Right View of the Work Ahead
“This is what I continue praying, . . . that you may make sure of the more important things.”—Phil. 1:9, 10.
1. (a) What view do world leaders have of the future, so in what work are they engaged? (b) What is the confident expectation of Jehovah’s people as regards the future, and why?
WHAT does the future hold for mankind? World leaders, hoping for peace, are fearful that they may instead face global war, and they are bankrupting their nations in a mad race to stockpile nuclear weapons. Their hearts fail in fear at the things that they envision coming upon the earth. But not so with the people whose God is Jehovah. They confidently face the future, fortified with hope based on a knowledge of the Word of God. Their God is “the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isa. 46:10) He knows what the future holds. Already he has brought into existence a new heavenly government, his kingdom, and he has laid the foundation of a new earth in the New World society of his witnesses. (Isa. 51:16; 65:17) The wicked world is in its time of the end. God declares that “he must personally put himself in judgment with all flesh. As regards the wicked ones, he must give them to the sword.” No more will wickedness flourish. “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it.” (Jer. 25:31; Prov. 2:21) These upright ones who are left over, this faithful remnant of mankind, will enjoy their God-given inheritance, not merely for a few years or even for thousands of years, but forever, for “he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) None of the political nations of earth can by any negotiations or show of military might avert the time of divine judgment that lies ahead for them, nor will they be able to thwart the purpose of God Almighty to transform this globe into an earth-wide paradise under his Kingdom rule.
THE TRULY IMPORTANT WORK
2. Why is it important, when choosing activities in which we will engage, to keep in mind what lies ahead for the old world?
2 By providing us with such vital information Jehovah God enables us to make a wise choice of the activities to which we will devote ourselves. He protects us from the calamity of having squandered our efforts, yes, our very lives, in pursuits that may seem good in the eyes of men but that will end in destruction at the universal war of Armageddon. (Prov. 14:12) In view of the clearly stated purpose of God, how foolish it would be to dedicate our lives to the perpetuation of this old world! If we are part of the old world we are not serving the interests of God’s new world, of which Christ is King. (John 15:19; 17:16) If we are friends of the world, of which Satan is the invisible god, we have renounced allegiance to the universe’s sovereign Ruler, Jehovah God, and have joined the ranks of those who are His enemies. (Jas. 4:4; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19) How much wiser we are if we seek peace with God and serve the interests of his new world!
3. (a) What is the main objective of the work of the majority of mankind? (b) Is it practical?
3 There are so many endeavors to which we might devote our efforts. The majority of mankind have as the principal object of their toil the gaining of economic security, but this is not the most important thing in life. The right view of one’s future is not a materialistic view, one in which achievements are measured in terms of material possessions acquired. Jesus Christ emphasized this by an illustration. He told of a man who had grand success as a farmer and who envisioned the expansion of his facilities to store up for the future. He wanted to be able to retire with an abundance that would last him for many years. He looked forward to the time when he could say: “Soul, you have many good things laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.” But such a life may completely miss even the materialistic mark toward which it is directed. For, as Jesus related, God said to him: “Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your soul from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?” “So it goes with the man that lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21) Those who follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ do not thus foolishly throw away their lives. They are under obligation to provide for those who are their own, and they are encouraged to use practical wisdom in doing so. But they know that when they are rich toward God, seeking first his kingdom, they have no cause for anxious concern about what they will eat or what they will drink or what they will put on, because “all these other things will be added” to them.—Matt. 6:25-34.
4. To what commendable work may others devote themselves, but how might they fail in discerning an even more important obligation?
4 Others may devote themselves to what are often termed “humanitarian” activities, to alleviating the distress and suffering of their fellow man from a physical standpoint. Such a desire to help others is commendable. Jesus himself in a parable implied commendation to the Samaritan who extended physical help to another who was in great physical distress. (Luke 10:30-37) Luke, a traveling companion of the apostle Paul, as a physician was in position to relieve the physical suffering of others. (Col. 4:14) But if one goes through life devoted to the service of his fellow man, yet failing to give prior devotion to the service of God, he has not kept in focus the really important thing. “This is what I continue praying,” said Paul in his letter to the Philippians, “that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment, that you may make sure of the more important things, so that you may be flawless and not be stumbling others up to the day of Christ, and may be filled with righteous fruit which is through Jesus Christ, to God’s glory and praise.”—Phil. 1:9-11.
