“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”—JOHN 4:34.
1. What effect could the world’s selfish spirit have on our humility?
WHY is it a challenge to apply what we learn from God’s Word? One reason is that it takes humility to do what is right, and our ability to remain humble is under assault. In these “last days,” we are surrounded by people who are “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty,” and “without self-control.” (2 Tim. 3:1-3) When selfish behavior is reported and even celebrated, a servant of God might despise such conduct but envy the results. (Ps. 37:1; 73:3) One might even wonder: ‘Is there any point in my putting others’ interests ahead of my own? If I conduct myself “as a lesser one,” might people lose respect for me?’ (Luke 9:48) Allowing the world’s selfish spirit to influence us could harm the loving relationships we enjoy in the congregation and our identity as Christians. But we are rewarded when we study the good examples set out in the Bible and imitate them.
2. What effect can faithful servants of God have on us?
2 If we want to make faithful ones our role models, we need to investigate what they did that brought the desired results. How did they achieve friendship with God, enjoy his approval, and acquire power to accomplish his will? This kind of study is an essential part of our spiritual feeding.
SPIRITUAL FOOD—MORE THAN JUST INFORMATION
3, 4. (a) How do we receive spiritual instruction? (b) Why can we say that spiritual food involves more than taking in knowledge?
3 We receive much good counsel and training through the Bible, our Christian publications, our websites, JW Broadcasting, and our meetings and assemblies. But according to Jesus’ words found at John 4:34, spiritual food involves more than just taking in knowledge. What more is involved? Jesus said: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
4 To Jesus, spiritual food included acting on God’s direction. In what sense is this like food? Just as our bodies are contented and nourished when we eat a good meal, our hearts are strengthened and our faith is nourished for everlasting life when we participate in doing God’s will. How many times have you gone to a meeting for field service not feeling your best—only to finish preaching that day refreshed and invigorated?
5. What is the reward for acting wisely?
5 Putting divine instruction into practice is essentially what wisdom means. (Ps. 107:43) The reward for wisdom is worth the effort. “Nothing you desire can compare to it. . . . It is a tree of life to those who take hold of it, and those who keep firm hold of it will be called happy.” (Prov. 3:13-18) Jesus said: “If you know these things, happy you are if you do them.” (John 13:17) The disciples’ happiness would last if they kept doing what Jesus instructed them to do. They did not embrace his teachings and example simply as an immediate response on that one occasion. It became their way of life.
6. Why must we endure in showing wisdom?
6 Endurance in applying what we know to be true is just as important today. To illustrate, a mechanic may have tools, materials, and knowledge. But he will not benefit from those assets unless he uses them. If he has done mechanical work in the past and has gained valuable experience in the process, he must continue to practice what he has learned in order to stay skillful and productive. Likewise, we might enjoy initial success because we apply what we read in the Bible. However, we will find lasting happiness by living humbly by Jehovah’s instruction each day.
7. In developing wisdom, what should be our response to Bible examples?
7 Let us consider some different situations in which our humility might be put to the test and see how similar challenges were met by faithful ones of old. Spiritual strength comes from more than just considering the information. So think of how you personally can apply each of these points, and then do it without delay.
VIEW THEM AS EQUALS
8, 9. What do the events recorded at Acts 14:8-15 reveal about the apostle Paul’s humility? (See opening picture.)
8 God’s will is that “all sorts of people should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) What is your view of the many sorts of people who have yet to learn the truth? Although the apostle Paul searched in synagogues for those who already knew something about God, he certainly did not restrict his efforts to Jewish people. The responses he received from those who worshipped other deities would test the depth of his humility.
9 On Paul’s first missionary journey, for instance, the Lycaonian people mistook him and Barnabas for superheroes—as incarnations of their false gods Zeus and Hermes. Were Paul and Barnabas tempted to ride the wave of popularity? Would that seem to be a refreshing break from all the persecution they had experienced in the last two cities they visited? Did they imagine that the publicity could help to advance the good news? Not at all! They immediately protested by ripping their garments and leaping into the crowd, crying out: “Why are you doing these things? We too are humans having the same infirmities as you have.”—Acts 14:8-15.
10. In what sense could Paul and Barnabas consider themselves the equals of the Lycaonian people?
10 In acknowledging that they too were imperfect, Paul and Barnabas were not saying that their way of worship was basically the same as that of those pagans. Were the two of them not missionaries with a special appointment? (Acts 13:2) Had they not been anointed with holy spirit and clothed with a glorious hope? Yes, but Paul and Barnabas understood that the Lycaonian people could receive the same advantages if they responded favorably to the good news.
11. When preaching, how can we imitate Paul’s exemplary humility?
11 How might we imitate Paul’s exemplary humility? First, we must resist any temptation to expect or accept adulation for what we accomplish in Jehovah’s strength. Each of us does well to ask himself: ‘How do I view the people to whom I preach? Might I unwittingly harbor toward certain people a bias that is common in my community?’ Commendably, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world have been analyzing their territories to determine whether there are yet more who might respond to the good news. At times, this may require learning the languages and customs of those whom society in general has marginalized. In no way should Witnesses who reach out to such ones view themselves as superior. Rather, they seek to understand each individual in order to reach his heart with the Kingdom message.
