“Girded” for the Work Ahead
“Stand firm . . . with your loins girded about with truth.”—Eph. 6:14.
1. Why would the Master’s slaves be made happy?
IT WAS in Judea, probably during the fall of 32 C.E., that Jesus told his disciples: “Happy are those slaves whom the master on arriving finds watching! Truly I say to you, He will gird himself and make them recline at the table and will come alongside and minister to them. And if he arrives in the second watch, even if in the third, and finds them thus, happy are they!” (Luke 12:37, 38) Even if earlier expectations of the Master’s coming were not fulfilled, they were to keep on watching right into the third watch—the darkest hour that precedes the dawn.—Compare Matthew 25:13.
2. What calls for the slaves to be vigilant?
2 Though this period of awaiting the arrival of Jesus, the Son of man, should stretch beyond early expectations, his thieflike approach is certain! None should be lulled into thinking that it is indefinitely delayed. That hour must strike! As Jesus himself assures us: “Know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief would come, he would have kept watching and not have let his house be broken into. You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”—Luke 12:39, 40.
3. What is required in addition to keeping awake? (1 Pet. 1:13)
3 However, Jesus’ watchful slaves are to do more than simply keep awake. Just as the Master ‘girds himself’ to minister to them, so he expects them to be “girded” for service. He tells them: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps be burning, and you yourselves be like men waiting for their master.” (Luke 12:35, 36) Our diligence in doing these things will result in our being counted “happy” at the Master’s coming.
GIRDED FOR GOD’S SERVICE
4 What does it mean for the slave to have ‘his loins girded’? In ancient times warriors used to bind themselves around the waist or hips with a leather belt. This provided them with a firm support as they went forth to battle. In like manner, Christians today need to be “girded,” in preparation for action or activity. The apostle Paul tells us that in order to ‘stand firm against the crafty acts of the Devil,’ we need to put on “the complete suit of armor from God.” This requires, in the first place, the ‘girding’ of our loins with truth. Our continued study of and deep appreciation for the truth of God’s Word will help us to “stand firm” against the wicked one.—Eph. 6:11-14; see Kingdom Interlinear.
5. What teaching will help us to ‘gird’ ourselves, and for what activity?
5 Our spiritual warfare is real. We need, therefore, to keep our “loins girded constantly.” We need to keep up our study of God’s Word, cultivating ever stronger faith, that we may be truly equipped to turn back every weapon that crafty Satan may use against us. If we are “taught by Jehovah,” no weapon will succeed against us. (Isa. 54:13, 17) Our ‘girding’ results in our spiritedly proclaiming the “good news of the kingdom,” and this activity leads on to salvation, both for ourselves and for those who listen to us.—Acts 8:12; 1 Tim. 4:16.
6. What did Jehovah assure Jeremiah would result from ‘girding up his hips’? (Compare 1 Kings 18:46.)
6 Our ‘girding’ is like that of the prophet Jeremiah, who served Jehovah without letup for forty years and longer. When Jehovah first commissioned Jeremiah, he told him:
“And as for you, you should gird up your hips, and you must rise up and speak to them everything that I myself command you. Do not be struck with any terror because of them, in order that I may not strike you with terror before them. But as for me, here I have made you today a fortified city and an iron pillar and copper walls against all the land, toward the kings of Judah, toward her princes, toward her priests and toward the people of the land. And they will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’”—Jer. 1:17-19.
7. How can we show that we treasure our relationship with Jehovah?
7 What marvelous words of encouragement! And they contain strong assurance for us today, that no matter what worldly governments or people may scheme against God’s faithful servants, he will fight our battles for us, and the victory will be ours. But we must treasure always our close personal relationship with Jehovah, as his witnesses, commissioned to proclaim his message among the doomed nations. As long as there is time for it, may we always be “girded” for this service, and be zealous in making known the truth to others!
“GIRD UP YOUR HIPS”
8. As with Jeremiah, what impels us onward in God’s service?
8 Like the prophet Jeremiah, we have had to ‘gird up our hips’ for an extended period of Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making. Already this “time of the end” has stretched out over sixty-two years, and many of us have been sharing “the true knowledge” with others for twenty, thirty, forty or more years. (Dan. 12:4) At times we may have felt as did Jeremiah when he said: “I am not going to make mention of him [Jehovah], and I shall speak no more in his name.” But the girding of truth around our hips impels us to go forward in God’s service. His word proves to be ‘like a burning fire shut up in our bones,’ so that we cannot desist from making known Jehovah’s glorious name and kingdom.—Jer. 20:9; Ps. 96:2, 10.
