Serving with Everlasting Life in View
“By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.”—Luke 21:19.
1. How do normal human creatures feel about life?
NO NORMAL human creature wants to die. Whether one is young or old, rich or poor, in good health or in sickness, the instinct to hold on to life is very strong. Not only is this true in the affluent countries of the world, where life is easier and more comfortable, but it holds good, too, in the underdeveloped countries, where life is often very squalid, hard and uncertain. Amid all their difficulties and problems the saying still holds good that ‘while there is life there is hope.’
2. How should Christians feel about everlasting life?
2 If this earnest longing and striving for life is true in such circumstances, how much more diligent and determined should the Christian be in making fast his hold on everlasting life. Yes, indeed, the incentive to pursue everlasting life should be immeasurably stronger than the natural instinct to hold on to our present human life, which normally does not reach even a hundred years. One who reads and believes the Bible’s promise that “the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord,” surely has the greatest hope for the future that any human could want or conceive.—Rom. 6:23.
3. How did Jesus describe the response among people to God’s promises of everlasting life?
3 When we read right through the Bible and take in all the wonderful descriptions it contains of life everlasting in a paradise earth, with freedom from sickness and strife, we wonder how anyone could fail to believe them and put his whole trust in Jehovah, the Giver of life. And yet Jesus foretold that very few would accept Jehovah’s promises and set their feet on the pathway to everlasting life. “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”—Matt. 7:13, 14.
4. (a) What was the attitude of pre-Christian servants of God toward the promises of everlasting life? (b) Why should our appreciation be even greater than theirs?
4 If we have true appreciation of everlasting life and all of its attendant blessings in a paradise earth, we shall want to make a firm resolve that, having found “the road leading off into life,” nothing will turn us aside from it. We see everlasting life as a goal to strive for, an objective to be reached. We recognize that as we journey onward to this goal, we are like faithful Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of old, who saw the promises of God afar off. “They did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. For those who say such things give evidence that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own.” (Heb. 11:13, 14) Those faithful men had endurance. In their day they knew that they would have to die and await God’s promise of a resurrection before they could realize the fulfillment of the promises. But we, today, are in a much happier condition. We see around us the evidence that God’s kingdom has taken its power to rule, and that within this very generation it will put an end to Satan’s rule and usher in a “new earth,” bringing everlasting life. (2 Pet. 3:13) So, if those faithful men of old were willing and able to endure on the road to life down to their death, how much more should we be able to endure, living as we do on the very threshold of God’s new order?
5. Illustrate the importance of keeping our feet on the road to life.
5 Above all else, we are interested in keeping our feet firmly fixed on that narrow road that is leading off into life and that so few people are finding. In following this road we can compare ourselves to travelers in a foreign land. Seeing our goal on the horizon, we must fix our eye upon it as we walk toward it. If we take our eyes off the goal, we wander away from the road and get lost. If our hope for life is very strong, then we shall not be turned aside. Paul likens this hope to an anchor, saying at Hebrews 6:19: “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm.” Like an anchor that safely holds a big ship and prevents it from drifting onto the rocks that could wreck it, so this hope of everlasting life anchors us firmly to Jehovah God and prevents us from ever drifting away from the road to life. But if the anchor begins to drag, the ship will be lost. So we must make sure that we never lose our anchor, our hope, and so expose ourselves to the shipwreck of our faith.
6. Explain why we must maintain our faith in the hope of life.
6 We need to build up our faith in everlasting life constantly like a hope that we always keep in view. Faith is something we cannot just accept once for all time and then assume it will maintain itself without further help. Our faith in God’s promises gives us a wonderful view into the future of God’s new order, which will remain forever. But a view is good only as long as we can see it clearly. Someone may live in a house with a very beautiful view, but if he never washes the windows the view will soon fade out of sight. The view is still there but he can no longer see it. He has to wash the windows regularly if he wants to keep on enjoying the beautiful view.
7. How can we avoid the sin of lack of faith?
7 So with our faith in God’s promises; we must keep renewing it, dwelling on it, talking about it and so strengthening it. Unless we do this, our faith can eventually fade out of sight. For this reason the apostle Paul gave a strong warning to Hebrew Christians to keep their faith alive. “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God; but keep on exhorting one another each day, as long as it may be called ‘Today,’ for fear any one of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin. For we actually become partakers of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:12-14) We may never forget that endurance on the way to life is needed and this depends upon our keeping our hope of life in view. Losing our view of everlasting life means eventually losing life itself.
