Cultivating Right Desires
“And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.”—Rom. 12:2, NW.
1, 2. Why must a Christian cultivate right desires, and what change does it require?
AS THERE are desires that lead to death, so there are desires that lead to life. These are right desires and are the ones a Christian must cultivate. While he was part of the world he shared its cravings and was moving with it along the broad way to destruction. But now that he is no longer a part of it, but has separated from it, he must leave those old desires behind and cultivate new ones. The apostle Peter made that clear when he said: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and idolatries that are without legal restraint.” (1 Pet. 4:3, NW) But when a person separates from the world and dedicates his life to the service of God, agreeing to obey the Most High, he can no longer ignore the legal restraints placed upon human conduct by the Scriptures. He must keep his desires within the bounds God has set.
2 This calls for a transforming of the mind, a complete change in thinking, which becomes possible by opening the mind to God’s counsel and commands as set down in the Bible. By means of them an individual can transform his thinking to conform with God’s thinking instead of with the world’s. This is an absolute necessity in order to step off the broad way and onto the narrow way that leads to life. Therefore, the apostle Paul gives this advice: “And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” (Rom. 12:2, NW) This requires an entirely new view of life and new moral standards.
3. What is the most important desire a person should cultivate, and how does a Christian indicate that he has it?
3 To continue living the transformed life of a Christian you cannot entertain wrong desires. You must, instead, put them out of your mind and cultivate right ones. There can be no mistake as to what the right desires are, as the Bible clearly identifies them for us. The first and most important one is the desire to do the will of God. Jesus recognized this and showed that he had this desire by his course of action and by his words: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38, NW) Each follower of Christ must have this same desire, and he indicates that he does when he symbolizes his dedication to God by water baptism.
4. How may a person maintain the desire to do God’s will?
4 Wanting to serve God is a desire you must meditate on and allow to grow, as it is a right desire. To maintain it as long as you live you must continually study the Scriptures, you must meditate upon the truths and divine promises learned from such study and you must be actively engaged in doing God’s will by making public proclamation of those truths and promises. You will seek to have the same mental attitude as David, who said: “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.”—Ps. 40:8, AS.
DESIRE FOR LIFE
5. Why is eternal life a right desire?
5 By wanting to do God’s will you put yourself in line for eternal life. This too is a right desire, for it is what God purposed man to enjoy in the beginning. It is the promised reward God has set before those who love him and faithfully serve and obey him. “Furthermore, this is the promised thing which he himself promised us, the life everlasting.” (1 John 2:25, NW) “For there Jehovah commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Ps. 133:3, AS) Here is a good thing upon which you can let your mind dwell. Let the desire for eternal life grow until it crowds out selfish cravings for the pleasures and material things of this old world. Let it become such a consuming desire that you will permit nothing to stand in the way of your realizing it. Think carefully about it. Meditate soberly on it.
6. What are some of the requirements God places upon the seeker of eternal life, and what is the narrow way to life?
6 It will do you no good to want eternal life, though, if you are unwilling to do the things Jehovah requires, because he gives life only to those who obey him. Now what he requires is not difficult. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Mic. 6:8, AS) “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of Jehovah is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” (Ps. 34:12-16, AS) Surely it is not too difficult for you to do justly, to love kindness, to keep your tongue from evil, to do good and to seek peace, is it? Since you would not want to be cut off from God’s memory for having done what is evil in his eyes, why not keep these requirements in mind and strive to do them? That would be better for you than entertaining wrong desires. By thinking on such desires you are not departing from evil but are walking into it. That is not what the Bible means when it says to walk humbly with God. Walking with him means to follow the way of obedience by doing what he requires.
7, 8. (a) Why must a Christian carefully watch how he walks, and what must he endure? (b) What must he concentrate on?
7 Once you get on the narrow way to life you must watch how you walk so that wrong desires will not cause you to take a side path. If you were walking on a narrow trail high on the steep side of a mountain, you would be careful to watch where you put your feet. You would not be gazing off in another direction or allow your mind to become distracted with various desires. You would, instead, concentrate on each step, since a slip would cost you your life. Is it not just as important to walk the narrow way to life in the same careful manner? By taking a side path you would lose a great deal more than what you would lose by slipping on the narrow mountain trail. You would lose eternal life. Do not take side paths; follow God’s Word the Holy Bible.
