Find Security Among God’s People
“I will laud you in the big congregation.”—PS. 35:18.
1-3. (a) What may lead some Christians into a spiritually dangerous situation? (b) Where can God’s people find protection?
WHILE on vacation, Joe and his wife were snorkeling on a tropical coral reef teeming with fish of all colors and sizes. They swam a little farther out to admire the reef below. When the seabed dropped away into a blue abyss, Joe’s wife said, “I think we’re going out too far.” “Relax,” Joe replied. “I know what I’m doing.” Joe recalls wondering soon thereafter, ‘Where have all the fish gone?’ With horror, he saw the reason. Out of the deep blue, a shark was heading straight for him. There he was, completely at its mercy. When the shark was just a few feet [a meter or so] away, it veered off and disappeared.
2 A Christian can become so enamored with the attractions of Satan’s system of things—entertainment, work, possessions—that he does not realize that he is getting deeper into dangerous waters. “My experience made me think about the company we keep,” says Joe, who is a Christian elder. “Swim where it’s safe and enjoyable—in the congregation!” Do not swim into deep water, where you may find yourself spiritually isolated and in peril. If ever you find yourself there, immediately head back to ‘safe water.’ Otherwise, you might run the risk of being devoured spiritually.
3 Today, the world is a dangerous place for Christians. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Satan knows that his days are numbered, and he is out to devour the unwary. (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12:12, 17) However, we are not without protection. Jehovah has provided his people with a safe spiritual refuge—the Christian congregation.
4, 5. How do many people feel about their future, and why?
4 Secular society offers only a limited amount of security—whether physical or emotional. Many people feel that their physical security is threatened by crime, violence, the high cost of living, and even environmental issues. All face the problems of advancing age and ill health. And others who have jobs, homes, adequate finances, and a reasonable degree of health may wonder how long these will last.
5 Emotional security has likewise proved elusive for many. Sad to say, multitudes who had hoped to find peace and fulfillment in marriage and with a family have found that their expectations have gone unfulfilled. Spiritually speaking, many churchgoers have been left bewildered and disoriented, questioning the value of the guidance that they have received. That is especially so in the light of the questionable conduct and unscriptural teachings of their religious leaders. Hence, many people feel that they have little choice but to hope in science or in the goodwill and good sense of fellow humans. It is not surprising, then, that people around us feel extremely insecure or that they simply prefer not to think too deeply about their future.
6, 7. (a) What accounts for the difference in outlook between those who serve God and those who do not? (b) What will we consider?
6 What a contrast in outlook there is between those who are part of the Christian congregation and those who are not! Even though we as Jehovah’s people have to face many of the same issues and problems our neighbors face, our reaction is quite different. (Read Isaiah 65:13, 14; Malachi 3:18.) Why? Because we find in the Bible a satisfying explanation for the condition in which humanity finds itself, and we are equipped to deal with life’s challenges and problems. As a result, we are not overly anxious about the future. Being worshippers of Jehovah affords us protection from unsound and unscriptural reasoning, immoral practices, and the consequences of such. Members of the Christian congregation thus experience a tranquillity unknown to others.—Isa. 48:17, 18; Phil. 4:6, 7.
7 Some examples may help us to reflect on the security enjoyed by those who serve Jehovah in contrast with those who do not. These examples may move us to examine our own reasoning and practices and to consider whether we might more fully apply God’s counsel, which is designed to protect us.—Isa. 30:21.
“My Feet Had Almost Turned Aside”
8. What have Jehovah’s servants always had to do?
8 From early on in mankind’s history, those who chose to serve and obey Jehovah sought to avoid close association with those who did not. Indeed, Jehovah indicated that there would be enmity between his worshippers and those who followed Satan. (Gen. 3:15) Because of their firm stand for divinely inspired principles, God’s people have acted differently from those who surround them. (John 17:15, 16; 1 John 2:15-17) Taking such a stand has not always been easy. Indeed, some among Jehovah’s servants have on occasion questioned the wisdom of a self-sacrificing course of life.
9. Describe the struggle faced by the writer of Psalm 73.
9 One of Jehovah’s servants who found himself wondering whether he had made wise decisions was the writer of Psalm 73, likely one of Asaph’s descendants. The psalmist asked why it is that the wicked often seem to be successful, happy, and prosperous, while some who strive to serve God suffer trials and hardships.—Read Psalm 73:1-13.
10. Why are the issues the psalmist raised important for you?
10 Have you ever found yourself asking questions like the ones the psalmist recorded? If so, there is no need to feel excessively guilty or to think that your faith is crumbling. Actually, a number of Jehovah’s servants, including some whom Jehovah used to write the Bible, had similar thoughts. (Job 21:7-13; Ps. 37:1; Jer. 12:1; Hab. 1:1-4, 13) Indeed, all who desire to serve Jehovah must come to grips with and accept the answer to this problem: Is serving and obeying God the best thing to do? This reflects the issue that Satan raised in the garden of Eden. It is central to the universal question of divine sovereignty. (Gen. 3:4, 5) So all of us do well to consider the matter that the psalmist raised. Should we envy wicked boasters who seem to be getting along just fine? Should we ‘turn aside’ from serving Jehovah and imitate them? That, of course, is exactly what Satan would like us to do.
11, 12. (a) How did the psalmist overcome his doubts, and what does this teach us? (b) What has helped you arrive at the same conclusion as the psalmist?
