Do You Continue to Make Progress?
What progress is of greatest importance? How can it be made?
IN ALL levels of society there is interest in progress. Governments institute programs for the cultural, educational and economic progress of their citizens. Business corporations are always on the lookout for progressive-minded men to serve in administrative positions. And what parent is not joyful in noting commendation on the “Progress Report” his child brings home from school?
So it matters not where we look today, we observe that people are interested in progress. However, a brief reflection reveals that the progress the majority are interested in is of an economic or materialistic nature. Little or no emphasis is placed on moral or spiritual values. As a result, we are witnessing on a worldwide scale what happened to the ancient nation of Israel when too much emphasis was placed on the material side of life.
Appreciating the fact that materially prosperous persons may readily forget God and become self-confident, God’s prophet Moses warned that nation as it stood ready to take possession of the rich land that God had promised it:
“Watch out for yourself that you may forget Jehovah your God so as not to keep his commandments and his judicial decisions and his statutes that I am commanding you today; for fear that you may eat and indeed satisfy yourself, and you may build good houses and indeed dwell in them, and your herd and your flock may increase, and silver and gold may increase for you, and all that is yours may increase; and your heart may indeed be lifted up and you may indeed forget Jehovah your God.”—Deut. 8:11-14.
Later Bible history tells us that this is exactly what happened: “Israel began forgetting his Maker.” (Hos. 8:14) Why, they even began worshiping a materialistic false god named Baal, attributing their material prosperity to him! So, instead of growing in favor with the true God, Jehovah, the nation retrogressed. Or, as Jehovah himself expressed it, “they became backward in direction and not forward.” (Jer. 7:24) For failing to make spiritual progress due to lack of faith the nation was finally rejected by God.—Heb. 3:19.
Concerning the judgments executed by God on that nation of Israel the Christian apostle Paul wrote: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us.” (1 Cor. 10:11) Now what warning should we learn from that nation that “became backward in direction and not forward”? It is the lesson that if we do not continue to grow in faith toward God, to make spiritual progress, we will merit God’s disapproval.
So, are you making spiritual progress? Are you growing in faith?
FAITH ESSENTIAL TO PROGRESS
At the mention of faith many are prone to respond: “Oh, I have faith in God!” Yet many of these have not even read the Bible, the Word of God. Therefore, what they may know about God is simply what others have told them. And in this day and age when so many are misrepresenting God we are justified in asking, “Do such ones really have an accurate knowledge of God?” Usually they do not. If we desire accurate knowledge it is vital that we study the Bible personally.
True faith is firm conviction based on an accurate knowledge of God’s Word, which is the truth. (Rom. 10:17; John 17:17) The Bible defines true faith as “the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Real faith is founded on “realities,” not hearsay.—Heb. 11:1.
Thus, without an accurate knowledge of God’s Word it is impossible to have the faith with which to please God. Whether you continue to make spiritual progress or not really depends upon the depth of your appreciation of God and of his provisions for life. Such appreciation grows in relation to the knowledge you gain of him. Hence, what are you doing to increase your knowledge of God so as to deepen your appreciation, so as to build your faith?
NEED TO INCREASE IN ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE
You may have some knowledge of the Bible because you have read it. Or you may even have studied the Bible with those who distribute this journal, the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. And perhaps you have attended some of their meetings at the local Kingdom Hall. When you reflect on your present knowledge of the Bible as compared with the knowledge you possessed at the time of your first contact with Jehovah’s witnesses, very likely you will find that you have increased in accurate Bible knowledge. But are you continuing to make spiritual advancement? Do you as yet “have faith to the preserving alive of the soul”? (Heb. 10:39) Or have you allowed the anxieties of life to interfere with your spiritual progress?
Jesus, in his illustration of the sower, showed that there would be those who would hear the word of truth, but who would allow “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” to interfere with their spiritual progress. (Matt. 13:22) While it is true that in most parts of the earth it is becoming more difficult to provide the necessities of life, is this reason to allow a ‘choking of the word’? Jesus showed that those who are overly concerned with daily necessities, such as what they will wear and what they will eat, are really lacking faith. (Matt. 6:30) If we have the same desire as Jesus’ apostles, who said, “Give us more faith,” then we will not neglect our spiritual needs because of anxiety over material things.—Luke 17:5.
Also, there are many persons who love God’s Word but who are allowing relatives or friends to discourage them from taking the study of God’s Word seriously. It may be said that such persons are hindered from making spiritual progress because they are caught in a snare, for “trembling at men is what lays a snare.” (Prov. 29:25) Are you caught in that snare? If so, then you need to be reminded that it is not man, but Jehovah God who “should be the object of your fear, and he should be the One causing you to tremble.”—Isa. 8:13.
We should have a reverent fear of God, a fear to displease him. “Jehovah is finding pleasure in those fearing him,” but of the one who “shrinks back” he says, “my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Ps. 147:11; Heb. 10:38) So obviously there cannot be a shrinking back or compromising if we are going to receive the approval of the One who can reward us with everlasting life.
