Brothers—Sow to the Spirit and Reach Out!
“He who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life.”—GAL. 6:8.
YOU are witnessing history in the making! A work spoken of by Jesus Christ is in full swing. “The harvest is great, but the workers are few,” said Jesus. “Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matt. 9:37, 38) Jehovah God is answering such prayers in an unprecedented way. During the 2009 service year, the number of congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide increased by 2,031, reaching 105,298. On average, 757 individuals were baptized each day!
2 Such growth creates a need for qualified brothers to take the lead in teaching and shepherding in the congregations. (Eph. 4:11) Over the decades, Jehovah has raised up qualified men to care for the needs of his sheep, and we are confident that he will continue to do so. The prophecy recorded at Micah 5:5 assures us that during the last days, Jehovah’s people will have “seven shepherds” and “eight dukes,” representing a considerable number of capable men to take the lead among them.
3 If you are a baptized male Witness of Jehovah, what can help you to want to reach out for service privileges? A key factor is that you ‘sow with a view to the spirit.’ (Gal. 6:8) Doing so involves living in a way that allows for God’s holy spirit to operate freely in your life. Be determined not to ‘sow with a view to the flesh.’ Avoid letting such things as comfort, leisure, and entertainment dampen your desire to expend yourself in God’s service. All Christians should ‘sow with a view to the spirit,’ and in time, men who do so may well qualify for privileges in the congregation. Because there is a great need for ministerial servants and elders today, this article is especially directed to Christian men. Therefore, brothers, we urge you to give it prayerful consideration.
Reach Out for a Fine Work
4 A Christian man does not automatically become an overseer. He must reach out for this “fine work.” (1 Tim. 3:1) It includes serving fellow believers by genuinely caring for their needs. (Read Isaiah 32:1, 2.) A man who reaches out with proper motives is not ambitious. Instead, he is filled with an unselfish desire to benefit others.
5 One seeks to qualify as a ministerial servant and reaches out for the office of overseer by striving to meet the qualifications set out in the Scriptures. (1 Tim. 3:1-10, 12, 13; Titus 1:5-9) If you are a dedicated male, ask yourself: ‘Do I have a full share in the preaching work, and am I assisting others to do so? Am I building up my fellow worshippers by taking a sincere interest in their welfare? Do I have the reputation of being a good student of God’s Word? Am I improving the quality of my comments? Do I diligently care for the assignments entrusted to me by the elders?’ (2 Tim. 4:5) Such questions merit serious consideration.
6 Another way to qualify for congregation responsibilities is to “be made mighty in the man you are inside with power through [God’s] spirit.” (Eph. 3:16) Becoming a ministerial servant or an elder in the Christian congregation is not a matter of being elected to an office. This privilege is attainable only through spiritual growth. How is spiritual growth achieved? One way is for you to “keep walking by spirit” and cultivating its fruitage. (Gal. 5:16, 22, 23) As you give evidence of the spiritual qualities needed to handle added privileges and as you apply counsel for improvement, your ‘advancement will be manifest to all persons.’—1 Tim. 4:15.
Needed—A Spirit of Self-Sacrifice
7 Serving others involves hard work and requires a spirit of self-sacrifice. Because Christian overseers are spiritual shepherds, the problems of the flock concern them deeply. Notice how the responsibilities of his shepherding work affected the apostle Paul. He told fellow believers in Corinth: “Out of much tribulation and anguish of heart I wrote you with many tears, not that you might be saddened, but that you might know the love that I have more especially for you.” (2 Cor. 2:4) It is evident that Paul put his heart into his work.
8 A self-sacrificing spirit has always been the hallmark of men who have labored in behalf of Jehovah’s servants. For example, we can hardly imagine Noah telling others in his household: ‘Let me know when the ark is finished so that I may join you.’ Moses did not tell the Israelites in Egypt: ‘I will meet you at the Red Sea. Get there the best way you can.’ Joshua never said: ‘Let me know when the walls of Jericho fall.’ And Isaiah did not point to someone else and say: ‘There he is! Send him.’—Isa. 6:8.
9 Our foremost example of a man who allowed God’s spirit to motivate him is Jesus Christ. He willingly accepted his assignment to serve as mankind’s Redeemer. (John 3:16) Should not Jesus’ self-sacrificing love evoke an appreciative response in us? When describing his feelings for the flock, one longtime elder said: “Jesus’ words to Peter—shepherd my little sheep—deeply move me. Over the years, I have come to appreciate how a few loving words or a simple act of kindness can lift another person’s spirit. Shepherding is a work that I enjoy very much.”—John 21:16.
10 When it comes to the flock of God, dedicated men in the congregation surely want to reflect the attitude of Jesus, who said: “I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11:28) Faith in God and love for the congregation move Christian men to reach out for this fine work, not thinking that the price is too high or that it is too demanding. What, though, if one is not particularly inclined to reach out? Can a brother cultivate the desire to serve the congregation?
Cultivate the Desire to Serve
11 If feelings of inadequacy have prevented you from reaching out, it is proper that you pray for holy spirit. (Luke 11:13) Jehovah’s spirit will help you to cope with any concern you may have in this regard. The very desire to serve is God-given, for it is Jehovah’s spirit that motivates a brother to reach out and then supplies the strength to render sacred service. (Phil. 2:13; 4:13) Therefore, it is fitting to ask Jehovah to help you to build a desire to accept privileges of service.—Read Psalm 25:4, 5.
