“Draw Close to God”
“Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—JAMES 4:8.
1, 2. (a) What claim do humans often make? (b) What exhortation did James give, and why was it needed?
“GOD with us.” Those words have decorated national emblems and even the uniforms of soldiers. “In God we trust” has been engraved on innumerable coins and bills in modern currency. It is common for humans to claim that they have a close relationship with God. Would you not agree, though, that actually having such a relationship requires far more than just talking about it or displaying slogans?
2 The Bible shows that it is possible to have a relationship with God. Effort is required though. Even some anointed Christians in the first century needed to strengthen their relationship with Jehovah God. The Christian overseer James had to warn some regarding their fleshly tendencies and loss of spiritual cleanness. In the midst of that counsel, he gave this powerful exhortation: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:1-12) What did James mean by “draw close”?
3, 4. (a) Of what might some of James’ first-century readers have been reminded by the expression “draw close to God”? (b) Why may we be assured that approach to God is possible?
3 James used an expression that would have been familiar to many of his readers. The Mosaic Law gave the priests specific instructions on how to “come near to,” or approach, Jehovah on behalf of his people. (Exodus 19:22) James’ readers may thus have been reminded that approaching Jehovah is not something to be taken for granted. Jehovah is the greatest dignitary in the universe.
4 On the other hand, as one Bible scholar notes, “this exhortation [at James 4:8] reveals a powerful optimism.” James knew that Jehovah has always lovingly invited imperfect humans to draw close to Him. (2 Chronicles 15:2) Jesus’ sacrifice opened the way of approach to Jehovah in a fuller sense. (Ephesians 3:11, 12) Today, the way of approach to God has been opened up to millions! How, though, may we take advantage of this marvelous opportunity? We will briefly consider three means by which we can draw close to Jehovah God.
Keep On “Taking in Knowledge” of God
5, 6. How does the example of young Samuel illustrate what is involved in “taking in knowledge” of God?
5 According to John 17:3, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Many translations of this verse differ slightly from the New World Translation. Instead of saying “taking in knowledge” of God, they simply render the verb “to know” God or “knowing” God. However, a number of scholars note that the sense of the word used in the original Greek involves something more—a continuous process, one that may even lead to intimate acquaintance with another.
6 Coming to know God intimately was not a new idea in Jesus’ day. In the Hebrew Scriptures, for example, we read that when Samuel was a boy, he “had not yet come to know Jehovah.” (1 Samuel 3:7) Did this mean that Samuel knew very little about his God? No. His parents and the priests would surely have taught him much. However, the Hebrew word used in that verse can, according to one scholar, be “used for the most intimate acquaintance.” Samuel had not yet come to know Jehovah intimately, as he would later when serving as Jehovah’s spokesman. As Samuel continued growing up, he truly came to know Jehovah, gaining a close personal relationship with him.—1 Samuel 3:19, 20.
7, 8. (a) Why should we not be intimidated by the Bible’s deeper teachings? (b) What are some deep truths of God’s Word that we would do well to study?
7 Are you taking in knowledge of Jehovah so as to become intimately acquainted with him? To do so, you need to “form a longing” for the spiritual food that God provides. (1 Peter 2:2) Do not be satisfied with the basics. Seek to take in some of the Bible’s deeper teachings. (Hebrews 5:12-14) Are you intimidated by such teachings, assuming that they are too difficult? If so, remember that Jehovah is the “Grand Instructor.” (Isaiah 30:20) He knows how to convey deep truths to imperfect human minds. And he can bless your sincere efforts to grasp what he is teaching you.—Psalm 25:4.
8 Why not examine yourself regarding some of “the deep things of God”? (1 Corinthians 2:10) These are not dry topics such as might be debated by theologians and clergymen. They are living doctrines that provide fascinating insight into the mind and heart of our loving Father. For example, the ransom, the “sacred secret,” and the various covenants that Jehovah has used to bless his people and fulfill his purposes—these subjects and many like them are delightful and rewarding fields for personal research and study.—1 Corinthians 2:7.
9, 10. (a) Why is pride dangerous, and what will help us to avoid it? (b) When it comes to the knowledge of Jehovah, why should we strive to be humble?
