Empowered to Overcome Any Trial
“For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—PHIL. 4:13.
1. Why do Jehovah’s people face many adversities?
JEHOVAH’S people are no strangers to adversity of one type or another. Some trials are due to our own imperfections or are a consequence of the system of things in which we live. Others are due to the enmity that exists between those who serve God and those who do not. (Gen. 3:15) From early on in human history, God has helped his faithful servants to withstand religious persecution, resist harmful peer pressure, and endure all kinds of other adversities. His holy spirit can empower us to do the same.
Helped to Withstand Religious Persecution
2. What is the aim of religious persecution, and what forms can it take?
2 Religious persecution is harassment or injury deliberately inflicted on people because of their faith or beliefs. Its purpose is to stamp out such beliefs, prevent their spread, or break the integrity of believers. Persecution can take various forms, some overt, some subtle. The Bible likens Satan’s attacks to those of both a young lion and a cobra.—Read Psalm 91:13.
3. What characterizes lionlike and cobralike persecution?
3 Like a savage lion, Satan has often made open, frontal attacks by means of violence, imprisonment, or ban. (Ps. 94:20) Yearbook reports describing acts of Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times contain numerous accounts of such tactics. Lawless mobs, some led by clergymen or political fanatics, have mistreated God’s people in many places. These lionlike attacks have caused a few to stumble. Like a cobra, the Devil also launches treacherous strikes from hidden places in order to poison minds and deceive people into doing his will. This type of attack is designed to weaken or corrupt us spiritually. But by means of God’s holy spirit, we can withstand both forms of persecution.
4, 5. What is the best way to prepare for persecution, and why? Give an example.
4 Imagining different scenarios of possible future persecution is not the best way to prepare for it. The fact is that we simply cannot know what the future holds in such matters, so there is little to be gained from worrying about things that may never happen. There is, however, something that we can do. Most of those who have successfully endured persecution have done so by meditating on the faithful course of integrity keepers, as recorded in the Scriptures, as well as on the teachings and example of Jesus. This has enabled them to deepen their love for Jehovah. That love, in turn, helped them to resist whatever trials came their way.
5 Consider the example of two of our sisters in Malawi. In an effort to get them to buy political party cards, a violent mob beat, stripped, and threatened to rape them. The mob lyingly told them that even the members of the Bethel family had obtained party cards. The sisters’ response? “We serve only Jehovah God. So if the brothers at the branch office have bought cards, that does not make any difference to us. We will not compromise, even if you kill us!” After taking that courageous stand, the sisters were released.
6, 7. How does Jehovah empower his servants to face persecution?
6 The apostle Paul noted that Christians in Thessalonica had accepted the message of truth “under much tribulation” yet “with joy of holy spirit.” (1 Thess. 1:6) Indeed, many Christians, past and present, who have faced and overcome persecution report that at the height of their trials, they experienced inner peace, one aspect of the fruitage of God’s holy spirit. (Gal. 5:22) That peace, in turn, helped to guard their hearts and mental powers. Yes, Jehovah uses his active force to empower his servants to cope with trials and to act wisely when adversity strikes. *
7 Onlookers have been amazed by the determination of God’s people to maintain their integrity even in the face of vicious persecution. The Witnesses seemed imbued with superhuman strength, and indeed they were. The apostle Peter assures us: “If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.” (1 Pet. 4:14) That we are persecuted for upholding righteous standards indicates that we have divine approval. (Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:20) What joy this proof of Jehovah’s blessing brings!
Helped to Resist Peer Pressure
8. (a) What enabled Joshua and Caleb to resist peer pressure? (b) What can we learn from Joshua and Caleb’s example?
8 A more subtle form of opposition that Christians must endure is negative peer pressure. However, because Jehovah’s spirit is much more powerful than the spirit of the world, we can resist people who ridicule us, who spread untruths about us, or who attempt to force us to conform to their standards. What was it, for example, that enabled Joshua and Caleb to disagree with the views of the ten other spies who were sent into the land of Canaan? Holy spirit stirred within them a different “spirit,” or mental inclination.—Read Numbers 13:30; 14:6-10, 24.
9. Why must Christians be willing to differ from the majority?
9 Holy spirit likewise empowered Jesus’ apostles to obey God rather than those whom many esteemed as teachers of true religion. (Acts 4:21, 31; 5:29, 32) Most people prefer to go along with the crowd, so to speak, to avoid confrontation or conflict. True Christians, though, often have to take a stand for what they know to be right. Even so, thanks to the strength imparted by God’s active force, they do not fear to be different. (2 Tim. 1:7) Consider one area in which we must not give in to peer pressure.
10. What dilemma might some Christians face?
10 Some young ones might face a dilemma if they learn that a friend has engaged in unscriptural conduct. They may feel that seeking spiritual help for their friend would violate an unwritten code of silence; therefore, they refuse to speak about the matter because of a misguided sense of loyalty. A wrongdoer may even pressure his friends to keep his sin hidden. Of course, this kind of problem is not unique to young people. Some adults too may find it difficult to approach congregation elders concerning the wrongdoing of a friend or a family member. But how should true Christians react to such pressure?
11, 12. What is the best response if a member of the congregation urges you not to reveal his or her wrongdoing, and why?
