Appreciating the Things of God
1, 2. In the temple at Jerusalem, to what fine example of appreciation did Jesus direct the attention of his disciples?
ONE day when Jesus was in the temple at Jerusalem he pointed out to his disciples a fine example of appreciation for the things of God. In the hearing of the people Jesus had just warned his disciples about ‘the doctors of the law who love to walk up and down in long robes, and have a great liking for respectful greetings in the street, the chief seats in the synagogues, and places of honor at feasts.’ These lacked genuine respect for God’s house of worship. Instead, they sought to exploit it for their own benefit, drawing attention to themselves. There in the temple Jesus observed rich people dropping their gifts into the treasury chests. He also saw a certain needy widow drop two small coins of very little value in there, and he drew the attention of his disciples to what was taking place, saying: “I tell you truthfully, This widow, although poor, dropped in more than they all did. For all these dropped in gifts out of their surplus, but this woman out of her want dropped in all the means of living she had.”—Luke 20:45-47; 21:1-4.
2 How interesting that Jesus would say that this woman who dropped in two small coins of very little value “dropped in more than they all did”! Jesus knew that this woman appreciated the temple. She knew that the temple had to be cared for and she made her contribution toward its upkeep. ‘She, with less than enough, gave all she had to live on.’ (New English Bible) What was there about this temple that caused this needy widow to display such appreciation?
3. What was there about the temple for that widow to appreciate?
3 It was to this place that Jews from all the territory of Israel would come at least three times a year for special festivals in connection with true worship. It was here that this widow could bring her sacrifices and ask the priests to offer them to Jehovah for the forgiveness of her sins and in expression of her thankfulness. It was here that she could hear the Word of God read and explained. It was here that she could have her questions answered concerning Jehovah and how his Law affected her life. Here she could enjoy fellowship with older men of the congregation of God and with her friends who likewise would come here for worship. She deeply appreciated the temple. With faith that God could provide her needs, she put the interests of Jehovah’s worship even ahead of concern about obtaining the physical necessities of life.—Compare Matthew 6:31-33.
4. What is God’s great spiritual temple, and how should we feel about it?
4 That temple at Jerusalem, which was at one time the center of Jehovah’s worship here on earth, is no longer standing. Because it was misused, treated as something profane by the people who claimed to serve God, he let it be destroyed by the Romans. But that earthly temple pictured, in a way that human minds could grasp, God’s great spiritual temple. This temple is God’s spiritual structure through which humans here on earth can approach him, the holy and invisible God who resides in the heavens, in worship on the basis of the sin-atoning value of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is in the earthly courtyards of this temple that we can offer sacrifices of praise to Jehovah. (Heb. 13:15) And it is through this spiritual temple that we receive instruction in the ways of God. Do we fully appreciate that temple? Do we feel as did the psalmist David, who said concerning Jehovah’s house: “One thing I have asked from Jehovah—it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple”?—Ps. 27:4.
5. How does our attendance at congregation meetings reflect our attitude toward Jehovah’s spiritual temple?
5 If so, we will regularly gather together with those who worship Jehovah when they come together in congregation meetings. It is not the Kingdom Hall in which they meet that is Jehovah’s temple. But it is here that they can hear the Word of God read and discussed, just as it was done in the temple at Jerusalem in ancient times. It is here that they learn how to apply the counsel of God’s Word in their own lives. Here they enjoy association with spiritually older men and with other worshipers of Jehovah. By their presence at these meetings, by paying close attention and by putting into application the things that they learn from God’s Word, they demonstrate in a meaningful way that they truly do appreciate Jehovah’s great spiritual temple. Do you appreciate these things of God? Every individual must decide which way he wants to go—taking a righteous course with God’s people or an unrighteous one in association with the world. What do you appreciate? What do you esteem to be of great value?—1 John 2:15, 17.