12 Because he observes that the needs of the flock appear taxing and complicated, a Christian may decide not to reach out. Or he may feel that he lacks sufficient wisdom to handle responsibilities. If this is the case, perhaps he can gain wisdom by being a more diligent student of God’s Word and Bible-based publications. He might well ask himself, ‘Am I setting aside time to study God’s Word, and am I praying for wisdom?’ The disciple James wrote: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” (Jas. 1:5) Do you believe this inspired statement? In answer to Solomon’s prayer, God gave him “a wise and understanding heart” that enabled him to discern between good and bad when rendering judgment. (1 Ki. 3:7-14) True, Solomon’s case was special. Yet, we can be confident that God will give wisdom to men entrusted with congregation responsibilities so that they can care for his sheep properly.—Prov. 2:6.
13 Another aid in cultivating the desire to serve others is that of thinking deeply on all that Jehovah and his Son have done for us. For example, consider 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15. (Read.) How is it that “the love the Christ has compels us”? The love Christ showed in laying down his life in our behalf according to God’s will is so outstanding that as our appreciation grows, our heart is deeply moved. Christ’s love controlled Paul. It restrained him from acting selfishly and helped him to confine his objectives to serving God and fellow humans inside and outside the congregation.
14 Meditating on the love Christ has for people stirs up gratitude within us. As a result, we realize that it would be most unfitting for us to keep on ‘sowing with a view to the flesh’ by pursuing selfish goals and living largely to gratify ourselves. Instead, we adjust our affairs to give first place to the work God has given us to do. We are moved to “slave” for our brothers out of love. (Read Galatians 5:13.) If we view ourselves as slaves working humbly in behalf of Jehovah’s dedicated servants, we will treat them with dignity and respect. Certainly, we would not imitate the critical, judgmental spirit promoted by Satan.—Rev. 12:10.
A Family Effort
15 If a brother is a married man with children, the situation existing in his family is taken into consideration when determining if he qualifies to be a ministerial servant or an elder. Indeed, the spirituality and reputation of his family have a direct bearing on his appointment. This underscores the importance of the family’s role in supporting the husband and father as he seeks to serve the congregation’s interests as a ministerial servant or an elder.—Read 1 Timothy 3:4, 5, 12.
16 Jehovah is pleased when Christian family members cooperate with one another. (Eph. 3:14, 15) It takes balance for a family head to handle congregation responsibilities and preside over his household “in a fine manner.” Hence, it is vital that an elder or a ministerial servant study the Bible with his wife and children so that all can benefit from Family Worship every week. He should participate in the field ministry with them on a regular basis. By the same token, it is important for family members to cooperate with the efforts of the head of the household.
Will You Serve Again?
17 Perhaps you were an elder or a ministerial servant at one time but are not presently serving in that capacity. You love Jehovah and can be sure that he still cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) Were you told that you need to make some adjustments? Be willing to admit a fault and work on it with God’s help. Guard against becoming bitter. Be wise, and manifest a positive spirit. An elder who had served for years but who lost his privileges of service stated: “I was determined to maintain the same level of meeting attendance, field service, and Bible reading I had while serving as an elder—a goal I was able to achieve. I learned patience because I thought I would regain my privileges in a year or two, but it took almost seven years before I again could serve as an elder. During that time the encouragement not to tire out but to continue to reach out greatly helped me.”
18 If you are a brother in the situation just described, do not become discouraged. Reflect on how Jehovah is blessing your ministry and your household. Build your family up spiritually, visit the sick, and encourage the weak. Above all, cherish your privilege of praising God and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.*—Ps. 145:1, 2; Isa. 43:10-12.
Take a Fresh Look
19 The need for overseers and ministerial servants is greater today than ever before. We therefore urge all baptized males to take a fresh look at their circumstances and ask themselves, ‘If I am not a ministerial servant or an elder, should I analyze the reasons why I am not serving?’ Let God’s spirit help you to get the right focus on this vital matter.
20 All members of the congregation stand to benefit from the godly self-sacrificing efforts of their fellow believers. When we engage in kind, unselfish acts, we reap the joy that comes from serving others and sowing with a view to the spirit. As the next article will show, however, we must not grieve God’s holy spirit. How can that be avoided?
How Would You Answer?
• Of what does the prophecy recorded at Micah 5:5 assure us?
• Explain what a spirit of self-sacrifice involves.
• How can one cultivate the desire to serve others?
• How important is family cooperation if a man is to qualify to serve as a ministerial servant or an elder?
1, 2. How is Matthew 9:37, 38 undergoing fulfillment, resulting in what need in the congregations?
3. Explain what it means to ‘sow with a view to the spirit.’
4, 5. (a) Baptized men are urged to reach out for what privileges in the congregation? (b) How does one reach out?
6. What is a key factor in qualifying for congregation responsibilities?
7. Serving others involves what?
8, 9. Give Bible examples showing how men cared for the needs of others.
10. What can move Christian men to imitate Jesus’ example in serving others?
11. How can one cultivate the desire to serve others?
12. How may a person gain sufficient wisdom to handle responsibilities entrusted to him?
13, 14. (a) Explain how Paul was affected by “the love the Christ has.” (b) How should “the love the Christ has” affect us?
15, 16. What role do family members play if a man is to qualify for appointment as a ministerial servant or an elder?
17, 18. (a) If a brother no longer qualifies for appointment, what may be needed? (b) What view can well be taken by a brother who served as an elder or a ministerial servant in the past?
19, 20. (a) All baptized males are urged to do what? (b) What will be discussed in the next article?
[Pictures on page 25]
What can you do to reach out?