8 It is only by faithful endurance that you will be able to stay on that narrow way. If you fail to endure the materialistic attractions of this world or the bad influence of its lusts, you will never fulfill your desire for life. Regarding this Jesus said: “By endurance on your part you will acquire your future lives.” (Luke 21:19, NW, footnote) How can you expect to acquire the goal of eternal life if you permit your desires to draw you into the quicksand of materialism or fleshly lusts? Instead of remaining on the way to life, rather will you not be sucked down and pulled away from it? Do not think it cannot happen to you, because it can. Therefore, concentrate on cultivating right desires so that you can resist the strong attraction of the wrong ones. It is the only way to endure and reap the reward of eternal life.
DESIRE FOR WISDOM
9, 10. (a) What else should a Christian desire, and why? (b) Explain why you should be attentive when spiritual food is being served.
9 In addition to cultivating the desire to serve Jehovah God and the desire for eternal life, you should also want wisdom. Now it is not the wisdom of this world you should seek, but rather the wisdom from above as contained in the Holy Scriptures. Its value far exceeds that of gold and silver, and it is more to be desired than anything this world has to offer. “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared unto it.” (Prov. 8:10, 11, AS) But if you fail to devote time to personal and group study of the Scriptures, can it be said that you are seeking that wisdom? Can it be said that you appreciate its value? The same questions might be asked of those who attend assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses but do not sit down to concentrate on the spiritual counsel and instruction being given from the platform, but instead walk about the grounds visiting. How can such ones sincerely say they are seeking wisdom and accurate knowledge?
10 Since all that is to be desired in a material way cannot be compared with wisdom, then you will want to be very attentive whenever spiritual food is being served by the theocratic organization. It is something for which you can safely cultivate a keen desire. “The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul: the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever: the ordinances of Jehovah are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: in keeping them there is great reward.” (Ps. 19:7-11, AS) These things bring true wisdom and, in turn, rewards of understanding, freedom and life.
DESIRE FOR THEOCRATIC COMPANIONSHIP
11. What part does companionship play in cultivating right desires?
11 If you fail to associate with Jehovah’s theocratic organization you would not be helping yourself to endure faithfully and to reap the reward of life. Hence it is necessary for the dedicated Christian to cultivate a desire for the companionship of those who embrace the same Scriptural hopes and desires. They can help you stand firm on the narrow way to life and to resist wrong temptations. This mutual assistance is very necessary in these last days, and it is one of the reasons why Jehovah has organized his dedicated servants into a New World society. They can thus associate together apart from the old world’s evil influence and build one another up. “Let us consider one another to incite to love and right works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24, 25, NW) We see that final day, the day for Armageddon, drawing ever closer, and we feel the powerful attraction of wrong desire trying to pull us from the course leading to our cherished goal. There can be no doubt about it, we need very much the encouragement of other dedicated servants of God.
12. Why will the companionship of worldly people not help a person to cultivate right desires?
12 But how can there be mutual encouragement to walk humbly with God and to perform right works if you fail to seek the companionship of the New World society? Surely the companionship of worldly people will not help you cultivate right desires. “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33, NW) By trying to cultivate right desires you are trying to cultivate useful habits that will bring glory to God and eternal life to yourself. But since worldly companions can spoil those habits, why associate with them? Why not associate with companions who will strengthen those good habits? It stands to reason that if you associate with worldly people whose minds are on fleshly lusts, pleasures and material possessions, you will find that your mind will be on those things too. Since that is the case, how can you say you are trying to transform your mind from such things, as the Bible instructs, when you seek the companionship of worldly people? To associate with such persons is no way to make your mind over that it might be in harmony with the Scriptures. It is no way to cultivate right desires. And it is no way to make firm your position on the road to life. So rather than seek the company of worldly people, seek the company of godly people. Seek to be with the dedicated Christians of the New World society, whose companionship will assist you in attaining your goal. Wanting their companionship is a good desire.
THINK IN RIGHT LINE OF THOUGHT
13, 14. What does it take to cultivate right desires, and what should we allow our minds to think on?
