“They will listen to my voice.”—JOHN 10:16.
SONG 3 Our Strength, Our Hope, Our Confidence
1. What is one reason why Jesus may have likened his followers to sheep?
JESUS compared his relationship with his followers to the close bond between a shepherd and his sheep. (John 10:14) That comparison is appropriate. The sheep know their shepherd and respond to his voice. A traveler experienced this firsthand. He reported: “We wanted to film some sheep and tried to make them come near. But they did not follow us because they did not know our voices. Then a small shepherd boy came along; hardly had he called them when they followed along.”
2-3. (a) How do Jesus’ followers show that they are listening to his voice? (b) What will we consider in this article and in the next?
2 The experience of that traveler reminds us of Jesus’ words regarding his sheep—his disciples. He said: “They will listen to my voice.” (John 10:16) But Jesus is in heaven. How can we say that we are listening to him? A key way we show that we are listening to our Master’s voice is by applying his teachings in our life.—Matt. 7:24, 25.
3 In this article and in the next, we will consider some of Jesus’ teachings. As we will see, Jesus taught us that we should stop doing certain things and that we should do other things. We will first consider two things in particular that the fine shepherd instructs us to stop doing.
“STOP BEING IN ANXIOUS SUSPENSE”
4. According to Luke 12:29, what can cause “anxious suspense”?
4 Read Luke 12:29. Jesus urged his followers to “stop being in anxious suspense” about their material needs. We know that Jesus’ counsel is always wise and right. We want to apply it, but at times we might find it quite challenging to do so. Why?
5. Why may some become anxious about their material needs?
5 Some may be anxious about their material needs—food, clothing, and shelter. They may live in a country with poor economic conditions. It may be difficult for them to earn enough money to care for their family. Or the breadwinner in the family may have died, leaving the rest of the family without financial support. The COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in the loss of jobs and income. (Eccl. 9:11) If we have experienced any of these or other challenges, how can we follow Jesus’ direction to stop being anxious?
6. Describe what happened to the apostle Peter on one occasion.
6 On one occasion, the apostle Peter and the other apostles were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee during a windstorm when they saw Jesus walking on the surface of the water. Peter said: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you over the waters.” After Jesus invited him to “come,” Peter got out of the boat and “walked over the waters and went toward Jesus.” Notice what happened next. “Looking at the windstorm, he became afraid. And when he started to sink, he cried out: ‘Lord, save me!’” Jesus stretched out his hand and saved him. Significantly, Peter was able to walk on turbulent waters as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. But when Peter looked at the storm, he became overwhelmed with fear and doubt and began to sink.—Matt. 14:24-31.
7. What can we learn from Peter’s example?
7 We can learn from Peter’s example. When Peter stepped out of the boat and onto the sea, he did not expect to get distracted and start sinking. He wanted to stay on top of the waters until he reached his Master. But he failed to remain focused on that goal. Granted, we cannot walk on water, but we do face tests of faith. If we lose sight of Jehovah and his promises, we will begin to sink spiritually. No matter what figurative storms come up in our life, we must keep our mind focused on Jehovah and his ability to help us. How can we do that?
8. What can help us to avoid becoming overly distracted by our material needs?
8 We will benefit from replacing anxiety with confidence. Remember that our loving Father, Jehovah, guarantees that he will care for our material needs if we put spiritual things first. (Matt. 6:32, 33) He has a perfect record of fulfilling that promise. (Deut. 8:4, 15, 16; Ps. 37:25) If Jehovah provides for the birds and the flowers, surely we do not have to be anxious about what we will eat or wear! (Matt. 6:26-30; Phil. 4:6, 7) Just as love impels caring parents to provide materially for their children, love motivates our heavenly Father to care for the material needs of his people. Yes, we can be certain that Jehovah will look after us!
9. What can you learn from the experience of one couple?
9 Consider an experience that illustrates how Jehovah can care for our material needs. A couple in full-time service drove over an hour in their old car to pick up some sisters living at a refugee center and take them to a Christian meeting. The brother explained: “After the meeting, we invited the sisters for a meal, but then we realized that we had nothing to offer them.” What would the couple do? The brother continued: “When we arrived home, there sat two big shopping bags of food in front of our door. We did not know who had left them there. Jehovah took care of us.” Sometime later, the couple’s car broke down. They needed it for their ministry; however, they had no money to repair it. While the car was being looked over at a nearby garage, a man came in and asked: “Whose car is that?” The brother said that it was his and that it needed repair. The man replied: “That does not matter. My wife wants this type of car and exactly in that color. How much do you want for it?” The brother ended up with enough money to buy another car. He concluded: “I do not need to explain how we felt at the end of the day. We knew that this was no coincidence. It was Jehovah’s hand.”
10. How does Psalm 37:5 encourage us not to be anxious about our material needs?
10 When we listen to the fine shepherd and stop being unduly anxious about material needs, we can be sure that Jehovah will provide for us. (Read Psalm 37:5; 1 Pet. 5:7) Consider the situations mentioned in paragraph 5. Until now, Jehovah may have used a family head or an employer to help us care for our daily needs. If the family head is no longer able to do so or if we lose our job, Jehovah will take care of us in some other way. He will provide. Let us now consider something else that the fine shepherd urges us to stop doing.
