Living Up to Our Choice
BY MAKING the choice of life that God holds out we are also choosing to walk in the way of God—the full, upright, Christian way. We must stick to that way, which requires faith in God’s promises, along with effort and endurance. But in that effort we look to God to guide our decisions, while we hold all the time to our initial well-thought-out choice. The Scriptures say: “The heart of earthling man may think out his way, but Jehovah himself does the directing of his steps.” (Prov. 16:9) Peter says about this matter: “Hence brace up your minds for activity, keep your senses completely; set your hope upon the undeserved kindness that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:13.
2, 3. What can help us greatly to ‘brace up our minds’ for positive action?
2 How best can we ‘brace up our minds’? How can we be sure that we are ‘keeping our senses’ and not getting off balance?
3 First, we can meditate upon the unparalleled blessing that we have in being a recipient of God’s truth. We have a better life now, with greater freedom from the worries, griefs and woes that the world experiences. If we do suffer, we know why such suffering comes, and we also realize that, if we endure with full faith and confidence, we will come out better and more useful Christians. And our hope of a resurrection removes much of the fear of death, and of sorrow over loved ones who die. It makes all the undesirable things we undergo as nothing in view of the everlasting life ahead. Jesus said to his disciples: “Happy are the eyes that behold the things you are beholding. For I say to you, Many prophets and kings desired to see the things you are beholding but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them.”—Luke 10:23, 24.
4, 5. (a) What would cause angels to express such interest in matters of human salvation, as indicated by 1 Peter 1:12? (b) Knowing their viewpoint, how should we, in turn, feel?
4 Yes, the salvation we enjoy is an inestimable prize, and it is in a marvelous way that God brings it to men. Peter says that the prophets desired to know how it comes about, and that “into these very things angels are desiring to peer.” (1 Pet. 1:10-12) We know that the angels were in existence at the time the earth was formed, and even countless years before that. (Job 38:7) They had seen God’s glory, wisdom and might and other facets of his personality in the billions of creative works. But here on earth was something new. How could God save sinful mankind? The angels were very interested in this. They were desirous of knowing how man’s sin could be forgiven on the basis of a human sacrifice, for they had never seen such a thing take place. The marvelous quality of mercy, a finer facet of God’s personality, more appealing and heartwarming than power or even wisdom, was displayed in his sending Christ to ransom humankind. Also, God’s love for sinners was demonstrated by his guiding those having faith in his Son.
5 Now, if angels count this mercy of God as one of the greatest things in the universe, with how much stronger force should we, who have received that mercy and who experience it every day, rejoice in it and prize it above all things! What greater motivation can we have to be happy in our choice and to stick to it?
Bible Study Very Important
6. In harmony with 1 Peter 2:2, 3, what part should Bible reading and study play in our lives?
6 What can we today set about to do to make sure our hope? Peter answers: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word, that through it you may grow to salvation, provided you have tasted that the Lord is kind.” (1 Pet. 2:2, 3) Only by a sincere, careful reading and study of the Bible can we have the spiritual strength we must have. There is no other way. We must read the Bible ourselves, thinking on what it says, reading it with our families and discussing its truths. Doing so, we will develop greater love for the word and a longing for more of it. If kings in Israel were required by God’s law to write themselves a copy of the Law, which they had in their day, and to read it every day, how can we, who have the complete Scriptures, which are able to make us wise for salvation, do any less?—Deut. 17:19, 20; 2 Tim. 3:15.
7, 8. (a) What did the people in the Beroean synagogue do that earned them divine commendation? (b) Why is it that the actual reading of truths in the Bible itself is so vital?
7 When the apostles proclaimed the “good news,” whom did God through his Word commend? The people in the synagogue at Beroea, for, the Bible says, “they received the word [of the good news spoken by Paul and Silas] with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things [that even the apostle Paul said] were so.” (Acts 17:10, 11) They made these things their own, not merely listening with agreement but also examining the firm Scriptural basis for the things they eagerly received into their minds and hearts.
8 We should follow the course of those sincere Beroeans. Why? Because we may hear the truth preached or taught by human teachers, but when we read it in the Bible it becomes a fully founded, permanent motivating force in our hearts, for “the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Constant study of the Bible prevents us from remaining spiritual babies. God’s Word infuses his spirit into our hearts, making us strong, mature. The same principle is in operation when we declare the “good news” to others. It has greater force if we let people read it in the Bible than if we use our own words.
