Turning the Remaining Time to Profit
1. For the Kingdom what earthly opportunities did Jesus give up?
JESUS did not preach one thing and do another. His course of action was consistent with his words. Everything he had, Jesus gave up for the sake of the Kingdom, even to life itself. But he gave up a great deal before his life was given in sacrifice. First he gave up his heavenly existence as the Master Worker and Spokesman of the Creator. Then consider his earthly prospects. This brilliant young man (indeed his mind was perfect) might have devoted his time to advancing science, to lengthening the life span of the people through medical and social researches; he might have built up great cities with model housing or huge commercial organizations. With his perfect body he might have devoted his time to physical feats wherein he could certainly have excelled, a huntsman without a peer, an artist with unsurpassed skill; yes, whatever he had set his mind to he could undoubtedly have been the best. He was the only perfect man on earth. But Jesus turned his back upon all these things, and his decision hinged around what he, with perfect perception, considered to be the most profitable use of time.
2. Why is especially Jesus an example to us of redeeming time?
2 What Jesus chose to do himself was the same that he directed his followers to do. He preached. Yes, he preached about the kingdom of God; by the seashore, in the wilderness, on the mountains, in the temple, on the streets and in the homes of the people, at every opportunity he magnified the name and purpose of his Father. Because of having chosen this course he knew that his days were numbered, but he redeemed the time, bought up every opportunity, profitably used the time that remained for him. Seeing, then, that Jesus, who had such great potentialities in every field of human endeavor, chose to devote his time to the ministry of God, does it not follow that our prime objective should be the same? Most assuredly! Jesus instructed any who sought his favor to ‘take up his torture stake daily and follow me’. (Luke 9:23) Daily service, yes, full-time service should be the goal of every servant of God.
3. Of what devoting of time does God approve? But what is ideal?
3 It is true that not all will be able to attain to this goal. Jesus was a single man; he had no obligations to family, no encumbrances. God knows the circumstances of each one of his servants and he is pleased with the service of each one, no matter how small that service might be, if the servants give all they can. Jesus showed that this is true when he called the attention of his disciples to God’s approval of the widow who gave all she had even though it was a very small amount. (Mark 12:41-44) This does not detract from but supports the truth, however, that full-time service to God is the ideal situation for any Christian. Each one, then, can profitably use a little of his time to consider thoughtfully and prayerfully his circumstances to determine whether or not there is the possibility of full-time service for him.
4. By what constant attitude do we not let opportunities slip by?
4 For the full-time worker or the part-time workers who make up the majority of those now preaching about Jehovah’s kingdom, the Scriptural requirements are the same. God is no respecter of persons. All do not have the same opportunities, but all can buy up their opportunities, ever alert for an opening to enlighten another. Not only during time set aside specifically for preaching, but throughout the day’s activities occasions will arise to present or defend the truth. Peter counsels concerning such: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that you have. But do so gently and respectfully.” (1 Pet. 3:15, An Amer. Trans.) Is not this constant readiness the only way to be sure not to let opportunities slip by, to be certain that every moment is put to profitable use? Great joy is frequently derived from speaking about the truth to a person you might have been prone to let go without including it in your conversation. “Happy are they who hold to what is right, who do their duty at all times!”—Ps. 106:3, Moffatt.
5. Why is it not right, when not preaching, to indulge oneself?
5 To “hold to what is right” does not restrict itself to mean that the Christian should preach at every opportunity and then feel free to spend other time carelessly. Paul counsels with respect to this, saying: “I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.” And again, he says: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 9:27, A.S.V.; 1Co 10:12) It is not how time has been spent in the past that marks one as a profitable or unprofitable servant, but how he is spending it now and in the future. One cannot mix service of God with careless living. The Devil is well aware of the inherent weaknesses of the human flesh; he knows every cunning device to trip the unwary. That is why Paul stressed the necessity of keeping the body under subjection at all times, not catering to selfish and carnal desires nor allowing the mind to dwell upon such things.
