Pursue the Things That Are Upbuilding
1. Although everyone wants happiness, why do Christians, above all others, have reasons to look at the bright side of things?
SINCE Jehovah has created man in his image, everyone wants to be happy. Christians have ever so much more to be happy for than mankind in general. There is every reason for them always to look at the bright side of things. They alone have the real source of good news that brings genuine joy. (Matt. 5:3; 24:14, NW) Worshiping God and serving him in faithfulness ensure happiness now and everlastingly. (John 13:17; Matt. 7:24) For a multitude of people of good will toward God it will result in everlasting life on earth with endless blessings. “Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. Jehovah is righteous in all his ways, and gracious in all his works.”—Ps. 145:16, 17, AS.
2. How can we respond to Jehovah’s goodness?
2 We can all be very glad for Jehovah’s goodness. Moreover, in gratitude we can observe the words of Jesus: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35, NW) Jehovah is calling together in his worship people who are happy individuals, a people who are friendly and anxious to have others join with them in their happiness. Their conversation is edifying; they recommend and teach to others the kingdom of God, which will leave nothing wanting.
3. With what attitude should Jehovah’s witnesses comfort those spiritually robbed, stripped and beaten?
3 With this hope and service one can maintain happiness even while living in a world of discontented persons afflicted with grief, sorrow and woe. It means comfort and joy to individuals who want to be comforted. Many of such people of the world are of the class pictured by Jesus in his illustration about the Samaritan who was a good neighbor. Like the unfortunate “certain man” they have been spiritually robbed, stripped and beaten. The viewpoint of the Christian must be one of compassion toward those persons of the world to whom they preach, even though they are weighted down with false religion, poverty and other personal problems. The Christian must not feel that he is burdened by having to go to such ones and preach to them, as if the weight of the world were placed upon his shoulders. They are not “just so many beggars” to be given a handout grudgingly with a long face. So Jehovah’s witnesses uncomplainingly prove themselves good neighbors by acting mercifully to all, administering to their spiritual wounds with a gladdening message.—Luke 10:33-37.
4. (a) What ancient prophecy did Jesus carry out? (b) If one gives abundantly and cheerfully, what is his reward?
4 In praising Jehovah we seek to copy the mental attitude of his Son. He well carried out the ancient prophecy: “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, . . . to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (Isa. 61:1-3, AS) Just as he did, we can reap the reward in great measure from bountiful praise of Jehovah. “He that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”—2 Cor. 9:6, 7, NW.
5. What was the mental disposition of Christ Jesus as he preached, and what did he avoid?
5 With great profit to ourselves we can copy the mental disposition of Christ Jesus. Viewed from the selfish standpoint, did he not have plenty of reason to utter a grievance? It was quite a sacrifice that he made. Here he was, sent down to earth alone, just one man to begin a vast, world-wide work of witnessing. In the way of hardships, opposition and persecution, he had all that we could experience and far more. The people to whom he preached were indifferent and poverty-stricken for the most part. They were entangled in the practice of false religion. But he did not bewail his plight or groan and deplore his assignment to preach to such people. He came in the willing, uncomplaining way approved by his Father and invited: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30, NW) His message was refreshing and comforting. Indeed he was a proper reflection of “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.”—2 Cor. 1:3, NW.
6, 7. To be good neighbors, how do Christians conduct themselves toward their brothers?
6 What a praiseworthy attitude to commend to all! It is certain to have Jehovah’s blessing. Says Psalm 41:1, 2 (AT): “How happy is he who is considerate of the weak; on the day of trouble the LORD delivers him. The LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called happy in the land.” True happiness lies in seeking ways to be loving and helpful to our neighbors, not complaining about their misfortunes or weaknesses but strengthening them with the truth, which comforts and builds up.
7 Christ Jesus, in giving to us the second of the two great commandments, rules out a hypercritical, complaining attitude by Christians toward their neighbors: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31, NW) If we are honest with ourselves we admit our own mistakes and shortcomings. Do we mock and ridicule ourselves when we err? Because we love ourselves we honestly seek to correct ourselves and make straight paths for our feet. This gives peace of mind and happiness. In serving alongside our close neighbors, our brothers, we observe the same principle. We shall be happy if we seek ways to be loving and helpful to them.
8. Mistakes in the congregation call for blame and criticism by whom, and who provides correction?
8 Do you become offended and complain to others when you think the servants in your congregation make mistakes? Even in such circumstances this is no justification to blame or publicly criticize. “You must not call down evil upon God nor curse a chieftain among your people.” (Ex. 22:28, NW) Peter disowned Christ three times. (Matt. 26:69-74) On another occasion he was “not walking straight according to the truth of the good news.” (Gal. 2:11-14, NW) However, it is Jehovah who provides correction within his organization. Correction comes not from complaint and gossip but by Jehovah through his organization in his time and way.—1 Pet. 1:17.