5. What is the most important work in which one can engage, and why?
5 Without doubt, the most important work we can engage in is that given to us by God; to do that means to fulfill the very purpose of our existence. “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.” (Isa. 43:10) That places upon us the obligation to talk about God and his purposes, to see to it that others know who the true God is and what his purposes are, to make sure that they hear the good news that God’s kingdom now rules and that by means of it eternal blessings will be showered upon obedient mankind. Whether the message is gratefully received or not, it is God’s will that it be delivered. It is his purpose that his “name may be published throughout all the earth,” and it is our happy privilege to have a share in that work. (Rom. 9:17) Happy are those who respond to this preaching in faith and join in praising God, for “anyone that calls upon the name of Jehovah will be saved.”—Acts 2:21.
6. How did the apostle Paul show discernment in selecting from the opportunities open to him?
6 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, showed keen discernment in selecting from the opportunities open to him, when he said: “What things were gains to me, these I have considered loss on account of the Christ. Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” He was not going to let himself be weighted down by consideration for his former social status, occupational opportunities or his prominence in the religious world. The ‘things that were gains’ to him from a worldly standpoint he was willing to write off as losses in order to build his life around the ministry entrusted to him by the Lord. His heart was in the ministry, and he said: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who delegated power to me, because he considered me trustworthy by assigning me to a ministry.”—Phil. 3:7, 8; 1 Tim. 1:12.
THOROUGH PERFORMANCE OF THE WORK
7, 8. (a) What viewpoint did Paul have of the way in which the ministry is to be performed? (b) How did he demonstrate that in his ministry at Ephesus?
7 Paul proved his devotion by performing his ministry in an exemplary way. When reviewing with the overseers of the Ephesus congregation the course that he had followed, he made mention of the opposition that he had encountered, but he showed that this had not caused him to hold back. He had performed the ministry in a thorough manner. “You well know how from the first day that I stepped into the district of Asia I was with you the whole time, acting as a slave of the Lord with the greatest lowliness of mind and tears and trials that befell me by the plots of the Jews; while I did not hold back from telling you any of the things that were profitable nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. But I thoroughly bore witness both to Jews and to Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.” He did not have the attitude that it was enough that he had been in their midst, and that if they had wanted the good news they could have come to him to hear it. He went from house to house to get in touch with them. He was confident that they had actually heard the message and, whether they believed it or not, they knew what it was about. In his own mind the question was not, Have I had some share in the ministry? but, Have I performed it thoroughly? Paul recognized the importance of doing so, and he emphasized it, saying: “I do not make my soul of any account as dear to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry which I received of the Lord Jesus, to bear thorough witness to the good news of the undeserved kindness of God.”—Acts 20:18-24.
8 In caring for his assignment in Ephesus, at the outset he put on a series of public Bible meetings in the synagogue, and this ran for about three months. He was plain-spoken and forceful in his presentation, and at the same time he took into consideration the thinking of those in his audience, wording the message in terms that they could most easily grasp. (1 Cor. 9:20-23) There was no mistaking what he taught as being the same as the doctrine of the ear-tickling clergy of Ephesus, and soon the division between those who were hardhearted and those who wanted to learn became evident; so Paul took those who wanted to learn, the disciples, to another meeting place, and there in the school auditorium of Tyrannus he had meetings with them every day for two years. (Acts 19:8-10) At the same time he participated in and trained them in the house-to-house ministry. Having a loving concern for them, he not only imparted to them the good news but he freely expended himself on their behalf. He thoroughly performed his ministry.
9. (a) What attitude toward the ministry did Paul recommend to Timothy, and why? (b) How can one ‘save those who listen’ to him?
