The “Divine Peace” District Convention—Just What We Needed!
“HEARTS have been reached and attitudes affected.” “Jehovah spread a banquet of many wonderful dishes.” “The talks were straightforward and specific.” “Just what we needed NOW!” “This is just what we needed!”
Such are typical of the many expressions of appreciation heard for the 1986 “Divine Peace” District Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. All such expressions showed that those in attendance had heeded the fine counsel given both by the chairman and by the opening talk: “Listen and Get the Sense of It.”
Since the theme of peace is made so prominent in God’s Word, the term occurring more than 300 times in the Bible, it was most fitting that it should be made the theme of our 1986 district conventions. In fact, 18 of the inspired letters from Romans to Revelation begin with such statements as, “May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to you.” Let it be noted that in the Hebrew Scriptures the word translated “peace” is sha·lohmʹ, which not only means the absence of war and strife but also implies health, prosperity, and welfare.—1 Peter 1:2.
Peace was highlighted time and again throughout the program. As the keynote speaker stressed, Jehovah is “the God of peace” and “the God who gives peace.” His Son, the “Prince of Peace,” promised his followers peace. (Philippians 4:9; Romans 16:20; Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27; 16:33) The keynote speaker showed that the peace that we Witnesses enjoy is unique in that it does not depend on outward circumstances. It is dependent on our respect for authority, which is the reason why the world is without peace—it has no respect for the greatest Authority, Jehovah God. Isaiah put it so well: “O if only you would actually pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river.”—Isaiah 48:18.
Among the helpful suggestions given so that we might enjoy divine peace more fully was that we strive to take away from each meeting one practical point of counsel to work on. This talk showed that to be peacemakers it is not enough for us to be peaceful; we must work for peace, being willing to yield in the interest of peace.
Feet Shod With the Equipment of the Good News of Peace
Well is our message called “the good news of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15) We received much fine counsel on how to bring this good news of peace to others. A three-part symposium on our ministry was very helpful toward this end. The first speaker showed how our house-to-house ministry has become a trademark of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since this work is not easy, we prove our love for God and man by engaging in it. To be truly effective, we must be conscientious and resourceful, keeping accurate records and calling at different times so as to reach all.
The second speaker explained that for us to make disciples we must keep on making return visits on interested persons, doing so with a positive attitude. We should take a personal interest in those we call on, having noted on the original call what interests the householder. Make sure that the householder learns something new on each return visit.
The third speaker pointed out that our Bible students will be helped to become Witnesses if we reach their hearts with viewpoint questions. We want to show genuine interest in them by directing them to God’s organization, helping them get to meetings, visiting them at other times, and even inviting them to our homes. In the past 35 years, Bible studies have increased tenfold.
Following this symposium, we had stressed for us the need to manifest an eagerness to share the good news of peace wherever possible and under all circumstances. Age is no handicap. Young children and those in their 90’s keep preaching. Some are pioneers, or full-time preachers, though totally blind. Others pioneer though deaf, still others though confined to wheelchairs. One pioneer couple has six young children accompanying them in field service.
Most fitting was the counsel “Do Your Utmost by Sharing in the Full-Time Ministry.” Full-time service is the most satisfying, the most rewarding, way of life. Having started, pioneers were urged to do their utmost to remain in full-time service.
As at previous conventions, we heard from longtime proclaimers of the good news, some having served from 30 to as many as 70 years. They told of their joy in preaching the good news. It was indeed encouraging to hear how they overcame obstacles to continue in the ministry. For instance, one brother did not fail to participate in the field ministry a single month in 43 years of service.
Counsel for Family Members
The fine counsel for family members was greatly needed in view of the threat the wicked system of things poses to those in the Christian family. Youths were asked, “Are You Spiritually Progressive?” Today many are serving full-time as pioneers and in Bethel homes. But could more be doing so? To be spiritually progressive means to put God’s will first in our lives. It also means having good study habits and sharing regularly in congregation activities and in the field service, as well as having good relations with older ones. And it means not finding pleasure in anything God’s Word forbids.
Another three-part symposium began with the searching question, “Is Your Home a Place of Rest and Peace?” Basic to this is choosing as a mate a witness of Jehovah who puts Kingdom interests first and who manifests the fruitage of God’s spirit. For a home to be a place of rest and peace, the husband must take the lead in spiritual things, and he ought to love his wife as his own body. The wife should be supportive and have deep respect for her husband. It is also essential to pray together and not to allow place for the Devil. Children can contribute to making a home a place of peace and rest by being submissive and cooperative. Family ties are strengthened when families study the Bible and Bible literature together.—Psalm 34:11.
