How You Benefit from Pursuing Godly Devotion
“To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.”—1 Tim. 6:6.
1. Who alone pursue a course of godly devotion, and what comes to them?
ONLY those who accurately know God, and act in harmony with what they know, are in position to worship him in the proper way. They alone may be said to follow a course of “godly devotion” or reverentialness. Pursuing this course results in lasting gain. “To be sure,” wrote the apostle Paul to the young Christian overseer Timothy, “it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.” (1 Tim. 6:6) “Godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Notice that Paul says that godly devotion brings, not just future reward, but “great gain” and ‘benefits’ now.
2. What does 1 Timothy 3:16 call to our attention regarding godly devotion?
2 Just what is “godly devotion” or reverentialness? No better answer can there be to this question than the example of one who maintained godly devotion perfectly. The Bible points to one man as that example. At 1 Timothy 3:16 we read: “Indeed, the sacred secret of this godly devotion [literally, this revering well] is admittedly great: ‘He was made manifest in flesh, was declared righteous in spirit, appeared to angels, was preached about among nations, was believed upon in the world, was received up in glory.’” Who was this one, and how was this sacred secret worked out in connection with him?
3. (a) What questions arose respecting godly devotion about six thousand years ago, and why? (b) In what sense was the answer to that question a “sacred secret”?
3 About six thousand years ago the question arose, What man can maintain godly devotion perfectly? Occasioning this question was an irreverent act committed by the first man Adam. Though indebted to his Creator for everything, perfect Adam transgressed God’s law, thereby failing to give his heavenly Father the love, respect and devotion he deserved. Having lost perfection through his disobedience, Adam could father only sinful offspring who would be incapable of maintaining godly devotion perfectly. Nevertheless, Jehovah God knew that he could put a perfect man on earth who would be able to do so. Until that man appeared on the earthly scene, the answer as to who could maintain godly devotion perfectly remained a sacred secret, that is, a secret known only to God. As other scriptures clearly show, the one around whom this secret revolved is the Son of God who “was made manifest in flesh” as the man Jesus. (John 1:14; 1 John 4:2, 3) Accordingly, the entire life course of Jesus Christ as a man in sticking loyally to his God and Father is a tangible demonstration of godly devotion or reverentialness. Our taking to heart the lessons involved in this “sacred secret” can lead to marvelous benefits now and in the future.
4. What does the course of Adam reveal as to the result of failing to maintain godly devotion?
4 When considering what happened to Adam, we can clearly see that forsaking a course of godly devotion brings no gain. Because of failing to reverence his God and Father, Adam lost perfect human life with all its rights and prospects. Gone was the close relationship he had once enjoyed with his heavenly Father. No longer did he have God’s direction and guidance. His conscience was defiled. The only heritage he could pass on to his children was imperfection and death. Having been forcefully ejected he was debarred from reentering the beautiful paradise that had been his home in perfection.—Gen. 3:8, 17-19, 24.
5. Did Jesus Christ gain by maintaining godly devotion?
5 But what about Jesus Christ? Did he lose by maintaining godly devotion? True, it was not an easy course for him to follow. The world hated him for it. He was reviled, physically abused and finally nailed to an executional stake like a criminal of the worst kind. (John 15:18; 1 Pet. 2:23, 24) Nevertheless, his course was still one of great gain. He preserved a clean conscience and continued benefiting from his Father’s help, guidance and reassurances. Three times Jesus Christ heard the voice of his Father approving his course. (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28, 29) He experienced his Father’s backing, being empowered to perform miracles, signs and portents. (Acts 2:22) When Jesus Christ successfully resisted the temptations of the Devil, “angels came and began to minister to him.” (Matt. 4:11) Also, on the final night before his death, an angel “appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:43) For his faithfulness to the very death, Jehovah God resurrected his Son, bestowing upon him the grand prize of immortal heavenly life. Wrote the apostle Paul under inspiration: “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground [in gravedom but awaiting a resurrection], and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”—Phil. 2:9-11.
