How Close Is God to You?
THREE-YEAR-OLD Raphael began his prayer in this simple way: “How are you, Jehovah?” While we could not favor such an approach by adults, we may smile at this young one’s childish sincerity. The fact is that Raphael obviously feels close to God. To him, God is more than some abstract force. He is a real person. Is God that real, that close, to you?
How strange it is that many people who claim to believe in God never try to learn more about him or to get close to him! For some, a haughty attitude prevents their drawing close to God. God’s “eyes are against the haughty ones,” said King David. (2 Samuel 22:28) Others are too modest and unassuming to think that it would be possible to have a relationship with God. What the haughty need to do is cultivate childlike receptiveness. Said Jesus: “Truly I say to you, Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 18:2-4) And the overly modest would, perhaps, benefit from a little more of the childlike attitude that allows Raphael to approach God so unhesitatingly.
But while having the right attitude is a good start, to feel truly close to God, more is needed. First of all, there must be an awareness of him. When you look at the wondrous creative works of God, are you moved to think of him, to praise and thank him as did the psalmist David? He asked: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?” (Psalm 8:3, 4) Taking the time to meditate on God’s creation appreciatively is sure to strengthen the bond of love between you and God.
“Draw Close to God”
Two magnets, when they are properly aligned, have an attraction for each other. Indeed, the closer together they are moved, the stronger that attraction is. Something similar can happen in our relationship with God, for the disciple James says, “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—James 4:8.
Learning about God is one way to “draw close” to him. (John 17:3) Only by studying God’s Word, the Bible, can one learn his name, Jehovah, and the truth about his purposes for the earth and his attributes, such as love, wisdom, justice and power. (Psalm 83:18) ‘But,’ you might say, ‘I already know that God is almighty, wholly righteous and full of wisdom and love.’ Yet, is that in itself an indication of true and adequate knowledge of God? Not necessarily.
In themselves, mere statements about God and his qualities can seem rather meaningless, especially if you cannot relate them to your personal experience. For example, how could a person deaf from birth comprehend what “loud” and “soft” mean? How can he know the difference between the chirp of a sparrow and the coo of a dove if he has no means of making a comparison between them? Similarly, by itself the statement that “God is love” may seem like nothing more than a cold fact. (1 John 4:8) But to grasp God’s love fully, both mentally and emotionally, a person must consider how that love has been expressed toward mankind. (John 3:16) He must also be able to relate God’s love to his own personal experience. “Taste and see that Jehovah is good,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 34:8) As an individual does this, he cannot help but feel drawn to God.
Gazing at his father, little Larry once asked: “I know that I should love Jehovah more than anything else, but how can I love him more than you? I can see you and I love you, but I cannot see Jehovah.” The father put the child at ease by explaining that such a feeling is quite normal at the outset. And the youngster was assured that after learning what the Bible says about Jehovah’s wondrous qualities and acts, and by his personally experiencing God’s loving care, he could develop a stronger attachment to Jehovah than to all others! (Matthew 22:37, 38) So can any of us who take the time to learn about Jehovah God.
What “Knowing” God Means
Often we use the word “know” to refer to a brief acquaintance or mere recognition of a person. ‘If I am not mistaken, I know him,’ we may find ourselves saying. We may even say this if we had only caught a glimpse of the person somewhere or had briefly been introduced to him.
The apostle John helps us to appreciate that “knowing” God means more than having a passing acquaintance with Him. Consider some of the points made in John’s first divinely inspired letter. Epitomized, it says in part: To know God is to love God. To know and to love God is to keep his commandments. It means to cease walking in darkness and to put the truth into practice. It is to follow the lead of God’s Word and spirit and to stick to the truth. Knowing God, we feel free to approach him in prayer, with the conviction that he hears us and, in reply, will give us all things needed to perform his will.—1 John 1:5-7; 2:3, 4, 13, 14; 3:19-24; 4:6-8, 13; 5:3, 14, 15.
Obviously, then, knowing God is not something passive. Much effort is required to get to know Jehovah God and enjoy a close relationship with him. Surely, more is needed than going through the motions of certain religious rites. Nor is knowing God some sudden emotional sensation, such as many “born again Christians” claim to have enjoyed. The psalmist said: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths. Make me walk in your truth and teach me, for you are my God of salvation. In you I have hoped all day long.” (Psalm 25:4, 5) “Knowing” God is, therefore, an entire way of life!
Furthermore, after exhorting us to “taste and see that Jehovah is good,” the psalmist says: “Turn away from what is bad, and do what is good; seek to find peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:8, 14) In some cases, drastic action is needed to “turn away from what is bad.”
For example, Mari, a hippie during the 1960’s, was heavily involved in taking drugs. This, in turn, led to thievery, immorality, abortion—even prostitution. In time, though, she came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses and began to see the need to make changes if she was to be close to God. “I gave up a two-to-three-pack-a-day smoking habit and all drugs, and I resolved in my heart to follow Jehovah’s command regarding fornication. I threw out all my books on dreams, astrology and spiritism, and I got rid of all my idolatrous statues, candles and pictures.” Eventually, she made a dedication to God and serves him to this day.
But will you make the effort needed to come to know God? Though your life-style may not be as flagrant as that of Mari, you may have to make real changes. You may be assured, however, that God does not disappoint those who sincerely and humbly search for him with childlike eagerness to learn and do his will.
[Picture on page 4]
A desire to get to know God is causing many to make drastic changes in their lives
Help Your Young Ones to Be Close to God
WITH fewer than a thousand words, the Bible writers describe the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. But with tens of thousands of words, they report on the last three and a half years. This is because Jesus Christ’s public ministry—not his birth, childhood and young manhood—was the dominant subject of the Gospel accounts. Nevertheless, the Bible’s brief references to Jesus’ earlier years do make it apparent that even young ones can be close to God.
