Look Straight Ahead as a Christian
THE seal hunters were hopelessly lost in a world of nothing but ice and blinding snowstorms. When things were at their worst, one of them said: “I don’t believe any of us will survive to tell the tale.” However, a couple of the men persistently refused to lose heart. One of them, a section leader, was thinking affectionately of his fiancée. When his exhausted companions wanted to give up, her face was constantly before him. He did not intend to die, and he encouraged his comrades not to lie down in the snow but to keep moving. He and about 50 other men survived the disaster. His love for his fiancée, whom he afterward married, and the clear image of her face in his mind’s eye had saved many from death.
This true story illustrates the importance of never losing sight of our goal in the Christian contest for life. At times, the Christian fight against deviating from the righteous path can be as hard as the struggle of those exhausted seal hunters. Death sets in when a person ceases to “fight” and gives in to the overwhelming urge to lie down and go to sleep. How happy are those having before their mind’s eye an image that encourages them to look straight ahead and not give up!
This is exactly what faithful men of old did. For instance, instead of continuing his princely way of life at the court of Pharaoh of Egypt, Moses chose “to be ill-treated with the people of God.” And why did he make this choice? “For he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” Yes, Moses looked ahead and saw not only the reward but also the One who gave the prospect of such a reward. As it were, Moses saw “the One who is invisible,” his God Jehovah.—Heb. 11:24-27.
Also, Jesus Christ did not give up the bitter struggle to maintain his integrity, even though he had to do this with “strong outcries and tears.” (Heb. 5:7) He learned obedience from the things he suffered and kept looking straight ahead toward the prize his Father, Jehovah, had set before him.—Heb. 12:2.
WHAT WE SEE IF WE LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD
The Most High God reveals himself to mankind by his name Jehovah and through his love, mercy, tender care and generosity. (Ps. 83:18; Acts 14:17) Jehovah has proved himself so bountiful in these things that, like faithful Job of old, we should be able to cry out: “In hearsay I have heard about you, but now my own eye does see you.” (Job 42:5) With the eye of faith we also see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God in heaven. He is the one who gave his life to free us from slavery to sin and death. What a captivating view to behold!—Col. 3:1, 2; compare Acts 7:55, 56.
As if this were not enough, on the horizon we see, too, the glow of a new dawn. The day when God’s kingdom will start making the earth a paradise is at hand! We must never lose sight of these realities. Our eye must be in focus like the precisely adjusted lens of a good camera, so that the things that lie before us make a clear impression on our spirit and our heart.
“The lamp of the body is your eye,” said Jesus. “When your eye is simple, your whole body is also bright.” (Luke 11:34) With a simple eye turned toward Jehovah God, his Son and the Kingdom, in even the most difficult circumstances we shall be able to overcome the inclination to give up. So we will pay close attention to the admonition: “As for your eyes, straight ahead they should look, yes, your own beaming eyes should gaze straight in front of you. Smooth out the course of your foot, and may all your own ways be firmly established.”—Prov. 4:25, 26.
LOOKING STRAIGHT AHEAD REQUIRES EFFORT
From the true-life story presented at the outset, it is clear that great effort is needed to keep going ahead in extreme situations. The inclination is to give up and lie down. At this moment of world history we are living in the extreme situation about which Paul warned us at 2 Timothy 3:1: “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” Although many Christians provide excellent examples of perseverance, others show signs of weariness and some are inclined even to abandon the contest. It is a great help to know some of the reasons why a Christian begins to show symptoms of fatigue and, above all, to know what can be done to offset this. The following factors have helped certain Christians to keep looking straight ahead when they had lost heart or had nearly given up.
DEVELOP A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
Encouragement is a strong force for perseverance. (Acts 27:33-36) A positive attitude is needed for encouragement, whereas a negative attitude has just the opposite effect and is discouraging. Do you know people who are very negative and who are critical about nearly everything? Are they happy people? Not all criticism, of course, need be wrong, for valid criticism exists too. But do you not agree that criticism of a negative kind makes such a critical person weary and can result in his becoming very unhappy? Because this is really a matter of outlook, the cure lies in the development of a positive attitude.
Jehovah always looks for the good, even in wrongdoers. Although King Jehoshaphat’s wrongdoing incited God’s indignation against him, Jehovah said to him: “Nevertheless, there are good things that have been found with you.” (2 Chron. 19:3) So why not be like Jehovah in this respect and look for the good in other people? For instance, if you should be disposed to criticize an appointed elder in the Christian congregation, would it not be profitable to consider his many good points—his love for Jehovah and the congregation, his hard work in preparing meetings and his willingness to help? This will help to remove negative thoughts from your mind. And whenever you are confronted with seemingly negative situations, why not consider the good that will come from your reacting correctly in such situations? We have the sterling example of Jesus, who suffered at the hands of his enemies but “learned obedience from the things he suffered.”—Heb. 5:8.