“ONE PEARL OF HIGH VALUE”
6. In what way did Jesus illustrate the depth of appreciation that a true Christian must have for God’s kingdom?
6 In helping his disciples to cultivate appreciation for the things of greatest value, the things of God, Jesus frequently used illustrations. On one occasion when he was in Galilee he said to them: “The kingdom of the heavens is like a traveling merchant seeking fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of high value, away he went and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:45, 46) Here was a merchant who knew the value of pearls. When he found a particular “pearl of high value” he prized it above all his possessions. He promptly sold all the things he had, everything in his possession that was of value, in order to buy that one superlative “pearl of high value.” Those who would gain entry into the kingdom of God must appreciate it that much; they must prize it that highly.—Compare Luke 13:24.
7. How did Jesus demonstrate his own appreciation for the Kingdom?
7 Jesus himself certainly set the example in doing so. Traveling on foot from one end of the land of Israel to the other, he preached, “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matt. 4:17) He trained and sent others out to share in that work of proclamation. (Matt. 10:7) Not only did he tell his apostles that they would share with him in the heavenly kingdom, but he laid down his life sacrificially so that it would be possible for them to do so. (Luke 22:19, 20, 28-30) The Scriptures show that those who would be joint heirs with Christ in his kingdom and who would rule with him for a thousand years would be 144,000 in number, and that on earth there would be an unnumbered “great crowd” that would prove themselves loyal subjects of that kingdom.—Rev. 7:4-10; 14:3-5; 20:6.
8, 9. (a) How much must God’s kingdom mean to those who will be joint heirs with Christ? (b) What did Paul say that showed how he felt about it? (c) Is such devotion required of those who hope for earthly life as subjects of the Kingdom?
8 How much must God’s kingdom mean to them? Those who would gain the heavenly kingdom with Christ must eventually be willing to leave behind all their earthly possessions; they must go as far as laying down their lives in order to attain the heavenly kingdom. But not only must they be willing to die for it; they must also live for that kingdom. (Luke 12:31) In imitation of Christ they must be preachers of the good news of that kingdom. The apostle Paul expressed how much being in union with Christ in the heavenly kingdom meant to him, saying: “I count everything sheer loss, because all is far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I did in fact lose everything. I count it so much garbage, for the sake of gaining Christ and finding myself incorporate in him, with no righteousness of my own, no legal rectitude, but the righteousness which comes from faith in Christ, given by God in response to faith. All I care for is to know Christ, to experience the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings, in growing conformity with his death, if only I may finally arrive at the resurrection from the dead. It is not to be thought that I have already achieved all this. I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ once took hold of me. My friends, I do not reckon myself to have got hold of it yet. All I can say is this: forgetting what is behind me, and reaching out for that which lies ahead, I press towards the goal to win the prize which is God’s call to the life above, in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:8-14, New English Bible) Yes, Paul truly appreciated the value of the things of God. Do you?
9 Just as those who attain to a place in the heavenly kingdom must prove that it is more precious to them than anything else that they possess, so, too, those who would be favored with everlasting life as earthly subjects of that kingdom must demonstrate a like depth of appreciation for that grand prospect. How they really feel about it will be put to the test. Why is that?
FIRM IN THE FACE OF OPPOSITION
10. (a) If we truly advocate God’s kingdom, what will we experience at the hands of the world? (b) How did the apostles react to such persecution, and why?
10 Anyone who truly exercises faith in God’s kingdom and publicly preaches it is going to encounter opposition from the world. When speaking to his disciples about the conclusion of this system of things, Jesus prepared them for such opposition, saying: “People will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, you being haled before kings and governors for the sake of my name. It will turn out to you for a witness.” (Luke 21:12, 13) The apostle Peter was one who heard Jesus say that, and he himself experienced persecution. He and the other apostles were brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin. The high priest questioned them and said: “We positively ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” Without hesitation, but having full appreciation of the privilege of representing Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ, “Peter and the other apostles said: ‘We must obey God as ruler rather than men.’”—Acts 5:27-29.
11, 12. (a) How did the apostle Peter urge us to view the “trials” that come upon us because we serve God, and their outcome? (b) As we draw near to the “great tribulation,” how can the examples of Abraham and of Moses aid us to keep the right perspective?
