Strengthening Our Confidence in God’s Righteousness
“For your confidence to come to be in Jehovah himself I have given you knowledge.”—PROVERBS 22:19.
1, 2. (a) Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses display confidence in Jehovah? (Proverbs 22:19) (b) What indicates that some individuals need to strengthen their confidence in Jehovah?
TRUE Christians are blessed with an accurate knowledge of Jehovah and of his purposes. A “faithful and discreet slave” lovingly supplies them with spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) The knowledge they gain provides them with a solid foundation on which to base confidence in God. Thus, as a group, Jehovah’s Witnesses display remarkable confidence in Jehovah and in his righteousness.
2 It appears, however, that as individuals some Witnesses may need to strengthen such confidence. The Society occasionally receives letters that express uncertainty about explanations given in its publications. These doubts may be a reaction to adjustments in understanding, or they may deal with matters that touch the inquirer, especially in an emotional way.—Compare John 6:60, 61.
3. What can happen even to faithful servants of Jehovah, and why?
3 Even true servants of Jehovah experience the truthfulness of Ecclesiastes 9:11: “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” How might this prove true in an extended, or spiritual, sense? We may have known Christians who were swift about applying Bible counsel, mighty in defending the truth, wise in applying Bible principles, and zealous in the pursuit of accurate knowledge. Yet, because of “time and unforeseen occurrence,” some may now see themselves limited as a result of an accident or advanced age. They may wonder whether they will enter into God’s new world without ever having to suffer death.
4, 5. Why do Christians not have any reason to lose their confidence in Jehovah’s righteousness?
4 When a Christian loses his marriage mate, the pain and sense of loss is severe. Together as a couple, they may have served Jehovah for years or even decades. The surviving mate knows that death severs the marriage bond.* (1 Corinthians 7:39) Now, lest his confidence be undermined, he must keep his emotions under control.—Compare Mark 16:8.
5 How wise it is to view the death of a mate, parent, child, or close Christian friend as an opportunity to show confidence in Jehovah’s righteousness! Even in the face of personal loss, we can be confident that Jehovah is not unrighteous. We can have confidence that everyone who gains everlasting life—whether through survival or by resurrection—will be happy. Of God, the psalmist says: “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing. Jehovah is righteous in all his ways and loyal in all his works. Jehovah is near to all those calling upon him, to all those who call upon him in trueness. The desire of those fearing him he will perform, and their cry for help he will hear, and he will save them.”—Psalm 145:16-19.
Feelings of Having Suffered Needlessly
6, 7. (a) Why might some Witnesses who suffered in the past now have a different understanding? (b) Why should we not view Jehovah as unrighteous for having permitted such suffering in the past?
6 In the past, some Witnesses have suffered for refusing to share in an activity that their conscience now might permit. For example, this might have been their choice years ago as to certain types of civilian service. A brother might now feel that he could conscientiously perform such without overstepping his Christian neutrality regarding the present system of things.
7 Was it unrighteous on Jehovah’s part to allow him to suffer for rejecting what he now might do without consequences? Most who have had that experience would not think so. Rather, they rejoice that they had the opportunity of demonstrating publicly and clearly that they were determined to be firm on the issue of universal sovereignty. (Compare Job 27:5.) What reason could anyone have to regret having followed his conscience in taking a firm stand for Jehovah? By loyally upholding Christian principles as they understood them or by responding to the proddings of conscience, they proved worthy of Jehovah’s friendship. Certainly, it is wise to avoid a course that would disturb one’s conscience or that would likely cause others to be stumbled. We can think in this regard of the example that the apostle Paul set.—1 Corinthians 8:12, 13; 10:31-33.
