“Exert Yourselves Vigorously”!
“Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.”—Luke 13:24.
1. What practical advice did a graduating class of Gilead receive?
THE keynote speaker at the graduation exercises of the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead not many years ago advised the soon-to-be missionaries: “Every day in our life, we should be able to retire at night being glad, happy, for that day of life, because we should be able to see the good that we did because of our hard work . . . Work hard, and then you will rejoice because of the things you are doing.” The advice of the Watchtower Society’s president was both practical and well-founded in the Scriptures. Hard work is essential for happiness, especially if one is engaged in proclaiming Jehovah’s incoming new system of things.
2. Describe the attitude about work prevalent in the world today.
2 If you are so engaged, how do you view your work in the Christian ministry? Are you willing to apply yourself to it with diligence? Is it the main source of your happiness in living? Are you finding genuine enjoyment in the preaching and teaching work you do, striving to become skillful in it and freely sharing the benefits of it with others? That is very good, for who wants to relapse into the attitude about work so prevalent in the world today? On every hand people seem reluctant really to apply themselves to work, and many who hire them complain that they are becoming more and more dilatory, lax and indifferent. “Slow down; the job you save may be your own,” is said to be the slogan of many shop stewards. Strikes are said to be the bane of society in many countries, with labor unrest becoming increasingly troublesome to employers. Changing attitudes toward work were emphasized by one youngster: “Don’t tell me how to work. I am from a different generation and we just do not work that hard.”
3. What is another aspect of the failure-to-work problem?
3 Not only is working hard becoming more and more unpopular but apparently many connive at means to avoid all work. That facet of the failure-to-work problem is presented by the February 8, 1971, issue of U.S. News & World Report under the subject “Welfare Out of Control,” deploring the widespread situation typified by that in New York city, where one of every six persons was said to be on relief, mainly because of “fiscal abandonment” by fathers who refuse to work, and evade responsibility of supporting their children and the mothers of those children. In his State of the Union message on January 22, 1971, the United States president, in advocating solutions to the serious problem, declared: “Let us also establish an effective work incentive and an effective work requirement.”
4. (a) Must Christians be compelled to work? (b) Why should man find enjoyment in the work he does?
4 True Christians need not be compelled to work. Such laziness is condemned by the Bible, which gives this instruction: “Make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we ordered you.” (1 Thess. 4:11) God made man so that he might find enjoyment in the work he does, deriving deep satisfaction and contentment thereby. Such provision truly is a grand gift and blessing from Jehovah. “Every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God. And I have seen that there is nothing better than that the man should rejoice in his works, for that is his portion.”—Eccl. 3:13, 22; 2:10, 24; 5:18.
5. Explain why God’s people need to shun worldly attitudes toward work.
5 Accordingly, God’s people need to shun worldly attitudes toward work. It is essential that they work to support themselves and for their loved ones “make honest provision, not only in the sight of Jehovah, but also in the sight of men.” (2 Cor. 8:21; 2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:8) They are well aware that laziness will lead to poverty and ruin, not only concerning material support but especially concerning spiritual things. (Prov. 10:4; 24:33, 34; 21:25) To view such matters as simply part of life would be disastrous, especially if the infection of laziness affected one’s spiritual works and afflicted one’s spirituality. Truly, “laziness causes a deep sleep to fall, and a slack soul goes hungry.”—Prov. 19:15.
WHY JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES KEEP BUSY
6. (a) Why are Jehovah’s witnesses very busy people? (b) How does keeping busy provide protection and bring happiness?
6 As you might expect, Jehovah’s witnesses are very busy people, but are they to be pitied because they are committed to working hard? They do much private Bible study, attend five weekly congregation meetings and spend much time each month in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom and making disciples of people, besides providing support for themselves and their families. Keeping busy, they have the joy and satisfaction of bringing honor to Jehovah’s name and bringing comfort to truth seekers and they have the promise of the reward of eternal life. Being busy serves as a protection from many of the temptations and snares of the world, the flesh and the Devil. So when you visit a congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses you will find that they are a happy people and likely the happiest of all among them are those having the most to do in preaching and teaching God’s Word to others.—Ps. 144:15; Acts 20:35.
7. (a) What other necessities require Christians to work hard? (b) Explain why being a servant in the congregation is a privilege and how others should view the servants’ hard work.
