“Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour.”—MATT. 25:13.
1-3. (a) What situations illustrate the point of two of Jesus’ parables? (b) We need to answer what questions?
IMAGINE that a prominent official asks you to drive him to an important appointment. A few minutes before leaving to pick him up for the meeting, however, you realize that there is not enough fuel in your vehicle to make the trip. You need to rush off to purchase some. As you do, the official arrives. He looks around but cannot find you. He cannot wait, so he asks someone else to drive him. You soon get back and realize that the official has left without you. How would you feel?
2 Now imagine that you are the official and you have selected three capable men to handle some important business. You explain the assignment, and all three willingly accept. Yet, when you return a while later, you learn that only two of them have handled their task. What is more, the one who did not is making excuses. Actually, he did not even try. How would you feel?
3 In his parables of the virgins and the talents, Jesus used similar situations to illustrate why during the time of the end, some anointed Christians would prove to be faithful and discreet, but others would not. * (Matt. 25:1-30) He emphasized his point by saying: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you know neither the day nor the hour”—that is, when Jesus would actually execute God’s judgment on Satan’s world. (Matt. 25:13) We can apply that counsel today. How can we benefit from keeping on the watch, as Jesus encouraged us to do? Who have proved themselves ready for survival? And what must we do now to stay on the watch?
BENEFIT BY KEEPING ON THE WATCH
4. Why does ‘staying awake’ not mean watching the clock?
4 Some activities, such as working in a factory, visiting a doctor, or taking public transportation, require that we respect a schedule. In other activities, though, like fighting a fire or doing rescue work after a disaster has struck, watching the clock can be a distraction, or worse, a danger. Under such circumstances, it is far more important to focus on the work at hand than to keep to a schedule. As the end of this system draws ever closer, the work of pointing to Jehovah’s provisions for salvation has never been more important. Staying awake as Christians does not mean watching the clock. In fact, there are at least five ways that we benefit from not knowing the exact day or hour when the end will come.
5. How may not knowing the day or the hour help reveal what is in our heart?
5 First, our not knowing when the end will arrive allows us to reveal what is really in our heart. In fact, not knowing dignifies us, allowing us to use our free will in manifesting our loyalty to Jehovah. Although we look forward to surviving the end of this system, we serve Jehovah because we love him, not merely to get life. (Read Psalm 37:4.) We find pleasure in doing his will, and we realize that God is teaching us to benefit ourselves. (Isa. 48:17) No, we do not find his commandments burdensome.—1 John 5:3.
6. When we serve God out of love, how does he feel, and why?
6 A second benefit of our not knowing the day or the hour is that we thus have the opportunity to make Jehovah’s heart glad. When we serve him out of love—not because of a date or solely because of a reward—we contribute to Jehovah’s answer to the baseless taunts of his adversary, Satan. (Job 2:4, 5; read Proverbs 27:11.) Considering all the pain and sorrow that the Devil has caused, we gladly stand up for Jehovah’s sovereignty and reject Satan’s wicked rule.
7. Why do you think that pursuing a life of self-sacrifice is desirable?
7 Third, our serving without a specific date in mind encourages us to pursue a life of self-sacrifice. Some today who do not know God also believe that the world as we know it cannot go on for much longer. Being afraid of some impending disaster, they have the attitude: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” (1 Cor. 15:32) We, on the other hand, are not fearful. We refuse to isolate ourselves so as to cater to our own selfish longings. (Prov. 18:1) Rather, we disown ourselves and freely make use of our time, energy, and other assets to share the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. (Read Matthew 16:24.) We find pleasure in serving God, especially in helping others come to know him.
8. What Bible example shows why we need to rely more fully on Jehovah and his Word?
8 A fourth benefit to our not knowing the day or the hour is that it helps us to rely more fully on Jehovah and to be diligent in applying his Word in our life. One prominent aspect of our sinful human nature is our tendency to rely on ourselves. Paul admonished all Christians: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” Twenty-three thousand lost Jehovah’s favor shortly before Joshua was to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. “These things,” says Paul, “were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Cor. 10:8, 11, 12.
9. How can adversities refine us and draw us closer to God?
9 A fifth way that we benefit from not knowing when the end will come is that it allows present adversities to refine us. (Read Psalm 119:71.) The last days of this system are indeed “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Many in Satan’s world hate us, so we may be persecuted for our faith. (John 15:19; 16:2) If we humble ourselves and seek God’s direction during such trials, our faith will be refined, or purified, as though through fire. We do not give out. Rather, we will draw closer to Jehovah than we may have imagined possible.—Jas. 1:2-4; 4:8.
10. What makes time seem to pass by quickly?
10 The passing of time is relative. When we are busy and involved instead of watching the clock, time seems to fly by. Likewise, if we become absorbed in the exciting work Jehovah has given us to do, that day and hour may well arrive before we realize it. In this connection, most anointed ones have set a wonderful example. Let us briefly review what happened after Jesus was installed as King in 1914 and see how some proved themselves ready while others did not.
