Make a Success of Your Life Now
‘CHRISTIANITY? No, that’s too restrictive for me. I want to be free! I want to have fun!’ Have you ever heard people speak like this? Whether they say it or not, many seem to view Christianity in this way.
Yet is the life of one who rejects Christian standards truly free? The fact is, this world is not really a “fun” place at all. Half of it is desperately poor, with all the attendant ills of starvation, child exploitation and political rebellion. The wealthier part has problems, too. Spreading drug addiction, increasing crime and unrest, chronic child abuse and a surprising number of teenage suicides are just some indications that people the world over are living under pressures that many of them just cannot handle.
Actually, is Christianity really so restrictive? Does the following of Christian principles mean that we have to give up all pleasure and happiness? Not really. The apostle Paul said: “Godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Yes, godly devotion, or the pursuing of genuine Christianity, helps us even now to live lives that are satisfying and full of purpose.
How is this? Well, consider just some of the advantages enjoyed by Christians that are not available to those who reject Christian standards.
COUNSEL AND ADVICE
True, counsel is not always welcome. Yet a glance at the advice columns in the newspapers will show that many people are desperately seeking counsel. Moreover, thousands of psychologists, marriage counselors and the like make a career out of giving advice to their troubled clients.
On the other hand, some who desperately need help often do not realize this. Recently, for example, a young man tried a potent drug known as “Angel Dust.” While under its influence, he thought that his body had been invaded by rats. He drank rat poison and died. When that young man decided to experiment with the drug, he was, unknown to himself, making a life-or-death decision. If someone had given him sensible advice at that time—and if he had accepted it—he might still be alive.
It is ironic that many teenagers will seek advice and spend much time deciding what course of study they will follow or what career they will choose. However, on such matters as what kind of friends to have, whether to use drugs or how to view sexual morality, they will make decisions very casually. Yet, as experience shows, such decisions can make the difference between health and sickness, life and death.
As a help to recognize when advice is needed, and to assist in making decisions that will make “life now” more successful, the Christian has access to an unsurpassed source of counsel—the Bible. Some consider it out of date, but where else can we get such reliable advice? Human counselors propose all kinds of theories and ideas, some of which eventually prove to be positively harmful. But the Bible has stood the test of time. “Many are the plans in the heart of a man, but the counsel of Jehovah is what will stand.”—Prov. 19:21.
The Bible’s counsel never works harm to the person following it. To illustrate: The Scriptures counsel readers to “flee from fornication.” (1 Cor. 6:18) Hence, there was no faithful Christian following Bible counsel among the two million Americans who contracted gonorrhea last year through immorality. Similarly, no one who follows Bible principles would pollute his body with tobacco, and, hence, risk suffering unnecessary heart ailments or cancer. Nor would he be among the large number who die each year because of driving automobiles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.—2 Cor. 7:1.
Counsel in the Bible may be contrary to our inclinations. Perhaps we sometimes wish it would say something different, so that we could be more like the people around us. But a faithful Christian knows that, in the long run, doing what is advised in the Bible will be the best thing for him.
Those who have experienced the “freedom” of the world are often only too glad to give it up. One man was a chain smoker, as well as a heavy drinker, and was addicted to gambling at cockfights. Additionally, he greatly enjoyed sexually suggestive dancing. In time, he came in contact with a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Although he was indulging to the full in the “freedom” that this world offers, he said it was a relief to change and mold his life anew according to the counsel in the Bible. The so-called restricted life of a Christian was much more satisfying. Many others have had similar experiences.—Rom. 12:2.
The Bible says: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” (Prov. 19:20) A wise Christian never loses sight of his enviable privilege of having access to God’s own counsel.
Josephine was popular at school. She was bright, good at sports and a member of school organizations. For special events, she was usually the one chosen to represent the school.
Then this girl had the opportunity to study the Bible. Because she started to mold her life by Scriptural principles, her former friends began to shun her. This did not disturb her, however, because she had found friends of a different kind. As she said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are true friends, because when you need it, they are always ready to help you.” True, her life had been seemingly happy before she became a practicing Christian. But she said: “Even though I was thoroughly spoiled by everyone in those days, I did not feel the happiness that I feel now.”
These expressions highlight another advantage enjoyed by true Christians: reliable and good association. As the Biblical psalmist said: “How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”—Ps. 133:1.
Doubtless, some outside the Christian congregation have pleasant personalities. But association with them will never build up our desire to serve God. It may, however, cause problems. One youth, explaining why he used drugs, spoke of the intense pressure to do so from his friends. He said: “Everybody gets high. If you don’t, you’re [an outsider].” For such people, peer pressure is a big problem. Often they do things they really do not want to do, rather than face ridicule because of being different. The observation of the apostle Paul was accurate: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
On the other hand, genuine Christians never wrongly try to influence their neighbors. Jesus told his disciples: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) They are aware that “love does not work evil to one’s neighbor.” (Rom. 13:10) Hence, association with faithful Christians is always beneficial.