6. How is the time we spent in the past in the world to be rated?
6 True, some who are now associated with Jehovah’s witnesses once devoted all of their time either to advancing in this world of big business, to the acquiring of homes or to self-indulgent pleasures which lead to all manner of sin. Concerning their change to a more profitable use of their time, Peter says: “You have spent time enough in the past in doing as the heathen like to do, indulging in sensuality, passion, drunkenness, carousing, dissipation, and detestable idolatry. They are amazed that you no longer join them in plunging into the flood of dissipation, and they abuse you for it; but they will have to answer for it to him who is ready to judge living and dead.”—1 Pet. 4:3-5, An Amer. Trans.
7. Why would it now be a waste of time to revert to that course?
7 Having been freed from the works of the flesh through a knowledge of the truth, one must stand fast in it. “For if you live according to the flesh, you are about to die; but if, by the spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live.” (Rom. 8:13, Diaglott) In death there is no time to be used profitably or any other way. “There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave.” (Eccl. 9:10) Better to refrain from spending time with the works of the flesh now than to spend eternity in the grave. Each step a Christian takes should be weighed against the requirements of God. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD.” (Ps. 37:23) It is far better to take a few moments for quiet reflection, fully considering God’s requirements before rushing into an action that might bring God’s reproof. “To act without reflection is not good; and to be over-hasty is to miss the mark.”—Prov. 19:2, An Amer. Trans.
WASTING IT OVER UNESSENTIALS
8, 9. How is time misspent over misunderstandings between persons?
8 But it is not only the big or the obvious thing that hinders the work of a Christian or the congregation of Christians. Often it is a trivial thing, a matter not worthy of the time that it eventually consumes. Little misunderstandings are certain to arise as long as men are imperfect. The adversary will see to it that they do. And when they do, nothing pleases him more than to see somebody begin to imagine that some action or remark meant more than it was intended to. Why? Because immediately the mind of that person becomes divided. Instead of thinking on ways to buy up opportunities to serve God, it dwells upon the fancied wrong. Time once profitably spent is now wasted in feeling sorry for self.
9 The Devil is not content to let the injured one brood about the matter. He is greedy for our time. Sympathy is required; others must be told; the time of others must be consumed. An unwary person, hearing this tale of abuse, may be prone to take sides in the difficulty and what was once a trivial matter may sweep through the congregation like a conflagration, disrupt the orderly and profitable service of God and give rise to charges and countercharges, publicly aired before all. Fortunately, this is not the usual thing among witnesses for God, but if there is a possibility of its happening, time-conscious, profitable servants do well to keep themselves forewarned.
10. How did Jesus say to dispose of personal wrongs?
10 It is a refreshing contrast to consider what a great amount of time, mental concern and productive effort can be saved when the Scriptural rule is followed. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church [representatives]: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”—Matt. 18:15-17.
11. How does following this course profit one as to time?
11 Usually difficulties can be settled between the two concerned if each is willing to put his own feelings second and love his brother as himself. Not even one night of anxiety should be spent while the wrong, either real or imagined, grows in the mind. “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” (Eph. 4:26) Sleep is sweet and refreshing for one who has confessed his wrong to his brother or taken his grievance to the one who wronged him and settled it as mature brethren should. Rising in the morning, he joyfully goes into the service of his God instead of lingering with a heavy heart.
12. How does avoiding meddling save our time?
12 A servant of God, busy about his master’s business, does not allow himself to become involved in controversies of others. He knows that “like a man who seizes a dog by the ears is the passer-by who meddles with a quarrel not his own”. (Prov. 26:17, An Amer. Trans.) Before he can extricate himself from the situation he will have spent much more time there than he intended and the evidence will clearly show that it was not time profitably spent. No, he has no time to even listen to the details of the matter; no time to listen and less time to repeat.
