Save Both Yourself and Those Who Listen to You
“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.
1. What is the most important thing in a minister’s life? Give three reasons for proving faithful.
THERE you have the big thing in the life of a balanced minister of God: to praise Jehovah before others, to tell his wonderful purposes to everyone, but particularly to those who will listen. What pleasure it is to relate the good news of God’s kingdom to hearing ones and watch them grow in knowledge and appreciation! How great your joy is when they, in turn, begin to “laud Jehovah” with their heart! Actually you are watching these “sheep” walk toward life, and it is your privilege to assist them. Really, then, you have these three strong reasons for proving faithful in your ministry: saving yourself and those who listen to you and, the greatest, to be praisers of Jehovah’s name.—Ps. 109:30.
2. How has Jehovah provided for listening ones to get life, and is this an urgent matter now?
2 In this system of things marked for Armageddon, life is at stake. Man can no longer say, “Let the next generation worry about it,” or, “It will never come in my time.” There is not enough time for that kind of thinking. It is later than many think! So, then, when you reach out with the truth of God’s Bible to listening ones, you are really pulling them out of a death trap. Just as you love life, so do they. Jehovah has provided the way to salvation, and we read about it at Matthew 20:28: “Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” To be sure, life does not come automatically or by man’s wisdom; rather, Jehovah God and his Son, Christ Jesus, have a say in the matter. It is for those who “get a firm hold on the real life” and refuse to let it go. (1 Tim. 6:19) The motive for the ransom was God’s love, but to take advantage of this wonderful gift we must accept the gift and show faith in God. The Bible tells us in John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” Everlasting life is for those who have faith and is for those who prove themselves worthy of it.
3 Christ Jesus was a perfect example of balance when he was on the earth. Note some of the things he said and agreed with: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Matt. 4:10) “Give us today our bread for this day.” (Matt. 6:11) “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom.” (Matt. 6:33) “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:30) “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:21) “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matt. 22:37) “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”? (Matt. 22:39) “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth.” (Matt. 24:14) “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:19) “Martha, you are anxious and disturbed about many things. A few things, though, are needed, or just one.” (Luke 10:41, 42) He was not unbalanced by tradition; he healed a woman on the sabbath. (Luke 13:10-17) It is easy to discern that, though Jesus recognized the need to care for family responsibilities and pay taxes due, the big thing is to worship Jehovah, preach his word and kingdom, and be a praiser of his name. In fact, only such ministers will be saved. Reflect on James 2:24, 26 in this regard: “You see that a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone. Indeed, as the body without breath is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” To get life you must be a working minister, which means to be a preacher and teacher of the good news of God’s kingdom. You must be a dedicated worshiper of Jehovah God. Jehovah’s witnesses are a society of ordained ministers and today they are participating in a twofold saving program.
TWOFOLD SAVING PROGRAM
4. In changing our personality, how do we progress to the real joy of serving God?
4 It will be difficult to obtain this balance of caring for yourself and those who listen if you retain the personality and thinking of this present system of mankind. In it the majority think of self, but that is all. Of course, it is proper and Scriptural to be concerned about ourselves. That concern should mean feeding on God’s Word daily. It should find us attending meetings of God’s people to take in faith-building knowledge and to be assisted by other mature ministers. It would mean we would be actively living out a personal program of these essentials and the all-important one, sharing weekly in telling out the good news of God’s kingdom. But unless we enlarge our vision and exercise this knowledge, we will not be balanced and we will not be able to hold onto this essential quality, faith. Jesus said to Martha: He that “exercises faith in me will never die at all.” (John 11:26) Again, at Romans 10:10, we read: “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” One marvels and feels great contentment and satisfaction when gaining understanding of Jehovah’s purposes, but really the greater joy comes in telling others what we have learned.—Ps. 71:1-24.
5. What questions on spiritual food emphasize the need for spiritual health?
5 Paying attention to ourselves is done with the motive in mind of pleasing God, not catering to our selfishness, and several things are involved if one is to please God successfully. Daily food, spiritual food that is, is a must to keep up spiritual strength. Do you eat from God’s Word at regular, scheduled times? Are you grabbing a bite here and there and then wondering why you do not have the strength to work in God’s service? Are you enjoying spiritual food to the full or are you too busy to eat these nutritious faith-building meals? Is personal study a chore on your schedule that you must do, or is it a delight, something you look forward to with keen anticipation? Personal study not only satisfies that hunger, but it builds up your working fund of truths and ideas with which you can effectively teach others. If you cannot seem to get your point across, then you have a supply, a storehouse of other ideas and other ways to teach. Clean ministers have God’s backing, and that means being clean not only in the actual preaching work but at home, at secular work, in relaxation and recreation; for though we may not be speaking the truth, we are still living it and are examples to others. These things will be possible for us if we have as basis for worship the motive made known at Matthew 22:37: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” Coupling this with the encouragement at 1 Timothy 4:16, we will be growing into a solid, unselfish balanced minister: “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.”
