Manifest an Eagerness to Declare the Good News
“There is eagerness on my part to declare the good news also to you.”—ROMANS 1:15.
1, 2. How do people often react in an emergency?
“THEY came from all over . . . hundreds of volunteers pouring into the bi-county area, arriving with truckloads of food and clothing, setting up evacuation shelters, some working 18 to 20 hours a day, some getting no sleep in the first days after the terrifying levee break.”
2 That was how the people reacted when a flash flood hit a central California community last spring, causing some 24,000 people to flee for safety. Yes, when disasters—from local floods to earthquakes to nuclear accidents—strike, people often respond voluntarily and pitch in to help. They roll up their sleeves, so to speak, brave many dangers and inconveniences, and eagerly come to the aid of others—even total strangers.
A Time of Urgency
3. What extreme emergency is mankind facing today?
3 Today, mankind is face-to-face with the greatest disaster in history. It is not because of the damage man is doing to the environment, the threat of nuclear war, or the increase of crime and violence, as serious as these things are. Rather, mankind is facing what Jesus Christ called a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” To show how devastating the “great tribulation” will be, Jesus went on to say: “In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved.”—Matthew 24:21, 22.
4. In the face of such emergency, how should we react?
4 How would you react if you knew that many people, including some who were close to you, would soon perish in that tribulation? Would you be eager to help? Recall Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the man with the secretary’s inkhorn. He was told that only those who had received the symbolic mark on their forehead would survive the destruction of Jerusalem, and he was the one to administer that lifesaving mark. How did he respond? “I have done just as you have commanded me,” he reported.—Ezekiel 9:1-11.
5. What work are we under command to do, and how urgent is it?
5 Are you manifesting the same willingness and eagerness as the man clothed with linen, doing just as Jehovah has commanded? What has Jehovah commanded? Through his Son, Jesus Christ, he has given the order: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) This is as much a lifesaving work as the symbolic marking of the foreheads in Ezekiel’s day. Anyone who does not respond and become a disciple of Jesus Christ will suffer destruction at the hand of God’s Chief Executioner. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8) Do you sense the urgency? Do you show it by manifesting an eagerness to declare the good news?
6. What is meant by “eagerness”?
6 Jehovah’s people, on the whole, do sense the urgency of the time. All of us are eager to see as many people as possible saved from the impending “great tribulation.” Eagerness, according to one dictionary, is a “keen or vehement desire in the pursuit or for the attainment of something.” One who is eager about something directs both thought and action toward attaining it. He will do everything within his power to overcome any obstacle and hindrance, and he will persist in doing so until he reaches his goal. That was how the apostle Paul felt about his ministry, and we do well to imitate him.—1 Corinthians 4:16.
7. Why did Paul want to go to Rome?
7 Consider, for example, Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome, at Romans 1:13-16. “I many times purposed to come to you,” he told them. Why? “In order that I might acquire some fruitage also among you,” he explained. By this, did Paul simply have in mind visiting the brothers in Rome and perhaps encouraging them to develop more fully “the fruitage of the spirit,” as some commentators claim? (Galatians 5:22, 23) No, for his added words “even as among the rest of the nations” make it clear that he was intent on gaining Kingdom fruitage among the non-Christian community there in Rome. He wanted to bring the good news to Rome and perhaps from there to places beyond.—Romans 15:23, 24.
8. How had Paul “been hindered” from going to Rome?
8 “But I have been hindered until now,” Paul said. Hindered by what? Was he too busy with personal matters to reach out? Well, Paul was a busy man but not with personal interests. By the time he wrote to the Romans (about 56 C.E.), he had already completed two extensive missionary journeys and was busily engaged in his third. Often, on these journeys he was directed by holy spirit to specific assignments. (See Acts 16:6-9.) Even as he wrote his letter, plans were already made for him to go to Jerusalem “to minister to the holy ones” there. (Romans 15:25, 26) And he had also experienced numerous other ‘hindrances’ of this sort.—See 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.
