“Stay by These Things”
“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Tim. 4:16.
1. What is the only worth-while work, and how did Jesus and the apostles demonstrate this?
DOING the divine will and sticking to this course is the only worth-while work. In the time of Jesus Christ it was recognizable that this teacher was doing a worth-while work. He was awake to his privileges of service. He was preaching the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom. He knew that that was the divine will. He stuck to his work from the time of his baptism in the river Jordan by John until his death. He preached incessantly. He taught diligently. He healed the sick both in mind and in body. He found many faithful Jews who would be his disciples. He kept his twelve apostles close to him and trained them daily, and he showed them how to stick to their divinely given work of preaching the Kingdom good news. These faithful Jews were looking for the Messiah, and now they had found him in Christ Jesus and they stayed with him.
2, 3. (a) How did Jesus answer the rich young man who asked him what good he must do in order to get everlasting life? (b) Wherein lay the real secret in gaining everlasting life, and why did Jesus counsel him to ‘sell his belongings’?
2 There were many other persons that recognized Jesus’ devotion to Jehovah. One in particular was a rich man who said: “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” (Matt. 19:16) How many millions of people have asked that same question since then? Living is such a natural desire. One does not want to die. Jesus had often demonstrated that he had the power to give people a more abundant life. He healed the sick, he opened the blind eyes, he even raised the dead from the tombs. He spoke of everlasting life as being within their reach and said that it could easily be had if people would only follow him and live according to his teachings. This particular rich man had observed the Ten Commandments from his youth up, but just how could he get the eternal life he desired? Jesus told him: “If, though, you want to enter into life, observe the commandments continually.” (Matt. 19:17) To the query, “Which ones?” Jesus continued: “‘Why, You must not murder, You must not commit adultery, You must not steal, You must not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and, You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to him: ‘I have kept all these; what yet am I lacking?’ Jesus said to him: ‘If you want to be complete, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.’ When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions.”—Matt. 19:18-22.
3 This grieved rich man was told: “Sell your belongings and give to the poor.” What a price to pay for life! But is one’s life not worth it? However, there was more to it than just that. Did he hear what the Great Teacher of the divine will said in addition: “Be my follower”? That was the real secret in getting everlasting life. First of all, do not be burdened down with the cares of this world, so that you can walk unburdened in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, preaching the good news of the kingdom of the heavens. Certainly if one were occupied with preaching the good news he would not have time for the care of so many possessions as this rich man had. Neither then, nor now, could a true follower of Christ Jesus be burdened down with so many cares of this old world. If it was necessary for the rich man to dispose of his possessions and follow Christ nineteen hundred years ago to be a Christian, how much more is it true now that an individual who wants to follow Christ Jesus and do Kingdom work must free himself of the anxieties of this present way of living? Christ is no longer with us on earth to give us personal counsel, but Jehovah God has seen to it that his words and those of his faithful followers were written down for the admonition and the learning of us upon whom the end of this system of things would come.
4. What does Christ expect of his followers when he makes his thieflike return, and what does that mean for them?
4 The Scriptures show us that Christ has come the second time, invisibly, and when Jesus gave the Revelation to John he pointed out that he, Christ Jesus, was to come also as a thief just before the battle of God Almighty, known as Armageddon. Jesus expects that at that time those who have declared themselves to be Christians will be on duty and be awake and on guard, watching their Kingdom duties. He has the right to expect them to be walking in his footsteps, doing the same thing he advised the rich man to do, “be my follower.” Being a Christian is a full-time occupation, no vacation periods, no change of religion, no stopping for a while. When one really walks in the footsteps of Christ Jesus he will not give all his time to the commercial business of life. The Christian wants to please the one who called him to be his disciple and that means giving Christ and his work first attention.
5. (a) In what way does the apostle Paul illustrate the position of those who are active in Christ’s service? (b) What experiences had Paul had that helped him appreciate what it meant to be a soldier, and how should we view the matter today?
