Hold Fast Your Joy!
“The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”—Neh. 8:10.
1. (a) Why do some people say they do not want to live forever? (b) Why is everlasting life for mankind both reasonable and certain?
STRANGE as it may sound, there are some people today who say they do not want to live forever. Their concept of living is based on the present-day struggle for survival, with its fears and uncertainties, its pains, its aches and its worries, and they can envision no better way of life. Some even say everlasting life would be everlasting boredom. Others say that everlasting life is impossible, and they dismiss it with a knowing shrug. They ignore the findings of modern medical research, which show that it is possible to perpetuate living cells indefinitely, under right conditions. More important, they ignore the Word of the Author of life, which shows that man is about to enter on a glorious eternity of deathlessness and happy living. The great Creator of the universe, the Supplier of the energy that keeps it running, the Provider of the nuclear fuel that has kept our sun burning for billions of years—yes, the Maker of man himself has promised that He will provide the “fuel” to perpetuate human lives forever on this earth. It is His divine will to do so!—Isa. 45:18; Rev. 7:9, 10, 16, 17.
2. Of what will life in God’s new world consist, and how will it contrast with life today?
2 Never think for one moment that the everlasting life spoken of in God’s Word, the Bible, will be patterned after the miserable life standards of the present degraded world. Rather, it will be an abundant life. (Prov. 10:22) It will be in such sharp contrast to the humdrum existence of most people today that it can truly be said that “modern” man has not even started to live. In fact, from God’s standpoint, sin-cursed man is as good as dead. (Matt. 8:22) In promising everlasting life to those who love him, Jehovah has in mind the very fullness of happy living—life that overflows with rich meaning and joyful purpose. In the same way that the heirs of God’s heavenly kingdom enter into “glorious riches” of service to God, so the others of his sheep will enjoy a resplendent life in the earthly realm of that kingdom.—Eph. 1:18; Matt. 25:34.
3. How will new-world living bring praise and glory to Jehovah?
3 Picture that realm in your mind’s eye! Earth’s abounding wealth will be used, not for “space age” armaments or the conquest of space, but for subduing the earth and enriching it as man’s eternal home. Mankind will enjoy the fullness of mental and physical vigor, and he will make use of his powers to the praise of his Creator and for the upbuilding of his fellow man. Everyone will have an assigned field of endeavor and will be a master in that field, finding zest and enjoyment in the accomplishment of superlative workmanship. No sweat-house drudgery in Jehovah’s new world! Talented workers will construct homes of exquisite loveliness. The monumental wonders of nature will be supplemented by human artistry, as godly man tills and plants, transforming the entire globe into one breath-taking, beauteous landscape. Treasure upon treasure of divine wisdom will be revealed, as perfect man’s richly endowed mind pursues scientific studies for a peaceful purpose and to God’s glory.—Ps. 104:24, 31.
4. Why should we now hold fast our joy, and with what heart attitude?
4 If you can picture some of the blessedness of that glorious future, then you are touching at the fringe of wonders that Jehovah will unfold for humankind through all eternity. Rejoice in the knowledge of God’s promises and hold fast your joy, for everlasting life! What a thrilling prospect! It should cause all mankind to exclaim with the psalmist: “O let people laud Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.”—Ps. 107:8.
STUDY TO FIND LIFE
5. Why is continued, diligent study a necessity for all in the New World society today?
5 All who love life and who desire the abundant life of God’s new world must study to know and obey the Word of God. This means diligent study, first to gain accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s purposes, and then to retain and build on that knowledge while one is advancing to Christian maturity. Let no one ever slow down on his theocratic studies! Even when the early Christians were “firmly set in the truth,” Peter found it necessary to keep ‘rousing them up by way of reminding them.’ (2 Pet. 1:12-15) Review and further study is just as important today—even more important, as the Devil is now preparing his last-ditch attack against the New World society. Now, of all times, is the time to “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” To the anointed Christians Paul says: “For we actually become partakers of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.” (Heb. 2:1; 3:14) The same principle applies to all men of good will who seek life in the paradise earth.
6. What profit results from daily study?
6 Keep drinking at the fountain of Bible truth! As Jesus promises: “Whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty at all, but the water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” The sayings of Jesus are ‘spirit and life.’ (John 4:14; 6:63) The entire Word of God “is alive and exerts power.” “Read in it day and night,” so that you may find treasures of wisdom and discernment, and hold them fast for everlasting life. “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver and the produce of it even than gold. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it. Length of days is in its right hand; in its left hand there are riches and glory. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its roadways are peace. It is a tree of life to those taking hold of it, and those keeping fast hold of it are to be called happy.”—Heb. 4:12; Josh. 1:8; Prov. 3:13-18.
