“All those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.”—2 TIM. 3:12.
SONG 129 We Will Keep Enduring
1. Why do we need to prepare for persecution?
ON THE night before our Lord Jesus was put to death, he said that all who choose to be his disciples will be hated. (John 17:14) Up until now, faithful Christian Witnesses of Jehovah have been persecuted by those who oppose true worship. (2 Tim. 3:12) As the end of this system of things draws closer, we expect our enemies to oppose us even more.—Matt. 24:9.
2-3. (a) What should we recognize about fear? (b) What will we consider in this article?
2 How can we prepare ourselves now to face persecution? We do not need to imagine all the things that could happen to us. If we did, we could be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. We could allow imagined threats to defeat us even before any real test comes. (Prov. 12:25; 17:22) Fear is a powerful weapon that our “adversary, the Devil,” tries to use against us. (1 Pet. 5:8, 9) What can we do now to strengthen ourselves?
3 In this article, we will consider how we can strengthen our bond with Jehovah and why it is vital that we do that now. We will also discuss what we can do to build up our courage. And finally, we will examine how we can cope with hatred from opposers.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR BOND WITH JEHOVAH
4. According to Hebrews 13:5, 6, of what must we be convinced, and why?
4 Be convinced that Jehovah loves you and that he will never abandon you. (Read Hebrews 13:5, 6.) Many years ago, The Watchtower observed: “The person who knows God best will trust him the most in time of test.” How true! To face persecution successfully, we must love Jehovah and trust in him completely, never doubting that he has affection for us.—Matt. 22:36-38; Jas. 5:11.
5. What will help you to feel Jehovah’s love?
5 Read the Bible daily with the goal of drawing closer to Jehovah. (Jas. 4:8) As you read, focus on Jehovah’s tender qualities. Feel his love and affection expressed in the things he says and does. (Ex. 34:6) Some may struggle to believe that God loves them because they have never been shown love. If you face that challenge, try making a list each day of ways that Jehovah has shown mercy and kindness to you. (Ps. 78:38, 39; Rom. 8:32) As you consider your own experiences and meditate on what you have read in God’s Word, you will likely be able to list many things that Jehovah has done for you. The more you appreciate what Jehovah does, the stronger your bond with him will be.—Ps. 116:1, 2.
6. According to Psalm 94:17-19, how can heartfelt prayer help you?
6 Pray regularly. Imagine a young boy in his father’s loving embrace. The boy feels so secure that he openly talks to his father about both the good and the bad things that happened to him that day. You can enjoy that same type of bond if you draw close to Jehovah in heartfelt prayer each day. (Read Psalm 94:17-19.) As you pray to Jehovah, “pour out your heart like water” and tell your loving Father about all your fears and anxieties. (Lam. 2:19) What will be the result? You will experience what the Bible calls “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) The more you pray this way, the closer you will feel to Jehovah.—Rom. 8:38, 39.
7. Why must you be convinced that the promises God makes about his Kingdom will come true?
7 Be convinced that the blessings of God’s Kingdom will come true. (Num. 23:19) If your faith in such promises is weak, it will be easier for Satan and his agents to terrify you. (Prov. 24:10; Heb. 2:15) How can you build confidence in God’s Kingdom now? Make it a study project to examine God’s promises about his Kingdom and the reasons why you can be certain that they will come true. How will that help? Consider the example of Stanley Jones, who was imprisoned for seven years because of his faith.b What helped him to endure faithfully? He said: “Being fortified with a knowledge of God’s kingdom, being sure of it, never doubting it for a moment, I couldn’t be moved.” If you have strong faith in God’s promises, you will draw closer to Jehovah and you will not give in to fear.—Prov. 3:25, 26.
8. Our attitude toward meetings is a good indicator of what? Explain.
8 Regularly attend Christian meetings. Meetings help us to draw closer to Jehovah. Our attitude toward attending meetings is a good indicator of how successful we will be at dealing with persecution in the future. (Heb. 10:24, 25) Why so? If we allow small obstacles to keep us from attending meetings now, what will happen in the future if we have to risk our safety to meet with fellow believers? On the other hand, if we develop a firm resolve to attend meetings, we will not give in when opposers try to stop us from gathering together. Now is the time to develop a love for our meetings. When we love to attend meetings, no opposition, not even a government ban, will stop us from obeying God rather than men.—Acts 5:29.
9. Why is memorizing scriptures a good way to prepare for persecution?
9 Memorize your favorite scriptures. (Matt. 13:52) Your memory may not be perfect, but Jehovah can use his powerful holy spirit to bring those scriptures back to your mind. (John 14:26) Note what one brother who was imprisoned in East Germany and put in solitary confinement said: “What a blessing it was that by then I had learned several hundred scriptures by heart! I could fill those empty days by meditating on a variety of Bible subjects.” Those scriptures helped our brother to stay close to Jehovah—and to endure faithfully.
