Serving Jehovah with a Complete Heart
“You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”—Matt. 22:37.
1, 2. (a) What serious advice did King David give his son Solomon regarding the importance of serving Jehovah with a complete heart? (b) How did Jesus show the need of serving Jehovah with a complete heart?
HE WAS an old man and he did not have long to live. Before a gathering of people he talked to his son, and said to him: “My son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning. If you search for him, he will let himself be found by you; but if you leave him, he will cast you off forever.”—1 Chron. 28:9.
2 The aged man, his son, and the people who heard what was said have long passed off the scene. But those words of King David to his son Solomon contain counsel and truth that are eternal and that are vital today for you and me. The whole record of the Bible, including the ministry of God’s Son, Christ Jesus, testifies to the fact that the Sovereign God Jehovah wants to be served with a complete heart—or not at all. When asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Matt. 22:36-38; Mark 12:28-30) Surely none of us want God to ‘cast us off forever,’ do we? So, since our hearts are among those hearts that Jehovah is searching, how can we be sure we are serving him with a “complete heart,” with our “whole heart”?
3. Why is it essential to see clearly the distinction between the heart and the mind?
3 Seeing clearly the Bible’s distinction between mind and heart will help us in safeguarding the heart and serving Jehovah with a complete heart. A person may have an excellent knowledge of the Bible, may be able to answer questions on numerous points and show that he or she is “up-to-date” on the very latest information published. But that person may be in grave danger. For the “sources of life” are not out of the head, not out of the brain or mind, but, as Proverbs 4:23 tells us, ‘out of the heart.’ We can easily deceive ourselves unless we realize this. Remember, even individuals who have turned against the truth, who become apostates, do not instantly lose all Bible knowledge. Even though their hearts have decisively rejected God’s way, knowledge remains in their minds, though fading with time. So mental knowledge alone is not a sure guide to our spiritual health.
4. What does it mean to serve Jehovah with a complete heart?
4 Ask yourself, then: What kind of person am I in the ‘secret person of my heart’? Am I now serving Jehovah with a “complete heart,” with my “whole heart”? To serve with a “complete heart” means to serve with a heart that is all one way in its motivation, not halfhearted (Ps. 119:113) or doublehearted. (1 Chron. 12:33; Ps. 12:2) If we are serving with our whole heart, then pleasing Jehovah God is the greatest thing in our lives, our heart’s delight. Like the psalmist, we pray: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth. Unify my heart to fear your name.” (Ps. 86:11) So, our heart is united, has singleness of purpose. (Prov. 23:19) Such a heart moves us steadily in one direction, Jehovah’s way.
GOOD MOTIVE VITAL IN ALL THAT WE DO
5. Having a complete heart will cause us to have what view of the various aspects of God’s service?
5 Serving with a complete heart means as well that our heart is right toward the full scope or complete range of what God’s service includes. This includes the marriage relationship, training of children, secular work, relations with neighbors, personal study, Christian meetings and assemblies, interest in one’s brothers, caring for congregational assignments and responsibilities. Our heart cannot be just partially in harmony with Jehovah’s will.
6, 7. (a) While the hearts of the Israelites moved them to be generous, what condition of heart was manifest by many only a short time later? (b) How is this an example for us?
6 Take, for example, the time when the tabernacle or tent of meeting was to be built. The Bible shows that the Israelites’ hearts moved them to contribute so generously that the things given, much of which they had to produce by manual work, “proved to be enough . . . and more than enough.” Moses, in fact, had to tell them not to bring any more. (Ex. 36:4-7) This was fine. But within a short time these same people were engaging in murmuring and complaining about their circumstances. (Num. 11:1-6, 10) Moses’ sister Miriam (who had sung Jehovah’s praise so joyously after the destruction of Pharaoh’s forces in the Red Sea) leagued with her brother Aaron in speaking against God’s appointed overseer for directing the nation. (Num. 12:1-8) The people in general gave way to fear and lack of faith when hearing bad reports from spies sent into Canaan, even talking of pelting Moses and Aaron with stones. (Num. 13:1, 2, 25-33; 14:1-10) They had contributed material goods and labor, but were they serving Jehovah with a “complete heart,” with their “whole heart”?—Jas. 3:13, 14.
7 Are any of us like that? Do we give heartily of our material means, perhaps even perform fine services when there is a large-scale effort under way to accomplish some major project, as at an assembly or when building a Kingdom Hall; but afterward, possibly when things do not go just as well as we would like, do we give way to murmuring, complaining, even showing a spirit of rebelliousness?
