On February 12, 2017, Alex Reinmuller visited Ghana as a Governing Body representative. Alex Reinmuller is a helper to the Governing Body serving on the Publishing Committee. He is also an executive board member of Kingdom Services, Inc., serving as Secretary Treasurer.
You may view his talk on youtube. Alternatively, you may read the transcript to Alex Reinmuller’s talk here:
What Will You Give For A Blessing?
It’s a great joy for my wife, Sarah and I to be with you here today.
We were here about 17 years ago and had a lovely visit then. Now to see the growth that’s happened in the elapsed time is really encouraging.
So let me begin by extending to you the warm love and greetings of our governing body and world headquarters bethel family.
Alex Reinmuller Describes Joanna
Well Joanna had a problem and she needed to talk to an elder.
Your problems are a little different than hers, no doubt, but I’m sure you can relate to some aspects of her story.
Joanna had spent many wonderful years together with her husband serving Jehovah full time.
And when their sons were born, they were happy to keep on in their assignment.
They kept their life simple.
And each day it felt good to come home knowing they had given their best for Jehovah.
Then one day tragedy struck.
Joanna’s husband got very sick.
When he could no longer work they had to borrow money in order to pay their bills.
And though the doctors did all they could, nothing could prepare Joanna for the day her husband died.
It hit her like an earthquake.
What would happen to them now?
Who would pay the debts?
Who would help he with the children?
Anxious thoughts raced through Joanna’s head.
Had she lost Jehovah’s favour?
What would you say to Joanna if she asked you for help?
Alex Reinmuller Explains his use of Joanna’s Experience
Joanna is not a fictional character.
She actually lived in Samaria 3000 years ago.
And the bible preserves her story because it teaches valuable lessons about seeking Jehovah’s blessing.
We learn that Jehovah blesses faithfulness.
He also blesses kindness.
And Jehovah blesses generosity.
These three qualities form a framework to help us obtain and retain Jehovah’s blessing in our lives.
And as we will see, a lot depends on us.
And that is why the theme for this talk is not “How can I get a blessing?”
Rather we need to ask, “What will I give for a blessing from Jehovah?”
As we look closer at Joanna’s story, I’d like each one of us to think of this question:
“What am I doing right now to obtain a blessing for myself or my family from Jehovah?”
The answer to that question will draw us closer to Jehovah and to one another.
Jehovah Blesses Faithfulness
Let’s begin therefore by looking at our first principle.
That principle again is that Jehovah blesses faithfulness.
So open your bibles to Proverbs 28 and verse 20 and let’s read this familiar verse together again.
Notice the connection that is made between our character and Jehovah’s blessing.
So the verse assures us that Jehovah blesses faithful people.
He gives his guarantee.
The faithful man will receive blessings.
Let’s see how this was true in Joanna’s case.
We are going to go back to the bible account in 2 Kings chapter 4.
We already set the scene for you previously. Now let’s read what the bible actually says about her.
Let’s read verse 1.
Now perhaps you notice that the bible doesn’t give this widow a name.
Alex Reinmuller on naming Joanna & Describing Her Late Husband
So why have we been calling her Joanna?
Well the Jewish historian, Josephus, refers to her by that name and since it’s easier for us to relate to people by name, we are going to do the same.
In verse 1 we also learn something interesting about Joanna’s background.
Joanna’s husband had been part of a group in ancient Israel that were referred to as “the Sons of the Prophets”.
Do you remember who they were?
There were a special Israelite community with a unique theocratic assignment.
Insight on the Scriptures explains that it may have been a school of instruction for prophets.
Or perhaps a cooperative association of prophets.
The one reference says that they were usually working under the oversight of a senior prophet.
They lived simply.
And they would receive individual assignments on prophetic missions.
Now today that sounds a lot like our special full-time servants, doesn’t it?
You might think of our bethel families or our circuit overseers or missionaries.
And Joanna’s family probably lived with one of these groups near Bethel, Gilgal, Jericho or Ramah.
Some of these prophets were single.
Others were married and had children like Joanna’s husband.
As a group they played an important role in true worship back then.
And faithful Israelites appreciated them.
From the way Joanna communicates with Elisha it seems that her husband had been a prophet for some time.
And he evidently had made a good name for himself with Jehovah.
