Firm in Faith Despite Opposition
“Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Cor. 13:5.
1. (a) What questions may we ask ourselves? (b) How was Paul’s faith exhibited?
IT IS entirely in order for us to ask ourselves is our faith comparable to that of meek but courageous Moses? or of persevering Paul? Consider the case of Paul, who endured many dangers on behalf of his ministry. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, traveled under dangerous circumstances, in danger in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in hunger, in thirst, and many times cold. Even after their having cultivated strong faith Paul still admonished Christians: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” He thus illustrated further that Christians must vigilantly examine themselves to maintain loyal status with God.—2 Cor. 13:5; 11:25-27.
2. What tests of faith may we expect, and what examples do we have of faithful courage?
2 When we look through the Bible record it is readily discerned that faithful men of pre-Christian times as well as those in the early Christian congregation nineteen hundred years ago were confronted with opposition, false arrest, nationalism and many other similar predicaments. Yet they withstood these trials fearlessly without compromising with the adversary. Frequently false charges were brought against individuals. Some were incarcerated! Consider how Joseph in the land of Egypt spent two years in prison charged with a crime of which he was not guilty. (Gen. 39:7-20) Peter and John and the Other apostles were arrested because they continued to preach the word without letup.(Acts 4, 5) These circumstances were not limited to the days of the early Christian congregation. True Christian witnesses of Jehovah have had their faith tested similarly in the last few decades in many ways.
3. What example of faith do we have in Spain, and what was the result as far as the preaching is concerned?
3 On an occasion in Spain in the year 1952 Jehovah’s witnesses were under surveillance. They conducted a Bible study in a certain house where they had gone repeatedly. In one instance secret police were waiting for them. They were arrested, their homes were searched and they were put into prison. In addition to being held, they had to stand abuse and threats, and then with the same abusive speech were warned of the consequences if they continued in the preaching of the good news. However, staunch faith was exhibited, since at that time there were 121 of Jehovah’s witnesses sharing in the ministry in Spain, and they continued preaching. In the year 1966 there were 4,302 ministers. Yes, they obeyed “God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:29.
4. (a) What persecution confronted the German ministers in the 1920’s and very early 1930’s, and how was persecution overcome? (b) What decree did Hitler issue against Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany after he came to power?
4 The ministerial work of Jehovah’s witnesses in Germany during the 1920’s and up to 1933 met with much opposition. In 1931 and 1932 alone there were 2,335 legal actions against Jehovah’s witnesses. Through perseverance, the persecution was overcome, as shown by the fact that during the years 1919-1933 forty-eight million Scriptural booklets and seventy-seven million copies of The Golden Age (now Awake!) were distributed. However, persecution reached a climax when Hitler came to power and, in his own words, stated: “These so-called ‘Earnest Bible Students’ are trouble makers . . . I consider them quacks; I do not tolerate that German Catholics be besmirched in such a manner; I dissolve the ‘Earnest Bible Students’ in Germany, their property I dedicate to the people’s welfare; I will have all their literature confiscated.” The Society’s property at Magdeburg was seized and the government seized and carried away and burned over $25,000 worth of literature, books and booklets. However, in spite of all this opposition, the faithful Christians continued preaching underground.
5. How was the compromise presented to the German Christians comparable to the test offered to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?
5 During the Hitler regime many were told that, if they would just sign a paper renouncing their position as Jehovah’s witnesses, they could go free and escape with their lives. Some failed, but most recalled the plight of the three Hebrews who were threatened with being thrown into the fiery furnace if they would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s huge obelisk on the plain of Dura when the music sounded. Upon their refusal to share in image worship the king’s wrath was directed at them. Their firm faith was manifested in the answer given the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you. If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” Jehovah did deliver them because, even when they were cast into the overheated furnace, we are told, “the fire had had no power over their bodies, and not a hair of their head had been singed, and even their mantles had not been changed and the smell of fire itself had not come onto them.” Similar endeavors on the part of the enemy to accomplish compromise were rebuffed by the same kind of irrepressible faith by faithful Christians in Germany.—Dan. 3:16-18, 27.
