Can You Prepare Now for Persecution?
“If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”—JOHN 15:20.
1, 2. What unexpected action have some governments taken against Jehovah’s Witnesses?
IMAGINE yourself resting in bed early one morning. You are drowsily wondering whether to get up immediately or to relax a few moments longer. But first, you turn on the radio for the early news. Suddenly, the newscaster startles you into full wakefulness. He announces: “According to a government decree, the sect known as Jehovah’s Witnesses has been banned throughout the country.” No more relaxing for you!
2 This, or something like it, has been the experience of Christians in some countries in modern times. Often, there have been warnings of what might happen. But sometimes the ban has been completely unexpected. Should this surprise us?
3. What contrasting experiences did Jesus Christ have in 33 C.E.?
3 Not really. Similar things happened in the first century. Remember how Jesus Christ, in the early spring of 33 C.E., rode into Jerusalem on an ass. The people joyfully acclaimed him, spreading their garments on the road ahead of him. But what happened a few days later? Jesus was on trial before Pontius Pilate, and a mob from that same city bloodthirstily yelled: “Let him be impaled! . . . Let him be impaled!” (Matthew 21:6-9; 27:22, 23) The situation had changed suddenly.
4. As Jesus’ followers, what treatment should we expect?
4 Hence, we should not be surprised if in some lands today the situation changes and persecution unexpectedly arises. Remember, if we are truly Jesus’ followers, we should expect persecution. (John 15:20) This highlights the importance of Jesus’ words, “Keep on the watch.”—Matthew 24:42.
5. What questions now merit our consideration?
5 How can we do this? Is there any way we can prepare, in case the worst should happen?
Prepare Your Mind and Heart
6, 7. (a) Why is it difficult to make physical preparations for persecution? (b) What far more important preparation for persecution can be made?
6 It is difficult to make physical preparations for persecution because you do not know just what the situation will be. Until it actually happens, you do not know whether a ban will be strictly or loosely enforced, or even what will be banned. Perhaps only the house-to-house preaching work will be forbidden, or maybe religious meetings. Sometimes the legal organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is dissolved, or certain individuals are immediately imprisoned. We can have in mind various places where literature could be hidden in case of need. But beyond that, there is little we can do in the way of physical preparation.
7 However, you can prepare your mind and heart, and this is far more important. Set your mind on why persecution is permitted and why you may be haled before rulers. “For a witness,” said Jesus. (Matthew 10:16-19) If your heart is fully prepared to stay faithful no matter what, Jehovah can reveal the wise way to act when the need arises. Hence, how can we prepare ourselves spiritually for persecution?
How Do You Deal With People?
8. Why could Paul say that he ‘took pleasure in insults’?
8 The apostle Paul said: “I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in cases of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) Did Paul enjoy being insulted? Of course not. But persecution often involves being insulted, and if this was what it took to bring praise to God’s name, then Paul was happy to endure it.
9. How can we now prepare to endure “insults . . . for Christ”?
9 We, too, can be sure that at some time we will have to endure “insults . . . for Christ.” We may be verbally, or even physically, abused. Will we endure? Well, how do we view ourselves now? Do we take ourselves very seriously and react quickly to real or imagined insults? If so, then why not work on developing “long-suffering, . . . mildness, self-control”? (Galatians 5:22, 23) This will be excellent training for Christian living now, and it could save your life in times of persecution.
How Do You View Field Service?
10. What is the proper Scriptural reaction when our preaching work is banned?
10 Often, the first thing restricted under a ban is the public preaching of the “good news.” Yet preaching and disciple making are vital in these last days. How else will people learn about God’s Kingdom? Hence, the proper reaction to such a ban is the one expressed by the apostles, when the Jewish religious leaders tried to ban their preaching activity. (Acts 5:28, 29) Under ban, some avenues of preaching may be closed. But, somehow, the work has to be done. Would you have the strength to continue preaching under the pressure of persecution?
11, 12. How might you determine whether you would have the strength needed to continue preaching when persecuted?
11 Well, how do you view the preaching work now? Do you permit small obstacles to interfere and make you irregular in the field service? If so, what would you do under a ban? Do you fear men now? Are you willing to preach from house to house on your own street? Are you afraid to work alone? In some lands, two people working together often draw too much attention. So, where it is safe to do so, why not work alone now from time to time? It will be good training.
12 Do you share in magazine street work? Do you have the courage and initiative to create opportunities for informal witnessing? Do you work business territories? Are you afraid to approach wealthy or influential people? If you only share in certain kinds of preaching, what will you do if, under ban, that kind of preaching is no longer possible?
13. What can you now do about your ministry so as to be better prepared to preach in times of persecution?
13 Do you recognize that you have a weakness in some respect? Now is the time to work on it. Learn to rely on Jehovah and become more qualified as a minister. Then you will be better equipped to preach now and better prepared to persevere in times of persecution.
Are You Reliable?
14, 15. (a) What kind of first-century Christians must have been a fine stabilizing influence when persecution broke out? (b) How can a present-day servant of Jehovah become like those strong early Christians?
14 Throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures, individuals are mentioned who were towers of strength in the congregation. For example, Onesiphorus courageously helped Paul when he was in prison in Rome. (2 Timothy 1:16) Phoebe was recommended because of her hard work in the congregation at Cenchreae. (Romans 16:1, 2) Such men and women must have been a fine stabilizing influence when persecution broke out. They ‘stayed awake, stood firm in the faith, carried on as men, grew mighty.’—1 Corinthians 16:13.
