Keep On Growing Under Jehovah’s Spirit
“Neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow.”—1 Cor. 3:7.
1. What does growth reveal, and what is required to observe its operation?
GROWTH is a most wonderful thing to observe. It is fascinating. It increases in interest in many ways. It is a continual miracle before your eyes. It reveals a master designing engineer in its development. What sparks growth? What controls growth to attain balance in the completed result? What stops growth, maintaining the consistent level of size and ability in creation? Plant life grows, each part progressing in size and maturity, developing flowers, seed, fruit, and yet does it gradually. Of course, if you are interested, you will have to have patience to watch it. “Mark well how the lilies grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” (Luke 12:27) It will take you one growing season to witness this beauty, the result of growth.
2. Describe growth and time as related to each other, and what warning is timely as to impatience?
2 A baby is born; it arrives as another member of the family. It has been growing already. “Just as you are not aware of what is the way of the spirit in the bones in the belly of her that is pregnant, in like manner you do not know the work of the true God, who does all things.” (Eccl. 11:5) But now you can see and hear it progress. In a few months he speaks and walks. Before you know it, off to school, then graduation. A job, marriage to a mate, and their new baby. Growth, yes, but it takes time. Can you rush it, stop it, or control it? Growth, judged from outward appearances, is so slow, you may become impatient with yourself or others. This is particularly true of spiritual growth. To be sure, if you feed a baby nutritious food regularly for several years, you will have a young man or lady as the result. “Of its own self the ground bears fruit gradually, first the grass blade, then the stalk head, finally the full grain in the head.” (Mark 4:28) If you feed a newly interested person food from God’s Word, the Bible, the book produced by God’s spirit and so called spiritual food, in time the result will be a minister. But take warning. If parents just cannot realize their baby is growing up, and so continue feeding him mushy baby food, putting it in his mouth for him, he may in size look like a young man, but actually he is a helpless dependent. He has not started to grow mentally. So with spiritual food. If we hinder its application, if we become impatient and do not allow God’s spirit to produce action from the heart of the individual, we will have a helpless babe rather than a maturing minister.
3. How can we be certain of continued growth and avoid wandering away from the influence of Jehovah’s spirit?
3 When one stops growing, something is disturbingly wrong. If you stop taking in spiritual food, it quickly leads to a stopping in growth. To avoid wandering off out into the realm where God’s spirit does not operate, because of less study, fewer meetings, postponed worship in the ministry, gain a little in growth each day by increasing study, meetings and service. Peter writes: “You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness. No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 3:17, 18.
4. (a) What Scriptural principle sweeps away shortsighted ideas about the source of strength for growth? (b) What is the goal in growth?
4 But the statement that it is “God who makes it grow” wipes away unfounded ideas about the source of strength for you to keep on growing. After a brief study of the Bible your turning to God in dedication, followed by water baptism, is in itself not going to straighten out your whole life and ensure faithfulness. An enthusiastic launching into full-time ministry without spiritual food will not bring continual growth. Attending conventions or meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses will be very upbuilding, but not enough to keep you growing. Associating with zealous ministers of God does not supply all the nutrition you need to build to maturity. This association with hardworking servants of God would be upbuilding to anyone, but keep in mind that life does not rub off onto you, it is not contagious, passing from one person to another. Life comes from God through his Son Christ Jesus. It is either lost or gained. There are no shortcuts, no easy ways to eat and digest spiritual food. Serving Jehovah is not for lazy people. It is not an overnight jaunt or weekend excursion in order to receive some selfish advantage. Making a change and putting on the “new personality” comes through “accurate knowledge.” (Col. 3:10) Paul was very happy because the brothers at the Thessalonian congregation were growing; he wrote them: “We are obligated to give God thanks always for you, brothers, as it is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of each and all of you is increasing one toward the other.” (2 Thess. 1:3) So closely linked with growth of these brothers was love on the increase, and faith. Faith is developed by accurate knowledge, according to Ephesians 4:13, “until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God.” This way for growth was opened up by Jehovah God through Christ Jesus. “Though you never saw him, you love him. Though you are not looking upon him 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) Now then, keep this picture clear in mind as 1 Peter 2:2 covers your whole life of growth as a servant of God in one sentence: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation.”
A SATISFYING WAY OF LIFE
5. What view would prompt us to serve Jehovah in all kinds of circumstances, and particularly when things are not difficult?
