“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 do most people desire?
ASK six-year-old Robbie why he likes to go to the Kingdom Hall, and he will answer: “I learn about Jehovah and Paradise where I can live for a long, long time with good animals.” His three-year-old cousin, Dustin, senses enough about his parents’ routine to know exactly when to blurt out: “Want to go to Kingdom Hall!” What Robbie expresses, and what Dustin is learning to express, would appeal to most people—life, everlasting life. People want to be “saved.” But how? Simply by attending religious services?
2. (a) Why can salvation not be earned? (b) How do Jesus’ words at Luke 13:24 show what is required for salvation?
2 Salvation cannot be earned by attendance at meetings or in any other way. It is free, a gift from God. Yet, Jehovah God does require efforts on our part if we are to receive his gift of everlasting life. (Romans 6:23) What are they? For one, vigorous exertion in his service! These actions must be motivated by genuine appreciation. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, once had a man inquire of him: “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” Jesus’ answer embraced not only the questioner but also all others interested in salvation, including us. He replied: “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.
3. (a) Why was the man’s question unusual? (b) How does Jesus involve us in his answer?
3 The unnamed man’s question was unusual. He asked: “Are those who are being saved few?” not, “Will I be among the few saved?” or, “How can I be saved?” Perhaps the Jewish philosophy that only a limited number of people would merit salvation prompted his speculative query.* Whatever the source of his curiosity, Jesus quickly took the question from the arena of abstract theory to that of practical application—personal application. He forced the inquirer to think of what he needed to do for salvation. But more than that, since Jesus’ words, “exert yourselves vigorously,” are in the plural form, they should also stir us to think deeply about our manner of worship.
4. What must we do to gain everlasting life?
4 Everlasting life, therefore, is not as easy to attain as some people may imagine. Jesus stresses hard work, constant effort, as the way to “get in through the narrow door.” This unflagging exertion is powered by a durable faith, one built on obedience to Christ’s teachings. So to gain salvation, we must do more than ‘hear his words’; we must persist in ‘doing them.’—Luke 6:46-49; James 1:22-25.
You Must “Struggle” Now
5. (a) What is implied by Jesus’ words, “Exert yourselves vigorously”? (b) How do those words add more meaning to your view of sacred service?
5 What does the phrase “exert yourselves vigorously” mean? In the original Greek, the expression is a·go·niʹze·sthe, derived from a word (a·gonʹ) meaning “place of contest.” “Be struggling,” is how The Kingdom Interlinear Translation puts it. Interestingly, from this same Greek verb we get the English word “agonize.” So visualize an ancient stadium and picture the athlete now agonizing, or exerting himself vigorously with all his power, to win the prize. Thus, although the Greek verb here involved can be a technical term for competing in the Grecian games, it underlines Jesus’ admonition to take whole-souled action. Halfhearted effort just will not do.—Luke 10:27; compare 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27.
6. Why must we exert ourselves vigorously now?
6 When and for how long must we “struggle to get in through the narrow door”? (Luke 13:24, The New English Bible) Look closely at Jesus’ words in Luke 13:24 and notice how he contrasts the present, “exert yourselves vigorously,” with the future, “will seek.” Thus, right now is the time to be struggling. Apparently, those barred from entering seek to get in at a time convenient only to them. But by then it is too late; the door of opportunity is shut and bolted. Jesus goes on to say at Luke 13:25 that once the householder has locked the door, people will start knocking and pleading: “‘Sir, open to us.’ But in answer he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’” What a sad outcome awaits those who do not make the worship of Jehovah their chief purpose in life now!—Matthew 6:33.
7. How does Philippians 3:12-14 denote constant exertion, and why is it necessary?
7 Our struggling is an ongoing thing. None of us have entered completely through “the narrow door.” Paul realized this. His race for life was a strenuous day-by-day effort. He wrote: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Italics ours.)—Philippians 3:12-14, New International Version.
8. (a) What bars the “many” from everlasting life? (b) What warning does this sound for us?