11. According to Matthew 7:1, 2, what did Jesus tell us to stop doing, and why can this be a challenge?
11 Read Matthew 7:1, 2. Jesus knew that his imperfect listeners tended to be critical of others. Note that he said: “Stop judging.” We may try hard not to judge fellow believers. Yet, we are all imperfect. If we find that at times we are being critical, what should we do? Listen to Jesus, and work hard to stop judging.
12-13. How can meditating on Jehovah’s view of King David help us to stop judging others?
12 We can benefit from meditating on Jehovah’s example. He focuses on the good in people. We see this in his dealings with King David, a man who made serious mistakes. For example, he committed adultery with Bath-sheba, and he even had her husband killed. (2 Sam. 11:2-4, 14, 15, 24) As a result, David hurt not only himself but also his family, including his other wives. (2 Sam. 12:10, 11) On another occasion, David failed to manifest full reliance on Jehovah when he ordered an illegal registration of Israel’s army. He may have been motivated by pride and trust in the size of his army. What was the outcome? Some 70,000 Israelites died from pestilence!—2 Sam. 24:1-4, 10-15.
13 If you had lived in Israel at that time, how would you have viewed David? Would you have judged him to be unworthy of Jehovah’s mercy? Jehovah did not. He focused on David’s overall record of faithfulness and his sincere repentance. As a result, Jehovah forgave David for these serious sins. Jehovah knew that David loved him very much and wanted to do what was right. Are you not grateful that our God looks for the good in us?—1 Ki. 9:4; 1 Chron. 29:10, 17.
14. What outlook has helped Christians to stop judging others?
14 If Jehovah makes allowances for imperfect humans, surely we can make allowances for one another and look for the good in others. It is usually quite easy to pick out the imperfections of others and to be critical. However, a spiritual person may see those imperfections and still work along well with others. A rough diamond may be unsightly, but a perceptive person will look beyond its rough exterior and see the value it will have once it is cut and polished. Like Jehovah and Jesus, we need to look beyond appearances and see people’s good qualities.
15. How can considering people’s circumstances help us not to judge them harshly?
15 In addition to focusing on others’ good qualities, what can help us not to judge them harshly? Try to imagine what their life is like. Consider this example. One day at the temple, Jesus saw a needy widow drop two coins of little value into a treasury chest. He did not ask: “Why did she not put in more?” Instead of focusing on the amount the widow gave, Jesus considered her motives and circumstances and praised her for doing all she could.—Luke 21:1-4.
16. What can you learn from Veronica’s experience?
16 We can illustrate the value of considering the circumstances of others by examining the experience of a sister named Veronica. In the congregation where she served were a single mother and her son. Veronica admitted: “It seemed to me that they were not very involved in congregation activities. Because of this, I viewed them negatively. But then I shared in the ministry with the mother. She explained the difficulties she was facing with her autistic son. She was doing her best to care for their physical and spiritual needs. At times, because of her son’s health, she found it necessary to attend a meeting of another congregation.” Veronica concluded: “I never realized that it was such a challenge for her. I now appreciate and respect this sister so much for all that she does to serve Jehovah.”
17. What does James 2:8 instruct us to do, and how can we do so?
17 What should we do if we detect that we have judged a fellow believer? We must remember that we are to love our brothers. (Read James 2:8.) We should also earnestly pray to Jehovah, begging him to help us to stop judging. We can work in harmony with our prayers by taking the initiative to speak with the person we have been critical of. That may allow us to get to know him. We might ask him to work with us in the field ministry or to join us for a meal. As we get to know our brother better, we can try to follow the example of Jehovah and Jesus by looking for the good in him. In this way, we show that we are listening to the fine shepherd’s command to stop judging.
18. How can we show that we are listening to the voice of the fine shepherd?
18 Just as literal sheep listen to the voice of their shepherd, Jesus’ followers listen to his voice. If we strive to stop being anxious about our material needs and to stop judging others, Jehovah and Jesus will bless our efforts. Whether we are part of the “little flock” or the “other sheep,” may we continue to listen to and obey the voice of the fine shepherd. (Luke 12:32; John 10:11, 14, 16) In the next article, we will consider two things that Jesus told his followers they should do.
SONG 101 Working Together in Unity
a When Jesus said that his sheep would listen to his voice, he meant that his disciples would listen to his teachings and apply them in their life. In this article, we will consider two outstanding teachings of Jesus, namely, to stop being anxious about material things and to stop judging others. We will discuss how we can apply his counsel.
b PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A brother has lost his employment, is short of money for the family, and needs to find housing. He could easily become so anxious that he loses sight of his worship of God.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A brother arrives late for the meeting. But he shows fine qualities as he witnesses informally, offers practical help to an older person, and works to keep the Kingdom Hall presentable.