Pursuing the “Pearl of High Value” Today
“This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness.”—MATTHEW 24:14.
1, 2. (a) How did the Jews in Jesus’ day feel about God’s Kingdom? (b) What did Jesus do to impart proper understanding of the Kingdom, and with what results?
THE Kingdom of God was a subject of intense interest among the Jews when Jesus came to earth. (Matthew 3:1, 2; 4:23-25; John 1:49) At first, however, most of them did not fully comprehend its scope and power; neither did they understand that it would be a heavenly government. (John 3:1-5) Even some who became Jesus’ followers did not fully understand what God’s Kingdom is or what they must do to receive the blessing of becoming associate rulers with Christ.—Matthew 20:20-22; Luke 19:11; Acts 1:6.
2 As time went on, Jesus patiently taught his disciples many lessons, including the parable of the pearl of high value considered in the preceding article, pointing out to them the importance of exerting themselves in the pursuit of the heavenly Kingdom. (Matthew 6:33; 13:45, 46; Luke 13:23, 24) This must have touched their heart deeply because they soon became tireless and courageous proclaimers of the Kingdom good news to distant parts of the earth, to which fact the book of Acts amply testifies.—Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:23.
3. With reference to our time, what did Jesus say about the Kingdom?
3 What, then, about today? The blessings of an earthly paradise under the Kingdom are set out before millions. In his great prophecy about “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus specifically stated: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:3, 14; Mark 13:10) He also explained that this monumental task is to be carried out in spite of formidable obstacles and challenges, even persecution. Nevertheless, he gave this assurance: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:9-13) All of this calls for the kind of self-sacrifice and dedication manifested by the traveling merchant in Jesus’ parable. Are there individuals today who demonstrate such faith and zeal in the pursuit of the Kingdom?
The Joy of Discovering the Truth
4. What effect does Kingdom truth have on people today?
4 The merchant in Jesus’ parable was overjoyed when he found what he perceived to be a “pearl of high value.” That joy moved him to do everything within his power to acquire the pearl. (Hebrews 12:1) Today, the truth about God and his Kingdom likewise draws and motivates people. This brings to mind the comments of Brother A. H. Macmillan, who wrote about his personal search for God and His purpose for mankind, in the book Faith on the March. He said: “What I have found thousands of people are still finding every year. And they are people just like you and me, because they come from all nationalities, races, walks of life and are of all ages. Truth is no respecter of persons. It attracts all kinds of persons.”
5. What fine results are seen in the 2004 service year report?
5 The truth of those words is seen as year after year hundreds of thousands of honesthearted individuals are moved by the good news of God’s Kingdom to dedicate their life to Jehovah and to do his will. The 2004 service year, which ran from September 2003 to August 2004, was no exception. In those 12 months, 262,416 people publicly symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by water baptism. This took place in 235 lands, in which Jehovah’s Witnesses are conducting 6,085,387 home Bible studies weekly in order to help people from all walks of life and out of many nations, tribes, and tongues to take in the life-giving truth from God’s Word.—Revelation 7:9.
6. What accounts for the steady increases over the years?
6 What made all of this possible? There is no doubt that Jehovah draws these rightly disposed ones to him. (John 6:65; Acts 13:48) However, not to be minimized are the selfless spirit and tireless efforts on the part of those who have expended themselves in the pursuit of the Kingdom. At age 79, Brother Macmillan wrote: “From my first glimpse of the promises held out to sick and dying mankind my hope in what that message of the Bible has revealed has not faded. Right there I determined to find out more about what the Bible teaches so that I might be able to help others like myself who are seeking knowledge about the Almighty God, Jehovah, and his good purposes toward mankind.”