5 Another thing to understand: What is it that appeals to meek men and women in order to encourage them to serve Jehovah? Fear? Well, some may start to serve God because of fear, but they soon stop their growth to life unless they cultivate enough love to throw off this fear. (1 John 4:18) Bans by governments or persecution by religious organizations may excite some to get busy in service of God. Even a challenge because of extreme weather or an unprecedented upheaval in some country will stir some to a temporary spurt in the ministry. But if you take away all interference and obstacles, will man serve Jehovah God then, day after day, year in year out, for generations, yes, for endless life? Will worship of the true God Jehovah be satisfying, filling, a way of life? We had better view it in such a light for, after Armageddon, gone will be opposition to Jehovah’s will.—See Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:10, 11; Isaiah 65:21-23; Revelation 21:3, 4.
6, 7. (a) Contrast the impatient attitude with the one developed by Scriptural training. (b) How does God’s Word work?
6 Well, there are several things to consider here. Man likes life, and so he will be interested in matters pertaining to longer life and, of course, the Bible holds out the hope of endless life to obedient mankind. Understanding the Bible as it applies today spurs many to grow further, so that they associate with the well-known Bible students, Jehovah’s witnesses. Others, looking farther, see the great privilege of bearing God’s name as His witnesses and share in announcing it earth wide, so sharing in upholding Jehovah’s name in vindication. However, in all of this the truth appeals, draws and works in a quiet way, even as Moses said of God’s Word: “My instruction will drip as the rain, my saying will trickle as the dew, as gentle rains upon grass and as copious showers upon vegetation.” (Deut. 32:2) After such gentle application of knowledge from Jehovah, Psalm 72:7 says: “The righteous one will sprout.” So something has started from this soothing, gentle growth-producing Word of God.
7 Some impatient person may wish that God would scare people into His organization by earthquakes, tidal waves, great catastrophes, literally shaking the earth. It is foolish to wish that God would peel back the heavens and make them vibrate with the most awesome roar to frighten mankind into his organization. When the noise does come, it will be Armageddon. Too late, then, to sprout and begin growing into a servant of God. It was not a spectacular heavenly trumpet that cured Naaman of his leprosy; rather, it was bathing seven times in the Jordan River. (2 Ki. 5:1, 14) How was the temple in Solomon’s day erected? Quietly. (1 Ki. 6:7) How did Jesus pick his twelve apostles? He summoned these quietly. (Mark 3:13-15) It is indeed a privilege to look back and see the growth of faithful servants of God. It is a blessing beyond description to see meek ones grow into ministers today. But, according to Isaiah 55:10, 11, there is yet something required in this matter of growth. That scripture reads: “For just as the pouring rain descends, and the snow, from the heavens and does not return to that place, unless it actually saturates the earth and makes it produce and sprout, and seed is actually given to the sower and bread to the eater, so my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”
RECOGNIZING THE POWER OF GOD’S SPIRIT
8. (a) How does Isaiah 55:10, 11 emphasize the operation of Jehovah’s Word? (b) Then, how would a Christian minister teach others what God requires of them and with what attitude?
8 It is essential to recognize the power, ability and purpose of God’s Word. This Word is charged with God’s spirit. In view of this the wise person will patiently wait for God’s Word and spirit to produce results. He will not interfere or be found hindering the spirit’s operation. That is why we do not live other peoples’ lives for them. True, Scriptural advice, counsel and help are given, but when the idea, the seed, has been planted, let God’s spirit go to work and produce the desired results. “For each one will carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5) Plant the seed of truth with confidence in Jehovah, remembering the principle to have in mind always, at Psalm 118:8: “It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to trust in earthling man.” This may come up many times as we conduct Bible studies with interested persons. We are anxious to see them share in the blessings God has promised, and urge them to be baptized. If they do so to please you, this is not the spirit working. God’s spirit works on the heart. The heart should move the feet. “With the heart one exercises faith.” (Rom. 10:10) “May your heart keep fast hold of my words. Keep my commandments and continue living.” (Prov. 4:4) Make sure of your part, that of planting the Scriptural idea. Little by little show them what God’s Word has to say on doctrines, how his organization operates, the need for clean conduct, and the privileges of the ministry. This may not always be easy, because of language barriers and physical hindrances such as deafness or blindness. Many are hard to reach because of walls erected by religious prejudice, racial pride, political nationalism, or class distinction. However, if you are content to plant one clear idea at a time from the Bible, the spirit will cause the sprouting. God’s spirit has been stimulating growth for centuries; there is no need to doubt its ability now. When Peter gave a report in Jerusalem on how people of the nations were receiving the Word of God, some “began to contend with him.” (Acts 11:2) So Peter came back with this undisputed principle: “If, therefore, God gave the same free gift to them as he also did to us who have believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I should be able to hinder God?”—Acts 11:17.
