Are You Focusing on the Reward?
THE disease progresses slowly. Initially, it reduces a person’s peripheral vision. Left untreated, it can spread toward the center of vision. Ultimately, it can cause complete loss of sight. What is it? Glaucoma–a leading cause of blindness.
Just as we can lose literal eyesight slowly and insidiously, we can lose an even more precious form of sight–our spiritual vision. Therefore, it is vital to keep spiritual matters in sharp focus in the center of our field of vision.
Keeping the Reward in Focus
Among “the things unseen” to our literal eyes is the glorious reward of eternal life, which Jehovah holds out to his loyal ones. (2Â Corinthians 4:18) Of course, the prime reason Christians serve God is that they love him. (Matthew 22:37) Nonetheless, Jehovah wants us to look forward to our reward. He wants us to see him as a generous Father who is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Hence, those who really know God and love him treasure his promised blessings and yearn for their fulfillment.–Romans 8:19, 24,Â 25.
Many readers of this journal and its companion, Awake!, enjoy the artwork portraying the coming Paradise earth. Of course, we do not know exactly what the Paradise earth will look like, and the pictures published are simply artistic impressions based on such Bible passages as Isaiah 11:6-9.Â Nevertheless, one Christian woman said: “When I see pictures of the coming Paradise in The Watchtower and Awake!, I examine them closely, as one would a travel brochure. I endeavor to see myself there because this is where I truly hope to be in God’s due time.”
The apostle Paul felt similarly about his “upward call.” He did not consider himself as having already laid hold on it, for he had to prove himself faithful to the end. But he continued “stretching forward to the things ahead.” (Philippians 3:13,Â 14) Likewise, Jesus endured death on a torture stake “for the joy that was set before him.”–Hebrews 12:2.
Have you ever doubted whether you will enter the new world? It is certainly good not to be overconfident, since our receiving the prize of life is dependent on our remaining faithful to the end. (Matthew 24:13) However, if we are trying our best to meet God’s requirements, we have every reason to be confident of attaining the reward. Remember that Jehovah “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2Â Peter 3:9) If we trust in Jehovah, he will help us to attain our goal. Indeed, it is contrary to his nature to search for reasons to disqualify those sincerely trying to please him.–Psalm 103:8-11; 130:3,Â 4; Ezekiel 18:32.
Knowing how Jehovah feels toward his people gives us hope–a quality of equal importance to faith. (1Â Corinthians 13:13) The Greek word translated “hope” in the Bible carries the idea of an eager “expectation of good.” With such hope in mind, the apostle Paul wrote: “We desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11,Â 12) Notice that if we continue to serve Jehovah faithfully, we can be assured of realizing our hope. Unlike many worldly aspirations, this hope “does not lead to disappointment.” (Romans 5:5) So how can we keep our hope bright and in sharp focus?
How to Sharpen Our Spiritual Focus
Our physical eyes cannot focus on two things at the same time. The same is true of our spiritual vision. Focusing on things of the present system will surely put God’s promised new world somewhat out of focus in our minds. In time, this blurred, peripheral image may lose its appeal and simply disappear from view. What a tragedy that would be! (Luke 21:34) How important, therefore, that we keep a ‘simple eye’–one that stays focused on God’s Kingdom and the reward of everlasting life!–Matthew 6:22.
Keeping a simple eye is not always easy. Day-to-day problems demand our attention, and distractions–even temptations–may lie in our path. Under these circumstances, how can we stay focused on the Kingdom and God’s promised new world without neglecting other necessary activities? Let us consider three ways.
Study God’s Word daily. Regular reading of the Bible and study of Bible-based publications help us to keep our minds centered on spiritual matters. True, we may have been studying God’s Word for years, but we must continue to study it, just as we need to keep eating physical food in order to sustain our lives. We do not stop eating simply because we have eaten thousands of meals in the past. So regardless of how familiar we are with the Bible, we need an ongoing, regular intake of spiritual nourishment from it in order to keep our hope bright and our faith and love strong.–Psalm 1:1-3.
Meditate appreciatively on God’s Word. Why is meditation essential? For two reasons. First, meditation enables us to assimilate what we read and to develop heart appreciation for it. Second, meditation prevents us from forgetting Jehovah, his wonderful works, and the hope he has set before us. To illustrate: The Israelites who left Egypt with Moses saw with their own eyes displays of Jehovah’s awesome power. They also felt his loving protection as he led them toward their inheritance. Yet, no sooner did the Israelites reach the wilderness en route to the Promised Land than they began to complain, revealing a serious lack of faith. (Psalm 78:11-17) What was their problem?
The people shifted their focus from Jehovah and the wonderful hope he set before them to their immediate comforts and fleshly concerns. Despite the miraculous signs and wonders they had personally witnessed, many Israelites became faithless complainers. “Quickly they forgot [Jehovah’s] works,” says Psalm 106:13. Such inexcusable negligence cost that generation entry into the Promised Land.
Thus, when reading the Scriptures or Bible study aids, take time to meditate on what you read. Such reflection is vital to your spiritual health and growth. For example, when reading Psalm 106, quoted above in part, meditate on Jehovah’s qualities. Observe how patient and merciful he was with the Israelites. See how he did all he possibly could to help them reach the Promised Land. Note how they continually rebelled against him. Feel Jehovah’s anguish and pain as his mercy and patience were stretched to the very limit by a people who were callously unappreciative. Further, by meditating on versesÂ 30 and 31, which describe Phinehas’ firm, courageous stand for righteousness, we are assured that Jehovah does not forget his loyal ones and that he rewards them abundantly.
Apply Bible principles in your life. As we follow Bible principles, we see for ourselves that Jehovah’s counsel works. Proverbs 3:5, 6 says: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” Think about how the immoral ways of many people have caused a backlash of mental, emotional, and physical problems. By indulging in momentary pleasures, such people reap years–even a lifetime–of woe. In sharp contrast, those who walk the ‘cramped road’ get a foretaste of new system living, and this encourages them to continue on the path to life.–Matthew 7:13,Â 14; Psalm 34:8.
Applying Bible principles can be a challenge. At times, an unscriptural solution may seem to promise immediate relief in a trying situation. During times of financial difficulty, for example, it may be tempting to relegate Kingdom interests to second place. However, those who act in faith and maintain their spiritual focus are assured that in the end “it will turn out well with those fearing the true God.” (Ecclesiastes 8:12) A Christian may have to work overtime on occasion, but never will he become like Esau, who despised spiritual things, dismissing them as of no importance.–Genesis 25:34; Hebrews 12:16.
Jesus clearly explained our responsibilities as Christians. We are to ‘keep on seeking first the kingdom and God’s righteousness.’ (Matthew 6:33) If we do so, Jehovah will demonstrate his fatherly love for us by ensuring that we have what we need in a material way. He certainly does not want us to burden ourselves with anxiety over things that he says come under his care. Such undue anxiety can be like spiritual glaucoma–untended, it will slowly narrow our vision down to material concerns and ultimately make us spiritually blind. If we remain in that condition, Jehovah’s day will come upon us “as a snare.” What a tragedy that would be!–Luke 21:34-36.
Stay Focused Like Joshua
Let us keep our glorious Kingdom hope in sharp focus, putting other responsibilities in their proper place. By persisting in the routine of study, meditation, and application of Bible principles, we can stay confident of our hope as Joshua did. Having led Israel into the Promised Land, he said: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”–Joshua 23:14.
May the Kingdom hope energize you, and may it brighten your days as it is reflected in your thoughts, feelings, decisions, and activities.–Proverbs 15:15; Romans 12:12.