“As for that on the fine soil, these are the ones who . . . bear fruit with endurance.”—LUKE 8:15.
1, 2. (a) Why are we encouraged by those who faithfully preach in unresponsive territories? (See opening picture.) (b) What did Jesus say about preaching in his “home territory”? (See footnote.)
SERGIO AND OLINDA are a pioneer couple in their 80’s who live in the United States. Lately, their sore legs make moving about more difficult. Still, as they have done for decades, in the morning they walk to a square in a busy section of town, arriving there at seven o’clock. They take their place near a bus stop and offer our Bible literature to passersby. Most people ignore them, but the couple remain in their spot, smiling at those who look at them. At noon, they slowly walk home. The next morning, at seven o’clock, they are back in the square. In fact, this faithful couple are busy preaching the Kingdom message there six mornings a week, year-round.
2 Like Sergio and Olinda, many faithful brothers and sisters around the world have been preaching for decades in unresponsive home territories. If that challenge describes your situation, we warmly commend you for your endurance.* Your steadfastness in serving Jehovah is a source of encouragement for many—even for experienced fellow believers. Note these expressions made by circuit overseers: “When I work with such faithful brothers and sisters in the ministry, I feel energized by their example.” “Their faithfulness encourages me to persevere and to be courageous in my own ministry.” “Their example warms my heart.”
3. What three questions will we consider, and why?
3 To strengthen our resolve to complete the preaching work that Jesus assigned us, let us consider the answers to three questions: Why may we at times feel discouraged? How can we bear fruit? What will help us to keep bearing fruit with endurance?
WHY MAY WE FEEL DISCOURAGED?
4. (a) How did the negative reaction from most Jews affect Paul? (b) Why did Paul experience such feelings?
4 If you have ever felt discouraged when preaching in less responsive territories, you will relate to the apostle Paul. During his approximately 30-year-long ministry, he helped numerous individuals to become disciples of Christ. (Acts 14:21; 2 Cor. 3:2, 3) Still, he did not succeed in moving many Jews to become true worshippers. On the contrary, most rebuffed Paul, and some even persecuted him. (Acts 14:19; 17:1, 4, 5, 13) How did that adverse reaction from the Jews affect Paul? He freely admitted: “I am telling the truth in Christ . . . I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart.” (Rom. 9:1-3) Why did Paul experience such feelings? His heart was in the preaching work. He preached to the Jews out of deep concern for them. So it pained Paul to see them reject God’s mercy.
5. (a) What moves us to preach to our neighbors? (b) Why is it no wonder that we at times feel discouraged?
5 Like Paul, we preach to people out of heartfelt concern. (Matt. 22:39; 1 Cor. 11:1) Why? We know from our own experience how many blessings await those who decide to serve Jehovah. When we think about the individuals in our territory, we tell ourselves, ‘If only we could help them to see what they are missing out on!’ Therefore, we keep encouraging them to learn the truth about Jehovah and his purpose for mankind. In effect, we say to those to whom we preach: ‘We brought a beautiful gift for you. Please accept it.’ So when people refuse to accept that gift, it is no wonder that we may have “pain in [our] heart.” Such feelings indicate, not that we lack faith, but that our heart is in the preaching work. So despite moments of discouragement, we endure. Elena, a pioneer for over 25 years, speaks for many of us when she says: “I find the preaching work difficult. Still, there is no other work I would rather do.”
HOW CAN WE BEAR FRUIT?
6. What question will we consider, and how will we do so?
6 Why can we be sure that regardless of where we preach, we can have a fruitful ministry? To answer that important question, let us examine two of Jesus’ illustrations in which he considers the need to “bear fruit.” (Matt. 13:23) The first one is about a vine.
7. (a) Who are represented by “the cultivator,” “the vine,” and “the branches”? (b) We want to find the answer to what question?
7 Read John 15:1-5, 8. Note that Jesus told his apostles: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” Jesus described Jehovah as “the cultivator,” himself as “the true vine,” and his disciples as “the branches.”* What, then, is the fruitage that Christ’s followers need to bear? In this illustration, Jesus did not directly say what that fruitage is, but he did mention a significant detail that helps us to determine the answer.
8. (a) In this illustration, why can the fruitage not refer to new disciples? (b) What is a mark of Jehovah’s requirements?
8 Speaking about his Father, Jesus stated: “He takes away every branch in me not bearing fruit.” In other words, Jehovah views us as his servants only if we bear fruit. (Matt. 13:23; 21:43) Hence, in this illustration, the fruitage that each Christian must bear cannot refer to new disciples whom we may be privileged to make. (Matt. 28:19) Otherwise, faithful Witnesses who do not succeed in making disciples because of preaching in an unresponsive territory would be like the barren branches in Jesus’ illustration. However, such a conclusion is unthinkable! Why? Because we cannot force people to become disciples. It would go against Jehovah’s loving ways to disqualify his servants for failing to do something that is beyond their reach. Whatever Jehovah asks of us is always reachable.—Deut. 30:11-14.
9. (a) We bear fruit by sharing in what activity? (b) What illustration will we consider, and why?
9 What, then, is the fruit we must bear? Clearly, the fruit must refer to an activity that each of us is able to carry out. What activity makes up the essence of “bearing fruit”? The preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom.* (Matt. 24:14) Jesus’ illustration of a sower confirms this conclusion. Let us consider this second illustration.
10. (a) In this illustration, what is represented by the seed and the soil? (b) What is produced by a wheat stalk?
