“Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way.’”—ISA. 30:21.
1, 2. How does Jehovah communicate with his servants?
THROUGHOUT Bible history, individuals received guidance from Jehovah by various means. To some, God spoke through angels or by means of visions or dreams, thus revealing to them what would happen in the future. Jehovah also gave them specific work assignments. (Num. 7:89; Ezek. 1:1; Dan. 2:19) Others received direction through Jehovah’s human representatives serving in the earthly part of his organization. No matter how Jehovah’s people received his word, those who followed his instructions were blessed.
2 Today, Jehovah guides his people by means of the Bible, his holy spirit, and the congregation. (Acts 9:31; 15:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) The guidance that we receive from him is so clear that it is as if ‘our own ears hear a word behind us saying: “This is the way. Walk in it.”’ (Isa. 30:21) In effect, Jesus also conveys Jehovah’s voice to us as he directs the congregation through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) We need to take this guidance and direction seriously, for our everlasting life depends on our obedience.—Heb. 5:9.
3. What could interfere with the way we respond to Jehovah’s guidance? (See opening image.)
3 Satan the Devil is intent on neutralizing the lifesaving guidance we receive from Jehovah. Moreover, our own ‘treacherous heart’ could interfere with how well we respond to Jehovah’s directives. (Jer. 17:9) Therefore, let us consider how we can overcome obstacles that make it challenging to listen to God’s voice. Let us also discuss how close communication with Jehovah will safeguard our relationship with him regardless of our circumstances.
OVERCOMING SATAN’S SCHEMES
4. How does Satan try to influence the thinking of people?
4 Satan tries to influence the thinking of people by providing false information and deceptive propaganda. (Read 1 John 5:19.) In addition to printed material, the globe—including remote parts of the earth—is blanketed with broadcasts via radio, TV, and the Internet. Although such sources may feature items of interest, they often advocate conduct and standards that are contrary to Jehovah’s standards. (Jer. 2:13) For example, the news and entertainment industries speak of same-sex marriage as if it were acceptable, and many people feel that what the Bible says about homosexuality is extreme.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10.
5. How can we avoid being swept along by satanic propaganda?
5 How can those who love God’s righteousness avoid being swept along by today’s flood of satanic propaganda? How can they separate the good from the bad? “By keeping on guard according to [God’s] word”! (Ps. 119:9) God’s written Word contains essential guidance that enables us to distinguish truthful information from deceptive propaganda. (Prov. 23:23) Quoting the Scriptures, Jesus said that “man must live . . . on every word that comes from Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matt. 4:4) We need to learn how to apply Bible principles in our life. For example, long before Moses recorded Jehovah’s law against adultery, the young man Joseph understood that such conduct was a sin against God. He never even considered disobeying Jehovah when Potiphar’s wife tried to entice him to do what was wrong. (Read Genesis 39:7-9.) Despite being pressured by her over a period of time, Joseph did not allow her voice to deafen him to the voice of God. Essential to distinguishing right from wrong is listening to Jehovah’s voice and shutting out the incessant din of satanic propaganda.
6, 7. What must we do in order to avoid Satan’s wicked advice?
6 The world is so saturated with conflicting religious teachings and doctrines that many people feel that searching for the true religion is futile. However, Jehovah has made his guidance abundantly clear for those who are willing to take advantage of it. We have to decide whom we will listen to. Since it is practically impossible to listen to two voices simultaneously, we need to ‘know the voice’ of Jesus and listen to him. He is the one whom Jehovah appointed over His sheep.—Read John 10:3-5.
7 “Pay attention to what you are hearing,” said Jesus. (Mark 4:24) Jehovah’s counsel is clear and right, but we must pay attention and listen to it by preparing our heart to receive it. If we are not careful, we could give ear to Satan’s wicked advice instead of God’s loving counsel. Never allow worldly music, videos, TV shows, books, associates, educators, or so-called experts to control your life.—Col. 2:8.
8. (a) How can our heart make us vulnerable to Satan’s schemes? (b) What can happen to us if we ignore warning signs?
8 Satan knows that we have sinful tendencies, and he tries to induce us to cater to them. When Satan targets us in this way, it becomes a formidable challenge to maintain our integrity. (John 8:44-47) How can we possibly meet this challenge successfully? Consider the case of a person who becomes so absorbed in the pleasure of the moment that he ends up doing something wrong that he thought he would never do. (Rom. 7:15) What led up to this sad situation? Likely, the individual had gradually been losing sensitivity to Jehovah’s voice. Either he failed to notice the warning signs regarding what was happening to his heart or he chose to ignore them. For example, he might have stopped praying, slowed down in the ministry, or started missing meetings. Eventually, he succumbed to his desire and did what he knew was wrong. We can avoid such a disastrous mistake if we remain alert to any warning signs and act immediately to correct matters. And if we are listening to Jehovah’s voice, we will not entertain any apostate ideas.—Prov. 11:9.
9. Why is early detection of sinful tendencies very important?
9 Early detection of disease may save a person’s life. Similarly, we can avert disaster if we quickly identify tendencies that could lead us into temptation. As soon as we discover such leanings, it would be wise for us to take immediate action—before we are “caught alive by [Satan] to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:26) What should we do if we notice that we have allowed our thinking and desires to drift away from what Jehovah requires of us? Without delay, we must humbly return to him, open our ears to his counsel, and listen to him with all our heart. (Isa. 44:22) We must realize that making a poor decision could scar us so badly that we may have to suffer serious consequences in this system of things. How much better it is to avoid going astray by acting promptly to prevent such a serious mistake!
OVERCOMING PRIDE AND GREED
10, 11. (a) How can pride show itself? (b) What lesson do we learn from the bad course of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram?