9. How did Paul manifest an eagerness to declare the good news?
9 Even so, Paul did not feel that he had enough to do, nor did he reason that he had his assignment and that was plenty. He wanted to do more. In fact, he said: “There is eagerness on my part to declare the good news also to you there in Rome.” That is what eagerness is all about! Fittingly, Professor F. F. Bruce in his book The Epistle of Paul to the Romans said this of the apostle: “The preaching of the gospel is in his blood, and he cannot refrain from it; he is never ‘off duty’ but must constantly be at it, discharging a little more of that debt which he owes to all mankind—a debt which he will never fully discharge so long as he lives.” Is that how you view the ministry?
10. What ‘hindrances’ may be in our way, but how should we deal with them?
10 Today, all of Jehovah’s people are busy with many responsibilities. Some have families to care for. Some have obligations in other areas. Others are limited in what they can do because of age or poor health. And still others have weighty assignments in the Christian congregation. Yet, we also realize that time is running out for the present system of things, and the Kingdom witness must be given. (Mark 13:10) Thus, like Paul, we should manifest an eagerness to reach out in the preaching work in spite of the ‘hindrances’ that may be in our way. We should not feel complacent, considering that we have enough to do as it is.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
“A Debtor” to All
11. What is meant by “I am a debtor”?
11 There was another motivating force behind Paul’s tireless efforts in declaring the good news. “Both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to wise and to senseless ones I am a debtor,” Paul said. (Romans 1:14) In what way was Paul “a debtor”? Other translations render this expression as “I am under obligation” (New English Bible), “I have an obligation” (Today’s English Version), or “I owe a duty” (Jerusalem Bible). Was he saying, then, that the preaching work was a burdensome duty or obligation that he had to discharge before God? It is easy to develop such an attitude if we lose sight of the urgency or are distracted by worldly attractions. But that was not what Paul had in mind.
12. To whom was Paul “a debtor,” and why?
12 As God’s “chosen vessel” and as “an apostle to the nations,” Paul did have a very heavy responsibility before God. (Acts 9:15; Romans 11:13) Yet his sense of obligation was not just to God. He said he was “a debtor” to ‘Greeks, Barbarians, wise and senseless ones.’ For the mercy and privilege granted him, he felt it his duty to preach so that all people could hear the good news. He realized, too, that it is God’s will that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 1:12-16; 2:3, 4) That was why he labored incessantly, not just to live up to his responsibility toward God but also to discharge his debt to his fellow humans. Do you feel such a personal debt toward the people in your territory? Do you feel you owe it to them to exert yourself to bring them the good news?
“Not Ashamed of the Good News”
13. What was Paul’s estimation of the good news?
13 Paul was certainly an outstanding example in manifesting an eagerness to declare the good news. He deeply appreciated the undeserved kindness shown him by God, and he did not want it to be in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:9, 10) That is why he went on to say: “For I am not ashamed of the good news.” (Romans 1:16) From a human point of view, the Christians were not only unpopular but also despised. “We have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things,” Paul said. (1 Corinthians 4:13) Yet he was not ashamed to take the good news to Rome, the center of the learned world and the seat of the imperial Roman Empire. When faced with apathy, abuse, or even opposition in our preaching work, we can remember Paul’s encouraging example.
14. Why was Paul “not ashamed of the good news”?
14 “Not ashamed of the good news” is really another way of saying “proud of the good news,” and that is what we should be. Why? Because “it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith,” Paul explained. He had ample personal experience to back up his statement. With the good news, Paul said, “we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; and we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Whether it was against the tradition of the Jews, the philosophy of the Greeks, or the might of the Romans, the good news proved triumphant.
