Jehovah Blesses the Putting of His Kingdom First
“No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father . . . for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, . . . and in the coming system of things everlasting life.”—Mark 10:29, 30.
1. What may be said about the course that Jesus urged upon his followers at Matthew 6:33?
JESUS CHRIST, in his sermon on the mount, admonished: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” In thus urging his followers he was encouraging them to take not only the right and loving, unselfish course, but also the wise course.—Matt. 6:33.
2, 3. What future and present rewards does God’s Word promise us if we put God’s kingdom first?
2 That putting God’s cause and kingdom first in our lives is the course of true wisdom is repeatedly brought to our attention in the Scriptures. Thus the apostle Paul admonishes us: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name . . . But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:10-12.
3 Not that the blessings for putting God’s kingdom first are limited to the future. By no means! Jehovah also has present blessings in store for those who put his kingdom first. Yes, “godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise,” not only for the life “which is to come,” but also for “the life now.” Even during this present wicked system of things it is true that “the generous soul will itself be made fat, and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.” Besides, did not Jesus promise that those who had left all for the sake of the good news would “get a hundredfold now in this period of time”? And did not Paul write that “he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully”? Surely!—1 Tim. 4:8; Prov. 11:25; Mark 10:29, 30; 2 Cor. 9:6.
4. For having put God’s cause first in his life, what rewards did Moses receive and will he yet receive?
4 Bearing out these Scriptural principles and promises are the examples found in the Word of God. To note just one in the Hebrew Scriptures, there was the prophet Moses. “Because he esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt,” what great privileges were his! He was used by Jehovah to bring ten devastating plagues upon the world power of Egypt, to deliver his people from bondage to Egypt and to lead them safely through the Red Sea, which sea closed in on the Egyptians when Moses merely stretched out his hand over it. Twice he spent forty days in the “mount of God,” conversing with Jehovah by means of an angel. He might be said to have been the lawgiver par excellence; at the same time he was privileged to write down more of God’s Word than any other human that ever lived. Space prevents listing still more of his privileges and blessings, not to say anything about those still in store for him: an early resurrection and the privilege of serving as a prince in God’s new order of things. All this because Moses put God’s cause first!—Heb. 11:26; Ex. 24:18; 34:28.
5, 6. What blessings did Jesus receive for following his own advice recorded at Matthew 6:33?
5 Then there are the examples in the Christian Greek Scriptures of Jesus and his apostles. What blessings, what joys, came to Jesus because, at the age of thirty years, he chose to do God’s will instead of following a self-seeking materialistic course! The Bible record does not give us many details, but we do not need a particularly fertile and vivid imagination to see in its record how full of joy Jesus’ life must have been. Today a physician or surgeon is very happy when he has been able to restore to health and vigor one who was seriously ill or incapacitated and seemingly incurable. Yet Jesus was able to do this day after day, doubtless many thousands of times during the three and a half years of his ministry. What a joy it must have brought to his heart to see all sorts of diseases disappear at the touch of his hand! And to raise even dead persons!—Matt. 11:5.
6 More important still was his spiritual healing program. What a joy it must have brought him to see the poor Lazarus class, the sincere and faithful but despised and lowly Jews, brought into a condition of God’s favor pictured by Abraham’s bosom! Still more precious was his privilege of dying to ransom humankind, and, above all, what a privilege he had to honor his Father’s name and vindicate it by keeping integrity in spite of all that Satan the Devil was able to bring against him! Since, as he himself said, there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving, how much happiness he must have had, his life being so full of giving! No question about it that Jehovah God was richly blessing his Son Jesus for heeding his own advice to keep on seeking first God kingdom.
7. How did Jehovah bless the apostles for letting God’s kingdom come first in their lives?
7 The apostles followed Jesus’ example in this, and did Jehovah also bless them for it? He certainly did. What able, bold and fearless ministers those four lowly fishermen became! On the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E. alone “three thousand souls were added,” and shortly thereafter their number “became about five thousand.” “More than that, believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.” “Consequently the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much,” and even “a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” And what about all the miracles the apostles were able to perform?—Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 3:1-10; 9:32-42.
