How Victorious Faith Can Affect You
OVER 100 “Victorious Faith” International Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been scheduled for 1978 and 1979 in cities throughout the world. More than 1,700,000 persons had attended these gatherings by September 1, 1978, and this series of assemblies is still in progress.
What is the purpose of these conventions? They are being held to build faith. No, not mere belief but victorious faith—the kind meant by the Christian apostle John who wrote: “This is the victory that has come off victorious over the world, our faith.”—1 John 5:4, The Bible in Living English.
This victorious faith has influenced the lives of thousands. It can affect you, even as it has affected others. Observe how true this is as we briefly consider some aspects of the “Victorious Faith” International Conventions in European lands.
FAITH SURMOUNTS OBSTACLES AND HARDSHIPS
For some, their very presence at these assemblies required the exercise of faith and the overcoming of obstacles. Distance certainly was no insurmountable problem. To come to the convention in Lille, France, a young delegate from Poland traveled 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) by bicycle in six days.
Forty Witnesses from Poland attended the convention in Copenhagen, Denmark. This was made easier because of the recent opening up of a direct passenger ship route from Svinoucie to the Danish capital. Nevertheless, the trip cost each of them a month’s salary. They received travel permits although they gave “attending assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Denmark” as the reason for their trip. However, an invitation and visa paid from abroad were required for them to leave Poland, and Danish brothers provided these. Besides enjoying a large convention with so many fellow believers, these delegates benefited from a two-and-a-half-day program in Polish, including three Bible dramas presented by means of tape recordings and photographic slides. Together with English, Greek, Spanish and Yugoslavian delegates, the Polish brothers added a special international flavor to the Copenhagen convention. Two days of the assembly program were presented in the Greek, Spanish and Croatian languages. Hence, even language barriers were overcome.
One couple with 11 children wanted to accompany other Witnesses from the Azores and attend the convention in Lisbon, Portugal. But how could they afford it? Well, some of the older children helped to raise funds by taking jobs for some months before the assembly. The cost of plane tickets, food and the like was well over $1,100 (U.S.), a fortune for these humble islanders. But they overcame such economic obstacles by showing faith in Jehovah, and the whole family of 13 members was present for the Lisbon convention.
Also present at certain “Victorious Faith” International Conventions were survivors of Nazi concentration camps. Two Witnesses attending the assembly in Brussels, Belgium, still possessed their striped uniforms. These they put on for the benefit of delegates at an English-speaking session. One man who now is a Christian overseer was five years old when his father was arrested in 1941, and still remembers asking his mother how long she would be away when she was arrested, for he thought she was just going on an errand. He did not see her again until four years had passed. But victorious faith won out over all their hardships and persecution.
To the conventioners assembled at Helsinki, Finland, an elderly couple brought greetings from West Berlin. They were both full-time Kingdom proclaimers and had served in that capacity for a combined total of more than 100 years! The audience almost held its breath as this sprightly couple told of their experiences. The husband had been a member of the Bethel family (the Watch Tower Society’s branch office staff) in Hitler’s Third German Reich, had been arrested by the Gestapo, and had ended up in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp with 600 other brothers. On his release at the end of World War II, he again served at Bethel. His wife also had been imprisoned. After their marriage, they both found themselves in a Communist prison camp. Together they have spent a total of 41 years in prison! Did they sound depressed or dejected? Not at all! The brother remarked: “For this special privilege we are grateful to Jehovah.” Yes, they had suffered as Christian neutrals but their faith had been victorious.
Truly, those having victorious faith surmount formidable obstacles, endure hardships and do not succumb to their persecutors. They do not shrink back, but, rather, “have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.” (Heb. 10:38, 39) Victorious faith can have the same effect in your life.
FAITH HAS TRANSFORMING POWER
But does faith affect individual behavior or conduct? Well, the French newspaper Le Soir contrasted the serenity of the Christian convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses held in Marseilles with the usual disorderliness seen at the stadium they used. It said: “The people are peaceful and friendly, ready to talk. . . . There is none of the unruliness usually connected with crowds. All are quietly seated in chairs brought in for the occasion. Nobody walks or tramples on the grass. These are not screaming fanatics, but people who discuss calmly. They have found their object in life, their truth, with Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Commenting on the “Victorious Faith” International Convention in Rome, the Italian newspaper Paese Sera termed the Witnesses a “well-behaved” people with “irreprehensible conduct.” Also, regarding the assembly site, Il Messaggero of Rome commented: “Missing are the litter of scrap paper and rubbish that, sad to say, so characterize the mass meetings held in our country.” This was said to be “a sign of civility due in part to the efficient collection services, but also to the good breeding of those in attendance.”
