Be Joyful Harvest Workers!
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”—MATTHEW 9:37, 38.
1. What helps us to press on in doing God’s will?
WHEN we recall the day of our baptism as one of Jehovah’s servants, whether it occurred a few years ago or many, it may seem as though it took place yesterday. Praising Jehovah became the focal point of our dedicated life. As we bought out the opportune time to help others to hear and possibly accept the Kingdom message, joyful service to Jehovah was our major concern. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) To this day, we find that time flies when we are busy, “having plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) Although we encounter problems, our joy in doing Jehovah’s will spurs us on.—Nehemiah 8:10.
2. What contributes to the joy we experience in the figurative harvest work?
2 As Christians, we are engaged in a figurative harvest work. Jesus Christ likened the gathering of individuals for everlasting life to a harvest. (John 4:35-38) Since we are participating in such harvesting activity, it will be encouraging to examine the joy of the early Christian harvest workers. We will review three factors that contribute to the joy we experience in today’s harvest work. These are (1) our message of hope, (2) the success of our search, and (3) our peace-making attitude as harvest workers.
Sent Forth as Harvest Workers
3. In what respect did Jesus’ early followers experience joy?
3 How the lives of early harvest workers—particularly Jesus’ 11 faithful apostles—changed on the day in 33 C.E. when they went to a mountain in Galilee to meet the resurrected Christ! (Matthew 28:16) “Upward of five hundred brothers” may have been present on that occasion. (1 Corinthians 15:6) The commission Jesus gave them rang in their ears. He told them: “Go . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Despite bitter persecution, they experienced much joy in the harvest work as they saw congregations of Christ’s followers being established in one place after another. In time, ‘the good news was being preached to all creation under heaven.’—Colossians 1:23; Acts 1:8; 16:5.
4. Under what circumstances were Christ’s disciples sent forth?
4 At an earlier point in his ministry in Galilee, Jesus had summoned the 12 apostles and had sent them forth especially to declare: “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” (Matthew 10:1-7) He himself had “set out on a tour of all the [Galilean] cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” Jesus felt pity for the crowds “because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35, 36) Deeply moved, he then told his disciples: “Yes, the harvest is great, but the workers are few. Therefore, beg the Master of the harvest [Jehovah God] to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37, 38) Jesus’ assessment of the need for harvest workers was the same in Judea when only six months of his earthly ministry remained. (Luke 10:2) On both occasions, he sent his followers forth as harvest workers.—Matthew 10:5; Luke 10:3.
Our Message of Hope
5. What kind of message do we declare?
5 As Jehovah’s present-day servants, we joyfully respond to the call for harvest workers. One factor that contributes greatly to our joy is that we take a message of hope to the downhearted and depressed. Like Jesus’ first-century disciples, what a privilege we have to declare the good news—a real message of hope—to those “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd”!
6. In what activity did the apostles engage in the first century?
6 By the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul was busy preaching the good news. And his harvesting work was surely effective, for in writing to Christians in Corinth in about 55 C.E., he said: “I make known to you, brothers, the good news which I declared to you, which you also received, in which you also stand.” (1 Corinthians 15:1) The apostles and other early Christians were industrious harvest workers. Although the Bible does not tell us how many apostles lived through the momentous events ending in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E., we do know that the apostle John was still preaching some 25 years later.—Revelation 1:9.
7, 8. What message of hope have Jehovah’s servants been declaring with more urgency now than ever?
7 Then came centuries of dominance by Christendom’s clergy, the apostate “man of lawlessness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) Toward the end of the 19th century, however, those who sought to pattern their lives on primitive Christianity took up the message of hope, heralding the Kingdom. In fact, since its first issue (July 1879), the title of this journal has included the words “Herald of Christ’s Presence,” “Herald of Christ’s Kingdom,” or “Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.”
8 God’s heavenly Kingdom was established in the hands of Jesus Christ in 1914, and we are now proclaiming the message of hope with more urgency than ever before. Why? Because among the blessings of Kingdom rule is the imminent end of the present wicked system. (Daniel 2:44) What better message could there be? And what greater joy could we have than to share in announcing the Kingdom before the “great tribulation” strikes?—Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:10.
