Are You Reaching Out?
“If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.”—1 TIMOTHY 3:1.
1. The fulfilling of what objective is of prime importance among Jehovah’s Witnesses?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES have proper objectives that are directed and carried out in a godly way. This is not surprising, since their God has noble objectives and always accomplishes his purposes. (Isaiah 55:8-11) Jehovah’s servants should not be like those people who lack a fine objective and pass heedlessly through life doing little to benefit anyone apart from themselves. Of prime importance to God’s Witnesses is the fulfilling of the noble objective of proclaiming the Kingdom message and sharing with others the life-giving knowledge of God’s Word.—Psalm 119:105; Mark 13:10; John 17:3.
2. What objective for Christian men was mentioned by Paul at 1 Timothy 3:1?
2 In Jehovah’s organization, there are also other noble objectives. The apostle Paul cited one of these when he wrote: “That statement is faithful. If any man is reaching out for an office of overseer, he is desirous of a fine work.” Such a man wants to accomplish something for the good of others. He desires “a fine work,” not a life of ease and glory. Another translation says: “It is quite true to say that a man who sets his heart on leadership has laudable ambition.”—1 Timothy 3:1, Phillips.
Dangers for Elders
3, 4. Why should a man reaching out to become an overseer guard his heart?
3 In what way does a man who sets his heart on being a Christian overseer have a “laudable ambition”? Well, ambition is an ardent desire to achieve a particular objective. True, there are noble and ignoble ambitions. But if a man humbly reaches out for an office of overseer because he wants to serve others, his service is rendered with upright motives and can result in spiritual blessings. But he needs to guard his heart.—Proverbs 4:23.
4 Some ambitious people seek glory. Others want to rule fellow humans. Greed for prominence or power is like a rotten root that can cause even a healthy-looking tree to come crashing down. A Christian too could succumb to such wrongly motivated ambition. (Proverbs 16:18) “I wrote something to the congregation,” said the apostle John, “but Diotrephes, who likes to have the first place among them [“who wants to be head of everything,” Phillips], does not receive anything from us with respect. That is why, if I come, I will call to remembrance his works which he goes on doing, chattering about us with wicked words. Also, not being content with these things, neither does he himself receive the brothers with respect, and those who are wanting to receive them he tries to hinder and to throw out of the congregation.” (3 John 9, 10) The ambition of Diotrephes was unchristian. Arrogance and the ambitious pursuit of power over others have no place among Jesus’ true followers.—Proverbs 21:4.
5. With what attitude should overseers care for their duties?
5 A Christian overseer who cares for his duties with the right motive will not pursue selfish ambitions. He will consider this fine work of Christian oversight a God-given privilege and will shepherd God’s flock “not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming [an example] to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2, 3) Yes, overseers should guard against developing pride and seeking to wield power abusively.
6. Why must an elder not lord it over God’s people?
6 An elder should not lord it over other Christians, for he is their fellow worker, not ‘a master over their faith.’ (2 Corinthians 1:24) When certain apostles sought prominence, Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them and the great men wield authority over them. This is not the way among you; but whoever wants to become great among you must be your minister, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. Just as the Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28) An elder is not the Chief Shepherd but only an undershepherd. If he lords it over the flock, he manifests a spirit of pride. Especially would harm result if he enticed others to help him further his proud ambitions. Says a proverb: “Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah. Hand may join to hand, yet one will not be free from punishment.”—Proverbs 16:5.
7, 8. (a) Why is it necessary for Christian elders to be humble? (b) Give an example of a humble elder.
7 Christian elders should therefore ‘humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.’ Pride stands in the way of spiritual usefulness, for only the humble are in the proper condition of heart and mind to do the divine will. “God opposes the haughty ones, but he gives undeserved kindness to the humble ones.” (1 Peter 5:5, 6) Yes, Jehovah blesses the humble-minded. It is from among these that qualified men are appointed to serve as Christian elders.
