You Can Endure to the End
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—HEBREWS 12:1.
1, 2. What does it mean to endure?
“YOU have need of endurance,” wrote the apostle Paul to the first-century Hebrew Christians. (Hebrews 10:36) Emphasizing the importance of this quality, the apostle Peter likewise urged Christians: “Supply to your faith . . . endurance.” (2 Peter 1:5, 6) But what exactly is endurance?
2 A Greek-English lexicon defines the Greek verb for “endure” as “remain instead of fleeing . . . stand one’s ground, hold out.” Concerning the Greek noun for “endurance,” one reference work 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.” Endurance, then, enables one to stand firm in the face of obstacles and hardships and not lose hope. Who especially have need of this quality?
3, 4. (a) Who have need for endurance? (b) Why must we endure to the end?
3 All Christians are figuratively engaged in a race that requires endurance. In about the year 65 C.E., the apostle Paul wrote to his fellow worker and faithful traveling companion Timothy these reassuring words: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) With the expression “run the course to the finish,” Paul was comparing his life as a Christian to a race, with a set course and a finish line. By that time, Paul was triumphantly approaching the end of the race, and he was confidently looking forward to receiving the reward. “From this time on,” he went on to say, “there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me as a reward in that day.” (2 Timothy 4:8) Paul was sure that he would gain the reward because he had endured to the end. What about the rest of us?
4 To encourage those who have taken up the race, Paul wrote: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) As Christians, we enter this endurance race when we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah God through Jesus Christ. A good start in the course of discipleship is important, but what ultimately counts is that we finish the course. Jesus declared: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) The prize awaiting those who successfully finish the race is everlasting life! Hence, having a goal in mind, we must endure to the end. What will help us attain that goal?
Proper Nutrition—A Must
5, 6. (a) To endure in the race for life, to what must we give attention? (b) What spiritual provisions must we avail ourselves of, and why?
5 Near the city of Corinth, Greece, was the site where the famous Isthmian Games were held in ancient times. Paul was no doubt aware that the Corinthian brothers were familiar with the athletic contests and other competitions held there. Drawing upon their knowledge, he reminded them of the race for life in which they were engaged: “Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may attain it.” Paul emphasized the importance of staying in the race and pressing forward until the finish. But what would help them to do so? “Every man taking part in a contest exercises self-control in all things,” he added. Yes, the contestants in the ancient games submitted themselves to rigorous training, took scrupulous care in what they ate and drank, and regimented their every activity in order to win.—1 Corinthians 9:24, 25.
6 What about the race that Christians have entered? “You have to give attention to your spiritual nutrition if you are going to endure in the race for life,” says an elder in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consider what spiritual food Jehovah, “the God who supplies endurance,” has provided for us. (Romans 15:5) Our main source of spiritual nourishment is his Word, the Bible. Should we not maintain a good Bible-reading schedule? Through “the faithful and discreet slave,” Jehovah has also provided the timely journals The Watchtower and Awake! and other Bible-based publications. (Matthew 24:45) Diligently studying these will fortify us spiritually. Yes, we must take the time—‘buy out the opportune time’—for personal study.—Ephesians 5:16.
7. (a) Why should we not be satisfied with merely knowing the basic Christian doctrines? (b) How may we “press on to maturity”?
7 To stay on the course of Christian discipleship, we need to go beyond the basic “primary doctrine” and “press on to maturity.” (Hebrews 6:1) So we must develop an interest in “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the truth and draw nourishment from the “solid food [that] belongs to mature people.” (Ephesians 3:18; Hebrews 5:12-14) Take, for example, the four reliable accounts of Jesus’ life on earth—the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Through a careful study of these Gospel records, we can not only know the acts that Jesus performed and the type of person he was but also perceive the pattern of thinking that motivated his actions. Then we can come to “have the mind of Christ.”—1 Corinthians 2:16.