Those who are meeting successfully the challenges to their faith appreciate the need to develop their faith through regular study of the Bible and through regular association with God’s name people. They recognize the need to be “nourished with the words of the faith” in order to grow firm in faith. (1 Tim. 4:6) In their desire to “grow to salvation” they have formed “a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Pet. 2:2) They are not satisfied with infrequent study of the Bible or with occasional feeding at God’s spiritual table in the congregational meetings. If you are going to “go on . . . increasing in the accurate knowledge of God,” you must follow their fine example of faith.—Col. 1:10.
MAKING PUBLIC DECLARATION OF YOUR FAITH
As you continue to grow in knowledge and understanding of the truth of God’s Word, you will find your faith in God growing. The assured expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises respecting a new order of righteousness will become your expectation. When you read in the Bible the prophetic foregleams of God’s new system of things, there will be cultivated within you the hope of living then to enjoy its blessings. (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:3, 4) And quite naturally you will have the urge to tell others of your Bible-based hope, to speak out of your heart’s abundance.—Matt. 12:34.
The Christian apostle Paul felt the urge to make public declaration of his faith. (Rom. 10:10) He knew that God’s “will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) Due to the accurate knowledge he had of the truth, he considered himself a debtor to all. In connection with declaring the good news he said: “There is eagerness on my part to declare the good news . . . For I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith.” (Rom. 1:14-17) Will you manifest the eagerness of Paul in sharing the good news? Or will you be ashamed of the good news and thus remain silent?
The apostle Paul was not one to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose. (2 Cor. 6:1) He realized that he was really in a race, the prize of which was life, and he was determined to run in such a way that he might attain it. “Therefore,” he said, “the way I am running is not uncertainly.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27) Rather, he was “stretching forward to the things ahead, . . . pursuing down toward the goal for the prize.” He was making progress along the way that leads to life and encouraged us to do the same, saying: “To what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”—Phil. 3:13-16.
To what extent have you made progress? Does attaining the prize of life mean as much to you as it did to Paul? Or are you running uncertainly, limping upon two different opinions, so to speak? If you are not yet serving God with a complete heart, then do not the following words of the Christian apostle Peter apply in your case: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations”? (1 Pet. 4:3) Knowing that the will of the nations cannot prevail over the will of God, should you not respond affirmatively to the question, “Who is on Jehovah’s side?” (Ex. 32:26) But perhaps you ask: “How can I declare myself on God’s side?”
DECLARING YOURSELF ON GOD’S SIDE
You can declare yourself on God’s side by humbly acknowledging that he is ‘worthy to receive the glory and the honor because he created all things,’ that “by him we have life and move and exist.” (Rev. 4:11; Acts 17:28) This acknowledgment must be backed up by a decision on your part to do the will of God. This should be a decision based upon knowledge you have gained of God and his purposes, and a heartfelt desire to do his will. And how should this humble acknowledgment and decision to serve God be made known to him?
It is properly made known to God in prayer, even as Jesus did when presenting himself to do the will of his Father. At that time he said: “Look! I am come to do your will.” (Heb. 10:9) Your decision or dedication to do God’s will is a very important step forward in your life of praise to God. After taking it, you should then demonstrate to others that you have chosen to be found on Jehovah’s side by submitting to water baptism, after the example of Jesus.—Matt. 3:13-17.
As seen in the light of Bible prophecy, present world events signify that the time left in which you can identify yourself on God’s side is greatly reduced. Very shortly now God will put it in the minds of the rulers of the earth to destroy completely what remains of the world empire of false religion, “Babylon the Great.” That day of the execution of God’s judgment upon false religion will come suddenly, swiftly. Then it will be too late to make an escape from that harlot-like system that holds in bondage all those not enjoying the freedom that only true worship brings. Therefore, it is urgent to take the positive step of declaring yourself on Jehovah’s side without delay.—Rev. 17:5, 16, 17; 18:21.
There is great joy that comes as a result of making spiritual advancement. And, because one’s everlasting destiny is involved, indeed there is no advancement that is more urgent. Do not be discouraged by the progressive steps involved in attaining Christian maturity. As your faith grows through your receiving the Word of God into a right and good heart, it will motivate you to take each logical forward step.
Just as a child progresses toward adulthood little by little, in the same way you may expect to become full grown in a spiritual sense. And just as loving parents are ready to help their child advance toward physical, mental and emotional maturity, so the Christian witnesses of Jehovah are anxious to help you make progress toward spiritual maturity. They experience a unique joy in seeing persons with whom they study the Bible advance in knowledge and understanding of God’s purposes to the point of also becoming active servants of God. Therefore, accept their assistance with the full assurance that it is being offered without ulterior motive, but rather out of genuine “love” that “does not look for its own interests.”—1 Cor. 13:4, 5.