JEHOVAH BLESSES HIS VISIBLE ORGANIZATION TODAY
8. In what way does Jehovah carry on his work in the earth, as seen by what Scriptural and current examples?
8 Jehovah God has ever had his work on earth carried on in an orderly, organized and harmonious manner. Noah’s family cooperated with him, even as Abraham’s large household cooperated with him; and beginning with Moses, Jehovah God had an entire nation representing him, working together to forward his purpose in the earth. The same was true in the days of Christ and in the days of his apostles, and the same is true today. The facts show that there is an organization of Christian witnesses of Jehovah that is preaching the everlasting good news, and Jehovah is blessing it. These Christians have as their publishing agency the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, and they themselves are being directed by a group of dedicated and anointed footstep followers of Christ, termed by Jesus “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matt. 24:45-47.
9. To what extent did Jehovah bless the organized effort of his people to let his kingdom come first in their lives in 1964?
9 In the year 1964 there were upward of a million proclaimers throughout the world preaching “the everlasting good news” for “a witness to all the nations.” In 194 lands and islands of the seas they preached and distributed Bibles and Bible literature in 162 different languages, devoting upward of 162 million hours thereto. They made some 55 million return visits on people, and there were conducted upward of 740,000 Bible studies in the homes of the people from one to four times each month.—Rev. 14:6; Matt. 24:14.
10-12. What blessings have come to God’s people for following this course?
10 Because of their zeal they have come to the attention of the public over the radio, on television programs and in the newspapers. More and more the secular authorities recognize their methods of carrying on their work, and more and more people read about them in encyclopedias and dictionaries. Only Jehovah’s blessing upon them for putting his kingdom first can account for such results in the face of the strong opposition they encounter.—Isa. 54:17.
11 That Jehovah’s blessing is upon the organization that puts his kingdom first is also seen in the many joyous assemblies that these have been able to hold year after year—circuit, district, national and international assemblies. These have served to advertise Jehovah’s name and kingdom and to stimulate greatly the Christian ministers attending them. This was especially true of the twenty-four assemblies held around the world during the summer of 1963.
12 Further testifying to Jehovah’s blessing upon these Christians are the many legal battles they have fought and won in many lands in their efforts to defend and legally establish the good news. Nor to be overlooked is their enduring mob action and other forms of persecution. This was especially true in the United States and Canada during World War II and shortly afterward. In just the past year or two priest-inspired mobs have mistreated the Witnesses in Mexico and Cyprus, and violence against them has erupted recently in various parts of Africa, while they keep on being harassed in such lands as Spain, Portugal and Cuba.—Matt. 24:9; Phil. 1:7.
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN
13, 14. What effect has persecution of the Witnesses in Russia had?
13 A particularly striking example of how Jehovah blesses the putting first of his kingdom is furnished by the witnesses of Jehovah in Russia and in other lands behind the Iron Curtain. Testifying to this fact is Walter Kolarz, an authority on modern Russia, in his book Religion in the Soviet Union, in which he devotes eight and a half pages to Jehovah’s witnesses and the efforts of the Communist government to suppress them. Among other things, he states:
14 “In deporting them the Soviet Government could have done nothing better for the dissemination of their faith. Out of their village isolation the ‘Witnesses’ were brought into a wider world, even if this was only the terrible world of the concentration and slave labor camps . . . With the proclamation of the Soviet amnesty in 1955 . . . they reappeared in all Western Soviet Republics. They established new organizations in . . . the Far East and the Komi Republic, . . . in Siberia and Kazakhstan, where they are particularly numerous. . . . In the mining towns of Karaganda and Dzhezgan and in Tekeli in the Taldy-Kurgan Province which borders on China . . . In short, the Russian branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses may be regarded as one of the strongest in the world, and there is certainly no branch anywhere which receives so much adverse publicity from the secular power. . . .
15. How have the Witnesses in Russia proved themselves to be as cautious as serpents?
15 “The various branches of the ‘Witnesses’ in USSR keep in close touch with one another. Contact is maintained with the help of letters in which a simple but highly characteristic code language is used. ‘Family’ stands for the Jehovist branch organization, ‘mother’ for the organization as a whole, ‘food’ for Jehovist literature and ‘harvesters’ for those who receive this literature. The Soviet authorities are given the Bible name ‘Ammonites.’ This last code word was hardly chosen fortuitously. It seems that the Jehovists had in mind a passage of Ezekiel (25:2) ‘Son of man, turn thy regard toward the Ammonites and prophesy their doom.’ . . .
16-18. What testimony is there as to the organized and courageous zeal of Jehovah’s people in Russia?
