“Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—JAS. 4:8.
1. Why do we need to keep our relationship with Jehovah strong?
ARE you a dedicated, baptized Witness of Jehovah? If so, you have a precious possession—a personal relationship with God. However, that relationship is under attack by pressures not only from Satan’s world but also from our own imperfect flesh. This trying situation faces all Christians. Therefore, our relationship with Jehovah must be as strong as possible.
2. (a) What is a relationship? (See footnote.) (b) How can we strengthen our relationship with Jehovah?
2 How real to you is your personal relationship with Jehovah? Would you like to strengthen it? James 4:8 tells you how you can do that: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” Note that this is a two-way process.a As we take steps to draw close to God, he takes reciprocating action toward us. This interaction, frequently repeated, progressively strengthens our relationship with Jehovah. As a result, that relationship becomes very real to us. We develop the kind of confidence Jesus had when he said: “The One who sent me is real, and . . . I know him.” (John 7:28, 29) Specifically, though, what steps can you take to draw closer to Jehovah?
3. What makes communication with Jehovah possible?
3 Having regular communication with Jehovah is a vital part of drawing close to him. How can you communicate with God? Well, how do you communicate with a friend who lives far away? Likely, you write to each other and talk on the phone, perhaps quite often. You talk to Jehovah by means of your frequent prayers to him. (Read Psalm 142:2.) And you allow Jehovah to talk to you, as it were, when you regularly read his written Word and meditate on it. (Read Isaiah 30:20, 21.) Let us consider, then, how this two-way communication strengthens our bond with Jehovah, making our personal relationship with him ever more real.
BIBLE STUDY—JEHOVAH SPEAKS TO YOU
4, 5. How does Jehovah communicate with you personally through his written Word? Give an example.
4 You no doubt agree that the Bible contains God’s message for mankind in general. But does the Bible also convey how you in particular can draw closer to Jehovah? Indeed it does. How? As you regularly read and study the Bible, consider your response to what it says and give thought to how you can apply it to your circumstances; then you are allowing Jehovah to talk to you through his Word. This draws you into a closer relationship with him.—Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:23-25.
5 For example, read and meditate on Jesus’ words to “stop storing up for yourselves treasures on the earth.” If you feel that you are already focusing your life on Kingdom interests, you sense Jehovah’s commendation. On the other hand, if you see a need to simplify your life and to focus more on Kingdom interests, Jehovah has alerted you to an area where you can work at drawing closer to him.—Matt. 6:19, 20.
6, 7. (a) How does Bible study affect our love for Jehovah and his love for us? (b) What should be our objective when engaging in personal study?
6 Studying the Scriptures does more than reveal areas in which we can improve spiritually. It also deepens our appreciation for Jehovah’s endearing ways, causing us to love him even more. And when our love for God grows, his love for us intensifies, thus strengthening our bond with him.—Read 1 Corinthians 8:3.
7 For us to draw close to Jehovah, however, it is essential that we study with the right objective. John 17:3 says: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” Thus, our objective should be not merely to take in knowledge but to come to “know” Jehovah better as a Person.—Read Exodus 33:13; Ps. 25:4.
8. (a) What concern could arise regarding Jehovah’s treatment of King Azariah, as described at 2 Kings 15:1-5? (b) How does our knowing Jehovah remove any doubt about his actions?
8 As we come to know Jehovah more intimately, we will not be unduly disturbed if certain Bible accounts leave us wondering why he acted as he did. For example, how do you respond to the way Jehovah acted toward King Azariah of Judah? (2 Ki. 15:1-5) Note that although “the people were still sacrificing and making sacrificial smoke on the high places,” Azariah himself “continued to do what was right in Jehovah’s eyes.” Yet, “Jehovah afflicted the king, and he remained a leper until the day of his death.” Why? The account does not say. Should this disturb us or cause us to wonder whether Jehovah punished Azariah without due cause? Not if we have an intimate knowledge of Jehovah’s ways. That would include knowing that Jehovah always disciplines “to the proper degree.” (Jer. 30:11) Such knowledge assures us that even if we do not know why Jehovah acted as he did toward Azariah, we can trust that His judgment was righteous.
