“You Have Heard of the Endurance of Job”
“You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”—JAMES 5:11.
1, 2. What trial did one couple in Poland face?
HARALD ABT had been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses for less than a year when Hitler’s army took control of Danzig (now Gdańsk) in northern Poland. Then things became difficult, yes dangerous, for true Christians there. The Gestapo tried to force Harald to sign a document renouncing his faith, but he refused. After some weeks in prison, Harald was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where time and again he was threatened and beaten. An officer pointed to the chimney of the crematorium and told Harald, “You will be ascending there to your Jehovah within 14 days if you stick to your faith.”
2 When Harald was arrested, his wife, Elsa, was still breast-feeding their ten-month-old baby girl. But the Gestapo did not overlook Elsa. Before long, her baby was taken from her, and she was sent to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. Yet, she was able to survive for years, as was Harald. In The Watchtower of April 15, 1980, you can read more about how they endured. Harald wrote: “In all, I have spent 14 years of my life in concentration camps and prisons because of my faith in God. I have been asked: ‘Was your wife a help to you in enduring all of this?’ She has been indeed! I knew from the beginning that she would never compromise her faith, and this knowledge helped sustain me. I knew that she would rather see me dead on a stretcher than know that I was free because of having compromised. . . . Elsa endured many hardships during her years in German concentration camps.”
3, 4. (a) Whose examples can encourage Christians to endure? (b) Why does the Bible urge us to examine Job’s experience?
3 Suffering evil is by no means easy, as many Witnesses can testify. For this reason, the Bible counsels all Christians: “Take as a pattern of the suffering of evil and the exercising of patience the prophets, who spoke in the name of Jehovah.” (James 5:10) Over the centuries, many servants of God were persecuted without cause. The examples provided by this great “cloud of witnesses” can encourage us to keep running with endurance our Christian race.—Hebrews 11:32-38; 12:1.
4 In the Bible record, Job stands out as a model of endurance. “Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured,” wrote James. “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (James 5:11) Job’s experience gives us a glimpse of the reward that awaits faithful ones, whom Jehovah blesses. More important, it reveals truths that will benefit us during times of adversity. The book of Job helps us answer these questions: When under trial, why must we try to understand the principal issues involved? What qualities and attitudes help us to endure? How can we fortify fellow Christians who suffer affliction?
Grasping the Complete Picture
5. What is the principal issue to keep in mind when we are faced with trials or temptations?
5 To maintain spiritual balance in the face of adversity, we need to comprehend the overall picture. Otherwise, personal problems may cloud our spiritual vision. The issue of loyalty to God is of prime importance. Our heavenly Father makes an appeal that we can personally take to heart: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) What a unique privilege that is! Despite our frailties and imperfections, we can make our Creator rejoice. We do so when our love for Jehovah enables us to withstand trials and temptations. True Christian love endures all things. It never fails.—1 Corinthians 13:7, 8.
6. How does Satan taunt Jehovah, and to what extent?
6 The book of Job clearly identifies Satan as the one who taunts Jehovah. It also reveals the evil nature of this invisible enemy and his desire to destroy our relationship with God. As illustrated in Job’s case, Satan essentially accuses all of Jehovah’s servants of selfish motives and seeks to prove that their love for God can cool off. He has taunted God for thousands of years. When Satan was cast out of heaven, a voice from heaven described him as “the accuser of our brothers” and said that he makes such accusations “day and night before our God.” (Revelation 12:10) By our faithful endurance, we can show that his accusations are unfounded.
7. How can we best respond to physical weakness?
7 We must remember that the Devil will take advantage of any tribulation we may face in order to try to distance us from Jehovah. When did he tempt Jesus? It was when Jesus was hungry after fasting for many days. (Luke 4:1-3) Jesus’ spiritual strength, however, enabled him to reject the Devil’s temptations firmly. How important it is to counteract any physical weakness—perhaps caused by disease or old age—with spiritual strength! Even though “the man we are outside is wasting away,” we do not give up because “the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day.”—2 Corinthians 4:16.