9. What adverse effect could trials and hardships produce in us, and what will help us to avoid such bad effect?
9 In outlining what we as Christians should do in order to make our salvation finally sure, and that we may receive a reward from God, in his first letter the apostle Peter counsels us against discouragement under hardships, trials and persecutions. We should not let these things embitter us and make us disobedient people, without restraint. Since we have been bought with the most valuable thing, the blood of Jesus Christ, who bore our sins when he died for us, we should be “dead” as to sins. We recognize that by accepting Christ’s atonement sacrifice for our sins we are acknowledging that we must no more go on sinning. So all forms of badness, deceitfulness, hypocrisy, envies and backbiting should not be entertained or indulged in for a moment.—1 Pet. 2:1.
10. How can we follow the apostle’s counsel that the world’s unclean practices should not be even “mentioned” among us?
10 The apostle Paul expresses the matter very strongly, that the things that the world does and that the Christian may have done before coming to a knowledge of the truth are so bad that they should not even be “mentioned” among Christians. (Eph. 5:3) Of course, Paul did ‘mention’ the unscriptural things, but only in identifying them as bad. However, he was counseling Christians not to dwell on them, describing them in lurid detail, speaking about the manner in which these things are done, nor to use them as subjects for conversation. One who has in the past indulged in these things should not recall them with a sense of gratification of the flesh, but should be ashamed of them.—Rom. 6:21.
11. At 1 Peter 4:8, 9, what positive expressions of our faith does Peter stress as of prime concern for us, and how will such things be manifest?
11 Additionally, there is more to the Christian’s course toward the hope ahead than avoiding the bad, negative things. The apostle Peter, at 1 Peter 4:8, 9, writes: “Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” We have a constant duty toward our neighbors, particularly to those related to us in the faith. Our love will overlook many mistakes and sins in our brothers. True Christians do not go around trying to find fault with others; nor do they become suspicious or condemnatory of another because they see faults in him. Are we anxious to show hospitality? Are we ready to put ourselves out to be kind and helpful to one another? Or do we grumble when such an occasion arises? If we do, we cancel out for ourselves all the joy that we could otherwise have and also lose the reward we would get for doing good. Things not motivated from the heart do not please God.
Use Your Gift Aright
12. (a) Who receive helpful ‘gifts’ in the congregation, and are all expected to have the same abilities? (b) In what way do these ones become “stewards” of God, and with what responsibility?
12 Peter also speaks of the use of our gifts. Everyone has some ability or abilities, but no one has them all. Also, some have certain gifts in greater measure than others do. We cannot expect others to do just as we do, or to fit, as it were, into the same mold. Peter says: “In proportion as each one has received a gift, use it in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways.” (1 Pet. 4:10) If a person has an ability that is helpful to the congregation, he is to consider himself a steward of God in using that gift. He knows that the gift comes from God, the Giver of every good and perfect present. The individual who has the gift becomes a steward responsible to its giver and his master as to how he uses it. (1 Cor. 4:2; Jas. 1:17) It is by God’s undeserved kindness that he received it, and this undeserved kindness provides for the Christian congregation the things it needs. This undeserved kindness is expressed in a multitude of ways, with different persons in the congregation supplying what is needed. If one has an ability and does not use it to benefit the congregation, he is failing in a stewardship.
13. In what way are those speaking in the congregation called upon to “speak as it were the sacred pronouncements of God”?
13 The apostle goes on to describe the forms of gifts and how they are to be used. He says: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as it were the sacred pronouncements of God.” (1 Pet. 4:11a) This does not mean that when he speaks he feels that he is always right and that people must do as he says. But when he speaks he should not be uttering his own opinion or making assertions without proof. He should be sure that what he says is the truth—that it is solidly based upon the pronouncements of God and is in harmony with the spirit of the Bible—that he can prove what he says by the Bible. Only in this way can he be helpful to anyone.
14. (a) In harmony with 1 Pet 4:11, how can one “minister” to others in the congregation? (b) What should such a one always keep in mind when so ministering, and how will he be rewarded?
14 From the matter of speaking, Peter then turns to deeds as he says: “If anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent on the strength that God supplies.” (1 Pet. 4:11a) A member of the congregation who has the material means to help a brother or a needy neighbor, or who has opportunity to render some helpful service, can promote the quality of love among his brothers. If he has such ability, he must render the help with the recognition that the opportunity and the means were supplied to him by God. This not only pleases God, but makes the Christian’s ministry effective, for God will bless the one who serves with humility. The person will himself be rewarded with a greater measure of faith and opportunity of accomplishment, as the proverb says: “The generous soul will itself be made fat, and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.”—Prov. 11:25.