7 Another thing that keeps conscientious, hardworking Christians busy is the need to assist their Christian brothers, as well as preparing parts on the various meeting programs, and so forth. Those who are servants in the congregations have still more duties to discharge. What a privilege, bringing to oneself a deep-seated satisfaction, to assist these humble “sheep” of Jehovah’s fold, whose gratitude they have. (1 Thess. 5:14; Phil. 2:3, 4; 1 Cor. 10:24, 33; Rom. 15:1, 2) Such hardworking overseers of congregations are deeply appreciated and esteemed by their brothers.—1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7.
8. Give another reason why Christians must work hard.
8 Another reason such ministers have so much to do is that there is so little time left to this system of things; so they must be diligent. “Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah. Rejoice in the hope.” The urgency of our times demands that they “work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah.” It is a lifesaving work and, as Jesus said on one occasion, “We must work the works of him that sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work.”—Rom. 12:11, 12; Col. 3:23, 24; John 9:4.
9. (a) Why is this ministerial work not dull but stimulating? (b) What kind of occupations is today’s youth seeking?
9 What a stimulating, refreshing challenge presents itself in this never-to-be-repeated lifesaving work! There is nothing dull, routine or uninteresting in this occupation so that it holds out for youth no appealing prospects for which youth seeks. A report concerning Harvard University’s 1970 graduating class says “that students are increasingly uncertain about what to do after college and that many are accepting, even welcoming, manual jobs . . . many recent graduates were taking jobs as taxi drivers, warehousemen, book store clerks and craftsmen because they feared that their identities would be subsumed and their energies misdirected in traditional jobs.”—New York Times, March 3, 1971.
10. What work did Jesus take up as a young man, and did it satisfy him?
10 Work with the hands is good and satisfying because it brings to the worker the pleasure of accomplishment, but it is not the most meaningful occupation in which a person can be engaged. Man’s Creator well knows what works are required to satisfy man and it is most interesting to note what work he directed his Son to perform. There came a time when Jesus put aside his secular employment as a carpenter for far more important, infinitely more meaningful pursuits, which he delighted to do. (John 5:17; Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7) He did the work Jehovah assigned to him and found it as rewarding and refreshing as food. On one occasion when his disciples urged him to eat he responded: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” At the end of the work he would be refreshed by the joy of accomplishment and have genuine satisfaction.—John 4:34.
HARD WORK BRINGS HAPPINESS
11. (a) Was Jesus a hard worker, and did his work bring him happiness? (b) What is the point to his illustration at Matthew 25:14-30?
11 “Look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured,” even to the point of a disgraceful death on the torture stake. (Heb. 12:2) His exemplary career was that of hard work in the ministry with happiness. Remember, too, that he emphatically condemned the dilatory, sluggish slave who, at his Lord’s coming, proved to have done nothing with the interests left in his charge and had gained nothing. But his illustration shows that work gives its own reward in joyfulness. By diligence the slave caring for five talents doubled them, and the one caring for two talents doubled them. What was their reward? “You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.” What about the lazy slave that would not work? The talent was taken from him, but, instead of rejoicing, he went off weeping. (Matt. 25:14-30) Truly, to be happy one needs to work and take care of responsibility.
12. (a) What is youth’s attitude toward traditional occupations and working hard? (b) What works are vain and what works will bring contentment and happiness?
12 Today’s youth is increasingly skeptical of following traditional occupations, observing that few who do so find pleasure in such pursuit, and the anxieties, neuroses and mental and physical disorders of those who do so proclaim the failure of their course. One cynic expressed his disenchantment waggishly: “Let us work hard and save our money and then, when we are old, we will be able to afford the things only young people enjoy.” Long ago Solomon, while faithful to God, was used to write much concerning the frustrations and vanities of man’s works, and it might be said that what was written in the book of Ecclesiastes seeks to congregate God’s people away from the vain and fruitless works of this world to the works worthy of the God to whom they are dedicated. Materialistic pursuits will prove to be vanity in the end and bring disappointment, but Solomon counsels the young man to remember his grand Creator while he is able to serve him with vigor. Such will result not in vanity but in eternal happiness.—Eccl. 12:1; Ps. 128:1, 2.
13 What greater happiness could there be for young or old than to please Jehovah so as to “get saved”? While in his illustration about “a man, about to travel abroad,” Jesus informs us that when that “man” returned he had the good-for-nothing slave thrown out, he emphasizes the positive lesson in his illustration, affirming that the diligent slaves may enter into the joy of their master. (Matt. 25:14-30) Also positive and direct was his response to a certain man who inquired, “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” By his answer Jesus rules out anything less than wholehearted effort: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.” (Luke 13:23, 24) All should give attention to his words, especially giving thought to how they apply to us now and what is meant by vigorous exertion on the part of Christians.