6. Explain the term “gain” used by Paul at 1 Timothy 6:6.
6 By remaining exclusively devoted to God as did Jesus Christ, we can be among those who enjoy great gain now and have the prospect of experiencing even grander blessings in the future. This is not to say that the sole reason for serving God and pursuing a Christlike course is to reap personal gain. An understanding of the original-language word for “gain” as found at 1 Timothy 6:6 helps one to get a balanced view of the matter. The term was used only twice in the Christian Greek Scriptures, namely, in 1 Timothy 6:5, 6. This Greek term (po·ri·smosʹ, not poʹri·sma) comes from the Greek verb meaning “to provide; to procure” and hence means “a providing; a procuring,” and then “a means of gain; means of livelihood.” Moffatt’s translation renders it “a paying concern” and “rich profit.” The New English Bible translates it “dividends.”
THE BENEFIT OF HAVING SINS FORGIVEN
7. What does the Bible reveal as to our need for forgiveness of sins, and on what basis does God extend it?
7 One outstanding benefit from following a course of godly devotion is having our sins forgiven. Initially, in the case of a true disciple of Jesus Christ, this occurred when he repented, turned around from his former course, appealed to God for forgiveness on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, and then presented himself for baptism, dedicated himself to the Father (Jehovah God) through the Son (Jesus Christ) in the name of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit. Nevertheless, being imperfect, he still commits sins thereafter and so continues needing God’s forgiveness. Said the apostle John: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) However, at heart, a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ does not want to sin. He feels, as did the apostle Paul when he wrote: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within.” This being the case, he very much regrets any sin he may commit and humbly asks God for forgiveness. Because of his repentant attitude and faith in the atoning benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, he gains that forgiveness.—Rom. 7:22-25; 1 John 2:1, 2.
8. Because of having our sins forgiven, how can we feel about approaching God in prayer, and what confidence can we have in his answering us?
8 Because of having their sins forgiven, devoted disciples of Jesus Christ continue to enjoy a clean conscience. They are confident that Jehovah God is pleased with their sincere efforts to live a life consistent with the leading of his spirit. (Gal. 5:16-18) Therefore they have complete freeness of speech in approaching God with any matter, certain that, by means of his spirit, he will guide and help them to cope with trials or solve problems they may be facing. (Luke 11:11-13) As the apostle John noted: “Whatever we ask we receive from him, because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes.”—1 John 3:22.
9, 10. As shown at Romans 8:26, 27, how does God help us even when we might not know what to pray for?
9 At times, however, a true Christian may not even know what to pray for in view of what he is facing. There may be sustained persecution. He may feel burdened with many heavy responsibilities. Perhaps there is a personal problem that is weighing on him. He may not be sure of what to do. He may not even understand what the problem really is. Nevertheless, due to his having a clean standing before God, he is not left without help. As shown at Romans 8:26, 27, God’s spirit will aid him. We read: “In like manner the spirit also joins in with help for our weakness; for the problem of what we should pray for as we need to we do not know, but the spirit itself pleads for us with groanings unuttered. Yet he who searches the hearts knows what the meaning of the spirit is, because it is pleading in accord with God for holy ones.”
10 How, as here mentioned, does God’s spirit, ‘join in’ with the Christian’s ‘unuttered groanings’ to assist him? Well, Jehovah God, by means of his spirit, inspired men to write the Bible, including prayers expressing his will and mind on matters. He knows the “meaning of the spirit,” that is, of the things he caused his holy spirit to speak through the Bible writers. He also recognizes the feelings and needs of his people. Therefore, he accepts the inspired prayers as being what his people would be offering up if they but knew what to ask for, and he answers them. Thus he assists his people to work out matters in their life in a way that harmonizes with his Word, even though they may not know in advance what course to take. He does not let his faithful ones ‘be tempted beyond what they can bear,’ and neither does he leave them “in the lurch.”—1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 4:8, 9.
