Are You Fully Following the Christ?
“Just as you are in fact walking, . . . keep on doing it more fully.”—1 THESS. 4:1.
1, 2. (a) What grand things did many people in Jesus’ day witness? (b) Why is our present era also momentous?
HAVE you ever entertained the thought of how wonderful it must have been to be alive when Jesus was on earth? You might think of the prospect of being healed by Jesus and thus spared the distress of some troublesome physical affliction. Or you might consider the sheer pleasure of being able to see and hear Jesus—to be able to learn from him or to see him perform some miracle. (Mark 4:1, 2; Luke 5:3-9; 9:11) What a great privilege it would have been to be present when Jesus did all those works! (Luke 19:37) No generation since then has witnessed such things, and what Jesus accomplished on earth “through the sacrifice of himself” will not be repeated.—Heb. 9:26; John 14:19.
2 Our present era, though, is also momentous. Why so? We now live in what the Scriptures foretold as “the time of the end” and “the last days.” (Dan. 12:1-4, 9; 2 Tim. 3:1) During this period, Satan was cast out of heaven. Soon, he will be bound and thrown “into the abyss.” (Rev. 12:7-9, 12; 20:1-3) It is also during this time that we have the grand privilege of declaring the “good news of the kingdom” worldwide, telling people about the hope of the Paradise to come—a never-to-be-repeated work.—Matt. 24:14.
3. Just before his ascension to heaven, what did Jesus tell his followers to do, and what would that involve?
3 Just before his ascension to heaven, Jesus told his followers: “You will be witnesses of me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) That work would involve a global teaching activity. The goal? To make disciples—additional followers of the Christ—before the end comes. (Matt. 28:19, 20) What must we do if we want to succeed in fulfilling Christ’s commission?
4. (a) Peter’s exclamation found at 2 Peter 3:11, 12 emphasizes what need? (b) Against what do we need to be on guard?
4 Note this exclamation of the apostle Peter: “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 Pet. 3:11, 12) Peter’s words emphasize the need to keep close watch during these last days to make sure that our life remains centered on deeds of godly devotion. Such deeds include the preaching of the good news. What a joy it is, therefore, for us to observe the zeal with which our brothers worldwide are carrying out Christ’s preaching commission! At the same time, we realize that we need to be careful that the daily pressures from Satan’s world and from our own inherited fleshly tendencies do not diminish the zeal with which we are carrying out God’s service. Let us consider, therefore, how we can make sure that we keep on following the Christ.
Embrace God-Given Responsibilities
5, 6. (a) For what did Paul commend his fellow believers in Jerusalem, and against what did he warn them? (b) Why should we not take our God-given responsibilities lightly?
5 In his letter to the Christians in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul commended his fellow believers for their past record of faithful endurance even under persecution. He stated: “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings.” Yes, Jehovah remembered their faithful course. (Heb. 6:10; 10:32-34) Paul’s warm words of commendation must have encouraged those Hebrew Christians greatly. However, in that same letter, Paul also warned against a human tendency that if not kept under control, could diminish one’s zeal for God’s service. He stated that Christians should be careful not to “beg off,” or excuse themselves, from following God’s commandments.—Heb. 12:25.
6 That warning against the tendency to “beg off” from embracing God-given responsibilities also applies to Christians today. We realize that we need to be determined never to take our Christian responsibilities lightly or to allow our zeal for God’s service to diminish. (Heb. 10:39) After all, rendering sacred service is a matter of life and death.—1 Tim. 4:16.
7, 8. (a) What will help us to maintain our zeal for God’s service? (b) If we have lost some of our initial zeal, what should we remember about Jehovah and Jesus?
7 What will help us to guard against excusing ourselves from fulfilling our obligations to God? One important way to fight that tendency is by regularly meditating on the meaning of our dedication vow. In essence, we promised Jehovah that we would put the doing of his will foremost in our lives, and we want to keep that promise. (Read Matthew 16:24.) Therefore, at times we need to pause and ask ourselves: ‘Do I still feel as determined to live up to my dedication to God as I did at the time of my baptism? Or have I lost some of my initial zeal in the years since then?’