9. Why do we say God’s spirit operates upon his ministers in an organizational way?
9 According to Revelation 14:6, Jehovah’s angels supervise the preaching of the good news in all the earth. (Matt. 24:14) God’s spirit, then, is going to back up such activity. A work is to be done, and the training given men on earth must be to accomplish this work. It is likened to a harvest work. (Matt. 9:37) The thing to do, then, is to grow with this organization of diligent ministers, work together, cooperate and be obedient to the spirit’s operation. Be like the one described at Psalm 26:12: “My own foot will certainly stand on a level place; among the congregated throngs I shall bless Jehovah.” Work with your brothers in the organization, and you will be under the direction of Jehovah’s angels as well as his spirit.
JEHOVAH’S SPIRIT BRINGS RESULTS, PAST AND PRESENT
10. (a) Describe how the organization worked out problems in the days of early Christians, and what did God’s spirit have to do with it? (b) Can we find an organization doing this same work today with the same spirit’s backing?
10 God’s spirit worked on the congregation organization in the days of the early Christians. Issues and problems were taken to the governing body at Jerusalem. The decision was then taken back to the congregations in this manner: “Then the apostles and the older men together with the whole congregation favored sending chosen men from among them to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was called Barsabbas and Silas, leading men among the brothers.” (Acts 15:22) So in a short time the congregations were informed on the Scriptural course to take on circumcision, fornication and the taking of blood. Then you see the growth produced by God’s spirit, as you read later at Acts 16:4, 5: “Now as they traveled on through the cities they would deliver to those there for observance the decrees that had been decided upon by the apostles and older men who were in Jerusalem. Therefore, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number from day to day.” Now, today, Jehovah’s organization gives Scriptural instruction on problems facing the brothers. It has mature visiting ministers going to the congregations to assist the brothers. It has over a million witnesses of Jehovah who go from house to house and in a few weeks can inform millions of people all around the earth of important matters, such as what God’s name is, the war of Armageddon and what Babylon the Great is. What is accomplished? Thousands respond and start growing toward life. Just last year, 1965, 64,393 such persons were baptized and started on their way to a joyful life in Jehovah’s service. (See 1966 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses.) Jehovah’s witnesses could not accomplish what has been done in the last fifty years by human strength or wisdom. But God’s spirit has moved them and they have willingly complied with Jehovah’s direction. They have prayed for instruction, and their requests are answered as were David’s at Psalm 143:10: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Your spirit is good; may it lead me in the land of uprightness.” The New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses is a happy, spiritually prosperous organization today, and Jehovah blesses it with his support.
11. What essential point must we have in mind when helping others grow, and just what does growth involve?
11 Yet another place to recognize the ability of Jehovah’s spirit is as it operates upon the hearts of your brothers. When a person dedicates his life to the service of Jehovah God, he desires to grow. He is willing to take on the responsibility of helping other people and caring for some of the many duties connected with a congregation’s operation. Some do not learn as quickly as others and, of course, Jehovah’s spirit is not going to crowd a person to frustration. So overseers in the congregations need patience and long-suffering. It will become much easier and even a delight to watch if you discern the growth of your brothers in matters of caring for responsibility. Training others to do something may slow you up and things may not get done as well, but in due time the spirit will produce a real helper to you. Worry will not hurry the spirit of God. Teach them, show them what to do, and then let them grow and develop. When they do it wrong or fall short, go over it again and search for a little bit of improvement over the last time. If you went back to a tree each day, how much growth would you see? Keep in mind that growth is in more than one direction in the case of your brother. You as the mature minister may be training him in the house-to-house ministry, sitting down to prepare sermons and then actually taking him along down the street to call from home to home. You urge him to arrange his schedule so he may spend more time in this ministry to become mature in presenting the good news from God’s Word. Then you may be disheartened when it seems to you he has enlarged his service only a little. But beyond your vision he is also becoming a better father to his children, spending more time with them, teaching them from God’s Word daily and holding a regular family Bible study at least every week. He is improving his work at his secular job, giving even more than a full measure now so that his employer can find no fault with him. He is growing in manliness. He concerns himself now with the admonition at Romans 13:8: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another.”
12. What encouraging assurance is there for us when we cannot seem to discern growth taking place in ourselves or others?
12 Will you throw up your hands and conclude, Oh, that person I conduct a Bible study with just does not progress? Will you give up in teaching your brother because you think he is too slow? Do you become discouraged with yourself and think, Jehovah surely has no place for me, I just cannot seem to grow at all and do things as well as others? But stop now: Jehovah sent out his active force, his spirit, and in time we have a beautiful planet, an emerald gem in the universe, fertile and rich, populated by animals, birds, fish and man. Is it not an easy thing for the spirit to cause changes and growth in a human creature? Of course, but remember to take into account a few things. First, it takes time. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: “Everything he has made pretty in its time. Even time indefinite he has put in their heart, that mankind may never find out the work that the true God has made from the start to the finish.” Second, it takes place in the heart. Jeremiah 31:33 says: “‘For this is the covenant that shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.’” Second Corinthians 3:3 says: “For you are shown to be a letter of Christ written by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink but with spirit of a living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.” Third, it does not come by force, but comes by willingness under the spirit’s application. “As obedient children, quit being fashioned according to the desires you formerly had in your ignorance.” (1 Pet. 1:14) “Do bring your heart to discipline and your ear to the sayings of knowledge.”—Prov. 23:12.