5 Paul put the matter very plainly and forcefully, saying that Christians are employed in Christ’s service as soldiers. All Christians must be single-minded. They must look to and obey the one who called them to be soldiers. Being in Christ’s employ and following him, there is only one thing they can do: “As a right kind of soldier of Christ Jesus take your part in suffering evil. No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life, in order that he may meet the approval of the one who enrolled him as a soldier.” (2 Tim. 2:3, 4) A soldier of Christ Jesus does not and can not divide his interests. He does not try to run a selfish commercial business and at the same time be a soldier. When one is hired as a soldier, that is his work, and when one is assigned to guard the interests of the king he does not go to sleep. The Christian stays in his assignment. He is awake to his responsibilities. Paul, the former Saul of Tarsus, knew what it meant to be a soldier. When Saul was sent out to persecute the Christians he had an assignment and did it. He followed out orders. When he was converted to be a follower of Christ Jesus and was named Paul he also determined to be a right kind of soldier in the Christian army, putting on the full suit of armor provided by God, suffering any trials or difficulties that would arise because of being a soldier. If to be a Christian in the days of Paul it was necessary to be a faithful and alert soldier, certainly today nothing less is required. Jesus stated it so clearly to the rich man, “Sell your belongings . . . be my follower”; and Paul made it just as plain when he said: “No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life.” So how should one who calls himself a Christian today look at the matter? Not differently. He should stay by the things he has learned, be an honest follower, not a hypocrite.
NO CHANGE IN REQUIREMENTS TODAY
6. In spite of the changes in the ways of living and the religious practices of the world, what can be said of the divine requirements for our day, but what is sadly lacking in Christendom?
6 Today a Christian must be just as faithful and devoted to his call to service as Christ was to his, the apostles were to theirs and the early Christians to theirs. There is no difference in the requirements for Christians today. They must still stay awake and be alert on duty and carry out their responsibilities. True, this generation is far removed from the days of Christ, nineteen hundred years in fact. The ways of living have changed. The ideas and philosophies of men and the customs of the people have proved to be quite different. Christendom has moved along with the times and does not want to be old-fashioned. Too many clergymen of today have become modernists and have rejected the Bible, saying that the story of Noah and the creation of Adam and Eve are just myths, and that Christ’s dying on the torture stake was not necessary for salvation. The simple faith of Christ Jesus and of the disciples of Christ is a thing wanting throughout all Christendom. But the Bible has not changed since the days of the apostles. The divine will has not changed for the Christian. Jehovah is not one to change. His truth remains forever! So today to be a Christian, one must “be my follower.” Paul was one, but the rich man went away grieved at how to be one. Paul spoke of a falling away that would take place. He said that “the inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith.” (1 Tim. 4:1) Today that great falling away from walking in the footsteps of Christ Jesus is at its height. It was so important for Paul to say to the Christians of his time: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” This is even more applicable today. No individual professing to be a Christian can brush aside the teachings of Christ. The Holy Bible is God’s Word. Jesus believed it and lived it. Every professed follower of his must pay constant attention to himself and to Christ’s teachings so that he may stay awake to his privileges of service.
7. (a) What vital message is this the time to preach, and how has Christendom failed in this respect? (b) How do true followers of Christ Jesus feel about God’s kingdom, its establishment and their obligation in relation to it?
7 Nineteen hundred years after Jesus introduced the wonderful message of the kingdom of the heavens it must still be preached. It is still the only hope for mankind. Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) While Christendom repeats these words in chant and song and sometimes in read prayers, her religionists do not believe it. If they did they would preach it. True followers of Christ Jesus—and Jehovah’s witnesses prove to be such—are still preaching the good news of God’s kingdom as the only hope for mankind and they believe it with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, and they are on the watch as to the time when God’s established kingdom with all its powerful heavenly force will strike at Armageddon. As Christians Jehovah’s witnesses feel their responsibility to look after their Kingdom preaching, not just to the end of the times of the Gentiles, but to the end of all the nations of the Devil’s organization. Whether the world of mankind will take time to find out the importance of the day in which they are living or not, makes no difference. Christ Jesus has come into his kingdom. By him Jehovah reigns. God’s kingdom rules! And the reason the religionists of Christendom have not been declaring his good news is that they are asleep. The warning of the world’s end as being near has been given around the world, and especially in Christendom. We are living in the last days of this system of things and Jehovah’s witnesses, being true to their assignment, have let the world know in all principal languages that God’s kingdom rules and the world’s end is near. Christendom is not left ignorant of the times in which we are living.
8. (a) What interest demonstrated by the apostles of Christ Jesus has Christendom failed to show? (b) In what manner will this old world come to its end, but what work did Jesus say would be done first?
