Do Not Beg Off, But Be Industrious Down to the End
“Show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end.”—Heb. 6:11.
1. Explain how the Christian who appreciates God’s gifts will respond.
APPRECIATION for all that Jehovah has done for him calls forth the desire in a Christian to respond so as to please his God. Peter writes this to his brothers in his second letter, reminding them concerning requirements for divine approval and entrance into Kingdom blessings. “Forasmuch as his divine power has given us freely all the things that concern life and godly devotion . . . Through these things he has freely given us the precious and very grand promises, that through these you may become sharers in divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world through lust. Yes, for this very reason, by your contributing in response all earnest effort, supply to your faith virtue,” knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection and love. (2 Pet. 1:3-7) The appreciative Christian will want to progress, making a contribution of earnest effort toward that end.
2. What is a safeguard against possibly falling away?
2 The objective or target of such earnest effort by Christians, says Peter, is a most worthy goal. “For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful.” (2 Pet. 1:8) It is possible to fall away, but what is a safeguard against it? One thing important is to keep very busy in the ministry! Never let up right down to the end! “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. 6:10-12.
3. What is the setting described at Hebrews 12:18-27, and what warning is given?
3 Later in his letter to the Christian congregation at Jerusalem he discusses why this must be so. Christians are in a position superior to that of the Israelites who received the Law through Moses. (Heb. 12:18-21) They are not approaching merely a literal mountain but a heavenly Zion and Jerusalem, an assembly of angels, the congregation of the firstborn, God the Judge of all and Jesus the Mediator. This could have most serious consequences for those involved, as God will shake both earth and heaven to remove all shakable things. (Heb. 12:22-27) Against this background they are told they must not beg off. “See that you do not beg off from him who is speaking. For if they did not escape who begged off from him who was giving divine warning upon earth, much more shall we not if we turn away from him who speaks from the heavens. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, saying: ‘Yet once more I will set in commotion not only the earth but also the heaven.’ Now the expression ‘Yet once more’ signifies the removal of the things being shaken as things that have been made, in order that the things not being shaken may remain.”—Heb 12 Vss. 25-27.
4. How is the principle of accountability illustrated?
4 A dedicated Christian must not take his responsibilities lightly, therefore. Jehovah will hold him accountable. This principle Jesus illustrated by the words and actions of a man’s two sons. “Going up to the first, he said, ‘Child, go work today in the vineyard.’ In answer this one said, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go out. Approaching the second, he said the same. In reply this one said, ‘I will not.’ Afterwards he felt regret and went out. Which of the two did the will of his father?”—Matt. 21:28-31.
5. (a) What encouragement is given not to beg off? (b) Who supplies the necessary backing and strength?
5 It is a common thing for man to beg off from all responsibility to his fellowman as well as to God. What a refreshing difference to have association with true Christians who know Jehovah’s will for them and industriously carry it out! Like ancient Jerusalem, they heed his encouraging command: “May your hands not drop down. Jehovah your God is in the midst of you. As a mighty One, he will save. He will exult over you with rejoicing.” (Zeph. 3:16, 17) Joy abounds with his busy people because of such blessing and prosperity. It is Jehovah who backs up and strengthens those who work at doing his will.—Phil. 4:13.
SOME MAKE EXCUSES
6. In what ways do some keep excusing themselves from obligations?
6 Many are the ways in which people keep begging off from accepting responsibility. Fallen human nature is to follow the line of least resistance, so it is a common thing to hear of fathers who fail to support their families and even mothers who abandon unwanted infants, as numberless teen-age unwed fathers also do who bring children into the world without assuming the responsibility of marriage. Even dedicated Christians need to guard against this common tendency to excuse oneself from life’s obligations.
7. (a) What kind of reasoning results in begging off? (b) Whose will must always be done?
7 Trying to excuse oneself from what one ought to do or giving less of oneself than promised usually results from faulty, human reasoning. This was the case with Peter, who once even entreated Jesus to excuse himself. His intentions may have been good but how poorly advised! “Jesus Christ commenced showing his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised up. At this Peter took him aside and commenced rebuking him, saying: ‘Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.’ But, turning his back, he said to Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”’ (Matt. 16:21-23) Yes, discern Jehovah’s will and then do not hold back from doing it. “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Prov. 3:5, 6.
8. From what happened to Jonah, what is to be learned about begging off?
8 At times this begging off may be known only to oneself and God. Probably that was the case with Jonah when he ran away from his appointment of service, his commission to warn the great city of Nineveh of impending doom. (Jonah 1:1–3:10) But Jehovah did not permit him to get away with it. Disciplined, Jonah listened to God the second time and “got up and went to Nineveh in accord with the word of Jehovah.” What dramatic, spectacular events resulted! “The men of Nineveh began to put faith in God, and they proceeded to proclaim a fast and to put on sackcloth, from the greatest one of them even to the least one of them. And the true God got to see their works, that they had turned back from their bad way; and so the true God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause it.” (Jonah 3:5, 10) Probably it may not mean the saving of an entire city, but willingness to carry out an assignment from Jehovah is always the course of wisdom.