8. (a) How can negative emotions have an undermining effect? (b) What attitude did Jesus have?
8 In addition, negative emotions can tend to damage one spiritually. ‘Why does Jehovah allow this?’ one might wonder. ‘How can a brother treat me like that?’ another might ask after being treated unkindly. Such feelings may cause us to overlook the principal issues and concentrate entirely on personal circumstances. Job’s frustration with his three misguided companions seemed to do as much damage to him emotionally as his infirmity did physically. (Job 16:20; 19:2) Similarly, the apostle Paul indicated that prolonged anger can “allow place [or, an opportunity] for the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27) Rather than venting frustration or anger on individuals or concentrating overmuch on the injustice of a situation, Christians do better to imitate Jesus in “committing [themselves] to the one who judges righteously,” Jehovah God. (1 Peter 2:21-23) Having the “mental disposition” of Jesus can be a major defense against Satan’s attacks.—1 Peter 4:1.
9. What assurance does God give us regarding burdens we have to bear or temptations we face?
9 Above all, we must never see our problems as certain evidence of God’s displeasure. Such a misunderstanding hurt Job at a time when he was being assailed by the harsh words of his would-be comforters. (Job 19:21, 22) The Bible assures us with these words: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) On the contrary, Jehovah promises to help us bear whatever burden falls upon us and to provide escape from any temptation that besets us. (Psalm 55:22; 1 Corinthians 10:13) By drawing close to God in times of distress, we can keep things in perspective and successfully oppose the Devil.—James 4:7, 8.
Aids to Endurance
10, 11. (a) What helped Job to endure? (b) How did having a good conscience help Job?
10 Despite Job’s dire situation—including the verbal abuse from his “comforters” and his own confusion over the true cause of his calamity—Job still kept his integrity. What can we learn from his endurance? Without doubt, the fundamental reason for his success was his faithfulness to Jehovah. ‘He feared God and turned aside from bad.’ (Job 1:1) That was his way of life. Job refused to turn his back on Jehovah, even when he did not understand why things had suddenly gone wrong. Job believed that he should serve God in good times and in bad.—Job 1:21; 2:10.
11 Having a good conscience also proved comforting to Job. At a time when it seemed that his life was coming to an end, he had the comfort of knowing that he had done his best to help others, that he had held to Jehovah’s righteous standards, and that he had avoided any form of false worship.—Job 31:4-11.
12. How did Job respond to the help that he received from Elihu?
12 The fact remains, of course, that Job needed help to adjust his viewpoint in some respects. And he humbly accepted that help—another key to his enduring successfully. Job listened respectfully to Elihu’s wise counsel, and he responded positively to Jehovah’s correction. “I talked, but I was not understanding,” he admitted. “I make a retraction, and I do repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3, 6) Despite the disease that still plagued him, Job rejoiced that this adjustment in his thinking had drawn him closer to God. “I have come to know that you [Jehovah] are able to do all things,” Job said. (Job 42:2) Thanks to Jehovah’s description of His grandeur, Job understood much more clearly his own position in relation to the Creator.
13. How did showing mercy prove beneficial for Job?
13 Finally, Job provides an outstanding example of mercy. His false comforters hurt him deeply, yet when Jehovah asked Job to pray for them, he did so. Thereafter, Jehovah restored Job’s health. (Job 42:8, 10) Clearly, bitterness will not help us to endure, whereas love and mercy will. Letting go of resentment refreshes us spiritually, and it is a course that Jehovah blesses.—Mark 11:25.
Wise Counselors Who Help Us Endure
14, 15. (a) What qualities will enable a counselor to heal others? (b) Explain why Elihu was successful in helping Job.
14 A further lesson we can learn from Job’s account is the value of wise counselors. Such ones are brothers “born for when there is distress.” (Proverbs 17:17) However, as Job’s experience shows, some counselors can hurt rather than heal. A good counselor needs to show empathy, respect, and kindness, as Elihu did. Elders and other mature Christians may have to adjust the thinking of brothers weighed down with problems, and in this, such counselors can learn much from the book of Job.—Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 12:12, 13.
