Awake to Our Responsibility
“The son acting with insight is gathering during the summertime; the son acting shamefully is fast asleep during the harvest.”—Prov. 10:5.
1. What purpose in life does every Christian have?
HAVE you ever thought seriously about your purpose in life with relation to God and your responsibility toward your Creator? Many people fall into the routine of earning a living, raising their family and planning for old age, never considering what they might do in God’s service. However, Jesus was awake to do God’s will. He was not content just to settle down and lead a good life as a carpenter and raise a family, for he knew that God required more of him. For his followers he said that they should love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength and their neighbor as themselves. He did not consider this requirement to serve God wholeheartedly a heavy one, but he called it a light load because it would be done out of intense love that comes from a knowledge of the Creator.
2. How has Christendom failed to help many achieve this goal?
2 Many sincere people have a desire to serve God, but they wonder what they can do and how to go about it. Recently a young man expressed the desire to enter the ministry. When his parents talked the matter over with their clergyman they found the educational costs more than they could afford, and so the young man gave up the idea of using his life to serve God. On another occasion a woman well along in life spoke to one of Jehovah’s witnesses saying that she was looking forward to retiring in a few years so that she could spend some time in God’s service. But what about all the years when she might be showing the love she has for God and for her neighbor, years that have been lost because Christendom has taught the people to be hearers rather than doers of the word? Jesus did not go to a religious training school for many years before he took up the service of his heavenly Father, nor is it required of those who follow him today. There is no question that he was a keen student of the Bible, for at the age of twelve he amazed the religious elders at Jerusalem, but he did not find it necessary to follow the traditional course of study of the scribes or Pharisees in order to serve Jehovah.
3. What work that Jesus started can we share in now?
3 What did Christ do that we can do today in God’s service? According to his own words at Luke 4:18, 19, he declared good news to the poor, he preached a release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. By his active preaching work he showed his love both for God and for his neighbor. Should we do less? If a person prays the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,’ he indicates he is looking forward to seeing God’s will done on earth under Christ’s millennial rule. And since you pray for this you should be glad to act on Jesus’ words to his followers: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations.” This is good news that we can declare to spiritually hungry people of every country. By our Kingdom ministry we can release religious captives from the yoke of bondage they have been under, and open the eyes of their understanding to the truth. (Gal. 5:1; Eph. 1:18) Yes, you too can have a share in the preaching work with Jehovah’s witnesses whether you are young or old, man or woman, rich or poor and without regard to racial distinction. Jehovah gives the same work to men of all kinds.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MINISTRY
4. How did Paul feel about the ministry?
4 Actually, we have a responsibility to share in the ministry. That is the way the apostle Paul felt about it when he said: “If, now, I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news! If I perform this willingly, I have a reward; but if I do it against my will, all the same I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” (1 Cor. 9:16, 17) It may be that Paul had in mind how Jesus had applied the words of Isaiah 61:1, 2 to himself and his ministry. Isaiah prophetically said: “The spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones.” Now Paul had also received God’s spirit for the same purpose. He knew that if he was to be a real Christian he had to follow Jesus’ footsteps and do the same work as Christ did. Or he may have been thinking of Jesus’ last instructions to his disciples and how he said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) There is no doubt Paul recognized that he had a work to do, and this should be especially true of Christians now in the time of the end.
5. What shows that all should share in the ministry?
5 But some people object, ‘After all, he was one of the apostles. Today our clergyman does that work, not we!’ They forget that Paul was also a tentmaker. He was a working man just like anyone else. Some of the disciples were fishermen, one a tax collector, one a physician, but that did not keep them from sharing in the ministry and doing preaching at least part time. In fact, all the early Christians shared actively in the ministry, as seen from the account at Acts 8:1-4. It was the time of Stephen’s being stoned to death. “Great persecution arose against the congregation which was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” Then what did these early Christian men and women do? “However, those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” They did not say that since the apostles were still in Jerusalem there was nothing they could do but wait until someone could come out and preach to them. Rather, everyone in the congregation was awake to the wonderful opportunity before him in God’s service and so he talked about what he believed to all he met. That was the way Christianity spread, because every believer was using the time to make disciples of people of all nations, teaching them and then baptizing them. Today you may be employed as a clerk or a carpenter or a taxi driver, but the question is, Are you a Christian? If so, you have a work to do to show yourself a Christian in deed and not in name only.