7. (a) How does an enemy oppose the joyful growth of the Word? (b) How many one hold fast to his initial joy?
7 There is someone, however, who does not want mankind to be happy. That “someone” is “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Rev. 12:9) He it is who oversowed “weeds” of sectarianism in the true religion of life. His subtle ways are further described by Jesus Christ in his parable recorded at Luke 8:4-15. As the Great Sower sows the “right seed,” “the word of God,” receptive hearts “receive the word with joy.” However, the Devil tries to prevent the seed’s taking root, or he tries to choke it off before it grows into “a tree of life.” All who are desirous of holding fast to their initial joy must cultivate the good soil of their hearts by forming regular habits of study. They must resist the heat of old-world opposition that might dry up the tender plant of their newborn faith. In trial, and even in persecution, they must keep the vision of Jehovah’s glorious promises shining brightly before their eyes, so that they may never, never stray from the radiant path that it lights before them. They must study to participate in the conquest of faith. “Everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—1 John 5:4.
8. What “anxieties” are to be avoided, and why?
8 The Master speaks of other subtle pressures that the Devil brings to bear on our faith. He warns of “the ones that have heard, but, by being carried away by anxieties and wealth and pleasures of this life, they are completely choked and bring nothing to perfection.” Anxieties? Yes, some become anxious about tomorrow. They think they must take in extra work at home to supplement the family budget, that they must enlarge a business, or seek promotion to a more lucrative but more time-consuming job. Some have all kinds of worries about what might happen in the future. They fail to heed Jesus’ advice: “So, never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own evil.” If they would carefully plan to let God’s new-world interests have first place in their lives, their anxieties would vanish like the morning mist. (Matt. 6:33, 34) Jehovah will never forsake those who keep him first in their thoughts and lives. Out of a grateful heart, David could say: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous forsaken, nor his offspring looking for bread. All day long he is showing favor and lending, and so his offspring are in line for a blessing.”—Ps. 37:25, 26.
9. How can “wealth” become a danger, but what really is “great gain”?
9 Some are carried away by “wealth.” How subtly can the choking desire to be rich, the grasping for more and more of the fine things that this world offers, crowd out the first joy and love for Jehovah and his Kingdom promises! Yet, sad to say, a multitude who have started on the way to life have later been drowned in the sea of materialism. As the apostle Paul explains, the real gain, the “great gain,” is to be found in “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.” “So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” How timely the admonition to all who have entered on the way of life, “to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment”! As this transitory old world finishes its course, Jehovah supplies satisfying riches of knowledge and service. Through this service let us now strive to attain to the still-greater treasures that will abound in the eternal new world. They are wise who heed the apostle’s admonition, “to work at good, to be rich in right works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a right foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”—1 Tim. 6:6-19.
10. (a) How many “pleasures of this life” make subtle intrusion? (b) How may they be prevented from taking root?
10 There are some who, after receiving the word with joy and entering upon the real life, will even permit the “pleasures of this life” to crowd out the superior joys of study, service and association in Jehovah’s New World society. After a hard day’s work it is very easy to be self-pitying, and to think, “I’m too tired for study, too tired for meetings, too tired for service.” So relaxation is sought elsewhere. A bad habit takes root and grows. In actual fact, spiritual refreshment is the best cure for all kinds of weariness. This refreshment is always to be found, with satisfying joy, in the study of God’s Word and the association of his people. Avoid the lazy ways of the old world. On days set apart for God’s service, be like the faithful Judeans under Jehoshaphat, who “proceeded to rise early in the morning and go out.” (2 Chron. 20:20-22) Never let pleasures crowd in on your life to the extent that they crowd out planned theocratic study, service and association. Remember that part of the sign of “the last days” is that men will be “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 4) Be a lover of God.
11. (a) Where may we find strength in time of trial? (b) How does Jehovah oftentimes reward those who “take notice of him”?
11 Times come in the experience of most of us when we are faced with personal problems, with pressures from the world, or with persecutions that seem almost too heavy to bear. At such times we must keep close to Jehovah in prayer, confident that he will sustain us through our trials. Keep up association in the New World society and, above all, regular weekly service to Jehovah. God’s service is like strengthening food. As Jesus said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Be determined to finish Jehovah’s work in integrity! In field service it often happens that Jehovah provides just the comfort and encouragement we need, through some thrilling experience, or other outstanding blessing, and then with strengthened faith we can see the path to take. “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.”—Prov. 3:5, 6.
