Does Relationship with God Help Us Now?
“Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him, . . . and their cry for help he will hear, and he will save them.”—Ps. 145:18, 19.
1, 2. How do David’s words show us the fine situation of the man who has an intimate relationship with God?
KING DAVID, who was also a prophet, spoke of the happiness of the man to whom God counts “righteousness apart from works,” saying: “Happy are those whose lawless deeds have been pardoned and whose sins have been covered; happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.” (Rom. 4:6-8; Ps. 32:1, 2) Such a man has his sins forgiven—he is clean in God’s sight. Jehovah accepts him as a close intimate, viewing him as having no unrighteousness, for unrighteousness causes a separation from God.
2 Referring to the fineness of having this standing with God, David further said: “Bless Jehovah, O my soul, and do not forget all his doings, him who is forgiving all your error, who is healing all your maladies, who is reclaiming your life from the very pit, who is crowning you with loving-kindness and mercies, who is satisfying your lifetime with what is good; your youth keeps renewing itself just like that of an eagle.”—Ps. 103:2-5.
FRIENDS OF GOD
3. (a) With what term of endearment can those whose sins are forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice be permitted to address God? (b) How is this standing preserved by the individual?
3 Such a person can call on God as Father. (Matt. 6:9) When he errs and sins, as do all imperfect humans, he can, when he finds that he has done so, appeal to God for forgiveness and cleansing, thereby preserving that right standing. The apostle John wrote about this: “If we make the statement: ‘We have no sin,’ we are misleading ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”—1 John 1:8, 9.
4. How did Christ show his closeness to those who are his disciples?
4 How, in day-to-day living, does an intimate relationship with God ‘satisfy your lifetime with what is good’? And what is such a relationship like? Jesus revealed the kind of closeness that he had with his faithful apostles when he told them: “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) Furthermore, “he is not ashamed to call them ‘brothers.’” (Heb. 2:11) It is true that the Bible speaks of Christians as slaves of God and of Christ. But often the Bible uses human terms, that is, terms familiar to us, to make certain matters clear to us. This is because of our imperfection and sometimes because of our immaturity in Christian knowledge and understanding. (Compare Romans 6:19; 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2; see also Luke 17:7-10.) So, although the word “slave” is used, Jesus Christ actually loves us far more than any master ever loved a slave, and desires us to be assured that he views us as his friends.
5. How did Jesus reveal the closeness and affection of God for those who love him?
5 Jesus pointed out that God is equally close to those who come to Christ, when he said: “If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23) What closer relationship could one desire? (Compare Revelation 3:20.) After telling his disciples that he was going away to be with his Father, Jesus showed that God was closer to them than they imagined when he said: “In that day you will ask me no question at all. Most truly I say to you, If you ask the Father for anything he will give it to you in my name. Until this present time you have not asked a single thing in my name. Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be made full. I have spoken these things to you in comparisons. The hour is coming when I will speak to you no more in comparisons, but I will report to you with plainness concerning the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I shall make request of the Father concerning you. For the Father himself has affection for you, because you have had affection for me and have believed that I came out as the Father’s representative.”—John 16:23-27.
PROTECTION FROM DOING WRONG
6, 7. (a) Does God actually tempt anyone to sin? (b) How does he ‘set a guard and a watch’ over us?
6 Certainly one having intimacy with God would enjoy protection against falling into badness. Jesus said that we should pray to God: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Matt. 6:13) This is similar to the psalmist’s prayer: “Do set a guard, O Jehovah, for my mouth; do set a watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to anything bad.”—Ps. 141:3.
7 Even though he allowed Christ to encounter temptation, a thing common to all men, God does not try anyone with bad things. (Jas. 1:13) On the other hand, he will not forcibly prevent a person from choosing a bad course. Rather, when temptations or trials arise, God protects the person who has intimacy with him by opening his eyes clearly and sharply to the danger that he is in. He ‘sets a guard and a watch’ over him. One associated with God will have strong warning signals presented to his attention.
8. How does God answer the prayer, “Do not bring us into temptation”?
8 For example, a person tempted to steal or to speak slanderously will be reminded immediately of certain alarming facts: the bad act will strain or damage his fine relationship with God; such acts are against the law of love; they bring reproach upon the good name of God and Christ, because the Christian professes to be their representative; if he gives in to such wrong desires he will bring reproach and sorrow upon himself and his loved ones; he will disgrace the Christian congregation, of which he is a member. The good conscience he asked for when exercising faith in Christ’s sacrifice for sins will be sorely hurt. These warning thoughts arise because of the Christian’s constant reading of the Bible and by the prompting of God’s spirit, or, sometimes, of a fellow Christian. They will act as deterrents to his going headlong and precipitately into following a fleshly desire, as would be the case with a person not having the safeguard of a good relationship with God.—Compare Proverbs 7:22, 23 and David’s experience, at 1 Samuel 25:32-35.
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT AND SPEECH
9. How is the power of God’s Word shown when we consider the nations called “Christendom”?
9 A major blessing that results from having a relationship with God is the enjoyment of great freedom of thought and speech. For proof of the power of God’s Word in this matter, look at the nations called “Christendom.” Though they have never really been close to God, they have, in the past two centuries, generally allowed free circulation of the Word of God. The Bible has become a household book, and though it is rejected now by many, there have been men, even in ruling positions, that have tried to follow the Bible’s fine moral principles. This has promoted freedom of thought and speech and has liberated men from the shackles of religious traditions and the superstition of the Dark Ages. In proportion to the Bible’s circulation in these lands, the living standards of the people have been improved.
