Have a Self-Sacrificing Spirit!
ROLF* was a valued employee. When he decided to obtain part-time work so that he could expand his share in the Christian ministry, his employer readily cooperated. For years Rolf was therefore able to enjoy the pioneer service. One day, though, the work situation changed. Rolf had proved himself so capable at his work that he was offered the position of marketing manager with the firm. The job came with a tempting salary and good prospects for further advancement. However, part-time work would no longer be possible.
Rolf had a wife and two children to support, and the extra money would have been useful. Nevertheless, he declined the offer and applied for another job, one that would allow him to meet both his spiritual and his financial obligations. Rolf’s employer was amazed at this decision. Realizing that even an offer of a higher salary would be in vain, his boss concluded: “I see that I can’t compete with your conviction.”
Yes, Rolf had conviction. But he also had another quality—the spirit of self-sacrifice. Such a spirit is rare in our self-indulgent world. But it can lead to a way of life that is beneficial and satisfying. What is the spirit of self-sacrifice? What does it entail? And what must we do to maintain it?
A Bible Requirement
To sacrifice means to give up or surrender something valuable. Sacrifice has been a part of pure worship since the first faithful witness, Abel, offered “some firstlings of his flock” in sacrifice to God. (Genesis 4:4) Men of faith, such as Noah and Jacob, followed suit. (Genesis 8:20; 31:54) Animal sacrifices were also an important feature of the Mosaic Law. (Leviticus 1:2-4) Under that Law, though, worshipers were exhorted to offer their very best. They were not allowed to offer any defective animal as a sacrifice. (Leviticus 22:19, 20; Deuteronomy 15:21) When apostate Israelites violated this law, God reproved them, saying: “When you present a lame animal [for sacrificing, you say]: ‘It is nothing bad.’ Bring it near, please, to your governor. Will he find pleasure in you, or will he receive you kindly? . . . Can I take pleasure in it at your hand?”—Malachi 1:8, 13.
The principle of sacrifice was carried over into Christian worship. However, since Christ has paid the full ransom price, animal sacrifices are no longer acceptable to God. So, what can Christians acceptably sacrifice? Paul writes at Romans 12:1: “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” What an astonishing change! Instead of sacrificing dead bodies, Christians were to make a living sacrifice of themselves—their energies, assets, and abilities. And as in Israel, Jehovah will not accept “lame,” or halfhearted, sacrifices. He demands that his worshipers give him their very best, that they serve him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.—Mark 12:30.
A self-sacrificing spirit thus involves far more than simply committing oneself to a schedule of meetings and activity in the Christian ministry. It means a determination to do God’s will whatever the cost. It means being ready to suffer hardships and inconveniences. “If anyone wants to come after me,” said Jesus, “let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) A Christian does not make personal ambition or materialistic goals his main concern. His life centers on seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33) If necessary, he is prepared to “pick up his torture stake,” suffer persecution, shame, or even death!
The Blessings That Come From Self-Sacrifice
Faced with such sobering possibilities, one may naturally wonder if self-sacrifice is worth it. For those who love Jehovah God and wish to see his name honored, it certainly is. (Matthew 22:37) Consider the perfect example set by Jesus Christ. Prior to coming to the earth, he enjoyed a lofty position in heaven as a spirit creature. However, as he told his disciples, he sought ‘not his own will, but the will of God, who sent him.’ (John 5:30) So he willingly “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Philippians 2:7, 8.
Such sacrifices did not prove fruitless. Because Jesus was willing to “surrender his soul in behalf of his friends,” he could pay the ransom price, enabling imperfect men to gain either immortality in the heavens, or everlasting life on earth. (John 3:16; 15:13; 1 John 2:2) By perfectly keeping his integrity, he caused Jehovah’s name to be praised greatly. (Proverbs 27:11) Little wonder that Jehovah blessed him for his self-sacrificing course! “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name.”—Philippians 2:9.
Of course, Jesus was God’s only-begotten Son. Does God also reward others who make sacrifices for him? Yes, and this is shown by many examples in both ancient and modern times. Consider the Bible account of Ruth the Moabitess. She evidently learned of Jehovah through her Israelite husband. After he died, she had to make a decision. Would she remain in the pagan land of her birth, or would she travel to the Promised Land with her elderly mother-in-law, Naomi? Ruth chose the latter, even though it meant sacrificing association with her parents and perhaps even the prospect of remarriage. Nevertheless, Ruth had come to know Jehovah, and the desire to worship him among his chosen people moved her to stick with Naomi.
