Godly Devotion—Beneficial for All Things
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES know that “godly devotion is beneficial for all things” and is vital to true worship. (1 Timothy 4:8) Without it, religion is mere formalism. “Godly Devotion” was therefore an apt name for their series of district conventions that started last June.
In August, three of such conventions were held in Poland against a joyful backdrop. They took place after official recognition had been granted Jehovah’s Witnesses in May. (For other details regarding the Polish conventions, see Awake! of December 22, 1989.) Let us here review the convention program as it was presented in Poland.
Piątek w Poznaniu (Friday in Poznan)
Demanding bread and freedom, 50,000 demonstrators rioted in Poznan in June 1956. This resulted in over 50 fatalities and the formation of a new Polish government. In sharp contrast, 33 years later, in an atmosphere characterized by an abundance of spiritual bread and Christian freedom, peaceful Christians met there to hear talks on “Serving a God Exacting Exclusive Devotion,” Friday’s theme. A peak of 40,442 gathered there on Sunday.
After the convention chairman’s welcoming address and an interview with persons “Leading a Life With Full Godly Devotion,” practical counsel was offered in the talk “Avoid Lips of Hurtfulness.” How easy it is for idle talk to turn into hurtful gossip! And injurious gossip can lead to deadly slander. But before talking about other people, mature Christians, eager to preserve peace and unity, wisely ask themselves: ‘Would Jesus have said this? Does it need to be said? Will it upbuild? What is my reason for saying it?’
Unique to the conventions in Poland was the time set aside each day to hear reports given by Witnesses from other lands. Experiences told by delegates representing 24 different nations emphasized the truth that here is an international family truly united in recognition of the fact that “Jehovah Insists on Exclusive Devotion.” Since God is worthy of receiving such devotion, his servants must be undivided in affection and worship. Jesus’ example illustrates that there can be nothing halfhearted about exclusive devotion.
Godly devotion involves everything we do. Thus, a three-part discussion warned Christians to “Avoid Going Astray” in the areas of food and drink, dress and grooming, and entertainment. Gluttony and drunkenness are forms of greediness that dull spiritual senses, cause health problems, induce bad conduct, and lead to accidents. Extreme styles of dress—immodest, bizarre, outlandish, or even shocking—must be avoided. Sloppy, overly casual, or tight-fitting clothes are out of place. The issue is not whether a style is fashionable, but whether it is appropriate for a minister of God. And entertainment that is tainted with rebellion, violence, drugs, occultism, or sexual immorality is not for Christians.—Philippians 1:27.
The Friday afternoon program started with the talk “‘The Faithful Slave’ and Its Governing Body.” Confident of the loyalty of his faithful creatures, Jehovah delegates authority. So does his Son. From among his anointed followers, “the faithful and discreet slave,” he has chosen a few to serve as a visible governing body. (Matthew 24:45) In the first century, this group was composed of the apostles and several other older men in Jerusalem.
In modern times the Governing Body has been closely identified with the editorial staff of the Watch Tower Society and its board of directors. But the Governing Body differs from that legal corporation, as the speaker pointed out: “Since the corporation’s existence is purely legal, with a fixed geographic headquarters, it can be dissolved by Caesar, the State.” Not so the Governing Body, which is not a legal instrument but the members of which “are appointed through the holy spirit under the direction of Jehovah and Christ.” Thus, the Governing Body continues to function and to receive the unqualified support of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
The Polish conventions were attended by 5 members of the currently 12-man Governing Body. One of them delivered the keynote address, “Why Learn the Sacred Secret of Godly Devotion.” Therein it was noted that the secret of godly devotion is no longer a secret, since “it came to be personified in Jesus.” The speaker discussed the six facets of this sacred secret mentioned at 1 Timothy 3:16, and stated: “Our appreciation for the sacred secret of godly devotion should lead us always to follow Jesus’ steps closely.”
Two symposiums made it clear that godly devotion is required of young and old alike. Parents are responsible for giving their children a spiritual heritage by teaching them to develop a proper sense of right and wrong. Meaningful family study, including a realistic discussion of childhood problems, is a must. Always being alert to danger signals, parents must guard children from unwholesome association, even within the congregation.
