A Personal Gift from Jehovah
“Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights.”—Jas. 1:17
1. How do many people view the matter of following Bible principles?
YOU have probably heard people say: “It just doesn’t pay to be good or to follow Bible principles.” To support this claim they may say: “Well, just look around you. Who has the most of this world’s possessions? Is it those who are Christians following Bible principles or those who do what is right in their own eyes? Who, in general, can afford the largest homes and have the biggest bank accounts, the highest priced cars and other expensive material goods? Is it the honest, upright, hardworking Christian who lives by Bible principles, or is it the dishonest, deceiving, lying person, whether in the field of politics, commerce or religion?” They may even go to the extent of saying that the Bible supports this theory and turn to the words of Jesus when he said that God “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45) They may say this shows that God is no respecter of persons, whether good or bad. So what is the reason for being good, upright and honest? Why strive to live by Bible principles?
2. What personal gift has God given to his people, and how valuable is it?
2 It would be wrong to conclude that God is blessing the wicked in the way that he is blessing those who are righteously inclined. Never let anyone mislead you into thinking that you have less or will have less just because of following the Word of God. A real Christian is more blessed and he is far richer than all others. It is true that you may not have as many acres of land, as much money, as fine a car, or as big a home, yet Christians have a gift that God has reserved for his people and “hidden” from others. All the power and wealth of this wicked system of things cannot get this gift that God has reserved for his people. The absolute power of a dictator cannot get it. The influence of a king or president cannot get it. All the gold and silver of the rich cannot buy it. This gift that God has given to his people is far more valuable than gold and silver. What is it? It is an accurate knowledge of God’s Word and purpose!—Eccl. 2:26; Matt. 11:25; Prov. 8:10, 11.
3. In what way is the knowledge of Jehovah superior to secular education?
3 A certain knowledge of life and of our surroundings is essential in order to live from day to day. Some will spend many years acquiring knowledge that they expect will help to make their lives more enjoyable and beneficial. Others delve into knowledge that they hope will give them better health and longer life, which are common desires of all mankind. Compare the benefits of this information with what a knowledge of the true God will do. “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) To live forever—what a benefit from possessing this personal gift of God, accurate knowledge of him and his Son. Is there any amount of secular education that can gain for its owner everlasting life? No wonder Solomon said: “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. 2:4, 5) Men will spend much time, exert much effort and endure hardship to find precious natural resources. Should one not more highly esteem knowledge of God?
4. How does a Christian benefit from the Bible’s hope and promises?
4 Just think what it would mean for you to know for a certainty that you could live forever right here on earth under paradise conditions. To know that the time definitely is coming, and soon, when man will live in security, when nationalistic and racial barriers will be dissolved and when the ecological cycles of this earth will be in proper balance truly brings peace of mind. How unlike the people of our day who do not have this accurate knowledge of God and of whom the Bible says: “Men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:26) In contrast, how calm and confident are those who have availed themselves of God’s personal gift. It is as written by the prophet Malachi: “And you people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.”—Mal. 3:18.
5. (a) Can the knowledge of the truth be inherited? (b) How may Bible truth affect our family ties, and how should we view this?
5 This gift of knowledge is not automatically passed on from one generation to another, from a father to a son or from a mother to a daughter, as are physical characteristics. It is even possible that some members of a family, whether it be father or mother, son or daughter, may receive of this personal gift from Jehovah and others may not. Those without the gift of accurate knowledge may even become our enemies, though of the same family. It is with this in mind that Jesus said: “Indeed, a man’s enemies will be persons of his own household.” (Matt. 10:34-37) Does a person who is perhaps disowned by his family become a loser in this case? No, for in addition to gaining the divine gift of knowledge itself, one also gains spiritual “brothers and sisters and mothers and children” a hundredfold. (Mark 10:29, 30) The joy we can have in serving Jehovah in association with these spiritual relatives far outweighs any loss.
6. (a) What is Jehovah’s will for mankind? (b) How does one “come to an accurate knowledge of truth”?
6 Many people have read the Bible and have some knowledge of their Creator. However, it is of interest to note 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) One must realize that more than a hazy outline of knowledge is necessary. This was one of the problems had by the Jewish people of the apostle Paul’s day. He referred to them as “having the framework of the knowledge and of the truth.” (Rom. 2:20) If a person building a house stopped after completing the framework, his effort would be of little value. The house must be complete to serve its intended purpose. If a person limits himself to studying only certain “favorite” portions of the Bible, his knowledge will only be a “framework” of limited value. One must appreciate that “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial” if one is to “come to an accurate knowledge of truth.”—2 Tim. 3:16.
