Maintain Your Faith and Spiritual Health
“Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus.”—2 TIMOTHY 1:13.
1. Why is good physical health a valuable possession that has to be maintained?
GOOD physical health is a precious possession. When we are healthy, we can do many things and enjoy life more. But when we are chronically sick or infirm, life is much more difficult. Of course, good health must be maintained. Many neglect their health or do things that cause illness. Those who look after themselves, however, usually have a measure of good health and strength throughout most of their lifetime.
2. (a) Why is spiritual health more valuable than physical health? (b) What is required to remain healthy in faith?
2 Spiritual health is far more important than physical health. The best physical health cannot bring God’s gift of eternal life. Good spiritual health results from clean worship and faith based on accurate knowledge. (John 17:3; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:27) The apostle Paul said: “Let the aged men be moderate in habits, serious, sound in mind, healthy in faith, in love, in endurance.” (Titus 2:2) Anyone desiring to be healthy in faith must put forth diligent effort and maintain constant vigilance. Threats to sound spiritual health may come from within us or from outside. We must be aware of these threats if we are to maintain faith and spiritual health in this sick world.
How Sick Is This World?
3, 4. How is moral sickness reflected in this world and in the actions of people?
3 There is no doubt that the world is very sick morally. We see deadly disease in all the “organs” of this world—its religions, its political systems, its commercial institutions, its entertainment. Few have respect for God and for the laws he has given for the welfare of mankind. And as history shows, moral decay invariably leads to an increase in physical diseases and troubles. Ironically, most do not want to do anything about curing this diseased moral condition because they love the things that cause it.
4 How sick this world is! In seeking thrills or in trying to escape reality, many have ruined their lives through alcohol and drug abuse. Violence is everywhere, life is cheap, and jails are filled to overflowing with criminals. In many countries, half of all marriages end in divorce. Children lacking proper parental supervision grow up as delinquents. Because sexual immorality is rampant, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are spreading rapidly.
5. How did Isaiah describe conditions in ancient Judah?
5 God could say of this sick world what he inspired Isaiah to declare about wayward Judah: “Woe to the sinful nation, the people heavy with error, an evildoing seed, ruinous sons! They have left Jehovah, they have treated the Holy One of Israel with disrespect, they have turned backwards. Where else will you be struck still more, in that you add more revolt? The whole head is in a sick condition, and the whole heart is feeble. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no sound spot in it.”—Isaiah 1:4-6.
6. In ancient Judah and in our day, what response has there been to Jehovah’s appeal to learn to do good?
6 Jehovah’s appeal to repent and “learn to do good” went generally unheeded in Judah. (Isaiah 1:16-20) This eventually led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Only a few faithful ones experienced God’s blessing and preservation in the midst of the sick nation. Likewise today, in this world that is sick from head to toe, only a few desire to learn to do good. These faithful servants of Jehovah are making diligent efforts to maintain faith and spiritual health now, with the hope of gaining perfect physical health and eternal life in God’s promised new world.—2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4.
Spiritual Dangers in This Sick World
7. (a) What dangers imperil our faith and spiritual health? (b) What do the Scriptures say about coping with the three main elements endangering spiritual health?
7 Maintaining faith and spiritual health is a challenge because this world’s moral sickness is very contagious. Christians must also contend with their own inherited imperfection. (Romans 7:21-25) Moreover, Satan, “the ruler of the world,” knows the weaknesses of the flesh and is a master of temptation. (John 14:30; 1 John 5:19) These three main dangers imperiling faith and spiritual health—the flesh, the world, and the Devil—are formidable. But it is possible to be “no part of the world,” though we live in it. We can ‘keep walking by God’s spirit and carry out no fleshly desire.’ And with divine help we can “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (John 17:15, 16; Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 6:11; 2 Corinthians 2:11) But let us now consider how we can cope with these three main elements endangering faith and spiritual health.