8 The apostles of Christ Jesus were very much concerned about the times and the condition of world affairs when Christ would make his second appearance. But Christendom and its religious leaders do not show interest in this matter. “While [Jesus] was sitting upon the mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: ‘Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the consummation of the system of things?’” (Matt. 24:3) Jesus described clearly the conditions that would exist in the world when the whole system of things would be ending together in a “consummation.” It would not be going down in little bits of pieces, or sections, but this combined ending would “come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.” In the very days of the ‘ending together of the system of things,’ Jesus said, “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
9. What things that Jesus said would mark the “beginning of pangs of distress” have we seen fulfilled in our day, and, despite the world’s hatred, what course of action have Jehovah’s witnesses taken?
9 Jesus gave a composite sign, showing many things that would occur, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, food shortage, earthquakes in one place after another, all of these things together being the “beginning of pangs of distress.” As far as real Christians are concerned, he stated: “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations on account of my name.” (Matt. 24:9) How true this has been! But despite the hatred, Jehovah’s witnesses have been alert, awake, on guard and have seen to it that God’s kingdom was preached and that the warning was given to Christendom and to all the world of mankind concerning these last days. They have not slowed down in this announcement either, nor will they do so until the accomplished end comes.
10. When is it that Revelation 16:15 has its fulfillment, and why do you so answer?
10 Jehovah’s witnesses do not want to find themselves asleep just before the complete end when, all together, this system of things will go down. They appreciate what Christ Jesus said, at Revelation 16:15: “I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his parts of shame.” Being awake, taking care of one’s responsibilities and preaching the good news right up to the complete end at the battle of Armageddon is an essential thing for a Christian. The December 15, 1958, issue of The Watchtower gives the reader a clear and detailed explanation of this text and shows without question that it is just prior to the battle of Armageddon when this scripture has its fulfillment. As the context shows, the three unclean inspired expressions that looked like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, the mouth of the wild beast and the mouth of the false prophet are in fact “expressions inspired by demons” and have a lot to say. With all of this talk they “go forth to the kings of the entire inhabited earth, . . . And they gathered them together to the place that is called in Hebrew Har–Magedon.” It is when this great gathering work reaches its peak for this final battle that Christ Jesus comes “as a thief,” showing great interest in those who are on guard duty in his temple organization. It is at the same time when this system of things in all its wickedness has been gathered together for the purpose of being brought to a complete end at the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” that this scripture finds application. While this gathering of the nations is going on, Jehovah’s gathered people, the remnant and the other sheep, hear Christ Jesus say, “Look!” Yes, he gains their attention and they hear him say: “I am coming as a thief. Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his parts of shame.”—Rev. 16:15.
11. What happens to those who are indifferent toward their service within Jehovah’s spiritual temple?
11 It is a terrible thing for a person to be indifferent toward his privilege of service, his assignment as a guard within the spiritual temple of Jehovah, and to be found asleep. He deserves to be beaten, stripped of his garments and have people look upon his shame.
12, 13. What recently published statements show how sleepily indifferent Christendom is to the presence of Christ Jesus, in contrast to the fiery zeal and wakefulness of those who are true Christian witnesses?
12 The newspaper The Advocate, which is the official publication of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark and of the Diocese of Paterson in New Jersey, had something to say under the heading “Arise, Ye Who Sleep,” and in this article we can see just how sleepy Christendom is and how religionists are not alert to the signs of the times, nor to the presence of Christ Jesus, nor to the preaching of the good news. But this paper also recognizes that there is a group that is wide awake and filled with fiery zeal and that there is no complacency or indifference among them. The Advocate says:
When we went to school and studied our catechism, we learned that there are three divisions to the Catholic Church: (1) The Church Triumphant; (2) The Church Suffering; and (3) The Church Militant. With a great deal of justification we might add a fourth division and call it the Church Dormant or the Church Complacent. The people who make up this group are men and women who should in fact be members of the Church Militant, but who seemingly have forgotten the meaning of the word. They are apparently asleep at the switch and nothing seems to bother them. . . . The fantastic story of the Jehovah’s Witnesses attracted world-wide attention during their recent convention in New York. Here was a group of religious-minded people who numbered about 800,000 throughout the entire world. Their doctrine is weird and strange. But they managed to get 250,000 members to their convention. Most people cannot understand what it is that attracts these people, but the fact remains that there is something which brings out this phenomenal attendance.