9 That same recognition of the importance of thoroughness in the ministry is what Paul recommended to his fellow worker Timothy and to those today who have faith like that of Timothy: “Keep your balance in all things, suffer evil, do the work of an evangelist, thoroughly accomplish your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5, margin) He did not encourage Timothy merely to have some share in the ministry, to be sure that he could tell the governing body each month that he had been preaching the good news during that month. His counsel was much stronger than that: “Thoroughly accomplish your ministry.” Why? Because lives were involved. Timothy was well aware of this, because not long before this Paul had written, admonishing him: “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) His concern was to be for more than his own salvation. He was not to participate in the ministry merely with the thought that this is the way he would gain salvation. Diligence on his part, thoroughness in the ministry, would mean salvation for others who, while they might have heard the good news, would not otherwise have received the personal attention that would help them to appreciate its importance and act on it.
10. What view of the work between now and Armageddon should we have?
10 How appropriate the counsel given to Timothy is for us today! It puts the work that lies ahead of us between now and Armageddon in the right focus. It helps us to avoid feeling that we have “done our part” simply because we have turned in a report of field service for the month. How we would be missing the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness if we were simply marking time in the ministry, turning in reports merely to keep a record of regularity, with a view to our own salvation! We must “consider the patience of our Lord as salvation,” not only for ourselves, but for others. (2 Cor. 6:1; 2 Pet. 3:15) Now, during this time of “great tribulation” that ends in the battle of Armageddon, is the time that Jehovah God has set aside for calling “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” a great crowd that no man can number, persons who will join in publicly ascribing salvation to God and to the Lamb.—Rev. 7:9, 14.
11. How will the fixing of our attention upon Jehovah God affect our service in the days ahead?
11 With a mature view of the work God has given us to do, we will put our heart into it. Love for God and a desire to direct others to his worship will infuse us with zeal. When we encounter opposition, our participation in the ministry, making known the name of Jehovah, will not be governed by the response we encounter at the doors as we engage in the service. We are not going to become discouraged and slow down because the vast majority reject the good news. Rather, our service will be motivated by our devotion to Jehovah God; it will be stimulated by the depth of our feeling of indignation over the abuse heaped upon his name by the Devil and his ungodly world; we will persevere because of our love of righteousness, and we will continue to search out those who are grateful for God’s means of salvation. Rather than be content with a token performance, we will be alert to all the opportunities before us and seek to take full advantage of these privileges of service.
12. (a) What examination might we individually make to determine how thorough we are in the house-to-house ministry? (b) How can we instruct with mildness even those not yet favorably disposed, and with what possible result?
12 Can you say of your ministry in your territory assignment as Paul did of his: ‘I have thoroughly borne witness about the good news’? Have you kept careful records and called back until you have been able to contact persons in every home? Have you called often enough that, over a period of time, you have come in touch with the various members of each household? More than that, have you borne thorough witness to them about God’s kingdom? Sometimes it takes much patience and many visits on your part before a person will actually stop what he is doing long enough to listen. In the meantime, by careful preparation and tactfulness you may be able to present on each call even one point from your prepared sermon by using a few well-worded sentences. Whether the householder recognizes the urgency of the situation or not, you as a minister do. For that reason you endeavor to instruct with mildness “those not favorably disposed, as perhaps God may give them repentance leading to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:25) It may be that the seed of truth thus sown will not really grow until many months or even years later. Perhaps something may happen in that person’s life, in the community or in his church that makes him begin to ‘sigh and groan’ over the detestable things that he sees done. (Ezek. 9:4) This may make him more receptive to the Kingdom message, and now when you call he is ready to listen. Keen interest in those in the community will make us persevere in our teaching, realizing that circumstances in one’s life may change his attitude, making it possible for us to aid him on the way to salvation. It makes us alert to the many opportunities there are for return calls to stimulate further appreciation for the Bible truths.
CONCERN FOR THOSE TO WHOM ONE MINISTERS
13. How can one show concern for those to whom he ministers?
13 Ministers who have such a keen interest in those to whom they preach do not take an impersonal view of the ministry. They are not thinking merely of spending two or three hours in the service when they go out, and when they return they do not speak merely of the pieces of literature placed. They are interested in people, and they are searching for persons of good will toward God. They realize that they are engaged in a lifesaving work. Where they detect sincerity on the part of the householder, even if the Devil has thrown up barriers of fear, they effectively use the sword of the spirit to cut away the obstacles and “call out liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners.” (Isa. 61:1) While they do not waste time arguing with those who show no regard for godly things, they do not assume that everyone who raises an objection is opposed. But through tactfulness, employing the teaching methods of the Lord Jesus, keeping themselves restrained under evil circumstances, they find many opportunities to instruct with mildness even those who are not at first so favorably disposed. In time these persons may come to their senses and gain an accurate knowledge of the truth.—John 1:46-49; Acts 9:1-22.