14. What is Jesus telling us by advocating vigorous exertion?
14 When Jesus said that we should exert ourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door he did not infer that many obstacles would be put in our way by the world that would hinder our entrance, but rather that God’s own requirements are such that they exclude unworthy ones. Jehovah does not want those not loving righteousness, not whole-souled in their devotion. “I passed along by the field of the lazy individual and by the vineyard of the man in need of heart. And, look! all of it produced weeds. Nettles covered its very surface, and its stone wall itself had been torn down. So I proceeded to behold, I myself; I began taking it to heart; I saw, I took the discipline: A little sleeping, a little slumbering, a little folding of the hands to lie down, and as a highwayman your poverty will certainly come and your neediness as an armed man.” (Prov. 24:30-34) If a person is not a real worker, will Jehovah preserve him alive into his new system of things?
15. Why should Christians desire to be industrious, and in what will it result?
15 Christians have every incentive to be genuinely industrious as Christ was, the one before whom they hope to stand approved. They apply themselves with diligence to the end of pleasing him and his Father with the quality of their work. “Have you beheld a man skillful in his work? Before kings is where he will station himself; he will not station himself before commonplace men.” (Prov. 22:29) Such one progresses beyond his initial desire to please Jehovah and his first efforts in the ministry by increasing in accurate Bible knowledge and continuing to make spiritual advancement, having the same desire as Jesus’ apostles, who said, “Give us more faith.”—Luke 17:5; Prov. 27:11.
16. Explain why wholehearted devotion and work are required by Jehovah.
16 If vigorous exertion is required to be saved, who will be content to be halfhearted? To the man who inquired about gaining everlasting life, Jesus pointed out that he must love Jehovah with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. (Luke 10:27) What can a man accomplish without much drive or enthusiasm or heart? Nothing worth while comes easy. Half effort does not produce half results but usually no results. The only way to accomplish results that last is by continuous, diligent, hard work.
JEHOVAH’S REQUIREMENTS ARE REASONABLE
17. Is Jehovah being unreasonable or requiring too much?
17 What Jehovah requires men to do for salvation is not too much. He is not being unreasonable but generous, kind, loving and thoughtful. He takes no delight in the death of wicked ones and has exercised great patience and forbearance so that man might get saved. His will is that Christians should “go on leading a calm and quiet life with full godly devotion and seriousness.” (1 Tim. 2:2-4; Ezek. 33:10, 11) Life is a prize, a treasure of inestimable value, which Jehovah bestows upon the worthy ones. The ones who prove their worthiness are wholehearted followers of Christ Jesus. Do you recall what Jesus instructed the young man with many possessions? “Now, look! a certain one came up to him and said: ‘Teacher, what good must I do in order to get everlasting life?’ Jesus said to him: ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.”’ (Matt. 19:16, 21; Acts 4:12) Since life in full health with untold blessings for all eternity is such a great and grand thing, would it not be more realistic and reasonable for one to appraise it as the man in another of Jesus’ illustrations? “The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field.”—Matt. 13:44.
18. Why are such requirements practical and loving?
18 Most assuredly, what Jehovah is asking back is reasonable. (Jas. 3:17; Mic. 6:8) Furthermore it is loving and practical, since there are so many appreciative hearers yet to be reached with the “good news of the kingdom.” Those who preach it are numerous and growing rapidly in number but those who “observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus” are comparatively few and there still is much to be done as the time left to do it is dwindling.—Matt. 24:14; Rev. 12:17.
19. Define vigorous exertion and explain why it is necessary.
19 Sharing in the ministry is a joyful occupation but, because of the magnitude of the task, we should do more than simply have some small share if we are able to do so. Vigor is effective energy or strength, potency. Vigorous exertion means to be lively or strong; it is action intensified. Vigor is the antithesis of weakness or lassitude. Do not forget that Christians are to make disciples, baptizing them. (Matt. 28:19, 20) To make true disciples is no small thing; it requires persistent, intensified effort for months, perhaps years. But there is great joy in teaching others and seeing them make advancement. Just as devoted, loving parents are ready to help their child to advance toward physical, mental and emotional maturity, so the Christian witnesses of Jehovah are anxious to help Bible students make progress and they experience a unique joy in seeing persons with whom they study the Bible advance in knowledge and understanding to the point of also becoming active servants of God.
