Joyful “Doers of the Word”
“Accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls. However, become doers of the word, and not hearers only.”—JAMES 1:21, 22.
1. How is our yeartext for 1996 to be regarded?
“BECOME DOERS OF THE WORD.” This simple statement carries a powerful message. It is taken from “The Letter of James” in the Bible, and it will be displayed in Kingdom Halls as the yeartext of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout 1996.
2, 3. Why was it appropriate that James should write the letter that bears his name?
2 James, a half brother of the Lord Jesus, was prominent in the early Christian congregation. On one occasion after Jesus’ resurrection, our Lord appeared personally to James and then to all the apostles. (1 Corinthians 15:7) Later, when the apostle Peter was miraculously released from prison, he told an assembled Christian group: “Report these things to James and the brothers.” (Acts 12:17) It appears that James, though not himself an apostle, presided at the governing body meeting in Jerusalem when the apostles and elders decided that Gentile converts need not be circumcised. James summed up matters, and the decision confirmed by holy spirit was sent to all the congregations.—Acts 15:1-29.
3 Obviously, James’ mature reasoning carried much weight. However, he humbly acknowledged that he himself was merely “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 1:1) His inspired letter contains a wealth of sound counsel and encouragement for Christians today. It was completed about four years before the initial Roman attack on Jerusalem by General Cestius Gallus, after the good news had been preached extensively “in all creation that is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) They were critical times, and Jehovah’s servants were fully aware that His judgment was about to be executed on the Jewish nation.
4. What indicates that the early Christians had great confidence in God’s Word?
4 Those Christians already had the entire Hebrew Scriptures and much of the Greek Scriptures. As indicated by their numerous references to the earlier writings, the Christian Bible writers obviously had great confidence in God’s Word. Likewise, we today need to study God’s Word earnestly and apply it in our lives. In order to endure, we need the spiritual strength and courage that the Holy Scriptures provide.—Psalm 119:97; 1 Timothy 4:13.
5. Why do we need special guidance today, and where will we find it?
5 Today mankind stands at the brink of “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) Our survival depends on having divine guidance. How may we find this? By opening our hearts to the teachings of God’s spirit-inspired Word. This will lead us to “become doers of the word,” like loyal servants of Jehovah in former times. We must read and study God’s Word diligently and use it to Jehovah’s praise.—2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16, 17.
Endurance With Joy
6. Why should we find joy in meeting up with trials?
6 In opening his letter, James mentions joy, the second fruit of God’s spirit. He writes: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance. But let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-4; Galatians 5:22, 23) How may it be said that it is “all joy” to meet up with many trials? Well, even Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens.” (Matthew 5:11, 12) There is joyful satisfaction in seeing Jehovah’s blessing on our efforts as we press on toward the goal of everlasting life.—John 17:3; 2 Timothy 4:7, 8; Hebrews 11:8-10, 26, 35.
7. (a) How may we be helped to endure? (b) Like Job, how may we be rewarded?
7 Jesus himself endured “for the joy that was set before him.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2) Looking intently at Jesus’ courageous example, we too can endure! As James mentions toward the end of his letter, Jehovah richly rewards integrity keepers. “Look! We pronounce happy those who have endured,” says James. “You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (James 5:11) Recall how Job’s integrity was rewarded when he was restored to good health and to the enjoyment of a full, happy life with loved ones. Endurance in integrity can bring you similar rejoicing in the promised Paradise of God’s new world, as a climax to the joy of serving Jehovah right now.
8. How may we find true, practical wisdom, and what part does prayer play in this?
8 Our diligent study of God’s Word, together with its practical application, will result in godly wisdom, enabling us to endure trials amid the corruption of Satan’s dying system. How may we be assured of finding such wisdom? James tells us: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about.” (James 1:5, 6) We should pray earnestly, with unwavering confidence that Jehovah will hear our petitions and that he will answer them in his own good time and way.
