“Working Hard and Exerting Ourselves”
“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
1-3. Why is it appropriate for Christians today to give attention to their attitude toward work?
DO YOU enjoy working hard? Do you appreciate worthwhile effort and accomplishment? If so, you stand in contrast with many today.
2 You may have observed that, while there have always been lazy persons, the dislike for work seems to be growing. (Prov. 20:4; 19:24; 2 Thess. 3:11) We see it in advice such as, ‘Take it easy. Do not push yourself.’ What starts off as a dislike of just strenuous work can easily grow into a disdain for all work.
3 As Christians, we no doubt feel that we do not have that spirit. It would, though, be unrealistic to feel that we are immune when the world in general has such a powerful and pervasive attitude. We can benefit from periodically examining our view of work, for the view we have can affect our share in Christian activities that are important to God.
WORKERS TO IMITATE
4. How important is work?
4 Many men who have observed life and its values have commented on the importance of work. German statesman Karl W. von Humboldt said: “Work is as much a necessity to man as eating and sleeping.” That fact of itself gives many persons a reason to be busy and productive. Christians, however, have additional reason to cultivate an appreciation for hard work: In this, Jehovah and Jesus Christ set for us a pattern that we should imitate.—Eph. 5:1; 1 Cor. 11:1.
5, 6. What example as to work is set by Jehovah and Jesus?
5 The whole universe—from the awesome thermonuclear sun to the delicate butterfly—testifies that God is a worker. All his visible creations are his “works.” Also, his constant protection and guidance of his servants are “works” that we should appreciate. (Ps. 145:4-6, 10; 8:4-9) His Son, too, is a hard worker. Leaving behind his carpentry in a Galilean town, Jesus traveled hundreds of miles over hot, dusty countryside to help people—to heal, to preach, to teach. (Matt. 4:17, 23-25; Luke 8:1; 9:57, 58) Though he was perfect, Christ grew tired and hungry by working long and late.—Matt. 21:18; Mark 1:32, 35; 6:32-34; John 4:3-6, 34.
6 We thus can be sure that neither God nor Jesus have a ‘take it easy’ attitude. Christ stated: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.” (John 5:17) In fact, he explained that his “works”—what he did with God’s backing—gave evidence of his having God’s approval. (John 10:25, 38) Nor is this unrelated to our lives. All our Bible-based hopes depend for fulfillment on what Jesus did as a hardworking worshiper of God.
7. What should our approach be in reflecting on our view of work?
7 Each of us can, and should, reflect on our view and pattern as to work. In this we need not be harshly critical or overly demanding of ourselves. We all have our physical limits as well as limiting circumstances. Also, Jesus’ course shows that we can rightly enjoy rest, relaxation, pleasant association and some comforts. (Mark 6:31; Luke 5:29; 7:34; John 2:2-10; 12:2, 3) But the very imperfection that stresses our need for rest can move us to carry rest to extremes, as emphasized by the Bible’s warnings about laziness. The fact is, just as being hungry makes a meal taste better, so hard work makes rest and relaxation more enjoyable.—Eccl. 2:24; 5:12, 18.
8, 9. When should Christians be hard working?
8 The word “work” may particularly bring to our minds the secular work that many of us do to earn life’s necessities. Bible counsel shows that in this we should be conscientious, diligent. (Prov. 10:4; 22:29) That should be true, also, with our duties in the home or even our studies at school, for all aspects of our life can reflect the improvement made in us by applying Christian principles. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance.”—Col. 3:23, 24.
9 However, let us focus now on one specific part of a Christian’s life—his praising God by preaching and teaching. This work is vital, for by means of it ‘we can save both ourselves and those who listen to us.’—1 Tim. 4:16.
10, 11. We have what special reasons for working hard in spreading the Christian faith?
10 Observe that Paul did not suggest that a Christian be interested only in his own salvation. He ought to be concerned with helping others to accept Jesus as the Christ and to practice the godly devotion that “holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) After mentioning this prospect, Paul wrote:
“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.
11 Think of that. Salvation from God—everlasting life in happiness—is open to “all sorts of men.” But who finally will be saved? It is only the “faithful ones,” those who develop and exercise faith. Appreciating that, the apostle could not take it easy, living a rather normal life and sometimes, if it was convenient, speak to a few others about this possible salvation. No! The prospect that others could learn the Christian message and come onto the way of salvation was so impressive to Paul, so overwhelmingly important, that he was ‘working hard and exerting himself.’ Is that how you feel about it? Personally reflect on your course of activity over the past month or six months. Is it fully plain to you—and to others, including God—that you are working hard, exerting yourself?
