What Draws You to God?
THERE are many of us who some time in our lives have walked into a warm room on a cold night and seen an open fire crackling on the hearth. The glowing fire seems to attract us to it involuntarily, without any conscious thought or decision on our part. Or, are we not drawn irresistibly toward the kitchen when, hungry after a day’s work, we come in and smell the titillating aroma of our favorite dish simmering on the stove? How readily, too, we react to the kind word or the warm tone of voice of a loved one or friend, especially if it is spoken at a time that we are feeling dejected or depressed.
Such spontaneous reactions are not accidental. They are part of our Creator’s design—an inborn capacity to be drawn to others and to be attracted to appealing comforts and pleasures. This God-originated quality of “attraction” is such a wonderful gift that it gives pleasure both to the one initiating the action and to the one being drawn. It is a fact of life, because we are made in the image of God. It also enables us to understand more clearly another facet of his matchless personality.—Gen. 1:27.
Do we approach God with the thought of avoiding punishment or destruction uppermost in our minds? Or, is it because of our appreciation for God’s many acts of goodness to us? It should not surprise us to learn that the way of God is to draw his creatures toward him in a positive way. Never does he resort to forcing his creatures to serve him. The word “draw” means to attract, and it is God’s goodness and his magnificent qualities that draw persons of honest heart to him. Jesus Christ used the same expression when he promised that he would “draw men of all sorts” to himself. (John 12:32) He gave abundant evidence of his Father’s goodness toward his creatures in an endeavor to awaken in their hearts a desire to come into a relationship with Jehovah. The Sermon on the Mount is a fine example of this. (Compare Matthew 5:45-48.) However, the Lord was quick to point out that it is God who is the principal cause in drawing his creatures to himself. Jesus said to the Jews: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.”—John 6:44.
Jesus’ encouragement toward positive rather than negative thoughts to draw us to God was nothing new. At the time of great rejoicing when the ark of God was carried by the Levites to Jerusalem, King David highlighted the fact that Jehovah is a positive God, a God of goodness, when in his song of thanks he sang: “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people, for he is good, for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness.” (1 Chron. 16:34) Later, when King Solomon gave his prayer of dedication, following the completion of the temple and the bringing of the ark of God to a more permanent resting-place, all the sons of Israel prostrated themselves and cried out spontaneously concerning God’s goodness. (2 Chron. 7:3) Yes, from early times God’s people have thought in terms of “the good hand of our God upon us.”—Ezra 8:18.
Right from the time of man’s creation, God appealed to Adam’s recognition of His goodness as a basis for serving Him. He provided every needed thing for him. (Gen. 2:9) Calling attention first to his loving-kindness to Adam, God proceeded to say: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Gen. 2:16, 17) Adam was already in a relationship with God like that of a son to a father. Disobedience to God would break that relationship and was therefore something rightly to be avoided.
This information was for the guidance of Adam and his offspring, not in any way a hardship. The commandment designated the line of demarcation—the limit of Adam’s authority, which truth Adam needed to know, and also the inevitable consequences of passing that limit. Recognizing God’s sovereignty was essential.
AVOIDING A NEGATIVE ATTITUDE
Today we are some six thousand years from the original perfection enjoyed by our first parents. In our imperfect state, with its unavoidable prospects of sickness and death, along with the pressures of this evil system of things that crowd in on us, we are not surprised to observe that at times negative factors do cause people to think about God. Death itself could certainly be described as negative. The Word of God describes it as an “enemy,” which will eventually be brought to nothing. (1 Cor. 15:26) The negative, sorrowful experience of losing a loved one in death and subsequently the positive experience of learning about the wonderful hope of the resurrection of the dead may cause a person to be drawn to God.
So, we definitely have to admit to some negative factors in life today, and these can have a bearing on our relationship with God. However, the point to note is that even these initially sad, negative thoughts can lead to positive results in the mind and heart of the person learning of the compassion, help and comfort that God offers in time of sore trial. This, in turn, draws us to Jehovah “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.”—2 Cor. 1:3.
In outstanding contrast to the way of God, which is to draw his creatures toward him, the way of Satan the Devil is to force others into submission to him and his ways of corruption. From the time when he began as a manslayer, liar and opposer of all that is good and wholesome, this archfoe of Jehovah God has used coercion and fear of suffering in order to induce submission to his godless ways.—Heb. 2:15.