7. Is sincerity sufficient to please God? Explain.
7 Actually, an incomplete picture of God’s Word can be dangerous. Without the full picture we could easily be misled into thinking that we are serving God while doing something diametrically opposed to his will. Jesus warned his followers concerning such ones: “In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.” (John 16:2) They may have been sincere in their killing Christ’s followers, but they were wrong. Paul tells us what their problem was: “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2) Those who think they are zealously serving God must ‘keep testing whether they are in the faith, keep proving what they themselves are.’—2 Cor. 13:5.
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE IMPORTANT
8. (a) What is the foundation for true knowledge? (b) What does it mean to fear Jehovah?
8 Since a knowledge of the true God is so beneficial and readily available, why is it that so few of mankind have it? Often the reason is that they have the wrong attitude toward Jehovah and his Word. For example, one thing that is essential was stated by Solomon, one of the wisest men who ever lived: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7) This does not mean that one would fear God in the way one would fear an enemy who was trying to do one harm. Rather, out of respect for God and in appreciation of all he has done and will do, one would never want to disappoint him or incur his displeasure. The same wise one quoted above later said: “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” (Prov. 8:13) So, for one truthfully to say that one has this Godly fear, one must back it up by demonstrating a hatred for what is bad. One may have to make some real changes in one’s life to conform to the standard of righteousness that God has established. Proper fear, reverence and awe of Jehovah lay the foundation for knowledge of the true God and his universe.
9. What facts must we recognize about Christ Jesus?
9 Something else is necessary in gaining the gift of accurate knowledge of God, and that is the proper estimation of the Son of God, Christ Jesus. In addition to being the ransomer of all mankind, he has an executive position in the universe that is surpassed only by that of his Father, Jehovah God. In accord with the facts he was able to say: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matt. 28:18) Into his hands has been committed all judgment. The resurrection takes place at his direction and he has the power to heal all mankind from sin’s death-dealing effect. Really, all the harm done by Satan’s rebellion in the garden of Eden is to be remedied through Jesus Christ. No wonder the apostle Paul said concerning Jesus: “Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) His position in God’s purpose must be recognized if we are going to gain God’s gift of knowledge.—Matt. 20:28; John 5:22-27; 6:39, 40; Heb. 7:23-25; 1 John 3:8.
10. Why do some not grasp the truth when reading the Scriptures, and what frame of mind should we have?
10 One could not read the Bible with preconceived ideas and hope to gain what Jehovah wants us to understand from it. If one has allowed oneself to be influenced by the pagan teaching of the immortality of the human soul one may read right over the statement, “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die,” and never even get the point. (Ezek. 18:4, 20) One may go right on believing that the soul cannot die. Yet this same person may twist words or phrases elsewhere in the Bible in an effort to support his belief. How different are those with open minds, for they let what they learn from God’s Word mold their thinking and way of life! They feel as the psalmist: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths.”—Ps. 25:4; 2 Cor. 4:4.
11. How can a wrong motive affect our studying of the Word of God?
11 In addition to having an open mind one must have the proper motive in studying God’s Word. Certain Jews of Jesus’ day were quite studious and yet Jesus said to them: “You are searching the Scriptures, because you think that by means of them you will have everlasting life.” There is nothing wrong with desiring everlasting life. It is a proper hope, but if the gaining of it is our sole motive in “searching the Scriptures,” then we are not going to gain the knowledge that leads to everlasting life. Just after his above statement Jesus pointed to the proper motivation that those Jewish people lacked: “I well know that you do not have the love of God in you.” (John 5:39, 42) We must love God in order to receive this personal gift of accurate knowledge.
12. (a) What did Jesus mean when he said to “become as young children”? (b) In our gaining knowledge, what danger should be avoided?
12 Something else that is essential to receiving this priceless gift from God is referred to in the psalm: “He will cause the meek ones to walk in his judicial decision, and he will teach the meek ones his way.” (Ps. 25:9) So, a person who is proud and haughty cannot expect to get this knowledge until he changes his attitude. We need to “become as young children,” with open, teachable minds and hearts, to understand God’s Word. (Matt. 18:3) This helps us to appreciate why many men who have made an analytical study of the Bible still may not understand such basic things as God’s purpose for this earth. They may know the original Bible languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, but often they have let their knowledge ‘puff them up.’ It is as Jesus said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes.” (Matt. 11:25) The proper viewpoint in regard to any knowledge we may have is expressed by Paul under inspiration: “If anyone thinks he has acquired knowledge of something, he does not yet know it just as he ought to know it.” (1 Cor. 8:2) Humility and reliance on God’s help through his spirit are essential to gaining accurate knowledge of the Bible.—1 Cor. 8:1; Jas. 1:5.