6. What happened in Canada during the 1940’s?
6 Not only did Christians encounter a critical situation in Germany. In Canada in the early 1940’s the Watchtower magazine was banned, and here too during World War II much persecution and imprisonment were experienced. In the Province of Quebec tremendous abuse and harassment were experienced, but this was overcome by long, hard battles through the lower courts, ultimately to the Supreme Court of Canada.
7. What charges were placed against the Witnesses in Quebec in 1949, with what resulting persecution?
7 Charges of sedition were brought against the Witnesses in Quebec in 1949. Besides misrepresentation and mobbing, they were hounded throughout the Province and systematically hunted down, falsely arrested, and held in vermin-infested and disease-ridden jails, with exorbitant bail demands. But such summons are not new. Paul was arraigned in court and charged similarly, that we “found this man [Paul] a pestilent fellow and stirring up seditions among all the Jews,” when he was doing the same thing as the Canadian ministers, namely, telling others about God’s kingdom.—Acts 24:5.
8. What resulted in Canada by persistent preaching and championing of freedom?
8 Court cases and persecution continued in Canada for several years until a favorable decision of a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court was rendered on October 6, 1953. With this victory eight hundred cases were dismissed, as the result of enduring harassment and distressing treatment in their continued preaching in upholding of freedom of worship. Just as Paul would not compromise by stopping his ministry, neither did the faithful Canadian Witnesses, but, instead, they maintained integrity and defeated persecution through faith.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
9-11. (a) Was any persecution experienced in the United States? (b) How were the children of Jehovah’s witnesses affected? (c) What was the final outcome as a result of no compromise?
9 In the United States, in many areas, much opposition and uncalled-for persecution were brought against Jehovah’s witnesses. In Texas and Oklahoma mob violence was excited against Jehovah’s witnesses. In Plainfield and Jersey City, New Jersey, southwest Pennsylvania, Griffin, Georgia, to name only a very few places, the Witnesses were imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. Long court battles ensued and opposition was finally overcome by keeping mindful of God’s Word and maintaining strong faith.
10 Flag-salute issues arose, bringing persecution against children of Jehovah’s witnesses. As a result of their maintaining integrity to Jehovah and not bowing down, many of these children were deprived of education in the public schools by being expelled for not saluting the flag.
11 Numerous court cases resulted throughout the United States as municipalities endeavored to enforce peddling ordinances against the ministerial work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In all these cases, along with the flag-salute cases, freedom of worship was gained by persistent pursuit of justice through the courts of the United States, resulting in favorable decisions in the Supreme Court.
12. What persecution resulted to young ministers of draft age?
12 During the years 1940-1946, which included World War II, some 4,300 young American ministers were arrested and incarcerated, receiving sentences up to five years while endeavoring to maintain their status as ministers. The Selective Service Act specifically exempts ministers from military service, but these faithful ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses were denied that exemption. Many, after serving one sentence and being released, were soon rearrested and sent back to prison for a second term. Nevertheless, these young ministers maintained their integrity and even took advantage of the period of time they were in prison by following scheduled Bible study programs, continually building up their faith as ministers. Yes, they even preached, as opportunity presented itself, to guards and others with whom they came in contact.
13. (a) Where else did persecution occur? (b) Describe the faithful course taken by a sister back of the Iron Curtain, and with what Scriptural example and counsel did she conform?
13 Severe persecutions and bans occurred in such countries as Italy, Greece, the Philippine Islands and many other countries around the earth. In all instances the opposers endeavored to intimidate Jehovah’s witnesses, tried to break their allegiance and fidelity to Jehovah. A splendid example of faithfulness was manifested by a sister brought into a community court on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The presiding functionary finished his threat and the women present shouted, “Those enemies of the people should be driven into the sea.” This denouncement did not deter her one iota, because she quickly replied: “I am dedicated to serve the God who rules the universe. I will never desert him under any conditions, If you want to, you can starve me to death, but I will not abandon my faith nor will I make any compromise in the matter of faith.” Perhaps she was familiar with Paul’s words: “I am convinced that neither death nor life . . . nor governments will be able to separate us from God’s love.” What faith she displayed! Result? She was permitted to leave, and no further action was taken against her. (Rom. 8:38, 39) Even under severe circumstances, we can see, trustworthiness is required, and certainly Jehovah’s blessings were upon that sister, as she did not “become fearful of those who kill the body.”—Matt. 10:28.
