Prove Yourself Ready for Jehovah’s Day
“Prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—MATTHEW 24:44.
1. Why should we be concerned about Jehovah’s day?
IT WILL be a day of battle and fury, of anguish and distress, of darkness and desolation. Jehovah’s “great and fear-inspiring day” is certain to come upon this wicked system of things, even as the Flood drowned the wicked world in Noah’s day. There is no escaping it. Yet, “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.” (Joel 2:30-32; Amos 5:18-20) God will destroy his enemies and save his people. With a sense of urgency, the prophet Zephaniah declares: “The great day of Jehovah is near. It is near, and there is a hurrying of it very much.” (Zephaniah 1:14) When, though, will this divine judgment be executed?
2, 3. Why is it vital that we prepare ourselves for the day of Jehovah?
2 “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father,” said Jesus. (Matthew 24:36) Since we do not know the precise time, it is vital that we take to heart the words of our yeartext for 2004: “Keep on the watch . . . Prove yourselves ready.”—Matthew 24:42, 44.
3 Indicating how suddenly those who are ready will be gathered to safety while others will be forsaken, Jesus said: “Two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned.” (Matthew 24:40, 41) At that critical stage, what will be our personal situation? Will we be ready, or will that day catch us off guard? Much depends on the measures we take now. To prove ourselves ready for Jehovah’s day requires that we avoid a certain attitude prevalent today, that we resist falling into a particular spiritual state, and that we shun certain life-styles.
Avoid a Complacent Attitude
4. What attitude did the people of Noah’s day have?
4 Consider the days of Noah. “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household,” states the Bible. (Hebrews 11:7) The ark would be unusual and quite visible. Moreover, Noah was “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) Neither Noah’s building project nor his preaching moved the people of his day to act. Why? Because they were “eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage.” Those to whom Noah preached were so engrossed in personal affairs and pleasures that “they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away.”—Matthew 24:38, 39.
5. What was the outlook of the inhabitants of Sodom in Lot’s day?
5 It was the same in the days of Lot. The Scriptures tell us: “They were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building. But on the day that Lot came out of Sodom it rained fire and sulphur from heaven and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:28, 29) After angels warned Lot of the impending destruction, he spoke to his sons-in-law about what was coming. In their eyes, though, “he seemed like a man who was joking.”—Genesis 19:14.
6. What attitude must we avoid?
6 As it was in the days of Noah and Lot, “so the presence of the Son of man” would be, said Jesus. (Matthew 24:39; Luke 17:30) Indeed, the prevailing attitude of many today is that of complacency. We must be on guard against being influenced by such an outlook. There is nothing wrong with enjoying good food and drink in moderation. Similarly, marriage is an arrangement of God. However, if such matters have become all-important in our life and spiritual interests have been pushed aside, are we personally ready for the fear-inspiring day of Jehovah?
7. What vital question should we ask before undertaking any pursuit, and why?
7 “The time left is reduced,” said the apostle Paul. “Henceforth let those who have wives be as though they had none.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) Only a limited time remains for us to finish our God-given Kingdom-preaching work. (Matthew 24:14) Paul admonished even those who are married not to be so absorbed in their mate that they give Kingdom interests a secondary place in their lives. Clearly, the mental inclination that Paul was recommending is the opposite of complacency. Jesus said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33) When making any decision or before undertaking any pursuit, the imperative question to ask is, ‘How will this affect my keeping Kingdom interests first in my life?’
8. If day-to-day things of life have become our chief concern, what should we do?
8 What if we realize that we are already involved in the normal day-to-day things of life to such an extent that spiritual interests are being crowded out? Is there little difference between our manner of life and that of our neighbors who lack accurate knowledge of the Scriptures and are not Kingdom proclaimers? If that is the case, then we need to make this a matter of prayer. Jehovah can enable us to have the right mental attitude. (Romans 15:5; Philippians 3:15) He can help us to keep Kingdom interests first, to do what is right, and to fulfill our obligation to him.—Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 13:7.
Resist Spiritual Drowsiness
9. According to Revelation 16:14-16, why is it important to resist spiritual drowsiness?
9 The very prophecy that speaks of the oncoming “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon warns that some may not keep awake. “Look! I am coming as a thief,” says the Lord Jesus Christ. “Happy is the one that stays awake and keeps his outer garments, that he may not walk naked and people look upon his shamefulness.” (Revelation 16:14-16) The outer garments mentioned here refer to what identifies us as Christian Witnesses of Jehovah. This includes our work as Kingdom proclaimers and our Christian conduct. If we slide into sleeplike inactivity, we may be stripped of our Christian identity. That is shameful and dangerous. We must resist falling into a state of spiritual drowsiness or lethargy. How can we resist such an inclination?
10. Why does daily Bible reading help us to remain spiritually alert?
10 The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the need to keep awake and keep our senses. For example, the Gospel accounts remind us: “Keep on the watch” (Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:35, 37); “prove yourselves ready” (Matthew 24:44); “keep looking, keep awake” (Mark 13:33); “keep ready” (Luke 12:40). After stating that the day of Jehovah is going to come unexpectedly upon this world, the apostle Paul urges fellow believers: “Let us not sleep on as the rest do, but let us stay awake and keep our senses.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6) In the last book of the Bible, the glorified Christ Jesus stresses the suddenness of his coming, saying: “I am coming quickly.” (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20) Many of the Hebrew prophets also described and warned of the great day of Jehovah’s judgment. (Isaiah 2:12, 17; Jeremiah 30:7; Joel 2:11; Zephaniah 3:8) Reading God’s Word, the Bible, daily and reflecting on what we read is a fine help in remaining spiritually alert.