In his subtlety, the Devil has caused the negative way of thinking to permeate every form of false religion. For example, the unscriptural teachings of hellfire and torment after death are widespread in Christendom. Also, religions outside Christendom convey the same fearful thoughts of punishment of a fiendish kind.*
The result of this infiltration of demonic thinking in worship has been that millions of sincere people think in terms of a forced approach to God, feeling that they must serve him in some way—appease him—to avoid suffering some frightful punishment. The degree of fear may run the entire gamut—from the extreme of abject terror on the one hand, to the other extreme of avoiding religion altogether because of this idea that God is angry, fierce, unrelenting, hard to please.
True Christians are grateful that this punishment-oriented approach to God is one of the things from which they have been set free by the truth of God’s Word. Yet there is the ever-present danger that any one of us could become infected with similar negative thoughts in a more subtle way. How so? Perhaps we could begin to allow our reason for serving God to be overly influenced with thoughts of punishment for our failures and shortcomings.
Hence, there is need to remind ourselves constantly that “we all stumble many times,” that ‘if errors were what Jehovah watched, who could stand?’ (Jas. 3:2; Ps. 130:3) This will help us to keep a balanced view of ourselves and others as we continually work to “put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Eph. 4:24) This balanced view enables us to realize that, although each of us should manifest progress in putting on the new personality, none of us reaches the stage where he does not sin and need forgiveness daily for his shortcomings.—1 John 2:1, 2.
If our failings and shortcomings began to dominate our thinking, the joy that we experienced when initially drawn to God could become impaired, even to the point of our no longer serving for the pure motive of love for Jehovah, his qualities, and all that he has done on our behalf. Therefore, it is good to ask ourselves, Do positive or negative thoughts cause me to keep on serving God? Am I doing so with a willing and happy heart? Or, is it possibly with the thought of avoiding destruction at the fast-approaching day of Har–Magedon?—Eccl. 12:13; Rev. 16:15, 16.
BEING DRAWN BY POSITIVE THOUGHTS
Allowing positive rather than negative thoughts to draw us to God and then impel us to continue serving him with a happy heart, does not take away the need for effort on our part. The apostle Paul is a fine example of one whose constant good spirit and happiness give evidence of serving God with a positive frame of mind and with deep inward joy. Nevertheless, he said of himself that it was necessary for him to ‘pummel his body and lead it as a slave.’ (1 Cor. 9:27) While in the imperfect flesh, each one of us needs to ‘fight the fine fight of the faith’ in many different ways.—2 Tim. 4:7.
Often ‘the ability to wish is present with us, but the ability to work out what is fine is not present’ and although we really delight in the law of God, we sometimes find ‘another law warring against the law of our mind and leading us captive to sin’s law.’ (Rom. 7:14-25) But the surpassing excellence of allowing positive thoughts of God’s goodness to motivate us is that joy, happiness and delight predominate in our lives. This more than compensates for whatever self-discipline is required.—Gal. 5:22, 23.
DRAWING CLOSER TO GOD
What, then, can we do to build and ensure a positive frame of mind and spiritual outlook? First, we have to be conscious of the need to eradicate from our minds negative, weakening thoughts and the fear of failure, replacing them with the upbuilding, positive, heartening promises of God found in his written Word, the Bible. Reading and studying the Bible must be a definite part of our daily life. We should have as our aim a more in-depth study, allowing the powerful wisdom of Jehovah God to fill our minds and hearts as we meditate on the things we read.
Efforts should be made to make our prayers more meaningful and specific, and perhaps to pray more often during each day. Do we open our hearts to God? Do we thank him daily for his magnificent qualities and for the many blessings we receive? Then, too, do we sometimes “persevere in prayer”?—Rom. 12:12.
These are basic things. Yet they are simple, unfailing ways to ensure that positive, not negative, thoughts draw us to God. They will also assure us that once having been drawn to him, we will be able to continue serving him with a happy heart, now and for all time to come.—Jer. 9:24.
See page 104 of the book Good News to Make You Happy, published by the Watch Tower Society, in which is reproduced a Buddhist scroll showing torments of bad souls in “hell.”