“You have contended with God and with men and you have at last prevailed.”
SONGS: 60, 38
1, 2. What struggles do Jehovah’s servants have?
ALL of God’s faithful servants have struggled, from righteous Abel to loyal ones today. The apostle Paul told Hebrew Christians that they “endured a great struggle along with sufferings” as they tried to gain Jehovah’s approval and blessing. (Hebrews 10:32-34) Paul compared the struggles of Christians to those of athletes competing in Greek contests, such as running, wrestling, and boxing. (Hebrews 12:1, 4) Today, we are in the race for life, and we have enemies who want to distract us and cause us to lose our joy now and our rewards in the future.
2 Our hardest struggle, or “wrestling,” is against Satan and his world. (Ephesians 6:12, footnote.) It is very important that we resist being affected by this world’s teachings, philosophies, and bad practices, such as committing immorality, smoking, and abusing alcohol or drugs. We must also continue to fight against discouragement and our own weaknesses.
3. How does God train us to fight our enemies?
3 Is it really possible to win the fight against such powerful enemies? Yes, but it will be hard! Paul compared himself to a boxer when he said: “The way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26) Just as one boxer fights another boxer, we need to fight against our enemies. Jehovah helps us and trains us to do so. He does this by means of the Bible. He also helps us through our Bible-based publications, Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions. Do you use all the instruction you are getting? If not, you may not be fully opposing your enemy, just like a boxer whose blows strike the air.
4. How do we avoid being conquered by the evil?
4 We need to be alert at all times. Why? Our enemies might attack us when we do not expect it or when we are weak. The Bible gives us both warning and encouragement when it says: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Romans 12:21) If we keep fighting against the evil, we can win! However, if we let our guard down and stop fighting, then Satan, his world, and our weaknesses could overpower us. So never give up. Do not be discouraged and let your hands drop down!
5. (a) What do we need to remember in order to have God’s approval and blessing? (b) Which Bible characters will we consider?
5 In order to win, we need to remember why we are struggling. It is because we want to have God’s approval and blessing. Hebrews 11:6 says: “Whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” Earnestly seeking Jehovah means that we have to work very hard if we want his approval. (Acts 15:17) In the Bible, there are many good examples of men and women who did just that. Jacob, Rachel, Joseph, and Paul all faced situations that were difficult for them emotionally and physically. But they were able to succeed. Their examples prove that if we work hard, we too can receive Jehovah’s blessing. Let us see how.
YOU WILL BE BLESSED IF YOU PERSEVERE
6. What helped Jacob to persevere, and how was he rewarded? (See opening picture.)
6 The faithful man Jacob struggled and endured because he loved Jehovah and valued his relationship with him. He had complete faith in Jehovah’s promise to bless his offspring. (Genesis 28:3, 4) When Jacob was almost 100 years old, he even wrestled with an angel to receive a blessing from God. (Read Genesis 32:24-28.) Was Jacob really strong enough to wrestle with this powerful angel on his own? Of course not! But he was very determined, and he proved that he would work very hard for a blessing! Jehovah blessed Jacob for his perseverance and gave him the name Israel, which means “Contender, or Perseverer, With God.” Jacob received the reward that we too are seeking, that is, Jehovah’s approval and blessing.
7. (a) What discouraging situation did Rachel have? (b) What did Rachel do, and how was she blessed?
7 Jacob’s dear wife, Rachel, was also eager to see how Jehovah would keep his promise to her husband. But there was a problem. Rachel had been unable to have children. In Bible times, this inability caused women much pain. How did Rachel continue contending despite her discouraging situation? She never gave up hope. Instead, she kept contending by praying more and more to Jehovah. He heard Rachel’s sincere prayers, and she felt blessed when she finally had children. That is why she said: “With strenuous wrestlings I have wrestled . . . I have also come off the winner!”
8. What difficulties did Joseph have, and how was he a good example for us?
8 Jacob and Rachel’s faithful example probably affected their son Joseph and helped him when he had difficulties in life. When Joseph was 17 years old, his life changed completely. His brothers, who were jealous of him, sold him into slavery. Later, he spent many years in a prison in Egypt, even though he was innocent. (Genesis 37:23-28; 39:7-9, 20, 21) But Joseph did not become discouraged or bitter, and he did not try to seek revenge. Why not? Because Joseph valued his relationship with Jehovah and focused on it with all his heart. (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 12:17-21) Joseph’s example can help us. Even if we had a bad childhood or if our life right now seems hopeless, we need to keep contending and persevering. When we do, we can be sure that Jehovah will bless us.
