Doing Our Utmost to Declare the Good News
“Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of.”—2 TIMOTHY 2:15.
1, 2. What growth in the ranks of full-time ministers have you observed? What has contributed to it?
“A FEW years ago, many of us thought that only those with special circumstances could pioneer,” wrote a pioneer, or full-time minister, in Japan. “It seems we were wrong. We are learning that only those with special circumstances cannot pioneer.”
2 That positive outlook has resulted in one of the most phenomenal growths in the ranks of full-time ministers among Jehovah’s Witnesses in recent years. Today in Japan, two out of every five Kingdom publishers are engaged in some form of full-time ministry. But this zealous spirit is not limited to Japan. In the last service year, the number of publishers around the world grew by 5 percent, whereas the number of full-time ministers increased by 22 percent. Clearly, Jehovah’s people have taken to heart the apostle Paul’s words: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Is this the case with you?
“This Is What the Love of God Means”
3. What is the motivating force behind this growth?
3 When pioneers are asked why they have taken up the full-time ministry, invariably their answer is that it is because of their love for Jehovah God. (Matthew 22:37, 38) This, of course, is as it should be, for without love as the proper motive, any amount of effort would be in vain. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) It is truly commendable that so many of our fellow Christians—in fact, an average of more than seven publishers in every congregation around the world—have made room in their lives to demonstrate their love for God in this way.
4. How did we come to love God? (Romans 5:8)
4 Of course, all of us who have dedicated our lives to Jehovah did so because we love him. When we learned of the love that Jehovah and his Son, Jesus Christ, have for us, and of the marvelous blessings his Kingdom will bring, our hearts were moved to respond with love for him. This is how the apostle John put it: “We love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) We respond naturally in that way because that is how we are made. But is that warm feeling in our hearts all that love of God involves?
5. What does the love of God involve? (1 John 2:5)
5 No, love of God means more. The apostle John tells us: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Yes, true love, like true faith, is expressed by action. (Compare 2 Corinthians 8:24.) It wants to please and gain the approval of the one loved. What an excellent way those in the full-time ministry have chosen to demonstrate their love for Jehovah and Jesus Christ!
6. (a) What sort of persons have been able to pioneer? What made it possible for them to do so? (b) Do you know of any such examples?
6 Individual circumstances do vary, and they must be taken into consideration. Yet when we look at those who are in the full-time ministry, we find that they include people in every possible situation—young and old, single and married, having good and poor health, with and without family responsibilities, and so on. The difference is that, rather than allowing these factors to become roadblocks, they, like the apostle Paul, have learned to work around them or to live with them. (2 Corinthians 11:29, 30; 12:7) Consider, for instance, a typical family.
Eiji is an elder in his congregation. He and his wife have been pioneering together for 12 years while bringing up three children. How did they do it? “We had to live more simply,” says Eiji. Even the children had to learn to accept a no for many of the things they wanted. “Though we’ve had some difficult times, Jehovah has always provided what we needed.”
Have the sacrifices been worth it? “Every night before we turn out the lights, I watch my wife write out her preaching report for the day,” says Eiji. “When I see my family putting spiritual interests first like this, I feel that everything is as it should be, and I have a sense of accomplishment. I can’t imagine us not pioneering together.” How does his wife feel about it? “Eiji has taken care of us very well,” she says. “When I see him busy with spiritual matters, I feel a deep inner contentment. I hope we can continue.”
With father and mother spending so much time in the preaching work every day, what has been the effect on the children? The older son is now working on a four-year construction project at the Watch Tower Society’s branch. The daughter is a regular pioneer, and the school-age son is aiming to become a special pioneer. They are all glad that their parents are pioneers.
7. (a) Give examples regarding individuals you know who overcame obstacles to enter the full-time service. (b) What Bible counsel have they taken to heart?
7 Families like this one can be found among Jehovah’s Witnesses in many countries around the world. They put forth a real effort to make the best of their circumstances in order to enter and then remain in the full-time service. By their actions, they demonstrate what the love of God really means to them. Earnestly, they are heeding Paul’s admonition: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of.”—2 Timothy 2:15.