Greatly needed was the talk that followed, “Is Separation a Way for Marital Peace?” The answer? Perhaps for worldlings but not for Witnesses! For them, separation is not an easy way out of a trialsome marriage. The entire tenor of God’s counsel on marriage is that couples remain united. Separation almost invariably has a harmful effect on the children involved, and there is other bad fruitage. Bluntly put, separation is an admission that either one marriage mate or both of them are not manifesting the fruitage of the spirit.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
Fine counsel was given to single Christians in the talk “Should an Unmarried Person Feel Incomplete?” By no means! Since the ministry is the center of our lives, we can be complete whether single or married. In fact, as Paul shows, single Christians have certain advantages. By cultivating contentment, they can rejoice in the gift of singleness and make the most of it.—1 Corinthians 7:32-34.
Needed Counsel on Clean Living
The ever-worsening moral climate of this world has resulted in a number of Witnesses’ getting reproved or even disfellowshipped for bad conduct. So how fitting was the straightforward counsel given on matters of conduct! To enjoy divine peace, we must watch our conduct at all times. This was made clear, for example, in the talk “Avoid the Snares of Social Entertainment.” Parties can be a lot of fun, but if we are not careful, they can easily interfere with theocratic activities and lead to uncleanness. The imperfect human heart is deceitful and ready to take advantage of any opportunity for toying with immorality. Especially do large parties pose serious dangers, and so does debasing music.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
To preserve our divine peace, we must “Avoid This World’s Death-Dealing ‘Air.’” Like the air we breathe, this selfish and disobedient spirit of the world is all around us. The talk dealt with nine manifestations of this death-dealing air, among which are toying with immorality, extremes in clothing and grooming, immoderate use of food and drink, addiction to sports, and pride of race. Keep breathing in this air and it will kill you spiritually.
This matter was driven home still further by the talk “Are You Remaining Clean in Every Respect?” Carelessness makes us guilty of hypocrisy. To have a good conscience, we must keep clean physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. To that end we must “hate what is bad,” “abhor what is wicked.” This includes abhorring apostate propaganda.—Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9.
The fine talk “Jehovah’s Discipline Yields Peaceable Fruit” was pertinent here. Jehovah is the Great Disciplinarian, and he disciplines us because he loves us. None of us are beyond the need for discipline. Even the Son of God was not! (Hebrews 5:8) Yes, discipline basically means training, not always chastisement, and to benefit from the many ways that God administers it, we must be honest with ourselves—and keep humble!
The talk “Keep Building One Another Up” gave fine counsel as regards our speech. How much harm we can do by thoughtless, critical, or complaining talk! Truly, the tongue is hard to control. Fittingly, we were reminded that we should “quit speaking against one another.” (James 4:11) Brotherly love will make us careful. And before we say something, it will make us ask: “Is it really true?” “Must I speak of it?” “Will it be upbuilding?”
Drawing On the Prophecies
Talk after talk drew on the inspired prophecies for reminders and admonition. Thus, in the talk “God’s Judgments—Unpopular With the World,” the speaker stressed that we not only have good news to preach about a paradise but also, like Jeremiah, proclamations to give about God’s coming judgments. (Jeremiah, chapters 6 and 7) As Jeremiah boldly exposed the false teachings and corrupt practices of the religious leaders of his day, so we are admonished to do.
The talk “A Time of Testing and Sifting” showed the modern application of Malachi 3:1-3. Jehovah’s people have, indeed, been cleansed from false Babylonian teachings and practices. The instituting of theocratic order and the realization that the house-to-house ministry is of prime importance were among the positive points the speaker made.
We also heard a fine talk in which the speaker discussed chapters 11 and 12 of Daniel. It was entitled “Sacred Secrets Unsealed Yield a Sure Hope for Peace.” The rivalry between the king of the north and the king of the south keeps the world in turmoil. From Daniel’s prophecy, we can see that these kings will never end their conflicts. Only Michael can bring lasting peace.
Another talk drawing on the inspired prophecies was “Worldwide Security Under the ‘Prince of Peace.’” It dealt with Isaiah 9:6, 7 and the context of those verses, showing how that prophecy fittingly applied to Jesus Christ. The speaker stated in his conclusion that Michael “will crown his brilliant career with the victory at Armageddon that will resound without fading at all to time eternal . . . So, then, onward to greater world prominence than ever before, all you witnesses of Jehovah, with complete trust in your God and his reigning King, the ‘Prince of Peace’! Display outright fearlessness of the present world conspiracy . . . Be all of you for signs and miracles to the honor of Jehovah!” This really was one of the convention’s most stirring talks.
Appreciate Those Taking the Lead
A two-part symposium entitled “Overseers Who Serve the Interests of Peace” truly helped us to appreciate those taking the lead. The first speaker considered the role of traveling overseers and showed that they are, indeed, worthy of double honor because of their many duties. These include giving talks, helping out with problems, training brothers in witnessing, and visiting the physically or spiritually sick. Truly, all traveling overseers deserve our full cooperation and Lydialike hospitality.—Acts 16:15.
