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?
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.*
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.* 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.
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.