Help People to “Awake From Sleep”
“You people know the season, that it is already the hour for you to awake from sleep.”—ROM. 13:11.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN?
Why is it vital that Christians stay awake spiritually?
Why should wakeful ministers listen and be observant?
What role do kindness and gentleness play in our ministry?
1, 2. In what sense do many people need to wake up?
EVERY year, thousands die because they get drowsy or even fall asleep while driving a motor vehicle. Others lose their jobs because they do not wake up in time to go to work or because they fall asleep on the job. But spiritual drowsiness can have far more serious effects. It is in this important context that the Bible says: “Happy is the one that stays awake.”—Rev. 16:14-16.
2 As Jehovah’s great day approaches, mankind in general is sleeping in a spiritual sense. Even some of Christendom’s leaders have referred to their flocks as ‘sleeping giants.’ What is spiritual sleep? Why is it vital that true Christians keep awake? How can we help others to awake from such sleep?
SPIRITUAL SLEEP—WHAT IS IT?
3. How would you describe a person who is not spiritually awake?
3 People who sleep are usually inactive. In contrast, those who sleep spiritually may be very busy—but not with spiritual matters. They may be frantically occupied with the daily anxieties of life or seeking pleasure, prestige, or wealth. With all this activity, they show little concern for their spiritual needs. People who are spiritually awake, though, realize that we live “in the last days,” so they are as active as possible in doing God’s will.—2 Pet. 3:3, 4; Luke 21:34-36.
4. What is the import of the counsel: “Let us not sleep on as the rest do”?
4 Read 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8. Here the apostle Paul exhorts fellow believers not to “sleep on as the rest do.” What did he mean? One way we can “sleep on” is by ignoring Jehovah’s moral standards. Another way we can “sleep on” is by ignoring the fact that Jehovah’s time to destroy the ungodly has approached. We must make sure that such ungodly individuals do not influence us to adopt their ways and attitudes.
5. What types of attitudes characterize those who are spiritually asleep?
5 Some people imagine that there is no God who will call them to account. (Ps. 53:1) Others imagine that God is not interested in us humans, so there is no point in our being interested in him. Still others feel that belonging to a church will make them friends of God. All these people are spiritually asleep. They need to wake up. How can we help them?
WE MUST KEEP AWAKE OURSELVES
6. Why must Christians strive to stay spiritually awake?
6 To be in a position to awaken others, we must be awake ourselves. What does that involve? God’s Word associates figurative sleep with “works belonging to darkness”—revelries, drunken bouts, illicit intercourse, loose conduct, strife, and jealousy. (Read Romans 13:11-14.) Avoiding such conduct can be challenging. Vigilance is vital. A car driver who underestimates the danger of falling asleep behind the wheel may be risking his life. How important it is for a Christian to be aware that spiritual slumber can be deadly!
7. How might a mistaken view of people affect us?
7 For example, a Christian might imagine that all in his territory have irrevocably rejected the good news. (Prov. 6:10, 11) He might reason, ‘If no one is going to respond, why be energetic in trying to reach or help people?’ Granted, many might now be sleeping spiritually, but their circumstances and attitudes could change. Some do wake up and respond. And we can help them if we ourselves keep awake, such as by trying new ways to present the Kingdom message in an appealing manner. Part of our staying awake involves reminding ourselves why our ministry is vital.
WHAT MAKES OUR MINISTRY VITAL?
8. Why is our Christian ministry vitally important?
8 Bear in mind that whatever the current response, our preaching honors Jehovah and plays a role in the outworking of his purpose. Soon, those who do not obey the good news will undergo judicial punishment. The way people react to our preaching will be a basis for judgment. (2 Thess. 1:8, 9) Furthermore, it would be a mistake for a Christian to reason that vigorous preaching is unnecessary because “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) We understand from God’s Word that those who are judged as “goats” will go “into everlasting cutting-off.” Our preaching expresses God’s mercy, opening the way for people to change and to get “everlasting life.” (Matt. 25:32, 41, 46; Rom. 10:13-15) If we did not preach, how would people have the opportunity to hear the message that can mean life?
9. How has sharing in preaching the good news benefited both you and others?
9 Preaching the good news also benefits us. (Read 1 Timothy 4:16.) Have you not found that speaking about Jehovah and the Kingdom hope strengthens your faith and your love for God? Has it not helped you to develop Christian qualities? Does not expressing your devotion to God by sharing in the ministry contribute to your happiness? Many who have been privileged to teach the truth to others have had the joy of seeing God’s spirit help such ones to improve their way of life.
10, 11. (a) How did Jesus and Paul show themselves to be alert and observant? (b) Illustrate how being alert and observant can improve our ministry.
10 Individuals’ interest in the good news may be awakened in different ways. So Christian ministers must be alert observers. Jesus is our example. Being perfect, he could discern the unspoken indignation of a Pharisee, the sincere repentance of a sinful woman, and the self-sacrificing attitude of a widow. (Luke 7:37-50; 21:1-4) Jesus could respond to the spiritual need of each one. However, a servant of God does not have to be perfect to be a good observer. The apostle Paul illustrates that. He adapted his presentation so as to appeal to different groups and to people with varying attitudes.—Acts 17:22, 23, 34; 1 Cor. 9:19-23.
11 By our striving to be alert and observant like Jesus and Paul, we can discern how best to awaken interest in those we meet. For example, as you approach individuals, look for clues that indicate their culture, interests, or family situation. Perhaps you can notice what they are doing at the moment and make a polite comment about it as you initiate a conversation.