10. Why should we memorize songs?
10 Memorize and sing songs that praise Jehovah. When imprisoned in Philippi, Paul and Silas sang spiritual songs that they knew from memory. (Acts 16:25) Similarly, when our brothers in the former Soviet Union were exiled to Siberia, how did they strengthen themselves? Sister Mariya Fedun recalled: “We sang all the songs that we knew, the songs from the songbook.” She said that those songs encouraged all of them and helped them to feel closer to Jehovah. Do you feel strengthened when you sing your favorite spiritual songs? Then memorize those songs now!—See the box “Give Me Courage.”
HOW TO BUILD UP YOUR COURAGE
11 To face persecution, you need courage. If you feel that you lack that quality, what can you do? Remember that true courage does not depend on your size, strength, or ability. Consider the example of young David when he faced Goliath. Compared with that giant, David was smaller, weaker, and poorly armed. David did not even have a sword. Yet, he was full of courage. David boldly ran to fight that arrogant giant.
12 Why was David so courageous? He firmly believed that Jehovah was with him. (Read 1 Samuel 17:37, 45-47.) David did not concentrate on how big Goliath was compared with him. Instead, he focused on how tiny Goliath was compared to Jehovah. What do we learn from this account? We will feel courageous if we are confident that Jehovah is with us and if we are certain that our opposers are tiny in comparison to Almighty God. (2 Chron. 20:15; Ps. 16:8) How can we build up our courage now—before persecution comes?
13. How can we build up courage? Explain.
13 We can build up our courage now by publicly preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. Why so? Because preaching teaches us to trust in Jehovah and overcome any fear of man. (Prov. 29:25) Just as our muscles are strengthened when we exercise, our courage is strengthened when we preach from house to house, in public places, informally, and in business territory. If we develop the courage to preach now, we will be well-prepared to keep preaching even if our work is banned.—1 Thess. 2:1, 2.
14-15. What lessons can we learn from Nancy Yuen and Valentina Garnovskaya?
14 We can learn much from the example of two faithful sisters who displayed remarkable courage. Nancy Yuen stood no more than five feet (1.5 m) tall, but she was not easily intimidated.c She refused to stop preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. As a result, she was imprisoned for some 20 years in Communist China. The officials who interrogated her said that she was “the most stubborn person” in their country!
15 Similarly, Valentina Garnovskaya was imprisoned in the former Soviet Union on three separate occasions and for a total of some 21 years.d Why? She was so determined to keep preaching that officials labeled her “an especially dangerous offender.” What made these two faithful women so courageous? They were convinced that Jehovah was with them.
16. What is the key to true courage?
16 As we have discussed, to build courage, we must not focus on our own strengths and abilities. Instead, we must believe that Jehovah is with us and that he is the one fighting for us. (Deut. 1:29, 30; Zech. 4:6) That is the key to true courage.
HOW TO COPE WITH HATRED FROM MEN
17-18. As recorded at John 15:18-21, what warning did Jesus give us? Explain.
17 We enjoy gaining the respect of others, but we must not make the mistake of measuring our worth by how popular we are. Jesus said: “Happy are you whenever men hate you, and when they exclude you and reproach you and denounce your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man.” (Luke 6:22) What did Jesus mean?
18 Jesus was not saying that Christians would enjoy being hated. Instead, he was being realistic. We are no part of the world. We live according to Jesus’ teachings and preach the message that he preached. As a result, the world hates us. (Read John 15:18-21.) We want to please Jehovah. If men hate us because we love our Father, that is their problem.
19. How can we imitate the example of the apostles?
19 Never allow anything that mere humans say or do to make you feel ashamed of being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Mic. 4:5) We can learn to cope with fear of man by considering the example set by the apostles in Jerusalem just after Jesus was put to death. They knew how much the Jewish religious leaders hated them. (Acts 5:17, 18, 27, 28) Yet, every day they continued to go to the temple and publicly identify themselves as disciples of Jesus. (Acts 5:42) They refused to cower in fear. We too can defeat our own fear of man by regularly and publicly identifying ourselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses—at work, at school, and in our neighborhood.—Acts 4:29; Rom. 1:16.
20. Why were the apostles happy even though they were hated?
20 Why were the apostles happy? They knew why they were hated, and they considered it an honor to be mistreated for doing Jehovah’s will. (Luke 6:23; Acts 5:41) The apostle Peter later wrote: “Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are happy.” (1 Pet. 2:19-21; 3:14) When we understand that we are hated for doing what is right, we will never allow the hatred of men to paralyze us with fear.
YOU WILL BENEFIT FROM PREPARING
21-22. (a) What have you decided to do to prepare for persecution? (b) What will we consider in the next article?
21 We do not know when a wave of persecution or even an outright ban will affect our worship of Jehovah. However, we do know that we can prepare now by strengthening our relationship with Jehovah, by building up our courage, and by learning to cope with hatred from men. The preparations that we make now will help us stand firm in the future.
22 But what if a ban on our worship does come? In the following article, we will discuss principles that will help us continue serving Jehovah even when under ban.
SONG 118 “Give Us More Faith”
a We do not want to be hated. But sooner or later, all of us will have to deal with persecution. This article will help us to face persecution with courage.
e PICTURE DESCRIPTION: During family worship, parents use flash cards to help their children memorize scriptures.
f PICTURE DESCRIPTION: On the way to a meeting, a family practices singing Kingdom songs in the car.