What Are You Doing with Your Life?
“[Wisdom] is a tree of life to those taking hold of it.”—Prov. 3:18.
1-3. (a) Why should we appreciate the life that we have now? (b) Does God have a direct hand in the birth of every child? (c) Why does Jehovah give life to others?
DO YOU appreciate the fact that you are alive? Have you ever given thought to the great prize that life is? As life is passed on from parents to children the variety of combinations of traits and qualities transmitted through the genetic arrangement is astronomical in number. Out of a long chain of circumstances affecting your forefathers, you have come to be. It is really something to be thankful for, because, for example, had your parents or grandparents married different mates, you would never have been born. Or if your mother had conceived at a different time, the one born would have been another child, not you.
2 Jehovah is the Source and Giver of life. (Ps. 36:9) He endowed Adam and Eve, as his direct creations, with the power to transmit life to their children. At John 1:13 the apostle points out that humans are born according to “a fleshly will,” the will of their parents. Accordingly, the personalities brought forth are not predestined by God, nor does he have any direct hand in the conception and birth of children. Time and circumstances govern the combinations of factors in the reproductive cell. Therefore a person should highly appreciate that he exists, that he has a place among those who have life.
3 Jehovah greatly values life. He is the happy God, and he wants others to be happy. (1 Tim. 1:11) He takes pleasure in seeing others enjoy living. He therefore gives life to others for a purpose. What importance he attaches to living in the right way! If humans do not waste their lives in foolish pursuits, but live in the way God made them to live, he will give them everlasting life.
WHAT IS NEEDED FOR LIFE
4-6. (a) What besides material food does man need for life? (b) Why does man need spiritual energy from God?
4 It is necessary for the body to be constantly nourished by breathing, drinking and eating. But there is something far more essential for continuance of life. What is this? Well, of all God’s earthly creation, only man was made in the image and likeness of God. (Gen. 1:26, 27) Different, then, from the “unreasoning animals,” man had the far higher attributes of love, justice, wisdom and other qualities of God. (2 Pet. 2:12) He had the capacity for spirituality. He could reason as to why he had been created; he could learn of his relationship to God. And as he progressed in knowledge of God, the fine attributes God gave him would deepen in him.
5 Moreover, man’s capacity to take in knowledge of God, to progress mentally and spiritually, was unlimited. God, from His boundless, fathomless storehouse would continue to supply man with these essential things throughout eternity. So the spirituality and wisdom of God would be ever expanded in man.—Rom. 11:33-36.
6 According to his created constitution, man, in order to keep living, had to have a constant supply of spiritual energy from Jehovah. He needed spiritual connections with God. Even perfect man, with all material necessities, would die without spiritual food. If man took in spiritual food, God would supply the material things, just as he did for Adam and Eve.—Gen. 1:29; 2:9; Matt. 6:33.
7. What wrong course did Adam take, and did this cause God to abandon his purpose toward mankind?
7 Readers of the Bible know that Adam did not continue to stay close to God in obedience and wisdom and to increase his spirituality, but instead cut himself off from God and brought sin and death on the human race. (Rom. 5:12) Nevertheless, God did not abandon his purpose toward mankind. He will bring to obedient mankind what he purposed for them. For this reason he has caused the Bible to be written and has sent his Son as a sacrifice to benefit those who desire to serve Him.—Rom. 5:8.
PROVERBS GIVE PRINCIPLES FOR LIVING
8-10. Why did the principal writer of the Bible book of Proverbs have a fine opportunity to know about life, and to what depth did his knowledge go?
8 The Bible book of Proverbs gives us the basic principles for living. King Solomon of Israel, the main producer of Proverbs, certainly had a grasp of life in its many aspects. He had time and opportunity to observe life, and he did much meditation and investigation. And not to be overlooked is the fact that God, who created all things by his wisdom, gave Solomon wisdom so that he could have understanding of these things.—Prov. 3:19, 20; 1 Ki. 3:11-14.
