“Christ Jesus . . . gave himself for us that he might . . . cleanse for himself a people peculiarly his own, zealous for fine works.”
1, 2. What singular honor do Jehovah’s Witnesses have, and how do you feel about it?
MANY consider it a great honor to be given an award for a notable achievement. For instance, some have received the Nobel Prize for acting zealously to establish peace between hostile or alienated parties. But how much greater an honor it is to be sent by God as an ambassador or envoy to help people establish peaceful relations with their Creator!
2 As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we bear that singular honor. Under the command of God and Christ, we beg people to “become reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20) We are being used by Jehovah to draw people to him. This is how millions in over 235 lands have been helped to enjoy good relations with God and thus have the hope of gaining everlasting life. (Titus 2:11) With heartfelt zeal, we invite “anyone that wishes [to] take life’s water free.” (Rev. 22:17) Because we cherish this precious assignment and carry it out diligently, we may rightly be called a people “zealous for fine works.” (Titus 2:14) Let us now consider how our zeal for fine works helps us to draw people to Jehovah. One way is by means of our preaching activity.
IMITATE THE ZEAL OF JEHOVAH AND JESUS
3. Of what does “the very zeal of Jehovah” assure us?
3 Referring to what the rulership of God’s Son will accomplish, Isaiah 9:7 says: “The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” Those words emphasize our heavenly Father’s active interest in the salvation of mankind. Jehovah’s example of zeal clearly indicates that our God-given work as Kingdom proclaimers deserves our wholehearted support, our enthusiasm, our zeal. Our burning desire to help people get to know God is a reflection of Jehovah’s zeal. As God’s fellow workers, then, are we personally determined to have the fullest share in proclaiming the good news that our circumstances will permit?
4. How did Jesus set the example of zealous perseverance in the ministry?
4 Consider, too, Jesus’ zeal. He set a perfect example of zealous perseverance in the ministry. Despite bitter opposition, he maintained his zeal for the preaching work right to the painful end of his earthly life. (John 18:36, 37) As the time for his sacrificial death drew near, Jesus’ determination to help others come to know Jehovah intensified.
5. How did Jesus act in harmony with his illustration of the fig tree?
5 In the fall of 32 C.E., for example, Jesus gave the illustration of a man who had in his vineyard a fig tree that bore no fruit for three years. Upon being told to cut the tree down, the vinedresser requested time to fertilize it. (Read Luke 13:6-9.) Only a small number of disciples could then be counted as fruitage of Jesus’ preaching work. But as indicated in that illustration of the vinedresser, Jesus used the short time remaining
6. Why should we intensify our activity in the ministry?
6 In view of how deep we are in the time of the end, is it not vital to intensify our preaching efforts? (Read Daniel 2:41-45.) What a wonderful privilege it is to be Jehovah’s Witnesses! We are the only people on earth who offer hope of real solutions to mankind’s problems. A newspaper columnist recently described as unanswerable the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It is our Christian duty and privilege to share the Bible’s answers to such questions with all those willing to listen. We have every reason to be “aglow with the spirit” as we carry out our divine commission. (Rom. 12:11) With God’s blessing, our zealous evangelizing can help others come to know and love Jehovah.
A SPIRIT OF SELF-SACRIFICE HONORS JEHOVAH
7, 8. How does a spirit of self-sacrifice honor Jehovah?
7 As indicated by the experiences of the apostle Paul, our ministry may result in “sleepless nights” and “times without food.” (2 Cor. 6:5) These expressions paint a vivid picture of self-sacrifice and may well remind us of pioneers who give their ministry first place in life while supporting themselves financially. Consider, too, our devoted missionaries ‘who pour themselves out like a drink offering’ to serve people in foreign lands. (Phil. 2:17) What about our hardworking elders who miss meals or lose sleep to care for Jehovah’s sheep? We also have our older ones and those in poor health who do their best to attend Christian meetings and participate in the field service. Our hearts swell with appreciation when we think of all these self-sacrificing servants of God. Such efforts affect how others view our ministry.
8 In a letter to the Lincolnshire Boston Target, United Kingdom, a non-Witness reader said: “People are losing their faith in religions . . . What do these church ministers do all day? They certainly do not go out like Christ did and meet the people . . . The only religion that seems to care are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who go out and meet people and are genuinely involved in preaching the truth.” In this world saturated with self-indulgence, our self-sacrificing spirit does much to honor Jehovah God.
9. What can stimulate us to remain zealous for fine works in our ministry?
9 What can we do, however, if we seem to be losing our zeal for the ministry? It will be helpful to reflect on what Jehovah is accomplishing by means of the preaching work. (Read Romans 10:13-15.) Salvation depends on calling upon Jehovah’s name in faith, but people will not do that unless we preach to them. Realizing this should motivate us to remain zealous for fine works and to be diligent in proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom.
FINE CONDUCT ATTRACTS PEOPLE TO GOD
10. Why can it be said that our fine conduct draws people to Jehovah?
10 As important as it is for the ministry, zeal alone is not enough to draw people to God. The second element of zealous works that attracts people to God is fine Christian conduct. Paul emphasized the importance of our conduct when he wrote: “In no way are we giving any cause for stumbling, that our ministry might not be found fault with.” (2 Cor. 6:3) Our wholesome speech and upright conduct adorn the teaching of God, making the worship of Jehovah attractive to others. (Titus 2:10) In fact, we often hear of positive results when sincere people observe our Christlike conduct.
