Where Can You Turn with Confidence?
ARE you affected by the “crisis of confidence”? Earth wide there is such a crisis—of lack of confidence in leaders.
A Jesuit magazine recently commented: “A crisis of confidence in government seems to be . . . a mood spread as widely as the international political order.” And the chancellor of Atlanta University Center said: “People are undergoing a crisis of trust.”
You may realize that many persons, upon learning of widespread corruption, have lost confidence in government and business leaders. But many have no confidence in religious leaders either!
When a reporter asked him what he thought about God, a five-year-old boy in Illinois replied: “God lives in a box all week and comes out on Sunday in funny clothes to talk about money.” What the lad had in mind was a clergyman. Why do you think he got that impression? While some persons may have a good opinion of their minister or priest, what is the general impression? For instance, do you think that an additional twenty years of life will instill in this boy a deep confidence in religious leaders? Frankly, what most people see, hear and read about many of the clergy has resulted in a “crisis of confidence” as to religious leaders also.
However, this situation need not leave you in the lurch when you have spiritual or moral problems. Or when you need sound advice based on God’s Word. There is a source of help to which you can turn with confidence and receive loving, balanced assistance.
IN THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION
At a time when his nation had become corrupt, the prophet Jeremiah said: “Guard yourselves each one against his own companion, and put your trust in no brother at all. For . . . every companion himself would walk around as a mere slanderer.”—Jer. 9:4, 5.
What a contrast, though, there is with Jehovah’s witnesses today. In the book Religious Movements in Contemporary America (1974), L. R. Cooper pointed out: “In their own congregational life Witnesses form a genuine community of trust and acceptance.” That mutual trust is found in their congregations world wide.
But there is even more than the general spirit of trust. In each congregation there is a body of elders, spiritually older men who have the confidence of the flock and who shepherd and aid all in the congregation. If you are already associated with Jehovah’s witnesses, likely you are acquainted with the mature Christians in the local body of elders. But do you know why you can turn to them with confidence? How can they help you and your loved ones?
Note the prophetic description of such devoted elders that Isaiah provided: “Each one must prove to be like a hiding place from the wind and a place of concealment from the rainstorm, like streams of water in a waterless country, like the shadow of a heavy crag in an exhausted land.” (Isa. 32:2) So you can gain comfort and protection if you view these mature Christian elders as men worthy of your confidence. As Isaiah went on to say: “My people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting-places.”—Isa. 32:18.
Your confidence in these men should be built up by reflecting on the Scriptural qualifications they had to meet in order to be ‘appointed by holy spirit’ to be elders. While there is variety as to age, personality and amount of experience, each one must be “moderate in habits, sound in mind, orderly, hospitable, qualified to teach, not a drunken brawler, not a smiter, but reasonable, not belligerent, not a lover of money, . . . not a newly converted man.”—1 Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:5-9; Acts 20:28.
Since the elders are not “newly converted” men, you will be dealing with men who have progressed to spiritual maturity and had quite a bit of experience as Christians. Yet they are not “above” you. Does it not draw you to them that they do not take on high-sounding religious titles, not even “Leader”? (Matt. 23:8-12) Still, the Bible says that they “are taking the lead among you.” How so? Well, they are “keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” And they are Christians who “work hard in speaking and teaching.” (Heb. 13:17; 1 Tim. 5:17) You can see, then, why it should be only natural for you to develop confidence in them.
True, they are not perfect; each one may have limitations and areas where he is improving. But was that not so with the apostles also? Did not overcritical persons find fault even with them? (2 Cor. 10:10) On the other hand, balanced Christians in the first century had real confidence in the apostles. They recognized that, though the apostles were imperfect humans, they had obvious spiritual qualifications and had been appointed by holy spirit. (Gal. 4:13, 14) Should you not likewise be confident of the elders now?
Interestingly, the Bible shows that not only the apostles enjoyed the confidence of the brothers, but other elders did too. For instance, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians about sending Titus with contributions to needy Christians in Jerusalem, he added: “We are sending along with [Titus] the brother whose praise in connection with the good news has spread through all the congregations.” (2 Cor. 8:18) Who was that other brother? Commentator Albert Barnes says: “It is impossible to determine with certainty who it was . . . Whoever it was, it was some one well known, in whom the church at Corinth could have entire confidence.”
But what would approaching an elder involve? And how might he be able to help you?
MANIFESTING YOUR CONFIDENCE
You likely realize that an elder cannot make decisions for you. On most matters the individual Christian has to make his own decision. Paul wrote: “For each one will carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5) Also, recognizing that the elders “work hard in speaking and teaching,” you would not want to be constantly seeking them out on every detail of life. Still, they are happy to help if a Christian needs counsel or advice in weighing a matter in the light of God’s Word.
Perhaps you face an important decision or have a problem that you are trying to resolve. How would the elder you approach with confidence be able to help? Well, the reason you are approaching him is that you have confidence in him based on his spiritual qualifications. So, since he is one who ‘holds firmly to the faithful word as respects his art of teaching,’ he will try to share with you God’s counsel from the Bible. Understanding and applying this will help you to act wisely.—Ps. 19:7-11; 1 Tim. 4:6.
Depending on the nature of the matter, he may ask another elder to join the two of you. That is fine. Recall that Paul did not send Titus alone. So that there would be no doubt whether the matter was handled properly, Paul sent along another brother in whom the Corinthians had confidence. (2 Cor. 8:20) Thus if two elders discuss the matter with you, you will be in position to benefit from the Scriptural knowledge and Christian experience of both. In this regard, Proverbs 15:22 tells us: “There is a frustrating of plans where there is no confidential talk, but in the multitude of counselors there is accomplishment.”
Please note that this will be “confidential talk.” What you discuss with these elders will not become public information. The elders take care that they do not go about “uncovering confidential talk.” (Prov. 20:19) In fact, there have been instances when a person beginning to associate with Jehovah’s witnesses has sought counsel from elders about past illegal conduct, such as stealing. He could do this with assurance that the elders would not disclose what he told them in confidence. Instead, they provided counsel from the Bible as to how the individual could bring his life into harmony with Jehovah’s ways.—Prov. 18:24.
Maybe the help you seek has to do with a Bible question. Even if the elder is not in his sixties or seventies, he is not a rank novice on Biblical matters. He has been studying the Bible and Christian publications for some years. He thus may recall having read some information on the very question you have. Or he may be able to spend some time showing you how questions or matters of this sort can be researched using aids such as Watch Tower Publications Index. That assistance will be doubly beneficial to you. First, you may right then locate a Bible-based discussion of the matter that you can study carefully. Second, in the process you may learn how you can in the future look up information. Can we not be grateful that we have available such sources of help to whom we can turn with confidence?
You can also approach a Christian elder with confidence if you have given in to temptation and sinned. Remember that the elders are human too. So you can be sure that they will strive to be understanding and considerate. They bear in mind the divine advice: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness.” (Gal. 6:1) They will want to help to restore you, so that you can continue to serve Jehovah and have his blessings. And they will try to do this with mildness.
You know that these men are not mere uninterested employees. They are not paid to serve the congregation, but are spiritual men motivated by love for Jehovah and for those who are endeavoring to do his will. By your manifesting confidence in them, and thus receiving the benefit of their prayers and Bible counsel, you can continue to be one with whom Jehovah is intimate. As Proverbs 3:32 tells us: “The perverse man is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence.”—Revised Standard Version.