God-Given Freedom Brings Joy
“The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.”—NEHEMIAH 8:10.
1. What is joy, and why can those dedicated to God experience it?
JEHOVAH fills the hearts of his people with joy. This state of great happiness or exultation results from the acquisition or expectation of good. Humans dedicated to God can experience such an emotion because joy is a fruit of his holy spirit, or active force. (Galatians 5:22, 23) So even if distressing trials beset us, we can be joyful as Jehovah’s servants, who are led by his spirit.
2. Why did the Jews rejoice on a special occasion in Ezra’s day?
2 On a special occasion in the fifth century B.C.E., the Jews used their God-given freedom to hold a joyous Festival of Booths in Jerusalem. After Ezra and other Levites read and explained God’s Law to them, “the people went away to eat and drink and to send out portions and to carry on a great rejoicing, for they had understood the words that had been made known to them.”—Nehemiah 8:5-12.
The Joy of Jehovah Is Our Stronghold
3. Under what circumstances can “the joy of Jehovah” be our stronghold?
3 During that festival, the Jews realized the truthfulness of the words: “The joy of Jehovah is your stronghold.” (Nehemiah 8:10) This joy is our stronghold too if we are standing fast for God-given freedom as dedicated, baptized Witnesses of Jehovah. A few of us have experienced an anointing by holy spirit and adoption into God’s family as heavenly joint heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:15-23) The vast majority of us today have the prospect of life in an earthly paradise. (Luke 23:43) How joyful we should be!
4. Why can Christians endure sufferings and persecution?
4 Though we have wonderful prospects, it is not easy to endure sufferings and persecution. We can do so, however, because God gives us his holy spirit. With it we have joy and the conviction that nothing can rob us of our hope or of God’s love. Moreover, we can be sure that Jehovah will be our stronghold as long as we love him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.—Luke 10:27.
5. Where may we find reasons to rejoice?
5 Jehovah’s people enjoy rich blessings and have many reasons to rejoice. Some reasons for joy are suggested in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Others are indicated elsewhere in the Scriptures. It will lift our spirits to consider such joyous blessings.
Value God-Given Freedom
6. Why did Paul urge the Galatian Christians to stand fast?
6 As Christians, we have the joyous blessing of an acceptable standing with God. Since Christ freed his followers from the Mosaic Law, the Galatians were urged to stand fast and not be confined in that “yoke of slavery.” What about us? If we tried to be declared righteous by keeping the Law, we would be parted from Christ. Aided by God’s spirit, however, we await the hoped-for righteousness resulting from faith operating through love, not from physical circumcision or other works of the Law.—Galatians 5:1-6.
7. How should we view sacred service to Jehovah?
7 It is a blessing to use our God-given freedom to “serve Jehovah with rejoicing.” (Psalm 100:2) Indeed, it is an inestimable privilege to render sacred service to “Jehovah God, the Almighty,” the very “King of eternity”! (Revelation 15:3) If waves of low self-esteem ever sweep over you, it may be helpful to realize that God has drawn you to himself through Jesus Christ and has granted you a share in “the holy work of the good news of God.” (Romans 15:16; John 6:44; 14:6) What reasons for joy and gratitude to God!
8. As to Babylon the Great, what cause for joy do God’s people have?
8 Another cause for joy is our God-given freedom from Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 18:2, 4, 5) Though this religious harlot figuratively “sits on many waters,” meaning “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues,” she does not sit on, or religiously influence and control, Jehovah’s servants. (Revelation 17:1, 15) We rejoice in God’s wonderful light, while supporters of Babylon the Great are in spiritual darkness. (1 Peter 2:9) Yes, it may be difficult to understand some “deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) But prayers for wisdom and help by holy spirit assist us to comprehend Scriptural truth that sets its possessors free spiritually.—John 8:31, 32; James 1:5-8.
9. If we are to enjoy the blessing of continued freedom from religious error, what must we do?
9 We enjoy the blessing of continued freedom from religious error, but to keep that liberty, we must reject apostasy. The Galatians had been running the Christian race well, but some were hindering them from obeying the truth. Such wicked persuasion was not from God and was to be resisted. As a little leaven ferments a whole lump, false teachers or a leaning toward apostasy can corrupt an entire congregation. Paul wished that advocates of circumcision seeking to subvert the Galatians’ faith not just be circumcised but get themselves sexually mutilated. Strong language indeed! But we must be just as firm in rejecting apostasy if we are to maintain our God-given freedom from religious error.—Galatians 5:7-12.
