Did You Once Serve? Can You Serve Again?
DID you once serve in a responsible position in the Christian congregation? Perhaps you were a ministerial servant or an elder. You may have been in some avenue of full-time service. No doubt you found joy and deep satisfaction in your assignments, but then for some reason you had to give them up.
Perhaps you relinquished your privilege in order to care for family members. On the other hand, age or poor health may have been a factor. Such decisions are not a mark of failure. (1 Tim. 5:8) In the first century, Philip served as a missionary, but he later settled in Caesarea, where he cared for his family. (Acts 21:8, 9) In his old age, King David of ancient Israel arranged for his son Solomon to succeed him on the throne. (1 Ki. 1:1, 32-35) Yet, both Philip and David were still loved and appreciated by Jehovah and are respected to this day.
It may be, however, that you were relieved of a privilege of service. Was unwise conduct a factor? Or were family problems involved? (1 Tim. 3:2, 4, 10, 12) You may even have disagreed with the need for this action, and a feeling of resentment may linger to this day.
You Can Reach Out to Serve Again
Is the loss of a privilege of service irreversible? Not in most cases. In order to serve again, though, you must want to reach out. (1 Tim. 3:1) But why desire this? For the same reason that you dedicated yourself to God—love for Jehovah and for those who serve him. If you are willing to show that love by serving again, this will allow Jehovah to make use of the experience you have had both before and after the loss of your privilege.
Recall the assurance Jehovah gave Israel after that nation had deservedly lost privileges of service. His Word says: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed. And you are sons of Jacob; you have not come to your finish.” (Mal. 3:6) Jehovah loved the Israelites and desired to use them further. His interest in you is just as forward-looking. What can you do in your present circumstances? Serving theocratic interests depends more on spiritual health than on natural ability. Hence, while you do not have additional responsibilities in the congregation, concentrate on strengthening your spirituality.
To “grow mighty” in the faith, you must “search for Jehovah and his strength.” (1 Cor. 16:13; Ps. 105:4) One way you can do this is through heartfelt prayer. When you describe your situation to Jehovah, express your feelings to him and ask for his spirit. By doing this, you will draw closer to Jehovah, and this will make you firm. (Ps. 62:8; Phil. 4:6, 13) Another way to strengthen your spirituality is by improved study of God’s Word. With fewer responsibilities for the time being, you may be able to do more with regard to personal and family study, perhaps restoring a routine that had been difficult to maintain.
Of course, you still represent Jehovah as one of his Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10-12) The finest privilege any of us can have is to be one of “God’s fellow workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) Increased activity in the field service is a splendid way to deepen your own spirituality and that of your companions in the ministry.
Coping With Your Feelings
Losing a privilege of service may evoke in you a feeling of shame or regret. You may have a tendency to justify your actions. However, what if responsible brothers listened to your defense but still felt that you should not retain a certain privilege? Negative feelings may linger, hindering you from reaching out or even making it difficult for you to learn from the experience. Let us consider how the experiences of Job, Manasseh, and Joseph can help one to cope with negative feelings.
Job had represented others before Jehovah and had sat as an elder and judge in a patriarchal society. (Job 1:5; 29:7-17, 21-25) Then, at a crucial time in his life, Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health. With these, he also lost his standing in the eyes of others. “They have laughed at me,” Job said, “those younger in days than I am.”—Job 30:1.
Job felt entirely innocent and wanted to defend himself before God. (Job 13:15) Yet, Job was willing to wait on Jehovah, and this bore good fruit. He learned that he did need correction, particularly for his reactions to the test he underwent. (Job 40:6-8; 42:3, 6) Job’s humility eventually resulted in his being blessed abundantly by God.—Job 42:10-13.
If your loss of a privilege was due to wrongdoing on your part, you may wonder whether Jehovah and your Christian brothers will ever truly forgive and forget. Well, consider the case of King Manasseh of Judah. He “did on a large scale what was bad in Jehovah’s eyes, to offend him.” (2 Ki. 21:6) Yet, Manasseh died a faithful man, ruling as king. How did this happen?
Manasseh eventually responded to discipline. After he had ignored warnings, Jehovah brought against him the Assyrians, who fettered him and exiled him to distant Babylon. There, Manasseh “softened the face of Jehovah his God and kept humbling himself greatly because of the God of his forefathers. And he kept praying to Him.” Repentance from the heart produced fruitage in deeds, and Manasseh was forgiven.—2 Chron. 33:12, 13.
Lost privileges are seldom restored all at once. With time, however, certain limited responsibilities may come your way. Accepting these and doing your best will often lead to further assignments. This is not to say that the road is easy. There may be setbacks. Nevertheless, willingness and perseverance bring fine fruitage.
Take Jacob’s son Joseph as an example. At the age of 17, Joseph was unjustly sold into slavery by his brothers. (Gen. 37:2, 26-28) This was certainly not the kind of treatment that he expected from the sons of his father. However, he was willing to work with these circumstances, and with Jehovah’s blessing he “came to be over the house of his master.” (Gen. 39:2) Later, Joseph was thrown into prison. But he proved himself faithful, and Jehovah was with him, so that he eventually was entrusted with prison affairs.—Gen. 39:21-23.
Joseph did not know that all of this would serve a purpose. He simply continued to do what he could. Jehovah was thus able to use him to preserve the line leading to the promised Seed. (Gen. 3:15; 45:5-8) While none of us can expect to play as central a role as Joseph did, the inspired account shows that Jehovah’s hand is involved in privileges that His servants receive. Keep the way open by imitating Joseph.
Learning From Difficult Experiences
Job, Manasseh, and Joseph went through disheartening experiences. All three men accepted what Jehovah allowed, and each of them learned valuable lessons. What might you learn?
Look for what Jehovah may be trying to teach you. In his struggle with despair, Job became self-centered and lost sight of larger issues. With Jehovah’s loving correction, however, he regained balance, admitting: “I talked, but I was not understanding.” (Job 42:3) If you feel hurt by a loss of privileges, ‘do not think more of yourself than it is necessary to think, but think so as to have a sound mind.’ (Rom. 12:3) Jehovah may be trying to adjust you in a way that you do not yet fully comprehend.
Accept discipline. Manasseh may initially have felt that he did not deserve quite so severe a reproof as he received. Yet, he accepted it, repented, and abandoned his wrong course. Regardless of how you feel about the discipline you received, ‘humble yourself in the eyes of Jehovah, and he will exalt you.’—1 Pet. 5:6; Jas. 4:10.
Be patient and willing. Joseph’s experiences could easily have led him to nurse feelings of hatred and revenge. Instead, he developed insight and mercy. (Gen. 50:15-21) If you have been disappointed, be patient. Be willing to be trained by Jehovah.
Did you once serve in a responsible position in the Christian congregation? Give Jehovah the opportunity to confer future privileges on you. Strengthen your spirituality. Temper your feelings with patience and humility. Willingly accept whatever assignments may be open to you. Be assured that “Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness.”—Ps. 84:11.
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Grow mighty in the faith through heartfelt prayer
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Increased activity in the field service is a splendid way to deepen your own spirituality
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Give Jehovah the opportunity to grant you future privileges