SHOWING CHRISTIAN LOVE
6. What are some requirements for an awake minister?
6 There is no question that a person who wants to be found in good standing before God must bring honor to God by his personal conduct. Paul emphasized that at Romans 13:8-14. He stressed love to our fellow man, showing that this was fulfillment of the Law, because one would not commit adultery, murder, steal, covet or work evil to one’s neighbor if he had proper love for his neighbor. One who does such things is asleep to what God requires of him. Paul wrote: “It is already the hour for you to awake from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than at the time when we became believers. The night is well along; the day has drawn near. Let us therefore put off the works belonging to darkness and let us put on the weapons of the light. As in the daytime let us walk in good behavior, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.” If we always conduct ourselves with love and as if in broad daylight in the view of all men, then we will never have cause for regret. The spiritual darkness that covers the old world and its shady deals and loose conduct has encouraged a rising tide of delinquency. A Christian must shun such things by equipping himself with the weapons of the light. Paul referred to some of these: “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. 5:8, 9.
7. How can a person weak in faith be strengthened?
7 This breastplate of faith and the hope we have of salvation are acquired over a period of time. At first our faith and hope may be weak. But by study of the Bible and by association with mature Christian brothers they are built up and reinforced; we come to understand that God does not have many ways for salvation, but one, through Jesus Christ, and that we can help others realize this by using the spiritual weapons of light. Our responsibility to God is greater than just leading a good life, living and letting live, doing no harm. Many people who have no faith in Jehovah God or Christ Jesus see the wisdom in a high code of morality and ethics, but they are not awake to God’s service. We should be interested in what God requires of us, learning what he wants us to learn, doing what he wants us to do, and thus living up to our responsibility to serve the One who has given us life. The more we study the Bible the greater appreciation we come to have of the fact that we can do something to serve Jehovah and thus show our love for him with exclusive devotion.—Eph. 5:3-14.
8. Why and how should neighbor love be shown?
8 Showing love for our neighbor is part of our service to God. It comes naturally for most men if they see someone in danger to want to warn him of the danger or do what can be done to save him. This is actually what we are doing when we share in the Kingdom ministry. Since we recognize the sign of the Master’s presence in the distressing world calamities of recent years and as we share in the preaching of the good news world-wide before the complete end comes upon this old system at Armageddon, we are helping others escape on the road to safety. Having a knowledge of these truths and a love for God, do you still hold back from sharing your knowledge with others? The person who eagerly shares the truth and who is moved by God’s spirit in active preaching is a happy, spiritually awake person. He lives Paul’s words: “Always be rejoicing. Pray incessantly. In connection with everything give thanks. For this is the will of God in union with Christ Jesus respecting you. Do not put out the fire of the spirit.”—1 Thess. 5:16-19.
9. What keeps some from obtaining spiritual treasures?
9 Achan is an example of a man who did not show love for neighbor but, instead, put his own interests first. Because he went contrary to what he knew God required of him by stealing “the silver and the garment and the bar of gold” for personal use, Jehovah’s favor was withdrawn from the army of Israel and it was defeated in battle by the men of Ai. (Josh. 7:1-23) Some follow a similar course today, trying to hoard the riches of the present world and thus becoming slaves to materialism. They begin planning ahead for the desires of the flesh instead of putting their heart into the spiritual warfare and working to maintain Jehovah’s favor. They devote more and more time and energy to secular work to get more grain in their barns and gold in their bank vaults. As a result they cannot share regularly in the ministry; they miss meetings and cannot find time to study and qualify thus as servants in the congregation; and finally they find they have lost out in the spiritual warfare and perhaps caused loss of life for their families as well. They forget that the treasures they are saving will one day be thrown into the streets. The real treasure, which they ignore, is found in serving Jehovah and helping people of good will understand the truth.
10. Why ought we to be teachers?
10 That is why Paul said: “Indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning.” (Heb. 5:12) This is the teaching work that Jesus stressed for making disciples of people of all nations. If you feel as though Paul is speaking to you because you know the Bible truths but have not been teaching someone else, then try starting a study of the Bible with your own family or with your friends. Select one of the Society’s many helpful aids to study with, such as “This Good News of the Kingdom,” “Let God Be True” or From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained. Consider the questions on each paragraph and read and discuss the scriptures mentioned. You will find that this is the best way to learn yourself, by trying to explain to another person and teach him. You will have to study well to be prepared, but you can do it if you are willing. Accept the responsibility to help those of good will who also have a love for truth. Remember that the harvest is great and the workers are few. You can help too, and in this way you will be living up to your responsibility both to God and to your neighbor.—Matt. 9:37, 38.
11. Who let their light shine?
11 Jesus stressed the need to keep awake to pure worship and to let the light of truth shine, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. (Matt. 25:1-12) He foresaw the faithful slave class who would be letting the light of truth shine and who would be alert to the time of the bridegroom’s coming to the temple for judgment in 1918. Their lamps were full of the oil of happiness that comes in Jehovah’s service. On another occasion Jesus said that his servants would be the light of the world. It is this light of truth that now helps thousands of people of good will every year to get free from the darkness that shrouds the teachings of false religion. But speaking of the religious leaders of his day, Jesus referred to their bedarkened condition as blindness, saying: “Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”—Matt. 15:14.