Slave for One Another in Love
10. What is our responsibility as part of the Christian brotherhood?
10 God-given freedom has brought us into association with a loving brotherhood, but we must do our part to show love. The Galatians were not to use their freedom as “an inducement for the flesh” or an excuse for unloving selfishness. They were to slave for one another with love as the motivation. (Leviticus 19:18; John 13:35) We too must avoid the backbiting and hatred that can result in our being annihilated by one another. Of course, this will not occur if we show brotherly love.—Galatians 5:13-15.
11. How can we be a blessing to others, and how may they bless us?
11 By using our God-given freedom in harmony with the leadings of God’s spirit, we will show love and be a blessing to others. It should be a habit to allow ourselves to be controlled and led by holy spirit. Then we will not be bent on unlovingly satisfying our sinful flesh that “is against the spirit in its desire.” If we are led by God’s spirit, we will do what is loving but not because rules demand compliance and impose penalties on wrongdoers. For instance, love—not just a law—will keep us from slandering others. (Leviticus 19:16) Love will move us to speak and act in kind ways. Because we display the spirit’s fruit of love, others will bless us, or speak well of us. (Proverbs 10:6) Moreover, association with us will be a blessing to them.—Galatians 5:16-18.
12. What are some of the blessings associated with avoiding the sinful “works of the flesh”?
12 Many blessings associated with our God-given freedom result from avoiding the sinful “works of the flesh.” As God’s people, we, in general, avoid much anguish because we do not practice fornication, uncleanness, and loose conduct. By avoiding idolatry, we have the joy that results from pleasing Jehovah in that regard. (1 John 5:21) Since we do not practice spiritism, we are free of domination by demons. Our Christian brotherhood is not ruined by enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, and envies. And our joy is not lost in drunken bouts and revelries. Paul warned that those practicing the works of the flesh will not inherit God’s Kingdom. Because we heed his words, however, we can cling to the joyous Kingdom hope.—Galatians 5:19-21.
13. Jehovah’s holy spirit produces what fruitage?
13 God-given freedom brings us joy because Christians display the fruitage of Jehovah’s spirit. From Paul’s words to the Galatians, it is easy to see that the works of the sinful flesh are like thorns in contrast with the spirit’s splendid fruitage of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control implanted in godly hearts. Determined to live contrary to the desires of the sinful flesh, we wish to be led by God’s spirit and to live by it. The spirit makes us humble and peaceable, not “egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” No wonder it is a joy to associate with those displaying the spirit’s fruitage!—Galatians 5:22-26.
Other Reasons for Joy
14. What armor do we need in our fight against wicked spirit forces?
14 Associated with our God-given spiritual freedom is the blessing of protection from Satan and the demons. To succeed in our wrestling against wicked spirit forces, we must wear “the complete suit of armor from God.” We need the girdle of truth and the breastplate of righteousness. Our feet must be shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. Needed, too, is the large shield of faith, with which to quench the wicked one’s burning missiles. We must wear the helmet of salvation and wield “the sword of the spirit,” God’s Word. Let us also “carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit.” (Ephesians 6:11-18) If we wear the spiritual armor and reject demonism, we can be fearless and joyful.—Compare Acts 19:18-20.
15. What joyous blessing is ours because we conduct ourselves in harmony with God’s Word?
15 Joy is ours because our conduct harmonizes with God’s Word, and we are free of the guilt plaguing many wrongdoers. We ‘exercise ourselves continually to have a consciousness of committing no offense against God and men.’ (Acts 24:16) Hence, we need not fear the divine retribution due to befall willful, unrepentant sinners. (Matthew 12:22-32; Hebrews 10:26-31) By applying the counsel of Proverbs 3:21-26, we come to realize the fulfillment of those words: “Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability, and they will prove to be life to your soul and charm to your throat. In that case you will walk in security on your way, and even your foot will not strike against anything. Whenever you lie down you will feel no dread; and you will certainly lie down, and your sleep must be pleasurable. You will not need to be afraid of any sudden dreadful thing, nor of the storm upon the wicked ones, because it is coming. For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence, and he will certainly keep your foot against capture.”