9, 10. Why should one stick to the ministry, unlike whom?
9 Loyally stick to your work if you have dedicated your life to Jehovah. Do not be guilty of a Jonah-like running away or abandoning your post. A news report at hand says that 800 or so Roman Catholic priests, brothers and nuns are leaving the active ministry each year in the United States alone. A typical comment made by one is: “The present forms of ministry are not viable [capable of living, growing, developing; not dead or malformed] for me. I have to find a form that is.” (New York Times, March 8, 1969) The serious impact of this trend was observed in the Long Island Press of September 27, 1971: “Unless current trends are reversed, the Catholic priesthood in the United States ‘will have an imbalance of older men’ and may not ‘survive as a viable force in our society.’ . . . In 1970, for every 10 ordinations there were 23 priests lost.”
10 Another kind of begging off is disclosed in a special dispatch to the New York Times from Rome dated April 27, 1971, headlined “More Priests Urged for Rome’s Slums.” “The vicar [of Rome, Cardinal Dellacqua] noted that at least 8,000 Roman Catholic priests were residents of this metropolis of nearly three million people and 500 churches, but that only a dozen clergymen were ministering to its sprawling shantytowns.”
THE “GRAND EVENING MEAL”
11. How does Jesus’ parable of a grand evening meal, in Luke 14, apply?
11 What it means to beg off, Jesus explains in the parable of a grand evening meal: “A certain man was spreading a grand evening meal, and he invited many. And he sent his slave out at the hour of the evening meal to say to the invited ones, ‘Come, because things are now ready.’ But they all in common started to beg off. The first said to him, ‘I bought a field and need to go out and see it; I ask you, Have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I bought five yoke of cattle and am going to examine them; I ask you, Have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I just married a wife and for this reason I cannot come.”’ Many had been invited but, unwilling to come, they “started to beg off,” they invented excuses. One said he had to examine the cattle he had purchased. Well, what man of the country would buy livestock, especially draft animals, unseen, uninspected? So, undeceived, the “certain man” saw right through their flimsy excuses; they were merely begging off.—Luke 14:16-20.
12. Explain the lesson to be learned from what the generous needy widow contributed.
12 Putting all excuses aside, we should let our service to Jehovah come first if we are whole-souled. However, a few hours in the field ministry may be very pleasing to Jehovah if that is what we are able to do. Once Jesus watched as persons deposited money in the temple’s treasury chests. Rich individuals dropped in many coins, but he was most impressed with the wholehearted generosity of a needy widow who dropped in only two small coins of very little value. (Mark 12:41-44) Not all are able to do the same amount in the field ministry, and in the case of some, an hour or two may be a generous contribution.
13. What can result if one willingly assumes responsibility in serving Jehovah?
13 A forthright appraisal of one’s abilities, means and circumstances after dedicating one’s life to Jehovah may lead to entering the pioneer ministry. Many, moved by love for Jehovah and a desire to carry out their dedication to the full, have been greatly blessed by taking this step. Others, not content to have just some small part in the preaching and teaching work, are able to move out and serve where help is specially needed and results are bountiful. Living conditions may be more primitive and distances that must be traveled may be large, but despite such added exertion, even hardships, Jehovah blesses those who thus take the initiative to prove their love for him and he provides the strength to accomplish the work.—2 Cor. 4:7; 1 Cor. 2:4, 5; Eph. 3:20, 21.
14. (a) How can each one carry his own load? (b) Illustrate the reason why one should count the cost.
14 All of us, whether we have years of experience behind us or are new, are encouraged to ‘carry our own load.’ (Gal. 6:5) Have you been studying the Bible for just a few months and now learned something about the divine requirements of dedication and baptism? ‘That will mean work for me,’ you say; ‘it will cost me something in time and effort.’ True, and is it worth it? Besides, ‘Should I not count the cost?’ Yes, no one wants to start something he will not be able to finish. (Luke 14:28-30) But by strong exhortation and forceful illustrations Jesus urged Christians to be progressive, to view service opportunities as privileges and not to consider token service in the ministry enough.—See “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot,” pages 186-192.
VERY BUSY BUT HAPPY
15. What is to be learned from Paul’s experiences?
15 Admittedly, the life of a Christian is not one of idleness, but it is a satisfying, happy life. Paul’s course is exemplary. Acts 14:20-22 tells of some of his blessed experiences: “He left with Barnabas for Derbe. And after declaring the good news to that city and making quite a few disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to remain in the faith.” An indefatigable worker, Paul seemed never to yield to weariness. What an outstanding record of industriousness! (2 Cor. 11:23-27) Never shirking hard work, and suffering many hardships, he lived through all, rejoicing: “For my part I will most gladly spend and be completely spent for your souls. If I love you the more abundantly, am I to be loved the less?” (2 Cor. 12:15) Hardships and suffering did not rob him of happiness or make him discontented. He was sustained and refreshed by his privileges and accomplishments and quick to give credit to others who worked hard also.—2 Tim. 4:7, 8; Rom. 16:12.