The second speaker spelled out the duties of the elders and their role in promoting peace in the congregation. This they can do by preparing for and conducting meetings, making shepherding calls, handling judicial matters, taking the lead in field service, and setting a fine example in conduct and family life. Surely, all of us should want to show appreciation for the appointed elders by being obedient and submissive, as we are counseled at Hebrews 13:17.
“Reaching Out and Acquiring a Fine Standing” was a talk that drove home the need for qualified elders in view of the great increases in Witnesses. It showed all dedicated brothers who are not elders how they can reach out for greater privileges. Especially did the talk urge those who were qualified but did not see the need to serve to a greater extent to ask themselves, Why am I holding back?
Other Spiritual Treats
Much appreciated was the talk “Are You Satisfied With Jehovah’s Provisions?” We heard Biblical examples of those who did appreciate the spiritual provisions God supplied and those who did not. To the extent that we are conscious of our spiritual need, we will be satisfied with Jehovah’s provisions and will show it. How? By buying out time for personal Bible study and by disciplining ourselves while at the meetings so as to get the most out of them.
What might be said to have posed another challenge to our spirituality was mentioned in the talk “How Meaningful Are Your Prayers?” It was suggested that we ask ourselves: Have I let my prayers become repetitious, stereotyped, or hurried, as though I am too busy to do justice to my talking with God? In prayer, we come to the greatest Personage in the universe. For our prayers to be meaningful, God must be very real to us. They must come from the heart and be specific, and we must give them thought.
Another treat was the baptism talk, “Gaining Peace With God Through Dedication and Baptism.” The speaker showed that our baptism is at one and the same time a most serious and a most joyous occasion. By means of it, we gain peace with God and become ordained ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And our dedication is no mere commitment, for we can have and care for a number of commitments at the same time. Rather, to be dedicated means for us to be exclusively devoted to the Divine Being, Jehovah God.
The two Bible dramas were among the most popular convention features. Preserving Life in Time of Famine dealt with the touching story of Joseph and his brothers, which brought forth many a tear. Joseph’s bighearted, forgiving spirit is a fine example for all of us to imitate. The account also has prophetic significance. The second drama, Seek God’s Righteousness for Survival, gave forceful and dramatic counsel regarding the problems of our young people. It stressed the need to watch our conduct, put Kingdom interests first, and not be quick in judging the motives of others.
Right in line with the theme of the convention was the public talk, “Peace at Last!—When God Speaks.” First, we heard exposed the folly of all the nuclear preparations and the hopelessness of the world situation from any human standpoint. Only God’s Kingdom offers any real hope. What does it mean to listen when God speaks? It means not only that we listen carefully and understand what God is saying but also that we do something about what he says. Then we will not be deceived by the deceptive cry “Peace and security!”
The concluding talk, “Equipped by the God of Peace to Do His Will,” sent all the conventioners home feeling good at heart for all the spiritual feasting they enjoyed during the four days. As never before, the convention truly has equipped us for the doing of God’s will. So “let us go forward fully resolved to do what? To press ahead in the grand work of Kingdom preaching, truly appreciating our divine peace and all it means to us!”
In the United States, 135 conventions were held in 65 different locations and in 11 languages. The peak attendance was 1,276,578, with 12,603 baptized. The three conventions at Yankee Stadium in New York City had a peak attendance of 95,091, with 1,110 baptized.
[Box on page 30]
“Divine Peace” Convention Releases
First released was a revision of the booklet “Look! I Am Making All Things New,” at the conclusion of a talk on that subject. It is now a four-color brochure, printed in large type and containing additional information. It should be ideal for starting home Bible studies.
Jehovah’s Witnesses—Unitedly Doing God’s Will Worldwide, a four-color magazine-size brochure, was the second release. It is a fine instrument to acquaint others with our various activities and gives much historical information about Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The third release was a 192-page Bible study aid for initial use at our Congregation Book Studies. It is entitled Worldwide Security Under the “Prince of Peace.”
Kingdom Melodies No. 7 was the fourth release, an excerpt from which delighted all the conventioners.
When listening to the concluding remarks, all greatly rejoiced to hear that the Watch Tower Publications Index for 1930-1985 would be available by September 1. What a blessing to all earnest Bible students!
[Pictures on page 31]
1. Joseph sold by his brothers in drama at a convention of Korean Witnesses in the United States
2. Watch Tower Society’s president, F. W. Franz, addressing a convention audience
3. Part of attentive audience at Yankee Stadium, New York City
4. Thousands were baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah God