Maintain Loyalty With a Unified Heart
“I shall walk in your truth. Unify my heart to fear your name.”—PS. 86:11.
WHY do some Christians who remain faithful for years despite imprisonment or persecution later succumb to materialism? The answer has to do with our figurative heart—what we really are inside. The 86th Psalm connects loyalty to a unified heart; that is, a complete heart, one that is not divided. “O do guard my soul, for I am loyal,” prayed the psalmist David. “Save your servant—you are my God—that is trusting in you.” David also prayed: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth. Unify my heart to fear your name.”—Ps. 86:2, 11.
2 Unless we trust in Jehovah with all our heart, other concerns and affections will undermine our loyalty to the true God. Selfish desires are like land mines hidden under the road we walk on. Even though we may have remained faithful to Jehovah under trying circumstances, we can fall victim to satanic traps or snares. How vital it is that we cultivate heartfelt loyalty to Jehovah now, before tests or temptations come upon us! “More than all else that is to be guarded,” says the Bible, “safeguard your heart.” (Prov. 4:23) We can learn valuable lessons in this regard from the experience of a prophet from Judah who was sent by Jehovah to King Jeroboam of Israel.
“Let Me Give You a Gift”
3. How did Jeroboam react to the judgment message delivered by God’s prophet?
3 Picture the scene. The man of God has just delivered a stinging message to King Jeroboam, who had set up calf worship in the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. The king becomes furious. He orders his men to seize the messenger. But Jehovah is with his servant. Immediately, the hand that the king has thrust out in anger withers miraculously, and the altar used for false worship is ripped apart. Suddenly, Jeroboam’s demeanor changes. He begs the man of God: “Soften, please, the face of Jehovah your God and pray in my behalf that my hand may be restored to me.” The prophet prays, and the king’s hand is healed.—1 Ki. 13:1-6.
4. (a) Why was the king’s offer really a test of the prophet’s loyalty? (b) What was the prophet’s reply?
4 Then Jeroboam says to the man of the true God: “Do come with me to the house and take sustenance, and let me give you a gift.” (1 Ki. 13:7) What is the prophet to do now? Should he accept the king’s hospitality after delivering a message of condemnation to him? (Ps. 119:113) Or should he reject the king’s invitation, even though the king appears to be remorseful? Jeroboam certainly has the means to lavish expensive gifts on his friends. If God’s prophet has harbored any secret desire for material things, the king’s offer is likely to be a huge temptation. However, Jehovah has commanded the prophet: “You must not eat bread or drink water, and you must not return by the way that you went.” So the prophet unequivocally replies: “If you gave me half of your house I would not come with you and eat bread or drink water in this place.” And the prophet leaves Bethel by another way. (1 Ki. 13:8-10) What lesson does the prophet’s decision teach us about heartfelt loyalty?—Rom. 15:4.
5. How is materialism an issue of loyalty?
5 Materialism may not seem to be an issue of loyalty, but it is. Do we trust in Jehovah’s promise to provide what we really need? (Matt. 6:33; Heb. 13:5) Rather than striving to obtain at any cost some of the “better” things in life that are presently beyond our reach, can we do without them? (Read Philippians 4:11-13.) Are we tempted to forgo theocratic privileges in order to get what we want now? Does loyal service to Jehovah have first place in our life? Our answers will largely depend on whether we are wholehearted in our service to God or not. “It is a means of great gain,” wrote the apostle Paul, “this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”—1 Tim. 6:6-8.
6. What “gifts” might be offered to us, and what will help us to decide whether to accept them?
6 For example, our employer may offer us a promotion with better pay and other benefits. Or perhaps we realize that we can obtain greater financial rewards if we move to another country or region to find employment. At first, such opportunities might seem to be a blessing from Jehovah. But before we act on them, should we not examine our motives? Our primary concern should be, “How will my decision affect my relationship with Jehovah?”
7. Why is it important to root out materialistic desires?
7 Satan’s system relentlessly promotes materialism. (Read 1 John 2:15, 16.) The Devil’s objective is to corrupt our hearts. Therefore, we need to be vigilant to identify and root out materialistic desires in our heart. (Rev. 3:15-17) Jesus had no difficulty rejecting Satan’s offer of all the kingdoms of the world. (Matt. 4:8-10) He warned: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Loyalty will help us to rely on Jehovah instead of ourselves.
An Old Prophet “Deceived Him”
8. How was the loyalty of God’s prophet tested?
8 Things would have gone well with God’s prophet if he had continued on his journey back home. Almost immediately, however, he faced another test. “A certain old prophet was dwelling in Bethel,” states the Bible, “and his sons now came in and related to him” all that had taken place earlier that day. Upon hearing the report, the old man asks them to saddle an ass for him so that he might catch up with God’s prophet. Not long thereafter, he finds the prophet resting under a big tree and says: “Go with me to the house and eat bread.” When the man of the true God declines the invitation, the old man replies: “I too am a prophet like you, and an angel himself spoke to me by the word of Jehovah, saying, ‘Have him come back with you to your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But the Scriptures say: “He deceived him.”—1 Ki. 13:11-18.