9. What shows Jehovah’s continued care for his people? (Ps. 3:8)
9 That Jehovah is continuing to help us to ‘gird’ for this all-important service is shown by thrilling reports received from Jehovah’s Witnesses all around the world, with regard to their activity during the service year of 1976. The progress is excellent, generally. The peak number of Kingdom proclaimers world wide increased to 2,243,390. A fine total of 196,656 newly dedicated persons were baptized, and congregations increased to a total of 40,155. Although their activity dropped off 23,000,000 hours world wide, the Witnesses very commendably spent 359,258,019 hours in the direct service of telling the “good news of the kingdom” to the public, and conducted, on an average, 1,339,466 Bible studies in private homes. (Compare Acts 2:46, 47.) The chart on pages 20 through 23 gives details.
10. In line with Proverbs 10:22, what was the experience of God’s servants in the Americas during 1976?
10 Joyful reports come from Jehovah’s Witnesses in many lands. In the Americas, for example, Canada sends word: “Our field service activity for 1976 was highlighted by two peaks in Kingdom publishers, the latest being 62,880 proclaimers of the good news in May.” Costa Rica writes: “Almost every Kingdom Hall is overflowing with interested persons. As a result ten new congregations were formed during the year.” Honduras tells us: “More than half of all our [Kingdom] publishers were baptized during the last three years.”
11. (a) Despite a ban, how did our brothers in the Argentine share in the fulfillment of Romans 10:18? (b) Referring also to the chart, what other fine increases were there in the Americas?
11 In the Argentine, Jehovah’s Witnesses now serve under a ban, and some brothers have been in prison. However, “the word of God is not bound.” (2 Tim. 2:9) They continue to sound forth the “good news,” and their joyful experiences include the following:
“People of all ages and with handicaps are answering Jehovah’s call to praise him. (Psalm 148:12, 13) A pioneer sister walked six miles to conduct a study with a little old lady, 105 years old. As the study progressed, she, realizing her responsibility to preach, walked with her cane to her neighbors and told them the marvelous things she was learning. Through her preaching two studies were started, one of which was with a man who had previously ordered the pioneer sister off his property.”
There has been much unrest in Chile, but there the peak number of active Witnesses increased 18 percent, to 16,862. Brazil reports a fine attendance of 212,441 persons at twenty-four “Divine Sovereignty” district assemblies.
12 What of the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Europe? Finland informs us that the Kingdom witness is now so extensive that each new issue of the Kingdom News tract is distributed to every home in the country. Even more delightful than Austria’s mountain scenery are the throngs now flocking there to Christian meetings, so that seventeen new Kingdom Halls were dedicated there this past year. Spain has been dedicating new Kingdom Halls at the rate of six a week, so that now their 614 congregations are served by more than 440 Kingdom Halls, as well as two assembly halls for circuit gatherings. Portugal writes that, in the two years since the April 24, 1974, revolution, Kingdom proclaimers have increased 41 percent, and the number of congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses from 172 to more than 300.
13. How do reports from Asia, including those in the chart, show fulfillment of Acts 2:39?
13 There is encouraging news, too, out of Asia. Hardworking missionaries in Pakistan rejoiced to see a new peak of 192 Kingdom witnesses active in their country. From war-torn Lebanon comes this typical report:
“The bombs landed in the buildings near us—one in the building next to us and one in another about 30 meters (98 feet) away; that was three days ago. Yesterday it was a pleasure to go [witnessing] from house to house for two-and-a-half hours, being tactful to cause no disturbance. We rejoiced in the privilege.”
India writes that the Kingdom proclamation penetrated into new territories in the Punjab and northeastern Assam. Despite difficulties, a limited work was accomplished among the millions of Afghanistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. In Korea, so many persons attended the Memorial celebration at the Seoul branch building of the Watch Tower Society that five meetings had to be held, some of them in the Bethel dining room and lounge, as well as in the Kingdom Hall. More than 60,000 attended the Memorial in all of Korea.
14. What encouraging news and figures are reported from strife-torn Africa?
14 Winds of change are blowing through Africa, and persecutions continue to flare up in various places. From one country it is reported that, in order to read the daily text without molestation, the Witnesses have to get up in the middle of the night. In another country where Jehovah’s work is banned, nineteen new congregations were formed and 195 persons symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. Still another country under ban reports:
“What was amazing for us was the attendance at the Memorial, which was 94 percent more than the previous year’s average of Kingdom publishers.”
