Maintain a Complete Heart Toward Jehovah
“My son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart.”—1 CHRONICLES 28:9.
LOOK FOR THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS:
What is the figurative heart?
What is one way we can examine our heart?
How can we serve Jehovah with a complete heart?
1, 2. (a) What part of the body is mentioned figuratively in the Bible more than any other? (b) Why is it important that we understand the meaning of the figurative heart?
THE Bible often mentions parts of the body in a figurative way, that is, to describe something else. For example, Job stated: “There is no violence upon my palms.” King Solomon said: “A report that is good makes the bones fat.” Jehovah told Ezekiel: “Harder than flint, I have made your forehead.” And some told Paul: “You are introducing some things that are strange to our ears.”—Job 16:17; Proverbs 15:30; Ezekiel 3:9; Acts 17:20.
2 One part of the body is mentioned figuratively in the Bible more than any other. It is the heart. Faithful Hannah mentioned it in a prayer. She said: “My heart does exult in Jehovah.” (1 Samuel 2:1) Bible writers mention the heart almost a thousand times, mostly in a figurative way. It is very important that we understand the meaning of the figurative heart because the Bible tells us that we need to protect it.—Read Proverbs 4:23.
THE FIGURATIVE HEART—WHAT IS IT?
3. How are we able to know the meaning of the figurative heart in the Bible? Give an example.
3 Even though the Bible does not give us a definition of the figurative heart, we are still able to know what it is. How? As an example, think of a very beautiful picture that is made of a thousand small stones closely set together. To see what pattern is formed by all the stones, we have to step back and look at the whole picture. In the same way, we need to look at the many places where the word “heart” is used in the Bible so that we can understand what it means. So, what is the figurative heart?
4. (a) What does the word “heart” mean in the Bible? (b) What is the meaning of Matthew 22:37?
4 Bible writers use the word “heart” to describe the entire person we are inside. It includes our desires, thoughts, personality, attitudes, abilities, motivations, and goals. (Read Deuteronomy 15:7; Proverbs 16:9; Acts 2:26.) But there are times when the word “heart” does not mean all these things. For example, Jesus said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Here, the word “heart” refers to a person’s true emotions, desires, and feelings. Jesus mentioned heart, soul, and mind separately because he wanted to emphasize that we must show our love for God in our feelings as well as by the way we live our life and use our mind. (John 17:3; Ephesians 6:6) But when the word “heart” is mentioned by itself, it means the entire person we are inside.
WHY WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR HEART
5. Why do we want to do our best to serve Jehovah with a complete heart?
5 King David reminded Solomon: “My son, know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul; for all hearts Jehovah is searching, and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning.” (1 Chronicles 28:9) Jehovah examines all hearts, including ours. (Proverbs 17:3; 21:2) We can be friends with Jehovah and have a happy future only if Jehovah likes what he finds in our heart. So we want to follow David’s advice by doing our best to serve Jehovah “with a complete heart,” that is, with all our heart.
6. What should we realize about our determination to serve Jehovah?
6 We are already showing by the zealous work we do as Jehovah’s Witnesses that we want to serve God with a complete heart. But we realize that Satan’s wicked world and our sinful tendencies can have a powerful influence on us and can weaken our determination to serve Jehovah with all our heart. (Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 2:2) To make sure that this does not happen, we must regularly examine our heart. How can we do that?
7. What shows what our heart is really like?
7 No human can see what we are inside, just as no one can see the center, or heart, of a tree. Still, as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, just as the fruit of a tree shows whether the tree is healthy inside or not, so our actions show what our heart is really like. (Matthew 7:17-20) Let us consider one of these actions.
ONE WAY WE CAN EXAMINE OUR HEART
8. According to Matthew 6:33, how do we show what is in our heart?
8 In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also told his listeners what they should do to show their desire to serve Jehovah with a complete heart. He said: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) We show what we are desiring, thinking, and planning in our heart by what we put first in our life. So one way to know if we are serving God with a complete heart is to think carefully about what is most important in our life.