11. Why should we prayerfully consider the effects of our conduct?
11 Although we recognize that our actions can influence people for good, the opposite is also possible. So whether we are at work, at home, or in school, we seek to avoid giving anyone a basis for finding fault with our ministry and our conduct. If we were to practice sin willfully, the personal consequences would be disastrous. (Heb. 10:26, 27) This thought should move us to consider prayerfully what we are doing and what our lives tell others. As this world’s moral standards decline, sincere people will increasingly “see the distinction . . . between one serving God and one who has not served him.” (Mal. 3:18) Yes, our fine Christian conduct plays an important role in reconciling people to God.
12-14. How does the way we endure tests of faith affect how others view our ministry? Give an example.
12 Writing to the Corinthians, Paul pointed out that he had suffered tribulations, difficulties, beatings, and imprisonment. (Read 2 Corinthians 6:4, 5.) When we experience tests of faith, our endurance can help observers to accept the truth. To illustrate: Some years ago, there was an attempt to eliminate Jehovah’s Witnesses in an area of Angola. Two baptized Witnesses and 30 interested individuals who were attending our meetings were rounded up. Then the local people were gathered to watch as the opposers whipped these innocent victims until they bled. Even women and children were not spared the cruelty. The intention was to intimidate people so that nobody would listen to Jehovah’s Witnesses. But after the public whipping, many members of the community approached the Witnesses and requested home Bible studies! Thereafter, the Kingdom-preaching work moved forward, resulting in notable increases and many blessings.
13 This example illustrates the far-reaching effect that our firm stand for Bible principles can have on others. We may wonder how many were reconciled to God because of the courageous stand taken by Peter and the other apostles. (Acts 5:17-29) In our case, fellow students, workmates, or members of our family may respond favorably when they see the stand we take for what is right.
14 At any given time, some of our brothers are experiencing persecution. For instance, in Armenia, approximately 40 brothers are in prison because of their neutrality, with dozens more likely to be imprisoned in the coming months. In Eritrea, 55 servants of Jehovah are imprisoned, some over 60 years of age. In South Korea, about 700 Witnesses are in prison for their faith. This situation has gone on there for 60 years. Let us pray that the faithfulness of our persecuted brothers in various lands will bring glory to God and help lovers of righteousness to take their stand for true worship.
15. Illustrate how an honest way of life can attract others to the truth.
15 The fact that we lead an honest life may also attract people to the truth. (Read 2 Corinthians 6:4, 7.) For example, consider this experience: A sister was putting money into a ticket machine on a bus when an acquaintance told her that there was no need to pay for a ticket, as the ride was so short. The sister explained that it was right to pay for the ticket, even for just one stop. After that, her friend got off the bus. At that, the bus driver turned to the sister and asked, “Are you one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?” “Yes,” she replied. “What made you ask?” “I heard your conversation about paying for the bus ticket, and I know that Jehovah’s Witnesses are among the very few people who do so and are honest in all things.” A few months later, a man approached the sister at a meeting and said, “Do you know me? I’m the bus driver who talked to you about paying for the ticket. Observing your conduct, I decided to begin studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Our reputation for honesty recommends us as trustworthy ministers.
ALWAYS DISPLAY QUALITIES THAT HONOR GOD
16. Why do such qualities as long-suffering, love, and kindness touch people’s hearts? Give an example.
16 We also play a part in drawing people to Jehovah when we display such qualities as long-suffering, love, and kindness. Some who observe us may desire to learn about Jehovah, his purposes, and his people. The attitude and conduct of true Christians stand in sharp contrast with the mere outward show of godly devotion of those whose worship is often no more than a hypocritical ploy. Some religious leaders have become wealthy by defrauding their flocks, using much of the money thus obtained to acquire expensive homes and automobiles
17, 18. (a) How do we bring honor to Jehovah when we reflect his qualities in our life? (b) What motivates you to persevere in fine works?
17 On the other hand, hearts are touched by genuine Christian teachings and good deeds done to neighbors. For instance, while preaching from door to door on one occasion, a pioneer was quickly dismissed by an elderly widow. She said that when he rang the doorbell, she was on a stepladder in the kitchen, trying to replace a lightbulb. “It isn’t safe for you to be doing that alone,” he said. The pioneer then changed the bulb and went on his way. When the woman’s son learned about what had happened, he was so impressed that he tried to find the brother in order to express his appreciation. Eventually, the son accepted a Bible study.
18 Why are you determined to persevere in fine works? Perhaps because you know that when we manifest zeal for our ministry and do things in keeping with God’s will, we honor Jehovah and may help others to gain salvation. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.) Zeal for fine works in preaching the good news and conducting ourselves in a godly way springs from a deep desire to demonstrate love for God and for fellow humans. (Matt. 22:37-39) If we are zealous for fine works, we will be richly rewarded with joy and satisfaction now. Moreover, we can look forward to the day when all mankind will display zeal for true worship in honor of our Creator, Jehovah.