Do you remember what Joanna said in verse 1?
She said to Elisha “You well know that my husband had always feared Jehovah.”
So Joanna’s husband had a good reputation. He was faithful.
In the New World Translation, we have a cross-reference on this verse to 1 Kings 19 and 18
And this would suggest that perhaps Joanna’s husband was one of these 7000 faithful men who had not bend down to Ba’al during King Ahab’s rule.
In any case, we can be sure that Jehovah saw the faithfulness of Joanna’s husband and appreciated it.
Although he died, he was still alive in Jehovah’s memory.
Alex Reinmuller on Joanna’s Faithfulness
But Joanna was faithful too.
All the time that her husband served as a prophet, she supported him in that assignment.
She also had a good reputation with those taking the lead.
She was not afraid to approach Elisha, the head prophet, for help.
This is so much like many of our faithful sisters in the congregations today.
Many of them give up personal preferences to serve alongside their husbands.
Like Joanna, our sisters at Bethel, or in the circuit work, in the missionary field also live a simple, sometimes communal way of life.
And as you know, that is not always easy.
Yet, hundreds of thousands of our sisters continue to serve faithfully like this because of their deep love for Jehovah and their husbands.
Jehovah appreciates all of you dear sisters just as he appreciated Joanna back then.
Serving together like this no doubt strengthened the marriage of Joanna and her husband.
So even when their children came along, they did not leave their assignment.
That would have been unusual in ancient Israel.
We can imagine their relatives saying, “You’ve already given so much to Jehovah. Come home now and let us help you with the children.”
Some may have thought: a community of prophets is no way to raise a family.
But Joanna and her husband did not feel that way.
They kept on serving Jehovah alongside their sons.
And as we shall see, this decision opened the way for a blessing from Jehovah.
Alex Reinmuller on Parenting
Now let’s pause for a moment in this story and reflect on ourselves.
Many of you brothers and sisters are raising children in the truth as well.
What goals are you setting for them?
Are you encouraging them to pursue a career in Jehovah’s organisation?
Or do you feel that higher education or a career in sports can help them to make a name for themselves?
What would a faithful person do?
What choice do you think Jehovah would bless?
These are important questions for parents today.
And we ask all of you to give them prayerful consideration.
Alex Reinmuller on Shepherding
Do you think that Joanna regretted the decision that she and her husband had made?
Would Jehovah bless their faithfulness?
Let’s continue reading in verse 2 to see what happens.
Now, before we consider Joanna’s situation, let’s take a moment to think about Elisha.
Did you notice how he responded to Joanna’s question?
As the head prophet he had many duties to take care of.
But he was not annoyed or impatient with Joanna.
Instead, he senses her anxiety, stops what he is doing and immediately gives her his complete attention.
What a good example that is for elders today.
Like Joanna, our brothers and sisters today are also under intense pressure.
Many also have to cope with poverty, with sickness, with unemployment.
How do we respond when our brothers need our help?
Kind shepherding really does so much to make God’s sheep feel safe and appreciated.
Are we imitating Elisha in this respect, brothers?
Alex Reinmuller on Prayer
Well when Elisha learns from the widow that she has nothing left in the house but a small jar of oil, what does he do?
Let’s read verses 3 and 4.
Those were surprising instructions.
Imagine getting advice from an elder today like that!
What would you do?
Would you have obediently followed through on that direction?
Or might you have found yourself questioning that advice?
It seemed impractical or unreasonable no doubt at first.
And it can be hard to obey when the answer to our prayers does not seem to be clear.
It can be hard to follow through when the answer is not what we expect.
Alex Reinmuller on Spiritual Progress
Have you ever prayed for Jehovah’s help when there was in fact things you needed to do first to help yourself?
Before you learned the truth, perhaps you had to throw away all those liquor bottles before Jehovah could help you to stay sober.
Or maybe you need to take steps to manage your computer or your mobile device before Jehovah can help you to resist pornography.
Perhaps you need to put away worldly associates before you can make spiritual progress.
We know that there are often steps we need to take first before Jehovah can bless our further efforts.
Sometimes we pray for direction when we have already decided in our heart what we are going to do.
Do you know anyone who is praying for Jehovah to bless their courtship even though they are too young to be married?
