“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 brothers and sisters who keep preaching in territories where many do not listen? (See opening picture.) (b) What did Jesus say about preaching in his “home territory”? (See footnote.)
SERGIO AND OLINDA are a pioneer couple in the United States. They are both over 80 years old. Lately, their sore legs make it difficult for them to walk. But, as they have done for many years, they walk to a busy square in their town at seven o’clock in the morning. They take their place near a bus stop and offer our publications to people walking by. Most people ignore them, but Sergio and Olinda stay in their spot and smile at those who look at them. At noon, they slowly walk home. The next morning, at seven o’clock, they go back to the bus stop. They keep preaching six mornings a week, throughout the year.
2 Like Sergio and Olinda, there are many faithful brothers and sisters who have been preaching in their home territory for many years, even though most people do not listen. Maybe you preach in a territory like that too. If so, we commend you, because you endure and continue to preach even though it is difficult.* (See footnote.) Your example encourages many brothers and sisters, even those with years of experience. Notice what some circuit overseers have said: “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 In this article we will answer three questions: Why may we sometimes feel discouraged? What does it mean to bear fruit? What will help us to keep bearing fruit with endurance? Knowing the answers to these questions will encourage us to continue doing the preaching work that Jesus gave us to do.
WHY MAY WE FEEL DISCOURAGED?
4. (a) How did the negative reaction from most Jews make Paul feel? (b) Why did Paul feel that way?
4 Have you ever felt discouraged because people in your territory do not want to listen to the message about the Kingdom? If so, you will understand how the apostle Paul felt. He spent about 30 years preaching, and he helped many people to become Christians. (Acts 14:21; 2 Corinthians 3:2, 3) Still, he was not able to help many Jews to become Christians. Instead, most of them refused to listen to Paul, and some even persecuted him. (Acts 14:19; 17:1, 4, 5, 13) How did that negative reaction make Paul feel? He said: “I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart.” (Romans 9:1-3) Why did he feel that way? Because he really loved preaching and he loved people. Paul truly cared about the Jews and felt sad when they rejected God’s mercy.
5. (a) What motivates us to preach? (b) Why is it normal to feel discouraged sometimes?
5 Like Paul, we preach to people because we care about them and want to help them. (Matthew 22:39; 1 Corinthians 11:1) We know from our own experience that serving Jehovah is the best way to live. And we want to help others to see how much better their life could be too! That is why we keep encouraging them to learn the truth about Jehovah and his purpose for mankind. It is as though we are bringing them a beautiful gift and begging them: ‘Please accept this.’ So when they reject that gift, it is normal to feel ‘pain in our heart,’ as Paul did. We feel this pain, not because we lack faith, but because we really love people. So although we may sometimes feel discouraged, we continue to preach. We may agree with Elena, a pioneer for over 25 years, who says: “I find the preaching work difficult. Still, there is no other work I would rather do.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BEAR FRUIT?
6. What question will we answer now?
6 Why can we be sure that we can be successful in our ministry no matter where we preach? To answer that important question, let us discuss two of Jesus’ illustrations in which he talks about the need to “bear fruit.” (Matthew 13:23) The first illustration is about a vine.
7. (a) In Jesus’ illustration, who are represented by “the cultivator,” “the vine,” and “the branches”? (b) What question do we still need to answer?
7 Read John 15:1-5, 8. In this illustration, Jesus explained that Jehovah is “the cultivator,” Jesus himself is “the vine,” and his disciples are “the branches.”* (See footnote.) Then Jesus told his apostles: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” So, what does it mean to bear fruit? In this illustration, Jesus did not say specifically what that fruit is, but he did give a clue that helps us to find the answer to that question.
8. (a) In Jesus’ illustration, why can “bearing fruit” not mean making new disciples? (b) What is true of everything Jehovah asks us to do?
8 Jesus said about his Father: “He takes away every branch in me not bearing fruit.” In other words, we can be Jehovah’s servants only if we bear fruit. (Matthew 13:23; 21:43) So in this illustration, bearing fruit cannot mean making new disciples. (Matthew 28:19) If it did, faithful Witnesses who have not helped someone to become a disciple of Jesus would be like the branches that do not bear fruit. But this cannot be true! Why? Because we cannot force people to become disciples. Jehovah is loving. He would never ask us to do something we are not able to do. He only asks of us what we can do.—Deuteronomy 30:11-14.
9. (a) How do we bear fruit? (b) What illustration will we discuss next?
9 What, then, does it mean to bear fruit? It must be something that all of us can do. What work has Jehovah given to all of his servants? The preaching of the good news of God’s Kingdom.* (See footnote.) (Matthew 24:14) Jesus’ illustration of the sower makes this clear. Let us discuss that illustration next.
