“Build yourselves up on your most holy faith . . . Keep yourselves in God’s love.”—JUDE 20, 21.
1, 2. What building project are you involved in, and why is the quality of your work so important?
YOU are hard at work on a building project. The construction has been going on for some time and will continue well into the future. So far, the work has been challenging yet fulfilling. Come what may, you are determined never to give up or slack off, for the quality of your work will affect your life, even your future. Why? Because the building under construction is you!
2 The disciple Jude stressed the building work that we do on ourselves. When he urged Christians to “keep yourselves in God’s love,” he also revealed in the same passage the key to doing so, saying: “Build yourselves up on your most holy faith.” (Jude 20, 21) What are some ways that you can build yourself up, making your faith stronger so that you will remain in God’s love? Let us focus on three aspects of the spiritual building project before you.
KEEP BUILDING FAITH IN JEHOVAH’S RIGHTEOUS REQUIREMENTS
3-5. (a) Satan would like to mislead you into having what view of Jehovah’s requirements? (b) What should be our viewpoint of God’s requirements, and what effect should it have on how we feel? Illustrate.
3 First of all, we need to strengthen our faith in divine law. In the course of studying this book, you have considered a number of Jehovah’s righteous requirements regarding conduct. What is your view of them? Satan would like to mislead you into viewing Jehovah’s laws, principles, and standards as restrictive, even oppressive. He has been using this tactic ever since it proved so effective way back in Eden. (Genesis 3:1-6) Will his tactic work on you? Much will depend on your point of view.
4 To illustrate: As you walk along in a pleasant park, you notice a sturdy high fence blocking off part of the grounds. The landscape beyond the fence looks inviting. At first, you might view the fence as a needless restriction of your freedom. As you look through it, though, you notice a ferocious lion stalking prey on the other side! Now you see the fence for what it is—a protection. Is there a dangerous predator stalking you right now? God’s Word warns: “Keep your senses, be watchful! Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Peter 5:8.
5 Satan is a vicious predator. Because Jehovah does not want us to become Satan’s prey, He has instituted laws to protect us from the many “crafty acts” of that wicked one. (Ephesians 6:11) So whenever we meditate on God’s laws, we should see in them the love of our heavenly Father. Viewed in that light, God’s laws are a source of security and joy. The disciple James wrote: “The one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it . . . will be happy in what he does.”—James 1:25.
6. What is the best way to build faith in God’s righteous laws and principles? Give an example.
6 Living by God’s commandments is the best way to build up our faith in the Lawgiver and in the wisdom of his laws. For example, “the law of the Christ” includes Jesus’ command to teach others “all the things [he has] commanded.” (Galatians 6:2; Matthew 28:19, 20) Christians also take seriously the directive to keep on meeting together for worship and upbuilding association. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) God’s commandments include, too, the exhortation to pray to Jehovah regularly and often and from the heart. (Matthew 6:5-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) As we live by such commands, we see ever more clearly what loving guidelines they provide. Obeying them brings us a measure of joy and satisfaction that we could never find elsewhere in this troubled world. As you meditate on how you have personally benefited by living in accord with God’s laws, does not your faith in them get stronger?
7, 8. How does God’s Word reassure those who worry that they may not be able to maintain a righteous course as the years pass?
7 Some worry, at times, that it will be too hard to stick with Jehovah’s laws as the years pass. They fear that somehow they may fail. If you ever feel that way, keep these words in mind: “I, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One guiding you in the way you should walk. If only you would pay attention to my commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17, 18) Have you ever paused to think about how reassuring those words are?
8 Jehovah here reminds us that we benefit ourselves by obeying him. He promises two blessings if we do so. First, our peace will be like a river—serene, abundant, ongoing. Second, our righteousness will be like the waves of the sea. If you stand on a beach and watch the waves roll in one after the other, you no doubt feel a sense of permanence. You know that the waves will keep coming, breaking on that beach for countless ages to come. Jehovah says that your righteousness—your course of doing right—can be like that. As long as you endeavor to be faithful to him, he will never let you fall! (Read Psalm 55:22.) Do not such heartwarming promises build up your faith in Jehovah and in his righteous requirements?