8 Who are the “many,” and why are they not able to get in? The “many” are identified with Christendom, especially its clergy class. They make a pretense of intimately knowing Jesus, being part of his family, by claiming that they ‘ate and drank with him.’ But because they want salvation on their own terms, not God’s, Jesus flatly denies knowing them and views them as “workers of unrighteousness.” (Luke 13:26, 27) Individuals locked out from entering into everlasting life could even include those who have slacked off in their sacred service to Jehovah and now have a take-it-easy approach to true worship. Their zeal for Kingdom interests has become lukewarm. (Revelation 3:15, 16) True, they may still ‘have a form of godly devotion’—token field service and meeting attendance—but lack evidence of the kind of faith that is the real driving force behind pure worship. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:5.) They fail to realize that just seeking to get through “the narrow door” is not enough. One must struggle to get through.
Why Through a “Narrow Door”
9. Why does entering through the narrow door require vigorous exertion?
9 The narrow door to salvation stands open to all. But the “many” do not like to struggle to enter. What are some factors about going through the narrow door that require vigorous exertion? A person must first gain accurate knowledge of Bible truth, and get to know Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. (John 17:3) This means casting aside the traditions and practices of worldly religions, including those of Christendom. It requires doing God’s will, as Jesus did it while here on earth. (1 Peter 2:21) As a dedicated, baptized Christian, one must also avoid the materialism, the immorality, and the uncleanness of the world. (1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 5:3-5) These must be stripped off and replaced by Christlike qualities.—Colossians 3:9, 10, 12.
10. What relationship does self-control have to our gaining everlasting life?
10 The “few” know the value of zeal in the ministry, accompanied by displaying the fruitage of the spirit, including self-control. (Galatians 5:23) With the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit, they struggle to get the upper hand over their body and direct it toward the goal of everlasting life.—1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
What Do Jesus’ Words Mean to You?
11. (a) In what areas of life may some need to exert themselves vigorously, and why? (b) In what activity can all exert themselves vigorously?
11 Whether we are newly baptized or have been active with Jehovah’s organization for decades, there can be no slacking off in our effort to please him. As Jesus’ words plainly indicate, we must be whole-souled in our devotion to Jehovah, willing to enter through the narrow door at any cost. Although Jesus was not simply discussing improvements and increases in our service to God, for some of us, vigorous exertion is needed to improve our conduct or to get rid of bad habits so that we ‘in no way give any cause for stumbling.’ (2 Corinthians 6:1-4) Others of us need to give constant attention to a thorough program of personal study so that our ‘love may abound with accurate knowledge and full discernment.’ (Philippians 1:9-11) Still others need to put forth a greater effort to attend and participate regularly in congregation meetings, including the Congregation Book Study. (Hebrews 10:23-25) But all of us can look at our own personal field ministry to see if we are truly exerting ourselves vigorously in doing “the work of an evangelizer.”—2 Timothy 4:5.
12. To test the degree of our spiritual exertion, what questions might we ask?
12 For an increasing number, progress in exerting themselves vigorously to please Jehovah has qualified them for auxiliary pioneer, regular pioneer, or Bethel service. But what about you? If you are a Kingdom publisher, can you engage in auxiliary pioneer service several times a year or even become a regular pioneer? If you already are an auxiliary pioneer, are you reaching out for regular pioneer service? If not, why not consider doing so? In this way you could be blessed in cultivating an even closer relationship with Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.—Psalm 25:14.
Can You Exert Yourself so as to Pioneer?
13. (a) If you want to be a pioneer, what two things are vital? (b) In order to pioneer, in what areas of life may adjustments need to be made?
13 If you could be a regular pioneer but are not, can you “struggle” to make adjustments in your life so as to pioneer? Two things are essential. First, you must have the desire. Second, you must have the right circumstances. If you lack the desire, pray for it. Talk to pioneers. Increase your present activity as a congregation publisher. Participate in auxiliary pioneer service whenever possible. If your circumstances do not allow for such service now, see if an adjustment can be made. A working wife may not have to work. One past retirement age may not have to keep working. A high standard of living, expensive vacations, the latest cars, and the like, are not essential to life.—Luke 12:15; 1 John 2:15-17.
14. (a) Why was a certain married couple not content to remain as congregation publishers? (b) What goal have they set before their children?