Actually, any credit for desirable or godly conduct must go to Jehovah God. Faith in him and the application of the Scriptures in life are responsible for transforming those who have become true Christians. (Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) The French newspaper Le Dauphiné libéré notes: “Let us dispel the notion of a ‘conjurer’ who transforms you with a few magic words and a wand. No, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not interested in exchanging the ‘quality’ of deep-founded conviction for a ‘quantity’ of people who imagine that they have been convinced by a passed-on faith.”
How, then, can one acquire real faith? The same newspaper continues: “It must be understood that such a faith is cultivated in the light of the Holy Scriptures. Nobody is born as a Jehovah’s Witness. One must take a stand at a certain time in his life in all ‘spiritual’ liberty, whether brought up among Jehovah’s Witnesses or having made their acquaintance by chance.” The Christian apostle Paul put matters this way: ‘So faith follows the thing heard. In turn the thing heard is through the word about Christ.”—Rom. 10:17.
Yes, victorious faith follows the “thing heard.” And the transforming power of faith is based solidly on the Word of God. The Helsingin Sanomat said this, in reporting on the convention in Helsinki:
“Large conventions have been important occasions for Jehovah’s Witnesses from the point of view of present and future families: whole families come to the meetings and the young people meet other young ones. A future marriage mate must also be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” (Deut. 7:3, 4; 1 Cor. 7:39) The newspaper adds: “Jehovah’s Witnesses’ guidelines for life in other spheres of family life are also plain: common-law marriage is unknown and sex before marriage is not acceptable. Marriage is considered binding. Divorce is forbidden ‘except on the grounds of fornication’. Jehovah’s Witnesses live that way simply because the Bible so exhorts.”
Entire families can and do benefit from faith. And observers can see that Jehovah’s Witnesses in general have been affected by their faith in God and his Word. Indeed, faith has affected them as individuals.
FAITH KNOWS NO ETHNIC BARRIERS
A highly significant feature of each “Victorious Faith” International Convention is the “Declaration of Our Faith.” By their bold and strong affirmation, assembled thousands are thus registering their determination to move forward in Jehovah’s service. And, among other things, they are attesting to the truthfulness of these words, embodied in the Declaration: “We have seen what faith can produce on a global scale; how God’s spirit has produced something that remains unique: an earth-wide ‘association of brothers.’ (1 Pet. 2:17) ‘By this all will know that you are my disciples,’ Christ Jesus said, ‘if you have love among yourselves.’ (John 13:35) We rejoice to be part of the only real international brotherhood on the face of the earth, a brotherhood bound together in unbreakable love—for God and his Son, for truth, for what is right, and for one another.”
Are these merely empty words? No indeed! Individuals of all races and nations have risen above national prejudices and racial bias. They have been bound together in unbreakable bonds of Christian love. There is clear proof that victorious faith knows no ethnic barriers.
The current conventions truly are international in nature. For instance, missionaries trained at the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead and now serving in 35 different nations were present for the assembly in Munich, Federal Republic of Germany. There sessions were held in various languages. On the English program the speakers were from 11 countries.
The fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses constitute an international brotherhood has not gone unnoticed by outside observers. For instance, in reporting on the “Victorious Faith” International Convention in Vienna, Austria, the Wiener Morgen Kurier said: “The ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ come from different social levels, but the bond that unites them is their deep feeling of religiousness, which has its roots exclusively in the Bible.”
One Witness attending the international convention in Copenhagen, Denmark, told about meeting a social worker who was very impressed with the work accomplished by Jehovah’s Witnesses. This woman deals with elderly people and has often seen the beneficial effect that the Kingdom message has on these individuals. The social worker remarked: “I admire your work . . . On occasions when I have dealings with the clergy I get very disappointed. You have the only international brotherhood in the world. I admire your courage in preaching. Keep up the good work!”
