Manifest Trust in Jehovah—By Practicing the Things Learned
“Trust in Jehovah and do good; reside in the earth, and deal with faithfulness.”—PSALM 37:3.
1, 2. (a) What should be the desired result of personal study? (b) James gives what illustration, and is the looking described by him a cursory one?
ONE’S study of God’s Word is not for mere personal enjoyment. Study should be a means for cultivating trust in Jehovah. (Proverbs 3:1-5) The psalmist’s words above show that godly trust, in turn, manifests itself in a person by his ‘doing good.’
2 James urged: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is.” (James 1:22-24) So this looking was to be no mere passing glance. The Greek word for “look” that is used here basically “denotes the action of the mind in apprehending certain facts about a thing.”—An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine; compare Acts 7:31, Kingdom Interlinear.
3. How might a man who looks in a mirror quickly forget “what sort of man he is”?
3 Imagine, then, a man scrutinizing himself in a mirror, perhaps finding the reflection to be somewhat unflattering. He might see a double chin that came from overeating and overdrinking, bags under the eyes from sleeplessness, and wrinkles in his brow from nagging anxieties. Face-to-face with himself, he resolves to make long-overdue changes in habits and life-style. Then “off he goes.” With the disturbing image comfortably out of sight, he “immediately forgets,” not so much what he looks like, but “what sort of man he is.” His resolve to make changes passes.
4. How does James’ illustration apply to our study of the Scriptures?
4 Similarly, you may be an able student of the Bible. Yet, how do you respond to what you see in the mirror of God’s Word? When spiritual flaws and blemishes are reflected, does this cause you only momentary concern, or do you make a firm resolve to correct the defects? James added: “But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (James 1:25) The psalmist prayed: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, in the way of your regulations, that I may observe it down to the last.”—Psalm 119:33.
What Our Practices Tell About Us
5. (a) What do our practices tell about us? (b) What fate awaits those who are “practicers of what is hurtful”?
5 Really, what we do or practice proves what we are inside. And sooner or later a person makes “the secret self” manifest by practicing either good or bad. (Psalm 51:6) Said Solomon: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” (Proverbs 20:11) This was true of Jacob and Esau when young. As time passed, Esau’s practices made his lack of spiritual appreciation evident. (Genesis 25:27-34; Hebrews 12:16) This has also been true of thousands who claimed to trust in Jehovah but who proved to be what the Bible calls “practicers of what is hurtful.” (Job 34:8) The psalmist wrote: “When the wicked ones sprout as the vegetation and all the practicers of what is hurtful blossom forth, it is that they may be annihilated forever.”—Psalm 92:7.
6. Why is it imperative that we make our trust in Jehovah manifest now?
6 The number of wicked people is rising, and their ruin will be soon; God will not tolerate wrongdoers indefinitely. (Proverbs 10:29) It is therefore imperative that we make our trust in Jehovah manifest by practicing what we learn. “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations,” exhorts Peter. (1 Peter 2:12) What are some areas, then, in which we might improve?
Our Dealings With Others
7. Why must we be cautious in our dealings with “those on the outside”?
7 One area might be our manner of dealing with others. Proverbs 13:20 cautions: “He that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” Failing to apply this inspired counsel, some allow themselves to become overly familiar with worldly individuals at work and at school. One married brother thus became involved in unclean conduct with a woman on his job. He also joined male coworkers on trips to local drinking establishments, resulting in his becoming drunk. Certainly, we need to “go on walking in wisdom toward those on the outside.”—Colossians 4:5.
8. How might some improve in their dealings with fellow Christians?
8 But what about our dealings with fellow Christians? Suppose, for example, that you owe a brother money. Might you needlessly delay paying him, reasoning that because the brother seems well-off, you need it more than he does? “The wicked one is borrowing and does not pay back,” says Psalm 37:21. Or if you are an employer, do you apply the principle “The workman is worthy of his wages” when it comes to paying Witness employees? (1 Timothy 5:18) Paul was able to say of his own dealings: “With holiness and godly sincerity . . . we have conducted ourselves in the world, but more especially toward you.”—2 Corinthians 1:12.