12. Is any kind of faith all right, or what is necessary for salvation?
12 Even so, many people believe that it is not important whether they follow one belief or another as long as they have faith in something. That is like saying that when a person is dying of an incurable disease it does not matter what remedy he tries or what doctor he goes to, just as long as he does something. Even though he dies, they imply that the important thing is that he tried and that he had faith in his doctor. But what counts is, Did he recover? The same is true with religion. The important thing is not that you have some kind of faith, but, Will you gain life? Romans 10:2 says: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” Isaiah spoke strongly against false worship, referring to the false guides as sleeping dogs, “shepherds that cannot understand.” (Isa. 56:10, 11, AS) In this time of the end they still do not sound the warning. They try to patch up the ills of the world by praying for political efforts like the United Nations instead of telling their flocks that God’s kingdom is the only hope. Instead of being asleep ourselves, let us be on the watch and give the warning. You can do as Paul said: “For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your mouth’, that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation . . . For ‘everyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved’.”—Rom. 10:9, 10, 13.
DEDICATION BRINGS RESPONSIBILITY
13. What should dedication mean to a Christian?
13 If we exercise faith in our heart, then we will be moved to action to demonstrate our faith. We will take the same step that Jesus did in dedicating our lives to Jehovah God and become active in the ministry, making public declaration of the Word. This should not be an emotional decision, but one based on accurate knowledge. It should be because of our love for God and our desire to serve our Creator. When we dedicate our lives to Jehovah God we are making a vow to serve him for life; so dedication brings responsibility just as knowledge does. It is true that not everyone is able to respond to the same extent to the privilege of serving God. Some have family responsibilities, others are not in good health, age slows some, but everyone who enjoys the gift of life can do something. (Ps. 115:17, 18) Having this in mind, Jesus gave the illustration of the talents. The master gave his belongings to his servants to care for during his absence: one was given five talents, one was given two and the third slave was given one talent. They used what was entrusted to them wisely, except the third slave, who buried his talent so as not to lose it. Because of his negligence it was taken away from him and given to one of those who used his wisely.—Matt. 25:14-30.
14. How can one increase his Kingdom interests?
14 Today each dedicated Christian has certain Kingdom interests that he can care for. While the Kingdom talents or belongings of the Master have been committed to the spiritual remnant, all servants of God have the opportunity of using the knowledge and service prospects they receive wisely. What do you do with your talents? Are you burying them, or are you using them and thereby receiving the joy that comes with Jehovah’s blessing? Jesus summarized this by showing that the really happy ones are the alert ones, the active ones, those who keep awake to their responsibilities. “For to everyone that has, more will be given and he will have abundance; but as for him that does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matt. 25:29) So let us use, increase and treasure our privileges of Kingdom service.
15. What illustration shows the need for wakefulness?
15 Since our Kingdom ministry is a trust from God, we must be alert to safeguard it. If you were given a large sum of money to take to the bank for your employer, you certainly would not feel like sleeping on the park bench on the way. You would be alert, on guard, to make sure nothing went wrong for which you would be held accountable. That is just how we should feel about the trust of our Christian ministry. It involves the loss, not just of a sum of money, but of life. Jesus gave an illustration on the need for alertness at Revelation 16:15, when he said: “Look! 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.” It was the custom in the days of Israel for the priests and Levites to keep watch at the temple at night to guard against robbery or intruders. Any who were caught asleep when the Officer of the Temple Mount made the rounds to see that all was well were stripped and beaten. Those priests and Levites pictured the priestly class, the 144,000, of whom a remnant serve as watchmen for the spiritual temple today. So the warning is well taken, not only by them but also by those who serve as companions with them in the ministry, not to be found in neglect of duty or sleeping on the job lest they be stripped of the privilege of service they enjoy as Jehovah’s witnesses by the temple inspector, Christ Jesus.
16. What experience did the disciples have?
16 Do not say it would never happen to you. Something similar happened even to the disciples, not once, but three times! It was the evening before Jesus’ death when he went to the spot called Gethsemane to pray. As he continued praying the disciples went to sleep. Then Jesus said to Peter: “Could you men not so much as watch one hour with me? Keep on the watch and praying, that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit, of course, is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was not making excuses for the disciples, but he knew they were tired. No doubt if they had fully understood the events about to take place, the account would not show that the second time he “found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.” But even the third time when he returned from praying Jesus had to tell them: “At such a time as this you are sleeping and taking your rest! Look! the hour has drawn near for the Son of man to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.” (Matt. 26:40-45) Peter must have learned his lesson well, because later he gave similar counsel to keep awake, saying: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Pet. 5:8.