8. How does Jesus describe the forces within us that work against spiritual health?
8 Within our imperfect human nature are forces that can result in sin and that can make us spiritually sick. (James 1:14, 15) This is particularly true within the figurative heart. Jesus said: “From inside, out of the heart of men, injurious reasonings issue forth: fornications, thieveries, murders, adulteries, covetings, acts of wickedness, deceit, loose conduct, an envious eye, blasphemy, haughtiness, unreasonableness. All these wicked things issue forth from within and defile a man.”—Mark 7:21-23.
9. (a) What desires are rooted in the figurative heart? (b) According to Proverbs 4:20-23, how can we safeguard the heart?
9 Although the heart is the source of bad desires, in godly persons it is also the seat of reverence for Jehovah and love for what is right. (Matthew 22:37; Ephesians 4:20-24) Whether good or bad will prevail in our case depends on what we take into our hearts. God’s Word counsels: “My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh. More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Proverbs 4:20-23.
10. How do our fleshly weaknesses affect our emotions and desires?
10 Our fleshly weaknesses affect our emotions and desires. Who is not occasionally plagued by discouragement, impatience, the taking of offense? If we promptly correct these fleshly tendencies, spiritual health can be maintained. But pride and ambition can quickly take root in the heart. Greed and a desire for excessive pleasures and revelries can take over. And sexual desire, while natural because of the way God made us, can subtly lead us astray. To prevent such spiritual sickness from developing within us, we need to cultivate the fruits of God’s spirit in our lives every day, training ourselves to “abhor what is wicked” and to “cling to what is good.”—Romans 12:9; Galatians 5:22, 23.
Outside Sources of Spiritual Disease
11. (a) What worldly attitudes and actions are very contagious? (b) According to Jesus, in what respect should we pay attention to our hearts?
11 Spiritual infection can come from outside sources. It can spread to us from those who are spiritually dead. (Ephesians 2:1-3) If we are too close to them, we can pick up their attitudes and life-styles. Getting ahead secularly, loving money, enjoying the best materially, and having a good time are the big things in the lives of people of this world. But desire for such things is very contagious, and even limited exposure to them can make us spiritually sluggish. Jesus warned: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.”—Luke 21:34, 35.
12. How can wrong ideas and teachings be dangerous to spiritual health?
12 This world’s wrong ideas and teachings can also infect us. Paul warned: “There will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4) False teachings are like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2:16, 17) When it sets in, a portion of your flesh dies because life-giving blood has been cut off from that part of the body.
13. If spiritual sickness has set in like gangrene, what should be done?
13 How fast gangrene spreads! To prevent death, the doctor may have to amputate a part of the body. So, if doubts, complaints, or apostasy threaten to contaminate you spiritually, cut them away quickly! (Compare Matthew 5:29, 30.) Get help from the congregation elders. Do not become like those whom Paul described as “mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words” because they did “not assent to healthful words.”—1 Timothy 6:3, 4.
14. What may the elders find it necessary to do to protect the spiritual health of the congregation?
14 To protect the spiritual health of the congregation, elders need “to exhort by the teaching that is healthful and to reprove those who contradict.” (Titus 1:9, 13, 16; 2:1) Perhaps such persons can be restored to a spiritually healthy state. (2 Timothy 2:23-26) But what if they unrepentantly promote false teaching? Then, in effect, they must be quarantined. They are disfellowshipped, and we stay away from them so that their spiritual infection does not spread to us.—Romans 16:17, 18; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Titus 3:9-11.
15. In trying to undermine the spiritual health of God’s people, what two main approaches has the Devil used?
15 The third source of danger to faith and spiritual health is the Devil. (Ephesians 6:11, 12) Right into our day, he has tried to weaken the faith of Jehovah’s people by persecution, including mob action, beatings, imprisonments, and threats of death. (Revelation 2:10) Since Satan rarely with these tactics succeeds in breaking the integrity of one of God’s servants, he uses the attractions of this world, of which he is the god, in an effort to cause some to fall.—2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:3, 14.
16. What defenses do we have in withstanding the Devil’s attacks on our faith and spiritual health?
16 How can we withstand attacks by the Devil? By putting on all the spiritual armor from God. Especially must we ‘take up the large shield of faith, with which we can quench all the burning missiles’ that Satan hurls at us. We must also pray in harmony with Jesus’ words: “Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the wicked one.” (Ephesians 6:11-18; Matthew 6:13) If we pray in that way and act in accord with our prayers, we can expect our heavenly Father’s help in quenching all of Satan’s fiery missiles.