THINGS THAT CAN OBSCURE OUR VIEW OF LIFE
8. (a) Why is it important for a Christian to be spiritually-minded? (b) How can loss of our spiritual outlook cause us to lose sight of the goal of everlasting life?
8 What are some of the things that could obscure our view of everlasting life? Jesus helps us to understand this at John 6:63, where he says: “It is the spirit that is life-giving; the flesh is of no use at all.” Our hope is a spiritual hope because it originates with the Great Spirit, Jehovah God. We cannot keep our eye fixed on a spiritual goal by nourishing and cultivating worldly hopes and fleshly desires. Our keeping a clear view of the hope of everlasting life depends entirely upon maintaining our spirituality. We have to live spiritual lives, becoming spiritually-minded. This helps us to keep our eyes on the goal. Look at it this way. If you have a long way to walk, what is it that can keep you going even when your legs are very tired? Why, it is the sight of the goal, is it not? Even though it may still be distant, as you see it drawing nearer and nearer you are encouraged to overcome your increasing fatigue and make renewed efforts to press on. But if you cannot see the goal and do not know how far away it is, what then? Even though it may be just around the next bend in the road, the fact that you cannot see it makes your tiredness seem greater, and soon you are ready to quit. Today, there is a very real danger, which is enveloping many dedicated ones, of losing one’s spiritual outlook, losing sight of the goal of everlasting life and growing weary in Jehovah’s service.
9. To what other dangers does loss of spirituality expose us?
9 Loss of spirituality can do even greater damage. It can get us involved in the works of the flesh mentioned by Paul at Galatians 5:19-21. Among those mentioned there are “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, . . . drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” Paul goes on to say: “As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” It would be fatal to be ensnared in these works of the flesh, these practices of the world of mankind, because it would mean the loss of our hope of everlasting life. In spite of this clear, pointed Bible warning, thousands of dedicated servants of Jehovah have allowed themselves to become swallowed up by these works of the flesh and have been disfellowshiped from among Jehovah’s clean people. This happened because they lost their spirituality, lost their view of everlasting life. Something else seemed more desirable to them. But nothing, just nothing at all, could be more desirable than everlasting life under righteous conditions. How vital it is to ensure that nothing ever obscures our view of everlasting life!
10. Show from the Scriptures that we must allow God’s spirit, not our fallen flesh, to control our lives.
10 There are other ways in which our human flesh can obscure our view of everlasting life. Paul said: “The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.” (Rom. 8:6) Our sinful human flesh would like to take complete control of us, dragging us away with it in pursuit of its desires, and stamping out the influence of God’s holy spirit in our lives. As dedicated Christians we have to learn to resist the inclination to put our own fleshly desires first and learn to be led always by God’s spirit.—Gal. 5:16, 17.
11. What crucial decisions involving life are facing many of our brothers today?
11 Some of the arguments of the flesh are very strong and appealing. Circumstances may arise in which our very life is at stake. We may be sick, and be told that nothing but a blood transfusion can save our life. We know that such use of blood is contrary to Jehovah’s will. (Acts 15:28, 29) What will our choice be? At times some of our brothers have been faced with demands on the part of nationalistic governments to bow down and worship national emblems idolatrously, just as the three faithful Hebrews Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were. They have been threatened with immediate death if they failed to do so. Others, striving to maintain their Christian neutrality toward wars between worldly nations, have been faced with similar threats to their lives.
12. What right attitude toward life will strengthen us to survive these vital tests?
12 How can we survive such crucial tests and retain Jehovah’s favor? Well, what are we seeking? To save our present human life, or to gain everlasting life? If we really have everlasting life as our goal and are keeping it always in view, we shall not consider our present human span of life as of such great importance that we would compromise on Jehovah’s laws. Our most important consideration will be the keeping of integrity to Jehovah, not the keeping of our present life. Remember Jesus’ words that “it is the spirit that is lifegiving; the flesh is of no use at all.” Never let your flesh talk you into breaking Jehovah’s laws. More pointedly Jesus said: “For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25) If you keep everlasting life in view, rather than your present short life, you will be an integrity-keeper.