17. How can this experience help us?
17 While the disciples were not stripped of their privileges of service on this occasion, they must have afterward keenly regretted that they were not alert with Jesus during his last hours. It serves as a good warning to us to be doubly alert in this time of the end not to be similarly rebuked or even lose our service privileges. So do not be found asleep at home when the brothers are meeting together at the Kingdom Hall for prayer or study. Perhaps someone will have to counsel you just as Jesus did the disciples. (Ps. 13:3) Instead let us safeguard the wonderful trust we have from Jehovah by continuing to study and meet together and to share in the service to which we have been assigned.—1 Thess. 5:21, 22.
FAMILY AND CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES
18. What can parents do to aid their children spiritually?
18 A part of every Christian parent’s responsibility is to look well to the spiritual interests of his family. All loving parents feel a deep responsibility toward their children. Day and night they are alert to their needs. They care for them patiently through their early years, feed them, clothe them, teach them and help them grow to maturity until they can fend for themselves. In addition to supplying the material things necessary for life, the wise parents will also give much thought to the spiritual interests of their children to help them learn of their Creator and the privilege of serving him. (Eph. 6:4) If the parents take the lead in this by reading the Bible to the children, studying with them, taking them along to meetings and out in Kingdom service, then the children delight to follow. (Prov. 22:6) This Bible training is so important for the child’s spiritual well-being that the parents should never leave the responsibility of instructing the youth to someone else. Just as a servant in the congregation of the New World society has a responsibility to the congregation to lead it and assist it spiritually, so parents have with their families. Parents are the overseers or servants of the family unit. A wise father will take the lead in his family’s religious instruction. Are you awake to this responsibility?
19. How can parents teach their children, and why is it so important?
19 Teaching the children the purposes of Jehovah God should not be postponed until the weekly sabbath, but it should be a morning, noon and night responsibility every day of the week. The Bible counsel on this is recorded at Deuteronomy 6:5-7: “And you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force. And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart, and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” If God’s commands are in your heart, then you will be able to teach them to your children. But you cannot teach them something you do not know yourself, or tell them to do something that you will not do and hope to get good results. Remember how Noah took the lead in the work of building the ark. He got right to work on the job with his sons helping him. You can do the same for your family by seeing that they get a good, solid foundation knowledge of the truth by personal instruction, by your taking the lead in service and by encouraging them to enter the pioneer ministry. Remember that your family will have to be ready for final inspection of the Chief Temple Inspector; so follow Jesus’ instruction and “keep on the watch” by keeping your family alert to the truth and advancing in the service.
20. What are some of the responsibilities of a Christian servant?
20 The family head who shows appreciation of his responsibility toward his family by taking the lead and exercising proper Christian headship shows he is ready for privileges of service as a servant in the Christian congregation. In such a case, not only the welfare of a little family is involved, but the interests of a congregation. So servants particularly have a responsibility to keep spiritually awake. Their appointment by holy spirit makes them accountable to Jehovah. The servants are not left without help in guiding the flock and protecting it. They have Jehovah’s Word to direct the theocratic handling of matters and his organization to counsel and assist them. (Isa. 50:4) Servants should be found to be blameless and without reason for reproach by people on the outside. Like the kings of Israel who read from the law of God daily, so those appointed as overseers or servants among God’s people today should really know the Bible. They should share the truth freely with others, letting the light shine forth for all to see, like a star giving out light. Like a good shepherd who is alert to seek out strays, a servant observes not just those present at meetings but also those missing so that they can be visited and helped. A good servant knows the flock is God’s heritage and he treats it as a trust from Jehovah.—1 Thess. 5:14, 15.
21. What events make us alert, and what counsel is given?
21 As the spiritual cloud that envelops the earth gets darker and darker, now is the time to come out to the light enjoyed by the New World society. This light of truth has been getting brighter and brighter since Christ’s heavenly enthronement in 1914. Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, “the kings from the rising of the sun,” are preparing to gather the nations to the great battle of Armageddon. There will be no neutral position in that battle, no place to hide. All the Scriptural evidence from Jesus’ detailed sign of the times is just like a divine alarm ringing loud and clear for our warning and protection. (Joel 3:12-17) Now is no time to get wearied from years of well-doing or slowed down by the burdens of life. Remember, instead, Jesus’ warning at Luke 21:34, 35: “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 the earth.”
22. What can spiritually awake persons look forward to?
22 Do not let anything keep you from entering the open door to service of Jehovah God. Show Jehovah you appreciate the urgency of the times, that you have love for him and the truth you have learned. Share it with your neighbors by working whole-souled in the Kingdom ministry. This is a work that will end; so enjoy it now. (Jer. 31:34) Keep spiritually awake to avoid going down with the nations into destruction at Armageddon. Be among the happy ones, awake to the times, alert to the opportunity to serve with your family and with the congregation as a part of Jehovah’s organization. Then you too will gain Jehovah’s approval and life in the new world after Christ makes his Armageddon inspection. This is the happy future for men of faith.