Finding Joy in God’s Service Today
“My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart.”—Isa. 65:14.
1, 2. Explain why the person that wants to serve God is a rare individual. (b) What is the world’s attitude toward such persons?
DO YOU want to serve your Creator? Do you want to give him exclusive devotion as did David? Do you want to obey his righteous laws as did Daniel? Do you want to be productively active in work he has commanded to be done as was Jesus Christ? If you do, you are a rare person in this twentieth century. Of the more than three thousand million persons living today, few have any desire to serve the true God. Like past generations, they prefer to serve the false gods of religious imaginations, of political ideologies or of materialism. Regarding such gods a prophet of Jehovah the true God wrote: “For all the gods of the peoples are valueless gods. As for Jehovah, he made the heavens.” (1 Chron. 16:26) Few have been the people to experience the joy of serving this great Creator.
2 Following the flood of Noah’s day the percentage of those humans serving Jehovah God, the Preserver of the Flood survivors, diminished rapidly as mankind multiplied, until they became a nonconforming minority in the ancient world. They were the ones that refused to participate with the majority in building the Tower of Babel. They were the exceptional ones that refused to go along with the nation of Israel when that nation turned from serving the true God to the worship of false gods. They were the stalwart few that held fast to Christianity although the majority of the people in the first century spoke evilly of them and persecuted them. Regarding the world’s attitude toward them, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ wrote: “We have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.” (1 Cor. 4:13) Nevertheless, they had a good condition of the heart because they were doing what was right in the eyes of God. The situation is little different today. True to Jesus’ prophecy about our day, God’s servants are still disliked by the majority of the world. “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of name.” (Matt. 24:9) Despite this persecution, there are good reasons for finding joy in serving the true God today.
3. What knowledge of the future does God give us that is a cause of joy?
3 One’s knowing that the great Creator will, at his appointed time, bring a permanent end to wicked people and free the earth for those who serve him to inhabit in peace is a cause of great joy. Imagine being able to live on this earth with no wicked person to be found as far as you might look! Instead of him, meek persons who love righteousness are what you find. This is what Jehovah has promised, and his promises do not return to him unfulfilled. “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Ps. 37:10, 11) This knowledge certainly is an incentive to serve the righteous Creator joyously, but it is only one of many things he has given as incentives for such joyful service.
4, 5. Explain how the truth and the bearing of Jehovah’s name are causes for joy.
4 It is evident from the intricate marvels of creation and the wonders of the starry heavens that there exists an infinitely wise Creator. But little can be known about him personally by studying such creations. To supply man with further information he has provided his written Word, the Holy Bible. Here he has given us a great amount of information about himself, his great works in the past and his purposes for mankind. This fund of information provides sound reasons for joyfully serving him rather than the false gods of the nations. It is truth, and just the possessing of it can be a cause of joy, especially since it contributes to a good condition of the heart. Spiritual freedom it brings to those who hungrily reach out for it, and length of days to those who embrace it. Certainly freedom from thought-twisting falsehoods is unquestionably a reason for joy, and it is promised to those who serve Jehovah God. Regarding it Jesus Christ said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.
5 Upon the rare persons that serve the true God, Jehovah, he has placed his name, blessing them by identifying them as his people. This too is a cause for joy. He is not ashamed to be identified with them, although they are regarded by the world as “the offscouring of all things.” (1 Cor. 4:13) This close relationship with the Creator indicates that they have his goodwill, and that can mean for them the gift of eternal life, a gift that only Jehovah God, the great Life-giver, can give. Realizing what a grand blessing it is to have the name of the Almighty God associated with him, the prophet Jeremiah said: “Your word becomes to me the exultation and the rejoicing of my heart; for your name has been called upon me, O Jehovah God of armies.” (Jer. 15:16) Maintaining an awareness of this favorable relationship with the great Life-giver is important to finding joy in his service.