15. How was eagerness a motivating force in Paul’s life?
15 How fine it is that instead of feeling it a burden, Paul was ‘eager’ to fulfill his God-given responsibility! As he himself expressed it: “For necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe is me if I did not declare the good news!” (1 Corinthians 9:16) This eagerness helped him carry on for many years of tireless service, so that finally he could say: “I have fought the fine fight, I have run the course to the finish, I have observed the faith.”—2 Timothy 4:7.
Effectiveness Adds to Results
16. What possible challenges do you think faced the man with the secretary’s inkhorn in Ezekiel’s vision?
16 Like Paul, the man with the secretary’s inkhorn in Ezekiel’s vision was no doubt eager about his assignment. He brought back a good report: Mission accomplished! The account does not tell us how he went about finding all the ones “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done.” (Ezekiel 9:4) Though nothing was said about how all this marking was accomplished, clearly it was not a simple task.
17. (a) What challenges do you face in the disciple-making work, and how do you deal with them? (b) Are the needed efforts worth it?
17 Similarly today, our commission is not a simple one. The question, therefore, is: How effective are we at this lifesaving task? To make disciples of as many people as possible, we must engage in this work regularly and systematically, not passing up any opportunity to share the good news. Like us, the people in our community are busy; they may seldom be at home when we call, and even if they are, they are often preoccupied. What can we do? Well, we need to keep accurate records and return at different times, over and over again, hoping that we will find someone to talk to. Are such efforts worth it? Let the following brief notes from two householders give the reply:
“I would like to express my appreciation to the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their many visitations to my house. I know at times your mission is not viewed by those outside of your church with the enthusiasm it richly deserves. So I thought I’d share my experiences with you and say thank you!”
“There are so many of us hungering for the truth, so many of us believing that all roads lead to salvation. You who dare to keep searching for someone to minister to, don’t give up on us! We are not awful people, though we insult you, embarrass you, and reject you. Do not give up, because we have been taught many lies, told many horrible stories, and educated to hate you to keep the message of Jehovah’s Kingdom from us.”
18. (a) How can you help others to get the sense of the good news? (b) How did one publisher overcome apparent apathy?
18 To reach the heart of individuals and help them get the sense of the good news takes more than superficial contact, delivering a prepared message, or leaving some Bible literature. We must endeavor to discern their needs and concerns, likes and dislikes, fears and prejudices. All of this takes a great deal of thought and effort—and eagerness on our part. Consider the following experience:
A publisher talked to a woman at an apartment door but did not get much response. Noticing there were several children around, she asked how many children the woman had. She replied that these were not her children but belonged to her brother-in-law, who had just immigrated from another country. The conversation soon came to the topic of inadequate housing. The publisher agreed that reasonable housing was hard to find in big cities, as she also had relatives coming soon, and she offered to help. The lady was elated and called her brother-in-law to the door. The discussion continued, and they exchanged phone numbers. Not forgetting the purpose of the call, the publisher tactfully opened to page 157 in the Live Forever book and explained that in the promised new system, problems in housing and employment will be gone. The man was very impressed and readily accepted the book. Later, the publisher returned with word about a rental apartment; she also renewed their Bible discussion.
19. It is now time for us to do what? And what do we need to discuss further?
19 The time for preaching the good news is fast running out. How much longer the “four angels” will go on “holding tight the four winds of the earth” we do not know. (Revelation 7:1) In any case, the “great tribulation” is still ahead, and people of honest heart are being gathered. Indeed, the “fields” are “white for harvesting.” (Matthew 24:21, 22; John 4:35) Now is the time for us to exert ourselves vigorously in this never-to-be-repeated work. How can we make best use of the remaining time? What can we do to have a fuller share in this lifesaving work? And what can help us to continue manifesting an eagerness to declare the good news? These questions will be discussed in the next article.
Consider Paul’s Example According to Romans 1:13-16—
□ Why was he eager to go to Rome?
□ What hindered him from going? But how did he react?
□ To whom and why was he “a debtor”?
□ How did he feel about the good news? Why?
□ Like Paul, what can we do to be effective in declaring the good news?