Press On in the Harvest Work!

“Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry.”​—PSALM 126:5.

1. Why “beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers” today?

AFTER Jesus Christ’s third preaching tour of Galilee, he told his disciples: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37) The situation was the same in Judea. (Luke 10:2) Since that was true nearly 2,000 years ago, what is the case today? Well, during the last service year, over 6,000,000 Witnesses of Jehovah pressed on in the figurative harvest work among the world’s 6,000,000,000 people, many of whom are “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” So Jesus’ exhortation to “beg the Master of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” is as valid now as it was centuries ago.​—Matthew 9:36, 38.

2. What brings us to the attention of the people?

2 Jehovah God, the Master of the harvest, has answered the plea to send out more workers. And what a joy it is to share in this God-directed harvest work! Though we are few in number compared with the nations, our zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making activity brings us to the world’s attention. In many lands we are frequently mentioned in the media. The ring of a doorbell in a television drama may elicit the comment that Jehovah’s Witnesses are at the door. Yes, our Christian activity as figurative harvest workers is well-known in the 21st century.

3. (a) How do we know that notice was taken of first-century Kingdom-preaching activity? (b) Why can we say that the angels support our ministry?

 3 The world also noted first-century Kingdom-preaching activities and persecuted proclaimers of the good news. Thus, the apostle Paul wrote: “It seems to me that God has put us the apostles last on exhibition as men appointed to death, because we [the apostles] have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:9) Similarly, our perseverance as Kingdom proclaimers despite persecution brings us to the world’s attention and is of importance to the angels. Says Revelation 14:6: “I [the apostle John] saw another angel flying in midheaven, and he had everlasting good news to declare as glad tidings to those who dwell on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” Yes, we have angelic support in our ministry​—our harvest work!​—Hebrews 1:13, 14.

“Objects of Hatred”

4, 5. (a) What warning did Jesus give his disciples? (b) Why are God’s present-day servants “objects of hatred”?

4 When Jesus’ apostles were sent forth as harvest workers, they heeded his instruction to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.” Jesus added: “Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. . . . And you will be objects of hatred by all people on account of my name; but he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”​—Matthew 10:16-22.

5 We are “objects of hatred” today because “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, who is the chief enemy of God and His people. (1 John 5:19) Our enemies observe our spiritual prosperity but refuse to attribute it to Jehovah. Opposers see our happy, smiling faces as we joyfully share in the harvest work. They marvel at our unity! In fact, they may grudgingly acknowledge it when they travel to another land and find that Jehovah’s Witnesses there are doing the very same work as that observed in their homeland. Of course, we know that in due time Jehovah, our backer and the source of our unity, will be made known even to our enemies.​—Ezekiel 38:10-12, 23.

6. What assurance do we have as we engage in the harvest work, but what question arises?

6 The Master of the harvest has given his Son, Jesus Christ, “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) Jehovah thus uses Jesus to direct the harvest work through the heavenly angels and the anointed “faithful and discreet slave” here on the earth. (Matthew 24:45-47; Revelation 14:6, 7) But how can we cope with enemy opposition  and yet maintain our joy as we press on in the harvest work?

7. What disposition should we endeavor to maintain when opposed or persecuted?

7 When we face opposition or even outright persecution, let us seek God’s help so that we can maintain a disposition like that of Paul. He wrote: “When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up; when being defamed, we entreat.” (1 Corinthians 4:12, 13) This spirit, coupled with our tactful public ministry, sometimes changes the attitude of our opposers.

8. What reassurance do you derive from Jesus’ words recorded at Matthew 10:28?

8 Not even the threat of death dampens our zeal as harvest workers. We fearlessly proclaim the Kingdom message as openly as possible. And we draw encouraging reassurance from Jesus’ words: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10:28) We know that our heavenly Father is the Giver of life. He rewards those who maintain integrity to him and faithfully press on in the harvest work.

A Lifesaving Message

9. How did some respond to Ezekiel’s words, and how is a similar thing happening today?

9 When the prophet Ezekiel boldly declared Jehovah’s messages to the “rebellious nations”​—the kingdoms of Israel and Judah—​some individuals were pleased to hear what he had to say. (Ezekiel 2:3) “Look!” said Jehovah, “you are to them like a song of sensuous loves, like one with a pretty voice and playing a stringed instrument well.” (Ezekiel 33:32) Although they liked Ezekiel’s words, they failed to act on them. What is happening today? When the anointed remnant and their companions courageously declare Jehovah’s messages, some like to hear about Kingdom blessings, but they do not respond appreciatively, become disciples, and join in the harvest work.