9. What did Jesus invite some men to do? What did their reaction show?
9 Let us consider a situation that happened soon after Jesus told his followers to keep seeking first the Kingdom. This situation shows that it is possible to know what a person feels in his heart by what he puts first in his life. Luke tells us that Jesus firmly decided to go to Jerusalem even though he knew what he would suffer there later. While he and his apostles were on the road to Jerusalem, Jesus met some men and invited them to be his followers. Those men were willing to accept his invitation, but they wanted to do some other things first. One man replied: “Permit me first to leave and bury my father.” Another said: “I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those in my household.” (Luke 9:51, 57-61) We can certainly see a great difference between Jesus’ firm decision to do God’s will and the weak reaction of those men to Jesus’ invitation. They put their own desires first, and this showed that they were not willing to serve God with a complete heart.
10. (a) How have we reacted to Jesus’ invitation to be his followers? (b) What illustration did Jesus give?
10 Our reaction was different from that of those men. We have accepted Jesus’ invitation to be his followers and are now serving Jehovah every day. In this way, we show how we feel in our heart about Jehovah. But even though we are busy serving Jehovah, we need to remember that our heart could still be in danger. What is it in danger of? We learn the answer from what Jesus said to those he had invited to be his disciples. He warned them: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) What is the lesson in this illustration?
DO WE “CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD”?
11. In Jesus’ illustration, what happened to the work of the man plowing a field? Why did this happen?
11 Let us add more details to Jesus’ illustration so that we can better understand the lesson in it. A worker is busy plowing a field. But while he is plowing, he cannot stop thinking about his home. Back home he could be with his family and friends and enjoy food, music, laughter, and shade. He wants these things very much. After plowing for quite a while, the worker’s desire for those pleasant things in life becomes so strong that he turns around to look at “the things behind.” Even though there is still much work to do before the field is planted, the worker is distracted and does not do his work well. Of course, the master is disappointed because his worker did not endure.
12. How could a Christian today be in the same situation as the worker in Jesus’ illustration?
12 Now consider how a similar situation could happen today. The worker could be any Christian who seems to be doing well but whose heart is in danger. For example, let us imagine a brother who attends meetings and participates in the ministry. But at the same time, he cannot stop thinking about some things of this world that he likes. In his heart, he wants them very much. After the brother serves God for several years, his desire for some of the things in this world becomes so strong that he turns back and looks at “the things behind.” Even though there is still much work to do in the ministry, he becomes distracted and does not serve God as well as he did before. (Philippians 2:16) Jehovah, “the Master of the harvest,” is sad when one of his workers stops enduring.—Luke 10:2.
13. What does it mean to serve Jehovah with a complete heart?
13 The lesson for us is very clear. To serve Jehovah with a complete heart means more than being regular at our congregation meetings and in the ministry. (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2, 27) If in his heart a Christian continues to love “the things behind,” that is, things that are part of this world’s way of life, his friendship with Jehovah would be in danger. (Luke 17:32) So to serve God with a complete heart, we must “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9; Luke 9:62) Even if some things in Satan’s world seem useful or pleasant, we must make sure that nothing stops us from serving God with our whole heart.—2 Corinthians 11:14; read Philippians 3:13, 14.
14, 15. (a) How is Satan trying to weaken our zeal for Jehovah’s service? (b) Illustrate how Satan tries to deceive us.
14 Our love for Jehovah motivated us to dedicate our life to him. Since then, many of us have proved for a long time that we are determined to serve Jehovah with a complete heart. But Satan is still trying to influence us. Our heart is still his target. (Ephesians 6:12) Of course, he knows that we will not stop worshipping Jehovah all of a sudden. So Satan tries to deceive us by using “this system of things” to weaken our zeal little by little. (Read Mark 4:18, 19.) Why does this trick work so well?