What they do have is a fiery zeal; there is no complacency or indifference among them, and sacrifice does not deter them. Every one of these people pledges himself to work 12 hours a week at the conversion of his fellow men.
If we had such zeal and perseverance among the rank and file of our Catholic people, we could transform the face of the earth. A famous Catholic preacher once said: “Judged by human, business standards, the Catholic Church is a colossal failure. After 20 centuries two-thirds of the human race is still pagan.”—The Advocate, September 19, 1958.
13 The Catholic organization admits they are found asleep. Their unchristian nakedness is exposed. They are not zealous for God’s kingdom, nor are they putting forth any effort at all to preach it. And how about the Protestants? The Litchville Bulletin of North Dakota had this listing in the Want Ads column of its newspaper: “LOST—Over 100 members of the Lutheran Parish. Not seen since Easter. Please return to the North LaMoure, Litchville, or Hastings Lutheran Churches on Sunday morning. No questions will be asked. Pastor Bob Harrison.”
14. How has Christendom’s nakedness been exposed, and why?
14 What would Christ Jesus do if he came to visit these Catholic and Protestant organizations, representatives of Christendom? He would take off their outer garments and he would expose them and let the people walk naked so that others could see their parts of shame. But this has already been done before the eyes of true Christians. Christendom’s nakedness has been exposed to them. She has neglected the work and failed the people. She has denied the Bible. She does not teach its principal message, that the kingdom of the heavens is at hand, nor does she magnify the great name of the God of the universe, Jehovah. But so much for Christendom. What about the true Christians themselves?
15. What strong admonition, recorded at Luke 21:34-36, does Christ give his followers?
15 This is no time for Christians to be lax and indifferent. We definitely are living in the last days of this system of things, and in the twenty-first chapter of Luke, where Jesus is describing in detail the composite sign, he gives this very strong admonition to his followers. If the reader claims to be his follower, then listen to his words: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. 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) Here again, we have the expression “pay attention to yourselves.” Why? What could happen? One could easily be weighed down with the cares of this world, the eating and the drinking and the anxieties of life. Or, as the footnote of the New World Translation says: “anxieties over livelihood.”
16. What further advice did Jesus give to aid his followers to avoid becoming weighed down with the anxieties of life, and what is the truly important matter for our attention?
16 In the time of Jesus he admonished his faithful followers not to be so much concerned about the things of one’s livelihood, “as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear.” (Matt. 6:25) They should be “seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) Is not that what he was telling the rich young man? Get rid of all these things that have made you rich. Give them to the poor, these things whereby you were making your livelihood, and follow me. The important thing is ‘seeking first the kingdom and God’s righteousness.’ In the prayer that Jesus taught his apostles to pray he said: “Give us today our bread for this day.” He did not ask for any more. With food, clothing and shelter we should be content, along with our godly devotion. So never be weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life. And why not? If these become the important things in one’s life, the principal reason for living, as they were in the life of the rich man, then we are not going to have time for walking in the footsteps of Christ Jesus, following him. We cannot be a soldier of Christ Jesus if it is the eating and drinking and the anxieties of life that we are interested in and if we are going to be weighed down with commercial businesses of life in order to get these things in abundance. The two do not go together.
STAYING AWAKE DURING THE CONSUMMATION
17. What is required of each one if he is to succeed in escaping destruction with this present evil world?
17 Describing living in these last days, in the twenty-first chapter of Luke, Jesus says the complete end will happen so suddenly that that day will be instantly upon us as a snare. Then what is going to happen? Jesus said that it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of the earth. He is not making any exceptions. So his very strong advice to the apostles and, of course, to Christians today was: “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.” Truly there is a way of escape from going down executed in the battle of the great day of God the Almighty. The way of escape is in staying awake, living as a Christian, making supplication before God. Then you may succeed in escaping all these troubles and distresses that will come upon the Devil’s system of things at one time, completely wiping it out, the political system, the religious system, the commercial system, and abyssing the demons who control this world and even the Devil himself. Being on guard as a Christian at God’s spiritual temple and staying awake there will mean, too, that you will hold your approved position before the Son of man. He will preserve you alive through the battle of Armageddon, which destroys this present evil world, into God’s new world of righteousness.