8. Why must the heart be safeguarded at all times, not taking for granted that it will always motivate correctly?
8 Remembering the treachery that his heart can play, a Christian, though he knows the truth and may consider himself perfectly safe, must safeguard his heart if he would keep it “complete” in service to Jehovah. He must exercise great care not to place himself in the way of temptation. The apostle Paul cites the example of the Israelites’ sins, among them being gross fornication, and then says: “Consequently let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.” (1 Cor. 10:6-12) And the inspired writer of Proverbs says: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”—Prov. 28:26.
PROVISIONS FOR HAVING A COMPLETE HEART
9. How can we be sure of the “thoughts and intentions of the heart”?
9 To ‘walk in wisdom’ we need to examine our hearts regularly, test our motives, search out our weaknesses and work on remedying them. It is good for us to stop and think: “I know what my mind says, but what is in my heart. Why do I want to do this or that? What motive is it that is impelling me? Is my reasoning truly sincere or am I in effect trying to ‘pull the wool over my own eyes,’ excuse myself?” In view of the heart’s treachery, we need help. God provides it through his Word. “For the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.”—Heb. 4:12.
10, 11. (a) What provisions are made by Jehovah to help us to have a good and complete heart? (b) To what extent does a complete heart depend upon the individual?
10 But for the Bible to discern the thoughts and intentions on which our hearts have set themselves with benefit to us, we need to do our part. We need to ‘soften our hearts’ to the counsel we get, ‘incline our hearts’ to receive it. We have an abundance of spiritual food from God’s visible organization to help us “pay attention to wisdom with [our] ear, that [we] may incline [our] heart to discernment,” so that we will not have hearts “dull of understanding,” but have the ‘eyes of the heart’ enlightened. Since “the heart of the understanding one acquires knowledge, and the ear of wise ones seeks to find knowledge,” we are provided regular Christian meetings to attend, where instruction and association are wholesome and upbuilding. We have, too, “counsel in the heart of” mature men serving as overseers which we can discerningly ‘draw up’ as deep waters from their wells of experience in making practical application of Jehovah’s laws.—2 Chron. 34:27; Prov. 2:1, 2; 18:15; 20:5; Mark 6:52; Eph. 1:18.
11 But we must put forth the effort to get these benefits, to use them diligently in building and safeguarding our hearts. King Jehoshaphat was commended by Jehovah for ‘preparing his heart to search for the true God.’ (2 Chron. 19:3) “The understanding heart is one that searches for knowledge.” (Prov. 15:14) David did pray that God would “create in [him] even a pure heart,” but Jehovah does not do this miraculously, since “to earthly man belong the arrangings of the heart.”—Ps. 51:10; Prov. 16:1.
12. Why is not a mental understanding of the truth sufficient?
12 It is not enough to get a mental understanding, we need to be moved by what we learn, feel it in our hearts. Through the inspired writer our heavenly Father says: “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh. More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.” (Prov. 4:20-23) Yes, we need to write what we learn ‘upon the tablet of our heart’ (Prov. 3:3; 7:3), and we can do this only if we take time to let God’s truth sink down into our heart, right into the middle of it, so that it will motivate us in a right way. (Ps. 37:31) Is that what you do when you engage in personal study at home? when you attend meetings?
13. (a) Rather than the mind wandering, a closer look may reveal what to be wandering? (b) What warning is given at Hebrews 3:12, and how does a “wicked heart lacking faith” often begin to be reflected first?
13 Sometimes we say that in our personal reading or at meetings we find that ‘our mind wanders.’ Perhaps so. Perhaps something a child does or some other distraction may divert our attention momentarily. But, being completely honest with ourselves, could it be that sometimes it is not our mind but our heart that starts to wander? Do we find ourselves thinking of material things, something we are going to buy, some project at home we are interested in, money matters, or find ourselves thinking on things of the flesh: food, entertainment, someone of the other sex? If we keep finding these things more interesting than the consideration of God’s Word and its splendid counsel, perhaps even wishing the meeting would end so we could devote attention to these other matters, then we are in trouble, in danger of having our hearts become insensitive as if covered with fat (Ps. 119:70), or become hardened and resistant to God’s guidance. (Heb. 3:8) This shows a lack of faith in Jehovah’s goodness, in his rewarding us for our faithful devotion to him, and shows that we are starting to look elsewhere for our reward. Christians are warned to beware “for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Heb. 3:12) The start of such a disastrous course generally shows itself first in our attitude toward God’s Word and our appreciation of what we read and hear from it.
