Are You Waiting for “The Call”?
“Shout in triumph to Jehovah, all you people of the earth. Serve Jehovah with rejoicing. . . . Know that Jehovah is God.”—Ps. 100:1-3.
1, 2. (a) What difficulty do many people find in life? (b) What questions might be asked?
MANY people find that it is very difficult to direct their lives in the way they would like. They are caught up in the stream of life and carried along, concerned with the problems that face them from day to day like rocks and eddies in a stream, sometimes losing sight of their personal goals and desires. Youngsters frequently have fanciful goals, something that has aroused their interest or respect. But many are not able to achieve these early wishes. They often find it is a struggle just earning a living, and so they fall far short of the goals they originally hoped to attain.
2 Why is it that so many are disappointed with what they accomplish in life? Is something missing, or are they pursuing the wrong goal? Have they missed their ‘calling’?
3. What indicates whether God purposed for men to enjoy a variety of occupations?
3 Certainly it is not for lack of governmental agencies and guidance counselors, as there are many serving to help young people make the best use of their talents. All kinds of tests have been devised to determine what work or skill a person might best pursue. And even the Scriptures make clear that man’s Creator has given him a tremendous variety of work to enjoy. The fourth chapter of Genesis alludes to the construction trades in connection with city building; it mentions livestock raising and farming, also musicians and metal craftsmen. So what is lacking? Why do many feel dissatisfied even when in the successful pursuit of their chosen career?
4. Why are many men who are successful by worldly standards not truly happy?
4 Modern society is oriented toward materialism. A man is not considered successful in many places if he does not have a fine home, modern conveniences, and a late-model car. Affluence is equated with success in life. Yet as Andrew Carnegie said, “I would gladly sell everything to have my life over again.” Others remember the saying, “You can’t take it with you,” and are frustrated that their successes and pleasures in life are so short-lived. Certainly happiness cannot be measured in terms of wealth or even by the rung of the employment ladder that one reaches.
5. (a) What good counsel is found at 1 John 2:15-17? (b) What questions do we do well to consider?
5 The goals men set in life fall far short of bringing lasting happiness, particularly as they get farther and farther from applying God’s Word in their lives. (Jer. 10:23) With good reason, then, the aged apostle John wrote: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) So it is good to ask ourselves, How much do these things influence our lives—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the showy display of one’s means of life? Do the TV set, the plush home, the modern car, the pursuit of fleshly pleasures mean much to you? Do you devote your life to these things? Or are you more concerned with doing the will of God?
A MEANINGFUL GOAL IN LIFE
6. What did wise King Solomon have to say about human pursuits?
6 It is doing the will of God that can make life fuller and more rewarding so that we need not feel, at the close of life, “look! everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” While many have felt that they could best serve God by developing their own talents and inclinations, whether in the arts or in education or medicine, still we find no indication in the Scriptures that these things will lead to everlasting life. While hard work is called “the gift of God” and can bring joy to the person accomplishing it, still as Solomon said, he hated the thought of leaving it all behind at death for someone who would follow him. So how much better it is to devote our principal efforts to accomplish a work with a future, a work that leads to everlasting life. There is no vanity in this. Difficult circumstances may come to one who does good just as much as to the wicked one, but still his life has a goal, a purpose and Jehovah’s direction and blessing.—Eccl. 2:10, 11, 18; 3:13; 8:14.
7. (a) What teaching of Christendom as to serving God runs counter to the Bible? (b) What do the Scriptures say about “the upward call”?
7 Christendom has taught that the service of God is not for all, and that one must receive a special call for the ministry. While a “call” is mentioned in the Bible, it is not referring to an invitation to share in the ministry, for none were excluded from worshiping and praising their Creator—a fact well understood by early Christians. Rather this call is to become one of the “little flock” referred to by Jesus to be associated with him as kings and priests in his heavenly kingdom as part of the select group of faithful, spirit-anointed ones who make up the 144,000 who are “bought from the earth.” (Luke 12:32; Rev. 14:1-3) Paul referred to this at Philippians 3:14 as “the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:30 shows that such ones are declared righteous by God and are glorified. To these Peter wrote: “Do your utmost to make the calling and choosing of you sure . . . thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. 1:10, 11.