“PRESS ON TO MATURITY”
9, 10. (a) Why is maturity a wonderful goal for Christians? (b) How does a spiritual outlook contribute to joy?
9 A second aspect of your building project is revealed in these inspired words: “Let us press on to maturity.” (Hebrews 6:1) Maturity is a wonderful goal for a Christian. Unlike perfection, which for now is beyond the reach of humans, maturity is an attainable goal. Further, Christians find greater joy in serving Jehovah as they mature. Why is that?
10 A mature Christian is a spiritual person. He looks at things from Jehovah’s point of view. (John 4:23) Paul wrote: “Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit, on the things of the spirit.” (Romans 8:5) A fleshly outlook brings little joy, for it tends to be self-centered, shortsighted, and focused on material things. A spiritual outlook is joyous, for it is focused on Jehovah, “the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) A spiritual person is eager to please Jehovah and rejoices even when under trial. Why? Trials present opportunities to prove Satan a liar and to build integrity, delighting our heavenly Father.—Proverbs 27:11; read James 1:2, 3.
11, 12. (a) What did Paul say about a Christian’s “powers of discernment,” and what is the meaning of the word rendered “trained”? (b) What training must the body undergo in order to mature and become physically adept?
11 Spirituality and maturity come through training. Consider this verse: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) When Paul spoke of our powers of discernment being “trained,” he used a Greek word that was likely in common use in the gymnasiums of first-century Greece, for it can be rendered ‘trained like a gymnast.’ Now think of what such training involves.
12 When we were born, our body was untrained. For example, a baby is barely able to perceive the orientation of its little limbs. Hence, a baby waves its arms randomly, even striking itself on the face, much to the baby’s own dismay and surprise. Gradually, through use, the body is trained. The baby crawls, the toddler walks, the child runs. * Ah, but what about a gymnast? When you see such an athlete vaulting and twisting through the air with exquisite grace and precision, there is no question in your mind that the body is like a finely tuned machine. The gymnast’s expertise did not come about by accident—countless hours of training were required. Such physical training, the Bible acknowledges, is “beneficial for a little.” How much more valuable is the training of our spiritual powers of discernment!—1 Timothy 4:8.
13. How can we train our powers of discernment?
13 In this book, we have discussed much that will help you to train your powers of discernment so that you can remain faithful to Jehovah as a spiritual person. Prayerfully consider divine principles and laws as you make decisions in your day-to-day life. In every decision you face, ask yourself: ‘What Bible laws or principles bear on this matter? How can I apply them? What course will please my heavenly Father?’ (Read Proverbs 3:5, 6; James 1:5.) Each decision you make in that way will further train your powers of discernment. Such training will help you to become and remain a truly spiritual person.
14. We need to acquire what appetite in order to grow spiritually, yet what caution do we need to keep in mind?
14 While maturity is attainable, there is always room for spiritual growth. Growth is dependent on food. Paul thus noted: “Solid food belongs to mature people.” A key to building up your faith is to keep taking in solid spiritual food. As you rightly apply what you learn, that is wisdom, and the Bible says: “Wisdom is the most important thing.” Thus, we need to develop a genuine hunger for the precious truths our Father imparts. (Proverbs 4:5-7; 1 Peter 2:2) Of course, gaining knowledge and godly wisdom is no reason to become smug or haughty. We need to examine ourselves regularly lest pride or some other weakness takes root and grows in our heart. Paul wrote: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith; keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Corinthians 13:5.
15. Why is love essential to spiritual growth?
15 Construction of a house may be completed, yet work goes on. Maintenance and repairs are essential, and additions may be necessary as circumstances change. What do we need in order to mature and to maintain our spirituality? Above all, love. We need to keep growing in love for Jehovah and for our fellow believers. If we do not have love, all our knowledge and works would amount to nothing—like a lot of empty noise. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) With love, we can attain Christian maturity and continue growing spiritually.