PRAY FOR OTHERS BY NAME
12. How did Epaphras show unselfish concern for others?
12 Another way to show that we are humbly heeding divine direction is by praying for those who have already “acquired a faith as precious as ours.” (2 Pet. 1:1) Epaphras did so. The Bible mentions him only three times—all in the inspired writings of Paul. While under house arrest in Rome, Paul wrote to Christians living in Colossae that Epaphras was “always exerting himself in [their] behalf in his prayers.” (Col. 4:12) Epaphras knew the brothers well, and he cared for them deeply. His situation as Paul’s “fellow captive” did not blind him to the spiritual needs of others. (Philem. 23) And he did something about it. Is that not a mark of unselfish concern? Praying for our fellow servants of Jehovah has real force, especially when we remember them individually, such as by name.—2 Cor. 1:11; Jas. 5:16.
13. How might you imitate the example of Epaphras in your prayers?
13 Think of those whom you can pray for by name. Like Epaphras, many of our brothers and sisters are praying for those in their congregation and for families who are carrying a heavy load of responsibility or who are facing serious decisions or temptations. Many pray for those whose names are listed in the jw.org article “Jehovah’s Witnesses Imprisoned for Their Faith.” (Look under NEWSROOM > LEGAL DEVELOPMENTS.) In addition, we do well to remember those who have lost loved ones in death, those who have survived recent disasters and wars, and those who are enduring economic crises. Clearly, there are many brothers and sisters who need our prayers and who can benefit from them. When we pray for such ones, we show that we are looking out not only for our own interests but for those of others. (Phil. 2:4) Jehovah hears such prayers.
“BE QUICK TO LISTEN”
14. How does Jehovah set the best example as a listener?
14 Another area that reveals the depth of our humility is our willingness to hear people out. James 1:19 says that we should “be quick to listen.” Jehovah himself sets the superlative example in this regard. (Gen. 18:32; Josh. 10:14) Consider what we can learn from the interchange recorded at Exodus 32:11-14. (Read.) Although not needing Moses’ input, Jehovah gave Moses an opportunity to reveal how he felt. What human would listen at length to the reasoning of someone who has displayed faulty thinking and then act on that person’s word? Yet, Jehovah listens patiently to humans who call on him in faith.
15. How might we imitate Jehovah in honoring others?
15 Each of us does well to ask: ‘If Jehovah can stoop down to deal with people and listen to them as he did with Abraham, Rachel, Moses, Joshua, Manoah, Elijah, and Hezekiah, should I not be better at honoring all my brothers, dignifying them, listening to their ideas, and even acting on their good ideas? Does someone in my congregation or in my family deserve my attention right now? What should I do about that? What will I do about that?’—Gen. 30:6; Judg. 13:9; 1 Ki. 17:22; 2 Chron. 30:20.
“PERHAPS JEHOVAH WILL SEE MY AFFLICTION”
16. How did King David react when provoked by Shimei?
16 Humility also helps us to show self-control when we are provoked. (Eph. 4:2) A remarkable example of this can be found at 2 Samuel 16:5-13. (Read.) David and his servants endured reproach and physical assault by Shimei, a relative of King Saul’s. David did so despite having the power to put an end to it. How did David muster up the strength to control his spirit? We gain insight into this by examining the third Psalm.
17. What enabled David to control his spirit, and how might we imitate him?
17 The superscription of Psalm 3 indicates that it was composed when David “was fleeing from his son Absalom.” Verses 1 and 2 fit events described in chapter 16 of Second Samuel. Then Psalm 3:4 highlights David’s confidence: “I will call aloud to Jehovah, and he will answer me from his holy mountain.” We too can pray when under attack. In response, Jehovah provides his holy spirit, which can help us to endure. Can you think of a situation in which you need to exercise self-restraint or freely forgive unwarranted animosity? Are you confident that Jehovah can see your affliction and bestow a blessing?
“WISDOM IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING”
18. How will we benefit if we keep applying divine instruction?
18 Doing what we know to be right brings rich blessings. No wonder Proverbs 4:7 says that “wisdom is the most important thing”! Although wisdom is based on knowledge, it particularly has to do with the decisions we make rather than just the facts we understand. Even ants reveal wisdom. Ants demonstrate instinctive wisdom by preparing their food in the summer. (Prov. 30:24, 25) Christ, “the wisdom of God,” always does the things pleasing to the Father. (1 Cor. 1:24; John 8:29) God knows the difference between making the right choice and acting on that choice. And he rewards those who demonstrate humility with endurance and who practice what they know to be true. (Read Matthew 7:21-23.) Therefore, work to preserve the spiritual environment in which genuine humility can flourish. Applying what we know to be true takes time and requires patience, but it is a mark of humility that leads to happiness now and forever.