On the other hand, if young people are to live rewarding lives, they must look to Christ, who ‘left them a model for them to follow his steps closely.’ (1 Peter 2:21) Appropriately, they were asked: “If you were raised in the truth, you know what you believe, but do you know why?” They were encouraged to make the truth their own by proving to themselves that the Bible is God’s Word and that Jehovah’s Witnesses really have the truth.
In many countries this discussion was climaxed with the release of the new 320-page book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work. (Please see the accompanying box, “‘A Gift From Jehovah’ for Young People.”) It is hoped that young people in Poland and other Eastern European countries will some day also be able to benefit from the fine counsel this publication contains by reading it in their own language.
Sobota w Chorzowie (Saturday in Chorzów)
Katowice is an industrial center in the heart of the coalfields of southern Poland. The Silesian coal mines have meant economic gain for the area. But the main topic of conversation among the 65,710 persons at Slaski Stadium last August was gain of a greater kind.
“Godly Devotion Means Great Gain,” the theme for Saturday, came in for explanation by the first speaker at the afternoon session. (1 Timothy 6:6) Underscoring the truthfulness of the speaker’s words were interviews with individuals who had experienced great gain in their own lives by pursuing godly devotion.
During the morning program, the benefits of pursuing godly devotion had been stressed in a symposium. “By Regularly Reading [God’s Word] With Discernment,” probing into the meaning of what we read, and prayerfully considering how to apply what we learn, we as Christians are able to pursue godly devotion “By Always Letting Our Light Shine.” (Joshua 1:8) It was noted that if each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world would spend 15 minutes a day informally talking to others, an additional 327 million hours could be spent annually in Kingdom-preaching activity.
Godly devotion is also pursued “By Resisting Temptation.” Things like food, drink, sex, or money, although not bad in themselves, can be evil under improper circumstances. The way of protection is to avoid needlessly exposing oneself to the world’s materialism, pornography, drugs, and drunkenness, as well as to its preoccupation with pleasures, such as music, sports, and social affairs. Prayer is vital. Christians must learn to hate what is bad. This is appropriate, since the next speaker pointed out that they should be “Living No Longer for Man’s Will but for God’s.”
More and more people are deciding to do just that. This was evident when 2,663 new Witnesses publicly expressed their determination to “Pursue Godly Devotion as Dedicated, Baptized Christians.” (At all three conventions in Poland, baptismal candidates totaled 6,093.) To maintain joy in Jehovah’s service, those about to be baptized were encouraged to meditate on the many reasons to be joyful: Jehovah’s friendship, their worldwide brotherhood, and the hope of life in Paradise.
Christian subjection came up for discussion in the talk “Manifesting Deeds of Godly Devotion—As Men Under Christ’s Headship.” Men practicing godly devotion will care for family duties in a loving, Christlike way. “As Women Showing Proper Subjection,” our Christian sisters will be supportive, not influencing the family head wrongly or letting emotion sway them into making unwise decisions. “As Children Who Obey Parents,” younger ones will learn to obey, to comment at meetings, and to participate in the Christian ministry.
What fine counsel! Yet, how miserably false religion has failed to offer such proper guidance! For this, it deserves strong condemnation, which was forthcoming in the talk “Exposing the ‘Man of Lawlessness.’” This mysterious one was identified as “a composite ‘man,’ the entire religious clergy of apostate Christendom.” Notorious for their persecution of God’s servants, the clergy have now been joined by “modern apostates, who formerly claimed to be Witnesses, [but who] have been going back to Christendom’s doctrinal vomit and have collaborated with the spiritual drunkards of Babylon the Great in beating and attacking Jehovah’s faithful and discreet slave class.” Applause indicated agreement as the speaker declared: “We will continue to expose Babylon the Great and its ‘man of lawlessness.’”
