“Pay More Than the Usual Attention”
“It is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.”—HEBREWS 2:1.
1. Illustrate how distraction can lead to disaster.
AUTO accidents claim the lives of some 37,000 people each year in the United States alone. Experts say that many of these deaths could be avoided if drivers paid more attention to the road. Some motorists are distracted by signs and billboards or by the use of their cell phone. There are also those who indulge in what has been called dashboard dining—eating while they drive. In all these situations, distraction can lead to disaster.
2, 3. What admonition did Paul give to the Hebrew Christians, and why was his counsel appropriate?
2 Nearly 2,000 years before the automobile was invented, the apostle Paul identified a type of distraction that was proving disastrous to some Hebrew Christians. Paul emphasized that the resurrected Jesus Christ was given a position superior to all the angels, for he was seated at God’s right hand. The apostle then stated: “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” —Hebrews 2:1.
3 Why did the Hebrew Christians need to “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard” concerning Jesus? Because almost 30 years had passed since Jesus had left the earthly scene. In the absence of their Master, some Hebrew Christians were starting to drift away from the true faith. They were being distracted by Judaism, their former way of worship.
They Needed to Pay Closer Attention
4. Why may some Hebrew Christians have been tempted to return to Judaism?
4 Why might a Christian have been tempted to return to Judaism? Well, the system of worship under the Law involved tangible things. People could see the priests and smell the burning sacrifices. In certain respects, however, Christianity was quite different. Christians had a High Priest, Jesus Christ, but he had not been seen on earth for three decades. (Hebrews 4:14) They had a temple, but its holy place was heaven itself. (Hebrews 9:24) Unlike physical circumcision under the Law, Christian circumcision was “that of the heart by spirit.” (Romans 2:29) To the Hebrew Christians, therefore, Christianity may have begun to seem rather abstract in nature.
5. How did Paul show that the system of worship instituted by Jesus was superior to that under the Law?
5 The Hebrew Christians needed to realize something very significant about the system of worship instituted by Christ. It was based more on faith than on sight, yet it was superior to the Law handed down through the prophet Moses. “If the blood of goats and of bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have been defiled sanctifies to the extent of cleanness of the flesh,” Paul wrote, “how much more will the blood of the Christ, who through an everlasting spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works that we may render sacred service to the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13, 14) Yes, the forgiveness available through faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ is greatly superior in many ways to that provided by the sacrifices offered under the Law.—Hebrews 7:26-28.
6, 7. (a) What situation made it urgent that the Hebrew Christians “pay more than the usual attention to the things heard”? (b) When Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews, how much time was left for Jerusalem? (See footnote.)
6 There was another reason why the Hebrew Christians needed to pay strict attention to the things heard about Jesus. He had foretold that Jerusalem would be destroyed. Said Jesus: “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes and will encircle you and distress you from every side, and they will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you, because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.”—Luke 19:43, 44.
7 When would this happen? Jesus did not reveal the day and hour. Rather, he gave this instruction: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her.” (Luke 21:20, 21) During the 30 years after Jesus spoke those words, some Christians in Jerusalem lost their sense of urgency and became distracted. They took their eyes off the road, as it were. If they did not adjust their thinking, disaster was certain. Whether they thought so or not, Jerusalem’s destruction was imminent!* Hopefully, Paul’s admonition provided a wake-up call to spiritually slumbering Christians in Jerusalem.
Paying “More Than the Usual Attention” Today
8. Why do we need to “pay more than the usual attention” to the truths of God’s Word?
8 Like first-century Christians, we need to “pay more than the usual attention” to the truths of God’s Word. Why? Because we too face an impending destruction, not of just one nation, but of an entire system of things. (Revelation 11:18; 16:14, 16) Of course, we do not know the precise day and hour when Jehovah will take this action. (Matthew 24:36) Nevertheless, we are eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of Bible prophecies that clearly indicate that we are living in “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Hence, we should be on guard against anything that could distract us. We need to pay attention to God’s Word and maintain a keen sense of urgency. Only by doing so will we “succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.”—Luke 21:36.
