God Rewards the Earnest Seekers
“Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
1. What is essential to happy family life, and how is this manifested?
ARE you a father, or a mother, or perhaps a member of a family living at home with your parents? In either case, do you not agree that a vital necessity for happy family life is in being able to express yourself freely just as you feel the need or the desire? It often happens under present conditions that such needs and desires cannot find a normal and proper outlet and are repressed. But they are still there and are not easily stifled, finding an outlet maybe through channels that are harmful. They are plainly evident from earliest childhood. The little one cries for sympathy and attention over the smallest thing. If something delights him, he wants to show it to someone who will respond with understanding. Who has not seen a small child suffer some slight accident while playing outdoors, then silently bottle up his grief, rushing in to find his mother, and only then does he feel he can give vent to his feelings?
2. What qualities and abilities give rise to man’s strong desire to communicate?
2 Yes, man has the ability and strong desire to communicate, to share with others the things that concern and interest him. He earnestly seeks to express himself, either for the sheer pleasure of it, or to get help when in need, or for the joy of helping someone else in need. Can we trace the cause of this strong desire? Indeed we can. Man has a reasoning and enquiring mind. He can explore, invent and organize. He has a keen sense of right and wrong. He can choose and form judgments. He can search out the understanding of things and can build up a deep appreciation of things and of people. It logically follows that he himself desires to be understood and appreciated by others. He has the capacity to love and has an intense longing for that love to be reciprocated, resulting in feelings of the greatest satisfaction and encouragement when a reciprocation of love is fulfilled. Is this not your experience? These wonderful abilities and qualities are there to be exercised and naturally call for expression, prompting the desire to communicate.
3. (a) What other factor is involved? (b) How are both factors seen to be important from childhood onward?
3 This desire, however, brings another important factor into consideration, namely, that of relationship. The two are closely linked, each depending on the other. You cannot enjoy full and free communication unless a good relationship is maintained. On the other hand, you cannot build up a good relationship without learning how to communicate. Both need to be carefully developed, and for proof we again refer to children. They have a natural desire to express themselves and do so spontaneously, taking the loving attention bestowed on them, the good relationship, for granted. But quite early, if properly trained, they are taught to realize that even their mother is not going to answer immediately their every cry. They learn that there are times when they must keep quiet. They are trained to appreciate that a good relationship can be spoiled by bad behavior. As they grow they learn that in every aspect of life the two factors of communication and relationship play a vital part, whether it is at school, or is in forming friendships, especially with those of the opposite sex, or when going out into the world for business or pleasure. Yes, these two factors contribute a great deal to one’s happiness and success in life. We need never stop learning how to improve on these two factors and thus promote and safeguard our best interests in life.
A HIGHER LEVEL
4. Is it wise to limit the exercise of these factors to human contacts?
4 Can we raise this discussion to a higher level? Many are satisfied to limit consideration of these factors to human contacts, but is it right or reasonable to do so? May we not thereby be missing out on a still deeper sense of satisfaction, with benefits more lasting and secure? Surely the possession of such fine qualities and abilities as already mentioned are self-evident proof that man is not the result of some blind and impersonal force, but is the product of a supreme Mastermind, an intelligent Designer and Creator, who himself possesses these same qualities in a superlative degree. Furthermore, man is not a robot, governed by instinct, but is free to use or abuse these gifts as he may choose. There is much talk these days, both by individuals and by nations, about living their own life and working out their own destiny In effect, they choose to ignore the existence of a Creator who has a definite purpose for this earth and man upon it. But is it right or reasonable to view things that way and pursue such a course?
5. The possession of fine qualities give rise to what questions?
5 We trust we already have given sufficient grounds to show the wisdom of not going the way of the world or of being affected by its spirit. If this is agreed to and the existence of a Creator is granted, is it not reasonable as a next step to enquire if this One has not given man a revelation of himself and his purpose? The possession of a reasoning and enquiring mind, with the capacity of exercising faith and love and devotion—surely these fine gifts would argue that the Giver would afford man the highest form of expressing these qualities and would reward those earnestly seeking him. Having seen how important these things are in human contacts, let us see if the same aspects involved are true when we are raising the discussion to a higher level, with far more rewarding conclusions.
6. How only can our needs and desires be truly satisfied, and how has this been made possible?
6 Since communication and relationship play a vital part among us humans, surely they are even more vital between the Creator and ourselves. If even children are conscious of their needs in this respect, is it not only natural that we should feel the need and desire to enjoy a good relationship and communication with our Creator as his offspring, his progeny? The gratification of such desires depends, of course, entirely on the Creator. He alone can make it possible, and what a joy it is to be able to say that he has indeed done this very thing! Yes, he has certainly revealed himself and opened the way for us to get in touch with him through prayer. How so? Primarily through his written Word, the Bible, and, as the Bible itself explains, also through a living Word, his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who is given the title, “The Word of God.”—Rev. 19:13; John 1:1.