Was Ruth rewarded for such self-sacrifice? Indeed she was! In time, a landowner named Boaz took her as wife, and Ruth became the mother of a son named Obed, which made her an ancestress of Jesus Christ.—Matthew 1:5, 16.
Blessings have likewise been enjoyed by self-sacrificing servants of God in modern times. For example, in 1923, William R. Brown, better known as “Bible” Brown, left his home in the West Indies to spearhead the preaching work in West Africa. Accompanying him were his wife and daughter. He eventually moved to Nigeria, where the preaching work was just beginning to bear fruit. Along with a black American named Vincent Samuels and another West Indian Witness named Claude Brown, “Bible” Brown played an important role in the early stages of the work in West Africa.
Today over 187,000 publishers serve in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria, territories pioneered by “Bible” Brown and his associates. Before his death in 1967, “Bible” Brown said: “What a joy it is to see men and women becoming obedient to the good news of God’s Kingdom!” Yes, he was richly blessed for his self-sacrificing course.
Ways to Be Self-Sacrificing
What are some ways that we can show the same spirit today? One is to have a regular weekly share in the house-to-house ministry. (Acts 20:20) Doing so, especially after a tiring week on a secular job, may not be easy. It may require discipline and good scheduling. But the joys outweigh any inconveniences suffered. Why, you could have the privilege of helping someone become “a letter of Christ . . . inscribed not with ink but with spirit of a living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.”—2 Corinthians 3:3.
By carefully “buying out the opportune time,” perhaps from secular work or entertainment, some have increased their share in the preaching work. (Ephesians 5:16) Many arrange their schedules so as to enjoy the auxiliary pioneer service at least once a year. Others are able to auxiliary pioneer continuously or serve as regular pioneers. Another sacrifice to consider is that of moving to areas in need of more Kingdom publishers. This often entails drastic changes in life-style, putting up with inconveniences, adjusting to new cultures and customs. But the blessings of having a fuller share in helping others gain life makes such sacrifices worthwhile.
Canadian-born John Cutforth found this out personally. After his graduation from the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, he was assigned as a missionary to Australia. “What a long distance from home that was!” recalled Brother Cutforth. “Would I ever get back to Canada to see my parents and friends again before Armageddon? The only way to find out was to go.” Brother Cutforth went, and he did not regret the sacrifices he made. In later years he spearheaded the witness work in Papua New Guinea, where he still serves zealously, having completed 50 years in full-time service. He once said: “Always seeking to follow Jehovah’s leading, accepting whatever assignment he sees fit to give, brings joy, happiness, contentment, and unnumbered friends.”
Of course, circumstances such as health, finances, and family obligations may limit what you can do; not all can serve as pioneers and missionaries. Nevertheless, be determined to have as full a share in meetings and in field service as possible, not allowing minor inconveniences, such as inclement weather, to deter you. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) You may also be able to sacrifice more time for personal study of God’s Word. Some families do so by limiting the time spent in viewing TV programs, perhaps even having a “no TV” night each week or no TV at all. By finding time for personal study, the “sacrifice of praise” with which you “make public declaration to his name” at meetings and in field service is more likely to be a sacrifice of high quality.—Hebrews 13:15.
Remember, the preaching work is now in its final stages. Soon God will bring his judgment upon this greedy and self-indulgent world. (Zephaniah 2:3) To maintain God’s favor, we cannot be self-sparing. We must ‘present our bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.’ (Romans 12:1) Such a spirit will bring great happiness and contentment. It will help us attain greater joy in our ministry. And it will make the heart of Jehovah God rejoice!—Proverbs 27:11.
So maintain a self-sacrificing spirit! Do not hesitate to put yourself out for others and in support of Kingdom interests. Paul exhorts: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Hebrews 13:16.
Name has been changed.
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Finding time for personal study and field service may entail sacrifice, but it is rewarding
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W. R. Brown and John Cutforth were richly blessed for their self-sacrificing course