9 Though Solomon’s kingdom comprised only a small area in the Middle East, his wisdom was recognized by people of many nations, as it is said of him:
“Solomon’s wisdom was vaster than the wisdom of all the Orientals and than all the wisdom of Egypt. . . . And he could speak three thousand proverbs, and his songs came to be a thousand and five. And he would speak about the trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that is coming forth on the wall; and he would speak about the beasts and about the flying creatures and about the moving things and about the fishes. And they kept coming from all the peoples to hear Solomon’s wisdom, even from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.”—1 Ki. 4:30-34.
10 Now, Solomon did not merely mention these creations of God in his speech; he also understood them and their growth, habits and ways, as well as their place in God’s creative works. The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes also reveal his insight into man and his desires and ways. Solomon understood the wise and unwise courses that man could take, with their consequences.
11. Why can we have full confidence in applying Solomon’s words in our lives?
11 Furthermore, God purposed that Solomon speak and write for our benefit, and by His spirit he guided Solomon’s words so that they are much more than the wisdom of a mere man. They are fit to be recorded as inspired words in the Bible, God’s Word of truth.
12. What does God require of man to get His favor for everlasting life?
12 What does Jehovah God require of man to come into good relationship with Him and to have a hope for everlasting life? Solomon tells us: “To carry on righteousness and judgment is more preferable to Jehovah than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3) God has not asked man to do something impossible. Through his prophet Micah, Jehovah corroborated Solomon’s words, saying: “He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?” How can you do this?—Mic. 6:8.
13, 14. What conclusion did Solomon reach about life and why?
13 Perhaps you have observed the world and life as it is now lived by the majority. You see frustration, injustice and futility. Many hardworking people are, in effect, on a “treadmill,” and today no one knows what will happen next. Even the rich and the mighty ones of earth can do nothing to stave off old age and death. King Solomon observed this, and he said:
“I hated life, because the work that has been done under the sun was calamitous from my standpoint, for everything was vanity and a striving after wind. And I, even I, hated all my hard work at which I was working hard under the sun, that I would leave behind for the man who would come to be after me. And who is there knowing whether he will prove to be wise or foolish? Yet he will take control over all my hard work at which I worked hard and at which I showed wisdom under the sun. This too is vanity.”—Eccl. 2:17-19.
14 Solomon did not hate life itself, but life as it is lived under the present system of things. Jesus Christ, who was greater than Solomon, showed that this system of things is under the control of Satan the Devil. After his faithful course, in which he “conquered the world” by maintaining faithfulness to God, he said: “Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” Again he said that the ruler of this world had no hold on him. Soon this system of things with its ruler will be destroyed.—John 16:33; 12:31; 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 11:18; 12:9.
15, 16. What is the first thing one needs in order to get on the roadway to life?
15 How, then, can we live so as to avoid control by the “ruler of this world” and be pleasing to God, to live on earth under a righteous new order when the ruler of this world is removed from his invisible controlling position of this system of things?
16 Let us turn again to the wise words of Solomon for answer. He tells us: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7) To fear Jehovah is to put him first in a person’s life, to learn his ways and principles and obey him above all others. With this attitude a person is in the position where he sees his spiritual need, the need of spiritual food from God in order to live. (Matt. 5:3) Then Solomon says of seeking Jehovah’s wisdom: “If you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.”—Prov. 2:3-5.
BIBLE STUDY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE
17. What questions must a person seriously ask himself, if he wants life?
17 This is very plain and simple. It means that, to get life, you must study the Bible. True, everyone is busy. But note that we must want wisdom as a treasure, as a treasure hunter is willing to sacrifice time and energy and to dig for it. So, ask yourself, ‘What am I doing with my life? Am I occupying my time altogether with things that do not fill my need for spiritual connections with God?’ If so, and if you ‘cannot find time’ for Bible study, then you are, in effect, saying that you do not want life. No one can schedule your time for you; you have to take time somehow to do it. Others can then help you.—Eph. 5:15, 16.
