Choosing the Best Way of Life
“You . . . are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith.”—1 Pet. 1:4, 5.
1, 2. What was the situation of all of us before our accepting the “good news,” and why can we therefore rejoice?
THE apostle Paul wrote to Christians in the Asian city of Ephesus: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world . . . Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses—by undeserved kindness you have been saved.”—Eph. 2:2-5.
2 All of us today who are seeking to serve God, before we came to a knowledge of the truth, have conducted ourselves in harmony with the flesh. Are we not happy, though, that we have used the freedom of choice God kindly gave us? And that, in doing so, we chose a way that frees us from bondage, one that promises us everlasting life?
3. (a) What is needed on our part if we are to see the realization of our Bible-based hope? (b) In what way did we make our choice, and what questions arise as to our carrying this out to completion?
3 The apostle Peter told the first-century Christians that God had given them a “living hope.” (1 Pet. 1:3) We, too, have a real hope in the things ahead. Since what we hope for has not arrived—we do not yet see the hope fulfilled—shall we give up? The apostle Paul said: “If we hope for what we do not see, we keep on waiting for it with endurance.” (Rom. 8:25) Therefore, if things do not seem to be working out the way we had expected, there is all the more reason to display endurance and to strengthen hope. This means that, having chosen the way of real life, the best and, in fact, the only way, we must stick to that choice. We cannot have confidence that we will realize that hope if we are wavering and unstable. (Jas. 1:6-8) We made the choice in a dedication to God and symbolized it by baptism. But every day we are all faced with problems that require us to make lesser decisions and choices in harmony with that first big decision. Can we continue daily to make the right choices that keep us on the way to life? Can we be sure that we will actually realize the fullness of our hope in time?
Hold to Your Choice!
4. (a) Why should we not let the disappointment caused by errors shake us from our chosen course? (b) Into what erroneous attitudes has desire for the fulfillment of their hope led Christians throughout the past?
4 If we remain faithful, God will not let us make ruinous mistakes. But sometimes he permits us to be in error so that we may see our need to look always to him and his Word. This strengthens our relationship with him and our endurance while waiting. We learn from our mistakes that it is necessary to be more careful in the future. The desire for the new system of things to take complete charge of the earth has always been very strong in Christians down through the centuries. And because of their own short life-span, they doubtless longed for it to come in their particular lifetime. Those who have tried to keep God’s judgment time “close in mind” have, on more than one occasion throughout history, become overly eager for that day’s arrival, in their own minds trying to rush the arrival of the desired events. (2 Pet. 3:12) In the first century, for example, the apostle Paul found it necessary to write to Christians in Thessalonica in this fashion, as we read at 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3: “However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of you not to be quickly shaken from your reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here. Let no one seduce you in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction.”
5. (a) How did strong expectation develop regarding the year 1975? (b) Why did cautionary statements published not accomplish a curbing of such concern over a date?
5 In modern times such eagerness, commendable in itself, has led to attempts at setting dates for the desired liberation from the suffering and troubles that are the lot of persons throughout the earth. With the appearance of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, and its comments as to how appropriate it would be for the millennial reign of Christ to parallel the seventh millennium of man’s existence, considerable expectation was aroused regarding the year 1975. There were statements made then, and thereafter, stressing that this was only a possibility. Unfortunately, however, along with such cautionary information, there were other statements published that implied that such realization of hopes by that year was more of a probability than a mere possibility. It is to be regretted that these latter statements apparently overshadowed the cautionary ones and contributed to a buildup of the expectation already initiated.
6. Did the information in the July 15, 1976, Watchtower endeavor to lay the responsibility for such expectation solely or primarily on its readers? Explain.
6 In its issue of July 15, 1976, The Watchtower, commenting on the inadvisability of setting our sights on a certain date, stated: “If anyone has been disappointed through not following this line of thought, he should now concentrate on adjusting his viewpoint, seeing that it was not the word of God that failed or deceived him and brought disappointment, but that his own understanding was based on wrong premises.” In saying “anyone,” The Watchtower included all disappointed ones of Jehovah’s Witnesses, hence including persons having to do with the publication of the information that contributed to the buildup of hopes centered on that date.