9. What do the Scriptures say about deceptive people, and whom do they hurt?
9 Whatever might have been the old prophet’s motive, he lied. Perhaps the old man had at one time been a faithful prophet of Jehovah. At this point, however, he was acting deceptively. The Scriptures strongly denounce such conduct. (Read Proverbs 3:32.) Deceitful ones not only hurt themselves spiritually but often harm others.
“He Went Back With” the Old Man
10. How did God’s prophet respond to the old man’s invitation, and what was the outcome?
10 The prophet from Judah should have been able to see through the ruse of the old prophet. He could have asked himself, ‘Why would Jehovah send an angel to someone else with new instructions for me?’ The prophet could have asked Jehovah to clarify the direction, but the Scriptures do not indicate that he did so. Instead, “he went back with [the old man] that he might eat bread in his house and drink water.” Jehovah was not pleased. When the deceived prophet finally got on his way back to Judah, a lion found him and killed him. What a tragic end to his prophetic career!—1 Ki. 13:19-25.*
11. What good example did Ahijah set?
11 On the other hand, the prophet Ahijah, who was sent to anoint Jeroboam as king, remained faithful well into his old age. When Ahijah was old and blind, Jeroboam sent his wife to inquire of Ahijah about the welfare of their sick son. Ahijah boldly foretold that Jeroboam’s son would die. (1 Ki. 14:1-18) Among the many blessings that Ahijah received was the privilege of contributing to God’s inspired Word. How? His writings were later used by Ezra the priest as source material.—2 Chron. 9:29.
12-14. (a) What lesson can we learn from the incident involving the younger prophet? (b) Illustrate the need to give careful and prayerful consideration to Bible-based counsel given by the elders.
12 The Bible does not say why the younger prophet did not consult Jehovah before turning aside and eating and drinking with the older man. Could it be that the older man told him what he wanted to hear? What lesson is there for us? We need to be absolutely convinced of the rightfulness of Jehovah’s requirements. And we have to be determined to follow them, come what may.
13 Some hear what they want to hear when it comes to counsel. For example, a publisher may be offered a job that could cut into the time he can spend with his family and on theocratic activities. He may ask an elder for advice. The elder may preface his remarks by acknowledging that he is not in a position to tell the brother how to support his family. Then the elder may review with the brother the spiritual dangers involved in accepting the employment he has been offered. Will the brother remember only the elder’s initial comments, or will he give serious consideration to the follow-up? The brother obviously needs to determine what is best for him in a spiritual way.
14 Consider another possible situation. A sister may ask an elder if she should separate from her unbelieving husband. The elder will undoubtedly explain that the decision whether to separate or not is hers to make. He may then review the Bible’s counsel on the subject. (1 Cor. 7:10-16) Will the sister give due consideration to what the elder says? Or has she already made up her mind to leave her husband? In making her decision, it will be wise for her to give prayerful consideration to Bible-based counsel.
15. What do we learn from the error of God’s prophet?
15 What else can we learn from the error of the prophet from Judah? Proverbs 3:5 states: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” Rather than continue to rely on Jehovah as he had in the past, on this occasion the prophet from Judah trusted his own judgment. His mistake cost him his life and his good name with God. How forcefully his experience underscores the value of modestly and loyally serving Jehovah!
16, 17. What will help us remain loyal to Jehovah?
16 The selfish inclination of our heart is prone to misguide us. “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jer. 17:9) To remain loyal to Jehovah, we must continue to work hard to strip off the old personality with its tendency toward presumptuousness and self-reliance. And we must put on the new personality, “which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Read Ephesians 4:22-24.
17 “Wisdom is with the modest ones,” states Proverbs 11:2. Modestly relying on Jehovah helps us to avoid making costly mistakes. For example, discouragement can easily distort our judgment. (Prov. 24:10) We might grow weary of some aspect of sacred service and begin to feel that we have done enough over the years, thinking that perhaps it is time for others to carry the load. Or we might wish to have a more “normal” life. However, ‘exerting ourselves vigorously’ and “always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord” will safeguard our heart.—Luke 13:24; 1 Cor. 15:58.
18. What can we do if we do not know what decision to make?
18 At times, we may need to make difficult decisions, and the right course to take may not be readily evident. Would we then be tempted to take matters into our own hands? Whenever we find ourselves in such situations, we would be wise to ask Jehovah to help us. “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom,” says James 1:5, “let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all.” Our heavenly Father will give us the holy spirit we need so that we can make good decisions.—Read Luke 11:9, 13.
Be Determined to Remain Loyal
19, 20. What should we be determined to do?
19 The turbulent years following Solomon’s deviation from true worship severely tested the loyalty of God’s servants. It is true that many compromised in one way or another. Nevertheless, some did remain loyal to Jehovah.
20 Each day, we are confronted with choices and decisions that test our loyalty. We too can prove ourselves faithful. Let us always remain loyal to Jehovah as we unify our heart, fully confident that he will continue to bless his loyal ones.—2 Sam. 22:26.
The Bible does not say whether Jehovah brought about the death of the old prophet.
How Would You Answer?
• Why should we work to root out materialistic desires in our heart?
• What will help us to remain loyal to Jehovah?
• How can modesty help us to stay loyal to God?
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Do you have difficulty resisting temptations?
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Will you give prayerful consideration to Bible-based counsel?