DILIGENTLY FEED “SHEEP” WITH BIBLE STUDIES
6. Sharing the good news with others develops what kind of an attitude in us? Is there happiness in this course?
6 Through his Word Jehovah has instructed his people to preach the good news of the Kingdom. (Matt. 24:14) It is the active part of our worship to share in this ministry. We do it because we want to do so, not to please others or to have a report on paper. Genuine joy in the service of God is food to the minister and will build him up, but to share in the preaching work to please some man or just to make a report ends with just that, a piece of paper. Appreciation for this privilege of worshiping Jehovah and sharing life-giving knowledge with listening ones will strengthen us to enjoy these blessings both now and as long as we live. We know that others spent considerable time in preparing publications, printing Bibles and calling at our homes to share the good news with us. Now is the time to respond unselfishly and help others. Now is the time to preach. In the not too far distant future a time will come when it will not be possible to flee to Jehovah for safety. Now is the time to “get out of her [Babylon the Great], my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) Now is the time to find, feed and tenderly care for “other sheep” by telling all peoples to “get out of her.” Lives are at stake, and this point should not be erased from our minds by selfish pursuit of pleasures and materialism rather than sharing in teaching others the truth. Bible studies are the most important work of paying attention to those who listen. (John 21:15-17) Can you describe the happiness of parents watching their babies grow, learning to say and do new things with such eagerness? So is the joy of those feeding the “sheep” spiritual food with regular Bible studies.
7. What point was Jesus making in his illustration of the harvest, and actually what is involved in harvesttime?
7 It was Jesus who emphasized the importance of paying attention to those who listen, at Matthew 9:35-38: “Jesus set out on a tour . . . teaching . . . and preaching the good news of the kingdom . . . On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples: Yes, the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” He pointed out the need to come back and take care of these “sheep,” to feed them and shepherd them to life. A farmer plants the seed in soil that he has already worked diligently to prepare for sowing time. However, sowing the seed is not the conclusion of the matter or the end of the work. The fields must still be protected from hungry animals, from weeds and insects. In many localities he will return to water the thirsty shoots by irrigation. Then you will see the first stages of the harvest, cutting the grain. But the harvest is not complete until the threshing takes place and the grain is safely stored in the barn. The harvest period is a tense time, the weather may not hold, the rains may come to soak the cut grain lying on the ground, resulting in damage, or the rains may shorten the harvest days and the farmer will have to dig the last of his crops from the early snows. No wonder the farmer works long hours at the harvesttime and expects his helpers to do the same. It is no place for lazy people or those seeking just a good time.
8. In what way do we become God’s fellow workers, and what kind of fellow ministers are prayed for when help is wanted?
8 Jesus associated workers with the harvest, and the atmosphere of urgency in taking care of these “sheep.” It is a sobering thought to realize that these hungry “sheep” are praying to God for someone to show them the way to the true religion, and that your brothers are praying for help in the harvest work. But remember, these “sheep” and your brothers are praying for workers. Unless you work, you will not be an answer to their prayers. To harvest a crop the wise farmer recognizes God as the giver of rain and sunshine that bring growth. But rain and sunshine will not bring a crop unless seed is sown in a well-prepared seedbed. So too, in feeding the “sheep,” reflect on how it is described at 1 Corinthians 3:6-9: “I [Paul] planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. Now he that plants and he that waters are one, but each person will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You people are God’s field under cultivation, God’s building.”
9. (a) Will the Bible study method used by Philip and others then work now? (b) What adds urgency and importance to Bible study activity in these times?