8 If an honest self-examination proves that we have slackened the hand somewhat, we do well to recall the invigorating words spoken by the prophet Zephaniah. He stated: “May your hands not drop down. Jehovah your God is in the midst of you. As a mighty One, he will save. He will exult over you with rejoicing.” (Zeph. 3:16, 17) These reassuring words first applied to the Israelites of old who returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. However, this assurance still holds true for God’s people today. Since the work we do is Jehovah’s work, we should keep in mind that both Jehovah and his Son back us up and strengthen us to discharge fully our God-given responsibilities. (Matt. 28:20; Phil. 4:13) If we strive to continue to do God’s work with zeal, he will bless us and help us to go on prospering spiritually.
Zealously “Seeking First the Kingdom”
9, 10. What is the point of Jesus’ parable of the grand evening meal, and what lesson can we draw from it?
9 While eating a meal in the home of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus gave an illustration about a grand evening meal. In that illustration, he described the opportunity extended to different ones to come in line for the Kingdom of the heavens. He also illustrated what it means to “beg off.” (Read Luke 14:16-21.) The invited guests in Jesus’ illustration gave excuses for not attending the feast. One said that he needed to go and examine a field he had just bought. Another said that he bought some cattle and wanted to examine them. Still another said: ‘I cannot come. I just got married.’ These were poor excuses. One who buys a field or livestock normally examines them beforehand, so there is no great urgency to examine them afterward. And why should a recent marriage prevent one from accepting such an important invitation? No wonder the host in the illustration was incensed!
10 All of God’s people can learn a lesson from Jesus’ parable. What is it? We should never allow personal matters, such as those mentioned in Jesus’ illustration, to become so important to us that they push aside our service to God. If a Christian does not keep personal affairs in their proper place, his zeal in the ministry will gradually diminish. (Read Luke 8:14.) To prevent that from happening, we live by Jesus’ admonition: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33) How encouraging it is to observe that God’s servants—young and old alike—are applying that vital counsel! In fact, many have taken steps to simplify their lifestyle so that they can give more time to the ministry. They learn firsthand that zealously seeking first the Kingdom brings true happiness and great satisfaction.
11. What Bible account illustrates the importance of being zealous and wholehearted in serving God?
11 To illustrate the importance of being zealous in God’s service, note an event that took place in the life of King Jehoash of Israel. Concerned over the apparent fate of Israel at the hands of Syria, Jehoash came weeping to Elisha. The prophet instructed him to shoot an arrow out the window toward Syria, indicating victory by Jehovah’s hand against that nation. This certainly should have invigorated the king. Elisha next told Jehoash to take his arrows and strike the earth with them. Jehoash struck the earth three times. Elisha was incensed at this, for striking the earth five or six times would have indicated “striking down Syria to the finishing point.” Now Jehoash would enjoy only three partial victories. Because he acted with a lack of zeal, Jehoash experienced limited success. (2 Kings 13:14-19) What lesson can we learn from that account? Jehovah will abundantly bless us only if we do his work wholeheartedly and with zeal.
12. (a) What will help us to maintain our zeal in God’s service while coping with life’s challenges? (b) Relate how you are benefiting from keeping busy in the ministry.
12 Life’s challenges test our zeal and devotion to God’s service. Many brothers and sisters are coping with trying economic circumstances. Others are frustrated because a serious illness limits what they are able to do in Jehovah’s service. Still, each of us can take steps to ensure that we maintain our zeal and continue to follow the Christ fully. Please note some of the suggestions and scriptures listed in the box “What Will Help You to Keep Following the Christ?” Consider how you can apply them to the full. If you do, you will reap real benefits. Keeping busy in the ministry has a stabilizing effect on us, enriches our life, and brings us greater peace and happiness. (1 Cor. 15:58) Moreover, being whole-souled in our service to God helps us in “keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.”—2 Pet. 3:12.