14. Illustrate how the heart comes into play when it comes to appreciate for and attendance at Christian meetings.
14 So, too, with attendance itself at the meetings or with engaging in the ministry. It is normal for a person to be sick occasionally, and the sickness sometimes may be serious enough to keep him at home. Too, it is not unusual at times for a person simply to feel tired and have little energy for meetings or field service—the flesh is weak even though the spirit is willing. So, occasionally we have to push ourselves to get started, knowing we will be glad we did. Thus, discipline is necessary in order to avoid going along with the selfish desires of the heart and the fallen flesh. Let us illustrate it this way: Suppose this is the night to go to the Kingdom Hall for Bible instruction, and as the time approaches a brother finds that he is just physically unable to go. My, how he would love to go! Well, he cannot make it. He is just too sick. But where is his heart? On the other hand, another brother comes home after working quite hard all day. His heart tells him subtly, ‘It would be quite nice to stay home tonight.’ (Remember, the heart is the seat of desire and motive.) But there has to be some kind of reason for staying home from the meetings. So, the heart motivates the mind to go to work on this, and almost before he knows it, up come several good-sounding reasons for staying home. If he is not very careful, he will not make it to the Kingdom Hall that night. Now, the same thing could happen with respect to any of our Christian activities. The point is: Where is our heart? If it wants to, desires to, loves to, it will usually find a way. Jesus summed it up when he said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matt. 6:21.
15. When we find ourselves looking for reasons for not sharing in the ministry or attending meetings, what corrective measures should be taken right away?
15 Individuals also have personal or family responsibilities, and each one must arrange his own affairs as he feels best. Some months he may find it possible to devote more time to the field ministry than in others. This is his personal affair. But when we find ourselves looking for reasons to stay home from meetings or from engaging in field service, searching for excuses or pretexts to avoid these—then we are in danger! Now our hearts are motivating us in the wrong way. When this happens we need to do as James says: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.” (Jas. 4:8) We have a problem and we need to take it to our heavenly Father and tell him about it in prayer.
16. (a) What do our prayers reveal about our hearts? (b) What is meant by the invitation from Jehovah, “Do give your heart to me”?
16 This, too, is a means for examining our hearts. Perhaps as much as any other facet of our service to Jehovah God, our prayers reveal what our relationship with him is, how we feel toward him in the “secret person of the heart.” What kind of relationship with him do your prayers show that you have? Only you and he can know. But it should be a warm, trustful and intimate relationship, as of a son or daughter with a Father who is respected and loved with all one’s heart. (Prov. 4:3, 4) Is that the kind of relationship your prayers reveal? Or is your relationship just that of a mere speaking acquaintance, as with a neighbor, with one’s employer, or with a fairly good friend? If the relationship is not what it should be, you can be certain of one thing: It is through no fault of your heavenly Father. Like the writer of Proverbs 23:26, He says: “My son, do give your heart to me, and may those eyes of yours take pleasure in my own ways.” Open up your heart to him in your prayers, tell him what is in your heart, ask his aid in carrying out the right desires of your heart and in revealing to you its weaknesses and the remedy for them. Then give your heart to him by carrying through with the guidance he gives you by means of his Word, his spirit and the Christian congregation.
STRENGTHENING THE HEART IN ADVANCE
17. Why is it important to strengthen and safeguard the heart in advance of temptation?
17 We are living in a system that is daily becoming more and more degraded. This puts our hearts to ever greater tests as to the completeness of our devotion to Jehovah God and his service. If we are going to safeguard our hearts we must keep the heart in focus, remember its importance because of its capacity for motivation and affection. We should not wait for tests and temptations to hit us with their full force, but be strengthening our hearts long before to meet them.
18. What questions will help us to test out our motives?
18 When even the first thoughts of immorality manifest themselves, we should ask ourselves: “Would I really want to do such a thing, knowing what it will result in? Would I want to bring reproach on my family, on the congregation with which I associate? What about my mate? True, she (or he) may have faults, weaknesses—but so do I. Do I want to cause the deep hurt such an act would surely bring? Is that gratitude for the years of my mate’s life that I have shared? More than that, am I really so ungrateful that I would do despite to Jehovah’s gift of his Son, treat Jesus’ death on a torture stake as if it were of no account, throw away all Jehovah’s undeserved kindness just for a few moments of illicit pleasure? Where is my love of decency, uprightness, honesty?”