13 You cannot cultivate right desires unless you make a sincere effort to do so. It is something you must constantly work at, because you are an imperfect human with many weaknesses. These weaknesses can be conquered only by recognizing them and sincerely striving to resist them. You will not help yourself if you permit your mind to dwell upon a wrong desire. That desire will grow, getting a stronger grip on you, as long as you retain it. So get rid of it. Compel your mind to think on something else. Think about the right desires you are trying to cultivate. Think on how you want to do nothing that would bring reproach upon Jehovah’s name and his theocratic organization. Think about the desire to survive Armageddon and the desire to live forever in God’s new world. By thinking on these right desires and how bad thoughts and impulses can lead to a failure to realize them, you will be able to resist the intrusion of improper thoughts.
14 Since the retaining of wrong thoughts develops bad desires, it stands to reason that you cannot let your guard down for a moment. You must control your thinking at all times by keeping your thoughts on what would have God’s approval. “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Phil. 4:8, NW) Yes, consider or think on these things rather than be influenced by this lustful world, whose every thought is only bad all the time.
15. How can a person resist the bad thinking of this world?
15 Even though a Christian is not a part of this old world he still lives in it and is constantly in contact with bad thinking. To resist such influence he must keep feeding his mind on spiritual food, he must keep associating with the New World society, which is clean in thought, and he must cultivate right desires. “For the undeserved kindness of God which brings salvation to all kinds of men has been manifested, instructing us to repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.” (Titus 2:11, 12, NW) You will not be able to maintain soundness of mind from God’s viewpoint if you permit your mind to entertain bad thoughts and wrong desires. That could only lead to the unsound thinking of this old world.
16. (a) How does Jehovah help us cultivate right desires, and how can we fail to benefit from his provisions? (b) How should God’s thoughts be treated?
16 Jehovah provides, through his Word and his theocratic organization, uplifting thoughts upon which you can allow your mind to dwell. They are righteous and of serious concern, and will help you cultivate right desires. But if you fail to take in this nourishing food for the mind, how can you benefit from it? How can you be strengthened to resist wrong desires? If you neglect personal study of the Scriptures and fail to attend group studies regularly with members of the New World society, whom do you have to blame but yourself if your mind gets on wrong desires that pull you beyond Scriptural bounds? On the other hand, if you do attend group studies but fail to meditate on the things learned, what do you gain? Or if you allow your mind to dwell upon other things during the study, how are you benefited? Have you not wasted your time? It is only by paying close attention to the things you learn from studying the Bible and by allowing God’s thoughts to sink in deep that you can hope to stay on the narrow path to life once you get on it. You must therefore cherish those thoughts. You must meditate on them, turning them over in your mind and looking at them from different angles. Treat them as you would a gem that you would turn over and over in your hand so that you might examine its sparkling beauty from every side. Consider God’s thoughts in the same manner David did. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Ps. 139:17, AS) If you do this you will be able to resist the intrusion of bad thoughts and wrong desires.
17. How is the Kingdom ministry a blessing to us?
17 Not only does Jehovah help you cultivate right desires by giving you good things with which to fill your mind, but he also provides good activity, that you might be kept busy in right works and thus keep your mind in the right line of thought. This activity is the Kingdom ministry, the public proclamation of the many truths in God’s Word. Since it is a blessing and a protection to the dedicated Christian, you can be grateful that God has not confined it to a select few, such as a clergy class, but has made it available to all. This makes it possible for every dedicated Christian to make use of the good things he learns from God’s Word and to impress them more deeply on his mind.
18. (a) How might a Christian weaken his position in the New World society? (b) What can eventually happen to him?
18 Since the ministry is so important to your well-being and proper frame of mind, would it be wise to neglect it for business interests? Would it be wise to allow the pursuit of money so to dominate your time and thinking that you can give little consideration to the study of God’s Word and to the activity in preaching its truths to others? Would it be wise to allow the desire for material things to dominate your life? The Christian who does that is not making every effort to cultivate right desires. He is not strengthening his position in the New World society but is, instead, weakening it. He is not building up the fortification of his mind to resist wrong desires. He is making a serious mistake that can do him immeasurable harm. He is allowing himself to sink in the quicksand of materialism, and it will not be long before he will disappear from among the ranks of the New World society. A person may look for him there, but he will not be found, and if he cannot be found in the New World society before Armageddon, how can he be found there afterward?
