Completely Victorious Through Faith
“In all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.”—Rom. 8:37.
1. Why can we expect trouble, particularly at this time?
JESUS told his disciples: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:19, 20) We can expect trouble on that account, and particularly at this time of “the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matt. 24:3, 9.
2. (a) Why can we be confident when enduring persecutions? (b) What benefits result from thus enduring?
2 We may be tested by persecutions, but, as needed, God will provide us “the power beyond what is normal” to endure. Yes, “we are persecuted, but not left in the lurch; we are thrown down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:7-9) How often has that been the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times! And persecutions, when endured, can have a most beneficial result. They add to the Christian’s faith a resilience, a power, a confidence, a poise that shine through that one’s entire personality, declaring as it were, ‘Here is a tried, proved and faithful servant of Almighty God, Jehovah.’ Jesus tells us to rejoice over persecutions. “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.”—Matt. 5:10-12.
3. (a) With regard to persecutions, what encouragement does Peter give us? (See also 1 Peter 4:12-14) (b) What trials have Jehovah’s Witnesses endured in modern times, and with what result?
3 The apostle Peter looked at it that way, writing as follows to Christians who were “being safeguarded by God’s power through faith”: “In this fact you are greatly rejoicing, though for a little while at present, if it must be, you have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 1:5-7) Jehovah’s Witnesses of modern times continue to be “grieved by various trials.” These tests come due to issues involving neutrality, nationalism, idolatrous ceremonies, or through opposition of unbelieving family members, fellow workers or students, and others. How wonderfully have many endured these tests! They have been “safeguarded by God’s power” as they press on in the assurance of a happy outcome and reward.
4. What encouragement do we have ‘not to be afraid’?
4 The Lord Jesus Christ assured anointed Christians at Smyrna: “Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) Likewise, integrity-keepers among the “great crowd” may look forward to a “crown” of everlasting life in a paradise earth.—Jas. 1:12.
5. What assurance may we have in taking our stand against the Devil?
5 Though the Devil, in his opposition to God’s kingdom, may take on the frightful likeness of “a roaring lion,” we need not fear him, if we keep our senses and are watchful. We are not alone in our fight with persecutions. We are invited to throw all our anxiety on Jehovah—‘because he cares for us.’ “Take your stand against [the Devil], solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.”—1 Pet. 5:7-9.
“SOLID IN THE FAITH”
6, 7. (a) How does the course of our brothers in southern Africa show that they are following the fine advice of 1 Thessalonians 5:8, 11? (b) How has Jeremiah’s prophecy been fulfilled toward our brothers?
6 How well do these words describe our integrity-keeping brothers around the earth! The ‘tested quality of their faith’ has taken on a brilliant luster as they fight back with their weapons of spiritual warfare against the trials and sufferings with which the Devil assaults them. Reports from around the earth indicate that the Devil is intensifying his opposition. Flames of persecution and violence continue to spread in Africa, from the south of which continent one country reports:
“Many were the problems our brothers had to face. Some were beaten, with at least five killed during the year. Kingdom Halls were burned down and publishers scattered, resulting in the closing down of some congregations. A few had their literature burned, while others had to flee for their lives. House-to-house work is no longer possible in some areas, although the brothers are faithfully sharing the ‘good news’ with others in any way they can. In spite of these conditions Jehovah’s people remain steadfast in their faith and continue to give comfort to others who are distressed by world conditions. Faithful Witnesses have found ways and means of meeting together and sharing the ‘good news’ with others. One special pioneer wrote, ‘Although the people are using the slogan, “Down with churches and forward with the war,” our brothers are showing good faith in Jehovah.’”
7 As a new government was preparing to take over this country, efforts were already being made to force the brothers to buy political party cards. But the report concluded on this confident note: “The faith and endurance of our brothers proves beyond a shadow of doubt the truthfulness of our text for the year , ‘They will not prevail against you, for “I am with you,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “to deliver you.”’—Jer. 1:19.”