A Successful Search
9. What instruction did Jesus give his disciples, and how did people react to the Kingdom message?
9 Another factor that contributes to our joy as harvest workers is the success of our search for those who become disciples and join us in the harvest work. Back in 31-32 C.E., Jesus instructed his disciples: “Into whatever city or village you enter, search out who in it is deserving.” (Matthew 10:11) Not all individuals were deserving, as shown by their reaction to the Kingdom message. Nevertheless, Jesus’ disciples zealously preached the good news wherever people happened to be.
10. How did Paul pursue his search for deserving ones?
10 After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the search for deserving ones continued with vigor. Paul reasoned with the Jews in their synagogue and with people on hand in the marketplace in Athens. When he gave a witness on the Areopagus in that Greek city, “some men joined themselves to him and became believers, among whom also were Dionysius, a judge of the court of the Areopagus, and a woman named Damaris, and others besides them.” Wherever Paul went, he was also exemplary in preaching “publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 17:17, 34; 20:20.
11. What methods for carrying out the ministry were used years ago?
11 During the closing decades of the 19th century, anointed Christians boldly engaged in the search for deserving ones. In an article entitled “Anointed to Preach,” Zion’s Watch Tower of July/August 1881 said: “The preaching of the good news . . . is going on ‘to the meek’—those willing and able to hear, in order to develop from among them the body of Christ, the joint heirs.” God’s harvest workers often met people as these were leaving church services and gave them tracts containing Scriptural messages designed to evoke a favorable response in deserving ones. After a reappraisal of the effectiveness of this method of witnessing, the Watch Tower of May 15, 1903, urged harvest workers to distribute the tracts “from house to house, on Sunday forenoons.”
12. How have we increased the effectiveness of our preaching work? Illustrate.
12 In recent years, we have expanded our ministry by contacting people at places other than their homes. This has proved very effective in lands where economic conditions and the pursuit of leisure activities take people away from their homes at times when we normally call. When a Witness in England and her companion observed visitors leaving regularly by bus after enjoying a day at the coast, they summoned up courage to board the buses and present copies of The Watchtower and Awake! to the passengers. In one month, they distributed 229 copies. They report: “We have no fear of sea-front witnessing, business territory, or any other challenge we may come up against because we know that Jehovah is always with us.” They established a magazine route, started a Bible study, and both of them have shared in the auxiliary pioneer service.
13. What adjustment in our ministry is now called for in some places?
13 As the search for deserving ones continues, a careful reappraisal of our ministry may be called for in some places. Though many Witnesses have customarily engaged in preaching from house to house on Sunday mornings, in certain areas they find that early visits to people’s homes are less effective because the occupants may be resting. By adjusting their schedule, many Witnesses now pursue the search later in the day, perhaps following Christian meetings. And this search has indeed proved fruitful. Last year the number of Kingdom proclaimers worldwide rose by 2.3 percent. This honors the Master of the harvest and brings joy to our hearts.
Maintain Peace in the Harvest Work
14. With what attitude do we present our message, and why?
14 Another reason for our joy relates to the peace-making attitude we display in the harvest work. “When you are entering into the house,” Jesus said, “greet the household; and if the house is deserving, let the peace you wish it come upon it.” (Matthew 10:12, 13) The Hebrew greeting and the corresponding term in Biblical Greek both convey the thought ‘May it go well with you.’ This sentiment guides our approach to people when we preach the good news. Our hope is that they will respond favorably to the Kingdom message. For those who do, there is the prospect of reconciliation with God as they repent of their sins, turn around, and do his will. In turn, peace with God leads to everlasting life.—John 17:3; Acts 3:19; 13:38, 48; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.
15. How can we maintain a peaceful attitude when we encounter an unfavorable reaction in our preaching work?
15 How can we maintain our peace when the reaction we encounter is unfavorable? Jesus directed: “If [the house] is not deserving, let the peace from you return upon you.” (Matthew 10:13) Luke’s account about the sending out of 70 disciples includes Jesus’ statement: “If a friend of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if there is not, it will turn back to you.” (Luke 10:6) When we approach people with the good news, we appropriately do so with a pleasant disposition and in a manner that is peaceable. An apathetic response, a complaint, or an unkind remark by a householder only serves to allow our peaceful message to ‘return to us.’ But none of this robs us of peace, a fruit of Jehovah’s holy spirit.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
A Fine Goal for Harvest Workers
16, 17. (a) What is our goal when making return visits? (b) How can we help those who have Bible questions?