15. How can God be glorified through Jesus Christ as a result of our faithfully exercising our stewardship?
15 What is the primary result of using our gifts or abilities in this way? Does it bring us nearer to the full realization of our hope? Yes, for it brings about the foremost thing for which we made our original choice to serve God. That is: “In all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 4:11b) When we do fine works that are in harmony with the Bible, Christ is glorified, because it is through him that we have a standing before God, with salvation in view. And God is glorified, because he is the Initiator of the act of sending his Son; so in glorifying Christ we are also glorifying God.
How Suffering Works for Our Good
16. Why can the Christian have cause for rejoicing even though faced with pressures or persecution
16 This way of life glorifies both Jehovah God and his Son Jesus Christ, and it now provides joy for us in serving them. We can be content and cheerful with this knowledge. There may be many pressures, even hardships and persecution. Nonetheless, we can maintain happiness in our way of life. The apostle Peter speaks much in his two letters about suffering—the cause, the purpose and the outcome of enduring it faithfully. He wrote to Christians of his day about their hope and the protection that God gave them, saying: “In this fact you are greatly rejoicing, though for a little while at present, if it must be, you have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:6, 7.
17, 18. (a) Why does the apostle Peter in speaking of Christian suffering say “if the will of God wishes it”? (b) Like the apostle Paul, how should the Christian today view suffering that comes because of holding firmly to the choice made?
17 In chapter three of his first letter, Peter calls attention to the Christian’s suffering and says: “For it is better to suffer because you are doing good, if the will of God wishes it, than because you are doing evil.” (1 Pe 3 Vs. 17) Why does he say of such suffering “if the will of God wishes it”? He explains: “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you. On the contrary, go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory. If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.”—1 Pet. 4:12-14; compare Acts 5:41, 42.
18 While the Christian prefers not to suffer, and he does not seek to be a martyr, he is happy if he is called on to suffer for faithfully following his Master, Christ. No greater honor can come to a Christian than to die for his faith. Before he chose the road of following Christ, which included much reproach and suffering, the apostle Paul was a man who had the brightest prospect for fame, honor and position. Note how he expressed his feeling on the matter: “What things were gains to me, these I have considered loss on account of the Christ. Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ . . . so as to know him and the power of his resurrection and a sharing in his sufferings, submitting myself to a death like his.” (Phil. 3:7-10) Paul desired to be like Christ in every respect, counting it the greatest glory if he should be called on to die as Christ did.
19, 20. (a) To what extent does God allow such suffering to come upon his servants? (b) How can the rage of opposers and persecutors work to the eventual praise of God? (c) What other factor regarding the extent of divinely permitted suffering can encourage us to endure?
19 Furthermore, Peter points out not only that there is a reward, but that when God allows suffering he allows it only to the extent that it provides training and discipline for us in the ways that we individually need. The psalmist wrote: “The very rage of man will laud you.” (Ps. 76:10) If God permits man to vent his rage against us, we can be sure that our suffering or death will work good. Not only will it be to us a training, but also God will thwart the purpose of the wicked ones by causing others to glorify God through their observing our suffering faithfully for his name. Moreover, the suffering is for a relatively short time and will come to an end.
20 So Peter comforts Christians, saying: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, who called you to his everlasting glory in union with Christ, will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.”—1 Pet. 5:10.
21. (a) What personal questions may we now profitably ask ourselves? (b) What strengthening points does the apostle Peter make at the close of his second letter?
21 Do you feel that you have made the right choice? Do you feel that you can stick to that choice, not merely in a passive endurance of what comes, but also in actively serving? Are you willing to exert yourself in using your gifts to help your brothers? Do you have a desire, yes, a zeal, to help others to learn the “good news” and make the same choice for themselves, and are you willing to aid them to stand firm as they follow the choice they make? Peter comforts and strengthens us with the closing words of his second letter: “You, therefore, beloved ones, having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness. No, but go on growing in the undeserved kindness and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.”—2 Pet. 3:17, 18.
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Reading the Bible ourselves can help to impress the truth on our hearts
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To provide the proper assistance, make sure the counsel you give is Bible-based
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Humbly using our abilities to render some helpful service promotes the quality of love and gains God’s blessing