9. How does James describe godly wisdom and its application?
9 Godly wisdom is a gift from Jehovah. Describing such gifts, James says: “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” Later in his letter, James explains the result of gaining true wisdom when he says: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show out of his fine conduct his works with a mildness that belongs to wisdom. . . . The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”—James 1:17; 3:13-17.
10. How does false religion contrast with the true?
10 In the world empire of false religion, whether in Christendom or in other lands, it is often the custom for worshipers to sing some hymns, listen to repetitious prayers, and perhaps hear a discourse. No encouragement is given toward proclaiming a message of hope, for most religions see no bright prospect for the future. The glorious hope of God’s Messianic Kingdom either is never mentioned or is completely misunderstood. Jehovah says prophetically of Christendom’s adherents: “There are two bad things that my people have done: They have left even me, the source of living water, in order to hew out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that cannot contain the water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) They have no waters of truth. Heavenly wisdom is lacking.
11, 12. (a) How should divine wisdom motivate us? (b) Concerning what does divine wisdom warn us?
11 How different it is among Jehovah’s Witnesses today! With God-given dynamic energy, they are flooding the earth with the good news of His incoming Kingdom. The wisdom that they speak is based solidly on the Word of God. (Compare Proverbs 1:20; Isaiah 40:29-31.) Indeed, they make practical use of true knowledge and understanding in proclaiming the grand purposes of our God and Creator. It should be our desire that all in the congregation “be filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension.” (Colossians 1:9) Having this foundation, both young and old will be motivated always to “become doers of the word.”
12 “The wisdom from above” warns us about sins that could result in divine disapproval. “Know this, my beloved brothers,” says James. “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath; for man’s wrath does not work out God’s righteousness.” Yes, we must be swift, eager, to listen to divine counsel and apply it. However, we must guard against the misuse of that “little member,” the tongue. Through bragging, unwise gossip, or self-opinionated talk, the tongue can figuratively set a ‘great woodland’ afire. We therefore need to cultivate pleasantness and self-control in all of our associations.—James 1:19, 20; 3:5.
13. Why is it important that we accept “the implanting of the word”?
13 “Hence,” writes James, “put away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21) This greedy world, with its showy, materialistic, me-first life-style and degraded morals, is about to pass away. “But he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) How important it is, then, that we accept “the implanting of the word”! The wisdom provided by God’s Word stands in clear contrast to the badness of this dying world. We want none of that badness. (1 Peter 2:1, 2) We need to have love of the truth and strong faith implanted in our hearts, so that we will be determined never to deviate from Jehovah’s righteous ways. But is it enough to hear God’s Word?
Becoming “Doers of the Word”
14. How can we become both “hearers” and “doers” of the Word?
14 At James 1:22, we read: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning.” “Become doers of the word”! This theme is certainly highlighted in James’ letter. We must listen, then do “just so”! (Genesis 6:22) Many people today claim that it is sufficient to hear a sermon or share in some formalistic worship occasionally, but they leave it at that. They may think that as long as they live a ‘good life’ according to their standards, that will suffice. Yet Jesus Christ stated: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Self-sacrificing action and endurance in following Jesus’ pattern of doing God’s will are clearly required of true Christians. For them, God’s will today is the same as it was in the first century when the resurrected Jesus commanded: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19) How are you doing in this respect?
15. (a) What illustration does James give, showing how we may become happy as “doers of the word”? (b) Why is mere formal worship not enough?
15 If we keep peering into God’s Word, it can be like a mirror in reflecting to us just what kind of persons we are. James says: “He who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (James 1:23-25) Yes, he will be a happy ‘doer of the word.’ Moreover, it is important to be a “doer” in every detail of our Christian lives. We should never deceive ourselves into thinking that mere formal worship is enough. James counsels us to observe some aspects of true worship that even zealous Christians may have neglected. He writes: “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.”—James 1:27.
