Rejoicing in New World Associations
“Rejoice before Jehovah your God in every undertaking of yours.”—Deut. 12:18.
1, 2. (a) What quality does Jehovah purpose that we show in our worship of him? (b) How was this shown in connection with the establishment of the early church?
JEHOVAH our God is “the happy God,” and certainly he rejoices in everything he undertakes to do. (1 Tim. 1:11) It is his purpose that all his faithful creatures rejoice and be happy in their worship of him. Thus it is most fitting that we find this command in the Bible addressed to God’s typical nation of Israel: “You must eat before Jehovah your God and rejoice in every undertaking of yours, you and your households, because Jehovah your God has blessed you.” “You must rejoice before Jehovah your God in every undertaking of yours.”—Deut. 12:7, 18.
2 Later, with the establishment of the Christian congregation as the spiritual “Israel of God,” Jehovah made it clear to those called to be its members that they were called to a happy association in which they were to rejoice together. Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, pronounced “happy” those who appreciated their spiritual need, who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, and who pursued the way of peace. Even when bitterly persecuted they were to “rejoice and leap for joy.” Likewise, we find the apostle Paul writing in his happifying letter to the Philippians: “Continue rejoicing in the Lord.” “Always rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice!”—Gal. 6:16; Matt. 5:3-12; Phil. 3:1; 4:4.
3. What sound reason has Jehovah provided for the rejoicing of his people?
3 Today Jehovah God is inviting all lovers of truth and righteousness to assemble together with the happy New World society of his witnesses. God himself provides the sound reasons for rejoicing among his people. At one time Jehovah’s modern witnesses found themselves in a stricken and unhappy state, particularly at the end of the first world war, in 1918. They were depicted in prophecy as persons dressed in sackcloth, and even as dead corpses lying in the streets. (Rev. 11:3, 7-10) But Jehovah caused the condition of his people to be changed from that of sorrow and mourning to one of joy and happiness. He delivered his faithful witnesses from their deathlike state of inactivity, put his spirit upon them and caused the prophetic words of Isaiah to be fulfilled toward them, namely: “Then the redeemed ones of Jehovah themselves will return and must come to Zion with a joyful outcry, and rejoicing to time indefinite will be upon their head. To exultation and rejoicing they will attain. Grief and sighing will certainly flee away.”—Isa. 51:11.
4. What do persons of good will note, and what do they desire?
4 It is therefore not strange that so many people in the world take note of the happiness of Jehovah’s people. Indeed, it is a factor that draws many persons to associate with us. They find themselves sharing the desire of the psalmist, who wrote: “That I may see the goodness to your chosen ones, that I may rejoice with the rejoicing of your nation.”—Ps. 106:5.
5. Name some things that contribute to the joy of the New World society.
5 Many things contribute to the joy of the New World society. What joy there is in knowing and understanding Bible truth, being aware of the fact that Jehovah has now taken up his power to rule by establishing Christ Jesus as King in the heavenly kingdom and that shortly Jehovah’s universal sovereignty will be vindicated by means of this kingdom when it destroys all that oppose its rule! (Ps. 97:1-12) The hope we have of living forever in the New World at hand, the evidence of the outpouring of Jehovah’s spirit upon his people in these last days, along with thrilling revelations of truth and the gathering of a great crowd of persons of good will into the New World fold, are further causes for rejoicing. And, knowing the needs of his creatures, Jehovah provides the right climate for rejoicing—the happy companionship and association of others of like faith.
6, 7. On what is the happiness of Jehovah’s creatures dependent? Therefore, what should be safeguarded?
6 Jehovah himself does not need the companionship of others in order to be happy. He is complete in himself. Yet he chooses to delight in his servants and to find pleasure and cause for rejoicing in his people. “Jehovah your God is in the midst of you. As a mighty One, he will save. He will be glad over you with rejoicing. He will become silent in his love. He will be joyful over you with happy cries.” Concerning the restoration of his people to spiritual prosperity in these last days, Jehovah says: “I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people.” On the other hand, none of God’s creatures is complete in himself as He is. All depend on Jehovah for their happiness. They all have certain needs, which must be satisfied in order for them to be truly happy. And this is most certainly true of us imperfect humans on earth. One of these needs is for right companionship and association, and this Jehovah provides in various ways, especially in the Christian fellowship of the New World society.—Zeph. 3:17; Isa. 65:19.