16 As harvest workers we are delighted to have a part in the gathering of people for everlasting life. And what joy we experience when a person to whom we preach responds favorably, wants to learn more, and proves to be “a friend of peace”! Perhaps he has many Bible questions and we find it impossible to answer all of them during one visit. Since a prolonged stay on the first visit may be inappropriate, what can be done? We can have a goal like the one recommended some 60 years ago.
17 “All of Jehovah’s witnesses should be prepared to conduct model studies in the Bible.” That statement appeared in the third in a series of Model Study instruction booklets published from 1937 to 1941. It went on to say: “All [Kingdom] publishers should be diligent in assisting in every way possible the people of good-will showing interest in the Kingdom message. Back-calls [return visits] should be made on these persons, answering various questions . . . , and then begin a model study . . . as soon as you possibly can.” Yes, our goal on return visits is to start a home Bible study and conduct it regularly.* A friendly attitude and loving concern for the interested person prompt us to prepare well and conduct the study effectively.
18. How can we help new ones to become disciples of Jesus Christ?
18 With the help of the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life and such brochures as What Does God Require of Us?, we can conduct effective home Bible studies and can thus share in assisting newly interested ones to become disciples. As we seek to imitate the Great Teacher, Jesus Christ, likely such Bible students will also learn from our peaceful, joyful manner, our sincerity, and our respect for Jehovah’s standards and guidelines. When we help new ones with answers to their questions, let us also do what we can to teach them how they can answer those who question them. (2 Timothy 2:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:21) As figurative harvest workers, surely we can be joyful that an average of 4,766,631 home Bible studies were conducted worldwide this past service year. We are especially joyful if we personally are among the harvest workers who have a share in home Bible study activity.
Keep On Rejoicing in the Harvest
19. Why were there good reasons for joy in the harvest during Jesus’ ministry and shortly thereafter?
19 There were good reasons for joy in the harvest during Jesus’ ministry and shortly thereafter. Many then responded favorably to the good news. Rejoicing was particularly great at Pentecost 33 C.E., for some 3,000 then accepted Peter’s direction, received Jehovah’s holy spirit, and became part of God’s nation of spiritual Israel. Indeed, their numbers kept on increasing, and joy abounded as “Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.”—Acts 2:37-41, 46, 47; Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:9.
20. What brings us abundant joy in our harvest work?
20 At that time, Isaiah’s prophecy was proving true: “You [Jehovah] have made the nation populous; for it you have made the rejoicing great. They have rejoiced before you as with the rejoicing in the harvesttime, as those who are joyful when they divide up the spoil.” (Isaiah 9:3) Although we now see that ‘populous nation’ of anointed ones virtually complete, our joy is abundant as we observe the number of other harvest workers growing year by year.—Psalm 4:7; Zechariah 8:23; John 10:16.
21. What will we discuss in the following article?
21 We certainly have sound reasons to keep on rejoicing in the harvest work. Our message of hope, our search for deserving ones, and our peace-making attitude—all of these factors bring us joy as harvest workers. Yet, they prompt an adverse reaction from many. The apostle John experienced this. He was imprisoned on the island of Patmos “for speaking about God and bearing witness to Jesus.” (Revelation 1:9) How, then, can we maintain our joy when faced with persecution and opposition? What will help us to cope with the hardening attitude of many to whom we now preach? Our next article offers Scriptural help in answering these questions.
Studies were organized first at locations where groups of interested people could be gathered. Soon, however, the studies were also held with individuals and families.—See Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, page 574, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How Would You Answer?
• What is the figurative harvest work?
• What kind of message do we declare?
• Why is our search for disciples successful?
• How do we maintain peace in the harvest work?
• Why do we keep on rejoicing in the harvest?
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Preaching in the 1st and 20th centuries
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Like Paul, present-day harvest workers try to reach people everywhere
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Proclaim the good news with a pleasant disposition