18. Why is it not difficult to get a knowledge of the Bible?
18 As you begin to get this wisdom from the Bible, you find the Bible very simple and straightforward. “To the understanding one knowledge is an easy thing,” says the proverb. (Pr 14:6) This is true. After studying for a while you begin to connect new information to things you already know. The truth of the Bible is so logical, so interrelated, that the ‘pieces’ begin to fit together very rapidly, and the whole purpose of Jehovah begins to become clear. “You will understand righteousness and judgment and uprightness, the entire course of what is good,” says Solomon.—Prov. 2:9.
19. As you begin to understand the Bible, how will this knowledge begin to help you?
19 As you continue studying, it becomes easier for you to set aside time for good things. Also, your newfound wisdom will steer you away from unprofitable things. No longer are bad language or bad jokes part of your speech. You avoid doing even the “little” things that are dishonest. Many things that you desired in the past are now seen to be things of no real, lasting value. Solomon expressed this truth, saying: “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things, from those leaving the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.”—Prov. 2:10-13.
20. Aside from knowledge of the Bible, what other help do you receive as you study?
20 As these bad habits are thrown aside you begin to desire association with those whose conversation is good, those who can upbuild you. Such associations begin to become really enjoyable. Perhaps someone studies the Bible with you. He and others of like faith will be of great help and protection to you, for it is true that “he that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” Here the Hebrew word for “stupid” implies, not merely one who lacks knowledge, but one who is ungodly, insensible to moral truth.—Prov. 13:20; compare Proverbs 10:23; 13:19; 14:8.
21. How should you view correction offered to you by your Christian associates?
21 From time to time your new Christian associates may kindly call to your attention something that will help you to come more into line with God’s view of things. It may be some habit you have, some practice common to the world, that is called to your attention. Perhaps they point you to certain scriptures dealing with the matter. Instead of feeling hurt or offended, keep in mind that you, like all Christians, have come out of a world that does not know God, a world habitually doing things displeasing to God. You are in the process of “making your mind over.” (Rom. 12:2) You are learning God’s law, and of this the wise man says: “For the commandment is a lamp, and a light the law is, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”—Prov. 6:23.
JEHOVAH HELPS OBEDIENT ONES
22. How do the Proverbs show the importance of discipline?
22 God wants us to become obedient to him, as a son to a fine father, and, as the ancient Hebrew father counseled his son, so God says to us: “The discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject; and do not abhor his reproof, because the one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” (Prov. 3:11, 12) As one striving to be an obedient son, you are thankful that the matter was called to your attention, that someone was interested enough in you to set you right. Far better that we be corrected early in a wrong course than to go our own way unchecked, for the wise inspired writer tells us: “His own errors will catch the wicked one, and in the ropes of his own sin he will be taken hold of. He will be the one to die because there is no discipline, and because in the abundance of his foolishness he goes astray.”—Prov. 5:22, 23.
23. Why is prayer essential in meeting the problems of life?
23 Everyone meets problems in taking a Christian course, perhaps in his own family, in relations with workmates or friends. But you can take comfort from the wise counsel: “Roll your works upon Jehovah himself and your plans will be firmly established.” (Prov. 16:3) You can take your problems to Jehovah in prayer with assurance that he will answer you. “The prayer of the upright ones is a pleasure to him” and “the prayer of the righteous ones he hears.” (Prov. 15:8, 29) Jehovah will strengthen you and ‘firmly establish’ the plans you make to serve him acceptably.—Eccl. 4:9-12.
24. What responsibility is pointed out at Proverbs 24:27?
24 In the past, perhaps you gave primary attention to the material needs of your household. But now you see their spiritual need. The Bible gives the balanced view, as it says: “Prepare your work out of doors, and make it ready for yourself in the field. Afterward you must also build up your household.” (Prov. 24:27) Just as the Hebrew farmer would take care of his field, preparing it for planting and harvesting of crops, so you, by secular work, provide material things for your family. But there your responsibility does not end. The need of building up your household spiritually is equally important. This, you find, is much more enjoyable than your secular work, and more rewarding, for you know that you are saving, not only yourself, but also those you love most dearly.—Compare 1 Timothy 4:15, 16.
