‘Stay Awake, Stand Firm, Grow Mighty’
“Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty. Let all your affairs take place with love.”—1 Cor. 16:13, 14, NW.
1. (a) What force is behind the preaching of the good news? (b) What effect does the message have on the minds of men?
JEHOVAH has placed his power behind the preaching of the good news of his kingdom. He is zealous to have his established kingdom proclaimed throughout all the earth. (Isa. 9:6, 7; 55:11) To all the world the message goes out with his unlimited force behind it. Vital, alive, even alarming is this message! It actually wakes people up. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and the Christ will shine upon you.” (Eph. 5:14, NW) With Jehovah’s word in our minds we do become alive. (Col. 2:13) We are moved to alter our ways of thinking and living. (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24) Indeed, to take this word into our minds and hearts is to have a powerful, awakening influence within us.
2. Why is it especially now high time to awake from sleep?
2 Once awakened, Christians must not relapse into sleep. They cannot afford to copy mankind in general, which is sound asleep to reality. For, strange as it is, this—the fastest-moving generation of all—slumbers as the climax of Armageddon comes ever closer. Ignorance of this all-important event threatens to engulf in disaster the entire system of things. An inspired warning of long ago has been since underlined by the passing of many centuries of time: “Now it is high time to awake.” (Rom. 13:11) Especially for Christians the warning rings clear: “Awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers.” (Rom. 13:11, NW) All sleepers, WAKE UP!
3. What is the right mental state for Christians in this time of crisis?
3 Do you not agree that sleepiness concerning events in this generation is utter folly? Especially appropriate is the admonition to stay awake now. Time is running out for this old wicked system of things and those who do not want to go down with it must come out of it. (Rev. 18:4) This is the long-hoped-for “day of Jehovah,” the great transition period from the old system to new heavens and new earth. (2 Pet. 3:4, 13) Is it not practical, then, to stay awake in a time of such crisis and keep one’s senses? “So, then, let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses. For those who sleep are accustomed to sleep at night, and those who get drunk are usually drunk at night. But as for us who belong to the day, let us keep our senses and have on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation; because God assigned us, not to wrath, but to the acquiring of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Thess. 5:6-9, NW.
4. What is the spiritual condition of Christendom, and who are responsible for it?
4 Today Christendom urgently needs awakening. In spite of the religious boom, the spiritual apathy in Christendom’s religious organizations is notorious. Alarmed, the clergy sometimes cry out in complaint. One after another they stand up in their pulpits to decry the immorality, spiritual drowsiness, lukewarmness and indifference toward religion on the part of their parishioners. For Christendom’s religion seems to have lost its vital force; its congregations wallow in complacency, materialism and spiritual stagnation. But why should the clergy so loudly deplore the spiritual drowsiness and religious indifference that they see on every hand? What they see is merely a reflection of themselves! Here is the way Isaiah long ago described them: “They are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.”—Isa. 56:10, RS.
5. True Christianity stirs up what activity by those who heed the message?
5 Let Christendom put her victim to sleep, keep him in ignorance, drug him with superstition and fear. True Christianity is different; it stirs one to activity. (Isa. 61:1-3) With the one who heeds the message it becomes urgent to preach. (2 Tim. 4:2) Because of this, who can match the exemplary missionary zeal and enthusiasm of Jehovah’s witnesses for preaching? This noteworthy distinction belongs to them exclusively in this drowsy world. Outside observers frequently express amazement at their eye-opening, unparalleled activity.
6. To what privileges and responsibilities must Jehovah’s witnesses now be alive?
6 Like Noah and his family, Jehovah’s witnesses must be very much alive to the time in which they are living. Noah not only built a large boat but also sounded the warning to others to awake before it was too late. (2 Pet. 2:5) Jehovah, who was the great Awakener in Noah’s time, caused his Son to foresee and point to a like sleepy condition today: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as people . . . took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:37-39, NW) In the fulfillment, preoccupation with selfish concerns of every kind now acts as an opiate to the people. Still exercising undeserved kindness at this late date, Jehovah sounds out a loud alarm to awaken the sleepers. It is the message of the Kingdom, the hope of never-ending life in Jehovah’s new world in this generation. (Isa. 55:2; Eph. 2:4, 5) If they fully appreciate these facts, Jehovah’s witnesses, like Noah, must indeed be alive to their privileges and responsibilities.