6. What expression of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness is a source of joy to us?
6 Out of his kindness, which man does not deserve, Jehovah God has provided a ransom sacrifice so that those that serve him might be set free from Adamic sin and might regain the perfection that Adam lost. “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, therefore, since we have been declared righteous now by his blood, shall we be saved through him from wrath.” (Rom. 5:8, 9) This magnificent provision for the salvation of those serving the true God is still another cause for joy to such ones. Expressing their feelings, the apostle Peter wrote: “Though you are not looking upon him [Jesus Christ] at present, yet you exercise faith in him and are greatly rejoicing with an unspeakable and glorified joy, as you receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:8, 9) Thus Jehovah has provided many causes for finding joy in his service in these modern times.
RIGHT MENTAL ATTITUDE
7. Why is the right mental attitude important to finding joy in God’s service?
7 With all that God has provided for finding joy in his service, joy can easily be found today, provided that a person has the right mental attitude. That attitude is important, as it builds appreciation for the Creator and for his Word. Without appreciation he will not feel grateful for what God has done or for the good things God has promised to do. He will not have the desire to do what is pleasing to that great Ruler of the universe. But a good mental attitude causes him to appreciate all that Jehovah has done and will do. It stimulates the right desire to serve God. The Christian ministry is a very important way to fulfill that desire.
8. How does the right mental attitude toward the ministry help to cultivate joy?
8 As demonstrated by Jesus Christ, the Christian ministry involves the preaching of Scriptural truths to others so as to convert their hearts to the undefiled worship of the true God. Such public proclaiming and teaching of the truth is an important feature of the way Christians serve the great Life-giver. The Christian apostle Paul said: “For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” (Rom. 10:10) With the right mental attitude toward this work a person will appreciate the good it does in transforming peoples’ lives by bringing them into harmony with the high moral standards of God’s word. He also will appreciate how it is a life-preserving work that directs people in the way that leads to preservation through the coming war of God that will destroy the present wicked system of things. It is a work that is causing an increasing number of persons to turn from false religion to the service of their Creator. Having a good mental outlook toward this fine work that Jesus began, a person is able to cultivate joy in this way of serving God.
9, 10. (a) What tends to dampen joy in the ministry, and what compensates for it? (b) What makes it difficult to cultivate joy in the ministry, and how can this be overcome?
9 For many persons it is not pleasurable to call upon people by going from house to house talking about the truths of God’s Word, especially when the householders, as a whole, do not like it. While it is not a joy to receive rebuffs from uninterested persons who have no desire to serve their Creator, or who are misinformed about God’s servants, it is a joy to find a humble person that genuinely appreciates the effort made to instruct him in the truths of God’s Word. Watching him grow in knowledge and seeing him shed the shackles of false religion one by one bring a joy that is distinctive to the Christian ministry. It more than compensates for the unpleasant experiences had with unappreciative people.
10 If you are a servant of the Most High God that engages in the house-to-house ministry, you will not cultivate joy in that service of God by dwelling upon the unpleasant experiences encountered in it. Neither will you find joy in it if your service is reluctant, requiring continual prodding by Christian brothers. In both instances the right mental attitude is needed in order to find joy. Instead of seeing only the negative or unpleasant side of it, look at the positive side. Think how appreciative goodhearted people are of your efforts when you succeed in locating them and cultivating their interest. Think how necessary this work is in acquainting people of all kinds with Jehovah’s purposes, especially with regard to the world-changing forces of God’s coming war. Think how important this work is in separating the people in these last days and in giving a grand witness to the true God and his purposes. Think of how this divinely commanded service is a means for you to manifest your love for God and your faith in his promises. Only by thus cultivating the right attitude toward the Christian ministry can you experience the joy this feature of God’s service can bring.
11. Why is it important not to be overly concerned about your speaking ability?
11 If you think negatively of your ability to tell others about the things you have learned in God’s Word, you are allowing a wrong mental attitude to develop that will rob you of the joy of his service. Do not compare your ability to speak with that of a Christian brother who is adept at speaking. Instead, compare it with the people you meet in the ministry who profess to be Christians, in lands of Christendom, but who do not speak God’s truths to others. No matter how poor your speaking ability is, it is better than theirs, because they say nothing about the Creator. Use what ability you have and strive to improve it. Remember that God has chosen, not the wise men of the world or the great religious orators to proclaim his purposes, but humble people that do not have special oratorical skill. In Jesus’ day they were common people; some were fishermen. With the right mental attitude, the joy of serving God by publicly declaring his truths and purposes to others as Jesus commanded will not be lost.—1 Cor. 1:26-29.