7. To those seeking God, what encouragement is given?
7 In the written Word we find good support for the foregoing argument. When talking to the men of Athens, who were “given to the fear of the deities” and whose “city was full of idols,” the apostle Paul took the opportunity to explain about the Creator. He said he was the “God that made the world and all the things in it.” He confirmed that it was the Creator’s pleasure for men to “seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us. For by him we have life and move and exist, even as certain ones of the poets among you have said, ‘For we are also his progeny.’”—Acts 17:16, 22-28.
8. To approach God acceptably, what kind of information do we need?
8 With this encouragement, we go on to enquire if the Bible gives specific information for our guidance respecting communication and relationship so that we might really find God and learn how to pray to him acceptably. Though, like children, we are often more conscious of the need to keep open the lines of communication, yet really the question of relationship is far more important. So we will consider that first. Does the Bible tell us what are the necessary initial steps so that we might find favor with God and please him?
THREE PRIMARY REQUIREMENTS
9. (a) How does God’s Word highlight the first requirement? (b) Why is it reasonable to believe in the existence of a personal Creator, this leading to what questions?
9 The first requirement is that of faith. Paul makes this plain when he says to the Hebrews that “without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) To the honest, enquiring mind, it should not be difficult to believe in God’s existence, even though he, along with his qualities, is invisible to man. This is so because, as Paul elsewhere argues, “what may be known about God is manifest . . . For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they [men who want to ignore God and suppress the truth] are inexcusable.” In view of our increasing knowledge of the boundless energy pervading space, operating under laws pointing to a central source and control, we can readily agree with this. However, what assurance have we that God is the “rewarder of those earnestly seeking him,” and how does this help us in the matter of relationship?—Rom. 1:18-20.
10. What was Abraham’s basis for faith, pointing to what further requirement?
10 Here again the Bible record helps us. Early on, in Genesis, chapter 15, it tells about a man who earnestly sought God, who exercised faith in him, and who was promised a great reward. (Gen. 15:1, 6) His name was Abram, later changed to Abraham. How did he come to have faith in Jehovah as the true God in the first place? This is important, as it points to a second requirement. Abraham was familiar with the written record handed down through his forefathers, Noah and Shem, later forming the first part of the Pentateuch, now comprising the opening chapters of Genesis. This reliable information gave Abraham accurate knowledge, this providing the essential basis for true faith. For our own benefit, as well as helping us to put ourselves in Abraham’s place and to appreciate better his fine example, we will take a look at some of those things first recorded.
11. How does the record of man’s creation give worthwhile information?
11 In support of our earlier argument, it is plainly stated that man was created in God’s image, and was endowed with qualities and abilities enabling him to subdue the earth and have all things in subjection. He was in close communion with his Creator and had His blessing, enjoying a good relationship with Him. He not only knew of his Creator’s “power and Godship,” but had abundant evidence of his many loving provisions, the crowning gift being an ideal mate and helper, completing his happiness and opening up still further avenues of delightful communion and relationship.—Gen. 1:26-31; 2:18-23.
12. What resulted from man’s disobedience, and how is a third requirement thus emphasized?
12 However, first the woman and then the man, not being robots, used their freedom of choice in a course of willful disobedience to Jehovah’s expressed command. They wanted to live their own life and work out their own destiny. With what result? Among other things, their relationship and communion with their Creator, also with each other, were badly damaged. They “went into hiding from the face of Jehovah God,” and, when questioned, the man tried to push the blame onto God and the woman, saying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate it.” (Gen. 3:8, 12) Here we can learn a most important lesson, as doubtless Abraham did. Adam and Eve knew they were indebted to Jehovah for life and every good thing they enjoyed. During the time they appreciated this and remained subject to their Creator in a spirit of devotion and dedication, they enjoyed the blessings of a good relationship and communion with him. But as soon as they lost that spirit and took things into their own hands, they immediately forfeited those blessings. That was true then and is true now. Thus we can appreciate a third vital requirement, which must accompany faith and accurate knowledge, namely, that of whole-souled devotion to Jehovah.
13. In what way are the foregoing requirements seen to be closely related?
13 These three requirements are closely related. Faith is not just a mental assent or belief in something unseen, not something spoken of as a blind faith. Rather, it is the assured conviction of things, though unseen, yet having the stamp of truth and reality. This implies the need for accurate knowledge as a basis for such faith. Paul defined faith as “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” The greatest unseen reality is Jehovah. His “invisible qualities are clearly seen” and demonstrated by the things made. His Word, the Bible, has the stamp of truth, as Jesus said: “Your word Is truth.” Such a faith, or assured conviction, is a forceful, living thing, and of necessity bears fruit in accord with its basis of accurate knowledge and of understanding gained from God’s Word. The possessor of such faith is convinced that God is the “rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” That is what dedication means, a desire and determination continually to seek Jehovah, to find a delight in doing his will as recorded in his Word. This was Jesus’ own attitude, as prophetically recorded of him: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law [your word] is within my inward parts.”—Heb. 11:1, 6; Rom. 1:20; John 17:17; Ps. 40:8.