NO TIME FOR SLUGGISHNESS
7. Why cannot Christians afford to be lazy?
7 True Christians cannot now afford to be sluggards or lazybones, basking in the sun or lolling in indolence. They must be intensely busy! In proper humility they can take the ant as a bright example of industriousness. “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (Prov. 6:6, RS) They avoid the warped and twisted thinking, which can lead only to a perpetual sleep with no disturbance whatever, that worship of Jehovah is too demanding, too tiring or not worth the effort. (Jer. 51:39, 57) Spiritual sleeping in this time of the end, they notice, Jehovah condemns as deadly. “How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a vagabond, and want like an armed man.” (Prov. 5:9-11, RS) “Laziness ends in a deep sleep.”—Prov. 19:15, Mo.
8. (a) Is God aware of events on earth? (b) To worship Jehovah, after coming into his organization, what is required?
8 Should not Jehovah’s witnesses emulate the God whom they worship, the living God in the heavens? (Ps. 11:4) As the Almighty God of the universe he is fully aware of events on earth, which he scrutinizes continually and directs toward a triumphant climax. How absurd to think that he needs to be aroused because he is asleep, like the god of the Baal prophets whom Elijah once taunted! (1 Ki. 18:27) Having come into Jehovah’s organization we should worship him by being alert, watchful, not growing indifferent to our ministry. We must not drop our guard and become lulled into a false sense of security and forgetfulness just because we have heard the good news preached and have associated ourselves with Jehovah’s organization. We keep our senses by carrying out our worship diligently, with keenness of mind, being alert to follow Jehovah’s will recorded in his Word as expressed by his spirit through his organization.
9. How did Jesus emphasize watchfulness in this time of the end?
9 Reading Mark 13 carefully you will observe that Jesus repeatedly emphasized watchfulness in this time of the end. “Keep looking, keep awake, . . . what I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.” (Mark 13:33, 37, NW) He gave us illustrations concerning our day to inform us who it is that has been rewarded for being diligent and watchful with regard to God’s kingdom, its presence and its interests. The spiritual prosperity and happiness exhibited by the “faithful and discreet slave” class of Jehovah’s witnesses during these years have been observed publicly by all. How we rejoice upon the fulfillment of the scripture: “Happy is that slave if his master on arriving finds him doing so”!—Matt. 24:45-47, NW.
10. What does it mean for a Christian to stay awake spiritually?
10 In view of all the momentous events since the ‘Master’s arriving’ who is it that is now really staying awake? Is one actually awake who attends an occasional meeting, even if he merely puts in an appearance, drowsily sitting through the hour and never contributing to the comments? It suggests to our minds Proverbs 19:24 (RS): “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” One who never opens his mouth in congregation meetings is not holding fast the public declaration of his hope and is not inciting his brothers to love and right works, even though not forsaking the gathering entirely. (Heb. 10:23-25, NW) To stay awake spiritually one must take full advantage of the weekly Watchtower study and attend the other meetings regularly. More than that, a wide-awake witness is an industrious person, always to be found at the service center and taking the lead in the ministry.
11. Besides waiting patiently until Jehovah acts at Armageddon, what must Christians also do?
11 The clear-thinking faculties of Christians in this time of the end must be kept continually aroused. Peter was inspired to record important things with regard to our knowledge and service in the field ministry that should never escape our notice. After reviewing some of the principles discussed above he writes this reminder: “Having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness. No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:17, 18, NW) While patiently awaiting the little time left before Jehovah strikes down Satan at Armageddon keep “close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.”—2 Pet. 3:12, NW.