14. What attitude toward those to whom they preached did Jesus and Paul manifest?
14 Jesus was outstanding in the loving concern he showed for those to whom he ministered. He did not brush aside children as too young to hear, or the rich as too proud to be worth his time, nor did he turn away the poor and blind and crippled. His heart went out to the people; he “felt tender affection for them, because they were skinned and knocked about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) Even when he was tired and needed to rest up a bit, he did not turn away those who sought him out. Paul, too, felt “tender affection” for those to whom he preached. (1 Thess. 2:8) We must have the same viewpoint.
15. What experience illustrates a mature Christian view of the ministry?
15 That feeling was well demonstrated by a pioneer sister who shared in the field ministry while visiting a friend in another congregation. During the morning’s service she met a young woman who showed some interest and accepted the Bible literature offered. The sister had no opportunity to call back, since she was there for only a very brief visit, but her heart went out to that person of good will and when she got home she began to write to her to encourage her to study. A Bible study was conducted by mail, and interest developed so rapidly that the sister soon arranged to make a special trip back to see the young woman again and to get her acquainted with the local congregation. She is now having a share in the service herself! Surely that pioneer sister was not out in the service just so she could report time spent preaching. Her desire was to honor Jehovah by finding and feeding those of sheeplike disposition toward him. That is how every mature minister views the service.
RIGHT VIEW OF DEDICATION
16. Although one may be a regular participant in the field ministry, what further step does God require, and why?
16 Once we have located these sheeplike individuals and helped them to become publishers of the Kingdom good news our job is not done. No one should feel that being associated with the New World society is in itself assurance of divine approval, or that participation in preaching the Kingdom message is all that God requires for one to survive Armageddon. Not at all! As long as anyone does not say to God, ‘Serving you is my purpose in life. I delight to do your will, and my life is dedicated to your service, no matter what it may be,’ his service is not whole-souled. Perhaps he does not want to take the responsibility that goes with dedication to God, but by evading it he is not going to be in a more favored position. If anyone who could do so does not follow the example of Jesus Christ, making a dedication to serve God and symbolizing it by water immersion, he is not yet on the narrow way that leads to life. In a way, he has held onto the thinking that is characteristic of the members of the religious organizations of Christendom. They, too, accept some of the Bible principles as a guide in life. But they reserve to themselves the right to draw the line; they sit as judges of God, making their own decisions as to the things in his Word that they want to accept. If one knows what Jehovah requires but determines in his own mind that not all of it is important enough to comply with, then he has not really accepted Jehovah as his God; so how can he expect God to accept him for life in the new world? Concerning those who fail to perform what they know God requires, James, the brother of the Lord, says: “If one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.” (Jas. 4:17) Such persons need the help of mature ones to get a right view of their service to God. They need to acquire, not only a knowledge of God’s Word, but an appreciation of his requirements.
17. (a) Are dedication and baptism guarantees of survival into the new world? (b) What does God look for in those who serve him?
17 Of course, dedication and baptism are not in themselves guarantees of life in the new world, Having made a dedication, one must use his life as he has promised to God. No one can expect to get into the new world “under the wire,” so to speak. Those who endeavor to get by with as little service as possible have already violated the very greatest commandment. Having been questioned on the matter, Jesus said that, to gain everlasting life, “‘you must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,’ and, ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:25-27) Jehovah God, who is our Judge, sees more than what men see. “All hearts Jehovah is searching and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning.” (1 Chron. 28:9) He knows not only what we do, but our motive. He knows whether we really do exert ourselves wholeheartedly in his service and whether our love for our neighbor, our desire to see him gain salvation, is as great as for ourselves. Now, before God passes final judgment, is the time for us to examine our own hearts, to review our own ministry, to see if we have the right view of the vital work that God has given us to do.