7. (a) What effect should such human errors have on our faith in what God himself promises? (b) In actuality, what does God’s Word stress as the important factor?
7 Nevertheless, there is no reason for us to be shaken in faith in God’s promises. Rather, as a consequence, we are all moved to make a closer examination of the Scriptures regarding this matter of a day of judgment. In doing so, we find that the important thing is not the date. What is important is our keeping ever in mind that there is such a day—and it is getting closer and it will require an accounting on the part of all of us. Peter said that Christians should rightly be “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Pet. 3:12) It is not a certain date ahead; it is day-to-day living on the part of the Christian that is important. He must not live a single day without having in mind that he is under Jehovah’s loving care and direction and must submit himself thereto, keeping also in mind that he must account for his acts.
8. (a) How do the words of Jesus and of Paul establish the rightness of such viewpoint? (b) We must endure to the end; but when is that “end,” and what can we know about the time of its arrival?
8 Jesus gave the reason why we should maintain such a viewpoint, saying: “For the Son of man is destined to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will recompense each one according to his behavior.” (Matt. 16:27) The apostle Paul also pointed out: “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of God . . . So, then, each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10-12) And, “we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of the Christ, that each one may get his award for the things done through the body, according to the things he has practiced, whether it is good or vile.” (2 Cor. 5:10) How long do we have before making such an accounting? Jesus said: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) When is “the end”? That end can come either at the end of this system of things or at the individual’s own death before then. How long, then, does each one of us have? No one can calculate the day when he will die. Likewise, Jesus said to his apostles about the time for establishing God’s kingdom: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Acts 1:7) It is impossible for us to figure out the world’s end in advance.
The Fulfillment of Our Hope
9. What words of Peter can give us confidence to hold true to the choice we have made?
9 If anyone is fearful that, because of trials that may arise, he will not stick to his choice to serve God and Christ, let him listen to the words of the apostle Peter. This apostle assures us that our hope is a certainty if we hold firmly to it through faith in God and his sure promises. He says: “[You] are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.” (1 Pet. 1:3-5) What do we learn from these words?
10, 11. (a) To whom goes the real credit for our having accepted the “good news,” and why? (b) How does God make it possible for persons to recognize the light of truth? (c) What does 1 Corinthians 2:9 show as to the ability of humans to discern divine truths on their own?
10 Well, when we first took notice and listened with belief to the “good news” proclaimed to us, could we properly credit ourselves with having the good sense to see its value and grasp it right away? No. “While we were yet weak,” helpless to save ourselves, “while we were yet sinners,” yes, while we were yet enemies, we were “reconciled to God through the death of his Son.” (Rom. 5:6-10) Whom, therefore, do we have to thank for the favorable position in which we now stand? Jesus told his disciples: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) On our own initiative we would never come to a knowledge of God. Our imperfect, sinful human nature would never let us do it.
11 However, we can seek God, for “he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) If we will only look or grope for God, this pleases him. He then draws close to us. (Jas. 4:8) God knows the seeker’s inner desire and sends someone to him with the “good news”; and looking into God’s Word, with the help of holy spirit, which God supplies, the seeker wakes up to his situation. Then, if he exercises faith in what God says, he is able to come out of the darkness. As to human ability, the Bible says: “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) Through our own human thinking and desires we could never have understood the truth had God not had pity on us and helped us personally.
12. (a) In order to stick to our initial choice, what must we constantly keep in mind? (b) How can God safeguard us from dangers into which our lack of perception may bring us?
12 Knowing, therefore, that God sees our plight and helps us right from the start, we can appreciate how it is possible to stick to our initial choice as the years roll by. In fact, God can make us grow spiritually. As Peter says, we are safeguarded by God’s power. We must recognize that, once becoming Christians, it is not in our own strength, wisdom or understanding that we are able to endure victoriously—we could never make it on our own. For example, we are often dull of perception. Many times when we are completely unaware of it, we come into situations and circumstances of great danger to our Christian integrity. (Gal. 6:1) We may be about to take some step that could lead us to ruin. But God, looking on, loves and pities us, keeping his promises to us, and at the right moment he may deliver us from peril. King David of ancient Israel, after experiencing such ‘safeguarding’ by God in his watchful care, said: “You have delivered my soul from death—have you not delivered my feet from stumbling?—that I may walk about before God in the light of those alive.”—Ps. 56:13.