8. How do Christian meetings help us to endure in the race for life?
8 Paul admonished fellow believers: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) What a source of encouragement Christian meetings are! And how refreshing it is to be with loving brothers and sisters who are interested in us and want to help us endure to the end! We cannot afford to treat lightly this loving provision from Jehovah. Through our diligent personal study and regular meeting attendance, let us “become full-grown in powers of understanding.”—1 Corinthians 14:20.
Spectators to Spur You On
9, 10. (a) In what way can spectators be a source of encouragement in an endurance race? (b) What is ‘the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us’ mentioned at Hebrews 12:1?
9 Regardless of how well prepared a runner is, however, things may happen along the way that can cause him to falter. “You were running well. Who hindered you from keeping on obeying the truth?” asked Paul. (Galatians 5:7) Evidently, some of the Galatian Christians fell into bad company and, as a result, were distracted in their race for life. On the other hand, support and encouragement from others can make the race easier to endure. This is much like the effect that the spectators in a game can have on the participants. Enthusiastic crowds intensify the excitement that keeps the contestants motivated from start to finish. The cheers of the onlookers, often combined with loud music and clapping, can give the participants the extra push they need as they come in for the finish. Indeed, sympathetic spectators can exert a positive influence on those in the race.
10 In the race for life that Christians have entered, who are the spectators? After enumerating faithful pre-Christian witnesses of Jehovah, as recorded in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, Paul wrote: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) In employing the metaphor of a cloud, Paul did not use the Greek word that describes a sharply outlined cloud of definite size and shape. Instead, he employed one that according to lexicographer W. E. Vine “denotes a cloudy, shapeless mass covering the heavens.” Clearly, Paul had in mind a great multitude of witnesses—so many that they were like a cloud mass.
11, 12. (a) How can faithful pre-Christian witnesses cheer us on, as it were, to run the race with endurance? (b) How may we benefit more fully from the ‘great cloud of witnesses’?
11 Can faithful pre-Christian witnesses be literal present-day spectators? Hardly. They are all sleeping in death, awaiting a resurrection. However, they were themselves successful runners when alive, and their examples live on in the pages of the Bible. As we study the Scriptures, these faithful ones can come to life in our minds and can cheer us on, as it were, to run the race to the finish.—Romans 15:4.a
12 For instance, when worldly opportunities tempt us, would not a consideration of how Moses rejected the glories of Egypt motivate us to stay on the course? If a trial confronting us seems severe, remembering the hard test Abraham faced when he was asked to offer up his son Isaac would certainly encourage us not to give up in the contest of faith. The extent to which the ‘great cloud’ of these witnesses spurs us on in this way depends on how clearly we see them with our eyes of understanding.
13. In what way do modern-day Witnesses of Jehovah spur us on in the race for life?
13 We are also surrounded by a great many Witnesses of Jehovah in modern times. What grand examples of faith have been set by anointed Christians as well as men and women of the “great crowd”! (Revelation 7:9) We can read their life stories from time to time in this magazine and other Watch Tower publications.b As we reflect on their faith, we are encouraged to endure to the end. And how wonderful it is to have the support of close friends and relatives who themselves are serving Jehovah faithfully! Yes, we have many to spur us on in the race for life.
Set Your Pace Wisely
14, 15. (a) Why is it important to set our pace wisely? (b) Why should we be reasonable in setting goals?
14 When running a long race, such as a marathon, a runner must set his pace wisely. “Going out too fast sets you up for failure,” says the magazine New York Runner. “The likely result is either a long struggle over the last several miles or dropping out.” One marathoner recalls: “The speaker at a lecture I attended in preparation for the race clearly warned: ‘Do not chase after faster runners. Run at your own pace. Otherwise you will get exhausted and may have to drop out.’ Heeding this advice helped me finish the race.”
15 In the race for life, God’s servants must exert themselves vigorously. (Luke 13:24) However, the disciple James wrote: “The wisdom from above is . . . reasonable.” (James 3:17) While the good example of others may encourage us to do more, reasonableness will help us set realistic goals in harmony with our abilities and circumstances. The Scriptures remind us: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.”—Galatians 6:4, 5.