8. Why did Jewish Christians, who formerly held to the Law, have no reason to question Jehovah’s righteousness?
8 In order to please Jehovah, the Jews were required to obey the Ten Commandments and also a wide variety of about 600 additional laws. Later, under the Christian arrangement, obedience to these laws as such was no longer a requirement for serving Jehovah, not even for fleshly Jews. The laws no longer binding included those dealing with circumcision, keeping the Sabbath, offering animal sacrifices, and observing certain dietary restrictions. (1 Corinthians 7:19; 10:25; Colossians 2:16, 17; Hebrews 10:1, 11-14) Jews—including the apostles—who became Christians were released from the obligation to keep laws that they were required to obey when they were under the Law covenant. Did they complain that God’s arrangement was unrighteous in having formerly required of them things that were no longer necessary? No, they rejoiced in the broadened understanding of Jehovah’s purposes.—Acts 16:4, 5.
9. What has been true of some Witnesses, but why do they have no cause for regret?
9 In modern times, there have been some Witnesses who were very strict in their view of what they would or would not do. For that reason they suffered more than others. Later, increased knowledge helped them to expand their view of matters. But they have no reason to regret having earlier acted in harmony with their conscience, even when this possibly brought extra suffering. It truly is commendable that they demonstrated their willingness to suffer in faithfulness to Jehovah, to “do all things for the sake of the good news.” Jehovah blesses that kind of godly devotion. (1 Corinthians 9:23; Hebrews 6:10) The apostle Peter wrote with insight: “If, when you are doing good and you suffer, you endure it, this is a thing agreeable with God.”—1 Peter 2:20.
Learning From Jonah
10, 11. How did Jonah show a lack of confidence in Jehovah (a) when given the assignment to go to Nineveh? (b) when God did not destroy the Ninevites?
10 When directed to go to Nineveh, Jonah showed a lack of appreciation for the confidence that Jehovah was placing in him. After a terrifying experience brought on by his own reluctance to obey, Jonah came to his senses, realized his mistake, accepted his foreign assignment, and warned the Ninevites of impending destruction. Then came the unexpected: Because of the Ninevites’ repentant attitude, Jehovah determined to forgo their destruction.—Jonah 1:1–3:10.
11 Jonah’s reaction? Disgruntled, he complained to God in prayer. The gist of his grievance was: ‘I imagined that things would turn out this way. That’s why I didn’t want to come to Nineveh in the first place. Now, after all I’ve gone through, including the terror and humiliation of being swallowed by a big fish, and after my hard work warning the Ninevites of imminent destruction, this! All my work and suffering were for nothing! I might as well be dead!’—Jonah 4:1-3.
12. What can we learn from Jonah’s experience?
12 Did Jonah have a valid reason for complaint? Was Jehovah unrighteous in extending mercy to repentant wrongdoers? Actually, Jonah should have rejoiced; tens of thousands of people were to be spared execution! (Jonah 4:11) But his disrespectful, complaining attitude showed that he was not expressing profound confidence in Jehovah’s righteousness. He was thinking too much of himself and too little of others. Let us learn from Jonah by keeping ourselves and our personal feelings in the background. Let us be convinced that obeying Jehovah, following the direction given through his organization and accepting his decisions, is the right thing to do. We are convinced that “it will turn out well with those fearing the true God.”—Ecclesiastes 8:12.
Now Is the Time to Strengthen Our Confidence!
13. How can all of us strengthen our confidence in Jehovah?
13 Strengthening our confidence in Jehovah is the course of wisdom. (Proverbs 3:5-8) Of course, we must do more than just pray that Jehovah help us become more confident. Confidence grows based on accurate knowledge, so we must make personal Bible study, reading both the Bible and Bible-explanatory literature, part of our daily routine. Regular attendance at Christian meetings is vital, as are good preparation and participation to the extent possible. Making it a habit to share Bible truths with others, tactfully overcoming objections, also deepens our confidence in Jehovah and in his Word. We are thus becoming more involved with him on a daily basis.