14 One father of three sons, two of preteen age, began pioneering six years ago. Why? “I wanted to do more,” he explains. “If I could be a regular pioneer and was not, I would not be living up to my dedication.” His wife also began regular pioneering. Why? “I had been auxiliary pioneering on a regular basis for four years and finally realized that it had become easy,” she says. “I wanted to have a fuller share in this never-to-be-repeated work and to set the proper example for our sons.” Both husband and wife learned the truth after university training. “Our parents required us to go to college for four years,” states the father. So, what goals have they set for their sons? “I let my boys know we would like them to pioneer and spend at least four years at Bethel.”
15. (a) For what reasons have some exerted themselves to serve as regular pioneers? (b) For what reason would you desire to be in the full-time service?
15 The following are reasons why others have decided to become regular pioneers:
“I wasn’t getting anywhere spiritually, which bothered me.” (Robert H.)
“I was never content as a regular publisher.” (Rhea H.)
“Pioneering gives my life direction and purpose.” (Hans K.)
“I wanted to serve Jehovah completely, and pioneering was my way of doing just that.” (Charanjit K.)
“I would regret it if I did not use my energies, strength, and youth to share in this great work.” (Gregory T.)
“Jehovah only blesses effort. I needed to give him something to bless.” (Graceann T.)
“Pioneering helps me to express how I feel about Jehovah.” (Marco P.)
“Working secularly full time did not bring me the happiness that I observed among the pioneers.” (Nancy P.)
What reasons could you add to this list?
Are You Doing All You Can?
16. Are pioneers the only ones who exert themselves vigorously? Explain.
16 A number of Jehovah’s Witnesses have honestly and prayerfully examined their personal situation and have found that they are doing all they can under their present circumstances. Maybe you are one of them. If so, take heart. Jehovah and his Son care about you and truly appreciate your whole-souled service. (Compare Luke 21:1-4.) For example, because of unfavorable political or economic conditions, in some countries our brothers have to work nine hours a day, five or six days a week, just to obtain the necessities of life. In a country where the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is under strict governmental ban, those who pioneer—and these countries have an increasing number of pioneers—are usually the retired ones, youths who have night jobs, and mothers (with children) who have been exempted from secular work by the State.
17. How does the case of Epaphroditus show that Jehovah does not measure our degree of exertion solely by the amount of work we do in his service?
17 Yet you may say, ‘I wish I had more physical strength. If only I were young again!’ But do not be discouraged. Our exertion is not rigidly measured by the amount of work we do in God’s sacred service. Remember Epaphroditus? When he was sick, the amount of vigorous activity possible for him in “the Lord’s work” would not have compared with what he did when he was well. Yet Paul commended him for his exertion. In fact, as Paul indicated, we should ‘keep holding men and women of that sort dear.’—Philippians 2:25-30.
18. (a) How can those with limiting circumstances promote full-time service in the congregation? (b) What can you do to encourage the pioneer spirit in your congregation?
18 However, there is something you can do to promote the full-time service in the congregation. What is it? Exert yourself vigorously in displaying the pioneer spirit. For example, if you cannot presently be a pioneer because of family obligations, can you free others in your family—your wife, children, brother, or sister—to pioneer? Those who may be in poor health or are otherwise handicapped can take a real interest in those who are able to pioneer, getting into the field service with them as circumstances permit. (Compare 1 Corinthians 12:19-26.) In this way all in the congregation can exert themselves in stressing full-time service. The results can be very encouraging to all!
19. What should be our determination?
19 What does exerting yourself vigorously mean to you? Does it mean progressing toward baptism? Overcoming some bad habit? Strengthening your relationship with Jehovah in some way? Could it mean auxiliary pioneering? Regular pioneering? Bethel service? Whatever it requires of you in order to make spiritual progress, it is worth the vigorous effort now. Therefore, let all of us keep up the struggle to get through the narrow door leading to everlasting life!
The number of those saved was a much debated theological problem among the rabbis. One Bible reference work notes: “Among the strange cabbalistic fancies of the Rabbis, one was an attempt to fix the number of the saved by the numerical value of the letters of this or that text.”
Points to Consider
□ What did Jesus mean when he counseled, “Exert yourselves vigorously”?
□ When and how do Jesus’ words apply to you?
□ Why are the “many” not able to get through the narrow door?
□ How may those with limiting circumstances exert themselves?
□ For how long must we struggle to get through the narrow door?