Using Life to Serve Jehovah
“‘And they will certainly become mine,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘at the day when I am producing a special property. And I will show compassion upon them, just as a man shows compassion upon his son who is serving him. And you people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.’”—Mal. 3:17, 18.
1. How should we serve Jehovah, and why?
WHAT better way to use one’s life could there be than to serve Jehovah? That is the way the psalmist felt when he said: “Serve Jehovah with rejoicing. Come in before him with a joyful cry. Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” The psalmist invites us: “Come into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courtyards with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.” Why this desire to serve Jehovah? “For Jehovah is good; his loving-kindness is to time indefinite, and his faithfulness to generation after generation.”—Ps. 100:2-5.
2. How have some felt about God’s service? What is the wise course?
2 No sincere worshiper wants to come under a condemnation such as God spoke against Israel through Malachi in the fifth century before Christ. The people as a nation were dedicated to God, yet they had said: “It is of no value to serve God. And what profit is there in that we have kept the obligation to him, and that we have walked dejectedly on account of Jehovah of armies?” (Mal. 3:14) Instead of serving Jehovah with rejoicing, they rejected the opportunity as of no value. But since life is from Jehovah, the person who uses it as he directs is wise. We have good reason to serve Jehovah for his loving-kindness and faithfulness. He is the great Life-giver. Not only did Jehovah make life possible for mankind, giving to Adam in the beginning the breath of life with privileges of service, but he has also made provision so that men of faith can serve him now and gain the prospect of everlasting life. Certainly a life career serving Jehovah God is the highest possible achievement man can enjoy.
3, 4. What steps lead to service? What can we learn from Luke 17:12-19?
3 When one comes to a knowledge of Jehovah’s Word and accepts the provision for life through Christ’s ransom and dedicates his life to Jehovah’s service, then he comes to be in a cleansed position in Jehovah’s sight. This was well pictured by the ten lepers cured by Jesus. According to the account at Luke 17:12-19: “One of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. And he fell upon his face at Jesus’ feet, thanking him; furthermore, he was a Samaritan. In reply Jesus said: ‘The ten were cleansed, were they not? Where, then, are the other nine? Were none found that turned back to give glory to God but this man of another nation?’”
4 Just as those lepers were cleansed of their loathsome disease, so many today have been putting themselves in a position to be cleansed from the effects of inherited sin by accepting the provision for life from Jehovah; yet some, like nine of the cleansed lepers, fail to carry out the opportunity of using their lives to praise God. Others may be content to try leading a morally upright and good life, letting their course of action be a silent witness to their faith. But how much better to show real appreciation, “glorifying God with a loud voice”! Certainly the dead cannot praise Jehovah; so now is the time for those appreciating the opportunity to use their strength and vigor to serve Jehovah, rather than waiting until their life-force wanes to consider their obligation to the Creator.—Ps. 115:17, 18.
WHAT DOES GOD REQUIRE?
5. What did God expect of the Israelites?
5 Many today are of the opinion that all God requires of them is to lead a proper, honest, moral and upright life. Is this all we can give to God, simply restraining ourselves from wickedness? Many without faith in God do what is proper and morally right. From the account at Micah 6:8 it may seem that this is all that Jehovah requires: “to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God.” But much is implied in ‘walking modestly with God.’ Remember, too, that this direction was given to the nation of Israel, and the whole nation were considered as servants of God, even though one tribe, the Levite tribe, was set aside for special service. Besides leading a life in accord with the commandments, there were many things Jehovah expected of them, including three trips to national religious festivals each year and offering sacrifices at prescribed times for the forgiveness of their sins. Each father also had the obligation, under God’s law, to give personal religious instruction to his children in the morning, at noon and at night.
