Have You Forgotten Your Decision to Serve God?
WERE you not thrilled when you investigated and first began to understand the truth of God’s Word? Did your heart not rejoice at God’s provision for everlasting life in a new system of things? An understanding of God’s purposes can truly move the heart, resulting in a personal decision or dedication to serve God. Have you made such a decision, and symbolized it by water baptism? While hundreds of thousands of Christians have, unfortunately many of these have failed to remember their solemn dedication. We are deeply concerned about them.
The apostle Paul wrote about some of such persons during his second imprisonment in Rome, saying: “All the men in the district of Asia have turned away from me. Phygelus and Hermogenes are of that number.” (2 Tim. 1:15) For one reason or another these Asian Christians left Paul and ceased their Christian activity. Circumstances arose that caused them to forget their decision to serve God.
Today there are even greater pressures to turn a Christian from his dedication to God. Within this very generation Satan the Devil has been cast out of heaven, and he is now waging war against those “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (Rev. 12:7-12, 17) Has his war strategy succeeded against you? Has he gotten a hold on you and stifled your public praise? Have you forgotten your decision to serve God? If so, it is vital that you quickly avail yourself of God’s help to free yourself from Satan’s grip.
As a first step, recall to mind the initial joy and happiness that you realized when learning the truth. Where, now, is that happiness you had? The apostle Paul asked this very question of certain Christians in his day, and added: “You were running well. Who hindered you from keeping on obeying the truth? This sort of persuasion is not from the One calling you.” (Gal. 5:7, 8; 4:15) No, it is from the Devil and his agents! And that persuasion is designed to cause you to forget God and to lead you into destruction. So bestir yourself before it is too late! Satan knows his end is near; do not let him cause your end too.
Just as love for God and his provisions prompted your decision to serve Him, so love for something else can cause you to forget that decision. It has happened many times before. During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome one of his close associates and fellow ministers was Demas, whose greetings Paul passed along in his Christian letters. (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24) However, during Paul’s second imprisonment Demas turned away from Paul. Why? Paul told Timothy: “Because he loved the present system of things.”—2 Tim. 4:10.
Has a similar love developed in you? Is this what has taken you away from Christian meetings and association with the brothers? It can so easily happen, and for this reason the apostle John recorded the divine warning: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. . . . because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away.”—1 John 2:15-17.
What is the evidence that one is succumbing to “the desire of the eyes” and is attaching importance to “the showy display of one’s means of life”? It usually begins almost imperceptibly. At first, perhaps, only a few extra expenses are unnecessarily incurred, and this results in only occasionally missing congregation meetings. Then further debts are assumed, requiring more time to pay for them, and leaving less time for study and meetings. Finally, serving God is completely thrown out to make room for other interests. Like thorns, Jesus said, “the deceptive power of riches and the desires for the rest of the things make inroads and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”—Mark 4:18, 19.
Did you notice what Jesus said can make you unfruitful as a Christian? Not only possessing riches, or enjoying “the pleasure of being wealthy” (Matt. 13:22, NW footnote, 1950 Edition); but, much more often, “the DESIRES for the rest of the things” cause unfruitfulness. Desires for new clothes, new TV’s, new cars, new houses, new appliances—an endless number of such things. Has satisfying these desires so absorbed your time and energies that you have not attended a meeting in several months or more? It is indeed a serious matter to make a vow to do Jehovah’s will, and then forget it.—Eccl. 5:4-6.
If the “thorns” of materialistic desires have hindered you from obeying the truth, it would be wise to examine yourself, asking: ‘Am I more contented and satisfied since leaving the Christian congregation and slipping into inactivity? Is my family life more wholesome, are relations pleasanter and is everyone happier? Or could the apostle Paul’s question appropriately be directed at me, “Where, then, is that happiness you had?”’ (Gal. 4:15) Do we truly rejoice at the fulfillment of the Bible prophecies, which show the closeness of the end of this wicked system of things? (Luke 21:28) Very likely genuine happiness and contentment have diminished. What, then, is the wise course to take?
OVERCOMING MATERIALISTIC DESIRES
It is evident. It is the course that initially acquainted you with God’s purposes and thrilled your heart. Yes, you can rekindle your joy in the same way that it was first realized: By means of a regular Bible study in your home and through association with your Christian brothers. Accept the invitation for such a study. Attend the congregation meetings. It is what you need to regain the happiness and contentment you once realized.
Perhaps you feel somewhat like the family who had been in the truth for twenty-two years but then, as they admitted, “were drawn into the world by materialism.” They wrote: “We often felt we wanted to attend the meetings but it just seemed as if we couldn’t make it. We didn’t really fit into Satan’s system, so we were completely disconnected, isolated between the new and the old systems of things. Although wanting and needing our brothers, we always felt we had to dodge them, and this left us frustrated and depressed. We needed words of encouragement.”