11 To comfort and encourage those who were growing in appreciation for God’s service, Peter discussed the outcome of the fiery trials that they would undergo. He wrote: “This is cause for great joy, even though now you smart for a little while, if need be, under trials of many kinds. Even gold passes through the assayer’s fire, and more precious than perishable gold is faith which has stood the test. These trials come so that your faith may prove itself worthy of all praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”—1 Pet. 1:6, 7, New English Bible.
12 When a person really esteems the things of God, he does not shrink back from speaking the truth just because “trials” may result from his doing so. He knows that, just as Jesus was persecuted, so his followers will be. He realizes that the “trials” will not go on forever. They have a beginning, and they come to an end. Just as gold that is subjected to the assayer’s fire is not left there forever but is taken out, so too Christians come out from under the heat of persecution. But their faith that has been thus tested is oh so much more precious than perishable gold. When Abraham learned of the deportation of his nephew Lot at the hand of pagan kings, he did not shrink back from demonstrating his confidence in Jehovah. He acted with full faith, and was blessed for it. (Gen. 14:13-20) Moses, too though raised in a position of favor in the Egyptian court, demonstrated that his faith was in Jehovah, the God of Abraham. “By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, choosing to be ill-treated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin.” He esteemed the reproach associated with being appointed a servant of God as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt. (Heb. 11:24-26) Now, what about your faith? Do you believe the Word of God? Do you hold it in high esteem? Does it mean so much to you that, regardless of any “trials” that may come upon you for adhering to it, you will continue to put your faith in God? All who will “come out of the great tribulation” as survivors thereof, with the grand prospect of eternal life in God’s new order ahead of them, must demonstrate such appreciation.—Rev. 7:14-17.
13. Because they have faith, in what activity do Jehovah’s witnesses engage?
13 It is faith like that that Jehovah’s witnesses world wide have demonstrated during the past year. They appreciate the truth. They study it diligently. But they do not keep it to themselves. They zealously spread it to others, and that in spite of any persecution that they may encounter. They love life and they would like to see all other people gain life everlasting. You will be interested in what they did to demonstrate their appreciation for the things of God during the past service year.
TWO MILLION PREACHING THE GOOD NEWS!
14. How many actually shared in preaching the good news last year, and what were the results?
14 During the past service year (from September 1, 1973, through August 31, 1974) more than two million shared in preaching the good news with Jehovah’s witnesses. There were 2,021,432 who turned in reports to the congregations with which they are associated, indicating that, not only had they shared in preaching the Kingdom message, but they plan to keep on doing so. With two million people doing the same thing, that is, going from house to house and using every other proper means to preach the good news of God’s kingdom, and really appreciating the privilege of doing so—that brings results. So it was that during the service year of 1974 Jehovah’s witnesses had the joy of seeing 297,872 individuals progress in their appreciation of Bible truth to the point that they got baptized in symbol of their dedication to Jehovah God. This number associated themselves with those who were already proclaiming the good news and declared themselves to be Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. They, too, are now going from house to house with the Bible’s message, making return visits upon those who show interest in the truth and studying God’s Word with them in their homes.
15. To what extent did Jehovah’s witnesses expend themselves in the field service during the year?
15 It is difficult to imagine, but these more than two million persons (all of whom are volunteers that serve, not for any financial gain, but out of love of God and concern for their fellowmen) have spent 371,132,570 hours in this evangelizing work. They made 151,171,555 return visits on those who showed interest in God’s Word, and they were conducting, on an average, 1,351,404 home Bible studies. This activity was being carried on in 207 lands and islands of the sea the earth around. They having such appreciation for the things of God, no wonder that Jehovah’s witnesses have had such splendid results in preaching the good news during the past twelve months!
16. How much literature was placed, and why?
16 To aid honest-hearted persons to come to an accurate knowledge of God’s loving purpose for mankind, Jehovah’s witnesses enjoy making available to them Bibles and Bible study aids. During the past year they placed 27,581,852 bound books, 12,409,287 booklets and 273,238,018 magazines with interested persons to further such Bible education. Additionally, they obtained 2,387,904 subscriptions for the Watchtower and Awake! magazines.