Safeguarded from Bloodguilt
13, 14. (a) How did David come perilously close to the point of shedding innocent blood? (b) How did Abigail serve to turn him back from his wrong course?
13 An instance of God’s safeguarding and saving David from his own imperfect reasonings and impulses is that recorded at 1 Samuel chapter 25. When David was living as an outlaw, being a refugee from King Saul’s murderous manhunt, David and his men were helping, guarding and protecting Israelite people wherever they had opportunity. One man whom they helped was a very rich Israelite named Nabal. On an occasion when David and his men were encamped in the vicinity of Nabal’s shepherds with their flocks, David’s men proved to be a wall of protection from marauders, and they neither asked for nor took anything for their services. Later, when David’s men were in need of provisions, David kindly asked Nabal, as a brother Israelite, to render him some help with a gift of food. Instead of expressing gratitude and the unselfishness that the Mosaic law commanded, Nabal screamed abuses at David’s men.
14 This vicious, ungrateful act infuriated David, so that he set out with about 400 men to wreak vengeance upon Nabal and his household. But Nabal’s wife, Abigail, learning of her husband’s vile conduct, hastened to go to David with a large gift of provisions. She pleaded with David on the basis of his relationship with Jehovah to turn from his intended revenge, saying: “Let this not become to you a cause for staggering or a stumbling block to the heart of my lord, both by the shedding of blood without cause and by having the hand of my lord itself come to his salvation.” David, coming to his senses, replied: “Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, who has sent you this day to meet me! And blessed be your sensibleness, and blessed be you who have restrained me this day from entering into bloodguilt and having my own hand come to my salvation.”—1 Sam. 25:31-33.
15, 16. (a) If David had continued on in his course, what two wrongs would he have been guilty of, and what saved him from this? (b) What lesson do we learn from this, and what effect should it have on us?
15 David, from a human standpoint, had felt justified when he set forth to repay Nabal for his wickedness. But if he had done so, he would have been relying on himself for revenge and vindication, and would have incurred bloodguilt by killing innocent members of Nabal’s household. What saved him? Jehovah God was watching, and safeguarded him from this sin.
16 From this example we see that we cannot rely on ourselves to continue in the course that leads to salvation, but must always look to God, who watches over us and sees us safely through. This should give us confidence and make us humble.
17. (a) Should we think that God will do less for a humble servant of his today? (b) In what ways may God safeguard us from committing serious wrongs?
17 Nevertheless, someone may say, ‘That was Jehovah’s anointed King David, with whom God made a covenant for the kingdom. Perhaps he would not give as much attention to us.’ Can we truly say that God, who purchased us with the precious blood of his Son, does not just as jealously guard our lives? Certainly he does. Just as God delivered David from a rash, calamitous act by using Abigail, he will without fail deliver us. As he motivated Abigail to save David, he may use his Word the Bible, or his angels, or a Christian associate, or he may arrange circumstances providentially to save us from doing a foolish thing, if we have faith and continue to pursue a prayerful, humble course, leaning on him.
18, 19. How can such knowledge encourage us in faithful endurance in the course we have chosen, and what question remains for answering?
18 How comforting and encouraging this understanding of matters is! God does not say, ‘Well, now you know what to do and it is all up to you.’ Rather, he is lovingly interested in our salvation and actively protects us as long as we maintain our faith in him and in the ransom provided through his Son. He “well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust,” knowing that, on our own, we would be bound to fail in our efforts to hold to the course of righteousness down to the end.—Ps. 103:10-14, 17, 18; compare Psalm 38:4, 22; 40:12, 13; 130:3, 4.
19 Does this mean that we have hardly any part in the matter of living faithfully—that it is all up to God? By no means, as the following Scriptural discussion makes clear.
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Just as Jehovah safeguarded David from a rash, calamitous act by using Abigail, he will without fail deliver us