15 There are many fine lessons in how Elihu handled the matter. He listened at length before responding to the mistaken remarks of Job’s three companions. (Job 32:11; Proverbs 18:13) Elihu used Job’s name and appealed to him as a friend. (Job 33:1) Unlike the three false comforters, Elihu did not consider himself superior to Job. “From the clay I was shaped, I too,” he said. He did not want to add to Job’s suffering by thoughtless words. (Job 33:6, 7; Proverbs 12:18) Rather than criticizing Job’s former conduct, Elihu commended him for his righteousness. (Job 33:32) Most important, Elihu saw things from God’s viewpoint, and he helped Job to focus on the fact that Jehovah would never act unjustly. (Job 34:10-12) He encouraged Job to wait on Jehovah, rather than to strive to demonstrate his own righteousness. (Job 35:2; 37:14, 23) Christian elders and others can surely benefit from such lessons.
16. How did Job’s three false comforters become tools of Satan?
16 Elihu’s wise counsel contrasts with the hurtful words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. “You men have not spoken concerning me what is truthful,” Jehovah told them. (Job 42:7) Even if they claimed that they had had good intentions, they acted as tools of Satan rather than as faithful companions. All three assumed from the outset that Job himself was to blame for his calamities. (Job 4:7, 8; 8:6; 20:22, 29) According to Eliphaz, God has no confidence in his servants, and it does not matter to Him if we are righteous or not. (Job 15:15; 22:2, 3) Eliphaz even accused Job of errors he had not committed. (Job 22:5, 9) Elihu, on the other hand, did help Job spiritually, which is always the goal of a loving counselor.
17. What should we bear in mind when under trial?
17 There is another lesson about endurance that we can draw from the book of Job. Our loving God observes our situation and is both willing and able to help us in various ways. We previously noted the experience of Elsa Abt. Reflect on the conclusion that she reached: “Before I was arrested, I had read a sister’s letter that said that under severe trial Jehovah’s spirit causes a calmness to come over you. I thought that she must have been exaggerating a bit. But when I went through trials myself, I knew that what she had said was true. It really happens that way. It’s hard to imagine it, if you have not experienced it. Yet it really happened to me. Jehovah helps.” Elsa was not speaking about what Jehovah could do or did do millenniums ago in Job’s day. She was speaking about our time. Yes, “Jehovah helps”!
Happy Is the Man Who Endures
18. What benefits did Job derive from having endurance?
18 Few of us will have to face tribulation as severe as that of Job. But whatever trials this system of things may bring upon us, we have sound reasons for maintaining our integrity, as Job did. In fact, endurance enriched Job’s life. It perfected him, making him complete. (James 1:2-4) It strengthened his relationship with God. “In hearsay I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you,” Job affirmed. (Job 42:5) Satan was proved a liar in that he could not break Job’s integrity. Hundreds of years later, Jehovah still referred to his servant Job as an example of righteousness. (Ezekiel 14:14) His record of integrity and endurance motivates God’s people even today.
19. Why do you feel that endurance is worthwhile?
19 When James wrote to first-century Christians about endurance, he referred to the satisfaction that endurance brings. And he used Job’s example to remind them that Jehovah richly rewards his faithful servants. (James 5:11) We read at Job 42:12: “As for Jehovah, he blessed the end of Job afterward more than his beginning.” God gave Job double what he had lost, and he lived a long, happy life. (Job 42:16, 17) Similarly, any pain, suffering, or heartache we may endure during the end of this system of things will be wiped away and forgotten in God’s new world. (Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:4) We have heard of the endurance of Job, and we are determined, with Jehovah’s help, to imitate Job’s example. The Bible promises: “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.”—James 1:12.
How Would You Answer?
• How can we make Jehovah’s heart rejoice?
• Why should we not conclude that our problems are evidence of God’s displeasure?
• What factors helped Job to endure?
• How can we imitate Elihu in fortifying fellow believers?
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A good counselor shows empathy, respect, and kindness
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Elsa and Harald Abt