“Happy are the dead who die in union with the Lord from this time onward. Yes, says the spirit, let them rest from their labors, for the things they did go right with them.”
Amidst so many judgments relative to the imminent destruction of the wicked, there is this passage of hope reminding us that Jehovah never forgets what we do for him. (Heb. 6:10) While here it is speaking specifically of the “holy ones” who will reign with Christ in heaven, we can be sure that anyone making sincere sacrifices in God’s name does not go unappreciated. (Mal. 3:16; Rev. 13:10; 14:12)
“[…] God is not ashamed of them, to be called on as their God […].”
This verse leads me to wonder if I sometimes conduct myself in a way that would embarrass God because I carry his name.
Psalm 15 lists some qualities expected of friends of God: showing integrity, being honest, honoring those who deserve it, rejecting gossip, keeping our word, kindly sharing material things, and rejecting corruption.
God’s Word tells us the importance of believing in him to the point that we do not doubt his individual love for us. (Heb. 11:6)
Other qualities include being willing to make an honest living, and to not entertain ourselves with violence or other activities he hates. (Is. 33:15,16)
And while we may feel unworthy of being called God’s friend, we need humility to keep trying to meet his standards. (Ps. 16:7)
“Whoever is joined to the Lord is one with him in spirit.”
~1 Corinthians 6:17
Bible prophecy says it would be harder to cultivate self control during the time of the end. (2 Tim. 3:1,3)
If even the Apostle Paul felt he was at war with himself, how can I keep my body morally pure? (Rom. 7:19,22-24)
God’s Word warns me not to trust my own heart. (Jer. 17:9)
Instead, I can pray to Jehovah to create in me a new heart- one that is consistently loyal to him. (Ps. 51:10)
I can also pray for holy spirit to have the strength to resist temptation. (Rom. 8:26; Phil. 4:6,7)
I need to remember that my actions affect others, many of whom could be discouraged if I carry on a fleshly course. (2 Cor. 6:3,4)
Jesus said one should not even entertain the idea of infidelity. (Luke 16:10; Rom. 13:14)
It is comforting to know that despite my shortcomings, God is willing to patiently help me be a better person. (Ps. 130:3; 1 Cor.6:19,20)
“Israel, although pursuing a law of righteousness, did not attain to that law. For what reason? Because they pursued it, not by faith, but as by works.”
Once we have established a good spiritual routine that includes regular prayer and Bible reading, as well as participating at Christian meetings and the public ministry, we should be careful not to do things mechanically. (Ps. 1:1-3; 22:22; Ro. 10:14,15; 1 Th. 5:17)
The nation of Israel had received a rich spiritual heritage which should have led them to clearly identify God’s messiah.
But they concentrated so much on preserving traditions that they missed the point of what it meant to be dedicated to God. (Matt. 23:23,24)
When serving God is our way of life for a long period of time, we can begin to take some aspects of our worship for granted.
Perhaps we stop looking up Scriptures that we think we know by heart. Or our prayers gradually become more repetitive in choice of words. Maybe we don’t prepare for a Bible study if we already went over the material with a previous student. Or we wait till the last minute to prepare a meeting assignment we received weeks in advance.
If we don’t take the time to meditate on the unique value of our relationship with God and his people, our faith may become strained. Then we could lose our joy and start to forget why we dedicated our lives to Jehovah. (1 John 5:3)
“You have lied, not to men, but to God. […] Why did you two agree to make a test of the spirit of Jehovah?”
Ananias and his wife Sapphira were members of the Christian congregation in Jerusalem.
They tried to deceive their brothers and sisters by claiming they had contributed more than they had really given. (Acts 5:1,2)
Some people lie to preserve their reputation or advance their interests.
While some can deceive their friends and family, it is impossible to deceive God. (He. 4:13)
The Apostle Peter acted as God’s representative when he questioned Ananias and his wife about their deception.
He was moved to do so by God’s holy spirit.
In that sense, the couple was trying to lie to God.
