“We must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations.”
1. Why will God’s servants face “many tribulations”?
DOES it surprise us that we will face “many tribulations” before receiving the gift of everlasting life? Probably not. No matter how long we have been in the truth, we all experience such trials. Why? One reason is that we live in Satan’s world.
2. (a) In addition to problems that affect all imperfect humans, what tribulation do Christians face? (See opening picture.) (b) Who is the source of persecution, and how do we know?
2 All imperfect humans experience problems in life. However, Christians face additional tribulations. (1 Corinthians 10:13) One type of tribulation they face is severe persecution because they are determined to remain loyal to God. Jesus told his followers: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) Who is the source of such persecution? It is Satan. The Bible describes him as “a roaring lion” who is “seeking to devour” God’s people. (1 Peter 5:8) Satan will try anything to break our integrity to Jehovah. Let us see what happened to the apostle Paul.
TRIBULATION IN THE CITY OF LYSTRA
3-5. (a) What tribulation did Paul face in Lystra? (b) In what way was his message about tribulations strengthening?
3 Because of his loyalty to God, Paul was persecuted many times. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) Once, in the city of Lystra, Paul healed a man who had never been able to walk. Because of this miracle, the people thought that Paul and Barnabas were gods. The two had to beg the crowd not to worship them! Soon, however, Jewish religious leaders arrived and began to speak badly about Paul and Barnabas. The crowd believed these lies. As a result, they threw stones at Paul until they thought he was dead.
4 After visiting the city of Derbe, Paul and Barnabas “returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. There they strengthened the disciples, encouraging them to remain in the faith and saying: ‘We must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations.’” (Acts 14:21, 22) The thought of facing “many tribulations” would not seem encouraging. So how is it possible that Paul and Barnabas “strengthened the disciples” by telling them that they would have to face more tribulations?
Paul emphasized the wonderful reward for those who remain faithful to God
5 We can find the answer in Paul’s words. He said: “We must enter into the Kingdom of God through many tribulations.” He did not simply say: “We must endure many tribulations.” Instead, Paul emphasized the wonderful reward for those who remain faithful to God. This reward is not a dream. Jesus said: “The one who has endured to the end will be saved.”
6. Those who endure tribulations will receive what reward?
6 If we endure tribulations, we will receive a reward. For anointed Christians, that reward is immortal life in heaven as kings with Jesus. For the “other sheep,” that reward is everlasting life on a peaceful earth. (John 10:16; 2 Peter 3:13) In the meantime, we will face “many tribulations.” Let us consider two kinds of trials we may experience.
7. What is included in direct attacks?
7 Jesus foretold: “People will hand you over to local courts, and you will be beaten in synagogues and be put on the stand before governors and kings.” (Mark 13:9) So Jesus said that some Christians will face direct attacks, such as persecution. At times, this persecution may be caused by religious or political leaders. (Acts 5:27, 28) Again, think of Paul’s example. Was he frightened by the thought of such persecution? Not at all.
8, 9. How did Paul show that he was determined to endure? How have some brothers endured direct attacks in our day?
8 Paul bravely fought against Satan’s direct attacks and said: “I do not consider my own life of any importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 20:24) Paul was not afraid of being persecuted. Instead, he was determined to endure. His goal was to give a “thorough witness” even when suffering trials.
9 Today, many brothers and sisters have loyally kept their integrity during times of persecution. In one country, some Witnesses have been in jail for almost 20 years without a court trial. Why? Because they refuse to get involved in political matters. They have not been allowed to receive visits even from their family, and some prisoners have been beaten and tortured.
You have good reason to trust in Jehovah and to endure persecution with courage
10. Why should we not fear sudden tribulations?
10 In other places, our brothers endure tribulations that occur suddenly. If this happens to you, do not give in to fear. Remember Joseph. All of a sudden, he was sold into slavery. But Jehovah “rescued him out of all his tribulations.” (Acts 7:9, 10) Jehovah can do the same for you. Always remember that “Jehovah knows how to rescue people of godly devotion out of trial.” (2 Peter 2:9) You have good reason to trust in Jehovah and to endure persecution with courage. Trust that Jehovah can rescue you from this wicked world and give you everlasting life.
11. How are indirect attacks different from direct attacks?
11 We may also have to endure indirect attacks. How are these attacks different from direct attacks of persecution? Direct attacks are like a tornado that happens suddenly and destroys your house in an instant. However, indirect attacks are more like termites that slowly eat away at the wood of your house. By the time you realize what the termites have done, it is too late because the house is ready to fall apart.
12. (a) What is one of Satan’s indirect attacks, and why is it so effective? (b) How was Paul affected by discouragement?
