How to Maintain Joy in Full-Time Service
FULFILLMENT of Bible prophecy shows clearly that we are living in the last days of this godless system. Being aware of this, servants of Jehovah God spend as much time as they reasonably can spreading the good news of his Kingdom. Over 600,000 Witnesses of Jehovah have arranged their lives so as to participate in full-time service. Some of them are full-time Kingdom proclaimers called pioneers. Others are Bethel volunteers at the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society or its branch offices. Still others are missionaries and traveling overseers.
The Bible indicates that in the last days, there would be “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) The Greek Bible text uses an expression that may be rendered “appointed times fierce.” Hence, nobody should expect a trouble-free life in our day. For some Christian ministers, the problems seem so serious that they may ask themselves, ‘Can I continue in full-time service, or must I stop?’
What situations may cause someone to reassess his situation as a pioneer, Bethel volunteer, traveling overseer or missionary? Maybe a serious health problem exists. Perhaps an aged or infirm relative needs constant care. It could be that a married couple is starting a family. Anyone who discontinues full-time service for such reasons and because of Scriptural obligations need not feel ashamed of making such an adjustment.
However, what if someone is planning to discontinue full-time service for lack of joy? Perhaps a pioneer sees little response in his ministry and asks, ‘Why continue with my self-sacrificing life-style when very few listen?’ Maybe a Bethel volunteer is not so happy about his assignment. Or it could be that nagging ill health, while not ruling out pioneer service, finally erodes a person’s happiness. How can such individuals maintain their joy? Let us consider what some experienced ministers say.
Coping With Disappointment
Anny, who comes from Switzerland, attended the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead in 1950. She looked forward to a missionary assignment overseas. When reassigned to Bethel work in Europe, Anny was disappointed. Nevertheless, she accepted her assignment in the Translation Department and is still doing that work. How did she overcome her disappointment? “There was and is much work to be done. My feelings and preferences are not as important as the work,” explains Anny.
If we are disappointed with our assignment, perhaps we could develop Anny’s attitude. Our personal preference is not of paramount importance. What matters most is that all the various responsibilities associated with spreading the Kingdom message be well-handled. Proverbs 14:23 tells us that “by every kind of toil there comes to be an advantage.” Regardless of what assignment we have been given, carrying it out faithfully contributes to the accomplishment of Kingdom work. And there can be great satisfaction—yes, joy—in such God-given work.—Compare 1 Corinthians 12:18, 27, 28.
Getting Along With Others
Full-time service involves close contact with people of all kinds—in the field ministry, at Bethel, in a missionary home, or while visiting one congregation after another as a traveling overseer. Hence, joy depends to a large degree on getting along well with others. However, the ‘fierce times’ foretold for these last days put a great strain on human relationships. How can a minister avoid losing his joy, even if someone has upset him? Perhaps we can learn something from Wilhelm.
Wilhelm became a member of a Bethel family in Europe in 1947. Thereafter, he spent time in the pioneer work and in service as a traveling overseer. “If my wife and I see things that we think are not correct or that worry us personally, we tell Jehovah how we feel and then leave things up to him to resolve,” Wilhelm explains.—Psalm 37:5.
Perhaps you yourself have been troubled by the behavior of a fellow Christian who spoke to you disrespectfully or thoughtlessly. Remember that all of us stumble many times in our speech. (James 3:2) So why not use this situation to draw closer to the “Hearer of prayer”? (Psalm 65:2) Speak to Jehovah about the matter, and then leave it in his hands. If God wishes to make changes, he will do so. Those living in a missionary home may need to keep this in mind if stress should develop along such lines, as this will help them to maintain their joy in Jehovah’s service.
When in Poor Health
Few people enjoy consistently good health. Even those in the so-called prime of life may be stricken with depression or disease. Ill health makes it necessary for some to discontinue full-time service, but they thereafter do excellent work as Kingdom publishers. Others, however, are able to carry on in full-time service despite poor health. For example, consider Hartmut and Gislind.
Hartmut and Gislind are a married couple who have spent 30 years as pioneers, missionaries, and in the traveling work. Both of them have suffered bouts of serious illness that have at times left them physically and emotionally drained. Nevertheless, they have done excellent work and have been able to encourage others experiencing similar trials. What advice do they offer? “Look to the future and not to the past. Make the best of every situation. Each day might bring just one opportunity to praise Jehovah. Use that opportunity, and enjoy it.”
Consider the case of Hannelore. She has been troubled by recurring illness during her 30 years as a pioneer, a missionary, in traveling work with her husband, and in Bethel service. Hannelore says: “I concentrate on the issue raised by Satan—that humans serve Jehovah only when doing so is easy for them. By enduring trials, I can have a part in proving Satan wrong.” This can be a strong motivation. Remember that your personal loyalty to Jehovah when under test is important to him.—Job 1:8-12; Proverbs 27:11.
