“Let Us Not Give Up in Doing What Is Fine”
1. What kind of overseer of God’s flock did Paul show himself to be, and how did his Christian brothers respond?
THE apostle Paul as a faithful overseer and shepherd of the flock of God was always anxiously concerned about helping others to make progress in their spiritual lives. To the Christians at Rome he wrote: “I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you in order for you to be made firm.” (Rom. 1:11) It was this warm, loving interest in others that made the ministry of this apostle so successful and such a blessing to those with whom he served. His Christian brothers appreciated his love. The thought of losing this brother of theirs was enough to cause “the older men of the congregation” of Ephesus to be “especially pained,” yes, even to weep. In a spontaneous gesture of their love for him “they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him.”—Acts 20:17, 37, 38.
2. What admonition did Paul give to the older men of the congregation of Ephesus?
2 Just a few moments before this moving occasion, Paul had been encouraging the older men from the Ephesus congregation to have this same loving concern for those under their spiritual care. He wanted them also to do all they could to aid the members of the congregation to be “sowing with a view to the spirit.” Earnestly he told them: “Pay attention to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the holy spirit has appointed you overseers, to shepherd the congregation of God, which he purchased with the blood of his own Son.”—Acts 20:28.
3. What kind of overseers are needed in the congregation of God’s people today?
3 Most certainly there is the need for overseers of this kind in the Christian congregation today. No, not just men of zeal for the ministry, men who can set a fine lead in the public preaching from house to house, men who can give stirring public discourses from the platform and who demonstrate a fine knowledge of Bible teaching. True, such qualities are to be commended and are most beneficial both for the congregation and for others who may listen to the preaching of the “good news.” But Paul’s concern as an overseer, as indicated in the Bible passages noted above, is for the flock already gathered. He is concerned about their growing spiritually, their becoming “full-grown” as spiritual men “to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.” The apostle expressed himself in those very words when he wrote back to the congregation at Ephesus after his arrival in Rome as a prisoner. (Eph. 4:11-13) This, then, becomes a primary concern of Christian overseers and their ministerial assistants today: to help each one in the congregation to grow spiritually, to help each one to sow “with a view to the spirit” so that each one may “reap everlasting life from the spirit,” not giving up “in doing what is fine.”—Gal. 6:8, 9.
4. In helping others to make spiritual progress, what words of Paul to the Galatians is it well to have in mind?
4 It is true that our helping one to put more time in the preaching of the good news may be one way of helping a member of the congregation to do more sowing with a view to the spirit. But it need not necessarily be so. It could even make one think he is making spiritual progress when he is in fact lacking in some more essential aspect of spiritual growth. So, in connection with spiritual growth it is well for the individual Christian and for the overseer to have in mind these further words from Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind. But let him prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person. For each one will carry his own load.”—Gal. 6:3-5.
5. How were some Jewish Christians in Galatia ‘deceiving their own minds’ in the way they reasoned?
5 Those Jewish Christians in the congregations in the province of Galatia who put great stock by their being circumcised were indeed ‘deceiving their own minds.’ Having once professed faith in Christ Jesus and his sacrifice as the means of salvation from sin and death, they were now ‘shoving aside the undeserved kindness of God.’ As Paul pointedly wrote to them: “If righteousness is through law, Christ actually died for nothing.” Their accepting such ideas was “senseless,” they were being brought “under evil influence.” So the apostle reasons with them: “After starting in spirit are you now being completed in flesh?” Impossible! Looking at things in a fleshly way could not complete them as spiritual men with everlasting life in view. They were considering themselves something when they were nothing. Their making comparisons on the basis of the flesh, preferring circumcision over uncircumcision, did not advance them ahead of their uncircumcised Christian brothers in growth toward spiritual maturity. To the contrary, because of such attitude their undergoing suffering for the name of Christ would be, in fact, to no purpose. They would fail to reap everlasting life, because of sowing with a view to the flesh instead of to the spirit.—Gal. 2:21; 3:1-4.
6, 7. (a) How have some Christians today fallen into the trap of trying to be completed “in flesh,” after having started “in spirit”? (b) So, in helping others, what will we want to do?
6 So, too, our enduring suffering and persecution today, our fine works of preaching and teaching in the public ministry can be to no purpose if we begin to trust in those works of ours as the basis for righteousness rather than in the undeserved kindness of God. We also will be thinking we are something when we are nothing, deceiving our minds. Some have fallen into this trap and become overconfident as to their position, favorably comparing their activity and record with others. They are really trying to be “completed” as Christians “in the flesh” rather than in a spiritual way.
7 Thus, if we are in a position to assist others in the way of Christian maturity we will want to help them to that goal in the right way. We will want to help each one to sow with a view to the spirit, that he might reap spiritual fruitage and make real spiritual advancement with everlasting life in view. How can this be done? One fine suggestion Paul offers is noted at Galatians 6:4: “Let him prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”
8. Why is empathy so important in giving the right kind of assistance to others?
8 A Christian overseer will want to have this principle in mind when offering assistance to fellow members of the congregation. This requires real empathy or fellow feeling, the ability to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. Individual members of the congregation, depending on a variety of factors such as years and experience in the truth, ability to grasp and retain information and apply it, early training in youth, present problems of daily living, and so forth, are in different stages of spiritual growth. What the next step may be for them to take depends largely on just where they stand on the road to Christian maturity. The overseer needs to discern this in order to give the counsel and encouragement each individual personally needs.