9. To dwell in happiness and see our congregations prosper, what course should we pursue?
9 It would be a very fine thing if all would remember this principle: building up our brothers in the faith is the way to maintain happiness. “So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another. Stop tearing down the work of God.” (Rom. 14:19, 20, NW) It is far better and results in good to pursue this course. All of us want to get along in peace and joy with our brothers, and we want to see our congregations prosper. “I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, entreat you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with complete lowliness of mind and mildness, with long-suffering, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace. Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”—Eph. 4:1-3, 31, 32, NW.
10. In what ways can we demonstrate love for our brothers, for their upbuilding and our happiness?
10 “Love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1, NW) This is the key to all our dealings with our brothers for their upbuilding and for our happiness. There are so many little ways in which we have the opportunity to edify one another. We must shun the worldly attitude, which is gruff, rough and critical. All of us have some gifts that we have cultivated for the improvement of our ministry. (1 Pet. 4:10; Rom. 12:6) We can use these to demonstrate our love for our brothers. “So also you yourselves, since you are zealous followers of gifts of the spirit, seek to abound in them for the upbuilding of the congregation.” (1 Cor. 14:12, NW) Perhaps we can help our brothers to prepare and assist them to make comments in the weekly study of The Watchtower and in other congregation meetings. We have the opportunity also to aid our young brothers or those with language difficulties to prepare student assignments in the theocratic ministry school. All need three- to eight-minute sermons for presentation in the homes. Would it not be a loving expression toward our brothers to give them this assistance, which would be certain to make them happy?
11. Why should we exercise love to push aside disagreements?
11 It is very practical to push aside disagreements and disputes with our brothers by exercising Christian love for them. Now we have every incentive toward that end. “But the complete end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”—1 Pet. 4:7-9, NW.
12. (a) To what lesson by God should we apply ourselves? (b) What is the right way to correct difficulties and solve problems in the congregation?
12 Our loving Creator knows what man requires to achieve and maintain happiness. It pleases him to teach us how to gain happiness in the very way in which he does, by expressing love to our fellow man. We want to apply ourselves diligently to this lesson and learn it very well. “However, with reference to brotherly love, you do not need us to be writing you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and, in fact, you are doing it to all the brothers . . . But we exhort you, brothers, to go on doing it in fuller measure, and to make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we ordered you.” (1 Thess. 4:9-11, NW) Our brothers in the congregation will truly appreciate our working with them, if we edify them by the example that we set, if we lovingly build them up, not probing and tearing down, but in the helpful way working regularly with them and commending their progress in praising Jehovah. If there is some difficulty or problem in the congregation, we will not be quick to accuse our brothers or condemn them and bring them into public censure. We will not take the attitude that something has gone wrong here and someone must take the blame. Rather than browbeat with a scathing rebuke we can correct by a loving example, demonstrating the spirit of mercy which Jehovah has so abundantly extended to all.
13. What spirit prevails within the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses, and why is it so important for those who have the oversight to set the right example?
13 When we look around in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses today, we see that for the most part a wonderful spirit prevails. Especially where the brothers are loving and kind to one another, where they do not complain and ridicule and deride, Jehovah has given them many blessings. People of good will who come into the Christian congregation readily learn to practice the noncomplaining attitude. “Finally, my brothers, continue rejoicing in the Lord. . . . Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you. Unitedly become imitators of me, brothers, and keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us.” (Phil. 3:1, 15, 17, NW) Since the brothers will follow the right example, it is so important for those who are mature and who have the responsibility of oversight to set the right example of building up their brothers without murmuring.
14. Why will Jehovah not permit any to bring into his organization the habit of murmuring and complaining?
14 Just as in Jesus’ time, there are work and problems, difficulties and hardships that are common to all who strive to follow in the course of Christian service. Perhaps there are things we might complain about; however, we must resist this temptation with all our strength for, if we do not, it will ultimately take away from us the only thing worthwhile in life, happiness in serving God. Jehovah wants us to be different from the world from which he is separating his people. He is taking them apart and teaching them to live as a New World society. With that separation comes freedom and deliverance from the spirit of complaint and faultfinding. His organization is made up of busy, happy people who strive more and more to live according to the standards of his new world. He will not permit any to carry into it old worldly habits of murmuring and complaining. If one complains he soon gets others started. And have you observed that those who complain are usually not preaching, or at least very little?
15. What further admonition is given, and what satisfaction will result from following it?
15 Instead of complaining we willingly accept responsibilities Jehovah places upon us. Putting our trust in him we strive for contentment, living and serving as he intends for us. “Keep doing all things free from murmurings and arguments, that you may come to be blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you are shining as illuminators in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life, that I may have cause for exultation in Christ’s day, that I did not run in vain or work hard in vain. Notwithstanding, even if I am being poured out like a drink offering upon the sacrifice and public service to which faith has led you, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. Now in the same way you yourselves also be glad and rejoice with me.” (Phil. 2:14-18, NW) In this way we have complete satisfaction, knowing that Jehovah’s will is being done.