Or do you know parents who are asking Jehovah for help to raise their children in the truth but at the same time are encouraging their children to pursue higher education?
Does it make sense to ask Jehovah to help us make spiritual progress if we’re spending much of our time in leisure, sports or other personal pursuits?
In James chapter 1 it plainly says that an indecisive man or woman should not expect anything from Jehovah.
At times our own imperfections can be like noise that keeps us from hearing Jehovah speaking to us.
Alex Reinmuller on the Answer to Prayers
One sister who thought that her prayers were not being answered later discovered that they truly were.
She kept a written diary of each of the prayers that she made to Jehovah.
And one day as she was reading through her notebook, she noticed something interesting.
She suddenly realised that Jehovah had in fact answered all of her prayers.
Even the ones she herself had forgotten.
And that impressed her with just how much Jehovah had been caring for her in a very personal and tender way.
So if we want Jehovah to hear our prayers and our requests, we need to be listening closely to what he says.
Alex Reinmuller on Joanna Obeying Direction
And what about Joanna?
Did she follow through on Elisha’s direction?
Let’s see what happens next as we read verse 5.
Well after years of serving among the prophets Joanna certainly had strong faith.
She did not hesitate.
She obeyed Elisha’s instructions to the letter.
And those of us who serve at Bethel or at the traveling work, we are also trained to follow instructions closely.
Why is that?
It is because obedience, loyalty and steadfastness are aspects of faithfulness.
And Jehovah blesses faithfulness.
Do you think Jehovah would have blessed Joanna if she had decided not to follow Elisha’s instructions?
What if she decided that she would simply borrow more money from her neighbours?
Or what if she decided that she would just use the vessels she had at home instead of asking her neighbours for help?
Would Jehovah have blessed her to the same degree if she had done things her own way?
Because obedience is a pre-requisite for a blessing.
Alex Reinmuller on Faithfulness
So again, let’s take a moment to think about ourselves.
Can we expect Jehovah’s blessing in our life if we don’t obey his instructions?
For example, will our bible studies be productive if we don’t apply the suggestions for directing our students to the organisation?
Can we expect a disfellowshipped relative to come back to the truth if we continue to associate with them while they are still in that state?
Can we expect Jehovah to extend to us further privileges in the congregation if we are not caring spiritually for our wife and our children?
Do you see the point brothers & sisters?
Jehovah cannot bless us unless we are faithful.
Alex Reinmuller on Family
Now, we are happy to see that Joanna was very faithful & obedient.
Even in the smallest details.
And did you notice that her sons worked right alongside her?
Would your children have followed you like that?
How do they respond when you invite them to the family worship each week?
Or what about when it is time to go in the field ministry?
Do they come when it is time to clean the kingdom hall?
Are we training our children now to be faithful in even little things?
Starting this training early in life pays off later as the children get older.
By the time her husband died, Joanna’s children were probably teenagers.
Why can we say that?
Because the vessels that were used to put in the oil in ancient Israel were very large and heavy.
Small children would never have been able to do that.
And you know how stubborn teenagers can be.
Her boys could easily have resisted her invitation to help.
But they didn’t do that.
Because Joanna and her husband had trained them to be faithful too.
They were obedient.
And they obeyed their mother even though the father was no longer around.
Well, I’m sure you’ll agree, parents: our young ones need strong faith like that today, too.
Obedience protects our young ones.
They face so many pressures at school, in the community.
Only a strong relationship with Jehovah will protect them from those influences.
So work hard right now with your young ones parents to inculcate in them a personal relationship with Jehovah.
In family worship, at the meetings, in the field ministry, help them to build strong faith.
That is the greatest gift you can give them.
That will put them in line for blessings from Jehovah.
Alex Reinmuller on Blessing Faithfulness
So what was the result of Joanna’s efforts with her boys?
Let’s read the rest of the account in verses 6 & 7.
So Joanna obeys the instructions and her jar of oil does not give out until all the vessels she collected are full.
And then the oil stopped.
And this reminds us that Jehovah only gives us right now what we need for today; not for tomorrow.
It’s true that sometimes he gives us much more.
But he tells us that the complete satisfaction of our wants and desires will be in the future under his kingdom.
Right now Jesus said if we seek the kingdom first that Jehovah guarantees our needs for today.
So what is the most important lesson we can draw from Joanna’s account?