10, 11. In the first half of the 20th century, what was done to publicize our lifesaving message, and with what results?

10 On the other hand, many have responded favorably to the harvest work and have  shared in declaring God’s messages. During a series of Christian conventions from 1922 to 1928, for instance, judgment messages on Satan’s wicked system of things rang out clearly. Radio stations broadcast these denunciations presented at those assemblies. Thereafter, God’s people distributed printed copies of these by the millions.

11 In the late 1930’s, another form of witnessing activity opened up​—information marches. At first, Jehovah’s people wore placards that announced public talks. Later, they carried placards with such slogans as “Religion is a snare and a racket” and “Serve God and Christ the King.” When they marched through the streets, they attracted the attention of passersby. ‘This did much to bring Jehovah’s Witnesses into the limelight and to embolden them,’ commented a brother who regularly shared in this work on the busy streets of London, England.

12. In addition to God’s judgment messages, what have we featured in our ministry, and who are now united in preaching the good news?

12 As we declare God’s judgment messages, we also feature the positive aspects of the Kingdom message. Our bold witnessing on the world stage helps us search out deserving ones. (Matthew 10:11) Most of the final members of the anointed class responded to the clarion harvest call during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Then, at a convention in 1935, came the wonderful news of a blessed future for “a great crowd” of “other sheep” on a paradise earth. (Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) They have heeded God’s judgment messages and have become united with the anointed ones in preaching the lifesaving good news.

13, 14. (a) What comfort can be drawn from Psalm 126:5, 6? (b) If we continue to sow and water, what will happen?

13 Of great comfort to God’s harvest workers, and especially to those who suffer persecution, are the words of Psalm 126:5, 6: “Those sowing seed with tears will reap even with a joyful cry. The one that without fail goes forth, even weeping, carrying along a bagful of seed, will without fail come in with a joyful cry, carrying along his sheaves.” The psalmist’s words about sowing and reaping illustrate Jehovah’s care for and blessing on the  remnant that returned from captivity in ancient Babylon. They were very happy at their release, but they may have wept when sowing seed in the desolate ground that had not been worked during their 70-year exile. However, those who went ahead with their sowing and construction activities enjoyed fruitage and satisfaction from their labor.

14 We may shed tears when under trial or when we or our fellow believers are suffering for righteousness’ sake. (1 Peter 3:14) In our harvest work, we may at first have a hard time because we seemingly have nothing to show for our efforts in the ministry. But if we continue to sow and water, God will make things grow, often beyond our expectations. (1 Corinthians 3:6) This is well illustrated by the results of our distribution of Bibles and Scriptural publications.

15. Give an example of the usefulness of Christian publications in the harvest work.

15 Consider the example of a man named Jim. When his mother died, he found among her possessions a copy of the book Life​—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? * He read it with interest. In a discussion with a Witness who approached him on the street, Jim agreed to a return visit, and this led to a Bible study. Jim made rapid spiritual progress, dedicated himself to Jehovah, and was baptized. He told other members of his family about what he had learned. As a result, his sister and brother became Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Jim later enjoyed the privilege of serving as a full-time volunteer at Bethel in London.

Persecuted yet Joyful

16. (a) Why has success been experienced in the harvest work? (b) What warning did Jesus give regarding the effect of the good news, but with what attitude do we approach people?

16 Why has there been such success in the harvest work? Because anointed Christians and their companions have heeded Jesus’ instructions: “What I tell you in the darkness, say in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach from the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27) However, we can expect hardships, for Jesus warned: “Brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise up against parents and will have them put to death.” Jesus further said: “Do not think I came to put peace upon the earth; I came to put, not peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:21, 34) Jesus did not deliberately set out to divide families. But the good news sometimes had that effect. The same is true of God’s servants today. When we visit families, it is not our intention to introduce a divisive factor. It is our desire that everyone embrace the good news. Therefore, we try to approach all members of a family in a kind, sympathetic way that makes our message appealing to those “rightly disposed for everlasting life.”​—Acts 13:48.