10 We must recognize that our heart can lead us astray. What power our sinful tendencies exert on us! Take, for example, pride and greed. Consider how each of these traits can interfere with our listening to the voice of Jehovah and can lead us to take a disastrous course. A proud person has an exaggerated opinion of himself. He may feel that he has the right to do whatever he wants and that no one can tell him what to do. So he may feel that he is above the direction and counsel of fellow Christians, the elders, or even God’s organization. For such a person, the sound of Jehovah’s voice becomes very faint.
11 During Israel’s wilderness trek, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against the authority of Moses and Aaron. Because of pride, the rebels made independent arrangements to worship Jehovah. How did Jehovah respond? He executed them. (Num. 26:8-10) What a crucial lesson this historical account teaches us! Rebellion against Jehovah leads to disaster. Let us also remember that “pride is before a crash.”—Prov. 16:18; Isa. 13:11.
12, 13. (a) Give an example to show how greed can lead to disaster. (b) Explain how greed can increase rapidly if not curbed.
12 Consider, too, the matter of greed. A greedy person often takes liberties and oversteps the limits of proper behavior. After the Syrian army chief Naaman was healed of his leprosy, he offered gifts to the prophet Elisha, who refused them. However, Elisha’s attendant, Gehazi, coveted those gifts. Gehazi said to himself: “As surely as Jehovah is living, I will run after [Naaman] and take something from him.” Behind Elisha’s back, he ran after Naaman and resorted to outright lies to request “a talent of silver and two changes of garments.” What happened because Gehazi did this and lied to Jehovah’s prophet? Why, Naaman’s leprosy stuck to greedy Gehazi!—2 Ki. 5:20-27.
13 Greed may start small, but if it is not curbed, it can grow rapidly and overcome a person. The Bible account of Achan illustrates the power of greed. Note how quickly Achan’s greed progressed. He stated: “When I saw among the spoil a good-looking official garment from Shinar and 200 shekels of silver and one gold bar weighing 50 shekels, I desired them, so I took them.” Instead of rejecting the wrong desire, Achan greedily stole the goods and hid them in his tent. When Achan’s wrongdoing came to light, Joshua told him that Jehovah would bring disaster upon him. Achan and his family were stoned to death on that very day. (Josh. 7:11, 21, 24, 25) Greed is an ever-present danger that can overtake us. Let us therefore “guard against every sort of greed.” (Luke 12:15) While we may occasionally have an unwholesome thought or imagine immoral things, it is vital that we bring our mind under control and not allow our desires to escalate to the point that we commit a sin.—Read James 1:14, 15.
14. What should we do if we notice in ourselves tendencies toward pride and greed?
14 Both pride and greed can lead to disaster. Reflection on the outcome of pursuing a wrong course will help us not to allow such inclinations to drown out the voice of Jehovah. (Deut. 32:29) In the Bible, the true God not only tells us what the right course is but also explains the benefits of walking in it as well as the consequences of going the wrong way. If our heart moves us to contemplate doing something that is motivated by pride or greed, how wise it would be to think about the consequences! We should consider how wrongdoing would affect us, our loved ones, and especially our relationship with Jehovah.
MAINTAIN CLOSE COMMUNICATION WITH JEHOVAH
15. What can we learn about communication from the example of Jesus?
15 Jehovah wants the best for us. (Ps. 1:1-3) He provides ample guidance just when we need it. (Read Hebrews 4:16.) Although he was perfect, Jesus depended on regular communication with Jehovah, and he prayed incessantly. Jehovah supported and directed Jesus in marvelous ways. He sent angels to minister to him, provided His holy spirit to help him, and guided him in selecting the 12 apostles. Jehovah’s voice was heard from the heavens, expressing His support and approval of Jesus. (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 6:12, 13; John 12:28) Like Jesus, we need to pour out our heart in prayer to God. (Ps. 62:7, 8; Heb. 5:7) Through prayer, we can stay in close communication with Jehovah and successfully follow a course in life that brings honor to him.
16. How can we receive Jehovah’s help to acquire the ability to hear his voice?
16 Although Jehovah makes his counsel freely available, he does not force anyone to follow it. We need to ask for his holy spirit, and he will give it to us generously. (Read Luke 11:10-13.) It is essential, though, that we ‘pay attention to how we listen.’ (Luke 8:18) For example, it would be hypocritical to ask Jehovah for help to overcome an inclination toward immorality while continuing to look at pornography or watch immoral movies. We actually need to put ourselves in places or circumstances where Jehovah’s spirit is. We know that his spirit is at the congregation meetings. Many servants of Jehovah have avoided disaster by listening to Jehovah during our meetings. As a result, they have become aware of wrong desires developing in their heart and have corrected their ways.—Ps. 73:12-17; 143:10.
REMAIN CLOSELY ATTUNED TO JEHOVAH’S VOICE
17. Why is it dangerous to rely on ourselves?
17 Consider King David of ancient Israel. As a young person, he was victorious over the Philistine giant Goliath. David became a soldier, a king, a protector, and a decision-maker for a nation. But when David relied on himself, his heart deceived him and he committed a serious sin with Bath-sheba, even arranging to have her husband, Uriah, killed. When disciplined, David humbly admitted his error and reestablished his relationship with Jehovah.—Ps. 51:4, 6, 10, 11.
18. What can help us to keep on listening to Jehovah’s voice?
18 Let us heed the advice found at 1 Corinthians 10:12 and not become overconfident. Since we are unable to ‘direct our step,’ eventually we will listen either to the voice of Jehovah or to the voice of his Adversary. (Jer. 10:23) May we pray constantly, follow the leadings of the holy spirit, and always listen closely to Jehovah’s voice.