16 “But for the photographs accompanying the press articles against the Jehovists, the public would have found it difficult to believe that anybody in the Soviet Union would dare to produce and distribute anti-regime periodicals. Indeed, no other group in Soviet Russia, whether of religious or political inspiration, has ever thought of embarking on such an extensive and illegal propaganda and publishing work. The fervor and courage of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in propagating their faith has likewise its roots in their strange [?] theology . . .
17 “They keep precise statistics of their members, the literature distributed, the hours devoted to Bible study and even the extent to which the traditional Jehovah’s Witnesses’ door to door propaganda is carried out. It is astonishing that the latter should be possible at all in Soviet conditions, considering the risk it involves for an illegal organization. Nevertheless, in at least one of the trials involving Jehovah’s Witnesses they were alleged to be molesting peaceful citizens in their homes . . . [Jehovah’s Witnesses] in Russia take advantage, as they do elsewhere, of every opportunity to advertise the kingdom of Jehovah. They try to proselyte wherever they are, in shops and coal mines, in buses and in streets. . . .
18 “It is these beliefs which give the ‘Witnesses’ their moral and ideological strength and which have enabled them to form the most efficient and widespread illegal organization that has ever existed under Soviet rule . . . In Kazakhstan even tape recorders were found, used for recording sermons.”
19. What does the record Jehovah’s witnesses are making in Russia show?
19 In the face of such a record, who can deny that Jehovah blesses his people when they put his kingdom first? All of this has been done not in their own strength but by God’s holy spirit, even as we read: “‘Not by a military force, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Zech. 4:6.
JEHOVAH’S BLESSING UPON INDIVIDUALS
20. What Scriptural principles apply to the responsibility and the reward of Jehovah’s servants?
20 Since Jehovah God so blesses the organization that puts his kingdom first, is it not reasonable to expect that he would also bless individuals who do the same and who comprise such an organization? Most certainly, and that is exactly what the facts show. These individual Christians serve in various capacities, and with each kind of service go blessings peculiar to it, or in keeping with the opportunities available and taken advantage of. This is in line with the principles Jesus stated: “Indeed, everyone to whom much was given, much will be demanded of him; and the one whom people put in charge of much, they will demand more than usual of him,” and, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Luke 12:48; Acts 20:35.
21, 22. (a) What valid reasons are there for not all being full-time preachers? (b) Yet what blessings are theirs if they put God’s kingdom first in their lives?
21 By far the greater number of those Christians who share in preaching the everlasting good news of God’s kingdom can devote only a small part of their waking hours thereto. This may be due to family obligations such as fathers and mothers have, or because of tender years or extreme old age, and then again it may be because of physical infirmity. However, whatever the reason, about 96 percent of the some one million who share in preaching are such part-time ministers or congregational publishers, and have as a suggested preaching goal ten hours a month.
22 But though limited in time, they are not limited in love, devotion and zeal, and so make wise use of each and every opportunity that comes their way. Many are the interesting experiences enjoyed by these as they preach from house to house, to professional or business men that may call on them or with whom they have business, and to associates at their places of employment. By letting God’s kingdom come first in their lives these receive many blessings from Jehovah. Thus one Latin-American father of ten children devotes more than fifty hours each month to preaching the everlasting good news, conducting five weekly Bible studies in addition to placing much Bible literature with the people each week. But whether devoting fifty or five hours a month, all such part-time ministers receive comfort from the Scriptural principle that God requires of each one “according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.”—2 Cor. 8:12.
THE FULL-TIME MINISTRY
23. What blessings are the lot of the full-time traveling representatives of the Watch Tower Society?
23 Much more favored in every way are those whose circumstances permit them to manifest their zeal and appreciation by engaging in the full-time ministry, such as the some two thousand ministers that are able to serve as traveling representatives of the Watch Tower Society. Many are their privileges and joys as they visit the various congregations and circuits and minister to the individual ministers, helping them to grow toward maturity as well as ministering to the congregations and at assemblies of Jehovah’s people. No question about their being blessed by Jehovah and about their leading rich and full lives for letting God’s kingdom come first in their lives.
24. In what way are the full-time ministers serving at Bethel homes especially blessed?
24 Some 1,500 Christian ministers are privileged to serve in what are known as Bethel homes, which are attached to branch offices. These devote upward of forty-eight hours weekly doing office or factory work, supplying Christian ministers with Bibles and Bible literature, or rendering other assistance. Others in these homes look after the needs of their brothers so engaged, serving as cooks, nurses and housekeepers. They likewise are greatly blessed, being able to live in a Christian environment as part of a Christian family, which may range in size from a mere handful to more than seven hundred, being able to devote all their energies to God’s kingdom work, not needing to be concerned about their material necessities. At the same time these ministers are able to share in the field ministry to an even fuller extent than most of their brothers are.