25. What results to the person who ‘honors Jehovah with his valuable things’?
25 You also come to realize the true meaning of the proverb: “Honor Jehovah with your valuable things and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” Just as the Israelites brought their best to Jehovah, so the Christian does in all facets of his life. “Then,” says the wisdom from God, “your stores of supply will be filled with plenty; and with new wine your own press vats will overflow.” (Prov. 3:9, 10) This does not have primary reference to material riches, though God assures his people that their necessities of life will be provided. Mainly it refers to spiritual riches, along with the joy and security these bring. “Whenever you lie down you will feel no dread; and you will certainly lie down, and your sleep must be pleasurable. You will not need to be afraid of any sudden dreadful thing, nor of the storm upon the wicked ones, because it is coming. For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence, and he will certainly keep your foot against capture.”—Prov. 3:24-26.
26. In gaining wisdom from God, what things do you learn about the use of the tongue?
26 As you take this course, you develop in your life the fruits of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) You learn to love to talk about good things, about God’s purposes. You develop the desire to help others and you talk about these things to others who do not know of God’s fine provisions. As the proverb says: “The tongue of wise ones does good with knowledge, but the mouth of the stupid ones bubbles forth with foolishness.” (Prov. 15:2) You learn to keep out of trouble by minding your own business, because you know that “the one guarding his mouth is keeping his soul. The one opening wide his lips—he will have ruin,” and “a false word is what the righteous hates.” You come to realize that, “he that is slow to anger is abundant in discernment.”—Prov. 13:3, 5; 14:29; 16:32.
THE WAY OF HAPPINESS
27. What change in attitude and outlook does a person gain by getting wisdom from God, and with what benefits?
27 Pursuing this newfound way of life, you begin to have a cheerful, optimistic outlook. “Happy is he that is trusting in Jehovah,” said Solomon. (Prov. 16:20) You rejoice, not in a superficial way, as the world does, but deep in your heart, because you are enlightened by the truth. “The brightness of the eyes makes the heart rejoice.” (Prov. 15:30) Your change in expression is noticed by your acquaintances. You even find benefits to your health, for medical doctors acknowledge the truth of the proverbs: “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism,” and “a heart that is joyful does good as a curer.” (Prov. 14:30; 17:22) While the world in general is sad, even in difficulties yours is not the hopeless sadness of the world. (Compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13.) Jehovah’s witnesses, as they serve God, have found it true that “the one that is good at heart has a feast constantly.” (Prov. 15:15) And about three times a year, at the assemblies of Jehovah’s witnesses, all enjoy a specially fine time, a “feast,” taking in Bible knowledge, enjoying good association and travel.
28. Explain Proverbs 19:17: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.”
28 You come to have many associates in the Christian congregation that are spiritually “brothers and sisters.” As the apostle Paul said, ‘not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth’ are among them. (1 Cor. 1:26-29) But rich or poor, they are lowly in heart, as Jesus was. Additionally, you find others in the world who are in a saddened state because of the increasing distress in the earth. These are lowly ones also. As you do good to these, Jehovah sees your kindness. The wise writer tells us: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.” (Prov. 19:17) Though the lowly one may be unable to repay in any way, Jehovah counts the good done as obligating Him to repay, and he does so bountifully.
29. Upon what thoughts should a person meditate, as to what he is doing with his life?
29 So, what are you doing with your life? or how do you want your life to turn out? Do you appreciate having a measure of life now? Are you willing to put forth a reasonable effort to learn of God’s provisions and requirements for everlasting life? If so, are you willing then to continue on the right course, keeping up your spirituality by studying the Bible, associating and sharing regularly with those who are serving God in declaring the good news of God’s kingdom? Are you willing to dedicate your life to Jehovah God, living in whole-souled devotion to him? If so, Jehovah God and his Son will love you, as will all those who are serving God, and they will help you to get on the pathway and stay in the course leading to everlasting life.
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The proverbs of Solomon provide the basic principles for living; with God-given wisdom he spoke about the ways of animals and traits of plants, also the wise and unwise courses of humankind
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Personal study of God’s Word is important for adults . . .
. . . and for children