16. In what ways did Abraham become “Jehovah’s friend,” and how may we gain His friendship?
16 It is not sufficient just to say, ‘I believe in God,’ and leave matters at that. As James 2:19 notes: “You believe there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder.” James emphasizes that “faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself,” and refers to Abraham, saying: “His faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected.” (James 2:17, 20-22) Abraham’s works included providing relief for his kinsfolk, showing hospitality, preparing to sacrifice Isaac, and ‘publicly declaring’ unshakable faith in God’s promise of “the city having real foundations,” the future Messianic Kingdom. (Genesis 14:16; 18:1-5; 22:1-18; Hebrews 11:8-10, 13, 14; 13:2) Appropriately, Abraham “came to be called ‘Jehovah’s friend.’” (James 2:23) We too may be counted as ‘friends of Jehovah’ as we actively proclaim our faith and hope in his incoming Kingdom of righteousness.
17. (a) Why was Rahab “declared righteous,” and how was she rewarded? (b) What long list does the Bible provide of those who ‘became doers of the word’? (c) How was Job rewarded, and why?
17 Those who “become doers of the word” are indeed “declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24) Rahab was one who added works to her faith in the “word” that she had heard concerning Jehovah’s mighty acts. She concealed the Israelite spies and helped them to escape, and then she gathered her father’s household for preservation. In the resurrection, how she will rejoice to learn that her faith, backed up by works, led to her becoming an ancestress of Messiah! (Joshua 2:11; 6:25; Matthew 1:5) Hebrews chapter 11 provides a long list of others who ‘became doers’ in demonstrating their faith, and they will be richly rewarded. Nor must we forget Job, who under severe trial said: “Let the name of Jehovah continue to be blessed.” As we have already noted, his faith and works resulted in a grand reward. (Job 1:21; 31:6; 42:10; James 5:11) Likewise, our endurance today as “doers of the word” will bring Jehovah’s smile of approval.
18, 19. How have long-oppressed brothers “become doers of the word,” and what blessing has their activity brought?
18 Among those who have endured much over the years are our brothers in Eastern Europe. Now that many restrictions have been removed, these have truly “become doers of the word” in their new environment. Missionaries and pioneers from neighboring lands have moved in to assist in teaching and organizing. The Finland branch and other nearby branches of the Watch Tower Society have sent in expert builders, and the generous worldwide brotherhood has financed construction of new branch offices and Kingdom Halls.—Compare 2 Corinthians 8:14, 15.
19 How zealously those long-oppressed brothers have responded in the field! They ‘are working hard and exerting themselves’ to catch up, as it were, on opportunities not available during the “troublesome season.” (1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:2) For example, this past April in Albania, where suppression had been very cruel, the entire supply of the Kingdom News entitled “Why Is Life So Full of Problems” was distributed in only three days. This was a splendid follow-up to the Memorial of Jesus’ death, attended by 3,491 persons—many more than their 538 active publishers.
20. What do recent Memorial attendances indicate, and how may many be helped?
20 Other lands too have made a significant contribution to Memorial attendances, which have increased in recent years to well over 10,000,000. In many places new ones, their faith strengthened by attending and observing the Memorial, are ‘becoming doers of the word.’ Can we encourage more new associates to qualify for that privilege?
21. In line with our yeartext, what course should we pursue, and with what goal?
21 Like those zealous Christians in the first century, and so many since then, let us be determined to exert ourselves in “pursuing down toward the goal” of everlasting life, whether that is to be in the heavenly Kingdom or in its earthly realm. (Philippians 3:12-14) It is worth our every effort to attain that goal. This is no time to relapse into being hearers only, but the time of all times to ‘be strong and work.’ (Haggai 2:4; Hebrews 6:11, 12) Having ‘accepted the implanting of the word,’ may we ‘become joyful doers of the word’ now and on into the eternity to come.
How Would You Answer?
□ How may we endure with joy?
□ What is “the wisdom from above,” and how may we pursue it?
□ Why must we “become doers of the word, and not hearers only”?
□ What reports should stimulate us to be “doers of the word”?
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May we too open our hearts to divine teaching
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Job’s integrity was rewarded by his being restored to a full, happy life with loved ones