Make a Frank Appraisal
13. How can we determine what whole-souled service means for us personally?
13 It is good to remember, though, that being whole-souled is not a matter of how much time we spend in the ministry. Individual circumstances vary. A person who spends just an hour or two in field service each month may be very pleasing to Jehovah if that really is all his health allows him to do. (Compare Mark 12:41-44.) Hence, to determine what whole-souled service to God means for us personally, we need to make a frank appraisal of our abilities and circumstances. As followers of Christ, we also want to harmonize our viewpoint with his. (Read Romans 15:5; 1 Cor. 2:16) What did Jesus put foremost in his life? He told the crowds from Capernaum: “I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43; John 18:37) With Jesus’ zeal for his ministry in mind, evaluate your circumstances to see if you could further expand your ministry.—1 Cor. 11:1.
14. In what ways could we further expand our ministry?
14 A careful consideration of our circumstances may lead us to conclude that we could increase the amount of time we spend in the ministry. (Matt. 9:37, 38) For instance, many thousands of our young people who recently graduated from school have expanded their ministry and are now experiencing the joy that comes from zealously serving as pioneers. Would you like to taste that joy as well? Some brothers and sisters have considered their circumstances and decided that they could move to an area in their country, or even abroad, where there is a greater need for Kingdom publishers. Still others have learned another language to help foreign-speaking people. While expanding our ministry can be challenging, it brings rich blessings, and we may help many others to “come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—1 Tim. 2:3, 4; 2 Cor. 9:6.
Bible Examples to Follow
15, 16. Whose examples can we imitate in being zealous followers of the Christ?
15 How did some who became apostles respond when Christ called them to be his followers? Regarding Matthew, the account says: “Leaving everything behind he rose up and went following him.” (Luke 5:27, 28) About Peter and Andrew, who were fishing, we read: “At once abandoning the nets, they followed him.” Jesus next saw James and John, who were mending their nets along with their father. How did they react to Jesus’ invitation? “At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.”—Matt. 4:18-22.
16 Another fine example is that of Saul, who became the apostle Paul. Although he had been a rabid persecutor of Christ’s followers, he changed course and became “a chosen vessel” to bear Christ’s name. “Immediately in the synagogues [Paul] began to preach Jesus, that this One is the Son of God.” (Acts 9:3-22) And despite his having to endure much hardship and persecution, Paul never lost his zeal.—2 Cor. 11:23-29; 12:15.
17. (a) What is your desire in regard to following the Christ? (b) What blessings do we enjoy because of doing Jehovah’s will with all our heart and strength?
17 We surely want to imitate the fine examples of those disciples and respond eagerly and without reservation. (Heb. 6:11, 12) What blessings do we enjoy as we continue to strive to follow the Christ zealously and fully? We find genuine pleasure in doing the will of God and experience the satisfaction that comes from accepting additional privileges of service and responsibilities in the congregation. (Ps. 40:8; read 1 Thessalonians 4:1.) Yes, as we vigorously exert ourselves in following the Christ, we enjoy such rich and lasting blessings as peace of mind, satisfaction, contentment, God’s approval, and the prospect of everlasting life.—1 Tim. 4:10.
Do You Recall?
• What important work have we been given, and how should we view it?
• What human tendency must we guard against, and why?
• What frank appraisal should we make?
• What will help us to keep following the Christ?
[Box/Picture on page 27]
What Will Help You to Keep Following the Christ?
▪ Read God’s Word daily, and meditate on what you read.—Ps. 1:1-3; 1 Tim. 4:15.
▪ Pray often for the support and guidance of God’s spirit.—Zech. 4:6; Luke 11:9, 13.
▪ Associate with those who demonstrate heartfelt zeal for the ministry.—Prov. 13:20; Heb. 10:24, 25.
▪ Appreciate the urgency of the times in which we are living.—Eph. 5:15, 16.
▪ Be conscious of the serious consequences of ‘begging off.’—Luke 9:59-62.
▪ Reflect regularly on your dedication vow and the abundant blessings that result from serving Jehovah and following the Christ wholeheartedly.—Ps. 116:12-14; 133:3; Prov. 10:22.