14. How may opportunities of compromise present themselves as far as blood transfusion is concerned, and what advice is followed?
14 The faith and strength of Jehovah’s witnesses are frequently tried in conjunction with the taking of blood transfusions. Many times relatives or friends, not having an understanding of God’s commands, will bring severe pressure, endeavoring to cause the ailing or injured Witness to lose faith in God’s Word and his command to abstain from blood. However, a witness of Jehovah will firmly cling to the counsel as stated at Acts 15:29: “Keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!” No compromise can be made on an issue such as this even if obedient Christians are ridiculed and taunted by relatives or associates.
15. Why would it not be proper for one to have employment related to modern Babylon’s organization?
15 Tests of faith may come upon Christians whose desire it is to remain free from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. One’s secular occupation may take him into the churches of Christendom, perhaps by reason of being a contractor, or working for a contractor whose main business is to construct church buildings or, for that matter, serving as a janitor in such a building. How ironic it would be for a Christian, admonishing others in accordance with the words of Revelation 18:4: “Get out of her [Babylon], my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues,” at the same time to be a part of her because of his employment!
16. What other problems may arise due to employment, and what should the Christian do about it?
16 If one were engaged in making war implements or working for a company whose main production was within this category, one could be placing his Christian status in jeopardy. It is recognized that under such a situation one could not help but be taking a course contrary to God’s Word, which admonishes Christians not to take blood or to shed blood in any way. Taking such an uncompromising course may bring ridicule by fellow workers or employers, or even loss of employment. Nevertheless, the Christian will be mindful of the fact that he will have no part in wars, or war efforts of the nations. Jesus stated: “You must not murder.” (Matt. 5:21) Furthermore, in corroborating this principle, Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is that we cannot be unequally yoked with such practices that are definitely a part of this faithless world. If a Christian finds himself in such a position, the wise course would be to seek other employment.
17. (a) What circumstances confronted Peter and John when authorities told them to abstain from preaching? (b) What should twentieth-century ministers do?
17 Similar situations may arise in regard to the ministerial work of a Christian. For example, if Caesar forbade one to preach this good news of the Kingdom, Christians are just as resolute about the matter as the apostles were nineteen hundred years ago when confronted with a decree of the ruling authorities, at the instance of the religious leaders, to stop speaking on the basis of Jesus’ name. Think of it! This was even after they had been flogged and then warned to preach no more and then let go. Integrity was maintained unwaveringly. When all the apostles left the court of the Sanhedrin they were “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ.” This action was not in defiance of the ruling element, but it was a staunch obedience to Christ’s command to declare the good news of the Kingdom throughout all the world for a witness to all the nations, recognizing that upon its completion the end shall come. (Acts 5:41, 42; Matt. 24:14) Many Christians have lost their positions because of their staunch stand taken in preaching this good news when they have been arrested falsely and thrown into jail. Consequently, twentieth-century Christians must maintain their position of integrity fervently, not withholding from Caesar the things that belong to him, but, nevertheless, not compromising in their faithfulness to God to continue preaching throughout the world. In fact, they are just as resolute as all the apostles were, regardless of the nation in which they happen to reside, and they will continue to preach even though bans are imposed upon their work, yes, even if it means imprisonment and cruel treatment.
RESOLUTIONS FOR FAITHFUL MINISTRY
18. How many resolutions were adopted between 1922-1928, against whom were they directed and where were they distributed?
18 During the period of 1922-1928 seven courageous resolutions were adopted and distributed throughout the greater part of the world, showing that the judgments that were proclaimed in the seven plagues described in the sixteenth chapter of Revelation were upon and against modern-day Babylon the Great, as well as the political elements that she supports.
19. (a) What resolution was adopted in 1963, by how many, and what were the declarations incorporated in it? (b) Why does this take courage?