KEEP YOUR MIND FOCUSED ON THE HOPE JEHOVAH PROVIDES
16. Satan promotes what kind of thinking, and what defense has Jehovah provided?
16 Let us consider one more aspect of your building project. In order to build yourself up as a genuine follower of Christ, you need to guard the way you think. Satan, the ruler of this world, is a master at getting people to give in to negative thinking, pessimism, distrust, and despair. (Ephesians 2:2) Such thinking is as dangerous to a Christian as dry rot is to a wooden building. Happily, Jehovah provides a vital defensive tool—hope.
17. How does God’s Word illustrate the importance of hope?
17 The Bible lists the various parts of the suit of spiritual armor we need in our fight against Satan and this world. A prominent piece of the armor is the helmet, “the hope of salvation.” (1 Thessalonians 5:8) A soldier in Bible times knew that he would not last long in battle without his helmet. Often made of metal and fitted over a cap of felt or leather, the helmet ensured that most blows directed at the head would glance off with little harm done. As a helmet protects the head, hope can protect your mind, your thinking.
18, 19. Jesus set what example in maintaining hope, and how can we imitate him?
18 Jesus set the prime example in maintaining hope. Remember what he endured on the final night of his life on earth. An intimate friend betrayed him for money. Another denied even knowing him. The others abandoned him and fled. His own countrymen turned against him, crying out for his death by torture at the hands of Roman soldiers. It seems safe to say that Jesus faced heavier trials than we will ever face. What helped him? Hebrews 12:2 answers: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus never lost sight of “the joy that was set before him.”
19 What joy was set before Jesus? Well, he knew that by enduring, he would contribute to the sanctification of Jehovah’s holy name. He would provide the greatest possible proof that Satan is a liar. No hope could give Jesus greater joy! He knew, too, that Jehovah would richly reward his faithful course—that just ahead of him lay a wonderful time when he would be reunited with his Father. Jesus kept such a joyful hope in his mind throughout the worst of times. We need to do the same. We too have joy set before us. Jehovah dignifies each of us with the privilege of helping to sanctify his great name. We can prove Satan a liar by choosing Jehovah as our Sovereign and keeping ourselves safe in the love of our Father no matter what trials and temptations we may face.
20. What can help you to keep your thinking positive and hopeful?
20 Jehovah is not just willing to reward his faithful servants—he is eager to do so. (Isaiah 30:18; read Malachi 3:10.) He delights in granting his servants the righteous desires of their heart. (Psalm 37:4) So keep your mind firmly focused on the hope that lies before you. Never give in to the negative, degraded, twisted thinking of Satan’s old world. If you sense that the spirit of this world is making inroads into your mind or heart, pray fervently to Jehovah for “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” That God-given peace will guard your heart and your mental powers.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
21, 22. (a) What glorious hope do those of the “great crowd” cherish? (b) What part of the Christian hope means the most to you, and what is your resolve?
21 What a thrilling hope you have to ponder! If you are part of the “great crowd,” who will “come out of the great tribulation,” think of the life that will soon open up before you. (Revelation 7:9, 14) With Satan and his demons out of the way, you will feel relief that may be hard to fathom now. Who of us, after all, has ever experienced life without the pressure of Satan’s corrupting influence? With that pressure gone, what a joy it will be to work at transforming the earth into a paradise under the direction of Jesus and his 144,000 heavenly corulers! How we thrill at the prospect of seeing all sicknesses and infirmities done away with, of welcoming back our loved ones from the grave, of living life the way God meant us to live it! As we grow to perfection, an even greater reward will draw ever closer, the promise revealed at Romans 8:21—“the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
22 Jehovah wants you to attain a greater measure of freedom than you can even imagine. The path to that freedom lies in obedience. Is it not worth every effort you can put forth now to obey Jehovah day by day? By all means, then, continue to build yourself up on your most holy faith, that you may remain in God’s love for all eternity!
^ par. 12 Scientists say that we develop a special sense called proprioception, which is the body’s sense of its own orientation and the placement of the limbs. For example, this sense enables you to clap your hands with your eyes closed. One adult patient who lost her proprioception was unable to stand, walk, or even sit up as a result.