Modest Dress and Grooming
9. What trends in dress and grooming have been observed by some elders?
9 A traveling overseer in Germany described some local Christians as “the tennis-shoe generation” because of their overly casual attire at meetings. The branch office added that some meeting attenders “border on being sloppy,” though “the vast majority of our brothers dress modestly.” Another land similarly reports that “lack of personal hygiene is a problem here . . . Some brothers do not wear clean clothes. They leave their hair uncombed and dirty when going to meetings or in field service.” How important it is for Jehovah’s servants to be neat and clean in every respect!—2 Corinthians 7:1.
10. (a) What principle should guide our choice of dress and grooming? (b) When might counsel be appropriate, and how should we respond?
10 We need to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety,” especially when engaged in spiritual activities. (1 Timothy 2:9, New International Version) The issue is not whether a certain style is extremely fashionable but whether it is appropriate for one professing to be a minister of God. (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:3) Overly casual or tight-fitting clothes can detract from our message. Styles that blatantly and deliberately feminize men or masculinize women are definitely out of order. (Compare Deuteronomy 22:5.) Of course, local customs may vary, according to the weather, occupational needs, and so forth, so that the Christian congregation does not make hard-and-fast rules to cover the worldwide brotherhood. Nor should elders impose their personal tastes on the flock. However, if a Kingdom publisher’s style of grooming generally disturbs the congregation or detracts from the ministry, kind counsel is in order. Would you respond to such counsel in humility, manifesting trust in Jehovah?—Hebrews 12:7.
Trusting God to Provide for Kingdom Seekers
11. How have some become caught up in the pursuit of material things, and why is this unwise?
11 “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) How sad when some fail to heed those words! Swallowing the myth of financial security, they feverishly pursue wealth, secular education, and worldly careers, “trusting in their means of maintenance.” (Psalm 49:6) Solomon warns: “Do not toil to gain riches. . . . Have you caused your eyes to glance at it, when it is nothing? For without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away toward the heavens.”—Proverbs 23:4, 5.
12. How do those pursuing wealth ‘stab themselves all over with many pains’?
12 The apostle Paul further warns: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10) In an interview in U.S.News & World Report, Dr. Douglas LaBier said that many young men and women in pursuit of wealth “report feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, depression, emptiness, paranoia, as well as a whole range of physical complaints—headaches, backaches, stomach problems, insomnia, eating problems.”
13. Why is it best to be content with “sustenance and covering”?
13 Those who trust in Jehovah to provide for them spare themselves much pain and anxiety. True, being content with mere “sustenance and covering” may mean a more modest standard of living. (1 Timothy 6:8) But “valuable things will be of no benefit on the day of fury.” (Proverbs 11:4) Furthermore, when we increase our service to Jehovah, we put ourselves in line for “the blessing of Jehovah” that “makes rich, and he adds no pain with it.”—Proverbs 10:22.
“Seek Peace and Pursue It”
14, 15. (a) What sort of issues have at times disturbed the peace of congregations? (b) How can peace be pursued when disagreements occur?
14 Another way we manifest our trust in Jehovah is to “seek peace and pursue it” among our fellow believers. (1 Peter 3:10-12) At times, though, trivial matters are allowed to become a source of bitter contention among brothers: the decor of the Kingdom Hall, adjustments in congregation territories, Book Study assignments, the handling of magazine and literature supplies. Or, in some cases, rather than settling personal or business disputes in the spirit of Matthew 18:15-17, brothers have stopped speaking to each other or have disturbed the congregation with their controversy.
15 James says: “The fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions.” (James 3:18) In the interest of peace, therefore, be inclined to yield to the tastes or opinions of others, even forgoing personal rights. (Compare Genesis 13:5-12.) For example, if two congregations share a Kingdom Hall, one congregation should not take the position that it “owns” the hall and has the authority to dictate meeting times or other matters to the other congregation. Mutual respect and cooperation should prevail.