WORKING HARD TO SPREAD THE KINGDOM MESSAGE
12. What relation do works have to salvation?
12 Christians know that they cannot get saved by merely performing certain works, as if thereby earning righteousness and salvation. (Rom. 3:28) Yet it is true that if we have genuine faith, we will produce works as a result of that faith. (Jas. 2:18-26) It is thus fitting to give prayerful thought to our faith and our works.
13. According to Jesus, what would his disciples do after his death?
13 In “working hard and exerting ourselves,” as Paul did, we can share in fulfilling a prophetic truth that Jesus uttered. Think of that—you can help to prove Jesus’ words true. Which words? They were spoken in answer to Philip’s request, “Show us the Father.” (John 14:8) Jesus said:
“He that has seen me has seen the Father also. . . . The things I say to you men I do not speak of my own originality; but the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works. Most truly I say to you, He that exercises faith in me, that one also will do the works that I do; and he will do works greater than these, because I am going my way to the Father.”—John 14:9, 10, 12.
14, 15. At John 14:12, did Jesus mean that his followers would perform greater miracles? Why?
14 How could Jesus’ disciples do works greater than he did? Might you be able to share in doing such greater works? The Bible reveals that God enabled some Christians to work miracles, such as expelling demons, healing the sick and, in a few cases, resurrecting the dead. This was to show that he was now dealing with and blessing the Christian congregation. (Acts 3:2-8; 5:12-16; 9:36-40; 16:16-18) But were those works greater than what Jesus did? He cured all who came to him and even some at a distance, miraculously fed thousands, resurrected the dead and controlled natural forces. (Matt. 8:5-16, 23-27; 14:14-33; John 11:39-44) Furthermore, the miraculous gifts of the spirit that some Christians displayed were to end or pass away. (1 Cor. 13:8-10) So how were Christians to do greater works than Jesus?
15 Jesus had spoken what his Father wanted. He did the greatest, most lasting, good, not by his miracles, but by his marvelous teaching about the Kingdom.* (Luke 4:32, 43) After he was resurrected Jesus commissioned his followers after him to ‘make disciples of people of all the nations, teaching them.’ (Matt. 28:19, 20) Yes, Christians were to carry on a vast witnessing work. It was to be on a wider scale than Jesus’ preaching, for a longer time and to far more people. Thus, they would do works greater than he did.
16. Was Jesus’ work to end with his death and ascension to heaven?
16 The work Jesus did of preaching and teaching about the Kingdom was not to end with his death and ascension to heaven. From there he would continue to conduct the important educational campaign, but doing so through his followers. Luke goes on to say that prior to Jesus’ ascension he told the disciples more “about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) Finally, he said to them: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.”—Acts 1:8.
17, 18. How on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., did Jesus’ followers begin to fulfill his words about greater works?
17 In short order they began doing works greater than Jesus. On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. Jesus poured out holy spirit on the 120 disciples waiting in Jerusalem. What did they then do? Multiply food? Teach persons about farming? Even cure some sick persons? No, they started to speak, to declare “the magnificent things of God.” (Acts 2:1-11) Then the apostle Peter gave such a convincing witness that thousands of his listeners accepted Christ.
18 It must have been quite a task just to baptize so many new believers that day. Possibly, they dispersed to pools throughout the city. By day’s end the disciples evidently reported on what was done, for the account says that ‘those who embraced the word and were baptized amounted to about three thousand souls.’ From about 120 to over 3,000 (an increase of more than 2,500 percent) in one day. (Acts 1:15; 2:41) Truly they had commenced doing works greater than Jesus did.
19. Was this a work for just the apostles or elders in congregations?
19 But some Christians today may feel, ‘I’m no Peter or Paul. Were they not the sort of persons that would do the works greater than Jesus?’ That is a valid question. The book of Acts shows that the apostles, special evangelists and spiritual elders in the congregations certainly did engage in preaching the Kingdom. But notice this historical fact related by the disciple Luke: “Great persecution arose against the congregation that was in Jerusalem; all except the apostles were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1) And what did these scattered Christians, young and old, male and female, do? “Those who had been scattered went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” (Acts 8:4) Yes, all preached.