11 What helped the psalmist overcome his doubts? Although he admitted nearly turning aside from righteousness, his viewpoint changed when he entered “the grand sanctuary of God”—that is, when he associated with spiritual people in God’s tabernacle or temple and reflected on God’s purpose. Then it became clear to the psalmist that he did not want to share the lot of evildoers. He could see that their course and choices in life put them on “slippery ground.” All those immorally leaving Jehovah, the psalmist perceived, will inevitably come to their end in “sudden terrors,” whereas those serving Jehovah will be supported by him. (Read Psalm 73:16-19, 27, 28.) No doubt you have seen the truth of that statement. Living for self without regard for divine law might seem attractive to many, but the bad consequences of such a course are inescapable.—Gal. 6:7-9.
12 What else do we learn from the experience of the psalmist? He found security and wisdom among God’s people. He started reasoning clearly and logically when he went to the place where Jehovah was worshipped. Similarly today, we can find wise counselors and enjoy wholesome spiritual food at congregation meetings. For good reason, then, Jehovah tells his servants to attend Christian meetings. There they will feel encouraged and will be incited to act wisely.—Isa. 32:1, 2; Heb. 10:24, 25.
Choose Your Companions Wisely
13-15. (a) What experience did Dinah have, illustrating what? (b) Why is association with fellow Christians a protection?
13 Jacob’s daughter Dinah was an example of one who got into serious trouble because of associating with worldly companions. The Genesis account about her tells us that she was in the habit of associating with the young Canaanite women in the area where her family dwelled. The Canaanites did not have the same high moral standards as Jehovah’s worshippers. On the contrary, what archaeologists have found indicates that the Canaanites’ ways led to their land becoming filled with idolatry, immorality, depraved sex worship, and violence. (Ex. 23:23; Lev. 18:2-25; Deut. 18:9-12) Recall the outcome of Dinah’s association with these people.
14 A local man, Shechem, described as “the most honorable of the whole house of his father,” saw Dinah “and then took her and lay down with her and violated her.” (Gen. 34:1, 2, 19) What a tragedy! Do you suppose Dinah ever imagined that such a thing could happen to her? Perhaps she was simply seeking the friendship of the local youths, whom she considered harmless. However, Dinah was greatly deceived.
15 What does this account teach us? That we simply cannot socialize with unbelievers and hope to suffer no ill consequences. The Scriptures state that “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) On the other hand, association with people who share your beliefs, your high moral standards, and your love for Jehovah is a safeguard. Such good association will encourage you to act wisely.—Prov. 13:20.
“You Have Been Washed Clean”
16. What did the apostle Paul say about some in the Corinthian congregation?
16 The Christian congregation has helped many individuals to cleanse themselves of defiling practices. When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the congregation in Corinth, he commented on changes that Christians there had made to live in conformity with God’s standards. Some had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, and so on. “But you have been washed clean,” Paul told them.—Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
17. How has living by Bible standards changed the lives of many?
17 People who have no faith lack sound guiding principles. They set their own course or they may simply be adrift in a sea of moral abandon, as was true of some of those ancient Corinthians before they became believers. (Eph. 4:14) Accurate knowledge of God’s Word and purposes, however, has the power to transform for the better the lives of all who apply the Scriptures. (Col. 3:5-10; Heb. 4:12) Many who today are members of the Christian congregation can tell you that before learning of and adopting Jehovah’s righteous standards, they lived without moral restraint. Yet, they were unsatisfied and unhappy. They found peace only when they began associating with God’s people and living in accord with Bible principles.
18. What experience did one young person have, proving what?
18 In contrast, some who in the past chose to leave the ‘safe water’ of the Christian congregation now bitterly regret that decision. One sister, whom we will call Tanya, explains that she was “raised around the truth,” but when she was 16, she left the congregation to “pursue worldly enticements.” Among the results she experienced were an unwanted pregnancy and an abortion. She now says: “The three years I spent away from the congregation left ugly scars on my emotions that will not go away. Something that continues to haunt me is that I killed my unborn child. . . . I want to tell all the young ones who are wishing they could ‘taste’ the world even for just a little while: ‘Don’t!’ It may taste good at first, but it leaves an extremely bitter aftertaste. The world has nothing but misery to offer. I know. I tasted it. Stay in Jehovah’s organization! It’s the only way of life that brings happiness.”
19, 20. What protection does the Christian congregation offer, and how?
19 Just think what would become of you if you were to abandon the protective environment of the Christian congregation. Many, recalling their futile course of life before they accepted the truth, simply shudder at the thought. (John 6:68, 69) You can continue to find security and protection from the woes and misery so common in Satan’s world by staying in close company with your Christian brothers and sisters. Association with them and regular attendance at congregation meetings will continually remind you of the wisdom of Jehovah’s righteous standards and will encourage you to live by them. You have every reason to ‘laud Jehovah in the big congregation,’ just as the psalmist did.—Ps. 35:18.
20 Of course, for various reasons, all Christians go through times when it seems difficult for them to maintain their Christian integrity. They may just need to be pointed in the right direction. What can you—and indeed the rest of the congregation—do to assist fellow believers at such times? The next article will examine how you can ‘keep comforting and building up’ your brothers.—1 Thess. 5:11.
How Would You Answer?
• What do we learn from the experiences of the writer of Psalm 73?
• What does Dinah’s experience teach us?
• Why can you find security in the Christian congregation?
[Pictures on page 7]
Swim where it is safe; stay in the congregation!