Be Obedient and Courageous as Christ Was
“Take courage! I have conquered the world.”—JOHN 16:33.
1. How complete was Jesus’ obedience to God?
JESUS CHRIST always did God’s will. Not once did he even entertain the thought of disobeying his heavenly Father. (John 4:34; Heb. 7:26) But his circumstances on earth did not make it easy for him to be obedient. From the beginning of his preaching career, Jesus’ enemies, including Satan himself, tried to convince, force, or trick Jesus into abandoning his course of faithfulness. (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 20:20-25) These enemies caused Jesus intense mental, emotional, and physical pain. Ultimately, they succeeded in bringing about his death on the torture stake. (Matt. 26:37, 38; Luke 22:44; John 19:1, 17, 18) Through all of this, and despite profound suffering, Jesus remained “obedient as far as death.”—Read Philippians 2:8.
2, 3. What can we learn from Jesus’ being obedient despite his experiencing suffering?
2 Jesus’ experience as a human on earth taught him new aspects of obedience. (Heb. 5:8) It may seem that there could be nothing more for Jesus to learn about serving Jehovah. After all, he had enjoyed intimate association with Jehovah for unknown aeons and had been God’s “master worker” during creation. (Prov. 8:30) Nevertheless, personally enduring in faith as a human despite suffering proved his complete integrity. Jesus, the Son of God, grew spiritually. What can we learn from his experience?
3 Although he was a perfect man, Jesus did not try to remain perfectly obedient on his own. He prayed for God’s help to remain obedient. (Read Hebrews 5:7.) For us to remain obedient, we too need a humble, prayerful attitude. For this reason, the apostle Paul counseled Christians: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus,” who “humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.” (Phil. 2:5-8) Jesus’ course proved that obedience is possible for humans even amid a wicked society. Granted, Jesus was perfect, but what about imperfect humans like us?
Obedient Despite Imperfection
4. What does being created as free moral agents mean for us?
4 God created Adam and Eve as intelligent creatures and free moral agents. As their descendants, we too are free moral agents. What does that mean? It means that we can decide to do good or to do bad. In other words, God has given us the freedom to choose to obey him or to disobey. Along with such great freedom comes responsibility, accountability. Indeed, our moral decisions mean life or death for us. They also impact on those around us.
5. What struggle do we all have, and how can we be successful?
5 Because of our inherited imperfection, obedience does not come naturally. It is not always easy to obey God’s laws. Paul faced this struggle. He wrote: “I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” (Rom. 7:23) Of course, when no sacrifice, pain, or inconvenience is involved, obedience is easier. But how do we respond when there is a conflict between our desire to be obedient and “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes”? These negative forces arise from our imperfection as well as from the influence of “the spirit of the world” around us, and they are very powerful. (1 John 2:16; 1 Cor. 2:12) To resist them, we must ‘prepare our heart’ before we are faced with a crisis or temptation and determine that we will obey Jehovah, come what may. (Ps. 78:8) We have many Biblical examples of those who were successful because they did prepare their heart.—Ezra 7:10; Dan. 1:8.
6, 7. Illustrate how personal study can help us make wise choices.
6 One way to prepare our heart is by diligently studying the Scriptures and Bible-based publications. Imagine yourself in the following situation. Suppose it is your evening for personal study. You have just prayed for Jehovah’s spirit to help you to apply what you learn from his Word. You have plans to watch a particular movie on TV the next evening. You have heard that it received favorable reviews; yet you also know that it contains some immorality and violence.
7 You ponder Paul’s counsel at Ephesians 5:3: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.” You also recall Paul’s advice at Philippians 4:8. (Read.) As you weigh this inspired counsel, you ask yourself, ‘If I deliberately expose my heart and mind to such programs, am I following Jesus’ example of strict obedience to God?’ What will you do? Will you go ahead and watch that movie anyway?
8. Why must we maintain high moral and spiritual standards?
8 It would be a mistake to lower our moral and spiritual standards, perhaps thinking that we are strong enough to resist the effects of bad association, including when that association might be in the form of violent, immoral entertainment. Instead, we must protect ourselves and our children from the corrupting influences of Satan’s spirit. Computer users take pains to prevent their equipment from becoming infected with malicious viruses that can destroy data, interfere with operation, and even take over the machine and use it in an attack on other computers. Should we be any less vigilant in protecting ourselves from Satan’s “crafty acts”?—Eph. 6:11, ftn.
9. Why must we be determined every day to obey Jehovah?
9 Practically every day, in some way we have to choose if we will do things Jehovah’s way or not. In order to gain salvation, we must obey God and live by his righteous principles. By following Christ’s example of obedience even “as far as death,” we show that our faith is real. Jehovah will reward our faithful course. Jesus promised: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13) Clearly, this calls for developing true courage, such as Jesus displayed.—Ps. 31:24.
Jesus—The Foremost Example of Courage
10. What kinds of pressures may be put on us, and how should we respond?
10 Surrounded as we are by this world’s attitudes and conduct, we need courage to resist contamination. Christians deal with moral, social, financial, and religious pressures that could cause them to deviate from Jehovah’s righteous ways. Many face family opposition. In some countries, educational institutions promote the theory of evolution ever more aggressively, and atheism is gaining more attention. In the face of such pressures, we cannot merely hunker down and do nothing. We must take action in order to resist and thus protect ourselves. Jesus’ example shows us how we can succeed.