“A Workman With Nothing to Be Ashamed Of”
8. Why did Paul urge Timothy to ‘do his utmost’ and what does that mean?
8 When Paul wrote those words to Timothy, about 65 C.E., Timothy was already serving in a very responsible position in the Christian congregation. Paul called him “a fine soldier of Christ Jesus” and repeatedly reminded him of his responsibility in teaching and instructing others. (2 Timothy 2:3, 14, 25; 4:2) Yet, he urged Timothy: “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God.” The expression “do your utmost” is translated from a Greek term meaning “speed you up.” (See Kingdom Interlinear Translation.) In other words, Paul was telling Timothy that in order to have God’s approval he needed to step up his activity, even though he was already carrying a heavy load of responsibility. Why? So that he could be “a workman with nothing to be ashamed of.”
9. What parable of Jesus can help us to understand Paul’s words about “a workman with nothing to be ashamed of”?
9 This latter phrase reminds us of the three slaves in Jesus’ parable of the talents, as recorded at Matthew 25:14-30. Upon the master’s return, it was time for them to submit their work to the master for his approval. The slaves given five and two talents were commended by the master for what they had done with the things entrusted to them. They were invited to ‘enter into the joy of their master.’ But the slave entrusted with one talent was found wanting. What he had was taken away, and to his shame, he was thrown out “into the darkness outside.”
10. Why was the slave who was given one talent shamed and punished?
10 The first two slaves worked hard and multiplied their master’s interests. They were truly workmen “with nothing to be ashamed of.” But why was the third slave shamed and punished even though he did not lose what was given him? It was because he did nothing constructive with it. As the master pointed out, he could at least have deposited the money in the bank. But what was basically wrong was that he had no genuine love for his master. “I grew afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground,” he confessed to the master. (Matthew 25:25; compare 1 John 4:18.) He viewed his master as a harsh, “exacting man” and his assignment as a burden. He did the least possible in order to get by rather than doing his “utmost” to win the master’s approval.
11. How does that parable concern us today?
11 Today that parable is undergoing fulfillment. The Master, Jesus Christ, has returned and is inspecting the work of his “slave” class, as well as that of their companions, the “great crowd” of sheeplike ones. (Matthew 24:45-47; Revelation 7:9, 15) What does the Master find? If we content ourselves with token service just to get by, then it could be that we will be found among those shamed and thrown “into the darkness outside.” On the other hand, if we ‘do our utmost,’ that is, ‘speed up’ our work in response to the urgency of the time, we will be found approved as ‘workmen with nothing to be ashamed of’ and will share in the ‘joy of our master.’
Discipline and Self-Sacrifice Needed
12. What factors have enabled a high percentage of the publishers in Japan to enter the full-time ministry?
12 The continued expansion of the pioneer ranks in country after country around the world is clear evidence that Jehovah’s people as a whole are ‘doing their utmost’ to prove themselves ‘workmen with nothing to be ashamed of.’ But have you ever wondered why in some countries the percentage of brothers able to enter the full-time service is so much greater than in other countries? This interesting question was put to some of the pioneers in Japan. Consider these answers:
“I don’t think it means that the faith, or the love, of the Japanese Witnesses is greater than that of their brothers in other countries,” said a Bethel worker who has been in full-time service for some 30 years. “But I believe that the Japanese personality probably has something to do with it. As a whole, the Japanese people are obedient; they respond readily to encouragement.”
“Because there are so many pioneers in almost every congregation,” an elder commented, “the general idea is that anyone can do it.” The Japanese people do like to do things in groups. They have an excellent team spirit.
These are surely thought-provoking remarks, and if we are serious about improving our service to Jehovah, there are a number of salient points worthy of our careful consideration.
13. How can we benefit from the matter of being obedient and ready to respond to encouragement?
13 First of all, there is the matter of being obedient and ready to respond to encouragement. When direction and encouragement come from the proper source, it is only right that we should respond readily. Thus, rather than viewing these qualities as mere national traits, we keep in mind Jesus’ words: “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) We also remember that one feature of “the wisdom from above” is being “ready to obey.” (James 3:17) These are qualities that all Christians are encouraged to put on. Due to background and upbringing, some may be more given to independent thinking and self-will than others. Perhaps this is an area where we need to discipline ourselves and ‘make our mind over’ so that we can perceive more clearly what the “will of God” is.—Romans 12:2.