8 The modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses is filled with accounts of humble service rendered by godly individuals. For instance, consider mild-mannered W. J. Thorn, once a pilgrim, or traveling overseer, and a longtime Bethel worker. Concerning him, one Christian said: “I will never, never forget a statement that Brother Thorn made that has helped me to this day. He said, and I quote, ‘Whenever I get to thinking a great deal of myself, I take myself into the corner, so to speak, and say: “You little speck of dust. What have you got to be proud of?”’” What a commendable quality for elders and others to display! Remember, “the result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”—Proverbs 22:4.
The God-Given Desire to Serve
9. Why can it be said that the desire to serve as an overseer is God-given?
9 Is the desire to serve as an overseer God-given? Yes, for Jehovah’s spirit supplies motivation, courage, and strength to render sacred service to him. For example, what happened when Jesus’ persecuted followers prayed for boldness to preach? “The place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were one and all filled with the holy spirit and were speaking the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:27-31) Since the holy spirit produced such results, it can also move a person to reach out.
10. (a) What is one reason why a Christian man might not be reaching out? (b) If God grants us a service privilege, of what can we be sure?
10 Why might a mature Christian not be reaching out? He may be a spiritual man but feel inadequate. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) Of course, we should have a modest view of ourselves, being aware of our limitations. (Micah 6:8) Rather than presumptuously thinking we are the most qualified for a certain responsibility, it is good to remember that “wisdom is with the modest ones.” (Proverbs 11:2) But we should also realize that if God grants us a privilege of service, he will also supply the strength needed to carry it out. As Paul said: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Philippians 4:13.
11. What can be done by a Christian who is not reaching out because he feels that he lacks sufficient wisdom to give counsel?
11 A Christian may not reach out because he feels that he lacks sufficient wisdom to give counsel. Well, perhaps he can gain wisdom by being a more diligent student of God’s Word, and certainly he should pray for wisdom. James wrote: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8) In answer to prayer, God gave Solomon “a wise and understanding heart” that enabled him to discern between good and bad when judging. (1 Kings 3:9-14) Solomon’s case was special, but with diligent study and God’s help, men entrusted with congregation responsibility can counsel others righteously. “Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.”—Proverbs 2:6.
12. If because of anxiety a man is not reaching out, what can help him?
12 A measure of anxiety may hold a man back from reaching out. He may think that he would be unable to shoulder the weighty responsibility of being an elder. Even Paul admitted: “There is what rushes in on me from day to day, the anxiety for all the congregations.” (2 Corinthians 11:28) But the apostle knew what to do when experiencing anxiety, for he wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Yes, prayer and trust in God can help to allay anxiety.
13. How might a man pray if he is uneasy about reaching out?
13 If some anxiety persists, a man uneasy about reaching out might pray as did David: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way, and lead me in the way of time indefinite.” (Psalm 139:23, 24) Whatever may be the nature of our “disquieting” or “anxious” thoughts, God can help us to cope with them so that we can make spiritual progress. (See The New International Version.) It is well put in another psalm: “When I said: ‘My foot will certainly move unsteadily,’ your own loving-kindness, O Jehovah, kept sustaining me. When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own consolations began to fondle my soul.”—Psalm 94:18, 19.
Gladly Serve as Jehovah Wills
14. Why should a man who is not reaching out pray for God’s holy spirit?
14 If because of anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, or a lack of motivation a Christian man fails to reach out, it would certainly be fitting to pray for God’s spirit. Said Jesus: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:13) Since peace and self-control are among the fruits of the spirit, this spirit can help us to cope with anxiety or feelings of inadequacy.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
15. Prayers of what kind can help those who lack motivation to make themselves available for service privileges?
15 What about a lack of motivation? As baptized Christians, we need to pray that God will make us do what pleases him. David begged: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah . . . Make me walk in your truth and teach me.” (Psalm 25:4, 5) Prayers such as this will help us to avoid a wrong path, and we can pray in a similar way if we lack motivation to reach out. We can ask Jehovah to make us want to accept privileges of service. In fact, if we pray for God’s spirit and yield to its direction, we will doubtless make ourselves available if service privileges are offered to us. After all, in no way would God’s servants want to resist his spirit.—Ephesians 4:30.