9. What kind of progress do we want others to make, and why?
9 For example, it is readily seen that one who has not yet begun to attend meetings with any regularity is not in position to take the step forward into the public ministry, to preach the good news to others from house to house. The spiritual effort to make such a large step forward might result in a faith-hurting fall rather than in a spiritual advance toward maturity, not to speak of the fact that such a person is not in position to represent the congregation properly, not yet being a regular associate of it. True, we do want all of those interested in God’s Word to make advancement to the point where they are sharing in the Christian ministry. This is Jehovah’s will for them. But they need to make advancement step by step, making orderly progress according to a good spiritual routine.
10. (a) Why is it important for a parent to take note of progress on the part of his children and to give appropriate commendation? (b) On what basis will the wise parent encourage his children to make progress?
10 It is indeed encouraging when we can see we are making progress. That is true of anything we do, is it not? It is true of the very young child when he first learns to do something new: to crawl, to take his first few steps, to speak his first words. He will gurgle with delight at having accomplished something. Sometimes progress, because it takes time, is barely noticeable. This is likewise true of growth. You may sit and watch a plant in your garden for hours and fail to discern any evidence of growth. But it is growing! After you have been away for a few days and return—why, it is easy to see the changes in the garden, changes due to growth. A parent, seeing his child every day, may not be so conscious of the child’s growth, but some friend, returning after some months’ absence, will immediately remark to the youngster, “How you’ve grown!” It is encouraging for a youngster as he gets older when his growth in other directions is also noted. If he is helped to see how he is making advancement in his school lessons, he is encouraged and is likely to work harder. He has a sense of accomplishment, of satisfaction. A discerning parent also looks for spiritual growth in his children, and gives warm, loving commendation where appropriate. He wisely guides his children to take the steps forward in spiritual growth according to their individual needs and abilities. He refrains from making discouraging comparisons with other children, but aids each child to “prove what his own work is,” how he is making advancement, and the child finds “cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with” some other child, which may discourage, or, in some cases, give a false basis for encouragement.
11. (a) To encourage his Bible student, what will the discerning minister want to do? (b) What kind of help will be of most profit to spiritually sick persons, but how should it be given? (c) What will give the newly associated or spiritually sick ones genuine cause for exultation?
11 Failure to see any progress in oneself can be most discouraging. Oftentimes persons newly associated with the Christian congregation and who have been having a Bible study for some time may feel they are not making the desired progress. A discerning teacher will therefore help such ones to see the progress they are, in fact, making, being ready to give warm and sincere commendation where suitable. Likewise, the overseer will want to do the same for those regularly associated with the congregation. No, not flattery. If a person who has been an active associate of the congregation becomes spiritually sick he needs genuine help, loving assistance. It will help him to see just what his work is, what it is that is lacking, and then to have some practical suggestions to overcome his problem. Maybe his problem is that he is just not sure what he needs to do, what step to take. Help and guidance as to what to do to strengthen his spiritual life will be appreciated. True, such help should always be given in a loving and tactful way, but it also needs to be honest and realistic. When such help is given with love and empathy, the ones assisted are grateful for being helped to take the right step on the road to spiritual growth and maturity. As these ones make steps forward, commend sincerely. Help them to discern their own progress. Then they will have cause for exultation, and this in regard to themselves, not in comparison with some other person.
ALERT TO LOSS OF SPIRITUALITY
12. If we want to reap the fruitage of everlasting life from our sowing, to what must we be alert?
12 Sowing with a view to the spirit results in spiritual growth. If we stop sowing with a view to the spirit, we stop growing spiritually. Even worse, if we return to sowing with a view to the flesh, we cease doing what is fine and our appreciation for spiritual things withers, leading to spiritual inactivity and death. At one time we may have “walked according to the system of things of this world.” “Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.” (Eph. 2:2, 3) But when we began to feed upon the truth of God’s Word, when we began to discern and do what Jehovah’s holy spirit made clear to be His will for us, then we began to come alive in a real sense. (1 Cor. 2:11, 12; 2 Cor. 3:6) If we go on sowing with a view to the spirit we “will reap everlasting life from the spirit.” We do not want to lose this blessed harvest of eternal life, do we? Then, we need to be alert to discern in ourselves any tendency to going back to sowing with a view to the flesh.
13, 14. (a) How does one show one is acting in harmony with God’s spirit in dealing with personal problems with others? (b) Failing to act in harmony with God’s spirit in such matters can lead to what consequences? (c) How does being spiritually minded make for good relations between Christian brothers?