16. What are some of the ways in which a person can accept responsibility?
16 Then, brothers, do you accept responsibility in the field ministry, and in rendering aid to your brothers in the congregation, doing so willingly, gladly, or do you excuse yourself and beg off? This is an issue for each to face personally, individually. Are you quick to accept an assignment of a part in the congregation meetings? When assigned, do you faithfully follow through, fully prepare, rehearse and appreciatively present your portion of the congregation meeting? No doubt you do, and you certainly are to be commended. Your loving efforts will be greatly appreciated by your brothers in the congregation. Meeting participation is valuable to all, strengthening and upbuilding, even if merely a well-considered voluntary comment or answer to a question.—Heb. 10:23-25.
17. How can a brother respond to additional opportunities in the congregation?
17 How have you responded to the opportunity in your congregation to reach out for the office of overseer, indeed a fine work? (1 Tim. 3:1) Have you taken steps to be qualified and made yourself willingly, eagerly available? Probably your willingness has been or will be observed and acted upon, to your further blessing, and you will most certainly find yourself doing good work, being rich in right works. “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd has been made manifest, you will receive the unfadable crown of glory.”—1 Pet. 5:2-4; 1 Tim. 6:17, 18.
NOW THE TIME TO “EXERT YOURSELVES”
18. Because of the lateness of time, what attitude should a Christian have?
18 From our Bible study we have learned that we are living deep in the “time of the end.” On every hand we find evidence to corroborate what the Bible tells us about its shortness. It is hardly the time for a Christian to beg off. Rather he should have an attitude of eager willingness, progressive willingness to give of himself. Why should he put a limit on what Jehovah may ask of him when he owes Jehovah so much?
19. (a) In what ways should one not beg off? (b) What giving does Jehovah love most, and what will it accomplish?
19 The Bible’s counsel for Christians to be industrious down to the end and not become sluggish is most practical. We must not disregard it, becoming reluctant to do our full, reasonable share in the field ministry, balking at every suggestion for our progress in service to our brothers and assisting with the needs of the congregation or always failing to volunteer for service opportunities. “God loves a cheerful giver,” we are told, and the giving Jehovah loves most is of those who wholeheartedly give of themselves in his service. (2 Cor. 9:6, 7) Your giving of yourself will produce results that will invigorate and refresh you. In Daily Life in Bible Times, after reviewing some features of Paul’s strenuous schedule, the writer observes: “One wonders when he found time to eat and sleep.” (P. 308) But the author does not miss the point, commenting shortly: “All this incessant toil brought results.”—By A. E. Bailey (New York, 1943: Charles Scribner’s Sons).
20. What assurances are there that hard work in the ministry brings joy to the industrious one?
20 When Jesus initiated the Christian ministry he stated: “The harvest, indeed, is great, but the workers are few. Therefore beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Those first seventy had a very happy time and “returned with joy.” (Luke 10:2, 17) Hundreds of thousands are now following in their path and the diligent ones continue to find joy in the ministry. “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.” “He who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”—John 13:17; Jas. 1:25.
21. (a) How can one avoid engaging in vain works? (b) What reward is promised to those not begging off?
21 Whereas human living abounds with vain works, works relating to true worship are not in vain and will not be frustrated or come to nothing. (Eccl. 2:10, 11) When we depend upon Jehovah God, our works are certain to succeed. “Unless Jehovah himself builds the house, it is to no avail that its builders have worked hard on it.” (Ps. 127:1) The wise person will conclude as did Solomon: “Roll your works upon Jehovah himself and your plans will be firmly established.” (Prov. 16:3) Jehovah notices and keeps account of our labors of love and he gives us this foreglimpse of his promised reward if we do not beg off: “They will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat their fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating. For like the days of a tree will the days of my people be; and the work of their own hands my chosen ones will use to the full. They will not toil for nothing, nor will they bring to birth for disturbance; because they are the offspring made up of the chosen ones of Jehovah, and their descendants with them.”—Isa. 65:21-23; see also Leviticus 26:3-5; Deuteronomy 28:4.
22. Who has invited us to be his disciples, and if we respond how will it turn out with us?
22 Meanwhile, hard work in the field ministry and with your congregation will not wear you out but it will keep you alive, healthy in the faith, happy and refreshed. “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matt. 11:28-30.
23. (a) What can we do for protection in these critical times? (b) Why will we continue to work hard and exert ourselves?
23 These have proved to be the “critical times hard to deal with” and men generally are pleasure lovers rather than lovers of God and godly works. (2 Tim. 3:1, 4, 5) For your protection keep busy in the ministry. “Indeed, who is the man that will harm you if you become zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are happy. However, the object of their fear do not you fear, neither become agitated.” (1 Pet. 3:13, 14) Do not beg off; keep up your vigorous exertion. “For to this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves, because we have rested our hope on a living God, who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.”—1 Tim. 4:10.
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As Jesus showed, those who “beg off” from responding to God’s invitation do so with flimsy excuses
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Are you really industrious in the field ministry, or is yours a mere token service?
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Our overseers serve so willingly. Why am I holding back? Why don’t I apply myself to meet the requirements so I too can be of greater service to my brothers?