20. Why is it now particularly important for us to think about sharing in the fulfillment of John 14:12?
20 True Christians today carry on the preaching and teaching that Jesus started and that their first-century brothers and sisters continued. But current events fulfilling Bible prophecy show us that God will soon bring the end of the present wicked system of things, thereby concluding the present preaching of the “good news of the kingdom.” (Matt. 24:14) Hence, each of us can ask, ‘Am I presently having a full share in the vital work Jesus spoke of in John 14:12? Am I working hard and exerting myself? When this work is concluded, will I be satisfied that I had a full share in it?’
HOW MUCH DOES GOD EXPECT?
21-23. What reevaluation can we make of our circumstances?
21 In having a satisfying share in the Christian preaching work, we should not ignore valid Scriptural obligations with regard to our family, relatives, job or school. (1 Tim. 5:8) Nor would God want us to feel guilty in caring for those obligations; we should do so happily. But we sometimes can take stock of our time and activities.
22 Many of us might benefit from some balanced self-examination and self-discipline. Maybe eliminating many of the nonessentials for keeping a decent standard of living could be helpful.
23 No one should be critical of what others do in this area. The important thing is to analyze whether we personally are still manifesting a keen appreciation for our role in doing works greater than Jesus did.
24. A poor widow set what good example for us?
24 Perhaps we are giving our all, though it amounts to less than the health and circumstances of another permits him to give. But quantity itself is not the criterion. Recall Jesus’ favorable comment about the poor widow who contributed two small coins of “very little value.” Those coins (leptas) were worth about one-64th of a day’s wage. How much is that in the values of where you live? Jesus commended her course, though, for she “dropped in all of what she had, her whole living.” (Mark 12:41-44) We can be sure also of such approval if we are giving our all—working hard and exerting ourselves—in the witnessing work.
25. What did Mary do for Jesus shortly before his death?
25 We can also call to mind when Mary, Lazarus’ sister, anointed Jesus with costly perfumed oil. Some disciples complained, for the oil was worth 300 denarii. Considering sabbaths and festivals, that was what a workman would earn in a whole year. How much do you, or a family member, earn in a year? (John 12:3-8; Matt. 20:2) Jesus said regarding Mary’s effort:
“She did a fine deed toward me. . . . She did what she could; she undertook beforehand to put perfumed oil on my body in view of the burial. Truly I say to you, Wherever the good news is preached in all the world, what this woman did shall also be told as a remembrance of her.”—Mark 14:6-9.
26, 27. In what way was Mary exemplary?
26 Note those words, “She did what she could.” There is no evidence that Mary was empowered to perform miracles; she could not be an apostle, nor an elder when the Christian congregation was formed; and she may not have been able to travel extensively with the “good news.” But “she did what she could.” What is the sense of that? In some languages the expression “Do what you can” has the flavor of ‘Do not push yourself; take it easy.’ Yet Jesus did not mean that. Mary had truly extended herself. Some Bible translators have rendered the words, “She has done all she could,” or, “She has done all that she had it in her power to do.”—C. K. Williams; W. Barclay.
27 This giving fully of herself was an ongoing concern for Mary, not a onetime occurrence. Earlier Mary showed where her heart was by sitting at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teaching. (Luke 10:38-42) Now she continued her support of this outstanding preacher, Jesus. And, interestingly, Jesus tied in Mary’s deed with the worldwide preaching work, saying that wherever the “good news” was spread she would be remembered. She was interested in the preaching. So was Jesus, down to his death.
28. What sort of religion is Christianity, this meaning what for us?
28 Are we like those two women who gave their all? Are we intensely interested in the preaching work that Jesus started when he was on earth and is now continuing through Christians earth wide? We should be. God is. When Christianity began on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., it was a witnessing religion, and God backed it by his spirit. He is still doing that, for he has not changed. He is “a living God,” both being alive himself and offering life to all true worshipers. Thus Christianity today should be and still is a witnessing religion. And Christians have every reason for being enthusiastic workers in the service of God, “who is a Savior of all sorts of men, especially of faithful ones.”—1 Tim. 4:10.
Jesus’ powerful works moved many to be interested in him. Yet it is noteworthy that he did not become known as “Miracleworker” or something of the sort. Preeminently, he became known as “Teacher.”—Matt. 8:19; 19:16; 26:18; Mark 4:38; John 3:2.
[Picture on page 16]
They did all they could