“Look! As the clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand.”—JEREMIAH 18:6.
1, 2. Why did God consider Daniel to be a “very precious man,” and how can we be obedient like Daniel?
WHEN the Jews were taken to Babylon, they entered a city filled with idols and with people who worshipped wicked spirits. Still, faithful Jews, such as Daniel and his three friends, refused to be molded by the people of Babylon. (Daniel 1:6, 8, 12; 3:16-18) Daniel and his friends accepted Jehovah as their Potter and continued to worship only him. Even though Daniel lived in a bad environment most of his life, God’s angel said that he was a “very precious man.”—Daniel 10:11, 19.
2 In Bible times, a potter might press clay into a mold to form a certain shape. Today, true worshippers know that Jehovah is the Ruler of the universe and has the authority to mold nations. (Read Jeremiah 18:6.) God also has the authority to mold each one of us. However, Jehovah does not force anyone to change. Instead, he wants us to be willing to let him mold us. In this article, we will learn how we can remain like soft clay in God’s hands. We will discuss the following three questions: (1) How can we avoid displaying traits that might cause us to reject God’s counsel and become like hard clay? (2) How can we develop qualities that help us to remain obedient and like soft clay? (3) How can Christian parents work with God when molding their children?
AVOID TRAITS THAT MAY HARDEN THE HEART
3. What traits could harden our heart? Illustrate.
3 “Above all the things that you guard, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life,” says Proverbs 4:23. To keep our hearts from becoming hard, we must avoid negative traits such as pride, the practice of sin, and a lack of faith. If we are not careful, these could cause us to become disobedient and rebellious. (Daniel 5:1, 20; Hebrews 3:13, 18, 19) That is what happened to King Uzziah of Judah. (Read 2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16-21.) At first, Uzziah was obedient and had a good relationship with God, so God gave him strength. But “as soon as he was strong, his heart became haughty.” He became so proud that he tried to burn incense at the temple even though only priests were supposed to do that. When the priests told him he was wrong, Uzziah became very angry! Jehovah humbled the proud king, and he was a leper until he died.—Proverbs 16:18.
4, 5. What could happen if we failed to guard against pride? Give an example.
4 If we do not avoid pride, we can start thinking that we are better than others and may begin to reject counsel given to us from the Bible. (Proverbs 29:1; Romans 12:3) That is what happened to an elder named Jim. He disagreed with the other elders in the congregation about a situation. Jim says, “I told the brothers that they were not loving, and I left the meeting.” About six months later, he moved to another congregation but was not appointed an elder there. Jim was very disappointed. He was so convinced he was right that he stopped serving Jehovah and was inactive for ten years. He says that he was proud and that he began to blame Jehovah for what was happening. For years, brothers visited him and tried to help him, but Jim refused their help.
5 Jim says, “I just could not stop focusing on how the others seemed to be wrong.” His example shows us that pride can cause us to defend our wrong conduct. When that happens, we are no longer like soft clay. (Jeremiah 17:9) Have you ever been offended by a brother or sister? Were you ever sad because you lost a privilege? How did you react? Did you become proud, or did you realize that making peace with your brother and maintaining loyalty to Jehovah are most important?—Read Psalm 119:165; Colossians 3:13.
6. What can happen if we practice sin?
6 When a person continues to sin and even hides what he is doing, it may be hard for him to accept divine counsel. It can then become easier to sin. One brother said that in time his improper conduct did not bother him much at all. (Ecclesiastes 8:11) Another brother, who for a time had the habit of watching pornography, later said, “I found myself developing a critical attitude toward the elders.” His habit damaged his relationship with Jehovah. When others discovered what he was doing, he got help from the elders. It is true that all of us are imperfect. But if we become critical of those who counsel us or if we make excuses when we do something wrong instead of asking God to forgive us and help us, our heart may become hard.
The disobedient Israelites died in the wilderness because of their hardened hearts and lack of faith
7, 8. (a) How did the ancient Israelites demonstrate the hardening effect of a lack of faith? (b) What is the lesson for us?
7 When Jehovah freed the Israelites from Egypt, they saw him perform many amazing miracles. Despite that, as they got close to the Promised Land, their hearts became hard. Why? They did not have faith in God. Instead of trusting in Jehovah, they became afraid and complained against Moses. They even wanted to go back to Egypt, where they had been slaves! Jehovah was deeply hurt and said: “How much longer will this people treat me without respect?” (Numbers 14:1-4, 11; Psalm 78:40, 41) Those Israelites died in the wilderness because of their hardened hearts and lack of faith.
8 Today, we are very close to the new world, and our faith is being tested. So we need to examine the quality of our faith. How can we make sure that it is strong? We could examine Jesus’ words found at Matthew 6:33. Ask yourself: ‘Do my goals and decisions prove that I truly believe Jesus’ words? Would I miss meetings or field service to make more money? What will I do if my job demands more of my time and energy? Will I allow this world to mold me and perhaps even stop me from serving Jehovah?’