12. How may mature ministers assist new ones in rekindling joy in time of trial?
12 There are some who are newly started on the way of life but who early meet up with trials that threaten their faith. At such time the overseer or other mature minister in the congregation must be quick to help the new “sheep” rekindle his first joy in the truth. At the very first sign of difficulty make a friendly call and help to set the problem straight Scripturally. Continue this help, lovingly and with tender affection, so that the one receiving help “may finally stand complete and with firm conviction in all the will of God.” (Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 2:7, 8) Show determination to hold on to the sheep. Patiently tend the spiritually weak, for they will respond to loving shepherding. If they are sick physically, help them to take part in incidental witnessing, so that they may maintain a healthy disposition and be blessed by Jehovah. There are many who are strong and active today in Jehovah’s work, some of them pioneer ministers, but who would have been lost to the New World society had not prompt help been given in time of trial. There is great “joy in heaven” whenever a straying sheep is brought back to the fold!—Luke 15:4-7.
13. How may one retain the word in “a right and good heart”?
13 Be diligent to sustain your own joy in God’s service. “Rejoice in the hope ahead. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer.” If you do this, then the further words of the apostle will have fulfillment toward you: “May the God who gives hope fill you with all joy and peace by your believing, that you may abound in hope with power of holy spirit.” (Rom. 12:12; 15:13) The hope of the new world, with its eternal joy and peace, is now so near realization that you should strive with might and main to resist every encroachment from the Devil’s world. So doing, you will be like the seed that fell upon the right soil, one of those who “after hearing the word with a right and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.” How great the joy of all who really do bear fruit!—Matt. 13:23.
DEPENDING ON JEHOVAH
14. According to Matthew 5:3, who are the happy ones today, and why so?
14 Let us always be conscious of our spiritual need! And what does this mean? It means that every day and every hour we must appreciate our dependence on Jehovah for the things of life. Without his love we would never have had life in the first place. Without his loving provision we would never have the opportunity for everlasting life. Without the spiritual sustenance he provides we would quickly be dragged back, to be swallowed up in the Devil’s greedy world. We need Jehovah’s help all the time. We will be happy if we humbly accept that help as he provides it through the study of his Word, by the enlightening and activating power of his spirit, and through his “faithful and discreet slave” serving in the New World society here on earth. “Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.”—Matt. 5:3; 24:45-47.
15. (a) How does mankind in general regard Jehovah’s provision? (b) How does Jehovah regard ungrateful mankind?
15 Out of his love and wisdom, Jehovah has provided abundantly for the spiritual and material needs of mankind. However, the majority of mankind ungratefully spurn his spiritual provision. At the same time they greedily use his material provision for selfish gain, boasting that they have no need of God. Actually, it is Jehovah that has no need of man, and he could snuff out all human life in a moment of time. “All the nations are as something nonexistent in front of him; as nothing and an unreality they have been accounted to him.” (Isa. 40:17) We should feel very humble before Jehovah. The following illustration may help us to realize how small man really is:
16. How big is man?
16 According to human standards a man is counted big if he weighs 200 pounds. Some men are counted “big” because of their skill in shooting satellites into space, where they orbit for a few weeks or months. Yet how small are man and his satellites when compared to this earth, which weighs six trillion billion (21 0’s) tons and which has made unerring orbit around the sun, traveling 58 thousand million miles a year, during all the years of its existence! Jehovah put the earth in orbit! However, the earth is small, too, compared to the expanse of the solar system—yes, just a pin-point in a system that measures more than seven thousand million miles across. Jehovah created the solar system! But how small is the solar system itself! For the earth’s sun is only one of the 200 thousand million stars that make up the galaxy called the “Milky Way.” So vast is the “Milky Way” that it takes a flash of light 100,000 years to cross from one side to the other. Jehovah set the “Milky Way” in place! But the “Milky Way” is small too. It happens to be just one of a fathomless expanse of billions of galaxies, light from the nearest of which takes two thousand million years to reach man’s telescopes on this earth. Jehovah created all those heavens!—Gen. 1:1.
17. (a) What may be said concerning the heavens of Jehovah’s presence? (b) What marvelous privileges does Jehovah open up to obedient men?
17 Long before modern telescopes peered out into that immensity of space, the psalmist declared: “O Jehovah our Lord, how majestic your name is in all the earth, you whose dignity is recounted above the heavens!” Far loftier and more glorious even than all the breath-taking expanse of the material heavens, is the spirit realm and heavens of Jehovah’s own presence. What marvelous undeserved kindness has Jehovah displayed through his Son, in purchasing a few of mankind from the earth, to serve forever with his Son and King in the exalted “new heavens”—no, not in ugly space suits, but in the glorious, spiritual bodies of their resurrection, provided for exalted service in the brightness of the glory of Jehovah’s presence. What marvelous love does Jehovah display, too, as he turns attention to this tiny speck, the earth, sweeping it clean of all sectarian religion and other wickedness, and establishing it as a sanctuary where men will live forever in peace and joy. Whether our destiny is incorruptibility in the “new heavens” or everlasting life with the “new earth,” all of us can humbly exclaim before Jehovah: “What is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?”—Ps. 8:1, 4; 1 Cor. 15:42-45; Rev. 14:3.
