“Let no man deprive you of the prize.”—COL. 2:18.
SONGS: 122, 139
1, 2. (a) God’s servants look forward to what prize? (b) What helps us to keep our eyes on the prize? (See opening picture.)
LIKE the apostle Paul, spirit-anointed Christians today have the precious prospect of receiving “the prize of the upward call of God.” (Phil. 3:14) They look forward to serving with Jesus Christ in his heavenly Kingdom and sharing with him in bringing mankind to perfection. (Rev. 20:6) What a wonderful goal such ones have been invited by God to pursue! The other sheep have a different hope. They look forward to gaining the prize of everlasting life on earth—and what a happy prospect that is!—2 Pet. 3:13.
2 To help fellow anointed Christians to stay faithful and attain the prize, Paul urged them: “Keep your minds fixed on the things above.” (Col. 3:2) They were to keep in mind the precious hope of receiving their heavenly inheritance. (Col. 1:4, 5) Indeed, contemplating the blessings that Jehovah sets before his people helps all of God’s servants to keep their eyes on the prize, whether they have the heavenly or the earthly hope.—1 Cor. 9:24.
3. Paul alerted fellow Christians about what dangers?
3 Paul also alerted fellow Christians about dangers that could deprive them of the prize. For example, he wrote to the congregation in Colossae about false Christians who were trying to gain God’s favor through works of the Law rather than through faith in Christ. (Col. 2:16-18) Paul also discussed dangers that exist down to this day and that can deprive us of the prize. For instance, he explained how to resist immoral desires, handle problems with fellow believers, and deal with family difficulties. His counsel on these matters is valuable for us today. Therefore, let us examine some of Paul’s loving warnings found in his letter to the Colossians.
DEADEN IMMORAL DESIRES
4. Why can immoral desires deprive us of the prize?
4 After reminding his brothers of their marvelous hope, Paul wrote: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are on the earth as respects sexual immorality, uncleanness, uncontrolled sexual passion, hurtful desire, and greediness.” (Col. 3:5) Immoral desires can be very powerful and can deprive us of spiritual treasures. One brother who was swept away by immoral desires said after he returned to the congregation, “I was drawn by a force so powerful that I did not turn back until it was too late.”
5. How can we protect ourselves in dangerous situations?
5 It is especially important to be on guard when we are confronted by circumstances that could tempt us to compromise Jehovah’s moral standards. For example, it is wise for a couple, right from the start of a courtship, to set clear limits for themselves about such matters as touching, kissing, or being alone together. (Prov. 22:3) Morally dangerous situations may also come up when a Christian is away from home on a business trip or when a Christian has to work with someone of the opposite sex. (Prov. 2:10-12, 16) If you find yourself in such a situation, identify yourself as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, act in a respectable manner, and remember that flirting can have disastrous consequences. We may also find ourselves at greater risk if we are depressed and vulnerable. At such times, we may yearn for someone who makes us feel needed. We may even become so desperate for emotional support that we will accept attention from just about anyone. If that ever happens to you, turn to Jehovah and his people for help so as not to allow yourself to be deprived of the prize.—Read Psalm 34:18; Proverbs 13:20.
6. As to our choice of entertainment, what should we keep in mind?
6 To deaden immoral desires, we need to reject immoral entertainment. Much of the entertainment industry today has the characteristics of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 7) Industry leaders promote their ideas on morals by presenting sexual immorality as normal behavior, free of painful consequences. We cannot let our guard down, passively accepting any entertainment that is offered. We need to select forms of entertainment that will not hinder us from keeping our eyes on the prize of life.—Prov. 4:23.
“CLOTHE YOURSELVES WITH” LOVE AND KINDNESS
7. What problems might we face within the Christian congregation?
7 We all agree that being part of the Christian congregation is a blessing. The study of God’s Word at our meetings and the kind and loving support that we give one another help us to keep our eyes focused on the prize. Nevertheless, at times, misunderstandings may lead to some tension among members of the congregation. If we fail to resolve such problems, they could easily lead to feelings of resentment.—Read 1 Peter 3:8, 9.
8, 9. (a) Having what qualities will help us to win the prize? (b) What can help us to preserve peace if a fellow Christian upsets us?
8 How can we prevent resentment from depriving us of the prize? Paul urged the Colossians: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, humility, mildness, and patience. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Just as Jehovah freely forgave you, you must also do the same. But besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:12-14.
9 Love and kindness can help us to be forgiving toward one another. For example, if we feel hurt by the words or actions of a fellow Christian, we can try to recall occasions when we spoke or acted unkindly. Do we not appreciate the love and kindness of the brothers and sisters who overlooked our errors? (Read Ecclesiastes 7:21, 22.) Especially are we thankful for Christ’s kindness in gathering true worshippers into unity. (Col. 3:15) We all love the same God, preach the same message, and face many of the same challenges. By kindly and lovingly forgiving one another, we contribute to Christian unity and keep our eyes on the prize of life.