17. How are those who uphold God’s sovereignty set apart, and what is one example of this?

17 The Kingdom message has set apart those who uphold God’s sovereignty. For instance, consider how our fellow worshipers stood out as different because they ‘paid Caesar’s things to Caesar but God’s things to God’ in the days of National Socialism in Germany. (Luke 20:25) In contrast with religious leaders and nominal Christians associated with the churches of Christendom, Jehovah’s servants stood firm, refusing to violate Bible principles. (Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 4:10; John 17:16) Professor Christine King, author of the book The Nazi State and the New Religions, observed: “Only against the Witnesses was the [Nazi] government unsuccessful, for although they had killed thousands, the work went on and in May 1945 the Jehovah’s Witness movement was still alive, whilst National Socialism was not.”

18. What attitude do Jehovah’s people manifest despite persecution?

18 Significant indeed is the attitude manifested by Jehovah’s people when they are  faced with persecution. While secular authorities may be impressed by our faith, they express amazement at the absence of ill-will or rancor on our part. For instance, Witness survivors of the Holocaust frequently express joy and contentment as they look back on their experiences. They know that Jehovah gave them “power beyond what is normal.” (2 Corinthians 4:7) Anointed ones among us have the assurance that their “names have been inscribed in the heavens.” (Luke 10:20) Their endurance produces a hope that does not lead to disappointment, and faithful harvest workers with earthly prospects have a similar conviction.​—Romans 5:4, 5.

Persevere in the Harvest Work

19. What effective methods have been used in the Christian ministry?

19 How much longer Jehovah will allow us to engage in the figurative harvest work remains to be seen. In the meantime, we should bear in mind that harvesters have specific methods for doing their work. Similarly, we can be sure that our faithfulness in using the tried and tested ways of preaching will prove effective. Paul told fellow Christians: “I entreat you, . . . become imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16) When Paul met with the Ephesian elders at Miletus, he reminded them that he had not held back from teaching them “publicly and from house to house.” (Acts 20:20, 21) Paul’s companion Timothy had learned what the apostle’s methods were and could therefore acquaint the Corinthians with these. (1 Corinthians 4:17) God blessed Paul’s teaching methods, even as he will bless our perseverance in preaching the good news publicly from house to house, on return visits, on home Bible studies, and anywhere that people can be found.​—Acts 17:17.

20. How did Jesus indicate that an abundant spiritual harvest was at hand, and how has this proved true in recent years?

20 After witnessing to a Samaritan woman near Sychar in 30 C.E., Jesus spoke of the spiritual harvest. He told his disciples: “Lift up your eyes and view the fields, that they are white for harvesting. Already the reaper is receiving wages and gathering fruit for everlasting life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together.” (John 4:34-36) Perhaps Jesus had already seen the effect of his encounter with the Samaritan woman, for many were putting faith in him on account of her testimony. (John 4:39) In recent years, various countries have lifted restrictions on Jehovah’s Witnesses or have granted them legal recognition, thus opening up new fields for harvesting. The result is that an abundant spiritual harvest is in progress. In fact, throughout the world, rich blessings are being experienced as we joyfully continue to engage in the spiritual harvest.

21. Why do we have reason to press on as joyful harvest workers?

21 When crops are ripe and ready for harvesting, workers must act with urgency. They must labor without delay. Today, we need to work industriously and with a sense of urgency because we are living in “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Yes, we encounter trials, but there is a greater harvest of Jehovah’s worshipers than ever before. This is therefore a day of rejoicing. (Isaiah 9:3) As joyful workers, then, let us press on in the harvest work!

[Footnote]

^ par. 15 Published and distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

How Would You Answer?

How has the Master of the harvest answered the plea for more workers?

Although we are “objects of hatred,” what disposition do we maintain?

Why are we joyful even though we are persecuted?

Why should we persevere in the harvest work with a sense of urgency?

[Study Questions]

[Pictures on page 16, 17]

Those engaging in the spiritual harvest have angelic support

[Picture on page 18]

Information marches brought the Kingdom message to the attention of many

[Picture on page 18]

We plant and water, but God makes it grow