11. How can reflecting on Jesus’ example give us more courage?
11 Jesus told his disciples: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) He never yielded to the world’s influence. He never allowed the world to stop him from carrying out his preaching commission or to cause him to lower his standards for true worship and proper conduct; nor should we. In prayer, Jesus said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Studying Christ’s courageous example and reflecting on it can give us the necessary courage to remain separate from the world.
Learn Courage From Jesus
12-14. Give examples of Jesus’ showing courage.
12 Jesus manifested great courage throughout his ministry. Exercising his authority as God’s Son, he fearlessly “entered into the temple and threw out all those selling and buying in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” (Matt. 21:12) When soldiers came to arrest Jesus on his last night on earth, he courageously stepped forward to protect his disciples, saying: “If . . . it is I you are looking for, let these go.” (John 18:8) Moments later, he told Peter to put away his sword, thus showing that the source of Jesus’ confidence lay, not in earthly weapons, but in Jehovah.—John 18:11.
13 Jesus fearlessly exposed the unloving false teachers of his day and their wrong teachings. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men,” Jesus told them. “You have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness. . . . You cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of plunder and immoderateness.” (Matt. 23:13, 23, 25) Jesus’ disciples would need similar courage because false religious leaders would also persecute them and kill some of them.—Matt. 23:34; 24:9.
14 Jesus took a courageous stand even against the demons. On one occasion, he was confronted by a demon-possessed man so strong that no one could bind that man with a chain. Unintimidated, Jesus expelled the many demons that held the man in their control. (Mark 5:1-13) Today, God has not given Christians the power to perform such miracles. Still, in our preaching and teaching, we too must wage spiritual warfare against Satan, the one who has “blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 4:4) As in Jesus’ case, our weapons “are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things”—deeply ingrained but wrong religious notions. (2 Cor. 10:4) In wielding these spiritual weapons, we learn much from Jesus’ example.
15. On what was Jesus’ courage based?
15 Jesus’ courage was based, not on bravado, but on faith. Ours must be too. (Mark 4:40) How can we acquire real faith? Again, Jesus’ example guides us. He displayed a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and complete confidence in them. As a weapon, Jesus wielded, not a literal sword, but the sword of the spirit, God’s Word. Time and again he supported his teachings with a reference to the Scriptures. Often he prefaced his words with the statement: “It is written,” that is, in God’s Word. *
16. How can we gain greater faith?
16 To build faith that can withstand the trials of the sort that inevitably come with discipleship, we must read and study the Bible daily and attend Christian meetings, putting into our minds the truths that are the foundation of faith. (Rom. 10:17) We must also meditate—reflect deeply—on what we learn, letting it sink into our heart. Only faith that is alive can move us to courageous action. (Jas. 2:17) And we must pray for holy spirit because faith is part of the spirit’s fruitage.—Gal. 5:22.
17, 18. How did one young sister show courage in school?
17 A young sister named Kitty experienced how real faith gives courage. From an early age, she knew that she should not be “ashamed of the good news” in school, and she really wanted to give a good witness to her fellow students. (Rom. 1:16) Each year, she resolved to reach out to others with the good news, but she held back for lack of courage. When she was in her late teens, she changed schools. She said, “This time, I am going to make up for the opportunities I have let slip.” Kitty prayed for Christlike courage, discretion, and the right opportunity.
18 On the first day of school, the students were asked to introduce themselves one by one. Several mentioned their religious background, adding that they did not really practice their faith. Kitty realized that this was the opportunity she had prayed for. When her turn came, she confidently said, “I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and my source of guidance in spiritual and moral matters is the Bible.” As she continued, some students rolled their eyes. But others paid attention and later asked questions. The teacher even used Kitty as a good example of standing up for one’s beliefs. Kitty is very glad to have learned from Jesus’ courageous example.
Show Christlike Faith and Courage
19. (a) What does having real faith involve? (b) How can we bring Jehovah delight?
19 The apostles too realized that their courageous actions must be based on faith. They implored Jesus: “Give us more faith.” (Read Luke 17:5, 6.) Having real faith means more than merely believing that God exists. It involves developing a deep, trusting relationship with Jehovah, not unlike the relationship a small child has with a kind and loving father. Under inspiration, Solomon wrote: “My son, if your heart has become wise, my heart will rejoice, even mine. And my kidneys will exult when your lips speak uprightness.” (Prov. 23:15, 16) In the same way, our courageously standing up for righteous principles brings Jehovah delight, and knowing that increases our courage. Therefore, let us always imitate Jesus’ example, taking a courageous stand for righteousness!
Can You Explain?
• What will enable us to remain obedient despite being imperfect?
• On what is real faith based, and how can this help us to be courageous?
• What will result from our being obedient and showing Christlike courage?
[Picture on page 13]
Are you ‘preparing your heart’ to resist temptations?
[Picture on page 15]
Like Jesus, we can show courage based on faith