6. Did the early Christians restrict the ministry to a clergy class?
6 M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, edition of 1882, Volume II, page 386, contrasts the arrangement in Israel by which one tribe was set aside for special priestly service with the early Christian practice of having all take an active part in the ministry. It states: “In the apostolical church no abstract distinction of clergy and laity, as to privilege or sanctity, was known; all believers were called to the prophetic, priestly and kingly offices in Christ (1 Pet. v,3). The Jewish antithesis of clergy and laity was at first unknown among Christians; and it was ‘only as men fell back from the evangelical to the Jewish point of view’ that the idea of the general Christian priesthood of all believers gave place, more or less completely, to that of the special priesthood or clergy . . . As the Roman hierarchy was developed, the clergy came to be not merely a distinct order . . . but also to be recognized as the only priesthood, and the essential means of communication between man and God.”
7. What comment did Peter give on the service of a Christian?
7 In Israel, while one family was assigned to the priesthood, the entirety of the nation was considered by God a holy nation, with responsibilities of service. The early Christians accepted this viewpoint that none are exempt from their primary purpose in life of serving Jehovah, and so Peter comments to them: “But you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession.’” And what was the object of this priestly nation? “‘That you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” This was the service that Jehovah desired of the early Christians.—1 Pet. 2:9, 10.
IS A GOOD LIFE ENOUGH?
8, 9. Is leading a good life sufficient for Christians, and how do we know?
8 The Scriptures clearly show that there is more to being a Christian than simply leading a good life. In his interview with a young ruler Jesus contrasted the importance of just a mere passive doing of good throughout life with the importance of an active service of God for Christians. Having been asked, “Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?” Jesus advised this young Jew to keep the commandments, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, and so on. When the young man assured him that he kept all these, leading a good life, then Jesus told him to ‘sell his belongings and give to the poor, and come and be my follower.’
9 This rich young ruler was apparently an upright person, one who lived according to the commandments; but when it came to using his life to serve God actively and to advance the Christian ministry rather than his own interests, he refused. He said in effect, ‘It is of no value to serve God,’ apparently considering his material possessions of more importance. (Matt. 19:16-22) The early Christians did not feel that way, however, as many accepted the invitation of Jesus to be his followers and become active in the ministry. They did not think this was a special privilege granted only to Jesus and the apostles, but recognized that all Christians had the grand honor of serving their Creator in a very definite way.
10. How do Paul’s writings show that all the early Christians shared in the ministry?
10 In this connection note that Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians was addressed “to the congregation of the Thessalonians,” not just to ministers or overseers of the congregation. Paul commended the congregation for its ministry. “The fact is, not only has the word of Jehovah sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith toward God has spread abroad, so that we do not need to say anything.” Yes, it was those of the congregation who were spreading the faith abroad. In like manner Paul’s comments to the Philippians were addressed to the entire group of dedicated Christians at Philippi: “to all the holy ones in union with Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, along with overseers and ministerial servants.” So it was the entire congregation that Paul encouraged to be “shining as illuminators in the world,” and this they could do as they shared the light of truth with others. Paul described this as the “public service to which faith has led you.” Finally, we observe how Paul addressed his epistle to “the holy ones and faithful brothers in union with Christ at Colossae.” These “faithful brothers” were not some monastic order, but Paul was referring to all the dedicated Christians in that early congregation, and to them he wrote: “Let the word of the Christ reside in you richly in all wisdom. Keep on teaching.” Yes, these early Christians were teachers and preachers of the word of God.—1 Thess. 1:1, 8; Phil. 1:1; 2:15, 17; Col. 1:2; 3:16.
IMPORTANCE OF THE MINISTRY
11. What did Jesus recommend as a life career?
11 Many persons say they would like to serve God but they do not know what to do or how to go about it. They may believe that the scholastic requirements for a theological education or the funds required put it out of their reach. Or they may prefer to channel their energies to other services such as hospital work, teaching, medicine or sociology; and while these endeavors are very commendable, we ask, Is it what Jesus recommended for a person who desires to use his life to serve God? Is it what he taught his disciples? It is true the apostles had authority to cure the sick, but this gift of the spirit was secondary to their service as ambassadors of the Kingdom and proclaimers of the truth. Apparently this special gift of the spirit was given them to establish the fact that Christianity is of God.—Matt. 10:7, 8.