12. While engaging in the ministry, why should we be careful about our conversation?
12 An alert observer tries to avoid distractions. While in the ministry, conversation with our partner can be upbuilding. Still, we want to remember that our purpose in engaging in the field ministry is to preach to others. (Eccl. 3:1, 7) So we should be careful that our conversation between doors does not interfere with our ministry. Discussing thoughts that we would like to share with interested ones is a good way to keep our minds focused on our objective. Also, although a cell phone may sometimes help us to be effective in our ministry, we should take steps to be sure that a phone call will not disrupt our conversation with a householder.
SHOW PERSONAL INTEREST
13, 14. (a) How can we discern what interests a person? (b) What might awaken people’s interest in spiritual things?
13 Ministers who are awake and alert listen carefully to those they meet. What questions can you pose in order to get someone in your territory to express his feelings? Is he concerned about the number of religions, the violence in the area, or the failure of governments? Can you awaken interest in spiritual matters by commenting on the marvelous design of living things or by pointing out how practical the Bible’s advice is? Prayer interests people of nearly all cultures, even some atheists. Many wonder if anyone hears prayers. Others may be intrigued by the questions: Does God hear all prayers? If not, what should we do to be heard by God?
14 We can likely learn much about the art of initiating conversations by observing how experienced publishers do it. Notice how they avoid the appearance of interrogating or prying. How do their tone of voice and facial expression communicate their interest in understanding the householder’s views?—Prov. 15:13.
KINDNESS AND SKILL
15. Why should kindness characterize our attempts to preach?
15 Do you like to be awakened from a deep sleep? Many do not react well when awakened suddenly. A gentle approach is usually preferred. The same is true regarding efforts to awaken people spiritually. For example, if someone reacts angrily to your visit, what is usually the best response? Kindly acknowledge his feelings, thank him for being frank, and calmly take your leave. (Prov. 15:1; 17:14; 2 Tim. 2:24) Your kindness may move such a person to react more positively the next time a Witness calls.
16, 17. How can we use insight in our ministry?
16 In other cases, you may be able to overcome a negative reaction. Someone may say, “No thank you. I have my own religion” or, “I am not interested” merely because it seems the easiest way to end the conversation. Yet, with skill and kind persistence, you may be able to raise an intriguing question that awakens the householder’s interest in spiritual things.—Read Colossians 4:6.
17 Sometimes when we meet people who feel that they are too busy to listen, it is best to acknowledge the situation and leave. On occasion, though, you may discern that you can say something brief and meaningful. Some brothers are able to open the Bible, read a thought-provoking text, and leave the householder with a question—all in less than a minute. Their concise presentation has at times awakened so much interest that the householder finds that he is not too busy for a brief conversation. Why not try to do that when the situation allows?
18. What might we do to be more effective at informal witnessing?
18 When we meet people during our daily activities, we can often awaken their interest in the good news if we are prepared to do informal witnessing. Many brothers and sisters carry some literature in their pocket or handbag. They may also have a specific Bible text in mind to share with others if the opportunity arises. You might speak with the service overseer or pioneers in your congregation about how you can prepare yourself to do that.
GENTLY ROUSING OUR RELATIVES
19. Why should we not abandon efforts to help our relatives?
19 Naturally, we would like to help our relatives to accept the good news. (Josh. 2:13; Acts 10:24, 48; 16:31, 32) If our initial effort is rebuffed, that could dampen our enthusiasm for trying again. We might imagine that there is little we can do or say that will change their attitude. Still, events may cause a change in your relatives’ life or viewpoint. Or you may have improved in your ability to explain the truth, so that you might now have a different result.
20. Why is tact important when speaking to relatives?
20 We should avoid being insensitive to our relatives’ feelings. (Rom. 2:4) Should we not speak as kindly to them as we do to those we meet in the preaching work? Speak with mildness and respect. Without being preachy, give evidence of how the truth has affected you for the good. (Eph. 4:23, 24) Make plain how Jehovah has enriched your life, “teaching you to benefit yourself.” (Isa. 48:17) Let your relatives see in you an example of Christian living.
21, 22. Relate an experience that shows the value of persevering in efforts to help relatives spiritually.
21 Recently, a sister wrote: “I have always tried to witness to my 13 brothers and sisters by my speech and conduct. I never let a year go by without writing to each of them. Yet, for 30 years, I have been the only Witness in the family.”
22 The sister continued: “One day, I phoned one of my sisters who lives hundreds of miles away. She told me that she asked her preacher to study the Bible with her, but he never did. When I said that I would be glad to help, she said: ‘All right, but I am telling you now: I will never be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ After mailing her the book What Does the Bible Really Teach?, I called her every few days. But she still had not opened the book. Finally, I asked her to get her book, and for about 15 minutes over the phone, we read and discussed some of the quoted scriptures. After a few more calls, she wanted to study for more than 15 minutes. Then she began calling me for her study, sometimes before I was even out of bed in the morning and sometimes twice a day. The next year, she got baptized, and the year after that, she began pioneering.”
23. Why should we not tire out in trying to awaken people from spiritual sleep?
23 Helping people to wake up from spiritual sleep is an art and requires persistent effort. Yet, meek people are still responding to our efforts to awaken them. On average, over 20,000 people each month get baptized as Witnesses of Jehovah. So let us take to heart Paul’s counsel to our first-century brother Archippus: “Keep watching the ministry which you accepted in the Lord, that you fulfill it.” (Col. 4:17) The next article will help all to appreciate what it means to preach with a sense of urgency.
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HOW TO KEEP YOURSELF AWAKE
▪ Keep busy in doing God’s will
▪ Avoid works belonging to the darkness
▪ Be aware of the danger of spiritual slumber
▪ Maintain a positive view of people in your territory
▪ Try new ways to preach to others
▪ Remember the importance of your ministry