16. How is prayer a cause for joy, and what part does Jehovah’s spirit play in this regard?
16 Another cause for joy is our God-given freedom to approach Jehovah in prayer with the assurance that we will be heard. Yes, our prayers are answered because we have the reverential “fear of Jehovah.” (Proverbs 1:7) Moreover, we are helped to keep ourselves in God’s love by “praying with holy spirit.” (Jude 20, 21) This we do by manifesting a heart condition acceptable to Jehovah and by praying under the spirit’s influence for things in harmony with his will and his Word, which shows us how to pray and what to ask for in prayer. (1 John 5:13-15) If we are sorely tried and do not know what to pray for, ‘the spirit joins in with help for our weakness, pleading for us with groanings unuttered.’ God answers such prayers. (Romans 8:26, 27) Let us pray for holy spirit and allow it to produce in us those of its fruits particularly needed to face a certain trial. (Luke 11:13) We will also increase our joy if we prayerfully and diligently study God’s spirit-inspired Word and Christian publications prepared under the spirit’s guidance.
Blessed With Ever-Present Help
17. How do the experiences of Moses and the words of David show that Jehovah is with His people?
17 By using our God-given freedom aright, we have the joy of knowing that Jehovah is with us. When adverse circumstances caused Moses to leave Egypt, by faith “he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) Moses did not walk alone; he knew that Jehovah was with him. Similarly, the sons of Korah sang: “God is for us a refuge and strength, a help that is readily to be found during distresses. That is why we shall not fear, though the earth undergo change and though the mountains totter into the heart of the vast sea; though its waters be boisterous, foam over, though the mountains rock at its uproar.” (Psalm 46:1-3) If you have such faith in God, he will never abandon you. Said David: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” (Psalm 27:10) What joy there is in knowing that God cares for his servants so much!—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
18. Why do those having the joy of Jehovah possess God-given freedom from overwhelming anxiety?
18 Having the joy of Jehovah, we possess God-given freedom from overwhelming anxiety. “Do not be anxious over anything,” said Paul, “but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) The peace of God is an incomparable calmness even in the most trying circumstances. With it our hearts remain calm—something good for us spiritually, emotionally, and physically. (Proverbs 14:30) It also helps us to maintain mental balance, for we know that nothing God allows can do us lasting harm. (Matthew 10:28) This peace resulting from a close relationship with God through Christ is ours because we are dedicated to Jehovah and submit to the guidance of his spirit, which produces such fruits as joy and peace.
19. Keeping our hearts fixed on what will help us to be joyful?
19 Keeping our hearts fixed on our God-given freedom and the Kingdom hope will help us to be joyful. For instance, sometimes little can be done about poor health, but we can pray for wisdom and fortitude to cope with it and may find comfort in thinking about the spiritual health we now enjoy and the physical cures that will occur under Kingdom rule. (Psalm 41:1-3; Isaiah 33:24) Though we may have to endure privations today, there will be no shortage of life’s necessities in the Paradise earth so near at hand. (Psalm 72:14, 16; Isaiah 65:21-23) Yes, our heavenly Father will sustain us now and ultimately make our joy complete.—Psalm 145:14-21.
Cherish Your God-Given Freedom
20. According to Psalm 100:1-5, how should we present ourselves before Jehovah?
20 As Jehovah’s people, surely we should cherish the God-given freedom that has brought us joy and so many blessings. No wonder Psalm 100:1-5 urges us to come into God’s presence “with a joyful cry.” Jehovah owns us and cares for us as a loving Shepherd. Yes, “we are his people and the sheep of his pasturage.” His Creatorship and grand qualities provide us with incentive to enter the courtyards of his sanctuary with praise and thanksgiving. We are moved to “bless his name,” to speak well of Jehovah God. Further, we can always rely on his loving-kindness, or compassionate regard, for us. “Generation after generation” Jehovah is faithful, unswerving in showing love to those doing his will.
21. What encouragement was offered in the first issue of this magazine, and what should we do about God-given freedom?
21 As imperfect humans, we cannot now escape all trials. With divine help, however, we can be courageous and joyful Witnesses of Jehovah. Noteworthy in this regard are these words found in the first issue of this journal (July 1879): “Courage . . . my Christian brother or sister, seeking with weary step to run the narrow way. Heed not the rugged course; it is all hallowed and sanctified by the blessed feet of the Master. Count every thorn a flower; every sharp rock a milestone, hurrying you onward to the goal. . . . Keep your eye fixed on the prize.” The millions now serving Jehovah keep their eyes on the prize and have many reasons for courage and joy. With them, stand fast for God-given freedom. Do not miss its purpose, and may the joy of Jehovah always be your stronghold.
How Would You Answer?
□ How can “the joy of Jehovah” be our stronghold?
□ Religiously speaking, what blessings has God-given freedom brought to Jehovah’s people?
□ Why slave for one another in love?
□ What are some blessings associated with God-given freedom?
□ How can God’s people remain joyful?
[Picture on page 23]
“Count every thorn a flower; every sharp rock a milestone, hurrying you onward to the goal”