11 Imagine this situation. Suppose that Alex, a young brother, learned that Steve, his friend in the congregation, was in the habit of viewing pornography. Alex tells Steve that he is deeply concerned about what his friend is doing. However, Steve shrugs off his words. When Alex urges him to talk to the elders about it, Steve responds that if the two really are friends, then Alex will not tell on him. Should Alex be afraid of losing his friend? He might wonder whom the elders would believe if Steve denied everything. Still, the situation is not going to improve if Alex keeps quiet about it. Indeed, it could lead to Steve’s losing his relationship with Jehovah. Alex would do well to recall that “trembling at men is what lays a snare, but he that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.” (Prov. 29:25) What else could Alex do? He might lovingly approach Steve again and lay bare his fault. That will take courage. It may well be, though, that this time Steve will welcome the opportunity to talk about his problem. Alex should again encourage Steve to speak to the elders and tell him that if he does not do so within a reasonable period of time, then Alex will alert them.—Lev. 5:1.
12 If you ever have to handle such a situation, your friend may not at first appreciate your efforts to help. But he might in time come to realize that you are acting in his best interests. If the erring one receives and accepts help, then he might be lastingly grateful to you for your courage and loyalty. On the other hand, if he becomes hardened against you, is he really the kind of friend that you want? Pleasing our greatest Friend, Jehovah, is always the right thing to do. When we put him first, others who love him will respect us for our loyalty and become true friends. We should never allow place for the Devil in the Christian congregation. If we were to do so, we truly would grieve Jehovah’s holy spirit. We act in harmony with it, however, by working to keep the Christian congregation pure.—Eph. 4:27, 30.
Empowered to Endure All Kinds of Adversity
13. What kinds of adversity are Jehovah’s people facing, and why are such things so prevalent?
13 Adversity may take many forms—a financial reversal, the loss of employment, a natural disaster, the death of a loved one, a health crisis, and so on. Since we live in “critical times,” it is to be expected that sooner or later all of us will have to deal with some kind of trial. (2 Tim. 3:1) When that occurs, it is important not to panic. Holy spirit can empower us to endure any kind of adversity.
14. What empowered Job to endure his adversities?
14 Job suffered one adversity after another. He lost his livelihood, children, friends, and health, and his wife lost confidence in Jehovah. (Job 1:13-19; 2:7-9) Yet, Job found a true comforter in Elihu. His message, as well as the substance of Jehovah’s own message to Job, was: “Stand still and show yourself attentive to the wonderful works of God.” (Job 37:14) What helped Job to endure his trials? And what can help us to endure ours? Remembering and pondering the various manifestations of Jehovah’s holy spirit and power. (Job 38:1-41; 42:1, 2) Perhaps we recall times in our own life when we saw evidence of God’s interest in us personally. He is still interested in us.
15. What strengthened the apostle Paul to endure trials?
15 The apostle Paul endured many life-threatening adversities for the sake of his faith. (2 Cor. 11:23-28) How did he maintain balance and emotional stability under those trying circumstances? By prayerful reliance on Jehovah. During the time of testing that apparently culminated in his martyrdom, Paul wrote: “The Lord stood near me and infused power into me, that through me the preaching might be fully accomplished and all the nations might hear it; and I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.” (2 Tim. 4:17) Therefore, from personal experience, Paul could assure fellow believers that there was no need to “be anxious over anything.”—Read Philippians 4:6, 7, 13.
16, 17. Give an example of how Jehovah is empowering his people to face adversities today.
16 A pioneer named Roxana is one who has seen how Jehovah provides for his people. When she asked her employer for permission to take some days off to attend one of our conventions, he angrily retorted that if she went, he would fire her. Roxana went anyway, fervently praying that she might keep her job. After that, she felt calm. Sure enough, on the Monday after the convention, her boss did fire her. Roxana was perturbed. She needed that job, low-paying though it was, to help support her family. Again she prayed, and she reflected on the fact that God had provided for her spiritually at the convention, so he could surely also provide for her physically. As she walked home, Roxana saw a “Help Wanted” sign for experienced operators of industrial sewing machines, and she applied for a job. The manager realized that she had no experience but offered her a job anyway, at almost double the wages she had been earning. Roxana felt that her prayers had been answered. The greatest blessing, however, was that she was able to share the good news with several of her fellow workers. Five of them, including the manager, accepted the truth and were baptized.
17 At times, it might seem that our prayers are not being answered—at least not right away or in the way we expect. If so, doubtless there is a good reason. Jehovah knows it, but it may become clear to us only in the future. Of one thing we can be sure—God does not abandon his faithful ones.—Heb. 6:10.
Helped to Overcome Trials and Temptations
18, 19. (a) Why can we expect to face trials and temptations? (b) How can you face trials successfully?
18 Jehovah’s people are not surprised to meet up with temptation, discouragement, persecution, and peer pressure. The world is basically hostile toward us. (John 15:17-19) Yet, holy spirit can make us equal to any challenge we might face in our service to God. Jehovah will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. (1 Cor. 10:13) He will by no means ever leave or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5) Obedience to his inspired Word protects and fortifies us. Moreover, God’s spirit can impel fellow believers to impart the assistance we need when we need it most.
19 May all of us continue to seek holy spirit through prayer and study of the Scriptures. May we go on “being made powerful with all power to the extent of [God’s] glorious might so as to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy.”—Col. 1:11.
How Would You Answer?
• How can you prepare to withstand persecution?
• How should you react if someone urges you not to reveal wrongdoing?
• What confidence can you have in the face of any kind of adversity?
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What can we learn from Joshua and Caleb?
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How can you help a friend who commits some wrong?