Help Men to Progress Spiritually
“From now on you will be catching [people] alive.”—LUKE 5:10.
DURING a preaching tour throughout Galilee, Jesus and his disciples boarded a boat to withdraw into a lonely place. But crowds followed them on foot. Those who came that day numbered “about five thousand men, besides women and young children.” (Matt. 14:21) On another occasion, a crowd approached Jesus, desiring to be healed and to hear him speak. Included were “four thousand men, besides women and young children.” (Matt. 15:38) Evidently, many men were among the people who came to Jesus and showed interest in his teaching. In fact, he expected many others to respond, for after providing a miraculous catch of fish, Jesus told his disciple Simon: “From now on you will be catching men [or, people] alive.” (Luke 5:10) His disciples were to lower their nets into the sea of mankind and could expect that their ‘catch’ would include many men.
2 Today, men likewise show interest in the Scriptural message we preach and respond to it. (Matt. 5:3) However, many men hold back and fail to progress spiritually. How can we help them? Although Jesus did not develop a special ministry to seek out men, he certainly addressed issues that concerned the men of his day. Using his example, let us examine how we can help men deal with three common concerns today: (1) making a living, (2) fear of popular opinion, and (3) feelings of inadequacy.
Making a Living
3 “Teacher,” said a scribe to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you are about to go.” However, when Jesus told him that “the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head,” the scribe had second thoughts. The uncertainty of where his next meal would come from or where he would live apparently did not sit well with the scribe, for there is no indication that he became a follower of Christ.—Matt. 8:19, 20.
4 Men often put material security ahead of spiritual pursuits. Getting higher education and securing a well-paying job are priorities for many of them. According to their way of thinking, the reward of making money is more urgent and practical than any benefits that might come from studying the Scriptures and seeking a close relationship with God. What the Bible teaches may appeal to them, but “the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” choke whatever interest they may have. (Mark 4:18, 19) Consider how Jesus helped his disciples to adjust their priorities.
5 Andrew and his brother Simon Peter were partners in a fishing business. So were John, his brother James, and their father, Zebedee. Business was good enough to require the help of hired men. (Mark 1:16-20) When Andrew and John first learned about Jesus from John the Baptizer, they were convinced that they had found the Messiah. Andrew shared the news with his brother Simon Peter, and perhaps John did so with his brother James. (John 1:29, 35-41) In the following months, all four spent time with Jesus as he preached in Galilee, Judea, and Samaria. Then the four disciples returned to the fishing business. They had an interest in spiritual matters, but the ministry was not their number one concern.
6 Some time later, Jesus invited Peter and Andrew to come after him and become “fishers of men.” How did the two respond? “At once abandoning the nets, they followed him.” It was the same with James and John. “At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.” (Matt. 4:18-22) What helped these men take up the full-time ministry? Was it an emotional, spur-of-the-moment decision? Hardly! Over the previous months, these men listened to Jesus, saw him perform miracles, observed his zeal for righteousness, and witnessed the amazing response to his preaching. As a result, their faith in Jehovah and their trust in him became stronger!
7 How can we imitate Jesus in helping our Bible students to build their trust in Jehovah? (Prov. 3:5, 6) The way we teach has a considerable bearing on this. When teaching, we can highlight God’s promise to bless us abundantly if we put Kingdom interests first. (Read Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6:33.) Although we can use various scriptures to emphasize how Jehovah provides for his people, not to be overlooked is the effect of the example we ourselves set. Sharing experiences from our own life can accomplish much in helping our students develop reliance on Jehovah. We can also share encouraging experiences that we read about in our literature.*
8 Developing strong faith requires more than reading and hearing about how others have experienced Jehovah’s blessing. A Bible student also needs to experience Jehovah’s goodness personally. The psalmist sang: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O you people; happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him.” (Ps. 34:8) How can we assist the student to see that Jehovah is good? Suppose a student who has financial worries is also trying to overcome a bad habit, such as smoking, gambling, or heavy drinking. (Prov. 23:20, 21; 2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Tim. 6:10) Would not teaching the student to pray for God’s assistance in overcoming a bad habit help him to experience Jehovah’s goodness? Consider also what can happen when we encourage the student to give priority to spiritual things by making time for weekly Bible study and preparing for and attending Christian meetings. Why, as he personally experiences Jehovah’s blessing on his efforts, his faith will grow stronger!
Fear of Popular Opinion
9 Because of peer pressure, some men may hesitate to follow Christ fully. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea kept their interest in Jesus secret because they were afraid of what other Jews might say or do if they found out. (John 3:1, 2; 19:38) This fear was not imaginary. The religious leaders’ hatred for Jesus eventually became so great that anyone who confessed faith in him was expelled from the synagogue.—John 9:22.
10 In some places today, if a man takes too much interest in God, the Bible, or religion, he may be harassed by his workmates, friends, or relatives. In other places, it may even be dangerous to talk about changing one’s religion. Peer pressure can be especially difficult when a man is actively serving in the military, in politics, or in the local community. For example, a man in Germany admitted: “What you Witnesses preach about the Bible is true. But if I became a Witness today, by tomorrow everyone would know about it. What would they think at work, in the neighborhood, and at the club my family and I belong to? I could not put up with that.”