14. Why will God’s people shortly be called upon to display their confidence in Jehovah as never before?
14 In the near future, the greatest time of tribulation ever to strike the human race will break forth suddenly. (Matthew 24:21) When it does, servants of God will need as never before to display confidence in Jehovah’s righteousness and in the direction provided by his organization. In a symbolic way, they will then confidently obey God’s injunction: “Go, my people, enter into your interior rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for but a moment until the denunciation passes over.” (Isaiah 26:20) Already they have entered into the protective atmosphere of over 85,000 congregations in 232 lands. Whatever may additionally be included in the injunction “enter into your interior rooms,” we can be confident that Jehovah will help us to carry it out.
15. How has the matter of confidence been stressed during 1998, and why rightly so?
15 It is imperative that we strengthen our confidence now. Without confidence in our Christian brothers, in Jehovah’s organization and, above all, in Jehovah himself, survival will be impossible. So how appropriate it is that during 1998, Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world have repeatedly been reminded, by the words of their yeartext, that “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved”! (Romans 10:13) Of that we must continue to be confident. If we detect even the slightest tinge of uncertainty in this confidence, we should work to rectify it now, yes, today.
Jehovah’s Judgment Will Be Righteous
16. What can happen to confidence if it is not cultivated, and how can we prevent this from happening?
16 At Hebrews 3:14, anointed Christians are warned: “We actually become partakers of the Christ only if we make fast our hold on the confidence we had at the beginning firm to the end.” In principle, these words also apply to Christians who have an earthly hope. Initial confidence can erode if it is not developed. How vital that we continue pursuing accurate knowledge, thereby strengthening the foundation upon which our confidence is based!
17. Why can we be confident that as regards survival, Jesus will judge correctly?
17 All nations will shortly be examined by Christ so that he can “separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-33) We can be confident that Christ will be righteous in judging who is worthy of survival. Jehovah has given him the wisdom, insight, and other necessary qualities “to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness.” (Acts 17:30, 31) Let our conviction be like that of Abraham, who said: “It is unthinkable of you [Jehovah] that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one so that it has to occur with the righteous man as it does with the wicked! It is unthinkable of you. Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?”—Genesis 18:25.
18. Why should we not become overly concerned about what we may not know at present?
18 With complete confidence in Jehovah’s righteousness, we need not worry about finding answers to questions like: ‘How will babies and small children be judged? Might it be that a large number of people will not yet have been reached with the good news when Armageddon arrives? What about the mentally ill? What about . . . ?’ Granted, at present we may not know how Jehovah will resolve these issues. He will do so, however, in a righteous and merciful way. We should never doubt that. In fact, we may be amazed and delighted to observe him resolve them in a way that we never even considered.—Compare Job 42:3; Psalm 78:11-16; 136:4-9; Matthew 15:31; Luke 2:47.
19, 20. (a) Why is it not wrong to ask reasonable questions? (b) When will Jehovah provide needed answers?
19 Jehovah’s organization does not discourage sincere, timely questions, as some opposers mistakenly claim. (1 Peter 1:10-12) However, the Bible counsels that we avoid foolish, speculative questions. (Titus 3:9) Asking reasonable questions and searching God’s Word and Christian publications to find Scriptural answers can increase our accurate knowledge and can thus strengthen our confidence in Jehovah. The organization follows the example of Jesus. He refrained from commenting on questions for which the proper time for answering had not arrived. He explained: “I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present.” (John 16:12) He also admitted that some things he himself did not know at that point.—Matthew 24:36.
20 Jehovah still has much to reveal. How wise it is to wait upon him, confident that the timeliness of his manifesting his purposes will be right for meeting the needs of the occasion. We can be confident that once Jehovah’s due time has arrived, we will have the joy of gaining additional insight into his ways. Yes, we will be rewarded, provided that we exercise absolute confidence in Jehovah and in the organization he is using. Proverbs 14:26 assures us: “In the fear of Jehovah there is strong confidence, and for his sons there will come to be a refuge.”
What Do You Think?
□ Why is it unwise to allow emotions to undermine our confidence in Jehovah?
□ What can we learn from Jonah’s experience?
□ Why are Bible study and meeting attendance so important?
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Even in the face of personal loss, we can be confident that Jehovah is righteous
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Are you sure that your confidence is in Jehovah?