12. How do the Scriptures emphasize the ministry, and why?
12 Jesus not only organized and sent the disciples out to preach, but he took the lead in this activity himself. This assigned work for Christians has not changed since Jesus’ time. His final instructions to the early Christian congregation, which continue applicable to this day, were: “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.” Why did Jesus particularly stress the ministry? Because physical cures could not give eternal life. They might extend it for a sufferer five or ten years, but of what comparison is that with the prospect of everlasting life which the truth could give? So certainly the preaching of the word of God takes precedence. It is a wonderful prospect for one to be able to use his life to serve Jehovah. This invitation to serve is not restricted because of age, race, sex or education, but the invitation is: “Let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’”—Matt. 28:19, 20; Rev. 22:17; John 17:3.
13. How can one do the will of the Father?
13 Jesus gave a number of illustrations showing the importance of such service. He told of a man who had two children. “To the first, he said, ‘Child, go work today in the vineyard.’ In answer this one said, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go out. Approaching the second, he said the same. In reply this one said, ‘I will not.’ Afterwards he felt regret and went out.” Jesus asked: “Which of the two did the will of his father?” Then, pointedly speaking to the chief priests and older men of influence who were supposedly serving God, he stated: “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and the harlots are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God.” These were the ones who were willing to change their lives and take up the privilege of service that Jesus held out.—Matt. 21:28-31.
14. For what service are workers needed?
14 Jesus clearly showed that just because one is engaged in religious service of some type it does not necessarily mean that his course of life is pleasing to God. For example, the apostle John spoke of being “fellow workers in the truth.” (3 John 7, 8) But is that by community drives or church socials or bingo games or even welfare work? We can find our answer by asking, Is that the work to which Jesus devoted himself? Again Jesus stressed the need for more to use their lives in the ministry, saying: “For the kingdom of the heavens is like a man, a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.” Jesus said that the field is the world, and many workers are needed to complete the harvest. As he said, “the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” But should we beg for additional help in the harvest work and then not go ourselves?—Matt. 20:1; 9:37, 38.
PUBLIC DECLARATION FOR SALVATION
15. What does the exercise of faith include?
15 Today the harvesting work is carried out in 194 countries by 1,040,836 persons doing Christian work. They remember that Paul told the members of the congregation of Ephesus: “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.” Following this early Christian example, Jehovah’s witnesses share the truths they have learned from God’s Word publicly and from house to house. Are your faith and love for Jehovah strong enough for you to do this? As Paul pointed out, we need not only to have faith but to exercise it if we hope to gain righteousness. It is not just a matter of knowing the truth, or simply having faith, but sharing it that counts in God’s eyes. So Paul stated: “‘The word is near you, in your own mouth and in your own heart’; that is, the ‘word’ of faith, which we are preaching. For if you publicly declare that ‘word in your own 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.”—Acts 20:20; Rom. 10:4, 8-10.
16. Why are Christians required to declare the good news?
16 Many persons sincerely desire to know the truth and rejoice when it is called to their attention; so Paul also emphasized the need for more workers. “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach?” The early Christians recognized and accepted the responsibility to preach as the work Jehovah had given them. In fact, Paul felt so strongly about it that he wrote: “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!” As a Christian with a knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes, Paul knew that this was an obligation, a stewardship that had been entrusted to him.—Rom. 10:13, 14; 1 Cor. 9:16.
