WORLDWIDE last year, thousands of men were appointed as elders and ministerial servants among Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you are one of those dear brothers, then surely you rejoice in your new privilege of service.
Understandably, though, you may also feel a little anxious. Jason, a young elder, relates, “When I was first appointed, I felt quite overwhelmed by my new responsibilities.” Moses and Jeremiah felt inadequate when they received new assignments from Jehovah. (Ex. 4:10; Jer. 1:6) If you have similar feelings, how can you overcome them and keep making progress? Consider the example of the Christian disciple Timothy.—Acts 16:1-3.
IMITATE TIMOTHY’S EXAMPLE
Timothy was probably in his late teens or early 20’s when the apostle Paul invited him to become his traveling companion. At first, being young, Timothy may have lacked self-confidence and may have hesitated to act in his newly assigned role. (1 Tim. 4:11, 12; 2 Tim. 1:1, 2, 7) Yet, a decade later, Paul could tell the congregation in Philippi: “I am hoping in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly . . . For I have no one else of a disposition like his.”—Phil. 2:19, 20.
What made Timothy such an outstanding elder? Consider six lessons you can draw from his example.
1. He truly cared for people. Paul told the brothers in Philippi: “[Timothy] will genuinely care for your concerns.” (Phil. 2:20) Yes, Timothy cared about people. He was genuinely interested in their spiritual welfare, and he willingly expended himself in their behalf.
Avoid being like the proverbial bus driver who is more concerned with arriving on time at every bus stop than with picking up passengers. William, a respected elder for over 20 years, advises newly appointed men: “Love the brothers. Focus on their needs rather than on the administrative side of things.”
2. He put spiritual interests first. Contrasting Timothy’s example with that of others, Paul said: “All the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 2:21) Paul was writing from Rome. He observed that the brothers there were overly occupied with personal affairs. To some degree, they were spiritually self-sparing. But not Timothy! When opportunities arose to advance the good news, his attitude was like that of Isaiah, who said: “Here I am! Send me!”—Isa. 6:8.
How can you balance your personal and spiritual obligations? First, prioritize. “Make sure of the more important things,” urged Paul. (Phil. 1:10) Make God’s priorities your priorities. Second, simplify. Eliminate time and energy stealers. Paul exhorted Timothy: “Flee from youthful desires, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace.”—2 Tim. 2:22.
3. He worked hard in sacred service. Paul reminded the Philippians: “You know the proof [Timothy] gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me to advance the good news.” (Phil. 2:22) Timothy was not lazy. He worked hard alongside Paul, and this strengthened the bonds of affection between them.
There is no shortage of work in God’s organization today. That work is truly satisfying and can draw you closer to your brothers and sisters. So make it your aim always to have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
4. He applied the lessons he learned. Paul wrote to Timothy: “You have closely followed my teaching, my course of life, my purpose, my faith, my patience, my love, my endurance.” (2 Tim. 3:10) Because Timothy applied what he learned, he qualified for greater responsibility.—1 Cor. 4:17.
Do you have a spiritual mentor? If not, why not seek one out? Tom, an elder for many years, recalls: “An experienced elder took me under his wing and gave me excellent training. I regularly asked for and applied his advice. This rapidly built up my confidence.”
5. He kept training himself. Paul exhorted Timothy: “Train yourself with godly devotion as your aim.” (1 Tim. 4:7) An athlete may have a coach, but he also needs to train himself. Paul urged Timothy: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. . . . Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, so that your advancement may be plainly seen by all people.”—1 Tim. 4:13-15.
You too need to keep honing your skills. Do not let your spirituality stagnate or your understanding of congregation procedures go out-of-date. Also, avoid becoming overconfident—perhaps thinking that you have so much experience that you can handle any situation without doing careful research. In imitation of Timothy, “pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching.”—1 Tim. 4:16.
6. He relied on Jehovah’s spirit. Reflecting on Timothy’s ministry, Paul reminded him: “Guard this fine trust by means of the holy spirit, which is dwelling in us.” (2 Tim. 1:14) To safeguard his ministry, Timothy needed to rely on God’s spirit.
Donald, an elder for many decades, observes: “Appointed men must cherish their relationship with God. Those who do will go ‘from strength to strength.’ If they pray for God’s spirit and cultivate its fruitage, they will be a real blessing to their brothers.”—Ps. 84:7; 1 Pet. 4:11.
CHERISH YOUR PRIVILEGE
It is very encouraging to see so many newly appointed brothers, like you, making spiritual progress. Jason, mentioned at the outset, says: “During the time that I’ve been an elder, I’ve learned a lot and my confidence has grown. Now I really enjoy my assignment and view it as a wonderful privilege!”
Will you keep making spiritual progress? Make it your aim to learn from Timothy. Then you too will be a blessing to God’s people.