16. What is the value of recognizing theocratic order in the home and in the congregation?
16 Many disputes can be avoided when we simply recognize theocratic order and keep our proper place. (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-27) When wives respect the wishes of their husbands, children the orders of their parents, ministerial servants the direction from elders, their actions make “for the growth of the [congregation] for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:16) Granted, at times husbands, parents, and elders fall short. (Romans 3:23) But does rebelling, complaining, or resisting well-motivated directions improve the situation? How much better it is to keep our place assigned by God and seek peace!
Exerting Ourselves in the Field
17. (a) What reasons do some give for having only a token share in the preaching work? (b) How did Jesus encourage Christians to respond to today’s pressures?
17 For many, though, the greatest challenge is fulfilling the Christian commission to preach the good news. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Some have but a minimal share in the field service, perhaps arguing that the pressures of earning a living and raising a family make it difficult for them to do more. Granted, the pressures of “the last days” are formidable. (2 Timothy 3:1) Jesus, however, warned against becoming ‘weighed down with anxieties of life.’ As conditions worsen, Christians should ‘raise themselves erect and lift their heads up.’ (Luke 21:28, 34) One of the best ways to “stand firm” against Satan’s attacks is to have our “feet shod with the equipment of the good news”—regularly sharing in preaching!—Ephesians 6:14, 15.
18. What might be the reason some hold back from having a full share in the preaching work?
18 Back in Paul’s day, many Christians (at least in some congregations) were “seeking their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:21) Could this be true of some in our midst today? Perhaps they fail to view seeking the Kingdom as did that man who found a “pearl of high value” for which he would make any sacrifice. (Matthew 13:45, 46) Yielding to self-interest, they take the line of least resistance and offer merely token service. Remember, though, love for Jehovah and for fellowman motivates true Christians to preach, even if starting to talk with strangers goes against our natural inclination.—Matthew 22:37-39.
19. Why is Jehovah displeased with lukewarm efforts, and how might we evaluate our own service to him?
19 If we are not moved to preach, then our love for Jehovah and our trust in him is little more than mental awareness. “Know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart,” David exhorted Solomon, “for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning.” (1 Chronicles 28:9) Jehovah is not fooled by lukewarm efforts. Even a regular share in field service does not satisfy him if we offer only a mere token of what we could do if we were ‘exerting ourselves vigorously.’ (Luke 13:24) Each Christian must thus make an honest appraisal of his share in the field service and ask himself: ‘Am I really doing all I can?’ Perhaps adjustments in our priorities need to be made.
Motivated to “Do Good” by the Examples of Others
20. Why is it appropriate to examine the good examples set by fellow Christians?
20 Our service to God is not done in “comparison with the other person.” (Galatians 6:4) Nevertheless, the good examples of others can often motivate us to do more. The apostle Paul himself said: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Consider, then, how much time our brothers are spending in the field service each month. In the United States, the average hours for publishers has risen from 8.3 hours in 1979 to 9.7 hours in 1987! Our brothers have been steadily increasing the time they spend in the field. Is that true of you?
21. What has moved many to enter the pioneer work? Illustrate.
21 Moved by the zealous examples of others, record numbers are entering the regular pioneer work. In California (U.S.A.) a young sister named Angela received a tempting job offer, including a scholarship to the college of her choice. Angela, instead, opted for the full-time ministry. Her reason? “By associating with many pioneers, I could see a really deep joy and satisfaction not just with themselves but in their relationship with Jehovah. I wanted to have this deep joy and satisfaction.”
22. What are the benefits of practicing the things learned?
22 Do you want “deep joy and satisfaction”? Then “trust in Jehovah and do good”! Let what you know move you to do your utmost in Jehovah’s service. Practicing the things learned will make your spiritual advancement manifest to all and will benefit others in a lifesaving way. (1 Timothy 4:15, 16) May all, therefore, respond to the words of Paul at Philippians 4:9: “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.”
Points for Review
□ What should be our response to peering into the mirror of God’s Word?
□ How might we improve in our manner of dealing with others?
□ Why is it unwise to pursue material things?
□ How can we seek peace in the congregation?
□ What should motivate us to have a full share in the field service?
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It is not enough to observe spiritual flaws and blemishes. We must act to correct them!
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Those pursuing wealth often bring upon themselves “many pains”