DO NOT NEGLECT THE GIFT
13. Does the gift from Jehovah come without effort on our part?
13 While it is true that knowledge is a “gift” from God, it is not acquired or maintained without considerable personal effort. To illustrate, a musician may be said to have a gift for playing the piano. When he plays, it seems effortless. He may have certain natural inclinations that lend themselves to his musical ability, and yet we should not conclude that his ability to play came without effort or that he maintains this gift without practice. Our getting and keeping knowledge of God’s Word is much the same. You may notice the skill that others have in their use of the Bible. No matter what question comes up, they seem to have a Scriptural answer. They make it appear so easy. But never conclude that they got their knowledge without effort. No matter who we are, it requires serious study to accumulate an accurate knowledge of the Bible, and once we have it we must keep studying to maintain it. This reminds us of the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy regarding his “gift,” his assignment of service in the Christian congregation: “Do not be neglecting the gift in you.”—1 Tim. 4:14.
14. How does one go about cultivating the seed of truth, and why?
14 A Christian’s watching entertainment on television, listening to soap operas on the radio, or reading novels to improve his knowledge of the Creator’s purpose would be the same as a farmer using a mowing machine to cultivate his corn. It is just the wrong implement. It would do more harm than good. The Bible is the instrument provided by Jehovah God, and through his visible organization he has provided many aids for cultivating the seed of truth. That we need to cultivate and to improve our knowledge of the truth is in harmony with what Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “Now that we have left the primary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment. And this we will do, if God indeed permits.” (Heb. 6:1-3) Since it is God’s purpose under the Kingdom to have the earth populated with men and women perfect in knowledge, then it is well that Christians now advance in knowledge that befits servants of Jehovah.—Isa. 11:9.
15. What pitfall should be avoided, and why?
15 It would not be wise for a Christian to make it a practice to listen to false religious propaganda on the radio or on television, nor to have such literature come regularly into his home, thinking that this would equip him to refute unscriptural teachings. Nor would it be beneficial to study higher criticism, thinking that this would help him to talk intelligently to those who disbelieve the Bible. In order to be able to speak well, one does not study bad grammar but, rather, studies the rules of good grammar. If one knows good grammar, that which is incorrect will stand out. Likewise, if one studies the truth from God’s Word, that which is false will stand out. One who has an accurate knowledge of God’s Word will have no problem in refuting false religious ideas. But there is danger in feeding one’s mind on religious teaching contrary to God’s Word. The apostle Paul cautions us in this regard when he says: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”—Col. 2:8; 1 Cor. 10:12.
16. In addition to personal study, what else is essential in gaining accurate knowledge?
16 While the Bible encourages personal study as a method of gaining accurate knowledge, it also says: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Prov. 18:1) So we must seek out the association of others who, like ourselves, are anxious to know accurately the will of God. Not only will this assist you to broaden out your scope of knowledge, but it will also encourage you to keep studying and applying the things you learn. Because of this need for encouragement, God’s Word counsels: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:24, 25.
17. What contribution will a positive attitude make toward our acquiring knowledge of God?
17 In regard to taking in knowledge, many persons could easily point to their limited education, their poor memory and their lack of reading ability. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Jehovah is “a God of knowledge,” and humans should strive to reflect his image. (1 Sam. 2:3) If we are illiterate we can learn to read and write. If we do not know the meaning of some words we can look them up in a dictionary. It is as the book of Proverbs says: “The way of the lazy one is like a brier hedge, but the path of the upright ones is a way cast up.” (Prov. 15:19) A person who is mentally lazy sees only the obstacles, whereas to the “upright ones” the road looks smooth. A positive attitude will go a long way toward helping us to gain accurate knowledge.—Col. 3:10.
18. No matter what our circumstances, what should be our attitude toward God’s personal gift?
18 An accurate knowledge of the purposes of God as revealed in his Holy Word the Bible is a wondrous endowment from a loving heavenly Father. If you have not already benefited from this generous provision from our Creator, why not seek out those in your community whom you know to have this gift. You will find them at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or, if you are one of those who recently or perhaps many years ago received the knowledge that leads to everlasting life, use what you have and build on it. Remember, too, that what you may lack in a material way in comparison with those who ignore God’s Word, he has more than compensated for by making you the beneficiary of his personal gift of life-giving knowledge.—Prov. 2:6.
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Think what it would mean to know for a certainty that you could live forever on earth under paradise conditions