16. What attitude provides strong motivation to reach out for congregation responsibility?
16 Having “the mind of Christ,” we find delight in doing the divine will. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Jesus had the same attitude as the psalmist, who said: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” (Psalm 40:8) Christ said: “Look! I am come to do your will,” and that went as far as death on the torture stake. (Hebrews 10:9, 10) A desire to do everything possible in Jehovah’s service provides strong motivation to reach out for congregation responsibility.
Look to the Future
17. (a) Why should men who are not now serving as fully as they once did not be discouraged? (b) What is the greatest privilege of all?
17 Because of health problems or for other reasons, some who once cared for important congregation duties do not presently have such privileges. These should not be discouraged. We know that many faithful men no longer able to serve as fully as they once did are still standing firm as integrity keepers. (Psalm 25:21) Indeed, humble longtime elders can continue to make their experience available by remaining on the body of elders. Though handicapped by age or disabilities, they need not step down. Meanwhile, let each Witness of Jehovah cherish the finest privilege of all, that of ‘talking about the glory of God’s kingship’ as upholders of his holy name.—Psalm 145:10-13.
18. (a) If an elder or a ministerial servant has been deleted, what may be needed? (b) What fine attitude did one deleted elder display?
18 If you at one time were an elder or a ministerial servant but do not now serve in that capacity, be sure that God still cares for you, and perhaps he will grant you some unexpected privileges in the future. (1 Peter 5:6, 7) If you need to make some adjustments, be willing to admit a fault and work on it with God’s help. Some who have been deleted as elders have adopted an unchristian attitude, and a few have become inactive or have fallen away from the truth. But how wise it is to be like those who have manifested a fine spirit! For instance, when an elder who had served for years in Central America was deleted, he said: “It hurts me very much to have lost the privilege that I have treasured for so long. But I am going to work hard in whatever way the brothers want to use me and work to recover my privileges of service.” In time, this brother was privileged to serve as an elder again.
19. What appropriate advice is given to a brother who has been deleted as an elder or a ministerial servant?
19 If you were deleted as an elder or as a ministerial servant, then, maintain a humble spirit. Avoid a bitter attitude that would disqualify you for future privileges. A godly spirit wins respect. Instead of becoming discouraged, reflect on how Jehovah is blessing your ministry or your household. Build your family up spiritually, visit the sick, and encourage the weak. Above all, cherish your privilege of praising God and proclaiming the good news as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Psalm 145:1, 2; Isaiah 43:10-12.
20. How may a body of elders be able to help a former overseer or ministerial servant?
20 A body of elders should realize that deletion may cause stress for a former overseer or ministerial servant, even if he voluntarily gives up the privilege. If he is not disfellowshipped, but the elders see that the brother is depressed, they ought to provide loving spiritual assistance. (1 Thessalonians 5:14) They should help him to realize that he is needed in the congregation. Even if counsel has been required, it may not be such a long time before a humble and grateful man again receives added privileges of service in the congregation.
21. Who waited for service privileges, and what is suggested to those waiting for them today?
21 If you are reaching out, you may have to wait a while before receiving further service privileges. Do not be impatient. Moses waited for 40 years before God used him when freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. (Acts 7:23-36) Before being appointed as Moses’ successor, Joshua long served as his attendant. (Exodus 33:11; Numbers 27:15-23) David waited for some time before being placed on Israel’s throne. (2 Samuel 2:7; 5:3) Peter and John Mark apparently underwent periods of refinement. (Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:15-19; Acts 13:13; 15:36-41; Colossians 4:10) So if you do not now have congregation duties, Jehovah may be allowing you to be molded by gaining more experience. In any case, seek God’s help as you reach out, and he may bless you with additional privileges of service. Meanwhile, work diligently to qualify for congregation responsibility and manifest the spirit of David, who declared: “The praise of Jehovah my mouth will speak; and let all flesh bless his holy name to time indefinite, even forever.”—Psalm 145:21.
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W. J. Thorn set a fine example as a humble elder