[From ws9/16 p. 8 October 31-November 6]

“You have contended with God and with men and you have at last prevailed.” – Ge 32:28

Paragraph 3 of this week’s Watchtower study quotes 1 Corinthians 9:26.  There Paul tells us that “the way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air…”  It is an interesting analogy, is it not?  One can imagine a fighter, rearing up to land a mighty blow, but if he misses, the force of the unspent blow will carry him off balance, waste energy and worst of all, make him vulnerable to his opponent.  In this case, Paul’s opponent is himself.  He adds:

“. . .but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1Co 9:27)

As Christians, we do not want to swing and miss, striking the air as it were.  Otherwise, we might become “disapproved somehow”.  The way to avoid this, according to this WT article, is to accept the help Jehovah gives us through “our Bible-based publications, Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions.”  (par. 3)  In short, do what the organization is telling you to do, otherwise, you will become disapproved.

Hold that thought.

One of our dear, anointed brothers wrote to me today, because he is nearing death and wishes to see his children before he dies.  However, they have been shunning him for years.  In the latest twist, the daughter has learned that he has been partaking and inexplicably has added this to the list of his “sins”.  She now demands that he stop partaking as a condition of her acquiescence to meet with him one last time before he dies.  Granted, she is going beyond even what the Organization teaches, but from where did such an attitude spring?  We’ve seen many others who have experienced opposition and shunning—both official and informal—because they dared to obey Christ’s command to partake.  This attitude is a result of years of exposure to “our Bible-based publications, Christian meetings, assemblies, and conventions.”  So tell me, are not such ones swinging and missing?  Are they not aiming their blows, but striking only air, being pulled off balance spiritual speaking; exposing their flank to the enemy?  Surely the devil delights in such misapplication of Scripture.

Paragraph 5 says:

To gain God’s approval and blessing, they should keep focused on the assurance that we read at Hebrews 11:6: “Whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him. – par. 5

There’s an interesting aspect to this verse.  Faith isn’t only about belief in God, but belief that he rewards those earnestly seeking him.  The writer of Hebrews points to several examples of such faith. The study article considers three of these—Jacob, Rachel, and Joseph—then adds Paul himself to the mix.  Now Paul understood more about the reward than pretty much anyone else ever has.  (1Co 12:1-4)  Yet even he didn’t understand it very well. He speaks of viewing it as a “hazy outline by means of a metal mirror.”  Jacob’s view, or that of Rachel and Joseph, would be even dimmer obviously, since the Christ had not yet come and the sacred secret had not yet been revealed. (Col 1:26-27)  Therefore, the belief that God “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him” is not based on a clear understanding of the reward.  It’s not like we have a contract where every feature of the reward is written down.  We don’t sign on the dotted line knowing exactly what we are going to get if we hold up our end of the bargain. On what then is it based?  It is based solely on our belief in the goodness of God.  That is what Jacob and Rachel and Joseph and Paul and all the rest based their faith on.  It is as if Jehovah has laid before us a blank piece of paper and asked us to sign. “I’ll fill in the details later”, he says.  Who would sign a blank document?  The world would say, “Only a fool”. But the man of faith says, “Hand me a pen.”

Paul assures us:

“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Co 2:9)

This is, unfortunately, not the kind of faith that most of my witness brethren demonstrate.  They have a very clear picture of the reward they preach about.  Mansion-like homes on country estates, bountiful food, acres of land, fields filled with domestic animals, and children playing with lions and tigers.  When the idea is put to them that they should be accepting the reward offered by Jesus to become children of God (John 1:12) and share with him in the kingdom of the heavens, their response is tantamount to saying, “Thanks, Jehovah, but no thanks. I’m really quite happy to live on the earth.  I’m sure the reward you are offering is all well and good for others, but for me, just give me life on earth.”

Now there is nothing wrong with living forever on earth. I’m not saying that the reward Jehovah is offering doesn’t include that.  That’s the point Paul is making. We don’t know exactly what it is, but that doesn’t matter.  Jehovah is offering it so it must be beyond good—beyond anything we can imagine with our puny human brains. So why not just trust in the goodness of God, put faith in his name (his character), and accept what he is offering with no questions asked and no doubts to dissuade us? – James 1:6-8

The remainder of the study gives counsel from the Bible to help Christians overcome a struggle against fleshly weaknesses.  We can take the counsel from God’s word and apply it and thus benefit.  This is what 1 Thessalonians 5:21 means when it tells us that after making sure of all things, we should hold on to what is fine. The rest, that which is not fine, should be discarded.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.
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