9, 10. (a) How can we show ourselves attentive to spiritual matters? (b) How is God’s word ‘a lamp to our foot’ and ‘a light to our roadway’?
9 In these momentous times, how can we show that we are paying “more than the usual attention” to spiritual things? One way is to be regular in our attendance at Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions. We should also be ardent students of the Bible so that we can draw close to its Author, Jehovah. (James 4:8) If we take in knowledge of Jehovah through personal study and meetings, we will be like the psalmist who said to God: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.”—Psalm 119:105.
10 The Bible serves as ‘a light to our roadway’ when it tells us God’s purposes for the future. It is also ‘a lamp to our foot.’ In other words, it can help us with our next step when we face the trialsome problems of life. That is why it is vital that we “pay more than the usual attention” when we gather for instruction with fellow believers and when we personally read God’s Word. The information we take in will help us to make wise and beneficial decisions that please Jehovah and make his heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 48:17) How can we increase our attention span at meetings and during periods of personal study so that we get the most benefit from God’s spiritual provisions?
Improving Our Concentration at Meetings
11. Why is paying attention at Christian meetings challenging at times?
11 At times, paying attention at Christian meetings is a challenge. The mind can easily be distracted, perhaps by a crying infant or a latecomer looking for a seat. After a long day’s work, we may simply be tired. The one who is speaking from the platform might not be the most captivating speaker, and before we realize it, we are daydreaming—maybe even dozing! In view of the vital information being presented, we would do well to improve our powers of concentration at congregation meetings. But how can we do this?
12. What can make it easier for us to pay attention at meetings?
12 It is usually easier to pay attention at meetings if we are well prepared. So, then, why not set aside time to give some advance thought to the material that will be considered? It takes just a few minutes each day to read and meditate on a portion of the assigned chapters for the week’s Bible reading. With some planning, we can also find time to prepare for the Congregation Book Study and the Watchtower Study. Whatever schedule we choose, one thing is certain: Preparation will help us to pay attention to the material being considered at congregation meetings.
13. What may help us to remain focused on the material being discussed at meetings?
13 In addition to being well prepared, some find that they are more attentive at meetings when they sit close to the front of the Kingdom Hall. Maintaining eye contact with the speaker, following along in the Bible when a scripture is read, and taking notes are other ways to keep our mind from wandering. However, having a prepared heart is far more important than any particular concentration technique. We need to appreciate the purpose of our gathering together. We meet with fellow believers primarily to worship Jehovah. (Psalm 26:12; Luke 2:36, 37) Meetings are an important way in which we are fed spiritually. (Matthew 24:45-47) Furthermore, they provide us with opportunities to ‘incite one another to love and fine works.’—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
14. What really makes a meeting a success?
14 Some may tend to gauge the quality of a meeting by the teaching abilities of the participants. If the speakers are very capable, it may be called a good meeting. But if effective teaching seems to be lacking, we might take an opposite view. It is true that those on the program should do their utmost to employ the art of teaching and especially to reach hearts. (1 Timothy 4:16) Yet, we who are listening should not be unduly critical. Though the teaching ability of participants is important, it is not the sole factor contributing to a meeting’s success. Do you not agree that our prime concern should be, not how well the speaker delivers his talk, but how well we incline our ear? When we attend meetings and pay attention to what is being presented, we are worshiping God in harmony with his will. That is what makes the meeting a success. If we are eager to take in the knowledge of God, we will benefit from meetings, regardless of a speaker’s abilities. (Proverbs 2:1-5) By all means, then, let us be determined to “pay more than the usual attention” at our meetings.