As imperfect humans, from time to time we may be tempted to try to get away with improper behavior even while we serve Jehovah.
We must remember that Jehovah hates deception to the point of equating it with violence. (Ps. 5:6; Prov. 6:16,17)
If we learn to be honest with ourselves and with those around us, we can maintain a good standing before God. (Zech. 8:16,17; Luke 6:45)
“Let us also go, so that we may die with him.”
While most Christians do not die as martyrs on account of their faith, the Apostle Thomas set a good example of willingness to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice.
Two attempts against Jesus’ life had already been made in Judea. (John 8:59; 10:31)
Still, Jesus courageously returned to the area with the intention of resurrecting his friend, Lazarus. (John 11:11,14,15)
Jesus later emphasized the need to be self-sacrificing when he returned to Jerusalem a week before his death.
He prayed, “Father, save me out of this hour. Nevertheless, this is why I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27,28)
Jesus knew he was about to endure a great deal of pain, but he put his Father’s plan before his own comfort.
He trusted his followers would be willing to do the same, and Jehovah blesses them for that. (John 12:25,26)
“Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things. I will appoint you over many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”
In Jesus’ illustration of the slaves and the talents, one slave was responsible for the equivalent of 102 kg of silver (~225 lbs.), or what was back then about 100 years’ wages for a common laborer.
The second slave was responsible for 40.8 kg of silver (~90 lbs.), or about 40 years’ wages.
They both doubled their master’s initial capital by immediately investing it. (Matt. 25:16,17)
Jesus focused on the effort each made and in the story, each received the exact same compensation.
This shows me that God does not value my service to him depending on how many privileges I may hold within the congregation, but on how much effort I individually put forth in serving him wholeheartedly.
He focuses on quality, and as long as I am doing everything I can to be a true Christian, I will receive as many blessings as someone who perhaps bears more responsibility. (Matt. 25:29)
“He said to them: ‘You will indeed drink my cup […].'”
When James and John asked their mother to ask Jesus if they could sit on either side of him in his kingdom, Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking for. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (Matt. 20:22)
To this, they resolutely replied, “We can.”
Jesus’ companions had already left behind a successful fishing business to follow him, and he trusted them. (Mark 1:19,20)
He affectionately called them “the Sons of Thunder” perhaps because of their impetuous zeal. (Mark 3:17)
About eleven years later, James proved he could “drink the cup” of martyrdom when Herod Agrippa executed him. (Acts 12:1,2)
Despite outliving the other apostles, John also followed Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice when he was exiled to the island of Patmos for bearing witness. (Re. 1:9)
Jesus trusted they would remain loyal, and they did not disappoint.
They learned to slave for their brothers instead of seeking prominence. (Matt. 20:25-27)
Like Jesus, we should trust our brothers in the congregation will remain loyal despite their imperfections as we strive to do the same.
“[…] My yoke is kindly, and my load is light.”
Is there such a thing as a refreshing burden?
God’s Word promises “his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
Jesus invites his followers to submit to his direction under his “yoke.” (Matt. 11:28,29)
The idea of carrying a yoke or letting someone else decide our way of life may not attract us.
But if we follow Christ’s footsteps, we will find spiritual and emotional healing. (1 Pet. 2:21, 24)
In that sense, committing to a Christian lifestyle is refreshing instead of burdensome.
The more we learn about God’s love, the more we enjoy a life of service to him.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
What do you value most in life? What consumes the greater part of your time and effort?
Although Jesus did not have wealth or a prominent career, he was obviously successful in carrying out his life’s work.
Doing his father’s will was in his heart, and he found happiness in teaching others God’s kingdom message. (Acts 20:35)
If we were to focus our resources on selfish pursuits, we would probably eventually find them to be vain and unsatisfying. (Eccl. 2:11)
But if we guard our hearts from selfish desires and follow Christ’s example of selflessness, we will discover the happiness that only God can give, while successfully securing our future. (1 Ti. 6:18,19)