Exert Yourselves Vigorously as God’s Workmen
“If you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail.”—2 Pet. 1:10.
1-3. How should the work of a minister of God compare to the work of a blacksmith or a constructor?
PICTURE an old village blacksmith shop. Inside is a smith hard at work with his forge. He is welding together links of a great chain that some day will hold the anchor of a ship. Day after day, from morning till night, you can hear the smith swing his heavy sledge. At last the chain is completed. Each link is a masterpiece of workmanship, a mirror of the smith himself, what he is, how he thinks and what he believes.
2 Years pass by. The smith is dead, but on the high seas is a ship, and a storm is raging. The captain is forced to lower the anchor and wait. Fierce winds and mountainous waves lash against the ship. Every life on board the vessel now depends on the chain, on each and every link that was forged in the old blacksmith shop. All through the night the ship tosses and twists, but the chain holds it fast. At last the storm is ended. All the passengers gather on deck to thank God for deliverance. Yes, thank God for safety and praise him because on earth there was a God-fearing blacksmith who put his heart and soul into his work, a man who was not afraid to spend himself, who appreciated the need for quality in work, who did not become weary in well-doing but stuck to his job until it was completed.
3 Like the blacksmith, every minister of God is a workman. He is Jehovah’s workman. He cannot be uncertain or timid about feeling that he is, nor can he be neglectful of giving good evidence of this fact. He cannot be afraid to work, nor can he be spineless in the performance of his duties, because he is engaged in a work of salvation, a lifesaving work. Appreciating this fact, Paul, the apostle, cautions the Christian workman: “Let each one keep watching how he is building,” or we might say, “how he is working.” “Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire, and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.” The apostle Peter declared that Jehovah “judges impartially according to each one’s work.”—1 Cor. 3:10-15; 1 Pet. 1:17.
4. How will our work as ministers be tested?
4 The smith’s work proved true under trial. It remained. It saved lives. Will your work remain when exposed to the severe trials of today? When the battle of Armageddon strikes, is fought and won, will there be anything left to show that you have worked? Will what is left of your work bring you a reward from Jehovah? Happy the man who will then find that he has not labored in vain!—1 Cor. 15:58; Heb. 6:10.
5, 6. What “workshop” and “tools” does the minister of God have, and what is his work? How important is the quality of his work?
5 The minister of God has as his workshop his individual territory assignment. As his tools he has Jehovah’s Word, the Bible, also The Watchtower and Awake!, books and booklets and other Bible aids to help him do good work. He has the spirit of God and Jehovah’s organization to back him up. His work, like the blacksmith’s, is lifesaving. He too is welding together links of a great chain, not a chain made of iron, but of the enduring spiritual qualities of God. These qualities he must forge not only in himself, but also in persons of good will who desire to be linked to the antitypical ark, the new system of things, and be saved with it through the fast-approaching great storm of Armageddon.
6 Upon this chain depends not only the workman’s own life, but the lives of all persons of good will in his assignment. These are his field of work. He is fashioning them for salvation. Paul referred to the Corinthian congregation as the product of “my work in the Lord.” Our back-calls and Bible studies with the persons of good will that we direct to the New World society are our work in the Lord. If we as God’s workmen are indifferent or apathetic about our business, it will show up in the quality of our work, in the quality of our studies and our service to Jehovah. If we do inferior work, we are weakening people’s chances for salvation. Incompetent work may cost lives, and among the lives that may be lost because of our negligence may be our very own life. So watch how you work.—1 Cor. 9:1.
7, 8. What are the requirements for performing work of high grade with lifesaving quality?
7 Each link is an essential spiritual quality for salvation. No link can be neglected or treated lightly, because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Every link must hold between the anchor and the ship, if shipwreck is to be avoided. The only way each link will endure the strains during a storm is if it has good iron and is properly forged.
8 What are these enduring ironlike qualities that must be forged in our lives? How can we make them a part of our thinking, our work, our renewed personality? There is no take-it-easy, do-as-you-please arrangement for gaining these lasting qualities. Only by exerting ourselves vigorously as God’s workmen can we hope to forge them into our lives, thus measure up to Jehovah’s requirements and gain life.
LIFESAVING QUALITIES AND HOW TO BUILD THEM
9, 10. What chain of spiritual qualities does Peter mention, and what value does he ascribe to it?
9 Our hope is to gain salvation or everlasting life through the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Captain of our ship. Paul calls our hope “an anchor for the soul.” Faith that such life is attainable is the first link welded fast to the anchor, our hope. Then Peter says: “Supply to your faith virtue, to your virtue knowledge, to your knowledge self-control, to your self-control endurance, to your endurance godly devotion, to your godly devotion brotherly affection, to your brotherly affection love.” These spiritual qualities form the chain essential for salvation, because under inspiration Peter tells us: “For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For if these things are not present in anyone, he is blind, shutting his eyes to the light, and has taken on a forgetfulness of his cleansing from his sins of long ago. For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to render the calling and choosing of you firm for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail. In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—Heb. 6:19; 2 Pet. 1:5-11.