9 Feeding the listening “sheep” with Bible studies is not a new idea. Jehovah’s angel directed the minister Philip to use this method to stimulate the Ethiopian treasurer to serve God. It was a question-and-answer study that soon led this man to baptism and happiness in Jehovah’s service. (Acts 8:27-38) There must be yet many more of these “sheep” to find and regularly feed the same spiritual food by the same method, Bible studies. An important thing in paying attention to others is the attitude you have when going from house to house. Are you going to call back soon, within a few days, to bring more food? Does your concern for the lives of these people override the fear of being tied down to conducting a Bible study regularly each week and of patiently and tenderly nurturing these “sheep” until they too are ministers? Can you afford to miss the joys to be had in the Bible study ministry, where growth and appreciation for God’s arrangements take place before your eyes? Philip listened to an angel when instructed to study with a listening one and both received a blessing. This is also a time to listen to the command of heavenly instruction and to share in feeding hungry ones with the life-giving waters of truth. Jehovah God is interested in the spiritual welfare of the “sheep.” (Ezek. 34:11-16) Christ Jesus commanded that the “sheep” be found and fed. (Matt. 28:19, 20; John 21:15-17) The angels having responsibility in the preaching work instruct urgent attention to the matter. (Rev. 14:6-10) It is a heavenly voice that issues the command: “Get out of her [Babylon the Great], my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) Certainly, then, we have the highest authority and backing when we share in the privilege of feeding the “sheep” through a Bible study program. You will receive a blessing if you listen and act.
10. Is it necessary to know everything before conducting a Bible study with a listening person, and why do you so answer?
10 Young and old can share in this privilege. You will read of many examples of this in the 1966 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a simple, down-to-earth discussion of the doctrines and principles found in God’s Word. The Bible remains the solid authority that you need only consult to give the correct answers. Concordances and the publications of the Watch Tower Society provide abundant help in a program for such a Bible study. In view of the harvest field, the urgency of the times and what we have received, there is a need for many more in the congregation to start and regularly conduct Bible studies with those listening, scattered, hungry “sheep.”
TENDERLY LEAD NEW ONES TO JEHOVAH’S ORGANIZATION
11. What are the things new ones want to know before attending congregation meetings?
11 Saving those who listen will require a regular feeding program and one that is prepared so as to train them at the very beginning in the need for a balanced life of service to God. The proved and Scriptural way is to direct these “sheep” to Jehovah’s organization immediately. There are many things people want to know about the organization before they attend meetings, such as, how are these conducted? and what is expected of those attending? Many are amazed to learn that no collection baskets are passed at Jehovah’s witnesses’ meetings. They are happy to hear and see the Bible used so much during the program. Really, they say, it is so instructive, with emphasis on gaining knowledge rather than ceremony or ritual.
12. Does Jehovah expect us to inform these new ones of the requirements for clean worship, and what does clean worship mean for these people?
12 To feel really at home, these persons will need to understand the Scriptural requirements on keeping the organization clean. So, little by little, we acquaint them with honesty, moderate habits in drinking, relations between the sexes, speaking the truth, and the conduct that befits one who says publicly: “I am a minister, and as one of Jehovah’s witnesses I am calling to bring you good news of God’s kingdom.” You will not expect them to accomplish everything at once, but you will have in mind the sobering information that is recorded at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified, but you have been declared righteous in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the spirit of our God.” Not only your explaining the clean organization but also your conduct will teach them that it can be done and will give them an insight into the happiness gained by following God’s advice on clean conduct. These new ones coming into the organization must, of course, maintain the kind of conduct that befits a Christian minister. This will be necessary for them to be welcomed into the association of the congregation and really be a part of the family. (1 Pet. 4:3, 4) Most important will be their relationship to Jehovah the Creator. Will they be able to go to him in prayer without having their petitions hindered by unclean conditions? (1 Pet. 3:7) “The sacrifice of the wicked ones is something detestable to Jehovah, but the prayer of the upright ones is a pleasure to him.”—Prov. 15:8.
13. How does the congregation organization assist you in teaching new ones?
13 Inviting them to the congregation is in reality inviting them to enjoy the privileges of the ministry, for the organization is a teaching one that is determined to carry out its responsibility of training new ones to teach others. Notice how this point is emphasized at 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” The organization is the finest place to which to bring these “sheep” you study with, to give them valuable education in maintaining their balance as servants of God.
14. Describe how you would acquaint new ones with the organization, and what is essential to progress?
14 Now, of course, the question comes up, How should we invite these listening ones to the organization? Circumstances and people are going to be different, but here may be listed some of the things you will find well to do. Every week tell them about one feature of the organization. Consult the Watch Tower publications indexes and particularly under the heading “Congregation” for points to use. Describe the purpose of each of the meetings, the assemblies, the servants, and the various ways we carry out the preaching work. These few minutes after your Bible study will soon acquaint them with the congregation and they will feel right at home and know what to expect. Take them with you in the ministry and teach them patiently, step by step, helping them to become experienced in talking to people, using the Bible, and presenting the publications. These are important training periods, for your dependability and regularity will later on be the pattern followed when these new ones begin teaching those with whom they conduct Bible studies. Sheep thrive on a regular feeding program, so faithfulness is an essential to be a minister to them. Jehovah and Jesus are examples of living up to promises; “let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.”—Heb. 10:23.