13 It may be, dear reader, that you are already a member of a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses. Well, how do you view your fellow Christians? Do you know that the way you look at others provides you with a clear indication of the way you are sowing? It will quickly tell you whether you are looking at things in just a fleshly way or in a spiritual way. If, for example, you see you are beginning to find fault, mentally downgrading others efforts in Jehovah’s service, here is a warning sign that you are in danger of going back to sowing with a view to the flesh. If you do have some cause for disagreement with your Christian brother or sister, if you feel that you have been sinned against by that one, be quick to put matters right, either by not ‘keeping account of the injury’—and that means really putting it out of mind, not bearing any grudge—or by following through on Jesus’ counsel at Matthew 18:15-17 in order to gain your brother. This is acting in harmony with God’s spirit. (1 Cor. 13:5) What is the result if you do not follow this course? A grudge is retained in the heart against that brother or sister. This, in turn, colors your whole relationship with that one. The appearance of the “offender” on the platform to present a Bible talk or take part in a discussion or demonstration produces a feeling of resentment and you find yourself listening in a critical attitude rather than with love and appreciation. This is the attitude of “fleshly men,” not “spiritual men,” is it not?—1 Cor. 3:1-3.
14 This does not mean we were unaware of the weaknesses of others. But, the spiritually minded man, producing the fruitage of God’s spirit, is merciful, long-suffering, full of kindness. He makes allowances for others. He bears in mind that each one in the congregation is Jehovah’s servant, seeking to please Him.
15. Of what are feelings of jealousy and resentment indicative, and what attitude does James encourage?
15 Loss of spiritual-mindedness may show up in feelings of jealousy. It may be one has anticipated some assignment or privilege of service being given to him but he is passed over in favor of someone else. The ‘fleshly man,’ the one ‘sowing with a view to the flesh,’ will find resentment welling up in his heart. This resentment dispels joy, making it difficult or even impossible to cooperate with the brother now appointed. Not without good reason the disciple James writes: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a meekness that belongs to wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.”—Jas. 3:13-16.
16. Why should we fight off any tendency to reject encouragement from others or belittle counsel?
16 A sure sign of loss of spiritual vision is when we begin to resent encouragement or counsel from mature Christians, even when it is appropriate, given in love and with the backing of the Scriptures. Be alert to this danger signal. Avoid any tendency to belittle counsel by telling yourself: “Oh, it’s just old So-and-so speaking,” thus viewing the counsel as from only a human source rather than from Jehovah through one of his servants. Actually, because we are associated with the true organization of God, we can expect to have personal assistance offered to us, to receive counsel and encouragement as we need it. Those “who have spiritual qualifications” are under orders to care for the flock, to restore in a spirit of mildness those who take “some false step.” (Gal. 6:1) Welcome such help. Doing so, you manifest the kind of humility that leads to a blessing from Jehovah, to receiving of his undeserved kindness and being exalted to life in his righteous new order.—Jas. 4:6, 10.
17, 18. (a) What other symptom of loss of spirituality is perhaps most likely to affect the Christian, and what may contribute to this? (b) Why is this no time to be giving up in doing what is fine?
17 A common symptom of loss of spirituality is a loss of zeal for the Christian ministry. The first zeal of ‘Christian youth,’ fired by the expectation of soon realizing the hope of life in happiness under God’s kingdom, may wear off. Time passes and Armageddon does not come as soon as anticipated. The daily problems of life crowd in again and remind us of our imperfections and weaknesses. Or perhaps we find ourselves looking longingly at the present material benefits being enjoyed by others, and the temptation not to miss out on life’s present pleasures saps our devotion to Jehovah’s cause.
18 But, really, is this a time to be giving up in doing the fine work God has given to his servants in these “last days”? Of all times, this is the time to be showing endurance in Jehovah’s service. The long-promised kingdom of His has been ruling from the heavens since 1914. We are now well along into the time of the end, the last days for this present system of things. The complete end of wickedness is near, in our generation. The lives of millions hang in the balance; they are in urgent need of our help. What a privilege it is for dedicated Christians to turn honesthearted men and women away from the mad course of this world to embrace the true worship leading to everlasting life! By all means, then, “let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out. Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”—Gal. 6:9, 10.
19. What “war” does each one have to contend with, and what vital issue is at stake?
19 Do not brush off as of no consequence tendencies to ‘sow with a view to the flesh.’ Naturally, being still imperfect, we are still plagued by the weaknesses of the flesh. We find we do not always do the things we would like to do, or we do things we wish we did not do. But, we must not give in to the desires of the flesh, “to live in accord with the flesh.” Yes, we have a war going on within ourselves, between our mind, with which we strive to be in harmony with the leadings of Jehovah’s spirit, and our flesh. (Rom. 7:18-23; 8:12, 13) To give in to the flesh, to resume sowing with a view to the flesh, is bound to mean a reaping of corruption, yes, death. But, “he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Gal. 6:8.
20. What encouraging words are recorded at Hebrews 6:9-12 for those who endure faithfully in doing what is fine?
20 To those enduring in doing what is fine come these loving words of encouragement and counsel: “However, in your case, beloved ones, we are convinced of better things and things accompanied with salvation, although we are speaking in this way. For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name, in that you have ministered to the holy ones and continue ministering. But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—Heb. 6:9-12.