Guard Your Sense of Urgency
WHAT is one sure, God-approved way to keep on serving Jehovah whole-souled? It is to have a genuine sense of urgency deep in our hearts. To serve God in a whole-souled manner means to serve him with the whole of our being, and it requires earnest, implicit obedience to everything he asks us to do.
The prophet Moses stressed this need when he instructed the nation of Israel: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) Centuries later that same command was repeated by Christ Jesus: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) The apostle Paul alluded to this same requirement when he told the Ephesians to do “the will of God whole-souled,” and when he urged the Colossians: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.”—Ephesians 6:6; Colossians 3:23.
It is difficult, however, to put our heart and soul into our service to God if we do not have a feeling of urgency deep within ourselves or if the sense of urgency we once had has now become dull—perhaps lost altogether. Today, we live in a time of urgency unparalleled by any other period in man’s history.
Specific Periods of Urgency
In pre-Christian times there were several periods of urgency. Noah’s day and the period leading up to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah certainly were times of real urgency. (2 Peter 2:5, 6; Jude 7) The pre-Flood years were undoubtedly filled with urgent activity. Even though Noah and his family did not know precisely when the Deluge would begin, their “godly fear” would have ensured that they did not procrastinate.—Hebrews 11:7.
Similarly, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angels “became urgent with Lot” and told him: “Escape for your soul!” (Genesis 19:15, 17) Yes, on that occasion too, urgency saved righteous lives. Centuries later Jewish captives in Babylon were exhorted: “Turn away, turn away, get out of there, touch nothing unclean; get out from the midst of her.” (Isaiah 52:11) In 537 B.C.E., about 200,000 exiles hastened out of Babylon in obedience to that urgent prophetic command.
The sense of urgency in each of those situations resulted in whole-souled service by those who felt and kept alive a conviction that they were living in urgent times.
Urgency in Christian Times
Echoes of urgency can also be heard throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures. “Keep looking,” “keep awake,” “keep on the watch,” “prove yourselves ready”—all these are expressions used by Christ Jesus to instill a proper sense of urgency in his followers. (Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:32-37) Additionally, his illustrations regarding the ten virgins, the wicked slave, the talents, and the separating of the sheep from the goats all incite anticipation and generate a feeling of urgency.—Matthew 25:1, 14, 15, 32, 33.
Not only did Jesus speak about urgency but he also backed up the realism of his words by working with urgency. On one occasion he told the crowds when they tried to detain him: “Also to other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:42, 43) Further, he encouraged his disciples to beg the Master of the harvest to send out more workers into His harvest because “the harvest is great, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37, 38) Such a prayerful request to God indeed breathes a spirit of urgency.
Was Such Urgency Misplaced?
Some might raise the logical question, Why was a sense of urgency needed back then if the foretold “great tribulation” was centuries away?—Matthew 24:21.
We can be certain that it was not just a ruse used by Jesus to keep his followers busy in the preaching and teaching work. No, it was Christ’s love for his disciples, as well as his perfect understanding of Jehovah’s view of time, that was the basis for his counsel on urgency. Yes, Christ Jesus knew that a spirit of urgency was needed to accomplish Jehovah’s will according to God’s purpose. Furthermore, he knew that his disciples would themselves benefit spiritually by maintaining a sense of urgency until his return.
Jesus Christ had clearly indicated that there was a worldwide witness work to be accomplished and in a limited time. (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) The progressive stages of this assignment were revealed only as the work unfolded. But urgency was needed to fulfill each step. Jesus indicated the progression of this assignment when he said: “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) And that is how the assignment has unfolded down to the present. It has meant some surprises for God’s servants along the way, necessitating adjustments in understanding at times.
The Christian sense of urgency has served Jehovah’s purpose. It has helped Christ’s disciples to carry out the progression of their assignment according to Jehovah’s unerring schedule. And so today, looking back over nearly 2,000 years, we understand that divine schedule more fully.