7. What experience typifies the joy and eagerness of those finding Bible truth?
7 That eagerness is also seen among Jehovah’s servants today. Take, for example, Daniela from Vienna, Austria. She said: “Since my childhood, God has been my very best friend. I always wanted to know his name because for me ‘God’ was too impersonal. But I had to wait until I was 17 years of age, when Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door. They explained everything that I wanted to know about God. I had finally found the truth, and it was wonderful! I was so excited that I started to preach to everyone.” Her enthusiastic approach soon brought ridicule from her schoolmates. “For me, though, it was like seeing Bible prophecy being fulfilled,” Daniela continued, “because I had learned that Jesus said that his followers would be hated and persecuted for his name’s sake. I was so happy and amazed.” Soon, Daniela dedicated her life to Jehovah, was baptized, and started to pursue the goal of missionary service. After she was married, Daniela, together with her husband, Helmut, took up the preaching work among the African, Chinese, Filipino, and Indian populations in Vienna. Daniela and Helmut are now serving as missionaries in southwest Africa.
They Do Not Give Up
8. What is one rewarding way in which many have demonstrated their love for God and loyalty to his Kingdom?
8 Indeed, the missionary service is one of the ways in which Jehovah’s people today demonstrate their love for God and loyalty to his Kingdom. Like the merchant in Jesus’ parable, those who take up this service are willing to travel to faraway places for the sake of the Kingdom. Of course, these missionaries are not traveling to find the Kingdom good news; they are taking it to people living in the far-flung corners of the earth, teaching and helping them to become disciples of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:19, 20) In many lands, they have to endure extraordinary hardship. But their endurance is richly rewarded.
9, 10. What exciting experiences are enjoyed by missionaries in such faraway places as Central African Republic?
9 Take, for example, the Central African Republic, where last year the attendance at the Memorial of Christ’s death was 16,184, about seven times the number of Kingdom publishers in that land. Since many parts of that country are without electricity, the people usually do their daily chores out-of-doors under the shade of a tree. So it is only natural for the missionaries to do their work the same way—conduct Bible studies out-of-doors under a shady tree. Not only is it brighter and cooler outside but there is also another advantage. The people have a natural love for the Bible, and discussing religious subjects is as common as talking about sports or the weather in other cultures. Often, passersby take note of what is happening and simply join in the study.
10 Thus, when one missionary was conducting a Bible study out-of-doors, a young man who lived across the street came over and said that since he had not been called on, the missionary should come over and study the Bible with him too. Of course, the missionary was happy to comply, and the young man is making rapid progress. In that country, the police often flag down the Witnesses on the road, not to give them a summons or a fine, but to ask for the latest issues of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines or to thank them for an article that they particularly enjoyed.
11. In spite of trials, how do longtime missionaries feel about their service?
11 Many of those who entered the missionary service 40 or 50 years ago are still faithfully serving in the field. What an example of faith and perseverance for all of us! Over the past 42 years, one couple has served together as missionaries in three different countries. The husband says: “There have been difficulties. For example, we battled malaria for 35 years. Yet, we never regretted our decision to be missionaries.” His wife adds: “There has always been so much to be grateful for. The field ministry is such a joy, and it is easy to start Bible studies. When you see the students come to the meetings and get to know one another, it is like a family get-together each time.”
They “Consider All Things to Be Loss”
12. How is true appreciation for the value of the Kingdom expressed?
12 When the traveling merchant found a pearl of high value, “away he went and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:46) This willingness to give up what may be held as valuable is characteristic of those who truly appreciate the value of the Kingdom. As one who would have a share with Christ in Kingdom glory, the apostle Paul said: “I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.”—Philippians 3:8.
13. How did one individual in the Czech Republic demonstrate his love for the Kingdom?
13 In the same way, many today are willing to make major changes in their life in order to gain the blessings of the Kingdom. For example, in October 2003, the 60-year-old headmaster of a school in the Czech Republic came across the Bible study aid Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. After reading it, he immediately contacted Jehovah’s Witnesses in his area to have a Bible study. He made fine spiritual progress and soon started to attend all the meetings. What, though, about his plans to run for the office of mayor and to enter the race for election to be a senator? He chose to enter a different race—the race for life, as a Kingdom proclaimer. He said, “I was able to place a lot of Bible literature with my students.” He symbolized his dedication to Jehovah by water immersion at a convention in July 2004.
14. (a) What has the Kingdom good news moved millions to do? (b) What sobering questions could each of us ask himself?
