Have a Full Share in the Great Spiritual Harvest
‘Have plenty to do in the work of the Lord.’—1 COR. 15:58.
1. What invitation did Jesus extend to his disciples?
WHILE traveling through the region of Samaria at the close of 30 C.E., Jesus paused to rest at a well near the town of Sychar. There he said to his disciples: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting.” (John 4:35) Jesus was referring, not to a literal harvest, but to a spiritual ingathering of righthearted individuals who would become his followers. His words were, in effect, a call to action. There was much work to be done and only a brief space of time in which to accomplish it!
2, 3. (a) What indicates that we are living in the harvesttime? (b) What will this article consider?
2 Jesus’ words about a harvest have special meaning for our day. We live at a time when the world field of humanity is “white for harvesting.” Yearly, millions of people receive the invitation to take in life-giving truths, and many thousands of new disciples are baptized. Ours is the privilege to take part in the greatest harvest of all time, under the supervision of the Master of the harvest, Jehovah God. Are you having “plenty to do” in this harvest work?—1 Cor. 15:58.
3 During his three-and-a-half-year earthly ministry, Jesus groomed his disciples for their role as harvest workers. This article will consider three of the many important lessons that Jesus taught his disciples. Each lesson highlights a quality that is of great value to us as we strive to do our best in the modern-day ingathering of disciples. Let us consider these qualities one at a time.
Humility Is Essential
4. How did Jesus illustrate the importance of humility?
4 Picture the scene: The disciples have just argued about who is the greatest. Feelings of distrust and ill will are likely still visible on their faces. So Jesus calls a young child to stand in their midst. Focusing attention on the small figure, he says: “Whoever will humble himself [or, “whoever makes himself small,” Byington] like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens.” (Read Matthew 18:1-4.) Instead of thinking like the world, which measures a person by his power, wealth, and position, the disciples needed to understand that their greatness depended on ‘making themselves small’ in the eyes of others. Jehovah would bless them and use them only if they showed true humility.
5, 6. Why must you be humble in order to have a full share in the harvest work? Illustrate.
5 To this day, many in the world dedicate their lives to the pursuit of power, wealth, and position. As a result, they have little or no time for spiritual interests. (Matt. 13:22) In contrast, Jehovah’s people are happy to ‘make themselves small’ in the eyes of others in order to win the blessing and approval of the Master of the harvest.—Matt. 6:24; 2 Cor. 11:7; Phil. 3:8.
6 Consider the example of Francisco, who serves as an elder in South America. As a young man, he quit the university to become a pioneer. “When I later got engaged to be married,” he recalls, “I could have found a job that would have brought my wife and me greater financial security. Instead, we decided to simplify our lives and continue together in the full-time service. Later, children came along, and the challenges increased. But Jehovah helped us stick to our decision.” Francisco concludes: “For more than 30 years, I have enjoyed the privilege of serving as an elder, in addition to many other special assignments. Never for a moment have we regretted living a simple life.”
7. How have you tried to apply the counsel found at Romans 12:16?
7 If you say no to the “lofty things” of this world and allow yourself to be “led along with the lowly things,” you too can expect to enjoy many additional blessings and privileges in the harvest work.—Rom. 12:16; Matt. 4:19, 20; Luke 18:28-30.
Diligence Brings Rewards
8, 9. (a) Summarize Jesus’ illustration of the talents. (b) For whom especially can this illustration be encouraging?
8 Another quality that we need in order to have a full share in the harvest work is diligence. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the talents.* That illustration is about a man who, before traveling abroad, entrusted his belongings to three slaves. The first and second slave received five and two talents respectively; the third, one talent. After their master left, the first two slaves acted with diligence and immediately “did business” with their talents. In contrast, the third slave was “sluggish.” He buried his talent in the ground. Upon returning, the man rewarded the first two slaves by appointing them “over many things.” He took away the talent that he had given to the third slave and expelled that slave from his household.—Matt. 25:14-30.
9 No doubt your heart’s desire is to imitate the diligent slaves in Jesus’ parable and have as full a share as possible in the disciple-making work. But what if circumstances severely limit what you are currently able to do? Perhaps harsh economic conditions force you to work long hours to provide for your family. Or maybe you no longer enjoy youthful vigor and good health. If that is the case, the parable of the talents contains an encouraging message for you.
10. How did the master in the parable of the talents show reasonableness, and why do you find this encouraging?
10 Note that the master in the parable recognized that each of his slaves had different potential. He indicated this when he assigned talents to “each one according to his own ability.” (Matt. 25:15) As expected, the first slave produced significantly more than the second slave. However, the master recognized the diligent efforts of both of these slaves by pronouncing the slaves “good and faithful” and giving them identical rewards. (Matt. 25:21, 23) Similarly, the Master of the harvest, Jehovah God, knows that your circumstances affect what you are able to do in his service. He will not fail to recognize your whole-souled efforts to serve him and reward you accordingly.—Mark 14:3-9; read Luke 21:1-4.
11. Illustrate how diligence in trying circumstances can result in rich blessings.
11 The example of Selmira, a Christian sister living in Brazil, shows that being diligent in God’s service does not depend on having favorable circumstances in life. Twenty years ago, Selmira’s husband was gunned down in a robbery, leaving her with three young children to rear. Her job as a maid involved working long hours and making tiring journeys in packed urban transportation. Despite these difficulties, she organized her affairs so that she could serve as a regular pioneer. Two of her three children later joined her in the pioneer service. “Over the years, I have studied the Bible with more than 20 people, and they have become members of my ‘family,’” she relates. “To this day, I enjoy their love and friendship. It is a treasure that money cannot buy.” The Master of the harvest has certainly rewarded Selmira’s diligent efforts!