9. Why should we “keep testing” whether we are in the faith, and how can we do so?
9 If we do not follow what the Bible says about bad associations, disfellowshipping, or entertainment, our heart can become hard. What should you do if this starts happening to you? You urgently need to examine your faith! The Bible says: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith; keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Be honest with yourself, and regularly use God’s Word to correct your thinking.
REMAIN LIKE SOFT CLAY
10. What can help us to be like soft clay in Jehovah’s hands?
10 To help us remain like soft clay, God has given us his Word, the Christian congregation, and the ministry. When we read the Bible and meditate on it daily, it helps us to become soft in Jehovah’s hands and allows him to mold us. Jehovah commanded the kings of Israel to write a copy of God’s Law and read it daily. (Deuteronomy 17:18, 19) The apostles knew that reading the Scriptures and meditating on them was very important for their ministry. They used portions of the Hebrew Scriptures hundreds of times in their writings, and when they preached to people, they encouraged them to use the Scriptures as well. (Acts 17:11) In a similar way, we too see that it is important to read God’s Word daily and meditate on it. (1 Timothy 4:15) This helps us to remain humble, and Jehovah will thus be able to mold us.
11, 12. How can Jehovah use the Christian congregation to mold us according to our individual needs? Illustrate.
11 Jehovah knows what each one of us needs, and he uses the Christian congregation to mold us. Jim, mentioned earlier, began to change his attitude when an elder showed interest in him. Jim says: “Not once did he blame me for my situation or criticize me. Instead, he remained positive and expressed a sincere desire to help.” After about three months, the elder invited Jim to a meeting. Jim says that the congregation kindly welcomed him and that their love helped him to change his thinking. He began to see that his feelings were not the most important thing. The elders in Jim’s congregation and his wife encouraged him, and he gradually returned to serving Jehovah. Jim also benefited from reading the articles “Jehovah Is Not to Blame” and “Serve Jehovah Loyally,” found in The Watchtower of November 15, 1992.
12 In time, Jim became an elder again. Since then, he has helped other brothers to solve similar problems and strengthen their faith. He says that he thought he had a close relationship with Jehovah but that he actually did not! He regrets that he allowed pride to cause him to focus on other people’s faults rather than on the more important things.—1 Corinthians 10:12.
When we imitate Christ, people are attracted to our message and may change their attitude toward us
13. The field ministry can help us to cultivate what qualities, and with what benefits?
13 The field ministry can also mold us and help us to become better people. How so? When we preach the good news, we must show qualities such as humility and the different aspects of the fruitage of God’s spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Think of good qualities that the field ministry has helped you to develop. When we imitate Christ, people are attracted to our message and may change their attitude toward us. For example, two Witnesses in Australia tried to preach to a woman at her home, but she got very angry and was rude to them. However, the Witnesses listened to her respectfully. Later, the woman regretted her behavior and wrote a letter to the branch office. She apologized for her behavior. She said, “I am a fool to stand before two people spreading God’s Word and attempt to steer them away like that.” From this experience, we can see the value of being mild when we preach. Yes, our ministry helps others, but it also helps us to improve our personality.
WORK WITH GOD WHEN MOLDING YOUR CHILDREN
14. What must parents do if they want to be truly effective in molding their children?
14 Most little children are humble and eager to learn. (Matthew 18:1-4) So it is wise for parents to help their children to learn the truth and to love it while the children are still young. (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) To be successful, parents must love the truth themselves and apply what the Bible says in their own lives. When parents do this, it becomes easier for their children to love the truth. Also, children will understand that discipline from their parents shows that they are loved by them and by Jehovah.
15, 16. How should parents demonstrate their trust in God if their child is disfellowshipped?
15 Even when parents teach their children the truth, some children leave Jehovah or are disfellowshipped. If that happens, the family suffers very much. One sister in South Africa said: “When my brother was disfellowshipped, it was as if he had died. It was heartbreaking!” But what did she and her parents do? They followed the instructions found in the Bible. (Read 1 Corinthians 5:11, 13.) The parents knew that obeying God’s counsel would benefit everyone. And they recognized that disfellowshipping is loving discipline from Jehovah. So they contacted their son only when it was absolutely necessary for family business.
16 How did the son feel? Later he said, “I knew that my family did not hate me, but they were obeying Jehovah and his organization.” He also said, “When you are forced to beg Jehovah for help and forgiveness, you realize how much you need him.” Imagine the family’s joy when this young man came back to Jehovah! Yes, we will be happy and successful when we always obey God.—Proverbs 3:5, 6; 28:26.
When we are humble and always obey Jehovah, we become very precious to him
17. Why should we make submission to Jehovah our way of life, and how will this course benefit us?
17 The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Jews in Babylon would repent and say: “O Jehovah, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are our Potter; we are all the work of your hand.” They would also beg Jehovah: “Do not remember our error forever. Look at us, please, for we are all your people.” (Isaiah 64:8, 9) When we are humble and always obey Jehovah, we become very precious to him, as Daniel was. Jehovah will continue to mold us using his Word, spirit, and organization so that in the future we will become perfect “children of God.”—Romans 8:21.