Why Meet Together?
SUDDENLY, Christine’s husband abandoned her—after 20 years of marriage. Christine found herself left alone to raise seven sons and a daughter. They ranged in age from 7 to 18. “Now I had to make all the important decisions by myself,” she says. “I felt weighed down by the responsibility and craved support and direction.” Where did she find the needed help?
“Christian meetings were a lifeline for me and my family,” Christine states. “At the meetings, we received support from our friends and guidance from God’s Word. Regular attendance at the meetings helped us in every important aspect of our family life.”
During these “critical times hard to deal with,” all of us must cope with various trials. (2 Timothy 3:1) Like Christine, you may view meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a spiritual lifeline, a vital part of your worship of Jehovah. Very likely, the five congregation meetings scheduled each week stimulate your love for God, strengthen your hope for the future, and provide you with Bible-based guidance on how to deal with trials.
There are, however, those who find it difficult to attend meetings regularly. They are exhausted at the end of the day, and the thought of dressing in a suitable manner and traveling to a meeting may seem daunting. Some find that their work schedule regularly interferes with their meeting attendance. To attend all the meetings, they would have to do without some income or might risk losing their jobs. A few may miss meetings because they feel that some form of recreation would be more refreshing than association with the congregation.
So, what compelling reasons are there to attend Christian meetings? How can you make such occasions personally refreshing? To help answer these questions, let us examine Jesus’ warm invitation recorded at Matthew 11:28-30. He stated: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”
“Come to Me”
Jesus said: “Come to me.” One way to respond to that invitation is to attend meetings regularly. There is good reason to be present, for on another occasion Jesus stated: “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst.”—Matthew 18:20.
In the first century, Jesus personally invited various people to follow him. He thus gave them the opportunity to enjoy close association with him. Some accepted immediately. (Matthew 4:18-22) Others let such things as material interests stop them from accepting that invitation. (Mark 10:21, 22; Luke 9:57-62) To those who did follow him, Jesus made this reassuring statement: “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”—John 15:16.
After his death and resurrection, Christ was no longer physically present with his disciples. But he was still with them in the sense that he directed their activity and observed their response to his counsel. For example, some 70 years after his resurrection, Jesus gave counsel and encouragement to seven congregations in Asia Minor. His comments showed an intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals in those congregations.—Revelation 2:1–3:22.
Jesus is still keenly interested in each of his disciples. He promises: “Look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:20) We are now living in the time of the end, and we therefore need to act on Jesus’ invitation to follow him. In part, doing so requires that we attend meetings regularly. Jesus wants us to listen to him and to be “taught by means of him” through Bible-based studies and talks that are regular features of the meetings. (Ephesians 4:20, 21) Are you responding to Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me”?
“You Who Are Toiling and Loaded Down”
A vital reason to attend Christian meetings is to receive encouragement. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Many of us are certainly “toiling and loaded down” in various ways. You may be loaded down with personal concerns, such as health problems. At Christian meetings, you can enjoy an interchange of encouragement. (Romans 1:11, 12) For instance, you will hear spiritually upbuilding comments, be reminded of your Bible-based hope, and observe the faith of others who are enduring trials. All of this can help you to cope and to keep your problems in proper perspective.
Consider the comments of one Christian woman who is hampered by a chronic disease. “My illness requires that I spend some time in the hospital,” she explains. “Going to the meetings after a hospital stay can be a little challenging, but that is where I belong. The warmth and love of the brothers and sisters replenishes my joy, and the teaching and direction given by Jehovah and Jesus give meaning to my life.”
“My Yoke Is Kindly and My Load Is Light”
Notice that in the passage we are analyzing, Jesus said: “Learn from me.” By learning from Jesus, we become his disciples, and we take his yoke when we make a dedication to God and get baptized. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Regular participation in meetings is vital to our remaining Jesus’ disciples. Why? Because it is at Christian meetings that we are taught about Jesus, his teachings, and his methods.
What is the load that Christ wants us to bear? It is the same load that he himself carries—the privilege of doing God’s will. (John 4:34; 15:8) Effort is required to obey God’s commandments, but this load is not too heavy to bear. It may seem to be heavy if we try to carry it in our own strength. If, however, we pray for God’s spirit and feed on the spiritual food presented at the meetings, we will receive God-given “power beyond what is normal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) By preparing for the meetings and participating in them, we grow ever stronger in our love for Jehovah. And when we are motivated by love, God’s commandments “are not burdensome.”—1 John 5:3.
People in general face such challenges as earning a living, dealing with health issues, and handling personal problems. To handle them, however, we do not rely on mere human wisdom. Congregation meetings help us to “stop being anxious,” for Jehovah supplies our needs and helps us to cope with problems. (Matthew 6:25-33) Indeed, Christian meetings are an expression of God’s love for us.
“I Am Mild-Tempered and Lowly in Heart”
It was Jesus’ custom to visit the synagogue, where God’s Word was discussed. On one such occasion, Jesus took the scroll of Isaiah and read: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” (Luke 4:16, 18, 19) What a thrill it would have been to hear Jesus apply those words by saying: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled”!—Luke 4:21.
Jesus, the mild-tempered “chief shepherd,” is still overseeing the spiritual care of his followers. (1 Peter 5:1-4) Under his direction, “the faithful and discreet slave” has appointed men as shepherds in the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. (Matthew 24:45-47; Titus 1:5-9) These men “shepherd the congregation of God” with mildness and set a good example by regularly attending meetings. You can show appreciation for these “gifts in men” by being at the meetings, where you can encourage others by your presence and your participation.—Acts 15:30-33; 20:28; Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12.
“You Will Find Refreshment for Your Souls”
When attending Christian meetings, how can you ensure that these occasions are truly refreshing? One way is to apply Jesus’ counsel: “Pay attention to how you listen.” (Luke 8:18) People who keenly desired to learn paid close attention to Jesus. They asked him to explain his illustrations and, as a result, were rewarded with a deeper understanding.—Matthew 13:10-16.
You can imitate such spiritually hungry ones by actively listening to talks at our meetings. (Matthew 5:3, 6) To help keep your mind focused, seek to follow the speaker’s line of reasoning. Mentally ask yourself such questions as these: ‘How can I apply this information in my life? In what way can I use it to help others? How might I illustrate this point?’ Additionally, look up the scriptures used by the speaker to support his key points. The more you pay attention to how you listen, the more refreshing the meetings will become.
After the meeting, discuss the program with others. Focus on the material and on how it can be applied. Upbuilding conversations make the meetings very refreshing.
We unquestionably have good reasons for meeting together. After reviewing the benefits just discussed, why not ask yourself, ‘How am I responding to Jesus’ invitation: “Come to me”?’
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Do other activities interfere with your meeting attendance?