7 Hence, if we want to continue rejoicing in every undertaking of ours as God’s people, we need to safeguard and maintain the joyfulness of our association. Joy does not come of itself but is the result of a right course of conduct in the climate of harmony and peace with the people of God. It is one of the fruits of the spirit. (Gal. 5:22) We should by all means pray for joy to be in our midst, but we also need to cultivate it by making our own contribution to building up happiness in congregational association.
EXPRESSING GENEROSITY IN OUR ASSOCIATIONS
8. Who benefit from the expression of generosity, and what example illustrates this?
8 Generosity is a quality very closely associated with rejoicing. Did you ever know of a person who was mean, stingy, bigoted and narrow-minded who could be spoken of as rejoicing in all his undertakings? A person who is always trying to get something out of life without giving anything in return is never a happy person. Joy begets generosity, and generosity begets joy. Speaking of the Christians in Macedonia, the apostle Paul wrote that “their abundance of joy . . . made the riches of their generosity abound.” Generosity gives joy to the giver, the more so when he appreciates that it is only because of Jehovah’s undeserved kindness to him that he is in a position to give, and it produces rejoicing also in the receiver and indeed in those who witness the results of the generosity. When King David was making provisions of materials for the temple to be built later by his son Solomon, “the people gave way to rejoicing over their making voluntary offerings, for it was with a complete heart that they made voluntary offerings to Jehovah, and even David the king himself rejoiced with great joy.” And so David prayed to Jehovah: “Do keep this forever as the inclination of the thoughts of the heart of your people and direct their heart to you.”—2 Cor. 8:1, 2;1 Chron. 29:9, 14, 18.
9. In addition to being generous with material things and our labor, in what other way can we demonstrate this quality?
9 And so today when we share together in some project, such as building a Kingdom Hall or working at an assembly, when we give of our labor or our money voluntarily, not forced or solicited, this produces rejoicing. As we witness the generosity of our brothers in such work it causes us to rejoice, and indeed awakens the spirit of generosity in the hearts of all in the congregation. But generosity with our material possessions or with our time and labor is not in itself sufficient if we are to share fully in the joy of Jehovah’s people. We need to be generous with ourselves, generous in our dealings, in being forgiving and long-suffering and in sharing our companionship and fellowship with one another, particularly in connection with our Christian activities.
10. (a) From what does the desire for companionship basically spring? (b) What often controls the selection of friends by persons of the world?
10 The seeking of association with others is basically an expression of love of self, though not necessarily of selfishness in a bad sense. We have need for companionship; that is the way we are made. Right at the beginning God saw good to give man a companion and helpmate, because it was not good for him to be alone. (Gen. 2:18) It is this desire for companionship that is an initial moving cause that leads a man or woman into marriage. (Gen. 2:24) Likewise the making of friends is basically the filling of the need for companionship. In this world people seek to have for their friends persons having similar social or educational backgrounds, or with whom they share common interests or hobbies, so that there is some common ground for conversation or activity. They make friends with persons who have something to contribute toward their own happiness. More often than not such worldly friendships are limited to just the satisfying of the selfish need, and when the one no longer can contribute to the need of the other, or if some more advantageous friendship comes along, the original associate is discarded. This lack of true affection in so-called friendships is most noteworthy today, with men having become so much “lovers of themselves.”—2 Tim. 3:2, 3.