10, 11. (a) Why is jealousy dangerous? (b) How can we prevent jealousy from depriving us of our reward?
10 Warning examples in the Bible remind us that jealousy can deprive us of the prize. For instance, Cain became jealous of his brother Abel and killed him. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram became jealous of Moses and opposed him. Also, King Saul became jealous of David’s success and tried to kill him. No wonder God’s Word states: “Wherever there are jealousy and contentiousness, there will also be disorder and every vile thing.”—Jas. 3:16.
11 If we cultivate love and kindness in our heart, we will not easily become jealous. God’s Word says: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous.” (1 Cor. 13:4) To prevent jealousy from taking root in our heart, we must strive to see things from God’s standpoint, viewing our brothers and sisters as members of the same Christian body. This will help us to show fellow feeling, in harmony with the inspired counsel: “If a member is glorified, all the other members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:16-18, 26) Thus, rather than feel jealous, we will be happy when others receive blessings. Consider the example of King Saul’s son Jonathan. He was not jealous when David was appointed heir to the throne. Rather, he encouraged David. (1 Sam. 23:16-18) Could we be as kind and loving as Jonathan?
WIN THE PRIZE AS A FAMILY
12. Heeding what Scriptural counsel will help us to attain the prize as a family?
12 Applying Bible principles can bring peace and happiness to a family and help them to win the prize. What Scriptural counsel for families did Paul give to Christians in Colossae? He stated: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord. You husbands, keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them. You children, be obedient to your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord. You fathers, do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted.” (Col. 3:18-21) No doubt you will agree that applying Paul’s inspired counsel will still benefit husbands, wives, and children.
13. How could a Christian sister win over her unbelieving husband?
13 What if you are a wife and you feel that your unbelieving husband does not treat you properly? Would you improve the situation by arguing about his behavior? Even if you succeed in making him do what you want, will you win him over to the truth? Not likely. But if you show respect for your husband’s headship, you can contribute to peace in the family, you will praise Jehovah, and you may even win your husband over to true worship; thus you both may gain the prize.—Read 1 Peter 3:1, 2.
14. What should a Christian husband do if his unbelieving wife does not respect him?
14 What if you are a husband and you feel that your unbelieving wife does not respect you? Would you move her to show you more respect if you were to shout at her to show her who is boss? Absolutely not! God expects you to exercise headship lovingly, in imitation of Jesus. (Eph. 5:23) Jesus exercises his headship over his congregation with loving patience. (Luke 9:46-48) By imitating Jesus’ example, a husband may win his wife over to true worship.
15. How does a Christian man express his love for his wife?
15 Husbands are told: “Keep on loving your wives and do not be bitterly angry with them.” (Col. 3:19) A loving husband honors his wife by listening to her opinions and by assuring her that he values what she says. (1 Pet. 3:7) Although he cannot always do as she asks, he often arrives at a more balanced decision by consulting her. (Prov. 15:22) A loving husband tries to gain his wife’s respect by earning it rather than demanding it. A husband who loves his wife and children is more likely to have a family that happily serves Jehovah and wins the prize of life.
YOUTHS—LET NOTHING DEPRIVE YOU OF THE PRIZE!
16, 17. As a youth, how can you avoid becoming overly frustrated with your parents?
16 What if you are a teenager and feel misunderstood and restricted by your Christian parents? Your frustration might even make you doubt that serving Jehovah is the best way of life. But if you allow frustration to make you give up serving Jehovah, you would soon discover that no one else cares for you more genuinely than your God-fearing parents and your congregation.
17 If your parents never corrected you, would you not wonder if they really cared about you? (Heb. 12:8) But perhaps it is the way your parents discipline you that upsets you. Rather than fret over the manner of discipline, try to recognize that there may be a reason for the way they act. So keep calm and do your best to avoid overreacting to criticism. God’s Word says: “A man of knowledge restrains his words, and a discerning man will remain calm.” (Prov. 17:27) Make it your goal to become a mature person who can take counsel calmly, benefiting from it without worrying excessively about how it was given. (Prov. 1:8) To have believing parents who truly love Jehovah is a blessing. They will surely want to help you to win the prize of life.
18. Why are you resolved to keep your eyes on the prize?
18 The prize before us—whether immortal life in heaven or everlasting life on a paradise earth—is marvelous to contemplate. It is a sure hope, one based on the promise of the Creator himself. Regarding the Paradise earth, God says: “The earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” (Isa. 11:9) Everyone then living on earth will be taught by God. That is surely a prize worth striving for. So keep your mind on what Jehovah has promised, and let nothing deprive you of the prize!