8 From Mozambique comes the report that about 12,000 of our brothers from Malawi are confined in camps at the town of Milange, near the eastern border of Malawi, and that from 3,000 to 5,000 of our Mozambican brothers are also restricted in camps in that area. As loving shepherds, traveling overseers have maintained their upbuilding visits to the congregations. (1 Pet. 5:2, 3) But some of these have been arrested, due in part to traitorous action by disfellowshiped apostates and rebellious children of Witnesses, who have been only too willing to reveal responsible brothers to the Frelimo. Says the report:
“Two circuit overseers were arrested and sent to ‘re-education centres’ in an effort to brainwash them with Communist doctrine. One of these has recently been released but the other, who has been in detention for a much longer time, managed to send the following report about his experiences:
“‘We were tied with our arms extended horizontally on a stake so that we looked like a cross. Nylon rope or cord was used to tie our arms tightly from the tips of our fingers of one hand to the tips of the fingers of the other, passing also around our bodies. All of this to try to force us to violate the laws of Jehovah. The result was that I and two brothers were left with our arms almost paralyzed, swelling up to the tips of our fingers. When they untied me, my arms were swollen so much that I could hold nothing. It is only now, after 15 days, that I am able to hold a pen.’”
9. How may we support our persecuted brothers, and with what assurance? (1 Pet. 5:10, 11)
9 After reporting on the brothers’ increasing difficulties, the circuit overseer concludes his report with the words: “Please, you must not forget us in your prayers.” So let us remember these faithful brothers, ‘exerting ourselves in prayers to God’ on their behalf, fully confident that the great “Hearer of prayer” will keep them in his love and relieve their burden in his own good time and way.—Rom. 15:30-32; Ps. 65:2.
10 A country in the heart of Africa sends this report:
“Despite the ban, Jehovah has richly blessed us during the past year. In one small town, a group of 41 brothers, sisters and little ones were arrested while meeting in a private home. The sisters and little ones were soon released, but the 25 brothers were sentenced to prison terms of from two to six months, for practicing a banned religion. The exemplary conduct of the brothers while out on prison work crews gave all the local people a fine witness on how Bible truths should affect daily lives. The brothers often received special privileges, due to their trustworthy behavior; and different authorities, including the town mayor, commented favorably on their conduct.
“For most of these two months, the brothers in prison had absolutely no Bible literature, but still they continued giving ‘mutual encouragement.’ In each of the three different cells where they were located, a different brother would be assigned to think up a Bible text for each day. Then, led by the elder or ministerial servant in the group, every brother would give a comment on that day’s text. Also, while out on work crews, the brothers had many opportunities to sing Kingdom songs, because prison work crews in this country often sing while working. The district overseer, the only one of the 25 brothers sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, later explained how very helpful it is to know many different Bible verses and Kingdom songs in advance of such a test of one’s faith.”
11 This country under ban reports that there was a decrease in the number of Kingdom publishers reporting but an increase in the quality of their service. The report continues:
“One thing has become very evident: Those with good spiritual habits and a deep appreciation of the truth have no problem in holding firm when tests arrive, but those who in ‘favorable season’ miss meetings, are irregular in field service and compromise on small issues often fall under a ‘fiery’ test. Since the ban the quality of studies being conducted has greatly improved and many are making rapid progress.
“Six young members of one family started to study after the ban and showed no fear, standing firm despite strong family opposition. From the beginning they attended all meetings and this resulted in rapid progress. Three are now baptized and another is preparing for baptism. Two others are arranging their marriages with baptism in view as well. Their confidence in Jehovah and diligence in personal study have been an example to others in the congregation.”
12 These faithful ones under ban continue to be richly blessed as they make the “law of Jehovah” their delight. This is borne out by a letter from imprisoned Witnesses in still another African country where Jehovah’s work is banned:
“The torture here is constant. Nine brothers were removed from our group, being placed in another cell for five days of continual punishment. Some are awakened at night and beaten; and day after day it is as if the punishment is intensified. We receive one meal a day, if they remember to bring it. Many difficulties are encountered; but they are also overcome. We manage to have our meetings. . . . Great care is used. . . . This is all today from the 75 brothers that greet you.”
No matter how hard the persecutions, these precious ones can draw comfort from the psalmist’s words: “Jehovah is taking knowledge of the way of righteous ones, but the very way of wicked ones will perish.”—Ps. 1:1-6.
13. In line with others of the Psalms, what determination have our brothers shown in northeast Africa?
13 From northeast Africa come reports of arrests in three different countries. In one of these, 5 percent of the brothers and sisters spent time in prison, and some are still there. A number have been tortured and three were killed; two others were reported as under sentence of death. Watch Tower missionaries were asked to leave the Seychelles Islands. In all this wide area, the vast majority of the brothers and sisters have remained faithful and are determined to make Jehovah their refuge as tests continue. (Ps. 34:7, 8; 84:11, 12; 94:17-23) Some are able to continue their activity in full-time preaching work, and all of them say that they appreciate the prayers offered on their behalf by the worldwide association of brothers.