19. What should you guard against, and what is the wise course to take?
19 Do not make that mistake. Do not let your desire for material things get out of hand. Do not let it grow and dominate your life, for then it becomes a bad desire. “Be on the alert and on guard against every kind of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15, NW) In fact, the things you possess or want to possess can cost you your life. And to lose eternal life because of materialism is indeed a very costly sacrifice. The wise thing, therefore, would be to control your materialistic desires. Keep them within bounds. Let material things be your slaves rather than your masters. Let them serve you instead of you serving them.
20. How is the illustration of the sower a warning to dedicated Christians?
20 Call to mind the illustration Jesus gave about the sower. Some of the seed the sower cast about fell among thorns, which choked it out. Now although this is regarding the initial sowing of the seed of truth among earth’s inhabitants, it also is a warning to the dedicated Christian. Even though he has allowed the seed of truth to grow and to bring forth fruit, it is still possible for it to be choked out by materialistic desires. Listen to what Jesus said about it: “There are still others who are sown among the thorns; these are the ones that have heard the word, but the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of wealth and the desires for the rest of the things make inroads and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”—Mark 4:18, 19, NW.
21. How can a person strengthen his determination to resist wrong desires?
21 The material things of the world can have an overpowering attraction on you and choke out love for God’s Word only if you permit them to, only if you allow your mind to dwell upon them. Rather than let this happen, allow your mind to dwell upon God’s righteous new world. Cultivate a strong desire for it. Keep a clear-cut vision of it before you all the time. Meditate upon it. Picture yourself walking in the midst of its paradisaic beauty. Feel its peace and tranquillity. See yourself looking at the ruins of one of the old-world cities and at happy members of the New World society busily clearing away those ruins. Feel the joy of being among the survivors of Armageddon and able to look at such ruins of the old world instead of being a part of them. Try to imagine the feeling of relief you would experience for not having permitted wrong desires to pull you away from the New World society. Because you resisted them you are alive and able to see among those old-world ruins the bones of those who did not resist. By thus mentally transporting yourself into the new world from time to time and taking a retrospective view of the old world, you will build a stronger determination to hold fast and to resist wrong desires. Whatever urge or desire you may have will be measured by whether it will help or deter you from surviving into that righteous world.
22. What was the apostle Paul’s conviction, and how can it help us?
22 You should cultivate such a keen desire for God’s new world that nothing will be able to pull you away from the theocratic organization and its Higher Powers, Jehovah God and his Son. You should build up in your mind the same assurance that the apostle Paul had: “Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35, 38, NW) Certainly if you too are convinced that none of these things can separate you from the love of God and his expression of love as found in Christ and in his creating of the new world, you will hardly allow wrong desires to pull you away. You will recognize how they endanger your future. You will put them away from you before they can get rooted and bring you to grief. You will not make the mistake that others have made by allowing your mind to dwell upon them.
23. (a) How should this counsel be received? (b) How should you examine yourself?
23 Now, this counsel should not be received as just so many words. It should not be allowed to pass out of your mind after you have laid this issue of The Watchtower aside. Instead, meditate upon it. Examine yourself and see if you are entertaining desires that are leading you in the wrong direction. Be frank in your self-appraisal. It may mean the difference between surviving the battle of Armageddon or not surviving it. Consider what efforts you are making to cultivate right desires. Are you regularly associating with the theocratic organization? Are you feeding upon the spiritual food that Jehovah provides through that organization? Are you taking time for personal study of the Bible and for meditation upon the truths you learn? Are you allowing God’s thoughts to sink down deep into your mind, or is your study only superficial? Are you active in the Kingdom ministry, or do you allow personal desires to pull you away to other interests? Are you making a determined effort to cultivate right desires and to resist wrong ones? So examine yourself. Remember that how you think and what you do in these last days can mean either eternal life or eternal death. For that reason make a determined effort to cultivate right thoughts and right desires.