13. Why is it a waste of time to gossip and find faults in others?
13 A tale repeated, regardless of how good the intentions, becomes busybodying and gossiping. The tongue, a small member of the body but most difficult to control, will not long be content with mere repetition. Use care then; ‘take heed to your ways that you sin not with your tongue.’ (Ps. 39:1) The same fountain cannot bring forth water both bitter and sweet. (Jas. 3:11) The tongue cannot praise God and at the same time malign a brother; neither can time be spent praising God and at the same time thinking about or talking about a mistake another has made. Time can be much more profitably spent examining your own mistakes which you are in a position to correct than in being concerned about another’s shortcomings which you cannot change. Besides, says Jesus, “why note the splinter in your brother’s eye, and fail to see the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take out the splinter from your eye,’ when there lies the plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3, 4, Moffatt) Obviously, it is a waste of time and it is probable that more harm will be done than good.
14. What, therefore is a profitable use of the mind? Why?
14 The things upon which the mind is allowed to dwell determine in the long run whether an individual will pursue a profitable or wasteful course. “As he thinketh within himself, so is he,” says the Proverb. (Pr 23:7, Am. Stan. Ver.) A mind that is filled with evil things will direct the body to do evil deeds. A mind filled with fancied wrongs is apt to seek occasion for quarreling, backbiting or revenge. Nip waywardness and time-wasting in the bud by keeping the mind in check, harnessing it for profitable work, directing it in righteous ways. “Now, brothers,” Paul wrote, “let your minds dwell on what is true, what is worthy, what is right, what is pure, what is amiable, what is kindly—on everything that is excellent or praiseworthy. Do the things that you learned, received, and heard from me, and that you saw me do. Then God who gives peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8, 9, An Amer. Trans.) A mind that is filled with truth and thoughts of serving God does not readily fall prey to the deadening forces launched by the Devil.
15. What discussions are time-wasting, and what are beneficial?
15 Arguments over inconsequential matters, long discussions on hypothetical situations and personal theories, these too claim valuable time from any who are foolish enough to allow it. “Avoid foolish, crude speculations; you know they only lead to quarrels, and a slave of the Lord must not quarrel, but treat everyone kindly,” Paul told Timothy. (2 Tim. 2:23, An Amer. Trans.) “Shut your mind against foolish, popular controversy.” (Moffatt) There are some people, foolish in their own conceit, who desire only to make a show of their own wisdom and who have no desire to acquire the true wisdom of God’s Word. Hours might be spent with them discussing their pet theories; but they have no time to listen to the gospel. One who is ‘buying up every opportunity’ to preach will, of course, endeavor to direct the conversation or discussion to a profitable end, but he will not spend unnecessary time with those who are ‘willfully ignorant’ of God’s purposes. “Do not give what is sacred to dogs,” cautioned Jesus, “and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Matt. 7:6, An Amer. Trans.) There are too many in the world with whom time can be profitably spent, who are more anxious to listen and learn than they are to talk. It is such meek ones that the preacher can profitably spend his time in searching out, for “the meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way”.—Ps. 25:9.
16. What do assaults and indifference often incline us to wish?
16 Many who hate the truth are not content to ignore it and those who devote their time to its proclamation. Frequently they do literally, like brute beasts, turn upon Jehovah’s witnesses in an attempt to trample them into silence. Their vicious assaults, combined with the indifference toward the warning message on the part of the majority of this wicked and perverse generation, are often trying for God’s servants. They are prone to cry out, “Lord, how long?” and to wish for the time in which they must continue to preach to come to an early end. Envisioning the many blessings of the Kingdom, they would hasten its coming and look for the early breaking of Armageddon’s fury.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF DIVINE PATIENCE
17. Why should we not be weary in well-doing under such conditions?
17 But surely no servants of God, even those who become impatient, feel that their work of gospel-preaching is wasted. They see the results of their labors, men hearing and turning to obey the commandments of God, an ever-increasing multitude of gospel-preachers profitably using the remaining time. They likewise see and experience evidence of God’s approval upon their actions, His assurance that they have been doing well. God rewards every man according to his works, and everlasting life is granted to those who patiently continue in well-doing. (Rom. 2:7) So the apostle warns, “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”—Gal. 6:9.
18. In the face of what example should we not be impatient?
18 All things considered, we have no cause to be impatient. It is God who sets the time for all things, and being unduly concerned about when Armageddon will come does not hasten it. Jehovah is more fully aware of the wickedness of men than are we. It is His name primarily that they are maligning, it is His creation that they have been corrupting for centuries. If he is patient enough to allow men a little more time to heed and turn from their time-wasting, life-wasting course, surely we should have the patience to give them the opportunity, knowing that, if it were possible, God would have all men believe and be saved.—1 Tim. 2:4.