9 As you grow in knowledge of deeper spiritual truths, beware of the danger that may come with knowledge—pride. (1 Corinthians 8:1) Pride is dangerous, for it alienates humans from God. (Proverbs 16:5; James 4:6) Remember, no man has reason to boast in his knowledge. To illustrate, consider these words from the introduction to a book that surveys mankind’s more recent scientific advances: “The more we come to know, the more we realize how little we know. . . . Everything we have learned is nothing compared to what we have yet to learn.” Such humility is refreshing. Now, when it comes to the greatest body of knowledge—the knowledge of Jehovah God—we have even greater cause for keeping humble. Why?
10 Note some Biblical statements about Jehovah. “Very deep your thoughts are.” (Psalm 92:5) “[Jehovah’s] understanding is beyond recounting.” (Psalm 147:5) “There is no searching out of [Jehovah’s] understanding.” (Isaiah 40:28) “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge!” (Romans 11:33) Clearly, we will never know all there is to know about Jehovah. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) He has taught us many wonderful things, yet we will always have before us an infinite body of knowledge from which to learn more. Do we not find that prospect both thrilling and humbling? As we learn, then, let us always use our knowledge as a basis for drawing close to Jehovah and for helping others to do so—never as a means to exalt ourselves over others.—Matthew 23:12; Luke 9:48.
Express Your Love for Jehovah
11, 12. (a) How should the knowledge we take in regarding Jehovah affect us? (b) What determines whether a person’s love for God is genuine?
11 Fittingly, the apostle Paul made a connection between knowledge and love. He wrote: “This is what I continue praying, that your love may abound yet more and more with accurate knowledge and full discernment.” (Philippians 1:9) Rather than puffing us up with pride, every precious truth that we learn about Jehovah and his purposes should increase our love for our heavenly Father.
12 Of course, many who claim to love God really do not. They may be sincere about strong feelings that well up in their hearts. Such feelings are good, even commendable, when in harmony with accurate knowledge. But they do not in themselves amount to real love for God. Why not? Note how God’s Word defines such love: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.” (1 John 5:3) Love for Jehovah, then, is genuine only when it is expressed in obedient actions.
13. How will godly fear help us to demonstrate our love for Jehovah?
13 Godly fear will help us to obey Jehovah. This profound awe and deep respect for Jehovah stems from taking in knowledge of him, learning about his infinite holiness, glory, power, justice, wisdom, and love. Such fear is crucial to drawing close to him. In fact, note what Psalm 25:14 says: “The intimacy with Jehovah belongs to those fearful of him.” So if we have a healthy fear of displeasing our beloved heavenly Father, we can draw close to him. Godly fear will help us to heed the wise counsel recorded at Proverbs 3:6: “In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” What does that mean?
14, 15. (a) What are some of the decisions we face in everyday life? (b) How can we make decisions in a way that reflects our godly fear?
14 You have to make decisions every day, both major and minor. For instance, what kind of conversation will you have with your workmates, schoolmates, neighbors? (Luke 6:45) Will you work hard at the tasks set before you, or will you seek ways to get by with minimal effort? (Colossians 3:23) Will you draw closer to those who show little or no love for Jehovah, or will you seek to strengthen your relationships with spiritual people? (Proverbs 13:20) What will you do, even in small ways, to promote the interests of God’s Kingdom? (Matthew 6:33) If such Scriptural principles as those cited here guide your everyday decisions, then you are indeed taking notice of Jehovah “in all your ways.”
15 In effect, with each decision we make, we should be guided by this thought: ‘What would Jehovah want me to do? What course would please him most?’ (Proverbs 27:11) Showing godly fear in this manner is an excellent way to express love for Jehovah. Godly fear will also move us to keep clean—spiritually, morally, and physically. Remember, in the same verse in which James urges Christians to “draw close to God,” he also exhorts: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.”—James 4:8.
16. By giving to Jehovah, what can we never accomplish, yet what may we always succeed in doing?
16 Of course, expressing our love for Jehovah involves far more than refraining from what is bad. Love also moves us to do what is right. For instance, how do we respond to Jehovah’s overwhelming generosity? James wrote: “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights.” (James 1:17) Granted, when we give to Jehovah of our possessions, we do not enrich him. He already owns all the goods and resources there are. (Psalm 50:12) And when we give to Jehovah of our time and energy, we are not filling a need that he cannot otherwise meet. Even if we were to refuse to preach the good news of God’s Kingdom, he could cause the stones to cry out! Why, then, give to Jehovah of our resources, time, and energy? Above all, because we thereby express our love for him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.—Mark 12:29, 30.