13. Does the soil have any bearing on growth, and what type of soil is recommended?
13 So in the light of this matter of growth consider the soil, as you read an illustration given by Jesus in a talk recorded at Luke 8:5-15: “As he was sowing, some of it fell alongside the road and was trampled down . . . Some other landed upon the rock-mass, and, after sprouting, it dried up because of not having moisture. Some other fell among the thorns, and the thorns that grew up with it choked it off. Some other fell upon the good soil, and, after sprouting, it produced fruit a hundredfold.” Now, what was the condition of the soil, the seedbed? We see here hard, road-packed soil, rocky soil, thorn-filled ground, and then the good soil. For further description of the good soil read Lu 8 verse fifteen: “As for that on the fine soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.” Must we conclude that one is destined to have a heart that is hard, rocky or thorny or one that is good? No! The hard-packed ground can be cultivated, the rocks can be replaced with fertile soil, the thorns can be pulled up and burned; it all depends upon the desire of the owner.
14. Explain why each person’s desire or goal is vital to growing under Jehovah’s spirit.
14 What is your desire? You have been given a generation of life, which by now you have partly used. How do you want to invest it? If you earnestly seek to serve God and worship him, then the thing to do is grow. Grow under the healthy influence of his spirit. Wherever God’s Word keeps on growing, there is increase. (Acts 6:7) Your desire, your goal, has to do with it, for if you are going to grow you will have to cultivate the soil, water it and care for it patiently for as long as you serve God. You will eagerly have to take advantage of the growing season. Curbing and curtailing any allowance for thorns stealthily to root their way into the seedbed, you would put God first in your life. Psalm 92:12-15 describes this life of growth under care: “The righteous himself will blossom forth as a palm tree does; as a cedar in Lebanon does, he will grow big. Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah, in the courtyards of our God, they will blossom forth. They will still keep on thriving during gray-headedness, fat and fresh they will continue to be to tell that Jehovah is upright. He is my Rock, in whom there is no unrighteousness.”
15. Once growth has started, are we safe, and why do you so answer?
15 Illustrating well the need to keep growing are the reigns of Jehoash, Amaziah and Uzziah, kings of Judah from 903 B.C.E. to 774 B.C.E. They start well, but soon growth comes to a halt and, in reverse, troubles grow. Jehoash has a prophet of God murdered and his own servants rise up to kill him. Jehovah does not intervene, because he has “left Jehovah.” (2 Chron. 24:24) Amaziah leaves Jehovah and turns to worship the idols of the Edomites. Uzziah becomes haughty and presumptuous and winds up with leprosy. (2 Chron. 24:1–26:23) Is the desire we have to worship Jehovah something that is springing from a selfish motive to start with, or is this the way of continued life that we want, with constant cultivation and care for growth under the instruction given at Proverbs 4:4, 22: “Keep my commandments and continue living. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh”?
16. How has growth affected servants of Jehovah, and what future is there in it?
16 Go back to the start now, when you first drank in the waters of truth and started sprouting. Little by little you progressed. From a listener you became a speaker, from taking in to giving out, from a small seed to a fruit-producing tree. You made changes with firm determination. Moderation in food and drink brought genuine enjoyment rather than feeling of restriction. You accepted the Bible’s high standards of morality and gained so many clean-living friends. You replaced that weary, disappointing pleasure-seeking with a balanced program of satisfying study of God’s Word, attending meetings with other growing ministers, having a share in public preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom, and some truly upbuilding pleasurable recreation. Does it all stop there? No! For all of this can be accomplished in a year or two. The roots grow deeper, the trunk larger, the branches stronger, the fruit richer. Years lie ahead, generations, time without end. Yes, all of that time, everlasting time to grow. Each time you read the Bible again it increases your vision, broadens your view, and deepens your appreciation. As long as one stays under the direction of God’s spirit, Paul states, “the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10) So let Psalm 1:1 pick up your life whenever it started, lead up to where you are now and then walk with you into the future: “Happy is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the wicked ones, and in the way of sinners has not stood, and in the seat of ridiculers has not sat. But his delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed. For Jehovah is taking knowledge of the way of righteous ones.”—Ps. 1:1-3, 6.