8. What are some reasons why so few are interested in the ministry?
8 But no special divine call is required for one to enter the ministry. God does not whisper to some, “This is for you,” and ignore others. Nor does he withhold a call from some because finances make seminary training an impossibility. The churches in Christendom are becoming concerned because many of their parishioners are reluctant to consider entering the ministry even when invited to do so by their religious organizations. Some report that the low income is a factor. Others are concerned about the changes they see taking place. They may oppose priestly celibacy, or they are confused by the changes in their church, with “saints” being dropped from the religious calendar, modern-language masses, jazz services, priests and ministers on picket lines, birth-control questions, religious intervention in social matters and political issues, even attempts to exchange Scripture principles for a “modern morality.” These and other ideas have caused some to turn their backs on the churches, as they feel they no longer have a message of significance for them. They hear no call from God. In fact, some think God is dead.
9. What trend is reported among students and among the clergy?
9 As Dean William Cannon of Emory University said, “Fewer and fewer students in our colleges are indicating any interest in the ministry.” U.S. News & World Report declared: “Ministers by the thousands are leaving the church entirely . . . All together, statistics released by the National Association for Pastoral Renewal in September show, the rate of priests’ departure from the active ministry so far this year is up 31 per cent over 1967 . . . thousands of nuns—an estimated 3,600 in 1966—are also quitting their orders.” The report continues to say that the United Methodist Church has been trying to raise funds to train new ministers, as they have only 33,000 clergymen for their 42,000 congregations. With this trend in many churches it is not surprising to find mention in the New York Times of March 8, 1969, of a national organization with fourteen offices in major U.S. cities designed to help priests and nuns who are leaving religious work to find secular employment.
10. Is there a basis in early Christianity for the clergy-laity distinction?
10 Another reason why many feel there is no place for them in the service of God is due to the clergy-laity distinction that is fostered in the churches. However, there was no clergy-laity division in early Christianity, and there is none today in true Christianity. Whether one has a heavenly hope or one hopes to live forever on the paradise earth when God’s will is fully done here, still each one has a responsibility before God as a minister in harmony with what is set out in the Scriptures. The setting apart of a clergy class dates back to Babylonish, pagan worship. No precedent for it is found in the ministry of Jesus or his disciples. As M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia says, “The great commission in Matt. xxviii, 19, 20 was not delivered to the eleven apostles merely, but to the general body of the disciples . . . So on the day of Pentecost the whole mass of believers at Jerusalem seem to have been inspired with preaching powers.” While referring to a “technical distinction between clergy and laity,” they go on to say that this “is almost ignored in the New Testament, and we find members of the Church, whether official or private, male or female, freely exercising their liberty in proclaiming Jesus everywhere.”
AN OPEN DOOR TO SERVICE
11. Did Jesus or the early Christians advocate a distinction between clergy and laity?
11 It is noteworthy in this connection that a writer on early church history says, “Celsus, the first writer against Christianity, makes it a matter of mockery, that labourers, shoemakers, farmers, the most uninformed and clownish of men, should be zealous preachers of the Gospel.” What counted was not their education (were not the first disciples humble fishermen?) but their faith and willingness to serve God. Far from making a “technical distinction between clergy and laity,” Jesus condemned this very thing as practiced by the scribes and Pharisees. (Matt. 23:1-33) He referred to their hypocrisy, their practicing works to be seen of men, their ornate religious vestments, the prominent place they took in local affairs and the titles they adopted. To his followers he emphasized, “all you are brothers”—yes, brothers in the faith and brothers in the ministry, including the preaching of God’s Word. The fact that some served as shepherds and teachers and ministerial servants did not elevate them over the flock, but gave them responsibilities in addition to the commission for all Christians to “make disciples of people of all the nations.”—Matt. 23:8; 28:19; Phil. 2:3, 4.