25. (a) How many serve as missionaries and special pioneers? (b) What requirements do they have to meet, and what blessings are theirs?
25 Then there are those who serve full time in the field ministry, known as pioneers. Among this number are some 7,900 who devote 150 hours or more each month to the field ministry and who are free to serve wherever they are needed and who receive financial assistance so that they can devote so much of their time to their ministry, either as missionaries or as special pioneers. Among the many joys these have is serving in foreign lands or serving where there is no organized congregation, literally pioneering, even as the apostle Paul did, or else aiding weak congregations, in addition to their field ministry.—2 Cor. 10:16.
26. How many serve as general pioneers, what is their goal of hours and what blessings come to them?
26 The great majority of full-time ministers, however, are pioneer ministers, upward of 35,000, who devote each month some one hundred hours or more to the ministry and at the same time usually provide for themselves by part-time work or by taking care of their family duties, as in the case of housewives that serve as pioneers. Many are their blessings as they daily go from house to house, make return visits and conduct home Bible studies, train less experienced ones and discharge their obligations to the local congregation, often as overseers or one of the ministerial assistants.—Phil. 1:1.
THE VACATION PIONEER MINISTRY
27, 28. (a) By what provision have part-time ministers been able to enjoy the full-time ministry temporarily, and what are its requirements (b) For whom is it especially available?
27 Still another blessed privilege that ever more Witnesses are seeing their privilege to take advantage of is the vacation pioneer ministry by means of which part-time ministers can experience the joys and blessings of the full-time ministry for one or for several months. Its minimum requirements are one’s having been an active baptized minister for six months and being able to devote fifty hours to preaching in two weeks and twenty-five hours more for the remaining two weeks of a month. Most vacation pioneers devote a hundred hours in preaching, much of it from house to house.
28 Not a few have taken advantage of this provision while engaged in secular work eight hours a day five days a week. However, it is a privilege that is especially recommended for those still going to school when they have their vacations, for housewives, seasonal and retired workers; all who can see their way clear to thus ‘buy out the opportune time for themselves.’ Some have taken advantage of it during a temporary layoff or when they are rendered idle because of a strike. Many have also seen their privilege to take advantage of this ministry when the traveling representative of the Society, the circuit minister, visited their congregation.
29, 30. How many vacation pioneers served during April 1965, and in what ways has their activity benefited them and others?
29 In April 1965, there were 25,448 of such vacation pioneers enrolled in the United States alone. Such added activity, putting God’s interests first in their lives, worked to the good of all. Many of those who have served as vacation pioneers have ever after been able to do more in the ministry, as one such minister who previously had averaged 9.6 hours monthly increased his average hours to 21; and, in particular, has the quality of their ministry improved. Then again, others, as a result of serving as vacation pioneers, have seen their privilege to become regular full-time pioneer ministers. It has also been an easy step for youths who served as vacation pioneers during their school years to enter the full-time ministry upon completing their schooling.
30 That some were able to serve as vacation pioneers has also worked out well for the others in the congregation with which they were associated. Vacation pioneers were able to assist in training others, inspire others to more zeal, to do more and better preaching, with the result that entire congregations greatly improved in all features of the Kingdom ministry. In particular have there been good results where this feature of the ministry was given good support by the congregation overseer.
31. How does Jehovah show himself true to his promises and principles?
31 No question about it, Jehovah is true to his promises. He has said in his Word that those who sow bountifully will reap bountifully, and the experiences of his Kingdom publishers in our day fully bear this out. At the same time he also assures us that he expects of each one only according to what one has and not according to what one does not have. The widow’s two coins of very small value dropped into the temple treasury chest in Jerusalem while Jesus was watching are every bit as acceptable to God as the many dollars, marks or pounds of the well-to-do of today, and that principle also applies to our time and energy. (Luke 21:1-4) To the extent that each one gives according to what he is able to give, to that extent he can expect to be richly blessed by Jehovah with ‘a blessing that makes rich and to which Jehovah adds no pain.’ Many individual Christian ministers so serving together constitute an organization that will be, yes, that is, blessed by Jehovah.—Prov. 10:22.