GUARDED AGAINST THE WORLD’S ILLS
11, 12. How does pursuing godly devotion preserve the Christian from ills like venereal disease?
11 Besides enabling us to preserve a clean conscience and to continue enjoying God’s forgiveness and help, the pursuit of godly devotion guards us against the world’s ills. Today, for example, venereal disease is sweeping the world. It is found even in remote places on earth. So severe is the problem of venereal disease that Dr. Marcolino G. Candau of the United Nations’ World Health Organization warned (in the spring of 1973): “Quick action is essential before sexually transmitted diseases become completely out of control . . . the world is in the grip of a virtual epidemic.”
12 However, no “virtual epidemic” of venereal disease exists among those pursuing godly devotion. They appreciate that venereal disease is not merely a medical problem; it is primarily a moral one. They show reverential regard for the words of Jesus Christ: “You heard that it was said, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27, 28) Heeding this command, true Christians guard themselves against getting into situations that could give rise to temptations. Their combating wrong sexual desires has contributed to their being free from the scourge of syphilis and gonorrhea and all their terrible consequences—blindness, sterility, insanity and an early death. Their godly devotion has definitely protected them.
13. What benefits come to those who obey the admonition to ‘cleanse themselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit’?
13 Similarly, appreciating the Bible’s admonition to ‘cleanse themselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit,’ Jehovah’s servants shun the use of tobacco, betel nut and other harmful addictives. (2 Cor. 7:1) Their adherence to God’s Word has also shielded them from the damaging effects of alcoholism. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) Resources that were formerly squandered on harmful habits have been redirected to make individuals and their families productive members of the community and a credit to God’s name and people. The course of godly devotion has brought this to them as a “dividend.”
14. When we observe the outcome of worldly persons, why can we say that pursuing godly devotion results in tangible gain? Illustrate.
14 The tangible gain accompanying godly devotion is clearly seen when set alongside the tremendous loss that results from following the ways of the world. Take the case of a girl who has contracted some form of venereal disease or whose life has been scarred by drugs. Has she not lost a great deal? What about her parents? How much money do you think they would pay to have their daughter back again as she once was? There is probably no sum large enough that, if they had it or could get it, they would not pay. What about an alcoholic husband? Would he not consider it highly beneficial to regain the health, respect and position he may have lost through alcohol abuse? Would not his wife be willing to give a large sum of money to have her husband become a fine family head, looking well to his responsibilities? Yes, people of the world would give much to get for themselves or their loved ones the gain that godly devotion brings even now.
GODLINESS BRINGS FRIENDS
15. How does the pursuit of godly devotion provide us with true friends?
15 Further, pursuing a course of godly devotion results in our having real friends. As true Christians, our foremost friends are Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ. As Jesus said to his eleven faithful apostles: “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all the things I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) We are also friends of one another. As friends, those who know God and Christ fit the description of Proverbs 17:17: “A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress.” Only among those pursuing godly devotion in the true Christian congregation can you find such companions. There are no racial, social and economic barriers in the congregation; all therein are “brothers” and “sisters.” (Matt. 23:8) Anywhere you go on this earth, you will find genuine friends among those practicing godly devotion. These friends are persons who can be trusted with your belongings and your feelings. They are willing to give of their time, energies and assets to assist and encourage you. Additionally, there are qualified men in each congregation of Jehovah’s people who are genuinely concerned about the welfare of all associated, especially from a spiritual standpoint, and willingly and eagerly respond to their needs.
16. As implied at 1 Timothy 6:6, what is needed to safeguard the gain resulting from the pursuit of godly devotion?
16 Truly, we receive much gain from pursuing a course of godly devotion. Even now this gain is something too precious to lose. We should therefore be concerned about safeguarding it. A prime way we can do this is by remaining content, really appreciating the numerous benefits we are enjoying. It is noteworthy that the apostle Paul linked godly devotion with self-sufficiency or contentment saying: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency [“contentment,” Common Bible].”—1 Tim. 6:6.