10. (a) How far into an understanding of God have scientists and others gone who study the marvels of creation? (b) What must a person do who really wants a close relationship with God?
10 While such incidental association with God through his Word has brought enlightenment and better living, people who really read the Bible and make it a guide in their lives profit in far greater measure. The patriarch Job points out that more than a surface knowledge of God is necessary. After remarking about some of the marvelous facts of creation that scientists can understand and explain only after much research, he says: “Look! These are the fringes of [God’s] ways, and what a whisper of a matter has been heard of him!” Later, Job points out that the real wisdom requires more of us than learning the mere “fringes of his ways”—something more than mere scientific facts. We must come to know the fineness of God’s personality, to fear him as the One who upholds right principles, and to follow these principles. This wisdom can be gained only by a study of his Word. Job says: “Look! The fear of Jehovah—that is wisdom, and to turn away from bad is understanding.” (Job 26:14; 28:28) To one who seeks, by looking into the Bible, to achieve a relationship with God, the psalmist wrote: “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.”—Ps. 65:4.
WHO CAN ENJOY INTIMACY WITH GOD?
11, 12. What kind of person will God accept into close, friendly relationship with him?
11 Consequently, a relationship in which God recognizes the individual as his friend would have infinitely great and lasting blessings. The one whom God would choose for such intimacy is described at Psalm 15:
“O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent?
Who will reside in your holy mountain?
He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness
And speaking the truth in his heart.
He has not slandered with his tongue.
To his companion he has done nothing bad,
And no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance.
In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected,
But those fearing Jehovah he honors.
He has sworn to what is bad for himself, and yet he does not alter.
His money he has not given out on interest,
And a bribe against the innocent one he has not taken.
He that is doing these things will never be made to totter.”—Ps. 15:1-5.
12 Only such a person will come to fear God and really come to know him. Such a friend of God faces the same general problems that everyone else encounters. But he is not left without help.
HELP DURING ILLNESS
13. What does God do for a Christian who is seriously sick, and how does the Christian view endurance under illness?
13 The Christian may become seriously ill. Often, physical illness has an undesirable effect on one’s spiritual health. Good balance is hard to maintain during sickness. God deeply sympathizes with the sick one. More than that, he gives help. The psalmist says: “Jehovah himself will sustain him upon a divan of illness; all his bed you will certainly change during his sickness.” (Ps. 41:3) God does not promise that his servant will in all cases recover full health. But he assures the Christian that he will stand by him and make his sickness bearable. The language of the psalm reminds one of a nurse who constantly attends a patient so that no part of the body is uneasy, or of a parent lovingly taking care of a sick child, making him comfortable, washing him, changing and smoothing his bed, so that he feels refreshed and cheered up. If it is best for the individual, God can raise him up out of his sickbed and turn it into a bed of health. But even if he does not recover, God causes all things to work for his good. (Rom. 8:28) Spiritually he is made stronger, and endures the sickness, regarding it as a form of discipline or training that is shaping him to be a stronger, more considerate, more sympathetic Christian. He remembers that Christ suffered. Jesus’ experience worked for his benefit, and ours. God did not forsake Jesus, and his reward for patient endurance was great.—Heb. 4:15; 5:8, 9.
AID DURING PERSECUTION
14. Should we be surprised if persecution comes, and what assurance of help do we have?
14 Because of the Christian’s stand for Bible principles, opposition and even persecution may come. This happened to David, who was hunted as an animal by King Saul, betrayed by a close friend and conspired against by his own sons when he was sick. (1 Sam. 24:2; Ps. 41:9; 2 Sam. 15:31; 1 Ki. 1:1, 5) Yet, from personal experience, he wrote: “He [Jehovah] will hide me in his covert in the day of calamity; he will conceal me in the secret place of his tent.” “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.”—Ps. 27:5, 10.
FREEDOM FROM ECONOMIC FEARS
15. Why should the Christian not fear that he will fail to have the material necessities of life?
15 Even the economic situation should not overly concern the Christian. The apostle Paul wrote: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For he has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’ So that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5, 6) David also declared: “As for those seeking Jehovah, they will not lack anything good.” Again, he said: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.”—Ps. 34:10; 37:25.
PEACE, AND THE JOY OF HELPING OTHERS
16. What are some of the most valuable benefits that the Christian has now by reason of his relationship with God?
16 Among the greatest present advantages of an intimate relationship with God are peace of mind and freedom from fear of the things coming on the world and on one’s own self. The Christian, having experienced God’s loving care and his protection for those intimate with him, has the assured hope of better things to come. According to God’s promise, he looks for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness is to dwell. (2 Pet. 3:13) He has the hope that, even if he should die, he will experience a resurrection into that righteous system of things. (Acts 24:15) Daily he has the proof of what the apostle Paul said from his own experience: “The peace of God that excels all thought [everything fine of which the Christian could conceive] will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 4:7.
17. What further joy may the Christian have due to having intimacy with God?
17 Enjoying this fine relationship, the Christian can help others to learn of these things. There is no greater joy than that of aiding others to come to a knowledge of God’s truth and to be drawn into a good relationship with Jehovah and his Son. That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses visit the homes of the people, throughout all the earth, telling them the “good news,” and calling again to conduct Bible studies. Thus, as new ones are brought into association with the Christian congregation, they, too, experience the joy of knowing intimately the Father and the one whom he sent forth, Jesus Christ. To all of such, “this means everlasting life.”—John 17:3.
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God protects the person who has intimacy with him by opening his eyes to see clearly the danger he is in
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Just as a parent lovingly cares for a sick child God works good toward ill Christians