Posted by Isaac Umunna | 24 March 2013 | 4,460 times
The heart is one of the most important organs of the body, hence people go the extra mile to protect it. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that similar efforts should be made to protect the figurative heart, This explains why from September 27 to December 21 all roads led to the various Assembly halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses scattered across the country for the 2012 District Convention series which had as theme, “Safeguard Your Heart!”
The three days (Friday to Sunday) convention series attracted over 600,000 delegates comprising Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as their relatives and friends who gathered each of the weekends to enjoy the programme parts. Many of the conventions were held in English but in certain locations, the entire programme was presented in Abua, Edo, Efik, Esan, French, Gokana, Gun, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Isoko, Khana, Tiv, Urhobo, Yoruba and American Sign Language. Throughout Nigeria there were 250 conventions in 32 cities.
The theme “Safeguard Your Heart!” is based on the Bible book of Proverbs 4:23, which admonishes: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” A statement by the Convention News Department had described the convention as a three-day “heart examination,” saying: “Strengthening one’s spirituality will be the focus. The programme will feature lively discourses, dramatic Bible readings and presentations, and even a live play. Programme parts will also encourage self-scrutiny and reflection. Attendees will see how protecting the figurative heart can help them to make wise decisions, improve family life, strengthen their personal relationship with God, and find true happiness.”
The statement invited everyone who could find the time to come and enjoy the convention, which began at 9:20 a.m. all three days. It assured that admission was free “as conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are supported entirely by voluntary donations.”
For those who accepted the invitation and adjusted their personal circumstances so as to attend, the convention turned out to be an unforgettable experience. It was indeed a season of “heart examination” designed to equip the delegates to avoid spiritual heart attack. For example, the talk “Why Must We Safeguard Our Heart?” outlined five reasons why Christians must guard their heart as recommended by the Bible in Proverbs 4:23. One of them is that “the position of our heart will determine our fate, either to gain everlasting life or face destruction.” The talk drew attention to Jeremiah 17:10, where the Bible says: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, examining the kidneys, even to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.”
Other reasons cited are that the human heart is sinful by nature and wishes to do evil and so needs to be properly guided; the heart is treacherous, deceitful and unreliable; safeguarding the heart leads to salvation and will also make God happy.
The convention also provided much comfort in these trouble-filled days. The talk “Avoid Testing God in Your Heart” based on Psalm 78:18,19 advised Christians not to tempt God no matter what they may be going through in life. It drew attention to the lack of faith displayed by the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land. Despite their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites while in the wilderness had doubted God’s ability to provide their needs and resorted to grumbling and making unreasonable demands.
Reminding his listeners of the consequences of the Israelites’ attitude, for which that generation was prevented from entering the Promised Land, the talk warned Christians to learn from what happened to the Israelites and avoid testing God. “We, too, must not forget Jehovah or disobey him,” it said, warning against willful sin, which he said makes a Christian’s worship defective.
Convention delegates were given five tips for coping with a broken heart arising from some of life’s major challenges. One of the programme parts drew their attention to Psalm 34:17-20, where the Bible states: “They cried out, and Jehovah himself heard, And out of all their distresses he delivered them. Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; And those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the calamities of the righteous one, But out of them all Jehovah delivers him. He is guarding all the bones of that one; Not one of them has been broken.”
The talk identified economic hardship and death of a loved one as some of the things which could cause a broken heart. It however pointed to 1 Corinthians 10:13 to prove that there is no problem which God cannot solve or which cannot be borne by a determined person. According to the said scripture, “No temptation has taken YOU except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let YOU be tempted beyond what YOU can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for YOU to be able to endure it.”
The talk then outlined five things that can help one to cope with shocking developments that could result in a broken heart. Among them are the good news of God’s Kingdom; regular attendance at Christian meetings where consoling words are regularly offered; constant prayer; the resurrection hope and God’s holy spirit “which can infuse us with power beyond what is normal to cope with our challenges.”
The need for Christians not to become terrified no matter the situation of things was emphasised in the talk “Never Let Your Heart Become Terrified.” Delegates were told to expect unusual developments because “we are now in the last days of the last day.” Problems which the talk advised Christians to anticipate include poor health conditions, economic hardship, lack of a marriage mate and peer pressure.
“These threats are meant to cause panic in our hearts just like the roar of a lion,” said in the talk taken from 2 Chronicles 20:15,17 and 1 Peter 5:8.9. “We need courage to make it through this system of things into God’s new system of things. Satan is roaring like a lion but a little lion can be resisted.”
The talk cited ancient servants of God such as David, who killed a lion, and Daniel, who was not harmed even though thrown into the lion’s den by enemies. Coming down to our times, he gave the example of a woman in Botswana who suddenly came face-to-face with a lion but was unhurt because she displayed exemplary courage.
“She remembered what she read not to turn away when faced with a lion, and it saved her life. She stood and looked it in the eye. After two minutes, the lion retreated,” the speaker stated. “We take a stand against Satan. We must stand as if a little lion is in front of us,” he further said, making spiritual application after reading 1 Peter 5:8, which described Satan as a roaring lion seeking whom to devour.
One of the comforting thoughts which delegates took home is the one assuring that the wave of terrorism currently sweeping across the world, including Nigeria, will soon end. This was emphasised in the Public Discourse delivered as one of the highlights of the final day of the convention. Entitled “The Former Things Will Not . . . Come Up Into the Heart,” the talk was based on Isaiah 65:13,14,17-19, 21-23. It emphatically listed problems such as terrorism, sickness, economic hardship and environmental pollution among those to be eliminated by God’s Kingdom, for which Christians pray in accordance with Jesus Christ’s admonition in Matthew 6:9,10.
The talk described the aforesaid problems as well as others currently afflicting mankind as signs of the last days, saying that they are in fulfillment of 2Timothy 3:1-5, that predicted “critical times hard to deal with.” Quoting copiously from the Bible, according Revelation 21:3,4, it declared that none of the problems confronting mankind today will exist in God’s Kingdom.
The talk said unequivocally that the kingdom will bring “prospects of everlasting life in perfect conditions. The former things will not come to heart anymore.”It, however, noted that only the righteous will qualify for life in the promised new earth and urged his listeners to do their best to display fear of God in their everyday life.
Delegate returned home at the end of the convention spiritually refreshed, with their hearts fortified to avoid spiritual heart attack. Timothy Ajibade, who attended one of the conventions at Ota, Ogun State, with his wife Omolara, said they were happy that they accepted the invitation of a friend, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, to attend the convention.
“We first attended your gathering in January and the impression we took away made us to decide to come this time. My wife used to recite the dates of the convention, saying that we must come. We are happy to be here and still intend to come for future ones,” said Mr. Ajibade, a civil engineer.
“We have enjoyed being here a lot,” Ajibade said when asked his impression: “It is very, very fantastic. We have observed discipline by the delegates. This is very, very important in Christianity.”
Comparing what he experienced at the convention with what happens in his church, Mountain of Fire and Miracles, Ajibade said: “We have our own convention and we see the differ. I will invite one of our pastors to come here and see how things are conducted. Seeing is believing.”
Though memories of the convention are still fresh, this writer learnt that arrangements are already in to gear for this year’s convention, which has as theme, “God’s Word Is Truth”. From all indications, that would be another sumptuous spiritual meal for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who number over 7,600,000 worldwide and function in 236 lands – as well as for millions of interested persons who would join them for the spiritual banquet.
•Photo courtesy Fox News
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