Do You Tend to Be Stumbled?
JESUS CHRIST said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) Before a person becomes a true disciple of Jesus Christ, exercising faith in the ransom sacrifice and becoming Christ’s follower, he is a slave of sin and death. He has to make a change.—John 8:34.
The apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Ephesus, Asia Minor, to “put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires.” (Eph. 4:22) Yes, the old personality had wrong desires that had to be removed.
Accordingly, when a person comes to God for His help, he must be willing to work hard to make over his mind. (Rom. 12:2) He comes to realize that “‘eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.’ For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit.” We should adjust our thinking to these revelations new to us.—1 Cor. 2:9, 10.
If you have a tendency to stumble because you do not thoroughly grasp some explanation of Scripture or some organizational or procedural matter coming through the “faithful and discreet slave” class, remember your position before God. Think: Have I oriented myself properly? Have I progressively made my mind over? Am I going to stop doing so at this point?—Matt. 24:45-47.
Also, examine your heart. Ask yourself: Is there some desire, some leaning, some selfishness that hinders me from seeing or accepting the idea? Is it the truth on every matter that I am looking for, or do I want things to be my way in some particular respects?
HUMILITY AND REFLECTION
Humility is essential for the Christian in order for him to endure to the end. Testings that come from persecution are often not as difficult as the fight against the old personality with its pride and its pressures to conform a person to its desires. A person who thinks that he knows better than the Christian congregation should ask himself: ‘Do I fully know the history of God’s people?’ Perhaps the things you advocate or the way you want things done have already been tried years ago and found to be wrong. Think: ‘Do I have greater wisdom than those who have faithfully served Jehovah God for decades, who have spent their lives in research, study and service of God, directing the work of his people throughout the earth? Has God suddenly given me greater wisdom than these?’
In this connection, consider what the apostle Paul wrote to the Christian overseer Timothy. After describing some who resisted the truth, Paul said: “You, however, continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from what persons you learned them.”—2 Tim. 3:14.
If you have doubts, you can follow this good advice. When you studied the Bible to come to a knowledge of the truth about Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ, you were learning. You proved the points as you went along. You were persuaded to believe the things you were learning, but not by smooth talk or pressure on the part of the one teaching you. Rather, the Scriptures themselves, with the help of God’s spirit, persuaded you. You were firmly convinced of the truth. You knew you were right in accepting it. You may have gone ahead and expressed full faith by full dedication to God, being baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.” (Matt. 28:19) You said, in effect, ‘I come to do your will, O God.’ (Heb. 10:7) You did it willingly, out of your heart. Why, now, should you doubt that which you once thoroughly proved and decided? Why should you stumble and perhaps turn from this path of progressive knowledge, because of one or two things that you do not fully understand?
Also, think “from what persons you learned” these things. Were they after your money? Were they out to deceive you, to take advantage of you? Or were they ignorant and unable to teach you the fundamental things of God? Did the congregation with which you associated practice wicked works, hypocritically posing as teachers of truth? Rather, did they not take more interest in your spiritual welfare than anyone had ever done before?
Timothy knew that his mother and grandmother, and later, the apostle Paul and other Christians, had taught him with his own best interests at heart. Also, their example was good. But Paul knew he had to say these things to Timothy to strengthen him for the tests, trials and, possibly, the doubts that might assail him.
Consequently, if you are inclined to stumble, you should think upon those words of Paul and, additionally, on his counsel to the Hebrew Christians at Jerusalem. He admonished them: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.”—Heb. 13:7.
Yes, stick to the faithful course. How do you want your conduct to turn out? Good, of course. To life, of course. Then you have the sure formula in the words of the apostle: “Imitate their faith.” These brothers have remained in the faith; they have “waited for Jehovah.” (Ps. 130:5, 6) They have endured through trials and through times when imperfect human inclinations would have indicated a different course. The ‘realities not beheld’ may at times have been difficult to see. But they maintained faith and they are happy in serving Jehovah.—Heb. 11:1.
BEWARE OF UNHAPPILY SEEKING A WAY OUT
With regard to this matter of happiness, there is another way that you can test your own position. Ask, ‘Am I joyful; do I get real joy in serving Jehovah?’ If you have lost your joy, there is something wrong, but not in Jehovah or his people. It is you who are missing something. You have lost a measure of your spirituality. If you are becoming withdrawn, not having happy association—wholeheartedly—with your brothers, if you are isolating yourself, becoming introverted, look out! It is a serious warning signal. The inspired proverb says: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.”—Prov. 18:1.
If you find that you are stumbled or are offended about something being taught in God’s organization, or some adjustments being made, keep this in mind: God has put enough in the Bible to provide a complete foundation for faith. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) He has also left many details of various events in the Bible out of the account, enough so that one whose heart is not right, who wants to discover an apparent fault, who wants to find an excuse for leaving the way of truth, can find it.
Likewise Jehovah has arranged fully for the spiritual welfare of all his people through the Christian congregation. If you hear questionable words or see questionable actions, even wrong or mistaken actions, on the part of someone in the congregation, do not be stumbled and lose out on Jehovah’s favor because of this. Since God’s congregation is, indeed, made up of imperfect humans, one not really loving Jehovah and his people certainly can find an excuse to leave. The apostle John wrote that some had turned away. He said: “They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.” (1 John 2:19) Jehovah wanted only the loyal, loving, understanding sort, the kind who endure. Those who went out undoubtedly found some complaint that justified their actions in their own minds and hearts. But “Jehovah knows those who belong to him.” The firm foundation of his congregation will not fail. He inspired the psalmist to write: “Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law, and for them there is no stumbling block.”—2 Tim. 2:19; Ps. 119:165.
THE PROPER ATTITUDE
Troubles, doubts and causes for stumbling will arise. What shall a person do, then? The apostle expressed the spirit all should have when he said: “Forgetting the things behind and stretching forward to the things ahead, I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus. Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you. At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”—Phil. 3:13-16.
If you have troubles, trials, or if you observe things you cannot quite understand within the framework of truth as you know it, pray to God. James says: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all.” (Jas. 1:5, 6) Approach God freely in times of heavy trial or judgment, for the apostle John says: “This is how love has been made perfect with us, that we may have freeness of speech in the day of judgment.” (1 John 4:17) If we approach the “throne of undeserved kindness” in any time of need, we can confidently expect help. God will then reveal the right attitude to us.—Heb. 4:16.
Then, act in accord with your prayers. Consider: To what extent have I made progress in my service to Jehovah? Where have I made it? Was it not through study of God’s Word, association with God’s people, applying Bible principles in daily life, giving comments in meetings and carrying out other assignments? Was it not also by engaging in the preaching activity? Is it not in these ways that you developed your freeness of speech in the faith and your ability to present the good news to others? Then, Paul counsels, “let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”
If you do these things when in danger of stumbling, God will restore your happiness and joy in serving him, and you will be able to express the conviction of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38, 39.