14. How did Jehovah in Eden give a strong basis for faith and hope?
14 There is something else, however, that Abraham learned from that early record that greatly increased his faith in the promise of a reward, also his loving devotion toward the One who gave that promise. Your own faith and devotion can be increased too. When pronouncing judgment in Eden after the outbreak of willful disobedience, Jehovah, in the very same breath, as we might say, uttered a remarkable prophecy. In cryptic form, it embodied a promise that held out a sure hope of a reward. It foretold enmity between the seed of the serpent and that of the woman, though not identifying her. God then said: “He [the seed of the woman], will bruise you [the serpent] in the head,” this implying the crushing in defeat and death of the one using the serpent, that is, Satan the Devil.—Gen. 3:15; see also John 8:44.
15. Faith and devotion toward Jehovah open the way for what blessings and reward?
15 That would be understood as a great reward for the faithful seed of the woman. It would also give hope of deliverance from bondage to sin and death, that resulted from that original rebellion, to those who exercised faith and devotion toward Jehovah. The first such one was Abel, the first of a long line of men and women of faith listed in Hebrews, chapter 11. Abraham is there mentioned, where the reward for him and the others is described as being a permanent place in God’s city-like arrangement, enjoying the blessings of fully restored relationship and communion with him in perfection. In fact, because of their faith, those blessings were enjoyed to a large degree by those men and women in their own day, while they were still imperfect. As will be shown later, Paul shows in that same letter that similar blessings can be enjoyed by men and women of today to an even greater degree.—Heb. 11:8-10, 16.
16. What special reward was given to Abraham due to his faith and devotion?
16 Speaking of Abraham, the record at Genesis 22:1-18 shows that Jehovah was pleased to give him a very special reward. After passing a severe test of his faith and devotion, even to the point of proving willing, if necessary, to offer his beloved son Isaac in sacrifice, then Jehovah revealed that the seed, promised in Eden, would come through his line, and that “by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.” As Jehovah had said earlier to Abraham: “Your reward will be very great.”—Gen. 22:18; 15:1.
EARNESTLY SEEKING JEHOVAH
17. Is there evidence of a general desire to be able to call on God when in great need?
17 Though we have examined the preliminary steps leading to a good relationship with Jehovah, there is still the question of how to establish and keep open the lines of communication with him. This can be quite a problem, even though the desire proves to be almost instinctive within us. Hard-bitten men, avowed atheists, have been known to call on God when in desperate need or danger. Even Cain, the first murderer, cried out to Jehovah: “My punishment for error is too great to carry,” because, for one reason, as he said, “from your face I shall be concealed.” Likewise Eve, though condemned, was anxious to bring Jehovah into the picture at the birth of her children, saying: “I have acquired a man with the aid of Jehovah,” and again later: “God has appointed another seed in place of Abel.”—Gen. 4:1, 13, 14, 25.
18. What characteristics mark the part that prayer plays in most religious services?
18 As further evidence as to how widespread is this deep-rooted desire, is it not true that in most religions, if not all, prayer occupies a prominent place in some form or other in their services? But is it not also generally true that, whether claiming to be Christian or otherwise, the emphasis is on routine and formalism, varying only for special occasions and religious seasons, as at Christmas and Easter? This includes their prayers, often being either chanted or recited in a monotone from a prayer book. To a great many, especially in Christendom, who from childhood have never known any other kind of religious service, this may go unquestioned. To those accustomed to it, it gives an emotional satisfaction. Everything is designed to that end, including the building and the music and the vestments, with often a certain mysticism added, all together creating an atmosphere of exaltation and serenity. They feel they have been in touch with sacred things, another world.
19, 20. Is the same often true of individual prayers, this leading to what pertinent questions?
19 When it comes to individual prayers, are not these often marked by the same characteristics, the ones praying having been taught that way from childhood? The little one is taught a set form of words as a prayer at mealtime, or when it is going to bed. The same method is often adopted by adults, reading from a book, or memorizing, together perhaps with counting beads or some other formalism, such as a prayer wheel.
20 This, especially as carried out by the individual, is often done in all sincerity, but is it really prayer in the true sense of the word? It may give a sense of satisfaction to the individual, but does it please God? Does he say he will hear and answer any form of prayer, as long as it is sincere? Does he leave it to us to decide what is acceptable in this respect? Collectively, has any religious organization, however large and ancient, the right to decide such matters on its own authority, relying heavily on tradition, as is often the case?