16. How does modesty help us in setting our pace?
16 At Micah 6:8, we are asked this thought-provoking question: “What is Jehovah asking back from you but . . . to be modest in walking with your God?” Modesty includes an awareness of our limitations. Has failing health or advanced age placed some limits on what we can do in God’s service? Let us not become discouraged. Jehovah accepts our efforts and sacrifices ‘according to what we have, not according to what we do not have.’—2 Corinthians 8:12; compare Luke 21:1-4.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
17, 18. Keeping what in sight helped Jesus endure the torture stake?
17 In pointing out to the Corinthian Christians the need to endure in the race for life, Paul mentioned another aspect of the Isthmian Games that was worthy of their attention. Regarding the contestants in those games, Paul wrote: “Now they, of course, [run] that they may get a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:25, 26) The victor’s prize in those ancient games was a crown, or wreath, made of pine or other plants, or even of dried wild celery—truly a “corruptible crown.” What, though, awaits Christians who endure to the end?
18 Referring to our Exemplar, Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul wrote: “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.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus endured to the end of his human life by looking beyond the torture stake to his reward, which includes the joy he has in contributing to the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, in ransoming the human family from death, and in ruling as King and High Priest as he restores obedient humans to endless life on a paradise earth.—Matthew 6:9, 10; 20:28; Hebrews 7:23-26.
19. What should we keep in focus as we pursue the course of Christian discipleship?
19 Consider the joy that is set before us as we pursue the course of Christian discipleship. Jehovah has given us the deeply satisfying work of preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom and of imparting the life-saving knowledge of the Bible to others. (Matthew 28:19, 20) What a delight it is to find someone interested in the true God and to help that one enter the race for life! And regardless of the response of the people to whom we preach, it is a privilege to have a share in the work connected with the sanctification of Jehovah’s name. When we endure in the ministry despite indifference or opposition on the part of those in our witnessing territory, we have the joy of making Jehovah’s heart glad. (Proverbs 27:11) And the grand reward he promises us is everlasting life. What a joy that will be! We need to keep these blessings in sight and persist in the race.
As the End Draws Closer
20. How may the race for life get more difficult as its end draws closer?
20 In the race for life, we have to contend with our chief enemy, Satan the Devil. As we approach the end, he is relentlessly trying to trip us or slow us down. (Revelation 12:12, 17) And it is not easy to carry on as faithful, dedicated Kingdom proclaimers in view of the wars, the famines, the pestilences, and all the other hardships that mark “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4; Matthew 24:3-14; Luke 21:11; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) Moreover, the end may at times seem farther away than we expected, particularly if we entered the race decades ago. Yet, God’s Word assures us that the end will come. Jehovah says it will not be late. The end is in sight.—Habakkuk 2:3; 2 Peter 3:9, 10.
21. (a) What will fortify us as we continue in the race for life? (b) What should be our determination as the end draws nearer?
21 To succeed in the race for life, then, we must draw strength from what Jehovah has lovingly provided for our spiritual nourishment. We also need all the encouragement we can get from regular association with our fellow believers, who are also running the race. Even if severe persecution and unforeseen occurrences along the way should make our race more difficult, we can endure to the end because Jehovah provides “the power beyond what is normal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) How reassuring to know that Jehovah wants us to finish the course triumphantly! With firm determination, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” fully confident that “in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Hebrews 12:1; Galatians 6:9.
a For a discussion of Hebrews 11:1–12:3, see The Watchtower, January 15, 1987, pages 10-20.
b Some recent examples of such encouraging experiences can be found in The Watchtower of June 1, 1998, pages 28-31; September 1, 1998, pages 24-8; February 1, 1999, pages 25-9.
Do You Remember?
◻ Why must we endure to the end?
◻ What provisions of Jehovah should we not neglect?
◻ Why is it important to set our pace wisely?
◻ What joy is set before us as we continue in the race?
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Draw encouragement from Christian meetings