ALERT AGAINST THE DEVIL
12. Why is it difficult to maintain an aroused mental and spiritual state?
12 Although the Christian earnestly desires to maintain an aroused mental and spiritual state, the pressure of this whole system of things is against it. Do not even think of sleeping! Discipline yourself to stay awake. You have an enraged, vicious foe who is very much on the loose. You would not stroll nonchalantly about the streets or doze in the sun if a savage beast were running amuck in the streets, seeking to maul, maim and devour everyone he could. “Your adversary, the Devil,” says the apostle, is doing just that. So “keep your senses, be watchful.” (1 Pet. 5:8, 9, NW) Gog of the land of Magog is disclosed as leading an attack with a great mixed host (representing Satan’s forces, invisible and visible) against Jehovah’s people, the faithful remnant and many other sheep who hope to survive Armageddon. Is it not these especially who must keep awake and alert, standing their ground until Jehovah takes action?—Ezekiel chapters 38, 39; Rev. 16:15.
13. (a) To stay awake, what should we not forget? (b) What part does prayer play in keeping watchful?
13 What Paul admonishes is to stay awake. (1 Cor. 16:13, NW) An emergency confronts all Christians, with Satan stalking those who become careless or negligent. But some of us just seem to be so sleepy spiritually. It is time to stay awake and be prayerful—yes, to be unlike Peter, James and John in Jesus’ last hour in Gethsemane. (Matt. 26:36-45) Do you look back at those favored apostles as if they were some sort of dullards whom Jesus had to address with provoked words: “Could you men not so much as watch one hour with me? . . . At such a time as this you are sleeping and taking your rest!” (Matt. 26:40, 45, NW) But do not fail to get the point that applies to you too: “Keep on the watch and praying, that you may not enter into temptation.” (Matt. 26:41, NW) Just a few hours later Peter vigorously denied his Master, and then wept bitterly. Jesus foresaw the results of Peter’s lack of alertness mentally and spiritually. (Matt. 26:74, 75) Also here in his own climactic test Jesus stresses for us the important part prayer plays in keeping watchful and wakeful. When a person prays earnestly to Jehovah he awakens his mind, examines himself and asks correction and protection through Jehovah and his organization. So, as Paul incited the Colossians, “be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving.”—Col. 4:2, NW.
14. Why did Israel lose Jehovah’s favor, and with what disastrous results?
14 Once all Israel stood protected within the congregation of Jehovah. Laziness and indifference toward Jehovah’s instructions and commandments resulted in disaster. Paul points out that the Israelites “had their sensibilities blunted” and “their mental perceptions were dulled.” (Rom. 11:7, 25; 2 Cor. 3:14) What a prohibitive price they had to pay for carelessness in giving attention! Such careless ones were completely taken over by the Devil into all manner of disgusting wickedness: “They became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting, filled as they were with all unrighteousness.”—Rom. 1:21, 28-31, NW.
15. For what powerful reasons is indifference to instruction and preaching folly, especially now?
15 This is our heavenly Father’s great time of harvest. It is hardly the time to become indifferent to instruction and your privileges of service. “A son who gathers in summer is prudent, but a son who sleeps in harvest brings shame.” (Prov. 10:5, RS) Has Jehovah a place in his new world for those who shame him by their laziness? Or those who think they can settle back now, just take things easy and be concerned mostly about comfortable things for themselves? Jehovah’s energetic Son, the faithful and true Witness, Christ Jesus, says: “Because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.”—Rev. 3:16, NW.
16. With the passing of time why must Jehovah’s witnesses not relax their vigilance?
16 Happily, the increase in the New World society proves that Jehovah’s witnesses are working. They are accomplishing a great work of preaching and are not just sitting around listening and reading, ‘loitering at their business.’ (Rom. 12:11, NW) Nor are they going to relax their vigilance and become lazy merely because almost a half century has passed since the birth of the Kingdom. No, they will continue alive and active in the Kingdom service, like the wise man who built his house on solid rock. (Luke 6:47, 48) “Consequently, when a flood arose, the river dashed against that house, but was not strong enough to shake it, because of its being well built.”—Luke 6:48, NW.
FIRMNESS IN FAITH
17, 18. (a) On what foundation does faith rest? (b) To what course in life does faith lead?