16. What is lacking in some congregations where faultfinders and gossipers are present, and what is the further danger?
16 Is your congregation one of such blessed associations of brothers with the full joy of Jehovah? Sometimes the brothers in democratic lands miss out on this. When we visit their congregations it appears to be lacking to a large extent. In spite of the more fortunate circumstances with material advantages and greater freedom to preach, something seems to be missing. It is apparent that faultfinders and gossipers are present; those people who irritate and disturb are prominent. We are certain to find in these circumstances that the brothers are largely robbed of their joy of serving Jehovah. For the most part, too, little progress to maturity is being made by the publishers and the congregation is not growing. Such murmuring and grumbling displease Jehovah. It is a joy-killer for all because it takes the joy out of living now as a daily praiser of Jehovah and, if persisted in, it will take away life itself.
17. Where persecution is great, as in totalitarian lands, how does it go with our brothers?
17 Have you not often observed that where persecution is great, a real spirit of love, harmony and happiness abounds? There may be frightful obstacles to meeting together and preaching regularly, but the brothers overcome them and they are happy at it. Truly they appreciate that they have been delivered from oppression and freed from a wicked old world. In spite of persecution Jehovah protects them and sees to it that they are fed spiritually. So these brothers do not pity themselves. Because of faithfulness in keeping integrity they may receive long prison terms, but they consider it no reason to despair or to murmur. On the contrary they all the more recognize the blessings and favors that they have received, considering it all undeserved, and maintain unshakable faith. They are not always running to let someone know what a hard time they have or pouring out their troubles and complaining. These brothers are not discouraged in the least by these hardships. The work is not stopped or even hindered, notwithstanding the difficult problems and persecution. The good news is being preached. The people of good will are hearing it and they are coming in and associating themselves with Jehovah’s New World society even in the totalitarian countries.
18. In the experiences of Jehovah’s witnesses in such circumstances, what lesson is there, and with what profit to others?
18 Jehovah has poured out his spirit richly upon such uncomplaining witnesses; they have prospered and the results have been marvelous. What a lesson this should be to some in lands where there is a greater measure of freedom—this wonderful spirit of love and unity exhibited by our brothers in less fortunate circumstances! Theirs is a real desire, not only to keep happy themselves in their worship of Jehovah, but actually to spread their joy and happiness to others. In their preaching they copy Jesus Christ, having a refreshing message that brings true comfort. It brings great joy to all to hear of their experiences and integrity keeping.—1 Thess. 3:4-10.
19. To dispel the spirit of complaint and maintain a spirit of humility, what must be remembered?
19 There is no reason why Jehovah’s servants today should be sad and complain. His loving provisions, his interest in them and his continual care should be sufficient to keep them happy. It should help them to dispel the spirit of complaint and maintain a spirit of humility and meekness with complete devotion to Jehovah’s organization. “Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time, while you cast all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:6, 7, NW) In turn we should have the same concern for him, not becoming self-centered or selfish so that we take things for granted or feel that Jehovah and his organization owe us something. Avoid the presumptuous thinking that, unless things are done in the way you think best, you are not going to stay with the New World society. Jehovah owes no one a thing. “By this undeserved kindness, indeed, you have been saved through faith; and this not owing to you, it is God’s gift.” (Eph. 2:8, NW) Each of us has been given something of great value. It is the truth that leads to life and our daily service of praise. To Jehovah all are indebted for all we have and for all we hope to gain. Let us not be ingrates, having contempt for his gifts as if we puny people expected more or could do better for ourselves. Above all, let us avoid complaining, because we know that if we complain we shall stop our preaching and then we are certain to become miserable.
20. What is needed for the Christian to maintain happiness and prosper?
20 Thinking straight about these matters, we conclude that the way to maintain happiness is to avoid complaining, to edify our brothers and to build up the congregation. To prevail through all our troubles we have only to accept Jehovah’s instructions, carry them out in a joyful frame of mind and dispel the attitude of grumbling about what we are to do. Jehovah gives us the instructions we need to prosper and be content. For our welfare everlastingly we must give willing obedience, continually respect instructions and walk in step with such.
21. When we view things rightly, how fortunate are we who have dedicated ourselves to Jehovah?
21 Viewed rightly, the worship and service of Jehovah, even though accompanied by trials, burdens and persecution, is a most happy experience. When we look about us at the world today, we who have dedicated ourselves to Jehovah can appreciate by comparison how fortunate we are. Certainly we have no reason to complain about our lot. “So, then, also let those who are suffering in harmony with the will of God keep on commending their souls to a faithful Creator while they are doing good.” (1 Pet. 4:19, NW) It is his purpose to deliver his happy praisers alive into his righteous new world when he executes judgment against all who ‘disregard lordship’ by speaking abusively against Jehovah and his arrangement for the new world.—Jude 8, 9, 14-16, NW.
22. In spite of the pressure against Jehovah’s organization, why do we rejoice and take courage?
22 The ‘Devil’s world’ is filled with grief and sorrow and is in a miserable state, but there is no reason why Jehovah’s witnesses should be unhappy. Despite all the pressure that has been brought against Jehovah’s organization by those who oppose the good news, we marvel at its prosperity and growth. We will stand firm and continue in the preaching work, taking courage from the assurance Jehovah has given us. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance. Happy is the man that keeps on enduring trial, because on becoming approved he will receive the crown of life, which Jehovah promised to those who continue loving him.”—Jas. 1:2, 3, 12, NW.