13. What temptation must we resist, and how can we do this?
13 Can you wait for everlasting life? Many cannot. They seek a more immediate, although greatly inferior reward. It calls for spiritual appreciation and maturity to be able to resist the temptation to grasp at temporary advantages at the expense of everlasting life. “We keep our eyes, not on the things seen, but on the things unseen. For the things seen are temporary, but the things unseen are everlasting.” (2 Cor. 4:18) Develop your spiritual outlook, keep your eyes on the goal of everlasting life, and allow nothing to obscure your view.
HOW YOU MAY KEEP EVERLASTING LIFE IN VIEW
14. What principles must we keep clearly in mind in our relationship to Jehovah?
14 Jehovah is the giver of life. “For with you is the source of life.” (Ps. 36:9) We cannot keep everlasting life in view without staying close to Jehovah, the source of life. Zephaniah highlighted this, putting Jehovah first, when he said: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth.” (Zeph. 2:3) David expressed this same important truth, putting Jehovah first, at Psalm 16:8: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly.”
15. (a) What should we know about dedication? (b) What necessary thing will help us to stay close to Jehovah, keeping him always before us?
15 This is what we mean when we dedicate our lives to Jehovah. We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicate ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself. This makes dedication a very personal relationship between us and Jehovah. For this reason, all dedicated ones are not only privileged but obligated to draw near to Jehovah in prayer. James 4:8 tells us: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” If we do not constantly put Jehovah before us in prayer we cannot fulfill our dedication vows, because it just is not possible to have a close, warm, personal relationship with someone unless you constantly talk to him. We all know what happens when family members stop talking to each other. Their relationship breaks up. If we were ever to allow this to happen to our relationship to Jehovah it would be fatal to our hopes of everlasting life.
16. How is the need for prayer highlighted today, and what does prayer do for us?
16 This need for individual prayer grows greater as we near the complete end of this system of things. Peter tells us: “The end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:7) Yes, we must be very watchful indeed that we never neglect this precious privilege of prayer, which helps us to draw close to the Great Source of life. Prayer keeps us awake to our dedication to Jehovah, it helps us to stay spiritually-minded, it makes us more grateful to Jehovah for his goodness, and it sharpens our appreciation of being his servants with everlasting life as our goal.
17. How do personal study and meditation help us to keep our minds on right things?
17 Personal study and meditation also help us to draw close to Jehovah and to keep a clear view of the truth. Bible reading should occupy a prominent place in our study schedule. We should take time each day to mediate upon it so that its right principles become an integral part of our thinking processes. We can test ourselves on this. Ask yourself this question: “When my mind is not actively occupied on a particular project, to what does it turn?” It should turn as a normal thing to Jehovah and a consideration of his purposes. Just as the needle of a compass may be temporarily diverted to left or right, but always swings back to point due north, so our minds should turn back to Jehovah and his Word. If we do this, we shall have no reason to fear troublous times. We shall have taken the Word of God from the printed page, which men can destroy, and put it deep in our hearts, where opposers cannot touch it. Then, no matter what trouble may come upon us, nothing will be able to blot out our view of everlasting life.
18. Why is it good always to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord,” and how does Jehovah’s visible organization help us in this?
18 Consider, too, the help Jehovah kindly gives us through his visible organization on earth. Providing we stay close to it and serve along with it, we get great protection. This is the only organization today that exists solely for the purpose of doing Jehovah’s work, and it is truly an organization of workers. This is because the work is urgent, as stressed by Jesus: “We must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work.” (John 9:4) Sometimes we may feel that there is too much required of us in Jehovah’s service and too much to do. However, rather than looking at it like that, why not try to see it this way? In filling our time to overflowing with his service, Jehovah is being kind to us. Being really busy in Jehovah’s service is a safeguard to us. Then we just do not have time for the worldly interests around us which are clamoring for our time and attention. There is no doubt that worldly pursuits are very demanding of our time. Whether in work or in the pursuit of pleasure, they would like to take every minute of it. But they cannot give us everlasting life. So when Jehovah through his visible organization kindly arranges to fill our lives with service, we should rejoice. Paul expressed it like this: “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) It is the people who have little to do in Jehovah’s service who fall into sin, not those who have plenty to do and do it joyfully. Our having plenty to do in Jehovah’s service makes it sure that we keep our goal of everlasting life in view.