11 Although none of Jesus’ apostles were cowards, they all struggled with fear of man. (Mark 14:50, 66-72) How did Jesus help them to progress despite intense pressure from their peers? Jesus took steps to prepare his disciples for the opposition they would later face. “Happy are you whenever men hate you,” he said, “and whenever they exclude you and reproach you and cast out your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man.” (Luke 6:22) Jesus warned his followers that they should expect reproach. Any reproach was “for the sake of the Son of man.” Jesus also assured them that God would back them up as long as they relied on Him for help and strength. (Luke 12:4-12) Moreover, Jesus invited new ones to associate freely with his disciples and make friends with them.—Mark 10:29, 30.
12 We too need to assist Bible students to overcome fear of man. A challenge is often easier to face when it is anticipated. (John 15:19) For instance, why not help the student to prepare simple, reasonable, Bible-based replies to the questions and objections his fellow employees and others may bring up? In addition to our being his personal friend, we can introduce him to other members of the congregation, especially those with whom he might have something in common. Above all, we should teach him to pray regularly and from the heart. This can help him to draw close to God and make Jehovah his Refuge and Rock.—Read Psalm 94:21-23; James 4:8.
Feelings of Inadequacy
13 Certain men hold back from getting involved in spiritual matters because they do not read well or cannot express themselves fluently or are just shy. Some men are uncomfortable sharing their views or feelings in a public setting. The thought of having to study, comment at Christian meetings, or share their faith with others may seem overwhelming to them. “When I was young,” admits a Christian brother, “I would quickly walk up to the door, pretend to ring the doorbell, and quietly walk away, hoping no one would hear or see me. . . . The thought of going from door to door made me physically ill.”
14 Think of the lack of confidence Jesus’ disciples must have experienced when they could not heal a demon-possessed boy. The son’s father came to Jesus and said: “[My son] is an epileptic and is ill, for he falls often into the fire and often into the water; and I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Jesus expelled the demon, thus curing the boy. The disciples later approached Jesus and asked: “Why is it we could not expel it?” Jesus answered: “Because of your little faith. For truly I say to you, If you have faith the size of a mustard grain, you will say to this mountain, ‘Transfer from here to there,’ and it will transfer, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:14-20) Faith in Jehovah is needed in order to overcome mountainlike obstacles. What happens if a person loses sight of this and begins to focus on his own abilities? Failure to succeed will result in a lack of confidence.
15 A fine way to help someone struggling with feelings of inadequacy is to encourage him to focus on Jehovah instead of on himself. Peter wrote: “Humble yourselves . . . under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him.” (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) This requires that we help our Bible student to develop spirituality. A spiritually inclined person keenly values spiritual things. He loves God’s Word and manifests “the fruitage of the spirit” in his life. (Gal. 5:22, 23) He is a man of prayer. (Phil. 4:6, 7) Moreover, he looks to God for the courage and strength needed to face any situation or to fulfill any assignment successfully.—Read 2 Timothy 1:7, 8.
16 Some students may also need practical assistance with their reading, conversation, or speaking abilities. Others may feel unworthy of serving God because of the bad acts they committed before coming to know Jehovah. In either case, our loving, patient assistance may be just what they need. “Persons in health do not need a physician,” said Jesus, “but the ailing do.”—Matt. 9:12.
‘Catch’ More Men
17 It is our desire that many more men will respond to the deeply satisfying message that is found only in the Bible. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) So how can we reach out to more men in our ministry? By spending more time witnessing in the evenings, on weekend afternoons, or during holidays when more men are at home. We can ask to speak with the man of the house when possible. Let us witness informally to male workmates when appropriate and reach out to unbelieving husbands in the congregation.
18 As we preach to everyone we meet, we can be confident that those with appreciative hearts will respond favorably. Let us patiently help all who show a sincere interest in the truth. How, though, can we help baptized men in the congregation to reach out and qualify for responsibility in God’s organization? The next article will address this question.
See Yearbooks of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as life stories published in The Watchtower and Awake!
How Would You Answer?
• How can men be helped to give spiritual pursuits priority?
• How can we help new ones to cope with peer pressure?
• What may help some to overcome feelings of inadequacy?
1, 2. (a) How did men respond to Jesus’ preaching? (b) What will be considered in this article?
3, 4. (a) What is a major concern for many men? (b) Why do some men put earning a living ahead of spiritual pursuits?
5, 6. What helped Andrew, Peter, James, and John to adjust their priorities regarding sharing in the preaching work and making a living?
7. How can we help Bible students to build trust in Jehovah’s ability to provide for his people?
8. (a) Why is it important for a Bible student to “taste and see that Jehovah is good”? (b) How can we assist our student to experience Jehovah’s goodness personally?
9, 10. (a) Why did Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea keep their interest in Jesus secret? (b) Why do some men today hesitate to follow Christ?
11. How did Jesus help his disciples to cope with fear of man?
12. In what ways can we help new ones to overcome fear of man?
13. How can feelings of inadequacy hold some back from getting involved in spiritual matters?
14. Why could Jesus’ disciples not heal a demon-possessed boy?
15, 16. How may we be able to help a Bible student to overcome feelings of inadequacy?
17, 18. (a) How might we reach out to more men in our ministry? (b) What will we study next?
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Do you make opportunities to reach men with the good news?
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How can you prepare your Bible student to face trials?