20. Were early Christians zealous, and what resulted?
20 Because the early Christians followed their Exemplar they were very energetic workers, truly zealous evangelizers. From Pentecost of 33 C.E. when Peter “bore thorough witness and kept exhorting them,” with the result that 3,000 persons were added that day, Christianity was a dynamic force pushed with vigor and fearlessness. Opposition and persecution arose but the Christians persisted boldly. “Also, with great power the apostles continued giving forth the witness concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and undeserved kindness in large measure was upon them all.” Miraculously freed from prison and urged by Jehovah’s angel to continue, the apostles were charged with having filled Jerusalem with their teaching. Even though beaten and forbidden to do so, they persisted without letup in their teaching and preaching, “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” (Acts 2:40; 4:33; 5:28, 41, 42) When scattered by persecution, the Christians “went through the land declaring the good news” and, “indeed, the congregation throughout the whole of Judea and Galilee and Samaria entered into a period of peace, being built up; and as it walked in the fear of Jehovah and in the comfort of the holy spirit it kept on multiplying.” (Acts 8:4; 9:31) What busy and exciting but joyful times those were for Christians!
MODERN CHRISTIANS REVITALIZED
21. What spirit characterizes the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses in modern times?
21 In modern times the spirit of vigorous exertion characteristic of the early Christians has been restored and revitalized. How would the ancient prophecy be fulfilled: “Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force”? (Ps. 110:2, 3) Jehovah’s King Son is now enthroned in power and has been ‘subduing in the midst of his enemies.’ A modern historian takes a wide view of the activity of Christian witnesses of our day, observing: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have literally covered the earth with their witnessing . . . It may be truly said that no single religious group in the world displayed more zeal and persistence in the attempt to spread the good news of the Kingdom than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”—These Also Believe, by C. S. Braden (New York, 1950: The Macmillan Co.), p. 370.
22. What can be said about the recent global expansion of the work?
22 Jehovah’s people had literally expanded their preaching in modern times to the four corners of the earth, but the efforts about which historian Braden commented were only the beginning. Still to come was what Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose (Brooklyn, New York, 1959: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) discloses: “So, especially from 1945 onward, global expansion was truly under way. The time had come for countless more of the great multitude to manifest themselves, and they kept coming into association with the New World society literally by the thousands to join in the preaching work. The door to theocratic service was now wide open, for a few years at least, and this united company of zealous heralders of the good news of God’s kingdom were streaming through it in droves into the rich fields ready and waiting to be harvested.” (P. 221) No spiritual drowsiness here, and what a blessed, happy time has been enjoyed by those who have shared to the full in the global expansion work!
23. Why will Jehovah’s witnesses continue to work hard with patience?
23 To serve Jehovah with faithfulness and zeal involves work, no question about it. His servants continue to exert themselves vigorously without letup, and his blessing continues to be poured out upon them. They lead busy and happy lives without monotony or boredom, grateful for their service privileges and happy to be busy. They have dedicated their entire lives to Jehovah and are determined to be truly whole-souled in his service, knowing that if they do so they will get life. (Luke 10:27, 28) It is not material possessions, personal comforts or ease that claim first place in their lives, with but minimum effort in the Christian ministry. Awake to developments of these “last days,” they take the hardworking course James advocated, as a farmer who looks ahead to his harvest with patient anticipation. “Exercise patience, therefore, brothers, until the presence of the Lord. Look! the farmer keeps waiting for the precious fruit of the earth, exercising patience over it until he gets the early rain and the late rain. You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”—Jas. 5:7, 8.
24. What is the way to maintain joy in Jehovah, and what will be the outcome?
24 “Exert yourselves vigorously,” exhorts Jesus to all who want to get saved. “Do not loiter at your business,” echoes Paul, reminding Christians of its urgency. This is the way to maintain joy in Jehovah, taking hold with your hands and doing with your power what has to be done while you have life. Then, whether you live on, not experiencing death’s sting before Jehovah ushers in his glorious new system of things, or fall asleep in death awaiting the resurrection, Jehovah will remember you with a “perfect wage.” “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.”—Ruth 2:12; 1 Cor. 15:58; Eccl. 9:7, 10.
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True Christians are not lazy; they do honest work to support their families
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We need to take it to heart: The lazy man loses out—not only materially, but also as to having God’s approval
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Do you exert yourself vigorously to call back on interested persons, making disciples?