Do you, too, at times, feel the need of encouraging words? If so, will you be humble enough to accept them when they are offered? This family was, and they write: “We gladly accepted the provision of a Bible study in our home. Now we are all back in Jehovah’s secure organization. I cannot express the happiness I feel. Our entire home is governed according to Bible principles. We have learned from our experience how necessary it is to apply all instructions from the Society, have a family Bible study and do our Bible reading daily.”
Do not deprive yourself of the happiness and contentment enjoyed among God’s people. You also can realize it again. One person, who had left off association with the congregation years before, recently attended a Bible study, and reported: “My mind went back to the time when I studied, and really, I had not known true contentment or inward joy since then.” Next he went to the Kingdom Hall, and he could not get over “the cordial atmosphere and the love and kindness of the brothers.”
You, too, will receive this same warm welcome at the congregation meetings. The brothers will be genuinely happy to see you again. So do not wait; go to a meeting this very week! Do not allow the thorns of materialistic desire to continue to choke off Christian fruitage from your life.
OPPOSITION FROM FRIENDS OR RELATIVES
On the other hand, is it opposition from friends or relatives that has caused you to forget your decision to serve God? Think, now. Did you agree to serve God only if you had no opposition? Are you going to allow what others say to cause you to cease attending Christian meetings and to stop following Jesus’ example of ministering to others?
It would be wise to give careful attention to what Christ said in this connection: “Whoever disowns me before men, I will also disown him before my Father who is in the heavens. Do not think I came to put peace upon the earth; I came to put, not peace, but a sword. For I came to cause division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a young wife against her mother-in-law. Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household. He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.”—Matt. 10:33-38.
From what Jesus said, it is evident that true Christians must expect family opposition, is it not? Yes, indeed! So, really, if your friends or relatives oppose true worship, the sincerity of your decision to walk in Jesus’ footsteps is put to the test.
You may somehow reason that keeping peaceful relations with these persons is a demonstration of love and, therefore, justifies quitting true worship. But is abandoning God’s service really showing love for the ones closest to you? If you quit when opposition arises, how will friends and loved ones be helped to appreciate that accurate knowledge of the Bible is of life-or-death importance? Actually, genuine love for them is shown by enduring their opposition and resolutely living up to your decision to serve God. You will thus afford your friends and relatives the best possible opportunity to learn the truths from God’s Word and to come in line for the everlasting blessings that Jehovah holds out to those who serve him.
True, this may be difficult. But do not fail to appreciate that it is Satan the Devil who is inspiring the persecution. So be courageous! As the apostle Peter said: “Take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9) Yes, Satan is using the same tactics on your brothers elsewhere, and they are standing faithfully! You can too. Prove it by getting back in the Christian race. Go to the congregation meetings! Do not put it off!
OTHER ATTEMPTS TO CAUSE YOU TO FORGET
There are many other ways in which Satan the Devil endeavors to stumble Christians and make them forget their decision to serve God. For example, someone in the congregation may say or do something that causes one to take personal offense. And instead of straightening out the trouble in the Scripturally prescribed way, the offended one allows the matter to become such a big issue in his mind that he leaves the Christian congregation.
But think: Is it pleasing to Jehovah God to permit anyone or anything to interfere with your service to him or your relationship with his organization? Most definitely not! So do not allow such attempts of Satan to cause you to forget God and his service. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by staying away from congregation meetings and the association with your brothers.
A Christian cannot afford to be ignorant of Satan’s designs, and one of his most successful tactics is to cause discouragement. (2 Cor. 2:11) For example, one minister recently quit the ministry, explaining that the reason was that there simply was no response to the Kingdom message. Although this may be true, and even if people become increasingly cold toward God, is this reason to quit? Consider the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah to his unresponsive, stiff-necked countrymen, of whom Jehovah said: “You must speak to them all these words, but they will not listen to you; and you must call to them, but they will not answer you.”—Jer. 7:27.
Although those Israelites were extremely cold toward God, Jeremiah faithfully continued preaching to them for some forty years. He got discouraged, true, and he thought about quitting, but his love of God’s truth impelled him to continue serving. He did not forget his decision to serve God. (Jer. 20:9) Copy that example, and if, for any reason, you have slowed down or abandoned God’s service, bestir yourself quickly and continue running the race for life. Do not allow Satan to have the satisfaction of causing you to go down into destruction. Take your stand against him! Assemble regularly with your brothers at congregation meetings! There you will find warm encouragement and the needed protection.