When we open our Bibles to chapter 2 of Luke’s account, we find 12-year-old Jesus at the temple, “sitting in the midst of the teachers” of God’s law. He was “listening to them and questioning them” but was also astounding them with “his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46, 47) Moreover, we read that as he grew physically he also increased in wisdom and understanding.—Luke 2:40, 52.
How can we account for Jesus’ having this spiritual inclination? At least some of the credit must go to his parents. As Jews, they were under obligation to follow Jehovah’s counsel on child rearing. God’s prophet Moses had said: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Doubtless, God saw to it that his Son was placed in a family that would carry out this counsel. Parents today should show the same interest in their children. Are you helping them to know Jehovah and to want to serve him?
Spiritual training is not something that can properly be put off until children get older. Timothy, for example, grew up to be an outstanding Christian. But he had been instructed in the Holy Scriptures “from infancy.” (2 Timothy 3:15) In harmony with this, some Christian mothers have been observed asking Jehovah’s blessing aloud before giving their babies their bottle. No wonder these infants are soon saying “amen” at the close of such prayers! This is a small first step in helping them to develop appreciation for all the spiritual and material gifts that they receive from God.
Michael and Sephorah (seven and eight years old respectively) showed the results of fine parental training. Once, when they and their parents went on a trip, they took the initiative in asking God for guidance and protection. And at their destination the children remembered to thank Jehovah for a safe arrival.
Christian and Eric (three and six years old) were out in a park with their parents. As sometimes happens with little ones, they got lost. When did the parents find them? Just as the little boys had prayed to Jehovah to help them!
Many forms of training can be given successfully while children are quite young. At a large Christian assembly in Belgium, three-year-old Gino was brought to the platform and seated upon a high stool. The speaker asked him to recite to the audience the names of all 66 books of the Bible. Can you do this? Well, Gino could! He continued thriving under his parents’ training and today serves as a traveling overseer of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of course, not all children have the same abilities to learn, but this does illustrate the benefit of giving them spiritual instruction.
Young children can even be given a grasp of Bible doctrines. At a nursery school in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, four-year-old Kai refused to pray along with the other children. When asked why, he replied: “We do not believe in a three-cornered god!” Now Kai’s conception of the Catholic triune deity may not have been completely accurate, but it was sufficient for him to know that he should not pray to it!—Mark 12:29.
Making God a Part of Their Lives
Children at times have problems. Rather than keeping these to themselves, they should confide in their parents. But the children should also be encouraged to ‘throw their burden upon Jehovah.’ (Psalm 55:22) They can be helped to appreciate that Jehovah will not treat their requests with disdain, for his Son, Jesus Christ, said: “Let the young children come to me; do not try to stop them.” (Mark 10:14) And children should be taught to pray to God through Jesus Christ.—John 14:6.
When children learn to depend upon Jehovah for help and see the results of doing so, this often has dramatic effects upon their faith. Jacquy, a young man now serving at one of the Watch Tower Society’s branch offices, says of an experience that took place when he was 14 years old: “That year our circuit assembly was scheduled the weekend before final examinations. The problem was that our teacher did not give us the material for review until Friday. After talking the matter over with my parents, we decided that I should not miss the assembly program, even though it meant I would have very little time to study. [Hebrews 10:24, 25] I prayed to Jehovah to help me in my efforts to prepare as best I could for the examinations.
“Came Monday morning, and all the students were very nervous because, for the first time, the examinations were oral. I again prayed for Jehovah to be with me. What happened? I received the highest grades of any of the students for the subjects dealt with that day. One teacher from the jury even questioned me further, remarking, ‘I want to see just how far he can go.’ Yet I could answer his questions.”
What did Jacquy learn from this fine outcome? “Experiencing Jehovah’s help brought me still closer to him. I learned that we should not be anxious about anything but should turn to Jehovah God with every form of prayer and supplication.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
Yes, it is important that we help our young ones to “know” Jehovah, to make him a part of their daily lives. When they perceive that Jehovah is with them in their dealings, will they not have much greater incentive to continue serving him faithfully than they would have from only hearing and reading about him? Training them in this way, of course, will not be easy. But young ones will not quickly forget the enthusiasm and conscientiousness with which their parents pass their spiritual inheritance of knowledge of Jehovah on to them. Neither will Jehovah forget such faithful efforts. (Hebrews 6:10-12) May those of us who are parents therefore work toward helping our young ones achieve the reward that our heavenly Father holds out for those who know him and are known by him—“everlasting life.”—John 17:3.
[Box on page 7]
Words That Warm the Heart
HER father asked eight-year-old Debora: “Do you pray to Jehovah?” Her answer: “Yes, much.” “When?” “When I am alone.” “Why then?” “So that nobody bothers me!”
A mother asked six-year-old Laurent: “Do you want me to leave the light on in your room tonight?” (Laurent was afraid of the dark and had been told to pray to Jehovah about it.) “No, I am not afraid anymore because Jehovah is with me.”
A girl of six years said in prayer: “Thank you, Jehovah, for the hope of a resurrection. It is a very good idea!” In another prayer, she said: “You will have a lot to do here in our country when we are in Paradise, Jehovah, because it rains here so terribly much.”
Three-year-old Udo prayed: “Please, Jehovah God, get my father to read the Bible so that he will not die at Armageddon!” The door of the boy’s bedroom was open, and his father heard the prayer. That broke down his last resistance to the truth, and today he is a faithful servant of Jehovah.