17 “Stand firm in the faith,” the apostle next emphasizes. (1 Cor. 16:13, NW) Our faith, which pleases God, is grounded on knowledge. (Heb 11:6) Our expectations concerning it are held with assurance, without doubts and waverings. We therefore take a stable, responsible course in life, which is confidently laid upon the truths of God’s Word, a rock foundation, not in a childlike way, starting things we are not able to finish or moving from one task in the ministry to another as whim or fancy strikes us without following things through to a successful conclusion. (Jas. 1:6-8; 4:7, 8; Eph. 4:13; 1 Cor. 13:11) So we must have faith and be consistent and stable to demonstrate the firmness of our faith by works.—Jas. 2:14-26.
18 Firmness in the stand of a Christian comes about because he takes on responsibility toward the obligations he has covenanted to undertake. He has dedicated himself to God, a forward step. Positive action must follow. He learns to handle responsibility in the ministry, to be dependable and advance. In the New World society there are competent, helpful servants eager to assist him to that end. Every provision is made to assist all to stand firm and receive Jehovah’s blessing and approval.
19. What companionships should a Christian cultivate for the purpose of standing firm?
19 Jehovah knows what we need to do in order to stand firm. For firmness in our faith he instructs us to keep separate from the world. Association with people of the world is permissible to the extent of contact required by gospel-preaching and permitted secular work. (Jas. 1:27; 4:4; John 17:15; Eph. 4:17, 18) We are advised, however, to avoid strictly the evil, hurtful practices of this old system and build up our understanding of spiritual things. “Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to evil; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding.” (1 Cor. 14:20, NW) Selfishly and stubbornly some make a serious mistake with regard to companions whom they seek out. Making friendships socially with people of the world and associating with them is not conducive to standing firm as a Christian. To careless ones in his day, who preferred such ill-mated friends, Paul wrote: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33, 34, NW) No, do not be misled and excuse your clinging to such friends because they are personally more desirable, socially more acceptable or financially more advantageous to you than brothers. If the companionship of such ones is more desirable to you, then it is time to examine yourself. Do not foolishly think you are personally so strong that you can risk weakening or compromising your firm stand in the faith. It is far better to cultivate associations at the congregation meetings and in the preaching field with your humble brothers.
20. Why is it difficult to stand firm in the faith, but what encouragement do we have to that end?
20 Standing firm in faith means a fight because our adversary is Satan the Devil. It pleases Jehovah greatly for us to resist him and maintain integrity along with our faithful brothers all over the earth. (1 Pet. 5:9, 10) The faithfulness of our brothers should inspire us to work hard too and stand firm, looking to the future for still other blessings from Jehovah. “To this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God.” (1 Tim. 4:10, NW) Thus, our happiness now comes from bearing the responsibility that Jehovah is now pleased to confer upon each one of us, enjoying our privileges and walking wide-awake in this day of Jehovah’s presence in a worthy manner. “Only behave in a manner worthy of the good news about the Christ, in order that, whether I come and see you or be absent, I may hear about the things which concern you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one soul fighting side by side for the faith of the good news, and in no respect being frightened by your opponents. This very thing is a proof of destruction for them, but of salvation for you; and this indication is from God.”—Phil. 1:27, 28, NW.
21. How can we remain firmly anchored in Jehovah’s organization?
21 Are we not most fortunate to be firmly anchored in the organization Jehovah has built up? Having been awakened to the message of the Kingdom, then let us be careful, staying within the bounds of activity and conduct marked out for us by the Scriptures. “So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”—Eph. 5:15-17, NW.
22. In this decisive time what is God’s will for us?
22 Jesus tells us what God’s will for us in this decisive time is: to stay awake and stand firm: “But pay attention to yourselves . . . Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and to hold your position before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36, NW) Wisely we shall not neglect this glorious way of salvation but “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” (Heb. 2:1, 3, NW) Jehovah has provided these uplifting principles to guide us in the way of firmness of faith and spiritual strength in this time of the end. With his help and undeserved kindness may we all be able finally to conclude like the apostle: “I have fought the right fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.”—2 Tim. 4:7, NW.