12. Unlike most persons in Christendom, what responsibility have Jehovah’s witnesses been happy to accept?
12 Jehovah’s witnesses, young and old, men and women, have been happy to accept this commission to share in the Christian ministry. They do not say as do the people of Christendom, “That is for my minister or priest to care for; he has studied those things and is qualified.” No, they know that the qualification for the ministry comes from Jehovah and by his spirit. So they do not agree with the viewpoint of one ecclesiastical writer who said, “While preaching the Gospel in some form, and as a specific work, is the general duty of all believers, it is the sole or exclusive duty of those only who, by undoubted internal and external marks, are divinely called to the office, and sanctioned in it by the Church at large.” In fact, Jehovah’s witnesses recognize that this teaching has been responsible to some degree for turning sincere persons away from the ministry. How many in the churches of Christendom feel that preaching the gospel as a specific work is their general duty? How many actually engage in the preaching of the good news? Do not many rather say they prefer not to talk about religion? Do not most parishioners leave any sharing in the ministry to their priests and ministers?
13. Why is it important to ‘call on the name of Jehovah’? And how can this be done?
13 However, such a viewpoint is quite contrary to the direction of God’s spirit, which was poured out at Pentecost “upon every sort of flesh.” Peter indicated that this prophecy as recorded by Joel would have an application “in the last days” when “your sons and your daughters will prophesy and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams . . . And everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Acts 2:17-21) So in fulfillment of this prophecy we see Jehovah’s people world wide sharing the prophetic word with others, calling on Jehovah’s name in prayer and in their public ministry, making God’s name known, even as Jesus did. They are happy to share in the “public declaration for salvation” and to take part in declaring “good news of good things” as Paul encouraged all believers to do. (Rom. 10:8-15) Impelled by the spirit of God, they not only study his Word, but apply it in their lives and “publicly declare that ‘word in your own mouth,’ that Jesus is Lord.” In 1970, 1,483,430 were active with Jehovah’s witnesses as proclaimers of the good news.
14. What call is open to all, and why do you say so?
14 Yes, they appreciate the need to put to use what they have learned from God’s Word. In his illustration of the talents Jesus commended those who used well the knowledge of the Kingdom with which they were entrusted, but the one who hid his talent in the ground was condemned as a wicked and sluggish slave. (Matt. 25:14-27) In the book of Revelation the apostle John tells of an “angel flying in midheaven” who has everlasting good news to declare to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” With a loud voice he urges: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.” (Rev. 14:6, 7) The response is outstanding. A “great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” answer the invitation. They openly share in the worship of Jehovah, not in some secluded spot out of public view. As reported at Revelation 7:10, “they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.”’ Are you one of that “great crowd” who is making public expression of your faith?
15. How did the early Christians become qualified to share in the preaching of the good news?
15 How are such ones qualified for this service? Well, how were Jesus’ fisherman apostles qualified?—or Luke, who was a physician rather than a minister when he learned the truth of God’s Word? How was it that Paul could write to Timothy: “For the purpose of this witness I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—a teacher of nations in the matter of faith and truth.” (1 Tim. 2:7) Who was it that gave him this appointment if it was not from God? Certainly Peter did not appoint Paul to his ministry as some might like to think. Paul himself explained, “Our being adequately qualified issues from God.” (2 Cor. 3:5) Those men who were fishermen like James and John must have recognized that their being adequately qualified for the ministry issued from God. Yet they had a background for this service. As Jews they had been taught by their parents in the Law and the Prophets. They felt that God’s Word was a ‘lamp to their foot and a light to their roadway.’ They must have prayed, “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in the way of your regulations.” (Ps. 119:105, 33) And now they had the privilege of associating with the one who was outstandingly a teacher of truth. (John 13:13) When the application of the Scriptures in the life of Jesus was made clear to them, they were ready to share what they knew with others. (Matt. 4:18-22) Their clear understanding of the Scriptures and the direction of Jehovah’s spirit in their ministry made it possible for these apostles and disciples to speak with authority so that even the rulers took note that “they used to be with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Jehovah had seen to it that they were adequately qualified for the ministry.