11. Why is personal Bible study essential to spiritual wakefulness?
11 Yes, what a stimulant to our spiritual wakefulness is diligent personal study of the Scriptures using Bible-based publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave”! (Matthew 24:45-47) For personal study to produce benefits, however, it must be progressive and consistent. (Hebrews 5:14–6:3) We must take in solid spiritual food regularly. Finding time for it in this day and age may be a challenge. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Still, reading the Bible and Scriptural publications only when it may be convenient is not enough. Regular personal study is essential if we are to stay “healthy in the faith” and keep awake.—Titus 1:13.
12. How do Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions help us fight spiritual drowsiness?
12 Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions also help us to fight spiritual drowsiness. How? By means of the instruction we receive. At these gatherings, are we not regularly reminded of the nearness of the day of Jehovah? Weekly Christian meetings also provide opportunities to ‘incite one another to love and fine works.’ Such inciting, or stirring up, is conducive to spiritual wakefulness. Not surprisingly, we are commanded to gather regularly as we “behold the day drawing near.”—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
13. How does the Christian ministry help keep us awake spiritually?
13 We are also helped to remain awake when we share wholeheartedly in the Christian ministry. What better means is there to keep fresh in mind the signs of the times and their meaning than to talk to others about them? And when we see those with whom we study the Bible make progress and begin to act on what they are learning, our own sense of urgency is heightened. “Brace up your minds for activity,” said the apostle Peter, “keep your senses completely.” (1 Peter 1:13) “Always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord” is a fine remedy for spiritual stupor.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
Shun Spiritually Damaging Life-Styles
14. As described at Luke 21:34-36, what life-styles does Jesus warn against?
14 In his great prophecy about the sign of his presence, Jesus gave yet another warning. He said: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36) Jesus accurately described the life-styles that people in general pursue: overindulgence in food, drunkenness, and a way of life that brings anxieties.
15. Why should we avoid overindulgence in food and drink?
15 Overeating and heavy drinking are out of harmony with Bible principles and are to be shunned. “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh,” states the Bible. (Proverbs 23:20) For it to be dangerous, though, eating and drinking does not have to reach that level. It can make one drowsy and lazy long before that. “The lazy one is showing himself desirous,” says a Bible proverb, “but his soul has nothing.” (Proverbs 13:4) Such a person may want to do God’s will, but his desire remains unfulfilled because of negligence.
16. How can we avoid being weighed down by anxieties concerning our family?
16 What are the anxieties of life that Jesus warned about? They involve personal concerns, providing for the family, and the like. How unwise to allow these to weigh us down! “Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?” asked Jesus. He admonished his listeners: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things.” Putting Kingdom interests first in our lives and having confidence that Jehovah will provide for us will keep anxieties at bay and help us stay awake.—Matthew 6:25-34.
17. How can material pursuits bring on anxiety?
17 Anxiety may also be brought on by materialistic pursuits. For example, some complicate their lives by living beyond their means. Others have been enticed by get-rich-quick schemes and risky financial investments. For others, secular education as a means to attain financial success becomes a snare. Granted, a certain level of schooling may be useful to obtain employment. However, the truth is that in the time-consuming pursuit of obtaining advanced education, some have harmed themselves spiritually. What a dangerous situation to be in as the day of Jehovah nears! The Bible warns: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.”—1 Timothy 6:9.
18. To avoid being drawn into a materialistic life-style, what ability must we cultivate?
18 Essential to not being drawn into a materialistic way of life is cultivating the ability to distinguish between right and wrong when making decisions. This ability is developed by regularly partaking of ‘solid spiritual food belonging to mature people’ and by ‘having our perceptive powers trained through use.’ (Hebrews 5:13, 14) Making sure “of the more important things” when setting priorities will also safeguard us from making wrong choices.—Philippians 1:10.
19. If we discern that we have very little time for spiritual pursuits, what should we do?
19 A materialistic life-style can blind us, leaving little or no time for spiritual pursuits. How can we examine ourselves and avoid being ensnared by such a life-style? We need to consider prayerfully how and to what extent we can simplify our life. King Solomon of ancient Israel said: “Sweet is the sleep of the one serving, regardless of whether it is little or much that he eats; but the plenty belonging to the rich one is not permitting him to sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) Does taking care of unnecessary material possessions consume a lot of our time and energy? The more we own, the more we have to maintain, insure, and protect. Could it be to our advantage to simplify our life by freeing ourselves of certain belongings?
By All Means, Prove Yourself Ready
20, 21. (a) What assurance does the apostle Peter give concerning Jehovah’s day? (b) What acts and deeds must we go on performing as we prove ourselves ready for Jehovah’s day?
20 Time ran out for the world of Noah’s day, and it will run out for the present system of things. The apostle Peter assures us: “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved, and earth and the works in it will be discovered.” Neither the symbolic heavens—wicked governments—nor the symbolic earth—mankind alienated from God—will survive the heat of God’s burning anger. Indicating how we can prove ourselves ready for that day, Peter exclaims: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah!”—2 Peter 3:10-12.
21 Our regularly attending Christian meetings and sharing in preaching the good news are included among these acts and deeds of godly devotion. May we perform them with heartfelt devotion to God while we wait patiently for Jehovah’s great day. Let us “do [our] utmost to be found finally by [God] spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—2 Peter 3:14.
Do You Recall?
• Why should we prove ourselves ready for Jehovah’s day?
• If normal pursuits of life have become our chief concern, what should we do?
• What will help us to resist spiritual drowsiness?
• What damaging life-styles must we shun, and how?
[Pictures on page 20, 21]
People in Noah’s day took no note of impending judgment—do you?
[Picture on page 23]
Can you simplify your life to have more time for spiritual pursuits?