14 Millions of others around the world have responded to the Kingdom good news in a similar way. They have come out of the wicked world, put off their old personality, left their former associates, and given up their worldly pursuits. (John 15:19; Ephesians 4:22-24; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17) Why do they do all of this? Because they esteem the blessings of God’s Kingdom over and above anything that the present system of things can offer. Do you feel the same way about the Kingdom good news? Are you motivated by it to make the necessary changes to bring your life-style, values, and goals into harmony with what Jehovah requires? Doing so will result in rich blessings for you, now and in the future.
The Harvest Reaching Its Climax
15. What was prophesied that God’s people would do in the final days?
15 The psalmist wrote: “Your people will offer themselves willingly on the day of your military force.” Those who have offered themselves include the “company of young men just like dewdrops” and “a large army” of “women telling the good news.” (Psalm 68:11; 110:3) What has been the result of the diligence and self-sacrifice on the part of Jehovah’s people—men and women, young and old—in these final days?
16. Give an example of how God’s servants are reaching out to help others learn about the Kingdom.
16 A pioneer, or full-time Kingdom proclaimer, in India wondered how the more than two million deaf people in that land might be helped to learn about the Kingdom. (Isaiah 35:5) She decided to enroll in an institute in Bangalore to learn sign language. There she was able to share the Kingdom hope with many deaf ones, and Bible study groups were formed. Within a few weeks, over a dozen people began to come to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall. Later, at a wedding reception, the pioneer met a young deaf man from Calcutta who had many questions and showed a keen interest in knowing more about Jehovah. However, there was a problem. The young man was to return to Calcutta, some 1,000 miles [1,600 km] away, to start college, and there were no Witnesses there who knew sign language. With much effort, he persuaded his father to allow him to go to school in Bangalore instead so that he could continue his Bible study. He made fine spiritual progress, and after about a year, he dedicated his life to Jehovah. He, in turn, studied the Bible with a number of deaf individuals, including a childhood friend. The branch office in India is now arranging for pioneers to learn sign language to help in that field.
17. Relate what you find particularly encouraging about the 2004 service year report on pages 19 to 22.
17 On pages 19 to 22 of this magazine, you will find the worldwide report of the field activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the 2004 service year. Take a little time to examine it, and see for yourself the evidence that Jehovah’s people around the earth are intensely focused on pursuing the “pearl of high value” today.
Keep “Seeking First the Kingdom”
18. What information did Jesus not include in the parable of the traveling merchant, and why not?
18 Coming back once again to Jesus’ parable of the traveling merchant, we note that Jesus did not say anything about how the merchant was going to maintain his livelihood after having sold all that he had. Realistically, some might ask: ‘How would the merchant find food, clothing, and shelter now that he had nothing to fall back on? What good would that precious pearl be for him?’ Those would be reasonable questions from a fleshly point of view. But did Jesus not urge his disciples: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you”? (Matthew 6:31-33) The main point of the parable is the need to demonstrate wholehearted devotion to God and zeal for the Kingdom. Is there a lesson in this for us?
19. What key lesson can we learn from Jesus’ parable of the pearl of high value?
19 Whether we have just learned about the wonderful good news or we have been pursuing the Kingdom and telling others about its blessings for decades, we must continue to make the Kingdom the focus of our interest and attention. These are difficult times, but we have solid reasons for believing that what we are pursuing is real and beyond compare—like the pearl that the merchant came upon. World events and fulfilled Bible prophecies provide convincing proof that we are living in “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) Let us, like the traveling merchant, demonstrate wholehearted zeal for God’s Kingdom and rejoice in the privilege of proclaiming the good news.—Psalm 9:1, 2.
Do You Recall?
• Over the years, what has contributed to the increase among true worshipers?
• What spirit is seen among those serving as missionaries?
• What changes have individuals made because of the Kingdom good news?
• What valuable lesson can we learn from Jesus’ parable of the pearl of high value?
[Chart on page 19-22]
2004 SERVICE YEAR REPORT OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES WORLDWIDE
(See bound volume)
[Picture on page 14]
“Truth . . . attracts all kinds of persons.”—A. H. Macmillan
[Picture on page 15]
Daniela and Helmut preached in the foreign-language field in Vienna
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
Like the traveling merchant, missionaries today are richly blessed
[Picture on page 17]
“Your people will offer themselves willingly”