Fully Benefit From Personal Study
15. How can study and meditation benefit us?
15 We benefit greatly from ‘paying more than the usual attention’ during periods of personal study and meditation. Reading and pondering over the Bible and Christian publications will furnish us precious opportunities to imbed the truths of God’s Word in our heart. This, in turn, will have a profound effect on the way we think and act. Indeed, it will help us to find delight in doing Jehovah’s will. (Psalm 1:2; 40:8) Therefore, we need to develop our powers of concentration so that they serve us well when we study. It is so easy to be distracted! Minor interruptions—a phone call or a noise may cause us to lose focus. Or we may have a short attention span to begin with. We may sit down with good intentions of feeding spiritually, but before long the mind may, in effect, be grazing in other pastures. How can we “pay more than the usual attention” during personal study of God’s Word?
16. (a) Why is it important for us to schedule time for personal study? (b) How have you made time for studying God’s Word?
16 It is beneficial to make a schedule and choose a setting most conducive to study. For most of us, time and privacy are rare commodities. We may feel as if the rush of daily events is sweeping us along like a twig in a swift stream. Really, we need to fight the current, as it were, and seek a small island of calm. We cannot simply wait for an opportunity to study to present itself. Instead, we need to take control of the situation by making time for study. (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Some set aside a brief period in the morning when there may be less distraction. Others find that the evening affords a better opportunity. The point is that we must not ignore the vital need to take in accurate knowledge of God and his Son. (John 17:3) Let us therefore schedule time for personal study and then stick to that schedule.
17. What is meditation, and how can it benefit us?
17 Meditation—the process of pondering over what we have learned through study—is invaluable. It helps us to get God’s thoughts off the printed page and into our heart. Meditation helps us to see how to apply Bible counsel so that we become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22-25) Moreover, meditation helps us to draw ever closer to Jehovah, for it enables us to reflect on his qualities and how they are highlighted in the material being considered during periods of study.
18. What conditions are needed for effective meditation?
18 To benefit fully from study and meditation, we must keep the mind clear of distractions. In order to make room for new information when we meditate, we need to shut out the distractions of present-day living. Doing this takes time and solitude, yet, how refreshing it is to partake of the spiritual food and the waters of truth found in God’s Word!
19. (a) With regard to personal study, what has helped some to increase their attention span? (b) What should be our attitude toward study, and what benefits can we derive from this important activity?
19 What if our attention span is short and our mind starts to wander after a brief period of study? Some have found that they can increase their powers of concentration while studying by starting out with shorter periods of study and gradually lengthening them. Our goal should be to linger in study rather than to rush through it. We need to cultivate an avid interest in the subject under consideration. And we can do further research using the vast amount of material provided by the faithful and discreet slave class. There is great value in peering into “the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:10) Doing so enables us to enhance our knowledge of God and to develop our perceptive powers. (Hebrews 5:14) If we are diligent students of God’s Word, we will also be “adequately qualified to teach others.”—2 Timothy 2:2.
20. How can we develop and maintain an intimate relationship with Jehovah God?
20 Attending Christian meetings and engaging in personal study will go a long way in helping us to develop and maintain an intimate relationship with Jehovah. Evidently, that was the case with the psalmist who said to God: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” (Psalm 119:97) By all means, then, let us regularly attend meetings, assemblies, and conventions. And may we buy out time for Bible study and meditation. We will be richly rewarded for thus paying “more than the usual attention” to God’s Word.
The letter to the Hebrews was likely written in 61 C.E. If so, it was only some five years later that Jerusalem was surrounded by the encamped armies of Cestius Gallus. Soon those armies withdrew, allowing alert Christians to flee. Four years thereafter, the city was destroyed by the Roman armies under General Titus.
Do You Remember?
• Why were some Hebrew Christians drifting away from the true faith?
• How can we remain attentive at Christian meetings?
• What will help us to benefit from personal Bible study and meditation?
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Hebrew Christians needed to be alert to Jerusalem’s imminent destruction
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Parents can help their children to benefit from Christian meetings