This calls for boldness, especially at a time when, according to M. G. Henschel, a member of the Governing Body, most people “turn their backs on God and on his Word, the Bible.” Though “respect for the Bible is today at an all-time low,” the Bible has stood the test of time. The speaker argued that “no book produced solely by humans could be so deeply discerning and so consistently right.” He declared that “Jehovah’s Witnesses allow God’s Word to exert power in their lives [and] the resulting international brotherhood of genuine Christians is powerful evidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.” The day reached a delightful climax with the announcement of the new book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?, released in a number of languages.
Niedziela w Warszawie (Sunday in Warsaw)
Warsaw’s visitors generally go to see a memorial marking the site of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, where the Nazis herded hundreds of thousands of Jews marked for extermination during World War II. Located only a few minutes away by car, however, X-Lecia Stadium overflowed, on August 13, with 60,366 persons who had come to hear thoughts on “Repudiate Ungodliness and Live With Godly Devotion,” the theme for Sunday.—Titus 2:12.
Living with godly devotion clearly rules out manifesting a worldly spirit of independence. The true-to-life drama “Subject Yourselves to Jehovah,” presented with typical Polish enthusiasm, stressed the vital changes that Christians must make to receive God’s approval.
A member of the Governing Body quoted 1 Corinthians 8:6, which says: “There is actually to us one God the Father.” He noted that Christianity’s central doctrine is not the Trinity, as many claim, but Jehovah’s vindication by his Kingdom under Christ. “The Trinity teaching is a deviation from the truth, an apostatizing from it,” he explained. Thus, people who call Mary the mother of God and the Mediatrix between God and man are not “holding God in accurate knowledge.” (Romans 1:28) Accordingly, “to worship God properly means to reject the Trinity doctrine.” Applause greeted the release of a 32-page brochure, Czy wierzyć w Trójcę? (Should You Believe in the Trinity?) What a fine tool for exposing the falsity of this God-dishonoring doctrine!
Deliverance never came for the Warsaw Ghetto victims. But God’s promise, as explained in the public talk, is that “Deliverance [Is] Near for People of Godly Devotion!” (2 Peter 2:9) This is so although Christians are victims of twofold violence—the everyday kind and that directed against them in the form of persecution. Calling for self-examination, the speaker stressed that “deliverance is only for those who are people of godly devotion, those whose devotion is genuine, those whose obedience is an expression of loyalty.”
After a final reminder to “Be Aglow With the Spirit,” the convention concluded with a stirring presentation on the theme “Our Continued Training With Godly Devotion Is Beneficial.” The conventioners then opened their new Polish songbooks, just fresh off the presses a few weeks earlier, and unitedly offered “A Prayer of Thanksgiving” in the form of song 45.
A fervent closing prayer followed, and then thunderous applause broke out at Warsaw, Poznan, and Chorzów. In Warsaw the vigorous clapping of tens of thousands of hands reverberated in wave after wave for over 11 minutes. No one wanted to leave, and the standing ovation, so expressive of the exultation of this vast crowd of Witnesses, of whom many thousands were attending their first three-day convention, was dramatically expressive of their thanks to Jehovah and his organization. It was as though in response to Psalm 47:1, 2: “All you peoples, clap your hands. Shout in triumph to God with the sound of a joyful cry. For Jehovah, the Most High, is fear-inspiring, a great King over all the earth.” As one of the grandest events in the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses drew to a close, those earnest brothers prepared to journey homeward, their hearts overflowing with happiness and a determination to step up the grand Kingdom witness in line with Jesus’ precious example of godly devotion.
[Box on page 27]
New Releases Incite to ‘Deeds of Godly Devotion’
The new book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s? and the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity? both evoked many expressions of appreciation. A sister writes regarding the Trinity brochure: “I am amazed, thrilled, and delighted with it. Thank you for the tremendous time, energy, and work that went into printing this fine publication.”
Another sister wrote regarding the book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?: “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this fine new book. I wonder, do even you realize what a work of art it is? I often underline essential words. But you’ve stumped me because every single word is essential. I’ve only just finished chapter 5, but I had to say thanks.”