9. How can we imitate Jacob, Rachel, and Joseph?
9 Today, we too may have to endure difficult challenges. Maybe you are suffering because of injustice, prejudice, or ridicule or because of someone’s jealousy toward you. Instead of being discouraged, remember what helped Jacob, Rachel, and Joseph to continue serving Jehovah with joy. God strengthened and blessed them because they deeply appreciated their relationship with him. They kept on struggling, or contending, and acting in harmony with their prayers. Because we are living in the last days, it is important to keep our hope for the future strong! Are you willing to wrestle, that is, to work hard, for Jehovah’s favor?
BE WILLING TO WRESTLE FOR A BLESSING
10, 11. (a) Why may we have to wrestle for God’s blessing? (b) What will help us to make the right choices?
10 Why may we have to wrestle for God’s blessing? For one thing, because we are imperfect, we may struggle with certain wrong desires. Some struggle to have a positive attitude toward the ministry, and others struggle because of health problems or feelings of loneliness. There are still others who find it difficult to forgive someone who has hurt them. No matter how long we have been serving Jehovah, all of us need to fight against things that make it difficult to serve God, the one who rewards the faithful.
11 Really, it can be very difficult to be a Christian and to make the right choices, especially when we are fighting against our wrong desires. (Jeremiah 17:9) If that is how you feel, pray to Jehovah and ask him for his holy spirit. Prayer and holy spirit can help you to have the strength to do what is right, and then you can receive God’s blessing. Be determined to live according to your prayers. Try to read the Bible each day, and make time for personal study and family worship.
12, 13. How were two Christians helped to control wrong desires?
12 There are many examples of how God’s Word, his spirit, and our Christian publications have helped our brothers and sisters to overcome wrong desires. One teenager read the article “How Can You Resist Wrong Desires?” published in Awake! of December 8, 2003. What was his reaction? “I am fighting to control improper thoughts. When I read in the article that ‘for many, the battle to overcome wrong desires is especially intense,’ it made me feel part of the brotherhood. I felt that I was not alone.” This young person also benefited from the article “Alternative Life-Styles
13 Consider also the experience of a sister in the United States. She writes: “I want to thank you for always feeding us with just what we need and at the right time. I often feel that these articles are written just for me. For years, I have been battling a strong desire for something Jehovah hates. At times, I want to throw my hands up and stop fighting. I know that Jehovah is merciful and forgiving, but because I have this wrong desire and deep down I don’t hate it, I feel that I am unable to receive his help. This ongoing battle has affected every aspect of my life. . . . After reading the article ‘Do You Have “a Heart to Know” Jehovah?’ in The Watchtower of March 15, 2013, I really felt that Jehovah does want to help me.”
14. (a) How did Paul feel about his struggles? (b) How can we win the battle against our weaknesses?
14 Read Romans 7:21-25. Paul knew personally how hard it could be to fight against wrong desires and weaknesses. However, he was sure that he could win the battle if he prayed to Jehovah, relied on him for help, and showed faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. What about us? Can we win the battle against our weaknesses? Yes, if we imitate Paul and completely rely on Jehovah, not on our own strength, and have faith in the ransom.
15. How can Jehovah help us to remain faithful and to endure trials?
15 Sometimes God may allow us to show how concerned we really are about a matter. For example, if we or someone in our family experiences a serious sickness or injustice, how will we react? If we completely trust in Jehovah, we will beg him to give us the strength we need to remain faithful and to keep our joy and relationship with him strong. (Philippians 4:13) The examples of many Christians, both past and present, have shown that prayer can strengthen us and give us the courage we need so that we can continue enduring.
KEEP CONTENDING FOR JEHOVAH’S BLESSING
16, 17. What are you determined to do?
16 The Devil would love to see you get discouraged and give up and drop your hands down. So be determined to “hold fast to what is fine.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) You can win the fight against Satan, his wicked world, and any wrong desires! You can win if you completely trust that God will strengthen you and help you.
17 So keep fighting. Keep struggling. Keep contending. Keep persevering. You can be absolutely sure that Jehovah will “pour out on you a blessing until there is nothing lacking.”