18. Why was the world destroyed in Noah’s day, and what fine example did Noah and his household set for those living in this time of the end?
18 This will not be the first time that a world is destroyed. It happened before in the days of Noah, “when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls, were carried safely through the water.” (1 Pet. 3:20) Jehovah had good cause for destroying the people that lived in Noah’s day. They paid no attention to God, nor to the message that God had Noah preach to them concerning the end of that world. But they were given to eating and drinking and having a good time, feasting, thinking of just themselves and their own anxieties of life. They were truly weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking. Jesus tells us that it would be very similar in our day just before the battle of Armageddon to what it was in Noah’s day: “For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as people were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they 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) This flood came upon all those dwelling upon the face of the earth during Noah’s day: Identical to what is going to happen at the battle of Armageddon. Christians cannot be asleep. Jesus said, ‘Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments.’ Noah was not asleep as to his building of the ark. He kept busy at construction. In addition he kept preaching. With him were his three sons and their wives and Noah’s own wife; all of them kept busy with Noah, and when the flood came they were ready, they were awake, they were in the ark with all the animals and they were preserved alive out of the world that was, into a cleansed earth. Noah and his family stayed on the watch, worked and were ready when the rains came. It pays to stay awake! You do not lose your outer garments of God’s ministry.
19. The Christians in the first century had received what warning about Jerusalem, and so what course did they pursue that demonstrated their wakefulness?
19 If Noah had not stayed by the things that were committed into his care, he would not have saved himself, and others also, his loved ones. The only sensible thing to do now is stay awake and take care of the responsibilities that fall upon one, just as the early Christians did when destruction was about to befall Jerusalem. Many years before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 (A.D.), the Christians had received warning through the prophecy that Jesus gave them. “Furthermore, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then understand that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the nearby regions not enter into her, because these are days for meting out justice that all the things written may be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-22) Shortly after the days of Pentecost many persons gained a knowledge of the truth, dedicated themselves to Jehovah’s service and were baptized. In fact, in one day 3,000 persons were baptized. There must have been many assembly places within Jerusalem where God’s people met and studied the Word of God together and prepared themselves for their preaching activity. But all this time while they were studying the Bible they were on the watch, they were awake to the critical situations that were prophesied by Christ Jesus, when Jerusalem would be in for destruction. So in the year 66, when the armies of Rome surrounded the city, it certainly must have brought to their attention that destruction was imminent. When these armies moved away for a short season, all the Christians in Jerusalem fled to the mountains, out of the city gates, over the hills of Galilee, down into the Jordan valley and across the river to Gilead, to the mountains where there was safety. When one is warned, why stay at the place where destruction is going to happen? Why be asleep at this crucial time, when one should be awake and on duty? Those early Christians were awake to their responsibilities. They wanted to preserve their lives so they could continue to preach the good news of the Kingdom after the destruction of Jerusalem. They did.
20. What that demonstrates their spiritual wakefulness is true of Jehovah’s witnesses today?
20 While Christendom is exposed to true Christians today because of not having on its outer garments, and this is due to falling asleep to Christian privileges of service, Jehovah’s witnesses world-wide continue to preach God’s kingdom and pay attention to the divine will. They see to it that those coming within Jehovah’s sanctuary for worship are clean, just as the guard protected the temple of Jehovah when on night watch to see that nothing unclean got in to pollute the temple or to steal from it. In these last days the Kingdom interests have been committed into the care of the “faithful and discreet slave” class, and now joining with them is a “great crowd” of “other sheep” coming from all nations, kindreds and tongues, and these, too, have been given the privilege of guarding these Kingdom interests by preaching even to the ends of the earth. This great crowd now numbering well over 770,000 ministers of the Kingdom are not being weighed down by overeating and heavy drinking and the anxieties of this life. They are alerted to the fact that Christ Jesus will come at Armageddon as a thief, suddenly, instantly, and that when this destruction comes to the earth it will affect all those dwelling upon the face of the earth. So they keep awake, and hold their position before the Son of man, guarding the Kingdom interests, keeping on their ministerial garments, showing that they appreciate their responsibilities. By having on these garments they prove that they have been favored by Jehovah God and have been retained in Jehovah’s holy service in his sanctuary.