19. Why do we readers have reason to rejoice over God’s patience?
19 By far the majority of those who are reading this page have reason to rejoice over God’s patience. Justice would have been satisfied had the war which Christ instituted against the Devil in casting him out of the heavens been continued to the removal of all the wicked from the earth. (Rev. 12:7-13) But God’s love and patience worked to our benefit. As Jesus pointed out: “If those days had not been cut short, nobody would have escaped, but for the sake of God’s people those days will be cut short.” (Matt. 24:22, An Amer. Trans.) We are now living in the intervening period between the beginning of the overthrow of the wicked world and its final accomplishment, which period of grace was made possible by God’s cutting short “those days”. God’s people do not fret but rejoice at his patience.
20. Since the remaining time has been so long, is God slow? Why?
20 The fact that the remaining time has continued as long as it has does not mean that God is slow or has forgotten the date he set for the final end. “The Lord is not slow about his promise, in the sense that some men think; he is really showing his patience with you, because he does not want any to perish, but wishes all men to be brought to repentance. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on it the heavens will pass away with a roar, the heavenly bodies will burn up and be destroyed, and the earth and all its works will melt away. If all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what holy and pious lives you ought to lead, while you await and hasten the coming of the Day of God.”—2 Pet. 3:9-12, An Amer. Trans.
21. How can we hasten the coming of the Day of God?
21 No, God, ‘with whom a thousand years is as one day,’ is not slow in allowing these few intervening years to be used for the profitable purpose of gospel-preaching. With him it is as but a few moments; and the remaining days can go by rapidly for you too. You can ‘hasten the coming of the Day of God’ by having a share in the purpose for which these days have been set aside. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then [and not before] shall the end come.” If the remaining days are occupied in profitable service they will not drag for you; they will fly by as though on wings.
22. What is the most profitable immediate use of time by new hearers of the message?
22 Should you be one of the persons of good-will toward God who has not previously heard of the blessings of the Kingdom, the most profitable immediate use for you to make of your time is to study and learn about it now while the patience of the Lord is still holding destruction in abeyance. Do not allow this world’s false sense of security to lull you to sleep and think that God’s patience will continue forever. Even though the majority of humankind may scoff at the possibility of a change of such sweeping magnitude or scorn those who use the remaining time to preach such a message, the majority can be wrong.
23. What illustrates how a majority can be wrong, misusing time?
23 It was the majority who had no time to hear what Noah was telling them, much less turn from their willfulness and join with him in what they considered a gross waste of time—building a great boat and preaching that generation’s doom. Whose time was most profitably spent, you can judge. Again a generation is ‘too busy’ to stop using its remaining time in the manner in which it is accustomed. Many will pay a high price to learn that they wasted their remaining days when their lives are snuffed out by the righteous wrath of God.
24. How are ministers now using the time, never to regret it?
24 Each day makes the “appointed time” shorter. Each day presents opportunities to proclaim God’s name and purpose that will never be repeated. And each day faithful ministers are buying up their opportunities, with the result that a growing throng is halting from the headlong plunge that the nations are taking toward destruction. As they halt and hear and learn they joyfully consecrate their lives to the service of Jehovah and share in the most profitable activity ever presented to man. To them the remaining time does not seem too long; rather, it is extremely short in which to accomplish the work which must yet be done. “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few.” (Luke 10:2) But though the time is short Jehovah promises, “The little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I, Jehovah, will hasten it in its time.” (Isa. 60:22, A.S.V.) A yet unnumbered multitude will heed the warning message and join their voices in praising Jehovah’s name, and it can be your happy lot to help them to learn the truth. In the thousands of years ahead in which you may enjoy the blessings which Jehovah has in store for those who serve him, you will never have cause to regret that you were among those who ‘did not act thoughtlessly, but, like sensible men, made the most of your opportunities in these evil, shortly-to-end times’.