19. What part does joy play in keeping our eyes fixed on the goal of life?
19 Those who have plenty to do in Jehovah’s service experience great joy in doing it. “Serve Jehovah with rejoicing. Come in before him with a joyful cry.” (Ps. 100:2) Do you not agree that you can work at a job much longer when you really enjoy it? Yes, joy gives endurance. This joy sustained Jesus during his sufferings. Paul says, at Hebrews 12:2: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” As long as we experience this same wonderful joy in Jehovah’s service it will keep us active and safeguard us against slowing down and quitting. And to have joy now, we must always keep before us the wonderful joy of living forever in God’s new order. Just as Jesus triumphed over the torture stake and death itself because of the joy set before him, so we shall be able to overcome all obstacles in our way. Indeed, absence of joy is a sure sign of spiritual sickness. Oftentimes this lack of joy is due to one’s having lost sight of the goal of everlasting life.
KEEP ON SERVING WITH EVERLASTING LIFE IN VIEW
20. How does Abraham’s fine example encourage us?
20 Having chosen the pathway to life, and being determined to hold to it at all costs, we can draw much comfort and encouragement from the faithful examples of men of former times, such as Abraham, who responded willingly to God’s call. While Abraham was living in comfort in Ur of the Chaldeans, Jehovah called him to go and serve in another land, which he had never seen. This was a great test of his faith. He would have to change his manner of life completely, living henceforth as a nomad, caring for flocks and herds. Then why did he go? Because he was a man of vision and faith. Paul tells us that “he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:10) Yes, Abraham saw God’s kingdom afar off and welcomed it. He well knew that the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promise would not come in his lifetime. But this did not shake his faith in the promise. Right down to the end of his 175 years on earth he maintained integrity to Jehovah, because he was serving with everlasting life in view.
21. What right outlook on the part of Abraham and Moses can we profitably copy?
21 Moses, too, although he was brought up and educated in Pharaoh’s palace, willingly renounced this high position and its glory and riches to serve simply as a shepherd of God’s “sheep.” And what persuaded him to do this? Hebrews 11:26 says that “he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” Yes, he never lost his vision of God’s new order. Abraham and Moses responded to God’s call because they wanted to be in Jehovah’s service no matter where or what it was. Whether they were asked to do this or that, to go here or there, was of no great concern to them. They just wanted to be serving Jehovah, doing his will, and eventually receiving the blessings of everlasting life.
22. How does readiness to serve help us keep everlasting life in view?
22 This fine mental attitude has been an identifying quality of God’s true servants in all times. We should always cultivate this willing spirit, be always looking for opportunities of serving Jehovah, and be seeking to qualify for increased privileges of service. Paul said to Timothy: “If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” (1 Tim. 3:1) How do we reach out for these privileges? We try to develop the Scriptural qualifications by study, by service, by developing maturity through experience, by cultivating the fruits of the spirit, and by willing response to every call that comes through Jehovah’s organization. When such privileges are offered to us we look upon them, not as burdens, but as rich rewards for faithful service.
23. How are those who put Jehovah first blessed now?
23 In addition to the hope of everlasting life, Jehovah God reserves wonderful rewards now, in this period of time, for those who respond willingly in his service. In answer to Peter’s question on this, Jesus said: “Truly I say to you men, No one has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the good news who will not get a hundredfold now in this period of time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecutions, and in the coming system of things everlasting life.” (Mark 10:29, 30) Thousands of faithful pioneers and others in our day have proved Jesus’ words to be true. In their labor of true love they have found and fed Jehovah’s young lambs, and now the homes of these are thrown open to those pioneers, just as if they were family members. Truly they have hundreds of homes and mothers and brothers, and still, the hope of everlasting life.
24. How do the Scriptures encourage us to keep on serving with everlasting life in view?
24 Regardless of whether you have been in Jehovah’s organization for six months or sixty years (as some have), there is still need to keep on serving, still need for endurance. At times, persecution, sickness, family opposition, or just apathy and indifference on the part of those to whom you preach may put a hard test on your powers of endurance. Remember the words of James: “Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.” (Jas. 1:12) Paul, too, encourages us to continue serving Jehovah with endurance: “So let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.” (Gal. 6:9) By keeping bright our vision of Jehovah’s promises and never allowing anything to cause us to look aside from the pathway to life we shall be able to continue serving with everlasting life in view, as long as Jehovah asks us. And what a grand result there will be for us. “By endurance on your part you will acquire your souls.”—Luke 21:19.