It is that Jehovah is our provider.
We cannot provide for ourselves.
Satan’s world is a terrible provider.
But Jehovah will always be there when we need him.
He blessed Joanna and her family beyond their wildest dreams.
It seems from the account that they were able to sell the oil for enough money to pay off their debts and to live into the future.
Joanna may even have been able to continue in her full-time service.
Jehovah is faithful to those who are faithful to them.
And he will help us too if we put our full trust in him.
Never forget dear brothers and sisters that Jehovah always blesses faithful people.
Jehovah Blesses Kindness
But now let us consider a second principle we learned from this bible account.
Jehovah also blesses kindness.
How was kindness involved in Joanna’s experience?
It may not be clear at first but when we dig deeper we’ll see that it was.
Our attention plays a critical role in what we think, feel and remember.
It is like a spotlight that captures what we see and respond to.
And that’s why showing kindness is so important.
Because when we show kindness, it takes the focus of ourselves and puts it on others.
Kindness moves us to be helpful to show hospitality.
And Jehovah really appreciates kindness.
Alex Reinmuller on the Reasons for Kindness
Let’s take a look at Psalms 109:16 & 17.
And notice what happens to a man that did not remember to show kindness.
That verse tells us that the man did not show kindness to others.
Rather he oppressed the poor, the broken-hearted.
Understandably, he received not a blessing from Jehovah but a curse.
But why is kindness so important to Jehovah?
We want to highlight 3 reasons.
Kindness helps us to fight discouragement.
Kindness benefits the receiver and the giver.
And kindness helps us to keep our weaknesses in check.
Alex Reinmuller on Negative Thoughts
Let’s illustrate this again with Joanna’s experience.
She had every reason to be discouraged.
She was bereaved.
And she expected to be re-assigned.
Before she approached Elisha, she probably thought of everything she could possibly do to help her situation.
But nothing was working.
Whatever debts her husband had before he died, they seemed to get worse after his death.
Frustrated, she cried out to Elisha.
Maybe she was starting to feel like a failure.
When one problem piles on top of another we can start feeling like that.
She might have asked herself, “Why can’t I handle the family finances?
“How can I keep up with my theocratic routine?
“Am I weak, spiritually?
“Have I lost Jehovah’s Spirit?”
Negative thoughts can easily come on us when we are feeling discouraged.
And if we don’t deal with them, they can lead to depression.
Or perhaps, Joanna was feeling a little resentful.
After all, she had served Jehovah faithfully for many years before this tragedy.
Along with her husband, she had made many sacrifices for Jehovah.
Were those decisions a mistake?
Is this how she would be rewarded – losing her children to debtors?
Can you imagine how she would be feeling if she allowed thoughts like that to continue in her mind?
Uncontrolled anxiety can embitter us against even Jehovah.
Alex Reinmuller on Joanna’s Focus
That’s why when Joanna approached Elisha, he immediately got her to change her focus.
Understandingly, Joanna was thinking about herself and her children.
So Elisha asked her kindly, “What do you have in the house?”
That got her thinking.
What could she do to get a blessing from Jehovah?
That was a powerful question.
As soon as Joanna began to apply Elisha’s instructions, the focus was now on others.
She got involved with her neighbours.
She was working with her children.
As the little jar was filling up the big jars, we know she was praising Jehovah.
When that large vessel was full, she was completely caught by surprise.
She was so involved in what she was doing.
It completely changed her mood.
She said to her sons, “bring another verssel!”
But there were no more.
The crisis was over.
Jehovah had provided an amazing solution to her problem.
Even her anxiety was gone.
And that is the power of showing kindness.
It takes the focus off of ourselves and puts it on others.
Showing kindness shows us how to break out of negative thoughts.
Alex Reinmuller on Showing Kindness
Are you struggling to make a living?
Are you trying to adjust to a challenging new assignment?
Are you coping with the loss of a loved one?
Showing kindness to others can help us to fight discouragement and invite Jehovah’s blessing.
A second reason why kindness is so important is because it benefits both the giver and receiver.
Jesus said that when we practise giving, others will also give to us.
Jehovah’s instruction to Joanna was “Go to your neighbours.”
That would put Joanna’s reputation to the test.
How would her neighbours react?
Would they willingly help her?