14 Let us turn our attention now to a country in another continent where the brothers are displaying marvelous loyalty under ban. A recent report states:
“That our brothers will not stop telling the good news of the Kingdom can be appreciated by the increase this year. We have reached almost the all-time peak of before the ban. Many are the new ones coming into the organization, 1,788 new people being baptized [in just two years] since the ban. There are congregations that have reported more than a 100% increase in this time. The brothers are not deterred because of arrest.
“When the ban came on the work [one] congregation had 17 publishers, now they are reporting 45. Ten people were baptized this year; there were 11 publishers who took up the auxiliary pioneer work, including the only two elders in the congregation. Four of the brothers were arrested and held in separate cells for 14 days, but this has not affected their fine activity and zeal for Jehovah’s service. The spirit of these brothers and many others in the country reminds us of Paul’s zeal for the ‘good news.’—2 Cor. 4:7, 16-18.”
And does it not remind us, also, of the activity and zeal of the newly established Christian congregation, as described at Acts chapters 4 through 8?
15. (a) How should we react to these reports? (b) What part does prayer play in this?
15 Similar reports come from many other lands around the earth where Jehovah’s Witnesses are bearing up under restrictions and proscriptions. How should we react to such reports? For one thing, they are a clear evidence that “the final part of the days” is now on us, that we are living in the most urgent of times and must gird ourselves to “stand firm” under trials of faith. (Isa. 2:2; Eph. 6:14) And just as we pray fervently that Jehovah will watch over our brothers who are even now undergoing persecutions, we should pray that our heavenly Father will deliver us ourselves, our families and our congregations—yes, and all the new ones who are even now coming to a knowledge of the truth—from every device of “the wicked one.”—1 Thess. 1:2; Matt. 6:13.
16. (a) How has integrity been involved in gaining victory by faith? (b) What other tide threatens to engulf God’s people? (Compare Luke 8:14.)
16 Jehovah, the great Hearer of prayer, has strengthened our brothers in eastern Europe, in the Orient, in Africa and in Latin America to gain the conquest over the tide of bitter persecution that continues to advance in so many parts of the world. The ‘tested quality of their faith has worked out endurance’ in them, and as integrity-keepers they have proved the Devil to be a liar. (Compare Job 1:9-12; 2:9, 10; 27:5; James 5:10, 11.) But there is a different kind of tide—a more subtle one—creeping through other parts of the earth, and especially in the more prosperous lands. It is a worldly tide, with its emphasis on material gain, on pleasure and recreation, on immorality and on ‘doing your own thing.’ Sad to say, this Satanic tide appears to have engulfed more of God’s people than has outright persecution!
17 We must keep awake to the urgency of these “critical times,” to the fact that we are indeed living through the “last days” of this wicked system. (2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13) As you read these very words, hundreds of your Christian brothers around the earth are suffering imprisonment. Their only recreation, if any, is a walk in a bleak prison yard, with perhaps a brief opportunity to speak a word about God’s kingdom. What an incentive to us who have greater freedom to use much of our recreation time in doing what they would love to be doing—freely proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom” to others! Surely those of us who live in affluent countries would never want to let the world “soften” us to the point of habitually spending weekends on pleasures, away from our congregation and God’s service! Not without point does the account of Jesus’ great prophecy on the end of the system of things conclude with a warning against—not the dangers from persecutions, but—the dangers to those whose hearts become “weighed down” through worldly indulgences.—Luke 21:34-36.
18 Remember, “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.” (1 Thess. 5:2, 3) Obviously, the worldly nations are rapidly approaching that situation. Also, as persecutions envelop more and more of Jehovah’s people throughout the earth, we are compelled to ask the question that the Master once asked: “Shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night?” Jesus gave the answer: “I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily.” Do you have faith that this will be so? You should, for it is in this context that Jesus says: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:7, 8.
19. (a) What should be our determination in face of opposition? (b) Our showing unflinching faith will bring what result?
19 Let us then be determined to stand firm in this faith, yes, resolved to keep “standing firm in one spirit, with one soul striving side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened” by our opponents. (Phil. 1:27, 28) Knowing that we have Jehovah on our side, backing us up, we can say with the apostle Paul: “If God is for us, who will be against us?” We can be determined that nothing—be it a tide of persecution or a tide of materialism—will be able “to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because of such unflinching faith, and activity based on that faith, may we all come off “completely victorious through him that loved us.”—Rom. 8:31-39.
[Chart on page 18-21]
1978 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLD WIDE
(See bound volume)
[Pictures on page 26]
Neither persecutions nor a materialistic world can engulf the victorious faith of God’s witnesses