17. How can failure to be content with what we have materially become spiritually harmful?
17 Should we ever become discontented, losing appreciation for the blessings that have come to us from pursuing godly devotion, we could be led into thinking that greater gain is to be found elsewhere. For example, a person may no longer share the attitude expressed at 1 Timothy 6:8: “Having sustenance [food] and covering [clothing and shelter], we shall be content with these things.” He may come to look enviously upon the prosperity of others and become fully absorbed in material pursuits. From a spiritual standpoint, this could be very damaging, eventually perhaps leading to losing an approved relationship with God. Pointing to this danger, the apostle Paul wrote: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.—1 Tim. 6:9, 10; see also Hebrews 13:5.
18. (a) What should we not permit to affect our contentment? (b) As shown by the apostle Paul, what should be the reason for a Christian’s contentment?
18 Then, too, we must guard against letting circumstances seriously affect whether we are content. The apostle Paul set an excellent example in this regard. He expressed himself as follows: “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient [or, content]. I know indeed how to be low on provisions, I know indeed how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want.” (Phil. 4:11-13) Notice that Paul’s contentment was constant. He did not reason, ‘I will be content when I have riches, a position or prominence or the like.’ His contentment was based on his relationship to Jehovah God and Jesus Christ, knowing them and being known by them. This is the only dependable basis for contentment.
19. Why is it dangerous to let material things or earthly relationships seriously affect our contentment?
19 In this world, nothing else has any real stability. Death can rob us of dear relatives and friends. Accidents or disease may leave us or loved ones helpless and crippled. Property can be stolen or destroyed. Hence, to make material things, position or any earthly relationship the real basis for our contentment can lead to bitter disappointment. Such disappointment might even cause one to blame God and come to reason wrongly as did Asaph: “All to no purpose have I kept my heart pure, and washed my hands in innocence.” (Ps. 73:13, An American Translation) Unchecked, such reasoning could cause one to stop pursuing godly devotion.
20. What can we do to preserve our contentment?
20 We need to remain ever on guard that this world and its attitudes, material outlook and ways do not corrode our contentment. That is why it is good to take time to reflect appreciatively on the great gain that has come our way since starting to pursue godly devotion. May we feel about our having gained an approved relationship with God as did the psalmist: “Happy is the one you choose and cause to approach, that he may reside in your courtyards. He will certainly be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holy place of your temple.” (Ps. 65:4) How foolish it would be to give this up because of something that may not go our way!
21, 22. (a) What future benefits will come to those who pursue godly devotion? (b What can we do to avoid losing out on these benefits?
21 Remember, too, that pursuing godly devotion ‘holds promise of the life to come.’ (1 Tim. 4:8) As for the anointed brothers of Christ yet on earth, they do not ‘hope in Christ in this life only.’ The grand reward of ruling with him in the heavens for a thousand years is before them. (1 Cor. 15:19, 50-54; Rev. 20:6) An ever-increasing “great crowd” of persons associated with these anointed ones also have a grand hope. They look forward to the approaching “great tribulation,” which will remove from this earth all who refuse to “know God” as his approved servants. Either by resurrection from the dead or by surviving that tribulation, those loyally serving God alongside Christ’s spiritual brothers cherish the hope of living everlastingly in a cleansed earth, free from pain, sickness and old age. Then “the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea,” not just head knowledge, but knowledge put to work in carrying out the divine will.—Isa. 11:9; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Rev. 7:9-17; 21:3-5.
22 Oh, what grand blessings are in store for those who continue pursuing godly devotion! May we pursuers of godly devotion allow nothing to dim the inestimable value of our having come to be known by God and Christ as their approved servants. May we continue to be on guard against anything that might rob us of contentment. May we ever keep before us the perfect example of Jesus Christ. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Heb. 12:1-3.