DISCIPLES FOUND JOY IN PREACHING
12. How did Jesus’ disciples react to the Christian ministry, and how did they view persecution?
12 When Jesus introduced the Christian ministry to his disciples, they were delighted with the experience. Some of the first ones to engage in it returned to Jesus with great elation. “Then the seventy returned with joy.” (Luke 10:17) They went out to proclaim the truths they had learned without misgivings about their speaking ability. Their hearts were filled with the good things they had learned from Jesus Christ, and they were anxious to tell these things to others. Unpleasant experiences and lack of interest among many with whom they talked did not dampen their joy. It was kept alive by the good mental attitude they had toward this form of serving God. Not even popular rejection by the Jewish nation and persecution at the hands of Jewish leaders could stamp out their joy in serving Jehovah God.
13. What effect did persecution by the Sanhedrin have upon Jesus’ apostles?
13 On one occasion when the apostles were brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin after having been forbidden to preach the good things they had learned, they told the prominent men of this ruling body: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) After being flogged and warned not to preach any more in Jesus’ name, they went away rejoicing that they had maintained integrity to the truth. Nothing could dampen their joy in serving the true God. “These, therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.”—Acts 5:41.
14. What brought joy to Paul and his companions despite the persecution that came upon them?
14 On his first missionary visit to Antioch in Asia Minor, the apostle Paul and those with him found many persons that were unreceptive to the good news that they preached. They were even mobbed out of town by these people, but this unpleasant experience did not cause them to develop the wrong mental attitude toward their work and thus to lose its joy. On the contrary, they rejoiced because they had found some good people in Antioch who had responded appreciatively to the good news. “After the synagogue assembly was dissolved, many of the Jews and of the proselytes who worshiped God followed Paul and Barnabas, who in speaking to them began urging them to continue in the undeserved kindness of God.” (Acts 13:43) The unpleasantness of having been thrown out of town by a mob was eclipsed by the pleasure of having found some people of good heart who responded favorably to the good things they preached. “The disciples continued to be filled with joy and holy spirit.”—Acts 13:52.
15, 16. What particular element in the ministry is especially helpful in the cultivation of joy, and what helps a person to appreciate this fact?
15 The fact that the public proclaiming of the good things in God’s Word requires one to give freely to others what is upbuilding, life-transforming and life-sustaining, brings him joy because there is happiness in giving good things to others. This is a principle that the apostle Paul pointed out when he was talking about the Christian ministry. “I have exhibited to you in all things that by thus laboring you must assist those who are weak, and must bear in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, when he himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.’” (Acts 20:35) As Paul and his associates found joy in giving to others the good things they had learned, so those that serve Jehovah God today can also find joy in doing the same upbuilding work if they maintain the same good mental attitude.
16 The fine experience of seeing the comfort the truth brings distressed people and the appreciation of those liberated from false religion by it, as well as the happiness of those given a sure hope for which they can live, causes a person to rejoice that God has blessed him with the privilege to talk about His truth. Not until a person has had this personal experience in the Christian ministry can he fully comprehend the happiness that comes from giving his knowledge of the truth to others.
17. Why did Paul tell the Thessalonians that they were a crown of exultation to him?
17 The apostle Paul, and those who traveled with him, brought the truth to the Thessalonians in Macedonia. The congregation that resulted from their preaching was a source of joy to them. The unpleasant experience of facing hate-filled opposers to their preaching there in Thessalonica was far overshadowed by the joy of seeing the good people in the city respond to the good news. Regarding the feelings of Paul and his associate travelers, he wrote: “For what is our hope or joy or crop of exultation—why, is it not in fact you?—before our Lord Jesus at his presence? You certainly are our glory and joy.”—1 Thess. 2:19, 20.
HELPING ONE ANOTHER
18, 19. (a) What mental attitude should be taken toward positions of responsibility in a congregation? (b) To whom are such privileges given?