16. What provisions to quality for the ministry does Jehovah make for true worshipers today?
16 Similarly today Jehovah holds open a door to the Christian ministry to people in all walks of life, to those with all levels of educational achievement who have a zeal for the Lord. (2 Ki. 10:15; John 4:34) Just as with the early Christians they may come from various occupations. But they recognize the need for taking in accurate knowledge of God’s Word. They are not burdened down with years of fruitless training in philosophy and higher criticism, but their training and instruction for the ministry help to build their faith and adequately equip them to share the truth with others. They recognize the wisdom of Paul’s words: “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?” (Rom. 2:21) So in addition to personal home study of the Bible, they associate regularly in the five meetings each week provided in the 26,524 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses throughout the world, including the Theocratic Ministry School, to become well equipped in using the “sword of the spirit,” God’s Word.—Col. 2:8; 2 Tim. 2:15.
17. (a) Did James try to discourage others from becoming teachers of truth, and what argues against such a viewpoint? (b) What then was the point of his comment that “not many . . . should become teachers”?
17 Since the goal of a Christian is to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to “make disciples of people of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all the things” he had commanded them, why is it that James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment”? Is not this contrary to Jesus’ own instruction? Certainly James was not advocating that parents should not teach their own children or that the discipling work should not go forward. He would not be encouraging some to hold back from using the Kingdom talents entrusted to them in serving their Creator fully when the way was open to them for service. That was not the course he followed as an overseer and teacher of the Christian congregation. In fact he had just been discussing the fact that faith without works is dead. But in this scripture he was speaking of the wise use of the tongue and the need for those with special responsibilities as teachers within the Christian congregation to be sure to instruct in accurate knowledge. He recognized the fact, as set out at Ephesians 4:11, that God “gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers.” So there would be various services to be shared in in the Christian organization. There would be only twelve apostles of the Lamb, but others might serve as prophets or evangelizers. In the early congregations some took the lead in instruction as teachers and shepherds of the flock just as in the days of the kingdom of Israel when there were schools of the prophets. Similarly Jesus’ ministry included the training and instruction of his apostles to carry on the work after his death. And the apostles imitated Jesus in giving instruction to those who were younger. (2 Tim. 2:2) Today in the congregations of Jehovah’s people there are servants who take the lead in giving instruction to the congregation. Others serve as teachers for missionary service at Gilead School, or for congregational activity at the Kingdom Ministry School. Some brothers have the responsibility of preparing the material to be used by the congregations in their educational program. But the purpose of it all is as Ephesians 4:12 says: “with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work.” So while some serve in more specialized capacities as teachers, this does not exclude any from serving as ministers or teachers of the good news among the nations as Jesus commanded.—Heb. 5:12.
“SEEKING FIRST THE KINGDOM”
18. (a) What recommendation did Jesus make concerning a goal in life? (b) Why is it a wise objective?
18 There is no finer way in which a man or woman can spend his life than this. It is a wonderful privilege to serve Jehovah and to do so full time. It is the way of life that has Jehovah’s approval and that helps others on the way to eternal life as well as giving much personal satisfaction. The goal is not one of financial reward, but rather results in heaping up treasures in heaven. The true minister of the gospel, like Paul, will “consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.” They do not have “their minds upon things on the earth” but rather follow Jesus’ example in “seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.”—Matt. 6:33; Phil. 3:8, 19.
19. What are some requirements for those taking up the ministry?
19 Can you do the same? Certainly the requirements are not difficult for those who sincerely love Jehovah and appreciate the rightness of his ways. You must have a spirit of willingness. (Ps. 110:3) As Jesus did, you must get baptized in symbol of your decision to do Jehovah’s will as set out in the Scriptures. You must live in accord with Jehovah’s righteous requirements. A person who takes up the service of Jehovah must do it full time, living in accord with His Word every day of his life. Preaching is by no means all there is to the service of God, but it certainly is a prominent part of that service. Those who ‘get the sense’ of God’s Word do not keep it to themselves; they produce good Kingdom fruits, thirty, sixty or a hundredfold, as Jesus encouraged. (Matt. 13:23) Are you producing that? Can you do it more fully? The call for more workers in the Kingdom proclamation has gone out. The work is urgent. If you respond wholeheartedly, Jehovah will bless you richly, because, whether the actual hours that you are able to spend in preaching to others are many or few, you will be proving yourself to be a full-time servant of the true God.—1 Cor. 15:58.