19 As recently as 1963 a strong resolution was adopted by a grand total of 454,977 in the Around-the-World “Everlasting Good News” Assemblies of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In addition to incorporating in their joint Resolution the seven plagues mentioned above, the assemblers adamantly resolved to be immovable on the side of the Messianic kingdom of Jehovah God, to cultivate the fruitage of the spirit, to carry on pure and undefiled worship and to fight against “wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places” until the Satanic “ruler of this world” and his demons are abyssed. The Resolution further stated: “We will continue to declare to all peoples without partiality the ‘everlasting good news’ concerning God’s Messianic kingdom and concerning his judgments, which are like plagues to his enemies but which will be executed for the liberation of all persons who desire to worship God the Creator acceptably.” It takes courage and boldness to take such a firm position against nationalistic worship of the political state and against the worship associated with international organizations for world peace and security such as the United Nations with its 119 members. Such a valiant position requires indomitable faith such as that manifested by Peter and John as well as so many Other early Christians.—Acts 4:19-21.
20. (a) As a result of following a faithful course, what may Christians expect? (b) What are some of the things that may jeopardize unswerving faith?
20 It is readily discernible that the faith of the apostles and others Was severely tried even to imprisonment and/or death. True Christian ministers today should be equally confident and have complete assurance of Jehovah’s protection. It is true that some have not put up a hard fight for the faith and have fallen victim to the intimidation of political organizations, relatives and friends, as well as being unable to overcome the ensnaring allure of materialism.
ENCROACHMENTS UPON FAITH
21. What subtle things could disturb one’s faith?
21 An initial step toward unfaithfulness is one’s beginning to shrink back. This backward course can begin very subtly, making it extremely dangerous. It could be a slowing-down process or a refusing to meet the challenge of new truths. It could be due to laziness, or self-denial may be involved. A specific warning was issued about unfaithfulness because of being deceived by reason of those that rely on their own judgment and lose sight of relying wholly and exclusively upon Jehovah. Jesus’ brother and disciple, Jude, makes specific reference to such persons: “Certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4) We are admonished by such words coupled with the warning that wolves would creep in, appearing in sheep’s covering but being false. (Matt. 7:15) Considering that such was applicable nineteen hundred years ago, we know it is also prophetic of circumstances that would arise in these “last days.”
22. How could what we read impair faith?
22 In addition to all of this, a person’s faith can be weakened by what he reads and takes into his mind, dwelling upon “higher criticism,” relying on worldly philosophers. It should be remembered that, when we are reading a book, the author of the book becomes one’s teacher, and for this reason great care should be taken in selecting reading matter. When the source of such information is from persons outside of Jehovah’s organization or from those that may have crept into the organization for injurious purposes, such would be a good time or occasion to heed Paul’s counsel to the young man Timothy, when he said: “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14-16) If there is the slightest infringement on your faith by those in this old system of things, or from any source, free your minds from such shackles and always remember that Jehovah the true God and Christ Jesus his Son are our teachers.
23. In his letter to the Thessalonians, what did Paul advise regarding faith?
23 Exercising firmness and steadfastness as we carry out the will of Jehovah will keep our faith strong. We are advised by Paul: “Stand firm and maintain your hold on the traditions that you were taught, whether it was through a verbal message or through a letter of ours. Moreover, may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave everlasting comfort and good hope by means of undeserved kindness, comfort your hearts and make you firm in every good deed and word.” These words are live words, having been given as counsel to the congregation nineteen hundred years ago and being just as valuable and apropos now. “The Lord is faithful, and he will make you firm and keep you from the wicked one. . . . May the Lord continue directing your hearts successfully into the love of God.” (2 Thess. 2:15-17; 3:3-5) Just as it was important for the Christian nineteen hundred years ago to stay close to Jehovah’s organization, so it remains vital to do so today. How?
24. What are we to be busy doing now, and what is necessary to please God?
24 Being busy with the declaration of the good news will give us fortitude and encouragement. We read at 1 Corinthians 15:58: “My beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” Labor of the ministerial work, labors of love among fellow Christians, will increase one’s faith and enhance integrity. We can readily see that such faith, namely, faith only in Jehovah, will give us strength to withstand the encroachments and intimidations of enemy forces. Bear always in mind, “without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.