10 Our heart’s desire is to gain entrance into that everlasting kingdom and its realm. Peter says these qualities will assure us an entrance. Then we should want to develop in us these spiritual qualities at all costs. How best can we do this?
11. How can we tell a good and a bad minister?
11 As there are good and bad blacksmiths, so there are good and bad ministers. You can tell each by his works. When men with no faith or little faith enter the field of the ministry, the standard or quality of spiritual work is lowered considerably. That is why today it is difficult to find in Christendom men of true faith in Jehovah and his Word, because her clergy are faithless workers. Jehovah’s workmen must not be that. They must be men of faith, because “without faith it is impossible to win his good pleasure.” This means to have a living, active faith, because “faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” Not only must this faith be in workmen, but they must know how to communicate it to others. This the workman does by expressing his hope, by preaching the Kingdom and salvation through Jesus Christ.—Heb. 11:6; Jas. 2:17.
12. How is faith acquired?
12 The way to acquire strong faith is by studying God’s Word and exercising conviction in that Word: “So faith follows the report. In turn, the report is through the word about Christ.” The more we express conviction in Jehovah’s Word, the stronger our faith becomes. Know that righteous ones “will live by reason of faith,” but if they shrink back Jehovah ‘has no pleasure in them.’—Rom. 10:17; Heb. 10:38, 39.
13. What is virtue, and why must a Christian produce evidence of virtue?
13 Peter says that we should add virtue to our faith. Virtue has reference to moral practice or action in keeping with right standards. It has to do with uprightness of conduct and integrity. Christendom’s clergy, like worthless blacksmiths, may point to themselves as God’s workmen, but the dishonesty, graft, crime and corruption among their parishioners proves their works to be without virtue. A Christian must produce evidences of virtue both in himself and in his work, if he is going to prove to himself and others the good and acceptable and complete will of God. Otherwise, his faith means nothing. It is dead.—Rom. 12:2.
14. How is virtue acquired?
14 Virtue is acquired by taking right thoughts into the mind and heart, by thinking on right, true, chaste, lovable, praiseworthy things, by “bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” This is not easily done. It demands self-discipline, self-denial, hard work. But it has its rewards. When one puts away the evil of his own doings from before Jehovah’s eyes, he is proving to himself and others the depth of his sincerity and devotion to Jehovah. Without virtue Christians would never “come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation.” Virtue is essential to salvation.—2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8, 9; 2:15.
15. What working knowledge should a minister of God have?
15 Peter links virtue to knowledge. As good blacksmiths have the knowledge and ability to perform a great variety of work, so Jehovah’s workmen have a wide range of spiritual knowledge and the ability to do efficient and dependable spiritual work. They have a good working knowledge of the Bible. They know right doctrine and are equipped to teach it. They have a variety of three-to eight-minute sermons to use in their house-to-house ministry. They also have a number of sermons for calling back on interested persons and a long list of shorter presentations for the distribution of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines. They have knowledge of public speaking; they know how to comfort and show compassion. They have an almost endless field of Scriptural knowledge. They are acquainted with their tools, their Bible aids and know how to use them efficiently to Jehovah’s glory.
16. How can we be workmen “with nothing to be ashamed of”?
16 Since Jehovah’s workmen are under obligation to answer those who ask a reason for the hope in them, they must study, doing so privately, in groups and as a congregation. They must have answers, right answers, Scriptural answers. Accurate knowledge builds faith, it strengthens virtue, it keeps our hope alive within us. If we have accurate knowledge we can impart knowledge to persons of good will, our field of work, thus making them strong in hope, in faith and in virtue. But if we do not have a knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes, how can we instruct others? It is impossible for us, then, to do good work. Paul exhorts: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” So exert yourselves vigorously to the end of acquiring accurate knowledge, because “the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” It is an essential link to salvation.—2 Tim. 2:15; Eccl. 7:12.
17. Why must we show self-control, and how?
17 Peter tells us to supply to our knowledge self-control. Why? Because knowledge is power, and power uncontrolled can hurt and destroy. Smiths have great power in their big, brawny arms, but they have to control this power when forging delicate metals or else they will destroy their work. They must know when to strike and how hard. The same rule applies to the Kingdom publisher, Jehovah’s workman. For example, if he were to go to persons at a new Bible study and tell them there is no trinity, no hell-fire, no immortal soul, no heaven for them, no Christmas, no Easter—do you know what would happen? No study! Therefore, the servant of Jehovah must not only learn truths, but know when and how to apply them. Self-control must be applied not only in the field, but at home, at our secular work, in the service centers and in the congregation. It must be a part of the Christian’s thinking. Forge this quality of self-control in you, because death and life are at its disposal.