10. (a) What are the seed and the soil in Jesus’ illustration? (b) What does a wheat stalk produce?
10 Read Luke 8:5-8, 11-15. In the illustration of the sower, Jesus explained that the seed is “the word of God,” or the message about God’s Kingdom. The soil is a person’s heart. The seed that fell on the fine soil grew roots, sprouted, and became a plant. Then, the plant “produced 100 times more fruit.” If that plant was a wheat stalk, what kind of fruit would it produce? Little wheat stalks? No, it would produce seeds, which in time grow and become wheat stalks. In this illustration, one seed produced 100 seeds. What does this teach us about our ministry?
11. (a) What does the illustration of the sower teach us about our ministry? (b) How do we produce new seed?
11 When our Christian parents or other Witnesses first taught us about God’s Kingdom, it was as if they planted a seed in fine soil. They were very happy when they saw that we accepted the message. That seed kept growing and growing until it was ready to bear fruit. And just as the wheat stalk mentioned earlier does not produce new stalks, but new seed, we do not produce new disciples, but new seed.* (See footnote.) How do we do that? Every time we tell others about God’s Kingdom, it is as if we are multiplying and scattering the seed that was planted in our heart. (Luke 6:45; 8:1) So as long as we keep preaching the message about God’s Kingdom, we “bear fruit with endurance.”
12. (a) What do we learn from Jesus’ illustrations of the vine and of the sower? (b) How does that lesson make you feel?
12 What do we learn from Jesus’ illustrations of the vine and of the sower? We learn that “bearing fruit” does not depend on whether people listen to the message. It depends on whether we keep on preaching. Paul said something similar when he explained: “Each person will receive his own reward according to his own work.” (1 Corinthians 3:8) Jehovah will reward us for our work, not for the results of our work. Matilda, who has been pioneering for 20 years, says, “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, what were the reasons why Paul never stopped preaching?
13 What will help us to “bear fruit with endurance”? Let us look at Paul’s example more closely. We know that Paul felt discouraged because the Jews rejected the message about the Kingdom. However, Paul never stopped preaching to them. He explained how he felt about those Jews when he said: “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.” (Romans 10:1, 2) So why did Paul keep preaching?
14 First, Paul said that he was moved to preach to the Jews because of ‘the goodwill of his heart.’ He really wanted them to be saved. (Romans 11:13, 14) Second, he mentioned his “supplication to God for them.” Paul begged Jehovah to help individual Jews to accept the message about the Kingdom. Third, Paul said: “They have a zeal for God.” Paul saw the good in people and their potential to serve Jehovah. He knew that those zealous Jews could become zealous disciples of Christ, just like him.
15. How can we imitate Paul? Give examples.
15 How can we imitate Paul? First, we must really want to find those who are “rightly disposed for everlasting life.” Second, we beg Jehovah to help sincere people to listen when we preach to them. (Acts 13:48; 16:14) That is what Silvana, who has been pioneering for nearly 30 years, has done. She 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 that the angels will help us to find people who are willing to listen. (Matthew 10:11-13; Revelation 14:6) Robert, who has been pioneering for over 30 years, says, “To work along with angels who know what is going on in the householders’ lives is exciting.” Third, we try to see the good in people and their potential to serve Jehovah. Carl, an elder who was baptized over 50 years ago, says, “I look for any small sign that may reveal a person’s sincerity, perhaps a smile, a kind look, or an honest question.” If we do these things, we can “bear fruit with endurance,” as Paul did.
“DO NOT LET YOUR HAND REST”
16, 17. (a) What lesson can we learn from Ecclesiastes 11:6? (b) How can our preaching affect those who are watching us?
16 We should never forget how much our preaching can affect people, even if it seems that no one listens. (Read Ecclesiastes 11:6.) People are watching us. They notice that we are dressed neatly and that we are polite and friendly. This may impress them, and in time, even those who used to think negatively about us may start to think more positively about us. Sergio and Olinda found this to be true.
17 Sergio says: “Because of illness, we did not go to the square for a while. When we returned, passersby asked, ‘What happened? We missed you.’” Olinda adds 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.” Sergio and Olinda were very surprised when a man came to 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 As long as you “do not let your hand rest” from telling others about God’s Kingdom, you have an important part in giving “a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) Most of all, you can have great joy because you know that you are making Jehovah happy. He loves all those who “bear fruit with endurance”!
Although the branches in this illustration refer to Christians who will go to heaven, the illustration has lessons for all of God’s servants.
The expression “bearing fruit” can also refer to producing “the fruitage of the spirit.” However, this article and the next one focus on producing “the fruit of our lips,” or preaching about God’s Kingdom.—Galatians 5:22, 23; Hebrews 13:15.