FAITH IMPARTS COURAGE
That is exactly what Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing. They are ‘keeping up the good work!’ Victorious faith imparts courage to pursue Christianity as a way of life and to declare boldly the “good news.” (Mark 13:10) For that matter, in the “Declaration of Our Faith” enthusiastically affirmed at the “Victorious Faith” International Conventions, it is pointedly stated:
“We will not, we cannot, stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard and experienced. (Acts 4:20) We are impelled to give expression with our lips to our strong faith in Jehovah’s victorious kingdom and we sincerely want to share the blessings of this ‘good news’ with all. Like the apostle Paul, our plea is: ‘Become reconciled to God.’ (2 Cor. 5:20) That is our determination, to make public declaration of this good news of Jehovah God’s kingdom from here on until the end of this system of things.”—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
When asked, “Do you agree?” the convention delegates are responding with a thundering “Yes!” But they are doing more than that. They are putting their affirmation into action.
In fact, delegates are devoting the morning of the third convention day to enthusiastic witnessing activities in the field. It is reported, for example, that this endeavor “saw the biggest witness ever” in Dublin, Ireland. Reportedly, 2,650 adults personally checked in with the Field Service Department there to obtain the colorful literature kits used in this special endeavor. One of Dublin’s Christian elders was heard to say: “For the first time there are more Witnesses preaching in O’Connell Street than there are priests walking up and down it.” One convention release in Dublin that is certain to further the Kingdom-preaching work in Ireland was the Gaelic tract entitled “Mankind’s Only Hope for Peace.”
True, such evangelizing work is a demonstration of victorious faith. But is it really having an effect on those to whom Jehovah’s Witnesses are declaring the Kingdom message? Well, in Paris, France, on this morning of special activity, a 30-year-old woman welcomed the Witnesses, saying: “Your visit is providential. I absolutely needed to talk to someone. I have already had three nervous breakdowns and even wanted to commit suicide.” She then confided in the visiting Witnesses that she felt the need to draw nearer to God. The woman had done research on some Oriental religions, but without finding peace of mind. So she expressed a desire to study the Bible. Arrangements were made for her to accompany a friend to the public talk. This woman accepted literature offered by the Witnesses and was happy to find Scriptural answers to her questions.
Participating in this faith-strengthening activity in Lisbon, Portugal, was a visiting member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and his wife. Of course, you may think! Well, due to a recent accident, he had three broken ribs. Nevertheless, it brought him pleasure to share with fellow believers in this special field service endeavor.
A great witness was given in Rome, Italy, where another international convention was held. True, the city was rather empty because most of its inhabitants were on vacation, and much attention had been drawn to the death of Pope Paul VI. A Christian elder from central Italy remarked: “Every Witness on the streets of Rome was searching to find persons to whom to witness. When I approached one man, he said to me: ‘Please! You are the 25th Witness that has stopped me this morning!’” One lady said: “I have been to market, and they were there. I went to the butcher, and they were there, too. At the grocery store I found them. Here I find them. I find Jehovah’s Witnesses everywhere.” One brother saw many priests reading literature that had been placed with them that morning.
Referring to this Friday morning field service activity by conventioners in Milan, Italy, the daily Il Giorno commented that the Witnesses “knocked at the doors from house to house” and “explained the reasons for their faith.” It added: “All was done in a very pleasant manner, without becoming offended when someone treated these faithful ones as inopportune disturbers, rejecting them ungraciously.”
Yet, victorious faith does much more than impart courage for some temporary effort in declaring the “good news.” It is long-lasting, sustaining, even over a period of many years. In this regard, interesting is a report on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy, as published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. In a dispatch from Rome, Italy, it stated, in part:
“As Catholics waited in long lines last weekend to visit the grave of Pope Paul VI, about 65,000 Italians gathered under colorful umbrellas in the Flaminio soccer stadium to pay homage to their God.
“But it was a different God than the one represented by the pontiff who lay buried in the grottos beneath St. Peter’s Basilica. Here, in the world’s most Catholic nation the Jehovah’s Witnesses have gained a strong and growing toehold. . . .
“Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had 95 adherents in Italy during World War II, now claim to be Italy’s second largest religious group. They are certainly its fastest growing. . . .