10 Read Luke 8:5-8, 11-15. In the illustration of the sower, the seed is “the word of God,” or the Kingdom message. The soil represents man’s figurative heart. The seed that fell on the fine soil took root, sprouted, and grew into, let us say, a wheat stalk. Then, it “produced 100 times more fruit.” But what kind of fruit is produced by a wheat stalk? Does it bear little wheat stalks? No, it produces new seed, which may eventually grow into stalks. In this illustration, one grain of seed yielded a hundred grains. How does that aspect of the illustration apply to our ministry?
11. (a) How does the illustration of the sower apply to our ministry? (b) How do we produce new Kingdom seed?
11 For the sake of comparison, let us say that years ago some Witnesses or our Christian parents shared the Kingdom news with us. To their joy, they noticed that our heart was receptive to the seedlike Kingdom message. Just as the fine soil in Jesus’ illustration retained the seed, we accepted the message and held on to it. As a result, the seedlike Kingdom message took root and grew, as it were, into a wheat stalk that, in time, was ready to bear fruit. And just as a wheat stalk produces as fruit, not new stalks, but new seed, we are producing as fruit, not new disciples, but new Kingdom seed.* How do we produce new Kingdom seed? Each time we in one way or another proclaim the Kingdom message, we duplicate and scatter, so to speak, the seed that was planted in our heart. (Luke 6:45; 8:1) Hence, this illustration teaches us that as long as we keep on proclaiming the Kingdom message, we “bear fruit with endurance.”
12. (a) What lesson can we draw from Jesus’ illustrations of the vine and of the sower? (b) How does that lesson affect you?
12 What lesson can we draw from Jesus’ illustrations of the vine and of the sower? They help us to understand that our ability to bear fruit does not depend on the response of the people in our territory. Instead, it depends on our own faithfulness. Paul mentioned that same truth when he said: “Each person will receive his own reward according to his own work.” (1 Cor. 3:8) The reward is according to the work, not according to the results of that work. Says Matilda, a pioneer for 20 years: “It gives me joy to know that Jehovah rewards our efforts.”
HOW CAN WE ENDURE IN BEARING FRUIT?
13, 14. According to Romans 10:1, 2, for what reasons did Paul not give up on those who reacted negatively to the Kingdom message?
13 What will help us to keep bearing fruit with endurance? As considered, Paul felt discouraged by the Jews’ negative reaction to the Kingdom message. Even so, he did not give up on them. Note what he further said in his letter to the Christians in Rome about his feelings toward those Jews: “The goodwill of my heart and my supplication to God for them are indeed for their salvation. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Rom. 10:1, 2) What reasons for continuing his ministry did Paul highlight?
14 First, Paul stated why he kept on preaching to the Jews. He was moved by “the goodwill of [his] heart.” It was his heart’s desire that some Jews would find salvation. (Rom. 11:13, 14) Second, Paul mentioned his “supplication to God for them.” He implored God in prayer to help individual Jews to accept the Kingdom message. Third, Paul added: “They have a zeal for God.” He saw a potential for good in people. Zeal, if properly directed, can transform sincere individuals into zealous disciples of Christ, as Paul well knew.
15. How can we imitate Paul? Give examples.
15 How can we imitate Paul? First, we strive to maintain a heartfelt desire to find any who might be “rightly disposed for everlasting life.” Second, we supplicate Jehovah in prayer to open the heart of sincere ones. (Acts 13:48; 16:14) Silvana, a pioneer for nearly 30 years, says, “Before I go to a house in my territory, I pray to Jehovah, asking him to give me a positive attitude.” We also pray to God that angels may direct us to find honesthearted ones. (Matt. 10:11-13; Rev. 14:6) Notes Robert, a pioneer for over 30 years, “To work along with angels who know what is going on in the householders’ lives is exciting.” Third, we try to see a potential for good in people. Says Carl, an elder who was baptized over 50 years ago, “I look for any small sign that may reveal a person’s sincerity, perhaps a smile, a kind look, or an honest question.” Yes, like Paul, we can endure in bearing fruit.
“DO NOT LET YOUR HAND REST”
16, 17. (a) What lesson can we learn from the instruction found at Ecclesiastes 11:6? (b) Illustrate how our sowing may affect those who observe us.
16 Even if it appears that the Kingdom message we preach is not reaching the hearts of people, we should not underestimate the impact of our sowing work. (Read Ecclesiastes 11:6.) Granted, many people do not listen to us, but they do observe us. They notice our neat attire, polite behavior, and warm smile. In time, our conduct may help some to see that their negative views about us may not be correct after all. Sergio and Olinda, mentioned before, noticed such a change.
17 Sergio relates: “Because of illness, we did not go to the square for a while. When we returned, passersby asked, ‘What happened? We missed you.’” Adds Olinda with a smile: “The bus drivers waved to us and some shouted from their driver’s seat, ‘Good job!’ They even asked for our magazines.” And to the couple’s surprise, a man stopped by their witnessing cart, gave them a bouquet of flowers, and thanked them for the work they do.
18. Why are you determined to “bear fruit with endurance”?
18 Indeed, as long as we “do not let [our] hand rest” from sowing Kingdom seed, we have a valuable share in giving “a witness to all the nations.” (Matt. 24:14) Above all, we have the deep joy that comes from knowing that we have Jehovah’s approval, for he loves all those who “bear fruit with endurance”!
Although the branches in this illustration refer to those who are in line to receive heavenly life, the illustration contains lessons that benefit all of God’s servants.
While “bearing fruit” also applies to producing “the fruitage of the spirit,” in this article and the next, we focus on producing “the fruit of our lips,” or Kingdom preaching.—Gal. 5:22, 23; Heb. 13:15.