“Keep Watching the Ministry Which You Accepted in the Lord”
“Keep watching the ministry which you accepted in the Lord, that you fulfill it.”—COL. 4:17.
1, 2. What responsibility do Christians have toward mankind?
WE HAVE a serious responsibility toward the people who live around us. The decisions they make now will mean life or death during “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14) The inspired writer of the book of Proverbs said: “Deliver those who are being taken away to death; and those staggering to the slaughter, O may you hold them back.” Striking words indeed! Failure to assume the responsibility of warning people of the choice that lies before them could result in our incurring bloodguilt. In fact, the same passage continues: “In case you should say: ‘Look! We did not know of this,’ will not he himself that is making an estimate of hearts discern it, and he himself that is observing your soul know and certainly pay back to earthling man according to his activity?” Clearly, Jehovah’s servants cannot say that they ‘do not know of’ the danger that people are facing.—Prov. 24:11, 12.
2 Jehovah values life. He urges his servants to make all possible efforts to help save as many lives as they can. Each minister of God must make known the lifesaving message found in God’s Word. Our task is similar to that of a watchman who sounds a warning when he sees an impending threat. We do not want the blood of those in danger of perishing to be upon our heads. (Ezek. 33:1-7) How vital, therefore, that we persevere in our efforts to “preach the word”!—Read 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5.
3. What topics will this and the following two articles discuss?
3 This article will consider how you can overcome obstacles to your lifesaving ministry and how you may be able to help a greater number of people. The article that follows will examine how you can cultivate the art of teaching vital truths. The third study article will report on some of the encouraging results that are being obtained by Kingdom proclaimers worldwide. Before we consider these topics, however, it would be good to review just why our times are so critical.
Why Many Are Without Hope
4, 5. What is mankind experiencing, and how do many people react?
4 World events indicate that we are living in “the conclusion of the system of things” and that the end is very near. Mankind is experiencing the events and conditions that Jesus and his disciples said would mark “the last days.” “Pangs of distress,” including wars, food shortages, earthquakes, and other calamities, plague humanity. Lawless, selfish, and ungodly attitudes abound. Even for people who endeavor to live by Bible standards, these are “critical times hard to deal with.”—Matt. 24:3, 6-8, 12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
5 The vast majority of mankind, however, are unaware of the real significance of world events. As a result, many are anxious about their own safety and that of their families. The loss of loved ones in death or other personal tragedies leave many distraught. Without accurate knowledge of why such things happen and where the solution lies, these people are without hope.—Eph. 2:12.
6. Why has “Babylon the Great” not been able to help her followers?
6 “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion, has brought little comfort to the masses. On the contrary, by means of “the wine of her fornication,” she has made multitudes stagger in spiritual confusion. Moreover, by acting like a harlot, false religion has seduced and controlled “the kings of the earth,” using lying doctrines and spiritistic practices to keep the masses in passive subservience to their political masters. False religion has thus gained power and influence, but at the same time, she has completely rejected religious truth.—Rev. 17:1, 2, 5; 18:23.
7. What prospect stands before the majority of mankind, but how may some be helped?
7 Jesus taught that most of mankind are traveling along the broad road that leads to destruction. (Matt. 7:13, 14) Some individuals are on that broad road because they have made a deliberate choice to reject what the Bible teaches, but many others are there because they have been deceived, or kept in the dark, as to what Jehovah really requires of them. Perhaps some would change their lifestyle if they were given sound Scriptural reasons to do so. But those who remain in Babylon the Great and who continue to reject Bible standards will not be spared through “the great tribulation.”—Rev. 7:14.
Keep On Preaching “Without Letup”
8, 9. How did first-century Christians react when faced with opposition, and why?
8 Jesus said that his disciples would preach the good news of the Kingdom and make disciples. (Matt. 28:19, 20) True Christians, therefore, have always considered participation in the preaching work to be a matter of loyalty to God and a fundamental requirement of their faith. Hence, Jesus’ early followers persevered even in the face of opposition. They relied upon Jehovah for strength, praying that he would enable them to continue “speaking [his] word with all boldness.” In response, Jehovah filled them with holy spirit, and they boldly spoke the word of God.—Acts 4:18, 29, 31.
9 When opposition turned violent, did Jesus’ followers waver in their determination to preach the good news? Not at all. Irritated by the apostles’ preaching, Jewish religious leaders arrested the apostles, threatened them, and flogged them. Yet, the apostles “continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” They clearly saw that they had to “obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:28, 29, 40-42.
10. What challenges do Christians face today, yet what may result from their fine conduct?
10 Most servants of God today have not had to endure beatings or imprisonment because of their preaching activities. However, all true Christians face tests and trials of some kind. Your Bible-trained conscience might, for example, impel you to adopt an unpopular course of conduct or one that makes you stand out as different. Colleagues, schoolmates, or neighbors might think you are odd because you base your decisions on Bible principles. Nevertheless, their negative response should not deter you. The world lies in spiritual darkness, but Christians must “[shine] as illuminators.” (Phil. 2:15) Perhaps some sincere observers will see and appreciate your fine works and give glory to Jehovah as a result.—Read Matthew 5:16.
11. (a) How may some react to the preaching work? (b) What kind of opposition did the apostle Paul face, and how did he react to it?