14. What invitation have all dedicated Christians accepted, and what is involved?
14 As dedicated Christians, we have accepted Jesus’ invitation: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) To “disown” oneself means literally ‘to deny oneself utterly’ and thereafter willingly to accept being owned by Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, letting them control our lives and tell us what we should and should not do. What better way is there to demonstrate that we have disowned ourselves than to follow Jesus’ steps in the full-time ministry?
15. (a) How is being content with less materially connected with following Jesus? (b) How did the early disciples respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow him?
15 Then there is the matter of being content with less materially. This clearly runs contrary to the general trend of the world, which promotes “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) But Jesus said emphatically: “You may be sure, none of you that does not say good-bye to all his belongings can be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) Why is this so? Because to be Jesus’ disciple means more than just being a believer. When Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James, John, and the others to be his disciples in the second year of his ministry, he did not stop at asking them to believe in him as the Messiah. He later invited them to follow him and to do the work he was doing, that is, the full-time preaching work. What was their response? “At once they abandoned their nets and followed him.” James and John even “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and went off after him.” (Mark 1:16-20) They left behind their business and former associates and took up preaching full-time.
16. As dedicated Christians, in what should we invest our time and energy? (Proverbs 3:9)
16 It is easy to see, therefore, why being content with less is such an important factor in doing our utmost in Jehovah’s service. If we are burdened down with many material things or obligations, we might become like the rich young ruler who turned down Jesus’ invitation to be his follower, not because he could not do it, but because he was not willing to leave behind his “many possessions.” (Matthew 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-23) So rather than squandering our time and energy pursuing things that will soon ‘pass away,’ we want to invest these valuable assets for our lasting welfare.—1 John 2:16, 17.
17. To what extent can team spirit be a positive influence?
17 Finally, there is the matter of team spirit. Andrew, Peter, James, and John undoubtedly influenced one another in their decision to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him. (John 1:40, 41) Similarly, the fact that so many of our brothers are able to make room in their busy lives to enter the full-time service should move us to consider our own case seriously. On the other hand, those among us who are already enjoying this privilege can share their happy experiences with others, thereby encouraging these also to join their ranks. And, of course, full-time ministers can help one another to the mutual benefit of all.—Romans 1:12.
18. How can all of us contribute to the pioneer spirit?
18 Even those whose present circumstances do not permit them to take up the full-time ministry can do much to add to the pioneer spirit. How? By supporting and encouraging those who are pioneering, by showing an active interest in those who have the potential to do so, by arranging for at least one member of their family to pioneer, by engaging in the auxiliary pioneer work whenever possible, and by working toward entering the full-time service as soon as possible. Doing so, all of us can show that we are ‘doing our utmost’ to serve Jehovah whether we are presently enrolled in the full-time ministry or not.
Persevere in Doing Our Utmost
19. What should we resolve to do in view of the time?
19 Indeed, as Jehovah is speeding up the work, it is now the time for us to ‘do our utmost’ in order to be ‘workmen with nothing to be ashamed of.’ As fine soldiers of Jesus Christ, we also need to put aside all unnecessary burdens so that we may serve effectively and gain his approval. (2 Timothy 2:3-5) As we work hard to expand our share in Kingdom service, we can be assured that our efforts will be richly rewarded. (Hebrews 6:10; 2 Corinthians 9:6) Thus, rather than standing on the sidelines, so to speak, let us persevere in doing our utmost to preach the good news, in answer to the psalmist’s invitation: “Serve Jehovah with rejoicing. Come in before him with a joyful cry.”—Psalm 100:2.
□ What does love of God involve?
□ What was the real problem with the third slave in Jesus’ illustration of the talents?
□ What does disowning ourselves mean?
□ Why must followers of Jesus ‘say good-bye to their material belongings’?
□ How can all of us contribute to the pioneer spirit?
[Picture on page 18]
‘Throw the good-for-nothing slave out’