12 Satan wants to destroy your friendship with Jehovah. He may use either direct attacks of persecution or indirect attacks such as discouragement, which is one of his most effective tools. Why? Because it can slowly weaken our relationship with God. At times, the apostle Paul felt discouraged. Once, he even called himself a “miserable man.” (Read Romans 7:21-24.) Why would a man like Paul feel discouraged? After all, he had a good relationship with Jehovah and likely was a member of the governing body. Still, Paul felt discouraged because of his imperfections. He wanted to do what was right, but it was not always easy. If you have such feelings, then you can find comfort in knowing that Paul had the same struggles.
13, 14. (a) Why do some of God’s people become discouraged? (b) Who wants to see our faith destroyed, and why?
13 At times, many brothers and sisters feel discouraged, anxious, and perhaps even worthless. For example, a zealous pioneer sister says: “Over and over again, I think about a mistake I’ve made, feeling worse about it each time. When I think about everything I’ve done wrong, it can make me feel as if there’s no way anyone can ever love me, not even Jehovah.”
14 Why do some zealous servants of Jehovah, like the sister just mentioned, become discouraged? There could be many reasons. Maybe it is because they think badly about themselves or their circumstances in life. (Proverbs 15:15) Others may have negative feelings because they have health problems that affect their emotions. Whatever the reason may be for having negative feelings, remember who wants to use such feelings against us. Who wants us to get so discouraged that we give up serving Jehovah? Of course it is Satan. He has been condemned to death and he wants you to feel that you too are without hope. (Revelation 20:10) Satan wants to worry us and weaken our zeal. Whether he uses direct or indirect attacks, Satan’s goal is that we stop serving God. Make no mistake, God’s people are in a war, fighting to defend their integrity to Jehovah.
Make no mistake, God’s people are in a war, fighting to defend their integrity to Jehovah
15. According to 2 Corinthians 4:16, 17, what are we determined to do?
15 Be determined not to give up the fight. Keep focused on the reward. Paul wrote to Christians in Corinth: “We do not give up, but even if the man we are outside is wasting away, certainly the man we are inside is being renewed from day to day. For though the tribulation is momentary and light, it works out for us a glory that is of more and more surpassing greatness and is everlasting.”
PREPARE NOW FOR TRIBULATION
16. Why is it important to prepare now for tribulation?
16 Satan has many “crafty acts,” or evil plans, that he uses against us. (Ephesians 6:11) That is why we need to follow the advice found at 1 Peter 5:9: “Take your stand against him, firm in the faith.” To be firm, we need to prepare our mind and heart now so that we are ready and willing to do what is right. To illustrate: Long before going to war, soldiers receive special training that prepares them for battle. The same is true for us. We do not know what battles we will have in the future. So we must train vigorously while it is calm. The apostle Paul encouraged Christians: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith; keep proving what you yourselves are.”
17-19. (a) In what ways can we examine ourselves? (b) How might young ones prepare to defend their faith while in school?
17 One way that you can examine yourself is to ask such questions as: ‘Do I pray regularly? When others encourage me to do wrong, do I obey God as ruler rather than men? Do I attend meetings regularly? Am I bold in speaking about my beliefs? Do I forgive the mistakes my brothers make, just as I want them to forgive me? Do I obey the elders in my congregation and also those who care for the worldwide congregation?’
We need to prepare our mind and heart now so that we are ready and willing to do what is right
18 We are surrounded by people who try to influence our thinking. Many young brothers and sisters have to speak boldly about their beliefs while in school. And they are not embarrassed or afraid to do so. What has helped these young ones to speak with courage? They have used the suggestions found in our magazines. For example, the July 2009 Awake! suggests that if a classmate asks you: “Why don’t you believe in evolution?” you could simply say: “Why should I believe in evolution? Scientists don’t even agree on it, and they’re supposed to be the experts!” Parents, make sure that you discuss with your children ways they can defend their faith so that they will be prepared to do so while in school.
Parents, discuss with your children ways they can defend their faith
19 Of course, it is not always easy to defend our beliefs or to do other things that Jehovah wants us to do. For example, after a long day at work, we may have to push ourselves to go to the meeting. Or it may be difficult to get up in the morning to go out in field service. But remember: If you have made it a habit to do these things now, you will be prepared when bigger trials come in the future.
Paul accepted the ransom and believed that it applied to him personally
20, 21. (a) How can meditating on the ransom help us overcome negative feelings? (b) What should we be determined to do?
20 What about indirect attacks? For example, how can we overcome feelings of discouragement? One of the most powerful ways to do so is to meditate on Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. That is what the apostle Paul did. At times, he felt miserable. Yet he knew that Christ died, not for perfect people, but for sinners like him. He wrote: “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Yes, Paul accepted the ransom and believed that it applied to him personally.
21 You too can benefit greatly if you accept the ransom as a personal gift from Jehovah. This does not mean that discouragement will disappear immediately. Some may have to endure discouragement from time to time until the new world. But remember: The reward belongs to those who do not give up. Every day brings us closer to the time when God’s Kingdom will come. When that happens, there will be peace on earth and all humans will be perfect. Be determined to enter into that Kingdom, even if you must do so through many tribulations.