18 Within a congregation of those who serve Jehovah God, there are positions of responsibility. By diligently working at the duties associated with those positions a person is serving God in still another manner, because the congregation is God’s and it is dedicated to his worship and to the educating of people in his Word. With the proper mental attitude toward these positions, the persons assigned to them can find joy in bearing the responsibilities that come with them. Instead of looking only at the work, the responsibility and the problems these positions of oversight have, they should look at the good they bring to their Christian brothers and the need of organizing the public proclaiming of God’s Word and purposes. Much can be done by the persons in these positions of responsibility to help their Christian brothers in maintaining good relations with the true God and in serving him acceptably. This in itself is a source of joy.
19 A position of oversight in a congregation of God’s people should be regarded as a blessing from Jehovah. It is an opportunity to broaden one’s service of him. Such opportunities are offered to persons that have established a good record for themselves in Jehovah’s service and have manifested spiritual maturity. Because they have used wisely the knowledge of God’s Word that they have gained, and have worked diligently at the service privileges given them in the congregation, they are given greater service privileges with more responsibility. This is in line with the thought Jesus expressed when he said: “To everyone that has, more will be given and he will have abundance.” (Matt. 25:29) Of course, this does not mean that he should go to an extreme and take on more than he can do.
20. What is a factor in making it possible for a person to serve God in a congregation for a long time?
20 It is not manifesting good sense for a person to carry more responsibilities in a congregation than his health will permit him to carry or more than he is able to handle. By taking on more than he is capable of doing, he can kill his joy in serving God in a congregation. So good sense must be exercised. Persons with the right mental attitude will be anxious to fill their work capability, whereas those with little appreciation will seek excuses to avoid privileges of service. To the latter, fewer and fewer privileges will be offered. The Christian servant knows what his physical and nervous capacity is for responsibilities, and in order for him to continue serving joyfully in the congregation for a long time he should not exceed that capacity. By permitting others in the congregation to share his responsibilities, the work load can be kept at a level that will not affect his joy or his health.
GOOD CONDITION OF HEART
21. (a) How are God’s servants experiencing a good condition of heart? (b) Explain how joy in God’s service can be lost.
21 Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah foretold: “My own servants will cry out joyfully because of the good condition of the heart.” (Isa. 65:14) Throughout the world today, the relatively few persons who are serving Jehovah God are experiencing that good condition of heart. Their hearts are not embittered by racial or political differences. Their hearts have not been made bad by the world’s moral breakdown. Their hearts are not soured by atheistic philosophy or false religious beliefs. The upbuilding truths of God’s Word, his righteous laws, his comforting promises for the future, and the work of love that he has given them to do give them a good condition of the heart. But it is up to each individual to maintain that good condition. If one permits a wrong mental attitude to develop toward any feature of his service to God, he can lose the joy of that service and his good heart condition can begin to deteriorate. It was with good reason, therefore, that God’s Word warned: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart.” (Prov. 4:23) Maintaining a good mental attitude, with keen appreciation and enthusiasm for Jehovah’s truths and purposes, is important to safeguarding good heart condition.
22. Of what is joy a fruit, and how is this made evident?
22 The joy that is felt by those who have a good heart condition is actually evidence that God’s spirit is operating through them, for joy is one or the fruits of the spirit mentioned in the fifth chapter of Galatians. God puts his spirit upon those who serve him, those who give him exclusive devotion. It operates upon his modern-day witnesses, causing them to do a tremendous, worldwide work of proclaiming the same liberating truths that were proclaimed by the apostles. Operating directly upon them as well as through God’s Word and organization, the holy spirit helps them to build up a good condition of heart, and it helps them to get motivated into the public proclaiming of Jehovah’s purposes. Thus the joy a person cultivates as a result of this is actually a fruit of the spirit.
23. What should you permit God to do to you by means of his spirit?
23 If you are one of those rare persons that wants to serve the Creator today, that wants to give him exclusive devotion, that wants to do work that is pleasing in his eyes, that wants to receive his approval and his gift of life, then let Jehovah, by means of his spirit, cultivate in you the good condition of heart that is a mark of his people. Open your heart to his instructions. Let them develop a right mental attitude in you toward his service. Let the good news of his Word and its life-transforming truths stir you to cultivate the distinctive joy that can be found in serving the Great God of the universe.