15 An illustration can help us answer this question. Imagine that you are reading a book by a very bright lamp, but then the light bulb burns out. You immediately know what happened because the room is now completely dark. You replace the old bulb with a new one, and the room is bright again. The next evening, you are reading by the same lamp. But what you do not know is that someone replaced the new bulb with one that is just a little weaker. You probably would not notice the difference. And if the next day someone put another bulb in the lamp and this bulb was just a little weaker than the one before, you probably would still not notice it. Why not? Because the lamp’s light is getting weaker so gradually that you do not realize it. In the same way, the influences of Satan’s world may cause our zeal for Jehovah’s service to become weaker little by little. If a Christian is not alert, he will not even notice the gradual change, and Satan will have succeeded.—Matthew 24:42; 1 Peter 5:8.
WE MUST PRAY
16. How can we protect ourselves against Satan?
16 How can we protect ourselves against Satan and continue to serve Jehovah with a complete heart? (2 Corinthians 2:11) We must pray. After Paul encouraged Christians to “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil,” he told them to pray “on every occasion” and “with every form of prayer and supplication.”—Ephesians 6:11, 18; 1 Peter 4:7.
17. What lesson do we learn from Jesus’ prayers?
17 To stay faithful, we need to imitate Jesus and his desire to serve Jehovah with a complete heart. Luke wrote about the way Jesus prayed on the night before his death: “Getting into an agony he continued praying more earnestly.” (Luke 22:44) Jesus prayed earnestly, or intensely. This was not the first time that Jesus prayed earnestly, but this time he was about to endure the most difficult test of his life on earth. For this reason, he prayed even “more earnestly,” and his prayer was answered. Jesus’ example shows that some prayers can be more intense than others. So the more difficult our trials are and the stronger Satan’s influence becomes, the more earnestly we should pray for Jehovah’s protection.
18. (a) What should we ask ourselves about our prayers? Why? (b) What are some of the things that affect our heart? In what ways? (See box on page 18.)
18 What will be the results of our earnest prayers? Paul said: “In everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) If we want to serve Jehovah with a complete heart, we must pray intensely and frequently. (Luke 6:12) So ask yourself: ‘How intense are my prayers? How often do I pray?’ (Matthew 7:7; Romans 12:12) Your answers show a lot about how strong your desire to serve God is.
19. What will you do to continue to serve Jehovah with a complete heart?
19 As we have considered, the things we put first in life can tell us much about our heart. We want to make sure that neither the things we left behind nor the tricks of Satan weaken our firm decision to serve Jehovah with a complete heart. (Read Luke 21:19, 34-36.) Like David, we keep on supplicating Jehovah: “Unify my heart.”—Psalm 86:11.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Figurative heart: It usually refers to the entire person we are inside. It includes our desires, thoughts, personality, attitudes, abilities, motivations, and goals
To serve Jehovah with a complete heart: To serve Jehovah with the entire person we are inside. This means that we show love and zeal in our service to Jehovah and that we do not allow anything to distract us from serving him
To pray earnestly: To pray intensely from the heart, supplicating, or begging, Jehovah for help
[Blurb on page 17]
What we put first in our life shows if we are serving God with a complete heart
[Blurb on page 19]
If we are not alert, Satan may cause our zeal to weaken little by little
[Blurb on page 20]
The stronger Satan’s influence becomes, the more earnestly we should pray for Jehovah’s protection
[Box on page 18]
THREE THINGS THAT AFFECT OUR HEART
We can do things to keep our figurative heart healthy just as we can do things to keep our physical heart healthy. Let us consider three important things that affect our heart:
1 Food: We need to eat healthy food regularly to keep our physical heart healthy. In the same way, to keep our figurative heart healthy, we need to get spiritual food regularly through personal study, meditation, and meetings.—Psalm 1:1, 2; Proverbs 15:28; Hebrews 10:24, 25.
2 Exercise: To be healthy, our physical heart at times needs exercise that makes it beat faster. In the same way, we need to exercise our figurative heart by participating zealously in the ministry and by doing more in the ministry if we can.—Luke 13:24; Philippians 3:12.
3 Environment: The world that we live and work in can be stressful for our physical heart and our figurative heart. But we have relief from stress when we are with our brothers and sisters, who really care about us and who serve Jehovah with a complete heart.—Psalm 119:63; Proverbs 13:20.