That would depend on their family’s reputation.
Was Joanna and her husband known for showing an interest in others?
Did they have the reputation of being caring, hospitable and helpful?
Knowing how things turned out, we can be sure they had a good reputation for kindness.
What is our reputation in the congregation?
How are we known in our local field service group?
Will our brothers come to our aid during the great tribulation?
They will if we have a reputation now of being kind to others.
Alex Reinmuller on Weaknesses
Finally, kindness helps us to keep our weaknesses in check.
If we allow selfish desires to dominate our thoughts, sin will overtake us. It’s just a matter of time.
The bible says that each of us is tried and drawn out by our own desire.
We can’t help having wrong thoughts but we can certainly learn how to control them.
When we practise showing kindness, it can help us to control wrong desires.
Elisha did Joanna a favour when he told her to work with others to help herself.
Because isolating ourselves when we’re discouraged is dangerous.
Thoughts and desires are harder to control when we are feeling low.
Staying busy with her neighbours and her children, helped Joanna to avoid wrong desires in overtaking her.
Alex Reinmuller on Judas Iscariot
To illustrate how important this is, lets turn back to those verses in Psalm 109.
Because this Psalm is really a Messianic Psalm foretelling Jesus life when he was here on earth.
And if you read the context of the verses that we already read, the man in those verses turned out to be Judas Iscariot.
Judas was once a faithful apostle.
But he later slandered, betrayed and pursued Jesus to the point of death.
How did that happen?
Verses 16 & 17 say he did not show kindness.
The bible explains a little bit about what went on.
Judas became a thief.
He was assigned to take care of the money box that Jesus and the apostles carried with them.
Instead of using that money to help others, he used it to help himself.
Now imagine how a faithful apostle could become so corrupt in that way.
We can’t imagine someone stealing from the contribution box in our kingdom hall, can we?
But it seems that Judas isolated himself from Jesus and the others and that allowed his wrong desires to grow.
The more he lived the lie, the stronger Satan’s hold on him.
Jesus tried to help him on many occasions.
But Judas did not accept that help.
And eventually his heart was completely corrupted.
Alex Reinmuller on Spiritual Isolation
And that is the danger of isolating ourselves spiritually.
We need to stay busy in helping others to protect ourselves.
Would Judas have gone this far into sin if he had remembered to show kindness?
What if he had focused on helping the poor instead of himself?
What if he had used those funds to help Jesus and the other apostles?
Would you think he would have so easily betrayed his master?
Showing kindness to others would have helped Judas to keep his own wrong desires in check.
And brothers and sisters, the same is true for us.
While we show kindness by preaching to our neighbours, helping the brothers in the congregation, or being involved with our children, we’re protecting ourselves.
So continue to nurture that loving spirit in yourselves, by putting others before your own needs.
We heard a beautiful report today of the many who are extending themselves in Jehovah’s service.
Keep doing that.
Keep making the kingdom ministry the focus in your life.
Because as you show kindness to others, you will see how Jehovah blesses kindness.
Jehovah Blesses Generosity
That leads us to our third lesson from Joanna’s experience.
Jehovah also blesses generosity.
The Apostle Paul illustrated this principle for us by comparing it to something we all understand well.
He compared it to farming.
Even if we have grown up in the city, we all know how food is produced.
So let’s read together 2 Corinthians 9:6 and see how farming relates to generosity.
So, the more seed we sow in the ground, the more food we reap.
And Paul says it’s the same principle: the more generous we are to others, the more blessings we receive in return.
Jesus said something similar.
He said, “With the measure you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.”
And he also said, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”
Alex Reinmuller on Giving
Let’s think about Joanna once again.
When she asked for a blessing, did she receive an immediate solution to her problems?
She was told to go out and work for that blessing.
Elisha asked, “What do you have in the house?”
Before Jehovah does something for you, what are you willing to give for that blessing?
And once again, that got Joanna thinking.
When she used everything she had, even though it was just a little, then Jehovah blessed her in return.
Isn’t this what Jehovah always says in the scriptures?
In Malachi 3:10 he says, “Bring in the entire tenth into the store house.”
“Test me out, please.” Jehovah says.
“And see if I will not open to you the floodgates of the heavens.
“I will pour out a blessing on to you until there is nothing lacking.”