Christian urgency helped the disciples to give a thorough witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the dispersed Jews before 36 C.E. when special favor toward Israel came to a close. (Daniel 9:27; Acts 2:46, 47) Similarly, Christian urgency aided the early congregation in giving a clear warning to all Jews that shortly their system would end. (Luke 19:43, 44; Colossians 1:5, 6, 23) And after it ended unexpectedly in 70 C.E., urgency helped Christ’s first-century witnesses to proclaim the heavenly hope to many before the foretold apostasy spread its morbid shroud. (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Timothy 4:2) Then, through the centuries of the Dark Ages, the few wheatlike Christians kept the Kingdom hope alive, as Christ Jesus had foretold. (Matthew 13:28-30) Finally, at his appointed time, Jehovah raised up a vigorous, modern-day congregation, spurred along by his urgent message of judgment for those living in this final generation.—Matthew 24:34.
Like Daniel of old, God’s faithful modern-day Witnesses would never dare to question Jehovah, to ask him: “What have you been doing?” (Daniel 4:35) They are confident that Jehovah knows exactly what is necessary to get his work done right on schedule. So rather than question Jehovah’s way of arranging matters, they are happy that God has given them the opportunity to work along with him in these momentous times.—1 Corinthians 3:9.
A Further Encouragement to Urgency
Another reason for urgency is our inability to pinpoint the exact day and hour for the sudden outbreak of the great tribulation. Christ Jesus was definite that nobody on earth knows the predetermined day and hour of the start of that crucial event. (Matthew 24:36) On another occasion he told his eager apostles: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Acts 1:7) Yes, the outcome is clear, but all the details are simply not ours to know.
The apostle Paul had the right attitude of urgency. Perhaps he had Jesus’ words in mind when he wrote to the Thessalonians about Christ’s presence: “Now as for the times and the seasons, brothers, you need nothing to be written to you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1) He wrote this letter some 17 years after Jesus had said: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) At that time no more could be written because no more had been revealed. Even so they could be confident that Jehovah’s day would definitely come “as a thief in the night” when Christians would still be urgently preaching.—1 Thessalonians 5:2.
It would seem unlikely that with these words in mind, first-century Christians thought that Jehovah’s day was centuries off. True, they knew of Jesus’ parables about the king who went to a distant land and about the man who traveled abroad. They knew, too, that the parables showed that the king would return “eventually” and the traveler “after a long time.” But undoubtedly they puzzled over such questions as, When is “eventually”? And what is meant by “after a long time”? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years? Or longer? (Luke 19:12, 15; Matthew 25:14, 19) Jesus’ words would continue to ring in their ears: “You also, keep ready, because at an hour that you do not think likely the Son of man is coming.”—Luke 12:40.
Urgency’s Positive Effect
Yes, the God-stimulated sense of urgency had a wonderfully encouraging effect on the first-century Christians, helping them to keep busy in the all-important work of preaching and teaching. It continues to encourage us today in many ways. It keeps us from becoming complacent or ‘weary of well doing.’ (Galatians 6:9, King James Version) It protects us from overinvolvement with the world and its insidious materialism. It keeps our minds on “the real life.” (1 Timothy 6:19) The Lord Jesus said that his disciples would be like “sheep amidst wolves,” and he knew the need for us to keep a determined, fixed view in order to combat the world. Yes, we have been safeguarded, protected by our Christian sense of urgency.—Matthew 10:16.
Jehovah God in his infinite wisdom has always given his servants enough information for them to keep their sense of urgency alive. He has kindly assured us that we are in “the last days” of this corrupt system of things. (2 Timothy 3:1) We are continually reminded that we must shine as illuminators until the generation in which we live passes away in the great tribulation, its climax being at Har–Magedon.—Philippians 2:15; Revelation 7:14; 16:14, 16.
Yes, a godly sense of urgency is an integral part of whole-souled service to Jehovah. It wards off and helps thwart the Devil’s attempts to cause God’s servants to “get tired and give out in [their] souls.” (Hebrews 12:3) For all eternity, whole-souled devotion will cause Jehovah’s servants to obey him, but now, in these pre-Armageddon days, a deep, genuine sense of urgency is an essential part of whole-souled devotion.
May Jehovah our God help all of us to guard our sense of urgency while we continue to echo the words of the apostle John: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.”—Revelation 22:20.