17. What other activity required much of their time, and why?
17 Jehovah’s witnesses did not spend all their time calling at the homes of other people to offer Bible publications and to study the Bible with them, however. They also set aside time to discuss God’s Word in their own households and in their congregation meetings. And during the past year they have constructed many new Kingdom Halls, where they meet regularly each week to be built up spiritually. They know that such meetings are essential in the life of a Christian. As Jesus himself said: “It is written, ‘Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.’”—Matt. 4:4.
18. How many congregations are there now, and on what are their meetings based?
18 There are now 34,576 congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses meeting in their Kingdom Halls around the world. In all these congregations the Bible is the principal publication to which attention is directed and on which discussions are based. Each congregation is cared for by the elders in its midst who are qualified teachers of God’s Word. These keep in touch with the branch offices of the Watch Tower Society—there are ninety-six such branch offices—and through these they receive an abundance of upbuilding study material for the congregation. You are always welcome to attend the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses at any of their Kingdom Halls. If you do not know where the nearest one is located, feel free to write to the publishers of this magazine to inquire. We will gladly provide you that information. At the Kingdom Hall you will meet many very fine people, interesting people, who are truly dedicated to Jehovah God and sincerely seek to do his will. With genuine faith they pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matt. 6:9, 10.
19. How many persons attended the Memorial last year, and how do the Scriptures show the importance of regular meeting attendance?
19 Jehovah’s witnesses have had as many as 4,550,457 persons in their Kingdom Halls throughout the earth at one time. That was on April 7, 1974, at the celebration of the Memorial of Christ’s death. Were you one of those in attendance?—Heb. 10:24, 25.
20. (a) As listed on the service chart, what countries showed outstanding increases in the number of publishers last year? (b) How does the number of pioneers compare with the total number of publishers in such places as Hawaii, Indonesia, Japan and Korea? (c) In what lands do you observe that there is more than one Bible study per publisher?
20 To provide you with details about the work of Jehovah’s witnesses world wide, we are printing in this issue of The Watchtower, on pages 24 through 27, a chart setting out the field service of Jehovah’s witnesses. It lists all the countries where they have been preaching during the past year and shows the number of individual publishers or proclaimers of the good news who have participated in this work. It also shows how many “pioneer” publishers there are, that is, individuals who devote at least 100 hours each month to preaching and teaching the Bible’s message to persons who are not already Witnesses. You will also find on the chart the number baptized this past year, the time spent in the evangelizing work, the number of return visits made and the average number of six-month Bible studies conducted. All this work is done voluntarily; those who share in it appreciate the privilege of doing so and they enjoy it.
21. (a) Whose example do we follow in our manner of preaching? (b) How can people be benefited by the message that we bring them?
21 When Jehovah’s witnesses call at your door, please listen to what they have to say. They are bringing you the most important message in the world—God’s message for mankind today. Remember that Jesus, in his preaching activity, went right to the people, thus setting an example for his followers, the example that Jehovah’s witnesses follow today. The Christian disciple Luke, speaking of Jesus, said: “He went journeying from city to city and from village to village, preaching and declaring the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him.” (Luke 8:1) Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Now, with at least 2,021,432 sharing in the work, a lot of cities and villages will be reached in the year to come and there will likely be many more persons taking up this same Christian activity. Please listen to them when they call at your home, because it will help you to “get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Tim. 6:19.
22. What is our objective in having Bible discussions with people who are willing to listen?
22 In these very distressing times it is important to turn one’s mind to the Word of God and to study it. If you say that you have appreciation for the things of God, show that appreciation by reading and studying the Bible. Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to sit down with you and point out the answers that the Bible gives to problems that you face as an individual and to those that confront mankind as a whole. Then you can decide for yourself, based on what you have seen in your own copy of the Bible, whether the message that they present is the truth. If you see that it really is in harmony with God’s Word, then believe it and prove yourself to be a genuine follower of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. We hope that, in time, you too, with heartfelt appreciation, will say to Jehovah: “You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God, in whom I will trust.”—Ps. 91:2.
[Chart on page 24-27]
1974 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLD WIDE
(See bound volume)