“He that is walking with wise persons will become wise,” says the Biblical proverb. However, “he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) “Wise persons” can be found within the Christian congregation. Association with these loyal witnesses of Jehovah God will help to make our “life now” more successful.
PEACE OF MIND
In the Middle Ages, people built castles for security, or for peace of mind. Today, individuals try to build big bank accounts or get an advanced education, hoping these will supply the same thing.
This does not work, though. It is true that billions of poor people suffer insecurity because of their poverty. Yet wealthy people do not seem to have peace of mind either. One evidence of this was called “The Doomsday Boom,” in a recent report appearing in Newsweek magazine. This refers to a flourishing industry in America that caters to people who are preparing for disasters that they are sure will come. The report states: “Some are braced for man-made disasters—depression, deadly pollution, urban riots—while others have dug in against such natural catastrophes as drought or flood.” Of course, for every one that makes this kind of active preparation, many, many more have an uneasy feeling that something bad is going to happen. It is just as Jesus prophesied for our day: “Men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:26) Such fear robs a person of peace of mind.
No, in these days of inflation and international uncertainties, money gives very dubious security. Another thing that can rob us of peace of mind is emotional insecurity. This is what results in such things as broken homes and the tragedy of teenage suicide. When investigating suicide—listed as the third most prevalent cause of death among teenagers—investigators found that a recurrent cause was a terrible loneliness. It was as if they were saying: “I want to die, because nobody loves me.”
Do Christians have to suffer such insecurities and emotional turmoil? No. They serve a God who cares for them, and this gives them peace of mind.
Jehovah God watches over his people even in a physical way. Jesus advised us: “Never be anxious and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” Christians who are materially poor can testify to the fact that this is not an empty promise. God really does care for his servants.—Matt. 6:31-33.
Again, do Christians feel the need to make elaborate preparations for some possible future catastrophe? No. They know that a big change is coming soon, but they also know why it is coming, and they realize that Jehovah has promised protection for those who serve him. (Ps. 27:5; Isa. 26:20) Jesus, speaking of the difficult times we live in, said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.
Even when a Christian suffers emotional problems, perhaps because of the death of a loved one or for some other reason, he is not left without help. He associates with fellow Christians who will ‘speak consolingly to the depressed souls and will support the weak.’ Moreover, the God he serves is “near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he [Jehovah] saves.” Hence, a faithful Christian need never feel the aching loneliness that drives so many to suicide.—1 Thess. 5:14; Ps. 34:18.
Does this mean that a true Christian’s life is easy and without problems? Of course not. Today, life is not easy for anyone on earth. All have problems. Yet these very problems, taken in the right way, can be a source of encouragement to the Christian. For example, he has to face up to things like inflation, pollution and sickness, just like everyone else. But such problems give the Christian a chance to apply Bible counsel and see that it really works. Indeed, problems teach him to rely on God’s wisdom rather than his own.—Ps. 119:105.
Similarly, a Christian witness of Jehovah has to fight the sinful tendencies of his flesh and avoid the enticements to wrongdoing in this world. (1 John 2:15-17) Doing so, he stands out as different from his worldly associates and may have to endure ridicule. But this can help him to grow spiritually. He can learn to ‘carry on as a man,’ instead of childishly following the crowd. (1 Cor. 16:13) He may even have to face persecution because of his refusal to compromise on what he knows is right. But this is not harmful, for it builds up his faith and teaches him to trust fully in Jehovah God. Thus persecution that God permits is a part of the training for a successful and happy life.—1 Pet. 1:6, 7; 5:6-11.
A genuine Christian makes sacrifices. He sacrifices time and effort that could be spent in relaxation, using much of that time helping others to learn about God’s purposes. A follower of Christ may even sacrifice financially in order to serve his Creator more fully, or to avoid compromising. To a sincere Christian, however, such sacrifices are a source of joy. Jesus himself said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” The serving of our neighbor, and particularly the serving of God, satisfies the deepest instincts in humans. It is what God created us to do. On the other hand, a life devoted solely to pleasure or selfish pursuits ultimately is frustrating, “a striving after wind.”—Acts 20:35; Eccl. 12:13; 2:3-11.
Certainly, then, the benefits that a Christian witness of Jehovah enjoys are many and real. They far outweigh any sacrifices he may have to make. Truly, serving God “holds promise of the life now.” And do not forget, it also holds promise of the life “which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) How unwise to give up such advantages for the dubious and very temporary benefits of the so-called freedom that this world offers!
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Seeking sound advice
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Upbuilding association and doing things for others