BUILD UP GREATER FAITH AND TRUST
You may also have met people who allowed themselves to be overcome by an inferiority complex. Even Christians can be so overpowered by such feelings that they view themselves as worthless and no longer fit to continue on the Christian path. But is this the right way to look at the matter? Of course not. Jehovah’s earthly children are very precious to him. (Hag. 2:7) No one who is trying to do what is right is inferior in his eyes. So what we need is increased trust in Jehovah and greater faith in God’s ability to make us qualified servants through his spirit.—2 Cor. 3:5.
Instead of allowing ourselves to become discouraged and give up, with the foregoing thoughts in mind we will be encouraged to look straight ahead with confidence. We will find joy in persevering, for “happy is he that is trusting in Jehovah.”—Prov. 16:20.
DO NOT BE ANXIOUS
Excessive anxiety also robs people of the joy of life and makes them weary. That this is an important factor at present is indicated by Jesus’ words about the “time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4) He pointed out that “men [would] become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:26.
Some people are always talking about the troublous times, the difficult economic situation, the high inflation, the increase in crime, the breakdown in family life, loneliness and many other unpleasant things. Because of this anxiety even some Christians have lost the will to keep walking against the storm and are in danger of losing their lives. So there is every reason to have a completely different outlook. Here is Paul’s stirring admonition: “Always [yes, even when problems arise] rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice! . . . Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God.” With what result? Then “the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:4-7) Such a person will not lose heart.
DEEPEN YOUR SPIRITUALITY
Persistently going ahead in a snowstorm requires a great deal of vitality. Dwindling energy reserves in the body must be replenished. Likewise, a Christian who does not constantly feed his mind and heart on spiritual food will lose his happiness and get tired. If this condition lasts too long, he will not continue on the way of life.—Matt. 4:4.
The emphasis laid nowadays on pleasures and diversions could cause even formerly strong Christians to become “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:4) This, in turn, would deprive them of valuable time needed to feed themselves spiritually. Also, materialism, the ‘determination to be rich,’ makes such demands on a person’s time reserves that his spiritual inclination can be destroyed by it. Paul’s words of warning are particularly applicable to our times: “By reaching out for this love [of money] some have been led astray from the faith.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
A person who wants to stand firm in these stormy times must deepen his spirituality by scheduling daily periods for study of the Bible and Scriptural publications. And he must seek regular association with fellow believers. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Heb. 10:24, 25) This will help to give his mind and heart the vigor described in Isaiah 40:29-31: “He [Jehovah] is giving to the tired one power; and to the one without dynamic energy he makes full might abound. . . . those who are hoping in Jehovah . . . will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out.”
WALK WITH GOD
Happy is the individual who does not ‘go on his own’ but has a companion on the way. Yes, “two are better than one . . . For if one of them should fall, the other one can raise his partner up.” (Eccl. 4:9, 10) Faithful men of old like Enoch and Noah had the best companion on their way. They walked with the true God. (Gen. 5:24; 6:9) Walking with God gives a person the needed help to survive the worst of storms. The individual’s daily communication with Jehovah and strong personal relationship with his heavenly Father will keep him on his feet.
For instance, if a person feels lonely because of having lost a beloved marriage mate or child in death, this intimacy with God will make the terrible loss bearable. When the Christian is mistreated, suffers some unrighteousness, or even when he is terribly hurt by a brother in the faith, this precious relationship with Jehovah will protect him from ever giving up the fight. Even if a person has sinned and his conscience is deeply troubled in repentance, his relationship with Jehovah will restore him and, through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his sins will be forgiven. (1 John 1:7) He will keep on looking and walking straight ahead as a Christian.
LOOKING AHEAD BRINGS A RICH REWARD
As we have seen, there is need for a positive attitude to enable us to weather heavy personal storms in our lives. Besides, we may personally have to face the “great tribulation,” a severe worldwide “storm” that will devastate this entire system of things. (Matt. 24:21, 22; Jer. 25:31, 32) God’s spirit will help us to weather this tempest and be found alive when it is all over and the sun rises over a cleansed earth, one that will be transformed into a global paradise.
Jehovah God does not want us to tire out and give up. He wants us to be among those whom the apostle Paul describes at Hebrews 6:11, 12: “We desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” So, let us not become weary, but let our personal relationship with Jehovah God, our faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus and the bright outlook of the New Order be the energizing forces in our life. Then we shall be like Moses, who saw Jehovah by faith, and like Jesus, who looked ahead to the joy that was set before him. Yes, and like the hundreds of thousands of Christians around the globe who look straight ahead and confidently say: “We are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Heb. 10:39.