12. How can we show diligence in the preaching work?
12 If current circumstances in life limit the time that you have available to spend in the ministry, you could still try to increase your share in the harvest work by making your ministry more productive. When you carefully apply the practical suggestions presented at the weekly Service Meeting, you will hone your preaching skills and explore new witnessing opportunities. (2 Tim. 2:15) Also, if it is possible, you could reschedule or sacrifice nonessential activities so that you can regularly support congregation field service arrangements.—Col. 4:5.
13. What is the key to cultivating and maintaining diligence?
13 Keep in mind that diligence springs from an appreciative heart. (Ps. 40:8) The third slave mentioned in Jesus’ parable was afraid of his master, viewing him as a demanding and unreasonable person. As a result, the man buried his talent instead of using it to increase his master’s belongings. To avoid a similar negligent attitude, we need to cultivate and maintain a warm relationship with the Master of the harvest, Jehovah. Set aside time to study and meditate on his appealing qualities—his love, patience, and mercy. In that way, you will be moved from the heart to do your best in his service.—Luke 6:45; Phil. 1:9-11.
“You Must Be Holy”
14. What important requirement must be met by those who want to be harvest workers?
14 Quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, the apostle Peter states God’s express will for his earthly servants, saying: “In accord with the Holy One who called you, do you also become holy yourselves in all your conduct, because it is written: ‘You must be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:15, 16; Lev. 19:2; Deut. 18:13) This statement highlights that harvest workers need to be morally and spiritually clean. We can meet that important requirement by taking steps to be washed clean, figuratively speaking. How can that be done? With the help of God’s word of truth.
15. The truth of God’s word has the power to do what in our behalf?
15 God’s word of truth is likened to water that cleanses. For instance, the apostle Paul wrote that the congregation of anointed Christians is clean in the sight of God, like a chaste bride for Christ, who cleansed it “with the bath of water by means of the word . . . , that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27) Earlier, Jesus too had spoken of the cleansing power of the word of God, which he proclaimed. In speaking to his disciples, Jesus stated: “You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) Hence, the truth of God’s word has power to carry out moral and spiritual cleansing. Only if we allow God’s truth to cleanse us in this way will our worship be acceptable to him.
16. How can we keep ourselves spiritually and morally clean?
16 Thus, to become workers in God’s harvest, we first eliminate all morally and spiritually defiling practices from our life. Yes, in order to continue to qualify for the privilege of being a harvest worker, we must be exemplary in upholding Jehovah’s high moral and spiritual standards. (Read 1 Peter 1:14-16.) Just as we give constant attention to our physical hygiene, so we must regularly submit to the purifying influence of God’s word of truth. This involves reading the Bible and attending Christian meetings. It also means making a sincere effort to apply God’s reminders in our life. Doing so will enable us to combat our own sinful tendencies and resist the contaminating influences of this world. (Ps. 119:9; Jas. 1:21-25) Yes, how comforting it is to know that with the help of God’s word of truth, we can be “washed clean” of even serious sin!—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
17. In order to remain clean, what Bible counsel must we heed?
17 Do you welcome the cleansing influence of God’s word of truth in your life? How do you react, for example, when you are alerted to the dangers of this world’s degrading entertainment? (Ps. 101:3) Do you avoid unnecessary fellowship with schoolmates and fellow workers who do not share your beliefs? (1 Cor. 15:33) Are you sincere in your efforts to overcome personal weaknesses that could make you impure in Jehovah’s eyes? (Col. 3:5) Do you keep separate from this world’s political disputes and the nationalistic spirit that permeates many competitive sports?—Jas. 4:4.
18. How will being morally and spiritually clean help us to be productive harvest workers?
18 Your faithful compliance in such matters will bring excellent results. Comparing his anointed disciples to the branches of a vine, Jesus stated: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit [my Father] takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) As you submit to the cleansing water of Bible truth, you will produce even more fruit.
Blessings Now and in the Future
19. How were Jesus’ disciples blessed in their efforts as harvest workers?
19 The faithful disciples who responded to Jesus’ training were later empowered by holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. to be witnesses “to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) They went on to serve as members of the governing body, as missionaries, and as traveling elders, and they played a key role in preaching the good news “in all creation that is under heaven.” (Col. 1:23) What blessings they reaped, and what joy they brought to others!
20. (a) What blessings have you received from having a full share in the spiritual harvest? (b) What are you determined to do?
20 Yes, by demonstrating humility, displaying diligence, and upholding the high standards of God’s Word, we will continue to enjoy a full and meaningful share in the great spiritual harvest now under way. While many suffer the pain and frustration that accompany this world’s materialistic and pleasure-seeking lifestyle, we experience genuine joy and contentment. (Ps. 126:6) Most important of all, our “labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) The Master of the harvest, Jehovah God, will reward us eternally for ‘our work and the love we show for his name.’—Heb. 6:10-12.
The parable of the talents is primarily about how Jesus deals with his anointed disciples, but it contains principles that apply to all Christians.
Do You Recall?
As you strive to have a full share in the harvest work . . .
• why is it essential to display humility?
• how can you cultivate and maintain diligence?
• why is it important to keep morally and spiritually clean?
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Humility can help us to lead a simple life that centers on Kingdom interests