FAITHFULNESS RESULTS IN LIFE
15. (a) Give examples of unfaithful ones whose course we should want to avoid. (b) Compare faithful ones and the blessings they enjoyed.
15 Holding fast will require endurance, and it is endurance that produces an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope. (Rom. 5:4) ‘For with the heart one has to keep on exercising faith for righteousness and with the mouth one keeps on making public declaration for salvation.’ (Rom. 10:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 6:9) Paul said: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Cor. 9:27) Solomon did not do this, and just ponder his end a moment. He rules as king for forty years, spends twenty years building a house of Jehovah and a house of the king. He builds cities and ships. The wisdom and peaceful prosperity are the talk of the world. Solomon prays for wisdom, and Jehovah answers that prayer. Yet he gives out and dies unfaithful. (1 Ki. 11:1-43) Jesus prophesied that others would leave true worship. (Matt. 24:12) Why be listed among those who “cool off.” Follow the example of the many listed in Hebrews 11:4-39. Remember Abraham. He was seventy-five years old when Jehovah gave him an assignment of responsibility. He died at one hundred and seventy-five years of age. One hundred years in that service, and the report reads: “Then Abraham expired and died in a good old age, old and satisfied.” (Gen. 12:1, 4; 25:8) God was satisfied with him and, in Hebrews 11:8, records him as a man of obedience and faith. While life rather than death lies before you, it should be your desire to remain satisfied in Jehovah’s service and to have God’s approval on your worship. When some disciples had their feelings hurt at what Jesus had to say, they cooled off and returned to their former course. When Jesus asked others if they wanted to go too, Simon Peter said: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life.” (John 6:68) Jesus had answered this question earlier, as recorded at Matthew 24:13: “But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”
16. Explain the balanced outlook in caring for our many responsibilities, and what do you use as a basis for this conclusion?
16 It is true there is so much to do in the worship of God and to look after all our responsibilities. We need the spirit of a sound mind to maintain balance. A calm, well-balanced outlook means contentment and happiness. Proverbs 14:30 puts it thus: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism,” and Proverbs 15:13: “A joyful heart has a good effect on the countenance.” Then, of course, those observing our course of action and listening to us will require personal assistance to put away their old personality and put on the new. After urging this change through the making over of the mind (Rom. 12:2, 3), Paul shows how it is to be accomplished: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not be planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.” (Rom. 13:14) Not only will you have Jesus Christ as the example in all things, but here lies the pivot point for your balance. While Jesus was perfect and you are imperfect, yet you can find out where the safe areas are to walk. Jesus reflected the mind of the Creator Jehovah, and so you get acquainted with your heavenly Father through the words and works of this Son. Appreciation for these facts must be cultivated in those who listen to you. If the truth is valuable to us, we will teach it, yes, recommend it, yes, more, urge its use, and even go farther, persuade these apt to be “sheep” to apply God’s Word to their lives, ‘keeping an eye . . . in personal interest upon others.’ Philippians 2:4 urges us to help these people arrange their lives to be pleasing to God. It will be necessary, not to do their thinking or act for them, but to help them apply the principles of God’s Word.
17. (a) Why must we be patient with new ones? (b) Describe the cause for deep satisfaction and happiness in Jehovah’s service.
17 Remember, it is God’s Word that results in the new personality, and so we will not become impatient and give up because this change does not happen overnight. It takes time to make changes and become a well-balanced minister. “By loving-kindness and trueness error is atoned for, and in the fear of Jehovah one turns away from bad.” (Prov. 16:6) But what contentment in the feeling of usefulness can be yours as you feed the “sheep” and tenderly lead them into Jehovah’s field of worship. If Jehovah sees in you an instrument to bring the truth to someone, and the angels assist you, how privileged you are! Words cannot explain your deep-seated happiness, but the Bible puts it this way: “When Jehovah takes pleasure in the ways of a man he causes even his enemies themselves to be at peace with him.” (Prov. 16:7) “Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus, equip you with every good thing to do his will, performing in us through Jesus Christ that which is well-pleasing in his sight; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”—Heb. 13:20, 21.