, abuse of power, sickness, and death.
13. What difficult experiences have recently been reported?
13 For example, in their 1996 reports to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Watch Tower branch offices related that some of our brothers and sisters are suffering imprisonment in deplorable conditions because of their adherence to Bible principles. Three congregations in a South American country were dissolved when guerrilla groups forced hundreds of Witnesses to evacuate the area. In a West African country, some Witnesses caught in a civil-war skirmish were killed. In a Central American country, the already critical financial situation of some brothers was worsened by the onslaught of a hurricane. In other places where poverty and food shortages may not be serious problems, negative influences may dampen the joy of some. Others are weighed down by the pressures of modern-day living. Because of the public’s apathy, still others may feel discouraged when they preach the good news of the Kingdom.
14. (a) What do we learn from Job’s example? (b) Instead of thinking negatively, what should we do when we are experiencing distress?
14 These situations are not to be construed as evidence of God’s displeasure. Remember the case of Job and the many adversities he suffered. He was “a man blameless and upright.” (Job 1:8) How disheartened Job must have felt when Eliphaz charged him with wrongdoing! (Job, chapters 4, 5, 22) We do not want to be quick to conclude that we experience calamities because we have failed Jehovah in some way or because Jehovah has withdrawn his blessing. Negative thinking in the face of tribulation could weaken our faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:1-3, 5) When experiencing distress, it is best to meditate on the fact that Jehovah and Jesus are close to the righteous regardless of what happens.
15. How do we know that Jehovah is deeply concerned about the calamities suffered by his people?
15 The apostle Paul reassures us when he says: “Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38, 39) Jehovah is deeply concerned about us and is aware of our suffering. While still a fugitive, David wrote: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help. Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart.” (Psalm 34:15, 18; Matthew 18:6, 14) Our heavenly Father cares for us and feels pity for those who suffer. (1 Peter 5:6, 7) He provides what we need to endure, whatever suffering we may experience.
Jehovah’s Gifts Sustain Us
16. What provision from Jehovah helps us to endure, and how?
16 Although we cannot expect an adversity-free life in this old system of things, we are “not left in the lurch.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9) Jesus promised to provide his followers with a helper. He said: “I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth.” (John 14:16, 17) At Pentecost 33 C.E., the apostle Peter told his listeners that they could receive “the free gift of the holy spirit.” (Acts 2:38) Is the holy spirit helping us today? Yes! Jehovah’s active force gives us wonderful fruitage: “Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) All of these are invaluable qualities that help us to endure.
17. What are some Bible truths that strengthen our faith and determination to wait patiently on Jehovah?
17 The holy spirit also helps us to understand that present tribulations are “momentary and light” when compared with the reward of everlasting life. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) We are convinced that God will not forget our works and the love we show for him. (Hebrews 6:9-12) Reading the inspired words of the Bible, we are comforted by the examples of faithful servants of old who endured many calamities but who were pronounced happy. James writes: “Brothers, take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah. Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured.” (James 5:10, 11) The Bible promises “power beyond what is normal” to help us endure trials. Jehovah also blesses us with the resurrection hope. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10; 4:7) By reading the Bible daily and meditating on these promises, we will strengthen our faith and our determination to wait patiently on God.—Psalm 42:5.
18. (a) At 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, what are we encouraged to do? (b) How can Christian overseers prove to be sources of comfort and refreshment?
18 In addition, Jehovah has given us the spiritual paradise wherein we can enjoy the genuine love of our Christian brothers and sisters. We all have a role to play in comforting one another. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4) Christian overseers in particular can be a major source of comfort and refreshment. (Isaiah 32:2) As “gifts in men,” they are commissioned to build up those who suffer, to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls,” and to “support the weak.” (Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:14) Elders are encouraged to make good use of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, as well as other publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) These contain a wealth of Bible-based counsel that can help us resolve—and even prevent—some of the problems that cause us anxiety. May we imitate Jehovah by comforting and encouraging one another during difficult times!
19. (a) What helps us to avoid some adversities? (b) Ultimately, in whom must we trust, and what will enable us to face trials?
19 As we move deeper into the last days and conditions in the present system of things worsen, Christians do what they can to avoid calamities. (Proverbs 22:3) Good judgment, soundness of mind, and knowledge of Bible principles can help us make wise decisions. (Proverbs 3:21, 22) We listen to Jehovah’s Word and obey it to avoid making unnecessary mistakes. (Psalm 38:4) Nevertheless, we realize that no amount of effort on our part can completely eliminate suffering from our lives. In this system of things, many righteous ones face severe adversities. However, we can meet our trials with the complete confidence that “Jehovah will not forsake his people.” (Psalm 94:14) And we know that this system of things and its afflictions will soon be gone. Therefore, may we resolve not to “give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.
What Did We Learn?
□ What trials are experienced by the entire association of Christians?
□ What Bible examples help us to understand that calamities are not evidence of Jehovah’s displeasure?
□ How does Jehovah feel about the adversities suffered by his people?
□ What are some of the gifts from Jehovah that help us endure trials?
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David, Naboth, and Joseph are three who suffered calamities