ANOINTED ONES PROVE THEMSELVES READY
11. After 1914, why did some of the anointed conclude that the Lord was delaying?
11 Recall Jesus’ parables of the virgins and the talents. If the virgins or the slaves in those parables had known when the bridegroom or the master was arriving, they would not have needed to keep on the watch. But they did not know, so they needed to keep ready. Although the anointed had for decades looked to 1914 as a marked year, they did not clearly understand what would happen. When things did not take place as they expected, it could have looked as if the Bridegroom were delaying. One brother later recalled, “A few of us seriously thought we were going to heaven during the first week of that October .”
12. How did anointed ones prove themselves faithful and discreet?
12 Just think how discouraging it could have been to expect the end and for it not to occur! Moreover, the brothers faced opposition related to World War I. A period of relative inactivity, like sleep, set in. But in 1919, there was a call to wake up! Jesus had come to God’s spiritual temple, and a time for inspection arrived. Some, however, failed that inspection and consequently lost their privilege to continue in the King’s “business.” (Matt. 25:16) It was as if they were not diligent in replenishing their supply of spiritual oil, like the foolish virgins. And like the sluggish slave, they were unwilling to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom. The majority of anointed ones, though, showed unshakable loyalty and a strong desire to serve their Master even during the difficult war years.
13. What was the attitude of the slave class following 1914, and what is it today?
13 After 1914, The Watchtower made this significant statement: “Brethren, those of us who are in the right attitude toward God are not disappointed at any of His arrangements. We did not wish our own will to be done; so when we found out that we were expecting the wrong thing in October, 1914, then we were glad that the Lord did not change His Plan to suit us. We did not wish Him to do so. We merely wish to be able to apprehend His plans and purposes.” This attitude of humility and devotion still characterizes the Lord’s anointed. They do not claim to be inspired, but they are determined to conduct the Lord’s “business” on earth. And now “a great crowd” of “other sheep,” Christians with an earthly hope, are imitating their watchfulness and zeal.—Rev. 7:9; John 10:16.
PROVING OURSELVES READY
14. How will sticking close to God’s channel for dispensing spiritual food safeguard us?
14 Just as anointed Christians do, alert members of the great crowd are sticking close to God’s appointed channel for dispensing spiritual food. As a result, it is as if they too are replenishing their supply of spiritual oil from God’s Word and spirit. (Read Psalm 119:130; John 16:13.) Thus strengthened, they too prove themselves ready for Christ’s return, staying active even under serious trial. In one Nazi prison camp, for example, at first the brothers had only one copy of the Bible. So they prayed for further spiritual food. Shortly thereafter they learned that a newly imprisoned brother had managed to smuggle a few new issues of The Watchtower into the camp inside his wooden leg. Among the survivors was an anointed brother named Ernst Wauer, who later recalled: “Jehovah helped us in a marvelous way to commit to memory the fortifying thoughts in the articles.” Then he said: “Nowadays, it is so easy to get spiritual food, but do we always appreciate it? I am confident that Jehovah has abundant blessings in store for those who trust in him, stay loyal, and feed at his table.”
15, 16. How was one couple’s zeal for the Christian ministry rewarded, and what can you learn from such experiences?
15 The other sheep also stay busy in the Master’s work, in full support of Christ’s brothers. (Matt. 25:40) Unlike the wicked and sluggish slave in Jesus’ parable, they are willing to make sacrifices and expend personal effort in putting Kingdom interests first. For example, when Jon and Masako were invited to help with the Chinese-speaking field in Kenya, they initially had some reservations. But after prayerfully considering their circumstances, they decided to relocate there.
16 They were amply rewarded for their effort. “The ministry here is amazing,” they said. They started seven Bible studies. Many more exciting experiences followed. They concluded, “We thank Jehovah every day for allowing us to be here.” There are, of course, many other brothers and sisters who have reflected in their decisions their determination to be fully occupied in God’s service whenever the end comes. Think of the thousands who have graduated from Gilead School and taken up the missionary service. Why not get a glimpse of that special service by reading the article “We Do the Best We Can!” that appeared in The Watchtower of October 15, 2001? As you review that fascinating account about a day in the missionary work, think about ways in which you might increase your service to God’s praise and, as a result, your joy.
YOU TOO KEEP ON THE WATCH
17. How has not knowing the day or the hour been a blessing?
17 Clearly, our not knowing the exact day or hour when this system will end has been a blessing for us. Rather than being frustrated or disappointed, we find ourselves drawn ever closer to Jehovah, our loving Father, as we immerse ourselves in doing his will. Keeping our hand to the plow, so to speak, and avoiding distractions has led to abundant joy in our Master’s service.—Luke 9:62.
18. Why do we not want to give out in our faith?
18 We are fast approaching God’s day of judgment. None of us want to disappoint Jehovah or Jesus. They have entrusted us with precious privileges of service in these last days. How we cherish the confidence they have in us!—Read 1 Timothy 1:12.
19. How can we prove ourselves ready?
19 Regardless of whether our hope is to enjoy life in heaven or in Paradise on earth, let us be determined to stay faithful to our God-given assignment to preach and make disciples. We still do not know the exact day or hour that Jehovah’s day will arrive, and do we really need to know? We can and will continue to prove ourselves ready. (Matt. 24:36, 44) We are confident that as long as we fully trust in Jehovah and put his Kingdom first, we will not be disappointed.—Rom. 10:11.
^ par. 3 See The Watchtower of March 1, 2004, pages 14-18.