18. What must we all endure, and why?
18 Closely linked with self-control is endurance. Paul said: “Do not, therefore, throw away your freeness of speech, which has a great reward to be paid it. For you have need of endurance, in order that, after you have done the will of God, you may receive the fulfillment of the promise.” The whole world today lacks endurance. It is fidgety, nervous, impatient, but we must not be that way. We must endure in right works so that we may receive the promise, the reward for our labor. We must endure the house-to-house work. We must endure the back-call and home Bible study work. We must endure the trials that befall us, exercising conviction that God is faithful who has promised. We must endure each other. Paul said: “I go on enduring all things for the sake of the chosen ones, that they, too, may obtain the salvation that is in union with Christ Jesus along with everlasting glory.” It is not he that starts that wins the prize, but “he that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved,” said Jesus. “So let us not give up in doing what is right, for in due season we shall reap by not giving out.”—Heb. 10:35, 36; 2 Tim. 2:10-13; Matt. 24:13; Gal. 6:9.
19. What are the results of godly devotion?
19 If we are to endure to the end we must have godly devotion. Exclusive devotion to Jehovah is required of all who will perform good work. This is a contagious devotion that warms up our brothers to liveliness in Jehovah’s service. It is a devotion that brings forth fruit. In Jesus’ illustration of the talents we learn that we must not only hold and preserve what we have, but we must increase by doubling. The slave that increased his talents from five to ten, and the other from two to four, received the master’s “Well done!” But the one that hid his talent was called “wicked and sluggish.” The talent was taken away from him and given to the one that had ten talents. The divine rule is, “Whoever has, more will be given him and he will be made to abound; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Therefore, exert yourselves vigorously that the privileges you now enjoy may not be taken away from you and given to someone else.—Matt. 13:12.
BROTHERLY AFFECTION AND LOVE
20. How does brotherly affection manifest itself?
20 To this link of godly devotion God’s Word tells us to attach brotherly affection. Paul writes: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead. Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Be slaves to Jehovah.” An essential part of a Christian’s business is to have deep affection for the brothers. As regards those for whom we have deep affection, we hope for their salvation as much as for our own. We are concerned about them. We visit them when they are ill, encourage them to endure when under trials, we look after their physical needs when necessary, we pray for them, long for them and love them. Brotherly affection keeps our chain in a healthy spiritual condition, free from all corruptive influences that might eat away on the chain and thus weaken its resistive power.—Rom. 12:10, 11.
21-24. Why is love so important, and whom must we love?
21 Brotherly affection and our last link, which is love, are very closely united. Showing the importance of love, Paul said that if he spoke in the tongues of men and of angels, if he had the gift of prophesying and understood all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, if he had all the faith so as to transplant mountains, if he gave his belongings to feed others, if he handed over his body, that he may boast, but did not have love—“I am nothing,” he says. “I am not profited at all.”—1 Cor. 13:1-3.
22 One must love, for “God is love.” “Love builds up” the lover and the one loved. Peter says: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Paul urges: “Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.”—1 John 4:16; 1 Cor. 8:1; 1 Pet. 4:8; Col. 3:14; 1 Cor. 13:4-8; John 13:35.
23 Tempered with love, our chain can never be broken, it will stand every trial Satan and his wicked organization can bring against it. Without love our chain is nothing, our work is nothing, we are nothing. Love of God and love of neighbor must permeate every phase of our life if we are to receive Jehovah’s approval. (1 Cor. 16:14) “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” And one commandment is: “The one who loves God should be loving his brother also.” The best thing about a workman of God is not the sermons he preaches, the instruction he gives, nor the inspiration he generates, but the life of love he lives. “Pursue love.” It is the way of Christ. It leads to everlasting life.—1 John 5:3; 4:21; 1 Cor. 14:1.
24 Our chain is complete. Each link has been forged. Peter said: “If these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful . . . for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail.” “Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” Your work will be fruitful. It will remain when exposed to fire.—2 Pet. 1:8, 10; 1 Tim. 4:16.
WHAT KIND OF WORKMAN ARE YOU?
25. How would weakness of work as a minister show up?
25 What kind of workman are you? Do you have these lasting qualities to overflowing? Are you diligent about forging them into your work, your back-calls and Bible studies, so that those whom you teach, in turn, can pass them on to others in a chainlike reaction? If you are active and fruitful, then, most likely, you are a good workman for Jehovah. But if you are inactive and unfruitful, your spiritual chain is weak. You have need for self-examination and strengthening of these qualities.
26, 27. Which works do really count, and why?
26 The greatest privilege to come to any man is to be a workman for Jehovah. If we work on stone, it will perish; if we work upon metal, time will efface it; if we build skyscrapers and empires, they will crumble into dust; but if we work for Jehovah, if we imbue the hearts and minds of men with just principles of action, with fear of wrong and love of right; if we forge them with faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection and love; if we create in persons of good will a devotion to Jehovah and his kingdom, we will be engraving on those tablets of human hearts something that no time can obliterate, a work that will grow brighter and brighter with the years and through all eternity, a work that will live in the lives of men and women created in the image and likeness of God.
27 Then, when the storm of Armageddon strikes with all its fury, shaking both heaven and earth, your work will not be lost but remain. Survivors of Armageddon will thank Jehovah and praise him that he had workmen on earth who were not afraid to put their heart and soul into their work, men who were willing to exert themselves vigorously for the sake of the Kingdom. Your work will not perish but remain forever in the lives of those who live in God’s new world. “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.