“Their numbers have gone from 25,810 in 1972 to 66,315 in 1977. They claim 71,796 members today . . .
“Their numbers are still small in relation to the 54 million population of Italy, most of whom are at least nominally Catholic. But they have made their presence felt here.
“Officials of the church say some Jehovah’s Witness or other has knocked on every door in Italy by now. Each member is required to perform evangelical duties.”
It does take effort—and courage—to persist against great odds in declaring the Kingdom message. Referring to the “Victorious Faith” International Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Barcelona, Spain, Diario de Barcelona noted: “The head of their press service said that they are ‘no part of this world’. That may be, but they undoubtedly know the world well and have the courage to express their beliefs to it.” Yes, it is Scripturally based faith that has always imparted “courage to speak the word of God fearlessly.”—Phil. 1:14.
VICTORIOUS FAITH GIVES HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
The “Victorious Faith” International Conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are providing sound Scriptural counsel. They are building faith. And the benefits will be far-reaching, for victorious faith gives sure hope for the future.
Significant features of these international conventions are Bible dramas. Despite the conscientious effort of dedicated Christians in preparing these presentations, unexpected problems can be encountered. For instance, heavy rains fell during three of the four dramas presented in the open ball field at the Copenhagen convention. But the actors in thin oriental robes acted out their parts as enthusiastically as they might have done so under the warm sun of the Middle East. Hence, they ‘reaped extra heavy applause’ from the sheltered audience.
Why so much effort? It seems that the underlying reason was well expressed by El Noticiero Universal of Barcelona, Spain, in stating: “One has to admit this people’s merit, as none of the actors is professional; they are members who volunteered to perform. So they help their fellow believers.”
However, have these dramas affected observers? Indeed they have! One of these dramas, entitled “‘Do Not Look Behind You and Do Not Stand Still,’” deals with the Biblical story of Lot. (Gen. chap. 19) Reflecting on that presentation, an experienced Christian elder commented: “Materialism has proved very deceptive. We notice how many of yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities, and people load themselves with heavy burdens trying to follow the trends of the day. . . . A timely message!”
Among other things, the international convention program furnishes sound Biblical counsel on marriage. Does it affect individuals personally? Yes, it does. Said a young couple after returning from the convention in Marseilles, France: “How we have appreciated this assembly, particularly the talks on marriage, and the practical counsel on how to solve marital problems! This convention was necessary to remind us of what Jehovah says in his Word, to help us consolidate our union and solve our problems. We came back from the assembly strengthened and happy.” If you have not yet attended a “Victorious Faith” International Convention, could you benefit by being present?
Victorious faith, founded on the sure Word of God, does affect individuals. It benefits them. How well this was demonstrated in the case of a 62-year-old woman baptized during one of the international conventions at Sheffield, England! As a journalist she had written and edited a local church magazine. But 20 years ago she suffered a stroke and thereafter the church showed no further interest in her. In 1977 a Christian woman began studying the Bible with this infirm individual and reports: “Each week she had a note pad with questions on it. She found all the scriptures herself. We could really see Jehovah’s spirit in action each time we saw her. Her progress was marvelous. As the study continued, she improved to the point of reading paragraphs and conducting a conversation.”
“Her physical health improved as her spiritual condition did,” remarked her husband. The woman stopped smoking when she learned this was displeasing to Jehovah, and she was baptized at the convention. But this was a touching conquest by faith, for the woman and her wheelchair both had to be lowered into the water. Certainly, Bible truth has given her sure hope for the future. At the time of her baptism, she exclaimed: “I am so very happy to be among the many here!” Now, with a real purpose in life, what is her viewpoint? Faith has given her hope, and she says: ‘I just want to tell others about the peaceful future promised by Jehovah.’
Jehovah’s Witnesses face the future with confidence. They can do so because they have victorious faith that surmounts obstacles and hardships. It is a faith that has had transforming power in their life. These Christians are joyful because they are part of the only truly united worldwide brotherhood. Their faith knows no ethnic barriers. It is a faith that imparts courage. Moreover, this victorious faith gives them hope for the future.
Faith based solidly on the Bible can affect you in similar ways. Indeed, you can benefit from victorious faith.
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Faith builds happy families
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Conventioners share the “good news”
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Drama on Lot’s family teaches a vital lesson