Staying Healthy in Faith
17. In maintaining spiritual health, how important is it to take in “food at the proper time” and to participate regularly in Christian activities?
17 Prevention is a big factor in maintaining good physical health. Nutritious food, proper exercise, and general care of the mind and body are vital. Natural defenses against disease are stronger in a healthy body. Similarly, to maintain spiritual health, it is vital to follow the diet God prescribes and to appreciate the nourishing spiritual “food at the proper time” provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” Rejecting the spiritual junk food of this world, we must study the Bible and Christian publications and meet with God’s people regularly. (Matthew 24:45-47; Hebrews 10:24, 25) We also need the exercise that results from “always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord” in the ministry and other Christian activities.—1 Corinthians 15:58.
18. What is “the pattern of healthful words,” and why must we keep it in heart and mind?
18 To stay healthy in faith, make full use of God’s spiritual provisions. As Paul told Timothy: “Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus. This fine trust guard through the holy spirit which is dwelling in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13, 14) A language has a pattern of words. Similarly, the “pure language” of Bible truth has a pattern based mainly on the theme of Jehovah’s vindication through the Kingdom. (Zephaniah 3:9) We must keep this pattern of healthful words in heart and mind if we are to maintain our faith and spiritual health. Otherwise, it will fade in significance to us. This evidently happened in the congregation at Corinth, where some were “weak and sickly” because they lacked spiritual comprehension.—1 Corinthians 11:29-32.
19. (a) If spiritual sickness has developed, what should be done? (b) What can elders do if a person is spiritually sick?
19 What should be done if you have developed spiritual sickness? Loving help is definitely needed and is available, for James says: “Is there anyone sick among you? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah.” (James 5:14) Yes, call upon the elders. As spiritual physicians, they can help you get to the root of the spiritual sickness. They will gently but effectively rub in the curative oil of God’s Word. If you have committed sins but are repentant, be assured that Jehovah truly does forgive. (Psalm 103:8-14) As the elders pray with you and in your behalf, what can be expected? James answers: “The prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.”—James 5:15.
Spiritual Health Leads to Eternal Life
20. (a) What counsel did the first-century governing body give about maintaining spiritual health? (b) What will help us as we await the blessings of the new world?
20 “Good health to you!” With those words, the first-century governing body of Jehovah’s people closed its letter mentioning “necessary things” required of Christians. They were to “keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 15:28, 29) That prescription for good spiritual health is still valid. And as we await the blessings of the new world, we can maintain our faith and spiritual health if we zealously keep preaching the Kingdom good news and upholding Jehovah’s name in this sick world. Staying busy in this way will keep us from becoming impatient for the blessings of the new world so near at hand. True, “expectation postponed is making the heart sick, but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come.”—Proverbs 13:12.
21. What blessings are in store for those who successfully maintain their faith and spiritual health in this sick world?
21 Do not miss out on the grand blessings Jehovah has in store for those who love him. All the resisting of worldly influences, all the wrestling with your fleshly weaknesses, and all the turning away of the Devil’s burning missiles will not have been in vain. In Jehovah’s new world, you will see with your own eyes the time when “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (Isaiah 33:24) This will be true because of God’s provision through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the one who “took our sicknesses and carried our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4) You will be able to drink from the symbolic “river of water of life” and eat from “trees of life” that have leaves “for the curing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1, 2) Endless life in perfection and happiness will be your reward for maintaining your faith and spiritual health in this sick world.
Do You Recall?
□ Why is being healthy in faith more important than being in good physical health?
□ What are the three main dangers imperiling faith and spiritual health?
□ What relationship does good spiritual health have to the figurative heart?
□ If one is spiritually sick, what should be done?
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Even in a sick world, it is possible to have strong faith and good spiritual health
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Good spiritual health depends on zealous Christian activity and regularly taking in spiritual food at the proper time