11. What do we need to guard against in enjoying fellowship in the New World society?
11 In the Christian fellowship of the New World society we need to be on guard that our associations with our brothers do not become limited by only self-interest and the satisfying of our needs for companionship. When we come into the truth we find ourselves among all kinds of men from all kinds of social, educational and racial backgrounds. If we had been still in the world perhaps we would not have sought some of them out to be our friends, feeling that they would have nothing to contribute to our happiness. And even in the New World society we find ourselves drawn to certain ones more than others, do we not? Certainly it is natural to seek the association of those with whom we feel readily at ease and whose companionship we find exhilarating and satisfying. But if we limit our association just to such ones whom we find easy to get along with, is that not giving in to self-interest? If we always associate with just the same ones when we are at the Kingdom Hall, would this not contribute to the making of cliques and divisions? Yes, we might find ourselves thoughtlessly making partial distinctions on the basis of what others are according to the flesh.—Jas. 2:4.
12, 13. Are special friendships wrong? Yet what must we do?
12 Does this, then, mean that it is wrong to enjoy some special friendships with others in the congregation, friendships that are closer than those we share with others? No, not necessarily. The Scriptures speak of John as the “disciple whom Jesus used to love [prefer, margin],” and other references indicate that there was more than usual friendship between John and Jesus. But Jesus did not thereby exclude the others from his association and love. He was most generous in his expressions of love for his brothers, expending himself in their behalf, to the extent of laying down his life for them. Certainly in his case he ‘rejoiced in every undertaking of his.’ Because he wanted his followers to share the joy he had in doing the Father’s will and in showing such unselfish love for others, he exhorted them just before his death: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be made full. This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you.”—John 21:7; 15:11, 12.
13 But we need to make allowance for there being such personal friendships in addition to the fellowship we enjoy in common with all our brothers. Persons who have been long in the truth together, who have shared certain experiences, and who have endured like trials of faith, naturally arrive at a common understanding and mutual friendship. This friendship has grown in the personal knowledge of each other’s qualities of faithfulness and integrity, and such friendships are things we can rejoice at and they certainly should be no cause for jealousy. Jealousy can sometimes be the reason for some seeking personal friendships with other brothers, especially with those in prominent positions in the organization; but, being a product of self-interest, such does not produce happiness. As we grow in the truth, share with our brothers in the Kingdom ministry, endure along with them persecution and reproach, the bonds of Christian love and fellowship will grow strong in a natural and lasting way to our mutual joy.
BROADENING OUR AFFECTIONS
14. How can the principle “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving” apply to our associations in the New World society?
14 We do not want to be ‘cramped for room in our affections’ for the brothers. Rather, ‘widen out’ your love for the brothers, taking them all in, sharing your own association generously with them. The principle “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving” applies very appropriately to this matter of association. For example, a person of good will begins to attend the meetings. Due to shyness and lack of education he finds difficulty in expressing himself. At first we find it difficult to converse with him, but, because we have love for this new sheep, we continue our efforts to make him feel at home with us. In the climate of happy Christian fellowship he begins to lose his shyness. Through training in the ministry school he learns to express himself about God’s purposes, and then to be able to share effectively in the ministry. Soon he finds himself enjoying happy experiences in the preaching work, and these he shares with us. Gone are the shyness and reticence. Instead he is bubbling over with joy, and we rejoice with him in seeing his advancement in the truth and his happy association with us as a brother. This we would have missed if our hearts had remained ‘cramped,’ not ‘widened out’ to include this new one in our midst.—2 Cor. 6:12, 13; Acts 20:35.
15, 16. How can we show interest in our brothers?
15 To be generous in your associations means to be interested in your brothers, “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” Have a sincere interest in the spiritual progress of your brothers, rejoicing in each forward step they take on the way to Christian maturity. How happy we are when someone with whom we have been studying begins to come to meetings, makes his first comment at the Watchtower study and starts out in the field service! We eagerly relate the new one’s progress to our fellow Kingdom publishers. When he comes to meetings we are happy to introduce him to the servants and others in attendance. After all, is this not a letter of recommendation for us as ministers? But to guard against any tendency to boast, as though this was as a result of our own efforts, let us be just as ready to rejoice with our brothers in their like experiences and with other new ones making the same steps in Christian growth.—Phil. 2:4; Rom. 12:15, 16.
