Christians Meet Persecution With Endurance
1, 2. How do loyal witnesses of Jehovah meet persecution, but what question does this raise?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES are not seeking martyrdom. However, they know that “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Does this depress them?
2 No, for loyal Christians can “meet persecution with endurance.” (1 Corinthians 4:12, The Twentieth Century New Testament, Revised Edition) But how can we prepare for such suffering before it comes upon us?
Preparing for Persecution
3. What are some ways to prepare for persecution?
3 Our previous discussion suggested ways to prepare for persecution. For instance, we need to remember the Devil’s aim—to destroy our relationship with Jehovah. By God’s undeserved kindness, may we never let that happen! We can also prepare for persecution if we reflect on why God permits it. He does so chiefly because of the issue of universal sovereignty, and also to test our loyalty. Hence, let us determine in advance that, with divine aid, we will be loyal upholders of Jehovah’s sovereignty. Additionally, we can be prepared for persecution if the Kingdom hope is in our heart.
4, 5. In preparing before persecution comes upon us, how can we build up our faith?
4 In preparing before persecution comes upon us, daily we need to build up our faith, courage and endurance. If we are to have genuine faith, however, we must truly love Jehovah, and this calls for accurate knowledge of his Word. This, in turn, requires that we regularly read and study the Scriptures along with related Christian publications. Furthermore, essential to strong faith is association with fellow believers in Jehovah’s worship and service.—Hebrews 10:23-25; 12:28; Revelation 7:9, 10, 15.
5 To prepare for persecution, we also need to “go on walking in the truth,” living it daily, always being “guided by the Truth.” (3 John 3, 4, NW; TCNT) By accepting God’s guidance as we face smaller tests day after day, we will build up our faith in Jehovah and in his ways. This, in turn, will motivate us to be “guided by the Truth” when we are persecuted.
6. How can prayer help us to prepare for persecution?
6 Making it our custom to pray regularly to Jehovah will draw us closer to him, and this, too, will help us to prepare for persecution. The more we prayerfully rely on our heavenly Father, the more we will trust him. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10) Our relationship with him thus will become too strong for foes, human or demon, to destroy.—Compare Psalm 9:1-6; 1 John 2:12-14.
Meeting It With Endurance
7. When we are persecuted, what can God do if our own strength runs out?
7 When persecution actually does come upon us, especially in some brutal form, what can be done to meet it with endurance? Strength from Jehovah is vital! Like Paul, we need “power beyond what is normal,” and we should pray for it. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12) Then, with full dependence on our heavenly Father, we can be as confident as Paul was when saying: “I have the strength for everything in him [Jehovah God] who invigorates me.” (Philippians 4:13, Byington) Even after our own physical strength has run out, Jehovah’s resources will not be exhausted. He can and does impart power to his people. (Isaiah 40:28-31; 45:22-25) If we lean upon Jehovah, he will give us strength beyond our own capacity in times of stress. And let us not be fearful. Man can go only as far as taking our present life, but with Jehovah is the power to restore us to life by resurrection.—Psalm 46:1, 2; Luke 12:4-7; John 5:28, 29.
8. Why is prayer so important in meeting persecution with endurance?
8 Prayer to Jehovah is indispensable in meeting persecution with endurance. Jesus, who underwent many sufferings, always stayed close to his Father in heartfelt prayer, for we read: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7) Assuredly, the “Hearer of prayer” will also hear us for our godly fear. (Psalm 65:2) During persecution the need to “persevere in prayer,” to “pray incessantly,” to “be vigilant with a view to prayers,” cannot be overstressed. (Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Peter 4:7) Otherwise, we might think only about the discomfort, the suffering, and might yield to a desire for relief, giving in to the inclinations of the flesh by compromising our faith.
9, 10. (a) How can “the peace of God” help us when we are persecuted? (b) What can we learn from Stephen’s serenity while he faced his persecutors?
9 Seek “the peace of God” when under duress. If we have prayed to Jehovah daily, we have established a fine pattern in life and should continue to approach him earnestly when persecuted. It is appropriate to pray for “the peace of God that excels all thought.” It will ‘guard our hearts and mental powers by means of Christ Jesus’—down to death in faithfulness if necessary.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
10 That this unsurpassed tranquillity can be ours when persecuted is suggested by the case of faithful Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Just before he was moved by holy spirit to give a final courageous witness, the Bible account states: “As all those sitting in the Sanhedrin gazed at him, they saw that his face was as an angel’s face.” (Acts 6:15) He did not have the downcast face of a wrongdoer but the countenance of an angel, a messenger of God, with confidence that he had Jehovah’s backing. Stephen was courageous and serene. (Compare John 14:27.) After he exposed their guilt in the murder of Jesus Christ, the judges “felt cut to their hearts and began to gnash their teeth at him.” But Stephen, “being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” Strengthened by that vision, Stephen could face those unrighteous judges with courage and confidence that he had done Jehovah’s will. (Acts 7:52-56) Although Christians today do not expect to have such a vision, they can have God-given serenity as they meet persecution with endurance.
11. Meditation on what can help Jehovah’s people to endure persecution?
11 Meditate on Jehovah’s Word, dealings and purposes. Even if deprived of a Bible and Scriptural publications, dwell on God’s Word. Recall Bible verses and accounts, doing so throughout the day and during sleepless nights. (Compare Psalm 77:2, 6, 11, 12.) Think about Jehovah’s marvelous dealings with his persecuted or oppressed people of the past. For instance, reflect on how God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, sustained Daniel and his three Hebrew associates in their trials, preserved the Jews in the days of Mordecai and Esther, and upheld the apostles and other early Christians in their sufferings for righteousness’ sake. (Exodus 12:1–15:21; Daniel 3:1-30; 6:1-28; Esther 3:1–9:32; Acts 4:1–5:42; 12:1-17; 14:1-7, 19, 20; 16:16-40; 18:12-17; 19:23-41; 21:26–26:32) Think, too, of the way Jehovah has supported his modern-day servants in Nazi concentration camps, communist prisons and the like. When persecuted, worshipers of Jehovah can sense the support of God’s “everlasting arms.”—Deuteronomy 33:27, An American Translation.
12. When we are being persecuted, what should we remember about our suffering, and what trust and confidence should we have?
12 Suffering will end. Remembering this will also help us to meet persecution with endurance. Furthermore, ‘God will repay tribulation to those causing it for us,’ while giving us relief. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) Therefore, during our sufferings as witnesses of Jehovah, we should look to the future, confident that our hardships will cease and faithfulness will result in rich blessings from our heavenly Father. For example, in time we may be released from prison and again enjoy freedom to serve him without restraint as joyful Kingdom proclaimers. But even if that does not happen promptly, our suffering will not last forever. And we can endure it if we trust Jehovah completely and maintain our confidence in the fulfillment of his promise of unparalleled blessings in the foretold New Order.—Revelation 21:1-4; compare 2 Corinthians 1:19, 20.
13. During persecution, what comfort can we draw from 1 Corinthians 10:13?
13 God will not let us be tried beyond what we can bear. The apostle Paul gave that assurance when he wrote: “No trial has assailed you except what belongs to man; and God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tried beyond your ability; but with the trial, will also direct the issue, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, The Emphatic Diaglott) Not all Christians are called upon to endure the same sufferings. Hence, there is no reason to think of the worst possible form of brutal persecution as necessarily being inevitable in our individual case. Jehovah will not fail us or allow anything to come upon us that we individually cannot bear in his strength and with the help of his holy spirit. Of course, we must rely on him implicitly and believe what his Word says. Yet, if we fully trust in Jehovah we can indeed meet persecution with endurance.—Psalm 9:9, 10.
Satan’s Hostility Futile
14, 15. How has Satan been foiled in his attempts to crush Jehovah’s people by means of persecution?
14 Because Jehovah’s faithful witnesses are directed and helped mightily by their incomparable, all-powerful God, Satan the Devil and his persecuting dupes will never be able to prevail against these genuine Christians. Time and again the Devil has been foiled in his attempts to crush Jehovah’s people through persecution. In fact, persecution often has boomeranged on the Archenemy of Jehovah and His people, and the divine will has prevailed.
15 In proof of this, consider the “great persecution” that arose against the congregation in Jerusalem immediately after Stephen’s martyrdom. We are told: “All except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” But the scattered disciples “went through the land declaring the good news of the word,” and their efforts were blessed. For instance, there was spiritual prosperity in the city of Samaria. (Acts 8:1-8) Other scattered disciples preached in Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, Syria. Why, in Antioch “the hand of Jehovah was with them, and a great number that became believers turned to the Lord”! (Acts 11:19-21) That development, we may be sure, was just the opposite of what was desired by the foiled Great Persecutor.—Compare Philippians 1:12-14.
16. What sometimes happens in the case of persecutors?
16 Every time a loyal witness of Jehovah meets persecution with endurance this adds to the humiliation of Satan, proving him to be a liar. Moreover, when a former persecutor becomes and remains a faithful persecuted witness of God and Christ, the Devil has experienced the disgrace of a defeat. For instance, he certainly was not pleased when the former persecutor Saul of Tarsus became one of Jesus’ persecuted followers who labored so diligently in spreading the good news despite persecution and many sufferings.—2 Corinthians 11:23-27; 1 Timothy 1:12-16.
17. Persecuted witnesses of Jehovah should have what attitude toward their persecutors?
17 How important it is, therefore, that persecuted witnesses of Jehovah have a proper attitude toward their persecutors! Stephen was not filled with hatred for those who persecuted him. In fact, as they were stoning him he bent his knees and, just before falling asleep in death, “he cried out with a strong voice: ‘Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.’” (Acts 7:57-60) Moreover, Jesus said: “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you.”—Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:11-13.
Our Creator Will Not Fail Us
18. What will happen when Satan makes a final assault against Jehovah’s people?
18 We now live during the greatest crisis in human history. It is a period of testing and sifting of professed Christians. (Compare Luke 22:31, 32; 1 Peter 4:16, 17.) Satan’s time is short, and soon he will make a final all-out assault against Jehovah’s people. But God will enable them to meet this persecution with endurance and they will come off victorious. Once again, Satan (as Gog of Magog) will have been foiled and handed a crushing defeat. Additionally, in this defense of His people, God will ‘magnify and sanctify himself, making himself known before the eyes of the nations, so that they will have to know he is Jehovah.’ Again, that is just the opposite of what Satan would desire.—Ezekiel 38:14–39:7; Revelation 12:12.
19. With divine help, what will persecuted witnesses of Jehovah do?
19 As Jehovah’s dedicated witnesses, we know that Satan desires to destroy our relationship with Almighty God. By God’s undeserved kindness, however, we will not compromise our faith. Rather, we will bear in mind the great issue and seek in every way to uphold Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. Confident in the Kingdom hope, we can be happy though persecuted. We are prepared to meet persecution with endurance, for we trust implicitly in “the one who can, according to his power which is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.”—Ephesians 3:20, 21.
20. What confidence can we have in our “faithful Creator”?
20 Therefore, let us be fearless before the foe, maintaining integrity, to God’s glory and our own salvation. May we “hope in Jehovah and keep his way.” (Psalm 37:34) As we endure persecution, may we manifest the attitude evident in the apostle Peter’s words: “Let those who are suffering in harmony with the will of God keep on commending their souls to a faithful Creator while they are doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19) Our “faithful Creator” will not fail us. In his strength, we can be happy though persecuted and can meet persecution with endurance.
□ How can witnesses of Jehovah prepare for persecution?
□ In meeting persecution, why is prayer so important?
□ How can the “peace of God” help us when we are persecuted?
□ What comfort can be drawn from 1 Corinthians 10:13?
□ Jehovah’s Witnesses have what attitude toward their persecutors, and why so?
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Stephen did not hate his persecutors, and modern-day witnesses of Jehovah do not hate theirs. Some persecutors later become Witnesses