So when we give to Jehovah our best, he blesses us richly in return.
The more we give to Jehovah, the more we can expect to receive in return.
Elisha did not tell her how many vessels to gather.
He only said, “Do not hold yourself to a few.”
Jehovah was testing Joanna.
The more jars she would gather, the more oil Jehovah would provide.
The more oil she gathered, the more money she would be able to obtain from selling that oil.
So in answer to Joanna’s request, her sincerity and her generosity were being tested.
When that last vessel was full, do you think she might have wished she had gathered a few more vessels?
We don’t know.
But we do know she gathered enough to pay off her debts and to continue to care for her needs.
She was generous with Jehovah.
And so Jehovah was generous with her.
Alex Reinmuller on Biblical Examples of Generosity
The bible is literally full with examples like this.
Do you remember how Jacob struggled all night long with an angel for a blessing?
He was not disappointed.
Or what about Na’aman who came to Elisha to be cleansed from his leprosy?
Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan seven times!
And it was not until the seventh time that his skin was actually cleaned.
When King Jehoash asked Elisha for Jehovah’s blessing on his campaign against Syria, Elisha told him to hit the ground with his arrows.
And Jehoash did so. But only three times.
But Elisha said, “You were supposed to strike five or six times!”
Jehoash was not generous.
And so he did not receive a blessing he might have otherwise had.
Alex Reinmuller on Opportunities for Blessings
Once again, brothers and sisters, let’s think about ourselves.
Can we see the common denominator in all these accounts?
Jehovah does not always answer our prayer requests right away.
And sometimes, he doesn’t answer in the way we expect.
Why does he do that?
He is giving us the opportunity to show the depth of our faith.
To show how kind we really are.
And to show how generous we will be.
Jehovah is always looking for opportunities to bless us.
But we have to give him something to bless.
Jesus said that if our faith is just the size of a mustard grain, nothing will be impossible for you.
Alex Reinmuller on Not Giving Up
Jehovah can give us the ability to solve any problem or endure it but only if we do not give up!
So never allow fear or pride or discouragement to make you give up too soon.
Do you want to serve at Bethel or attend the School for Kingdom Evangelizers?
Then keep on applying.
Are you struggling to make a living or to cope with health problems?
Then keep on fighting with Jehovah’s strength.
Never allow a temporary setback to distract you from pursuing your spiritual goals.
At Galatians 6 and verse 9, Pauls says, “We shall reap if we do not tire out.”
Could we sometimes be asking Jehovah for a blessing when there is something we need to do?
Are we holding something back from Jehovah and yet expecting him to bless us?
If like Joanna, we give Jehovah everything we have and work in harmony with our prayers, miracles can happen.
We know that’s true.
Because Jehovah always blesses generosity.
In every aspect of life, nothing is more certain than what Solomon says at Proverbs 10 and verse 22.
And in conclusion brothers, let’s read that beautiful promise together again.
We all face trials in this system of things, brothers.
Yet, Joanna’s experience strengthens our confidence in Jehovah’s promise here.
Her story teaches us that Jehovah blesses faithfulness.
He blesses those who stick loyal to his congregation.
He blesses those who do their best to willingly obey his word.
Jehovah also blesses kindness.
Because he knows that showing kindness helps us to fight discouragement.
When we show kindness, we help others but we also help ourselves.
We are helped to keep our weaknesses in check.
Finally, Jehovah blesses generosity.
In fact the more generous we are to Jehovah, the more we can expect to receive from him in return.
Our work in connection with Jehovah will never be in vain.
That is a scriptural guarantee.
So brothers and sisters, what are you willing to give for a blessing?
We are convinced of the surpassing value of the blessings from Jehovah.
We view them like that one fine pearl that the merchant in Jesus illustration was willing to sell everything he had just to buy it.
When the truth is that precious to us, we will let nothing interfere with it.
Like that merchant, we will do everything possible to obtain it.
We will not let our personal wants or expectations or desires stand in our way.
We appreciate every theocratic provision and privilege that helps us to do that.
We know that everything we do for Jehovah opens up an opportunity to bless us and our loved ones more.
So always give your heart to Jehovah.
Hold nothing back.
As Psalm 37 and verse 4 promises, “In turn, Jehovah will grant you the requests of your heart.”