[Box on page 30]
‘A Gift From Jehovah’ for Young People
An outstanding feature at conventions in the United States and many other lands was the Friday afternoon session, when youths between the ages of 10 and 19 were asked to sit in a reserved section. After a special series of talks, each was given a free copy of the new book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work. Worldwide, some 8,840,000 copies were released in 21 languages, and hundreds of letters of appreciation have been received!
“At previous assemblies, there have been talks given to youths,” writes one teenage girl, “but the effect of having all of us sit together was incredible.” Writes another young person: “I got to sit in the section for youths. I was so encouraged by this that, since then, I’ve been taking notes at meetings, studying more, and commenting. I am thinking about baptism next summer.”
For many youths, the experience was a landmark event. “When the speaker announced we were to sit in a special section,” recalls one young girl, “I knew something great was going to happen. When they announced the release of the book, I felt so happy I wanted to cry. I always knew you cared about us youths, but this sunk it into my heart. This book is just what we needed!”
“It’s so well written,” says a youth named Leah, “and the pictures are realistic and really make you think.” Convention editions of the book contained a brief message from the Governing Body addressed “To All Young Witnesses of Jehovah.” “I was very touched by that special note,” says young Andreá. “To me that feels as though someone whom Jehovah has chosen to live with him in heaven is actually talking to me!”
Many appreciated that the book was presented as a gift. Recalls one parent: “I was brought to tears. Brothers, five of those young people were mine, ages 11 to 16. I could have afforded to contribute for only two books.” Writes a youth named Mark: “I began calculating how much it must have cost to give a copy to each young one, but then I realized that the guidance inside is priceless. If the book helps just one wayward youth to get back on the road leading to life or, better yet, helps a lot of us to stay on that road, it was worth all that cost.”
Many youths began benefiting from the book immediately. “I attended our convention July 7-9,” says one youth, “and by Monday, July 10, I had finished it!” Said another: “The last two chapters really encouraged me to start taking my life more seriously. I was once going to get baptized but changed my mind. Now that I have received this wonderful publication, I realize that ‘the world is passing away’ and that I need to take action now.”
“Because times have changed,” wrote one young girl, “I had always thought older ones didn’t know how we felt. You don’t know how glad I am to see that I’m wrong. Your attention toward us young ones makes me feel as though I count.” Wrote a group of youths from Sweden: “We feel that you understand us youths, and we also feel much closer to you.”
One youth summed it up well when he said: “My brother and sister and I loved the book. We feel it is a gift straight from Jehovah.” It is our prayer that this gift will continue working for the blessing of God-fearing youths.
[Chart on page 29]
Godly Devotion on the Increase in Europe!
Peak Convention Attendance Baptized at
1979 1984 1989 1979 1984 1989
AUSTRIA 17,847 20,908 25,153 236 257 307
BELGIUM 23,185 28,456 30,622 234 248 429
BRITAIN 113,910 137,008 160,704 605 937 1,344
DENMARK 21,057 23,267 24,645 122 147 249
FINLAND 20,293 23,501 25,679 215 302 329
FRANCE 89,073 110,745 156,751 1,361 1,856 3,201
GERMANY 129,342 140,681 159,819 1,154 1,009 1,694
ITALY 117,163 169,328 240,041 2,515 3,769 6,295
LUXEMBOURG 1,141 1,327 3,131 8 12 61
NETHERLANDS 36,768 42,060 44,185 126 143 271
NORWAY 10,327 11,352 13,829 107 159 294
PORTUGAL 35,108 47,843 59,797 862 1,068 1,546
SPAIN 62,201 84,706 115,981 1,278 1,521 2,935
SWEDEN 21,286 25,204 30,943 279 323 410
SWITZERLAND 14,455 17,457 23,867 130 225 349
TOTALS 713,156 977,977 1,281,665 9,232 15,116 25,807
a Figures for 1985
b Figures for 1985
[Picture on page 26]
Release of the “Trinity” brochure was a source of joy in Warsaw
[Picture on page 31]
Newly dedicated Witnesses in Chorzów pursue godly devotion by being baptized