15 All Christians, particularly elders, should try to make progress and become like the strong early Christians. (1 Timothy 4:15) Learn to keep confidential matters private and to make decisions based on Scriptural principles. Train yourself to discern Christian qualities in others so that you will know who will be reliable under pressure. Work, with Jehovah’s strength, to become a pillar in your congregation, a person who helps others rather than one who always needs help.—Galatians 6:5.
How Do You Get Along With People?
16, 17. How can applying Colossians 3:12, 13 now help you to prepare for persecution?
16 The apostle Paul encouraged us: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.” (Colossians 3:12, 13) Is this easy for you? Or do other people’s imperfections irritate you unduly? Do you quickly take offense or get discouraged? If so, here is another field where preparation can be made.
17 In lands where meetings are banned, Christians regularly come together in small numbers. In such circumstances, their shortcomings become even more evident. So why not train yourself now to put up with others’ weaknesses, just as they doubtless are putting up with yours? Do not be critical of others and thus greatly discourage them. Also, train yourself and your children to respect other people’s property while attending Congregation Book Studies. Under persecution, such respect will promote peaceful relations.
Are You Inquisitive?
18. Why is it sometimes safer to know only what you need to know?
18 By nature, some of us are very inquisitive. We cannot bear not being “in the know.” Are you like that? If so, consider this: Sometimes, when the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been banned, the authorities try to discover their organizational arrangements and the names of responsible overseers. If you were one who knew these things, you could be subjected to physical abuse in an effort to force you to reveal them. And if you did reveal them, the work of your brothers could be seriously affected. Hence, sometimes it is safer to know only as much as you need to know and no more.
19. What can now help you to avoid revealing confidential matters when persecuted?
19 Can you train for that now? Yes. For example, if there is a judicial committee case in the congregation, individuals should be satisfied with whatever the elders see fit to say and not pry in order to find out any details. Wives and children of elders should not try to pressure them into revealing confidential matters. In every way, we should learn not to ‘meddle in what does not concern us.’—2 Thessalonians 3:11.
Are You a Bible Student?
20, 21. How will diligent Bible study now help you if the work is banned?
20 The Bible is the basis for a Christian’s spiritual strength. It gives him answers to his most important questions and grants access to the wisdom of God himself. (2 Timothy 3:14-16) All Christians acknowledge this in principle, but what part does the Bible really play in your life? Do you study it regularly and allow it to guide you in everything you do?—Psalm 119:105.
21 Often, access to our Bible literature is severely restricted when the work is banned. Sometimes, even Bibles are hard to find. Under such circumstances, the holy spirit will remind you of things you have learned in times past. But it will not remind you of things you have not learned! Therefore, the more you study now, the more will be stored in your mind and heart for the holy spirit to bring out in times of need.—Mark 13:11.
Do You Pray?
22. How can ‘persevering in prayer’ prove helpful in preparing for persecution?
22 This is an important question when we think of persecution. The Bible counsels: “Persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) Prayer is direct communication with Jehovah God. Through it we can ask for the strength to endure difficulties and make right decisions, as well as build a personal relationship with Jehovah God. Even if opposers take away our literature, our Bibles, and our association with other Christians, they can never take away our privilege of prayer. In the strongest prison, a Christian can get in touch with God. Taking full advantage of the privilege of prayer, then, is a fine way to prepare for whatever the future may hold.
Do You Trust Authority?
23. Why build up trust in the appointed elders and in “the faithful and discreet slave”?
23 Building up this trust is also important. The elders in the congregation are a part of God’s provision to protect us. Elders need to act in a way that deserves trust, and the rest of the congregation needs to learn to give them their trust. (Isaiah 32:1, 2; Hebrews 13:7, 17) Even more important, we should learn to trust “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45-47.
24. What can be done to prepare to resist lying attacks by enemies of Jehovah’s people?
24 Enemies may spread lies about God’s organization. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2) In one country, some Christians were misled to believe that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses had forsaken Christianity, whereas they themselves were still remaining faithful to it. A good way to prepare to resist attacks like this is to build a strong love for your brothers and learn to trust in Jehovah’s arrangement of things.—1 John 3:11.
You Can Be Victorious
25. What will help us to come off victorious when persecuted?
25 The aged apostle John, after suffering persecution, told us: “Everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4) You cannot conquer in your own strength. Satan and his world are stronger than you are. But they are not stronger than Jehovah God. Hence, if we obey God’s commands, praying for his spirit to uphold us and relying on him completely for strength to endure, then we can come off victorious.—Habakkuk 3:13, 18; Revelation 15:2; 1 Corinthians 15:57.
26. Even if you are not now suffering persecution, what should you do?
26 In all lands, there are some Christians being persecuted, either by opposed marriage mates or in some other way. In some lands, all of God’s servants are suffering because of the official acts of the local government. But even if, right now, you personally are not suffering opposition or unusual hardship, remember that it could happen at any time. Jesus said that persecution of Christians would be a part of the sign of the time of the end; hence, we should always expect it. (Matthew 24:9) So why not prepare for it now? Be determined that, whatever may lie ahead, your conduct will always bring praise to your heavenly Father, Jehovah God.—Proverbs 27:11.
What Are Your Answers?
□ What kind of preparations for persecution can you now make?
□ What can you now do to develop the strength needed to continue preaching when persecuted?
□ How can applying Colossians 3:12, 13 now be helpful when persecution occurs?
□ Why build up your trust in the appointed elders and “the faithful and discreet slave”?
□ How can you be a victor when persecuted?