11 Courage is needed for us to keep on preaching the Kingdom message. Some people, even relatives, may ridicule you or in some other way attempt to discourage you. (Matt. 10:36) The apostle Paul was physically beaten more than once because he faithfully carried out his ministry. Notice how he reacted to such opposition: “After we had first suffered and been insolently treated,” he wrote, “we mustered up boldness by means of our God to speak to you the good news of God with a great deal of struggling.” (1 Thess. 2:2) Surely it was a challenge for Paul to keep on speaking the good news after he had been seized, stripped, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison. (Acts 16:19-24) What gave him the boldness to continue? His overriding desire to carry out his God-given preaching commission.—1 Cor. 9:16.
12, 13. What challenges do some face, and how have they attempted to overcome them?
12 It can also be a challenge to maintain our zeal in territories where people are rarely at home or where there is little response to the Kingdom message. What can we do in such circumstances? We might find it necessary to muster up extra boldness to speak to people in informal settings. We may also have to adjust our schedule or concentrate our efforts on preaching in areas where we can contact more people.—Compare John 4:7-15; Acts 16:13; 17:17.
13 Other difficulties that many have to contend with are advancing age and poor health, which may limit what they can reasonably do in the preaching work. If that is true of you, do not be discouraged. Jehovah is well aware of your limitations and appreciates what you can do. (Read 2 Corinthians 8:12.) Whatever kind of adversity you may be facing—opposition, apathy, or ill health—do all that your circumstances allow you to do in sharing the good news with others.—Prov. 3:27; compare Mark 12:41-44.
‘Keep Watching Your Ministry’
14. What example did the apostle Paul set for fellow Christians, and what counsel did he give?
14 The apostle Paul took his ministry very seriously, and he encouraged fellow believers to do the same. (Acts 20:20, 21; 1 Cor. 11:1) One individual whom Paul singled out for special encouragement was a first-century Christian named Archippus. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote: “Tell Archippus: ‘Keep watching the ministry which you accepted in the Lord, that you fulfill it.’” (Col. 4:17) We do not know who Archippus was or what his circumstances were, but he had evidently accepted a ministry. If you are a dedicated Christian, you too have accepted a ministry. Are you continuing to watch the ministry in order to fulfill it?
15. What does Christian dedication entail, leading to what questions?
15 Prior to our baptism, we dedicated our lives to Jehovah in heartfelt prayer. This meant that we were determined to do his will. So we do well to ask ourselves now, ‘Is the doing of God’s will really the most important thing in my life?’ We may have various responsibilities that Jehovah expects us to care for—such as providing for our family. (1 Tim. 5:8) But how do we use the rest of our time and energy? What is our priority in life?—Read 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
16, 17. What possibilities might young Christians or those with relatively few responsibilities consider?
16 Are you a young dedicated Christian who has finished or is close to finishing your required schooling? Likely, you do not yet have weighty family responsibilities. So, what do you plan to do with your life? What decisions will best enable you to fulfill your promise to do Jehovah’s will? Many have organized their affairs in order to pioneer, and they have reaped great joy and satisfaction as a result.—Ps. 110:3; Eccl. 12:1.
17 Perhaps you are a young adult. You have a full-time secular job but have few responsibilities except to care for yourself. Doubtless you enjoy participating in congregation activities to the extent that your schedule allows. Could you perhaps have even greater joy? Have you thought about expanding your share in the ministry? (Ps. 34:8; Prov. 10:22) In some territories, much work still needs to be done to reach everybody with the life-giving message of truth. Could you make adjustments in your life, perhaps to serve in an area where the need for Kingdom proclaimers is greater?—Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8.
18. What adjustments did one young couple make, and with what results?
18 Consider the example of Kevin and Elena, from the United States.a As was normal for young newlyweds in their area, they felt that they had to buy a house. Both worked full-time and could maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Yet, their work schedule and jobs around the home left little time for field service. They realized that they were dedicating almost all their time and energy to their possessions. However, when they observed the simple lifestyle of a happy pioneer couple, Kevin and Elena decided to change the focus of their lives. After seeking Jehovah’s direction in prayer, they sold their house and moved into an apartment. Elena reduced the hours she worked secularly and became a pioneer. Encouraged by the experiences his wife was enjoying, Kevin quit his full-time job and began pioneering. Some time later, they moved to a South American country to serve where the need for Kingdom preachers is great. “We always had a happy marriage,” says Kevin, “but when we worked toward spiritual goals, our happiness reached an even deeper level.”—Read Matthew 6:19-22.
19, 20. Why is the preaching of the good news the most important work today?
19 The preaching of the good news is the most important work being done on earth today. (Rev. 14:6, 7) It contributes to the sanctification of Jehovah’s name. (Matt. 6:9) The Bible’s message improves the lives of the many thousands who embrace it each year, and this can lead to their salvation. Yet, “how . . . will they hear without someone to preach?” asked the apostle Paul. (Rom. 10:14, 15) How, indeed? Why not be determined to do all you possibly can to fulfill your ministry?
20 Another way that you can help people understand the importance of these critical times and the consequences of the decisions they make is by improving your teaching ability. How you can do this will be discussed in the following article.
a The names have been changed.
How Would You Answer?
• What responsibility do Christians have toward mankind?
• How should we cope with obstacles to our preaching work?
• How can we fulfill the ministry that we have accepted?
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Courage is needed to preach in the face of opposition
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What can you do if you preach in territories where people are rarely at home?