19. What questions can we appropriately ask ourselves when we begin to feel the pull of materialism?
19 When we begin to feel the pull of materialism, the call of the present system to enter more fully into its supposed benefits and profits, we should ask ourselves, ask the “secret person of the heart”: “Can I honestly say that material things have ever really given me a joy that compares with Jehovah’s service, with my association with the brothers, with the pleasure of knowing that I have been of real help to others, aiding them on the way to life? What future does this world have to offer me that a righteous heart could really want? Do I want to place my affections on this system of things when I know full well that it would only use me for a while and then discard me when it had no more use for me?” True, we must wait for the blessings of God’s new order. But as James counsels: “You too exercise patience; make your hearts firm, because the presence of the Lord has drawn close.”—Jas. 5:7, 8.
20. When we are faced with issues involving neutrality, what should be reviewed in our hearts?
20 Likewise, when pressured to abandon your neutral position regarding this world’s systems or in any way break your integrity to God, review in your heart the despicable things that the god of this world, Satan the Devil, has fomented among the nations—the bloodshed, crime, greed and cruelty. How could we possibly agree even for a moment to put ourselves on his side? Even if he persecutes us, jails us, tortures us, how could we possibly deny Jehovah, the God of the new system of things, in favor of Satan and his beastlike, corrupt and heartless systems?
21. (a) How can we prevent our hearts from becoming “weighed down,” seeing that we are keep into the “time of the end”? (b) How did Solomon fail in following the advice of his father in maintaining a complete heart?
21 By similar means we can strengthen our hearts in their love for all that is right, decent and honest and cultivate a genuine hatred for all that Jehovah condemns and detests. (1 Chron. 29:17; Heb. 1:9) But once we have developed a good heart, it cannot be taken for granted. It must be safeguarded. “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.” (Luke 21:34, 35) Solomon prayed to Jehovah for an obedient heart and for discernment in judging God’s people. Even though “God continued giving Solomon wisdom and understanding in very great measure and a broadness of heart,” how sad it is to read that “it came about in the time of Solomon’s growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah his God like the heart of David his father.” (1 Ki. 4:29; 11:1-6) Just imagine! After being blessed so abundantly with wisdom from Jehovah and having so many privileges in connection with Jehovah’s typical kingdom and building the magnificent temple of Jehovah, he allowed his heathen wives to draw his heart away to worship other gods! And he was one who, under inspiration, wrote so much about the heart.
22. Why is it essential that we serve Jehovah not only because we must but also because we want to do his will?
22 Whatever we do and in all that we do, then, let us do it wholeheartedly as to Jehovah. He is very pleased with such service. He is not an ungrateful God. He is appreciative of all we do; he finds delight in rewarding us, blessing us, giving us gifts. But our service must be sincere, genuine, with our whole heart. He can see through any subterfuge, see when we are doing things for other reasons. He can see when we are concerned more with a report than with our praise to Him, or concerned with our appearance, our impression on others, or are doing things simply because we feel we have to. True, we must serve if we want life. But we will never hold out, never endure, never reach the goal unless we want to do this, have a heartfelt longing to serve Jehovah, long to live in a time when we can serve him perfectly, free from all the things that now make us commit wrongs and fall short of his perfect standards.
23. (a) What may be the reasons why some drop out of the race for life? (b) How can we confidently pray as did Paul, in behalf of those seeking to have a complete heart?
23 Everything points to the nearness of God’s new order. Yet even at this late hour some who have been in Jehovah’s service for many years are dropping away. Why? Could it be the spirit of independence, or that they realize that soon God’s government will assume full control over all surviving earthly inhabitants and that, in their hearts, they really do not want this, do not want this fullness of control that righteous rule will bring? Having searched for Jehovah and having found him, keep your heart complete toward him, love and serve him with your whole heart. Do not leave him or he will cast you off forever. As Paul prayed for his brothers in his day, so we now pray for you: “May the Lord continue directing your hearts successfully into the love of God and into the endurance for the Christ.”—2 Thess. 3:5.
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When we let our mind get distracted or wander, could it really be a case of our heart wandering?
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Our prayers reveal what our relationship with God is. What kind of relationship do your prayers reveal?