When we first encounter the truth about God, His laws and the narrow spiritual path He wants us to walk, we may feel overwhelmed. But He offers us powerful help to be able to endure to the end.
When we feel God’s calling to change our lives, we might ponder the question, “Will I be able to finish the journey that I am about to start?”
It is a good question and one that needs answers. Let’s begin at the central important point, our faith. We need to believe that God exists, that He is who He says He is, and that He can perform the things that He promises (Hebrews 11:6).
We need to also fully believe the promise that Jesus made when He said, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).
The apostle Paul knew Jesus personally and was inspired to write, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Paul, perhaps more than any other apostle, was able to write these words of encouragement because of the trials and hardships that he had to experience and endure during his ministry.
Trials that Paul endured
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he listed various hardships that he had endured, such as being beaten with rods three times, being stoned once, being shipwrecked three times and spending a night and day in the sea. He also mentioned experiencing perils with robbers, his own countrymen and gentiles, plus being tired, sleepless, hungry, thirsty, cold and without enough clothing.
And besides having to deal with these hardships, he had to endure what came upon him daily and his concern for all the churches of God (2 Corinthians 11:25-28).
Paul never lost faith in God
Even though Paul had to endure extreme hardships and trials, he never lost faith in God.
In his letter to the congregation in Rome he wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’
“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
Paul suffered greatly during his ministry, yet he was assured that Christ watched over him and protected him. He knew what the Lord had spoken to Ananias—that he would be “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16).
What about us? Will we, also, be required to suffer many things? And will we be able to endure to the end, as Paul did, without losing faith?
As Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world … the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:19-20).
We live in an ungodly world surrounded by those Paul described as having their minds blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Persecution comes in many forms. Some who are just beginning to keep the Sabbath may encounter difficulty getting off work or having their children excused from school to observe the annual holy days.
At times we can also experience hardships dealing with health, finances or other issues. Trials, hardships and persecution come in many varieties and can also come directly from Satan. One such example is found in the Old Testament.
The life of Job
Job was the greatest (wealthiest) of all the people of the east (Job 1:3). His possessions included 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, plus a large household of servants. And besides these, he had 10 children.
But Satan, in one day, took away all Job’s possessions and his children. Later Job was covered with boils from head to toe! Job’s suffering was so great that his wife even advised him to curse God and die.
Yet, throughout all his trials, Job never lost faith in God. After Job endured all his trials and forgave his friends for giving him bad advice, God restored to him twice as many possessions as he had before (Job 42:10, 12).
The Lord also blessed Job with another seven sons and three daughters (Job 42:13), and he was able to see his descendants for four generations.
Job’s hardship is a powerful example for us of not losing faith in God, even while suffering from extreme adversity.
Jesus assures us that no one can pluck us out of His hand or His Father’s hand (John 10:28-29).
However, there are times when we might wonder how we could survive such extreme hardships. So God gives us a key to unlocking our understanding of how to endure.
A key to understanding how to endure to the end
When Paul testified before the elders of the Church of God in Ephesus, he told them that he was going to Jerusalem bound in the spirit and not knowing what was in store for him, although he was expecting tribulations (Acts 20:17, 22-23).
He then gave a key to understanding how he was able to endure. It is a key that unlocks our understanding of how we can endure also.
Paul said, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy” (Acts 20:24).
If we are willing to deny ourselves and put God first in our life, He will provide us with the strength and whatever resources we need to endure to the end.Paul did not consider his life dear to himself! This is truly an example of humility and is the key to understanding how we, too, can endure hardships.
It also fulfills a requirement that Jesus said we must have to be a disciple of His. “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34).
In our society many people put themselves first in priority, not willing to deny themselves. This is natural, but it is just the opposite of what Jesus said to do (Luke 9:23).
If we are willing to deny ourselves and put God first in our life, He will provide us with the strength and whatever resources we need to endure to the end.
Paul’s life and Job’s life were truly examples of endurance. And from their experiences, we can conclude that they were willing to deny themselves and put God first in their lives.
The outcome was that God watched over them and blessed them. And if we are willing to put God first, we will find that we, too, can do all things through Christ who will strengthen us.
We are not Paul or Job, so what assurance do we have? God promises that He will provide the strength we need to be able to complete the journey. We can be “confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
If we rely on Jesus’ promises and Paul’s inspired words, then we can say, “Yes, we can!” That is, with God’s help.
For more about how we can endure to the end, read our article “Run With Endurance.”