Zaïre writes that in that land more people are now studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses than ever before. Brazzaville, in the Congo, advises that in December they had a remarkable peak of 580 auxiliary pioneers in the field, almost one third of their total of Kingdom publishers that month. Sierra Leone now has 25 percent of their Kingdom witnesses in full-time “pioneer” service. In Zambia, many congregations were formed, and a new peak of 57,885 Witnesses were active in the field, one for every 89 persons in the land.
15. Are the islands “joyful,” as stated at Psalm 97:1? What does the chart indicate?
15 What of the islands of the sea? From that very large island of Australia comes word that foreign-speaking congregations have continued to grow to the point where Greek- and Italian-speaking circuit overseers will be used for a number of months each year. A report from the British Isles states that 157,070 persons attended the Memorial, and that, from this year, 75 percent of the British Witnesses will be attending circuit assemblies in their own assembly halls. Iceland was encouraged by an all-time peak of nineteen persons baptized, all of them native Icelanders. In Taiwan (and also in Hong Kong) excellent progress was made among the Chinese, and a 31-percent increase was reported in the two congregations in Taipei. Sri Lanka makes this comment: “Forty-three persons were baptized this year. Most of them had been Roman Catholics.” From Tahiti, in French Polynesia, comes the report: “The Kingdom was preached in fifteen new islands, representing a population of 7,700, and in these, 610 subscriptions for The Watchtower and Awake! in Tahitian were obtained.” The Republic of Cape Verde tells us: “What is taking place in these islands is phenomenal! Publishers in the field have increased 125 percent, to a peak of sixty.”
16. How do the Witnesses in countries under ban show that they are ‘rejoicing in sufferings’? (Col. 1:24)
16 The reports given above cover only a small cross section from the worldwide field where Jehovah’s Witnesses are serving. You can review the complete report in the accompanying pages. In over forty countries Jehovah’s Witnesses carry out their work under official ban or restrictions, so that it is not wise to include a number of these by name in the detailed report. However, the total figures include their self-sacrificing activity also. We rejoice with all faithful Witnesses that Jehovah so richly blessed the proclamation of his Kingdom during the year just past.
17. What words and example of Jesus should we keep in mind?
17 As the end draws near, we can expect troubles to increase in the earth. Our faith may be sorely tried. But we should keep well in mind Jesus’ words that “in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:10) Jesus also declared: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Luke 4:8) In this, Jesus himself set the outstanding example. (Luke 8:1; 10:1) When we follow that example, and keep busy in proclaiming God’s kingdom, time passes quickly. This makes us joyful, as we hasten on toward the end.
18. How should Paul’s attitude and determination serve to encourage us?
18 The apostle Paul served under a variety of difficult circumstances, but always his attitude was: “Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Cor. 9:16) It would be “woe” for us, too, individually, if we should slow down in Jehovah’s service at this climax of “the last days.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 14) After many years of trials, Paul was still determined to keep serving with all his might. As he said at Philippians 3:13, 14: “Brothers, I do not yet consider myself as having laid hold on [the prize]; but there is one thing about it: Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal.”
19. How has Jehovah’s patience resulted in salvation and increase? (Isa. 42:8-10)
19 Let us then be strong and serve, as we wait patiently on Jehovah. Already, his patience has meant salvation for a multitude of persons. Supposing World War II had escalated into the “great tribulation”: In Germany, only a few thousand—including those faithful ones in Hitler’s concentration camps—would have survived, whereas today 102,044 are serving in the way of salvation in Western Germany, along with many others in Berlin and Eastern Germany. In Catholic Italy, as late as 1951, only 1,741 Kingdom proclaimers were reporting service, whereas today they have a peak of 60,156 Witnesses in the field. In Japan, a mere handful of Witnesses were ‘standing firm’ for the “good news” when the shackles of the war lords and Shintoists were removed in 1945, but today the entire country is “assigned territory”—regularly covered by a peak of 38,367 Witnesses, almost 25 percent of whom are in full-time “pioneer” service. These miracles of salvation and expansion have all taken place following World War II.
20. What confidence should we have, and how should we show it?
20 Who knows what further feats of ingathering Jehovah purposes to perform before his appointed time for the “great tribulation”? (Ps. 86:8-10) Whatever Jehovah’s will is for the days just ahead, let us continue to “stand firm,” girded for his service. Let us have confidence that always “the solid foundation of God stays standing, having this seal: ‘Jehovah knows those who belong to him.’” (2 Tim. 2:19) As we expend ourselves in Kingdom service, may we be used by Jehovah in finding many more of “those who belong to him,” that all of us, together, may come to rejoice in his undeserved kindness by Christ Jesus, both now and for all the eternity to come!
[Chart on page 20-23]
1976 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLD WIDE
(See bound volume)