16 Be interested too in those who are weak and irregular in attending meetings and who are in danger of lapsing into spiritual ill-health. Be ready to speak encouragingly to them when they come to meetings or when you visit them. Let them feel warmed by such association. Paul wrote: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” Sometimes a friendly smile, a warm handshake or a shared experience can be the means of stirring up the hearts of the spiritually ailing ones to a desire for renewed activity in Jehovah’s service. This generous giving of ourselves, being interested in one another, contributes greatly to the joy of the congregation with which we are associated.—1 Cor. 10:24.
17. Where one feels a lack of warm association among the brothers, what would it be well for one to do?
17 Once in a while one may hear the complaint: “There is something wrong in our congregation. There is no warmth among the brothers, and I feel ignored when I come to the meetings.” Certainly if there is some lack of Jehovah’s spirit and hence of joy in the congregation, this is a matter for concern for all in the congregation, and especially the overseer. But would it not be well for the one who feels the lack of warmth rather to honestly ask himself: “What am I doing to promote joy among the brothers? Am I going to the meetings just to get something for myself, or do I go with the desire to contribute something in the way of comments and in my association with the brothers? Do I make a point of warmly greeting others and meeting new ones? Am I really interested in my brothers, or have I become self-centered, with my eye on just my own interests?” Perhaps it is the complainer who is cold, lacking in warmth, not approachable. For love to produce real joy there has to be a contribution from both sides. At the same time, because one fails to respond we will not give up doing what is right in continuing to speak encouragingly to such one as we have opportunity.
18. In what matters concerning our brothers should we show interest, yet what should be avoided?
18 Our “personal interest” in our fellow Christians does not mean trespassing on their private and family affairs, thus becoming a “busybody in other people’s matters.” Certainly we can enjoy the social company of our brothers as we have opportunity, and such times can be most enjoyable and contribute much to our happiness. (See The Watchtower of February 15, 1960, pages 115, 116.) But to encroach on the private affairs of another, or even to spend overmuch time in social visiting, can quickly detract from, or even spoil altogether, the joys of spiritual fellowship. (1 Pet. 4:15; Prov. 25:17) It is in the theocratic activities and spiritual welfare of our brothers that we should be interested, deriving joy from their theocratic association, rejoicing in their service experiences, happy to be sharers with them in praising the name of our God, Jehovah. Yes, in our brothers we find great joy. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: “My brothers beloved and longed for, my joy.”—Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19, 20.
19, 20. (a) What things will help us build New World associations on right foundations? (b) In what way is association in the New World society like that of a family?
19 To enjoy fully the privilege of New World association we need to be sure that our relationship with the brothers is built on the right foundation. If we are young we should guard against showing disrespect for older ones in the congregation, treating them in an overly familiar manner. Rather, treat them like “fathers.” Show respect for the difference in the sexes, keeping associations clean and wholesome, never abusing the privilege we enjoy of Christian fellowship. To rejoice in one’s association with the brothers does not mean one has to be overly effusive or gushing. We want to guard against just a hypocritical show of friendship that lacks genuine interest in one another.—1 Tim. 5:1, 2; Rom. 12:9.
20 When one enters into association with those in the New World society it is like coming into a family. Within a family the members get to know one another well, both as to their faults and their good qualities. But they make allowances for one another. They do not try to put up a front of self-righteousness, for they know the other members of the family will quickly see through it. And, indeed, they are happy for that, being able to be natural, as themselves, and they trust the other family members to have consideration for them and not reject them because they may have mannerisms and ways of doing things different from them. Likewise in the New World society, our brothers trust us and so are themselves, natural, not putting on a show of self-righteousness. This makes for a happy relationship. At the same time we are all interested in helping one another to make our minds over to conform to New World ways of living. Let us individually always seek to contribute to the spirit of rejoicing within the New World society by being generous, kind, considerate, interested in one another more than in ourselves, building one another up in joyful Kingdom service to Jehovah’s praise.—Rom. 12:2; Prov. 19:22.