When trying to make a balanced decision with regard to your health, consider two features of Jesus Christ’s prophecy about the conclusion of the system of things. Jesus foretold pestilences in one place after another. He also said: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth.” (Matthew 24:3, 14; Luke 21:11) Jesus knew that in the last days, his followers would struggle with sickness. But he realized that the preaching work would be carried out not only by people enjoying good health but also by individuals who experience serious illness. If we are able to continue in full-time service despite ill health, Jehovah will not forget the love we show for his name.—Hebrews 6:10.
Maintaining Joy Despite Public Apathy
Our attitude can be affected by how people react to the Kingdom-preaching work. “Even pioneers find it hard to get a conversation started with a householder,” said one experienced minister. “All of us have to struggle to maintain our joy.” Yes, public apathy can diminish our joy in the field service. So how can a pioneer who regularly encounters indifference maintain his joy? Experienced ministers offer the following suggestions that have been tried and tested.
Apathy represents a challenge, but it need not mean a defeat. In itself, widespread indifference is not a reason to discontinue full-time service. We can maintain our joy in the face of apathy if we set aside adequate time for diligent study of the Scriptures. They ‘equip us for every good work,’ and that includes speaking to those who turn a deaf ear to the good news. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Although people did not want to listen to the prophet Jeremiah, that did not stop him. (Jeremiah 7:27) When studying the Bible with the help of Christian publications, we can benefit greatly if we take note of thoughts that strengthen our faith and help us to deal with apathy.
Granting that apathy is a challenge, let us examine our attitude toward those to whom we preach. Why are they indifferent? One reason for the widespread apathy in parts of Europe, for instance, is the deplorable record of false religion. People no longer feel that religion has a place in their lives, nor do they want anything to do with it. We need to be flexible, talking to people about matters that do affect them, such as unemployment, health, crime, intolerance, the environment, and the threat of war.
In our opening words to a householder, we might mention an item of local interest. That is what Dietmar tried to do when he was preaching in a village where he was having little success. One resident mentioned that the village had experienced a tragedy the day before. At every door thereafter, Dietmar expressed sincere regret over the tragedy. “Suddenly, the people started talking,” he said. “The tragedy was on everyone’s mind. I had many fine conversations that day because I showed interest in their lives.”
We need to give people a Kingdom witness wherever we find them. Informal witnessing may be fruitful, and we can train ourselves in this activity by using the suggestions offered in Bible-based publications. Joy can result from a few friendly words or from placing copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines with a householder. If we have made return visits and have begun to conduct a Bible study with an interested person, we might get a referral by asking: “Do you know anyone else who would like to study the Bible?” This could lead to establishing another home Bible study. In any case, let us be positive, prayerfully relying on Jehovah, not letting apathy discourage us.
Encouragement From Others
Jürgen and Christiane have been pioneering and engaging in the traveling work for over 30 years. They once had an assignment that involved preaching in an area where most people were apathetic and obstinate. How Jürgen and his wife longed for some encouragement! For some reason, though, others in the congregation did not respond to their need.
So Jürgen knows from experience that “some pioneers have a hard time. They need more encouragement from elders and other publishers.” God told Moses to encourage and strengthen Joshua. (Deuteronomy 3:26-28) And Christians should be sources of encouragement to one another. (Romans 1:11, 12) Kingdom publishers can encourage those in full-time service by upbuilding words and by accompanying them in the ministry from time to time.
The Joy of Jehovah—Our Stronghold
Christians who have spent most of their lives as pioneers or missionaries, serving at Bethel, or visiting congregations in the traveling work have discovered that most problems are of short duration, but some are long lasting. Even the few problems that never seem to go away should not rob us of our joy. Ramon, who has served in a foreign assignment for over 45 years, suggests that whenever problems sadden us, “we should think about the many blessings we have and about the thousands of others who suffer greater hardships.” Indeed, sufferings are being experienced by our fellow believers worldwide, and Jehovah really cares for all of us.—1 Peter 5:6-9.
So, then, if our personal circumstances permit us to share in full-time service and remain in it, let us maintain our joy by relying on our heavenly Father. He strengthens his servants, and all of us should remember that ‘the joy of Jehovah is our stronghold.’—Nehemiah 8:10.
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“My feelings and preferences are not as important as the work”
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“We tell Jehovah how we feel and then leave things up to him”
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“Make the best of every situation. Each day might bring just one opportunity to praise Jehovah”
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“By enduring trials, I can have a part in proving Satan wrong”
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“Some pioneers have a hard time. They need more encouragement from elders and other publishers”
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“We should think about the many blessings we have”