18. (a) Where only on earth can the real joy be found, and how did Peter indicate this? (b) Why can it be said that Jehovah’s witnesses are the only group that hold to the religion of life today?
18 Find your place in God’s arrangement and stick by it! Stay close by his organization, the New World society, for there is nowhere else on earth that the joys of the real life can be found. In Jesus’ day, when some became offended by the hard-hitting truths that he spoke and wandered back into the labyrinth of sectarianism, he said to his twelve apostles: “You do not want to go also, do you?” Peter answered: “Master, Whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69) At that time there was only the one group that had the sayings of life, and today there is still only the one group. It is the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, working in unity world-wide under the direction of the same Master, the now-reigning King, Christ Jesus. It is the only group on earth that has separated from the greedy, corrupt politics, religion, commerce and militarism of the Devil’s world, and that has beaten ‘swords into plowshares’ so as to maintain a unity of love and brotherhood throughout the earth. (Isa. 2:4) It is the only organization that magnifies Jehovah’s great name, and that advocates the religion of life, boldly proclaiming God’s kingdom by Christ Jesus as the instrument for mankind’s survival, as well as for administering the blessings of life in God’s new world.—Ps. 34:3; John 17:3; Matt. 24:14.
19. (a) How may lovers of life find the only real place of safety today? (b) Why are Jehovah’s witnesses now so abundantly happy?
19 Do you humbly acknowledge your entire dependence upon Jehovah for life and its blessings? Then you should also humbly acknowledge your dependence on his earthly organization today. There is no place of real safety outside God’s New World society. All lovers of life must find their place, and hold their place, within that society, regularly attending the Watchtower study meeting, the service meeting and theocratic ministry school, listening attentively to the public Bible talks, and supporting the midweek congregation book study. Happy are all those that crowd all these meetings into a busy week, for in so doing they are crowding out the inconsequential things that the enemy would like to sow in their Christian lives. Happy, because they are conscious of their spiritual need! Happy, because they are pressing on to maturity with all of God’s people throughout the wide world! Happy, because they are building up strength to withstand the final assault from Satan’s world, which even now heaps scorn and persecutions on their heads! “Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute you and lyingly say every kind of wicked thing against you for my [Jesus’] sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since your reward is great in the heavens.”—Matt. 5:11, 12.
20. (a) What association should be maintained under persecution? (b) How were our German brothers blessed in this? (c) What association must now be sought, with Armageddon in view?
20 Even when persecutions come, keep up those associations with others of like precious faith, whether it be in private homes, in underground cellars, in concentration camps or in the open fields. Remember how our German brothers maintained their entity of organization while they were being compelled to flee from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp at the climax of World War II. Amid shootings, machine-gunnings, pillagings and death by exhaustion, our 230 brothers marched out in theocratic order, the one group in all that confusion of death and warfare that trusted in Jehovah God. Did Jehovah answer their united prayer for guidance? Did he lead and protect that small group of his worshipers? The report says: “From our troop of about 230 brothers and sisters none, not even the weakest, was lying on the road, despite the fact that we had some brothers from 65 to 72 years of age. They were all standing faithfully.”a During future trials, and through Armageddon’s battle itself, the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses expects to keep standing faithfully, in the one united, theocratic order. Now is the time to seek that association, so that you also may find joy in saying: “In Jehovah I have trusted, that I may not wobble. My own foot will certainly stand on a level place; among the congregated throngs I shall bless Jehovah.”—Ps. 26:1, 12.
21. (a) How may we now take a firm hold on the real life? (b) What course will bring the reward of “riches and glory and life”?
21 “The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” (Neh. 8:10) The joy of knowing Jehovah God, of understanding his glorious purposes of creation, of serving as his witnesses at the world’s end—this all adds up to a superabundant joy! What a lot the people of the old world are missing! They are also missing the opportunity for everlasting life. Make sure that you take a firm hold on the real life. Having found that joy, never let it go! “Always be rejoicing. Pray incessantly. In connection with everything give thanks. For this is the will of God in union with Christ Jesus respecting you.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18) Rejoice that you may have a part, if ever so small, in doing God’s will at the time when he is creating “new heavens and a new earth.” Forge an unbreakable link with his organization on earth. Serve humbly and with implicit trust in Jehovah, knowing that “the result of humility and the fear of Jehovah is riches and glory and life.”—Prov. 22:4.
a Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, p. 217.