17. What can motivate us to give cheerfully to Jehovah?
17 When we give to Jehovah, we should do so gladly, “for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) The principle recorded at Deuteronomy 16:17 can help us to give cheerfully: “The gift of each one’s hand should be in proportion to the blessing of Jehovah your God that he has given you.” When we contemplate how generous Jehovah has been with us, we feel a desire to give freely to him. Such giving makes his heart rejoice, much the way a little gift from a beloved child delights a parent. Expressing our love in this way will help us draw close to Jehovah.
Build Intimacy by Means of Prayer
18. Why is it worthwhile to consider how to improve the quality of our prayers?
18 Our moments of private prayer afford us an invaluable opportunity—occasions for intimate, confidential talk to our heavenly Father. (Philippians 4:6) Since prayer is a vital means of drawing close to God, it is worthwhile to pause and consider the quality of our prayers. Not that they must be models of eloquence and organization, but they should be sincere expressions that come from the heart. How can we improve the quality of our prayers?
19, 20. Why meditate before we pray, and what are some fitting subjects for such meditation?
19 We might try meditating before we pray. If we meditate ahead of time, we can make our prayers specific and meaningful, thus avoiding the practice of repeating phrases that feel familiar and spring readily to mind. (Proverbs 15:28, 29) Perhaps pondering some of the themes that Jesus mentioned in his model prayer and then considering how these relate to our own circumstances might help. (Matthew 6:9-13) For example, we might ask ourselves what small part we hope to play in the doing of Jehovah’s will here on earth. Might we express to Jehovah our desire to be as useful to him as possible and request his help in carrying out whatever assignments he has given us? Are we burdened by concerns about our material needs? For what sins do we need forgiveness, and toward whom do we need to be more forgiving? What temptations afflict us, and do we realize how urgently we need Jehovah’s protection in that regard?
20 Additionally, we might think about people we know who are in particular need of Jehovah’s help. (2 Corinthians 1:11) Not to be forgotten, though, is the matter of giving thanks. If we stop and think about it, we can surely come up with reasons to thank Jehovah and praise him each day for his abundant goodness. (Deuteronomy 8:10; Luke 10:21) Doing so has an added benefit—it can help us to gain a more positive, appreciative outlook on life.
21. Studying what Scriptural examples might help us when we approach Jehovah in prayer?
21 Study can aid our prayers as well. There are outstanding prayers by faithful men and women recorded in God’s Word. For instance, if a challenging problem is looming ahead of us, causing us some anxiety and even fear for our well-being or that of our loved ones, we might read over the prayer of Jacob regarding his upcoming meeting with his vengeful brother, Esau. (Genesis 32:9-12) Or we might study the prayer uttered by King Asa when a force of some one million Ethiopians threatened God’s people. (2 Chronicles 14:11, 12) If we are troubled by a problem that threatens to bring reproach on Jehovah’s good name, then Elijah’s prayer before the Baal worshipers on Mount Carmel is worth considering, as is Nehemiah’s prayer regarding the deplorable state of Jerusalem. (1 Kings 18:36, 37; Nehemiah 1:4-11) Reading and meditating on such prayers can strengthen our faith and give us ideas as to how best to approach Jehovah with the concerns that weigh us down.
22. What is the yeartext for 2003, and what might we ask ourselves from time to time throughout the year?
22 Clearly, there is no greater honor, no higher aim, than heeding James’ counsel to “draw close to God.” (James 4:8) May we do so by progressing in our knowledge of God, by seeking to express our love for him more and more, and by developing intimacy with him in our prayers. Throughout the year 2003, while we keep in mind James 4:8 as the yeartext, let us continue to examine ourselves as to whether we are indeed drawing close to Jehovah. What, though, about the latter part of that statement? In what sense will Jehovah “draw close to you,” bringing what blessings? The following article will take up this matter.
Do You Recall?
• Why is drawing close to Jehovah something to take seriously?
• What are some goals we might set in regard to taking in knowledge of Jehovah?
• How can we demonstrate that we have genuine love for Jehovah?
• In what ways might we build greater intimacy with Jehovah in prayer?
[Blurb on page 12]
The yeartext for 2003 will be: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—James 4:8.
[Picture on page 8, 9]
As he matured, Samuel came to know Jehovah intimately
[Picture on page 12]
The prayer that Elijah uttered on Mount Carmel is a good example for us