TRAINED FOR SERVICE
17. How do some argue against sharing in the ministry? Is the argument valid?
17 Perhaps you say, ‘Well, that was all right for Jesus and the apostles, but I am not trained or qualified for the ministry.’ In this connection it is interesting to note that The Encyclopædia Britannica, edition of 1907, under “Corruptions of Christianity” stated: “The people were often disposed to fancy that the priests could serve God in their stead, and that there were mysteries in religion which the priests understood, but which the laity need not know anything of and ought not inquire into. Hence they were ready to follow blindly the guidance of the priests in religious matters, just as a man trusts his legal concerns to his lawyer, doing what he directs and not considering it necessary himself to study law.” While this is a prevalent opinion today, remember, this was one of the corruptions of Christianity.
18. How are Jehovah’s people taught and trained?
18 God is not hiding his purposes or his truth from people who sincerely desire to know it, while he is revealing it to a certain elite group who may profit by preaching it. In fact, Jesus stated at Matthew 11:25: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” Yes, even youngsters can gain an accurate understanding of Scriptural truths by family and congregational study and with the guidance of God’s spirit. Then the next step for one who desires to please Jehovah is to put this knowledge to use. Just as Jesus sent the early Christians out by twos for their training and encouragement after giving them instructions, so Jehovah’s witnesses today follow a similar pattern of training based on the apostolic example. At Ephesians 4:12 Paul mentions the “training of the holy ones” by qualified men. This training is still going on today.
19. How can one become qualified for the ministry?
19 Furthermore, the qualifications for this service are not from men, but, rather, from God and through his Word, as the apostle Paul said: “Not that we of ourselves are adequately qualified to reckon anything as issuing from ourselves, but our being adequately qualified issues from God, who has indeed adequately qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant.” (2 Cor. 3:5, 6) You, too, can be trained for such service and to use your life to serve Jehovah. Regular meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world are provided for the purpose of training men and women who are desirous of serving their Creator and who want to have a share in carrying out Jesus’ instructions to preach the good news of the Kingdom. There is work for everyone. This activity of teaching the people the truths of God’s Word is going on day and night worldwide.—Rev. 7:15.
20, 21. Must one wait a long time before he shares the truth with others? Why is it urgent now?
20 The greatest happiness in life comes from teaching the truth to others. After studying to learn the truth about Jehovah’s purposes as set out in the Scriptures, then we are in position to teach others. (Rom. 2:21) The Samaritan woman whom Jesus spoke to by the well did not hold back until she felt she knew everything before hurrying to tell the townspeople: “Come here, see a man that told me all the things I did. This is not perhaps the Christ, is it?” She knew enough to direct the people to the source of information. Then after the Samaritans came and listened to Jesus they said to her: “We do not believe any longer on account of your talk; for we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is for a certainty the savior of the world.”—John 4:29, 42.
21 So there is no need to wait. The fishermen disciples in the days of Jesus did not wait, but followed him into the ministry. Paul did not wait when he got the invitation to the ministry and received instructions from Ananias, but the Scriptures point out that, after just a few days with the disciples in Damascus, “immediately in the synagogues he began to preach Jesus.” (Acts 9:19, 20) Now the ministry is even more urgent because of the times in which we live, and the reason for serving God is even stronger: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” So now is the time to use life to serve Jehovah.—1 John 2:17.
22. Why is it wise to use our life to serve Jehovah?
22 Do not say as the Israelites did when they brought lame and crippled sacrifices: “It is of no value to serve God.” They took the attitude that “at present we are pronouncing presumptuous people happy. Also, the doers of wickedness have been built up. Also, they have tested God out and keep getting away.” Instead, remember that this is the time when ‘those in fear of Jehovah speak with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah keeps paying attention and listening.’ And what is the result of using our life in Jehovah’s service? He assures us, “a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.” So if you want to be one of the happy ones who will be remembered by Jehovah for life in his righteous new system of things, then use your life to serve him now by proclaiming the good news of Jehovah’s established kingdom.—Mal. 3:15, 16.
[Picture on page 329]
“Were none found that turned back to give glory to God but this man of another nation?”