9. What facts shed light on Jehovah’s reasons for afflicting Azariah with leprosy?
9 In this case, however, additional details are available to us elsewhere in the Bible. King Azariah was also known as King Uzziah. (2 Ki. 15:7, 32) In the parallel account at 2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21, we learn that although Uzziah did what was right in Jehovah’s eyes for a time, later in life “his heart became haughty to his own ruin.” Presumptuously, he attempted to perform priestly duties that were outside the scope of his authority. Eighty-one priests confronted him and endeavored to correct him. How did Uzziah respond? He demonstrated how proud he had become. He “became enraged” against the priests. No wonder Jehovah struck him with leprosy!
10. Why should we not always need an explanation for Jehovah’s actions, and how can we strengthen our confidence in Jehovah’s righteous ways?
10 Let us not miss the point. Suppose clarifying details had not been included in God’s Word, as is the case with other abbreviated Bible accounts? Would you be inclined to question the righteousness of God? Or would you reason that the Bible contains enough information to assure us that Jehovah always does what is right and is, in fact, the very standard of what is right and what is wrong? (Deut. 32:4) As we get to know Jehovah better as a Person, our love and appreciation for his ways will grow to the point that we do not need an explanation for everything he does. Be assured that such appreciation will grow in proportion to your efforts to study and meditate on God’s communication through his written Word. (Ps. 77:12, 13) This, in turn, will strengthen your relationship with Jehovah, making it ever more real.
PRAYER—YOU SPEAK TO JEHOVAH
11-13. How do you know that Jehovah is listening to prayers? (See opening image.)
11 In prayer we draw close to Jehovah. We praise him, thank him, and seek his guidance. (Ps. 32:8) But for your relationship with Jehovah to be real, you must be convinced that he is hearing prayers.
12 Some people believe that prayer is only of psychological benefit. They claim that if you think that your prayer is answered, it is merely because you put your thoughts into words, identified your problem, and set your mind on finding a solution. Aside from any such benefits, how do you know that your sincere prayers are actually heard by Jehovah?
13 Consider this: From his prehuman existence, Jesus observed firsthand Jehovah’s response to the prayers of His human servants. Then, during his earthly ministry, Jesus used prayer as his means of communicating his feelings to his Father in heaven. Would he have done so—even spending an entire night in prayer—had he thought that Jehovah was not really listening? (Luke 6:12; 22:40-46) Would he have taught his disciples to pray had he thought that prayer was nothing more than a psychological crutch? Clearly, Jesus knew that prayer is real communication with Jehovah. On one occasion, Jesus said: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. True, I knew that you always hear me.” We too can have confidence that Jehovah is the “Hearer of prayer.”—John 11:41, 42; Ps. 65:2.
14, 15. (a) How do we benefit from being specific in our prayers? (b) How did one sister’s prayers help her strengthen her bond with Jehovah?
14 When you are specific in your prayers, you become more keenly aware of Jehovah’s answers, even though they may be subtle. Answered prayers will make Jehovah more real to you. In addition, the more you express your innermost concerns to Jehovah, the closer he will draw to you.
15 Consider the experience of Kathy.b She did not enjoy the field ministry, although she regularly participated in it. She explains: “I did not like field service. I mean, I really did not like it. When I retired from my secular work, an elder expressed the hope that I would become a regular pioneer; he even handed me an application form. I decided to pioneer, but I also began to pray daily that Jehovah would make me like field service.” Did Jehovah answer her prayers? She says: “I am now in my third year of pioneering. As a result of spending more time in the ministry and learning from other sisters, I have gradually improved in my ability to witness. Today, I do not like field service—I love it. What is more, my relationship with Jehovah is so much closer than it used to be.” Truly, Kathy’s prayers helped her to make her relationship with Jehovah real.
DOING OUR PART
16, 17. (a) What must we do to keep our relationship with Jehovah alive and growing? (b) What special challenge will be considered in the next article?
16 Developing a closer relationship with Jehovah is a lifetime pursuit. We must take steps to draw close to God if we want him to take corresponding action toward us. By all means, then, let us remain in regular communication with our God by means of Bible study and prayer. As a result, our ever-growing relationship with Jehovah will enable us to meet our trials successfully.
17 A special challenge may arise, however, when personal problems persist despite our earnest prayers. At such times, our trust in Jehovah may falter. We may begin to wonder if Jehovah really hears our prayers or if he even considers himself to be in a relationship with us. How can we handle such experiences with confidence that our relationship with God is real? The next article will address this concern.
a A relationship has been defined as the way two individuals feel and behave toward each other. Thus, both are actively involved.
b Name has been changed.