21. How do the younger generation often view tradition and custom, and what conclusion can be reached?
21 We said just now that forms and expressions of worship often go unquestioned. But is it not a marked feature of our day for one to leave nothing unquestioned, adopting instead a very critical attitude? The younger generation are not inclined to take anything for granted. Many are not ready to pay respect to anything, except in material things, such as progress in human achievements, or to some political or military hero. As a result, both inside and outside religious circles, it can undoubtedly be said that most people have forgotten how to pray, except those who go through a formalism and think they are praying by the use of beads or chants.
22, 23. Where can we confidently look for guidance respecting prayer? (b) In seeking God, what question is raised?
22 All the same, we believe there are countless numbers who, if aided in the right way, would be very glad to learn how to pray with the assurance that their prayers were acceptable to the great Creator. As mentioned, neither can this be determined on the basis of human authority, nor can it be left to one’s feelings or emotions. Learning how to pray is not a matter of learning words. Instead, following the line already taken, we will go to God’s Word, the Bible, in confident expectation. We have found that it gives helpful information as to the necessary steps in order to approach God acceptably. In particular, we found that the book of Hebrews gives practical counsel and advice on this question. You will recall that in chapter eleven it records a long list of men of faith who enjoyed God’s favor and blessing. They all believed that God “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
23 However, Paul shows in that same letter, not only regarding those men of faith, but for all of us who are dedicated to God, that we must earnestly seek something else in addition. Indeed, it is indispensable if we are to prove successful in finding favor with God. What is that?
EARNESTLY SEEKING GOD’S CITY
24. How does Paul speak of and identify the city that we must earnestly seek?
24 At Hebrews 13:14 Paul reminds those to whom he is writing that “we do not have here a city that continues, but we are earnestly seeking the one to come.” What is this city that we must earnestly seek? First, regarding Abraham, Paul says that “by faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land . . . For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and creator of which city is God.” Respecting Abraham and his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, Paul likewise says that “they publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land,” that is, they forsook their place in the old system of things, in the land of the Chaldeans, and held no land in Canaan. Instead, Paul says, “they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven [though, please note, not a place in heaven]. Hence God is not ashamed of them, to be called upon as their God, for he has made a city ready for them.” Later, Paul plainly identifies this city. After mentioning how fleshly Israel approached Mount Sinai under Moses’ leadership, he then, in contrast, says to the true Christians making up spiritual Israel: “But you have approached a Mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.”—Heb. 11:9, 10, 13-16; 12:18-22.
25. Of what is a city a fitting symbol, and how is God’s city further identified?
25 A city is used in the Scriptures as a fitting symbol of a community of people living as a closely knit organization under a central control. John was given a vision of this “holy city, New Jerusalem,” and the composition of it is made clear in the book of Revelation. John sees and describes it as being “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband,” and then he hears an angel identify the participants as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” referring to Christ Jesus and his bride class, the true church, or Christian congregation.—Rev. 21:2, 9; see also Revelation 14:1, 4.
26, 27. (a) How does the picture of God’s city find fulfillment today? (b) Who are closely associated with those who have hope of heavenly citizenship? (c) What question do we look forward to answering?
26 Do you see the force of this picture of God’s city? In the picture, or type, the literal, earthly city of Jerusalem, situated on Mount Zion, Was the beloved capital city over the whole land of ancient fleshly Israel. In actual fact, only a few Israelites could claim citizenship in Jerusalem itself. Likewise in the fulfillment, Christ Jesus and the true church with him in heaven, form the capital organization ruling over all of God’s earthly realm, this arrangement producing “new heavens and a new earth.” (2 Pet. 3:13) In these days of the conclusion of the old system of things, truly dedicated Christians with the heavenly hope and citizenship have already been restored to a closely knit unity. (Phil. 3:20) Closely associated with these is a “great crowd” of dedicated men and women with the hope of life on earth as subjects of God’s kingdom. They are “rendering him [God] sacred service day and night in his temple,” in association with the remnant of those who make up God’s spiritual house or temple. (Rev. 7:15; Eph. 2:19-22) In the same spirit as that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, these dedicated men and women of today must forsake the old system of things. Especially must they flee from that wicked symbolic city, Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. Instead, in proof of a living faith, they must earnestly seek God’s city, his city-like arrangement, as is plainly manifest among Jehovah’s witnesses.
27 Still, you may ask, how will finding God’s city help me in my prayers? We look forward to discussing this question in the following article.
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Abraham showed his faith by being willing to offer up his son. “Now I do know,” said Jehovah, “that you are God-fearing,” and He gave Abraham a very special reward