*** yp chap. 39 pp. 311-319 How Can I Get Close to God? ***
(Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society)
How Can I Get Close to God?
CLOSE—to God? To many people, God seems to be an aloof, distant figure, an impersonal ‘First Cause.’ The idea of being close to him may thus seem disquieting, even frightening to you.
Then again, your experience may be like that of a young woman named Lynda. Lynda was raised by Christian parents and recalls: “In all [my teen] years, I rarely missed a Christian meeting, and I have never missed a month of preaching activity, yet I never really developed a close personal relationship with Jehovah.”
Your very future, though, depends upon your getting close to God. Said Jesus Christ: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God.” (John 17:3) This “knowledge” is more than the ability to learn or recite facts—an atheist could do that. It involves cultivating a relationship with God, becoming his friend. (Compare James 2:23.) Far from being unapproachable, God invites us to “seek . . . and really find him,” for “he is not far off from each one of us.”—Acts 17:27.
How You Can Come to Know God
Have you ever gazed at the distant stars, listened with wonderment to the roaring sea, been enchanted by a graceful butterfly, or marveled at the delicate beauty of a tiny leaf? These works of God all give but a glimpse of his immense power, wisdom, and love. God’s “invisible qualities . . . are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.”—Romans 1:19, 20.
However, you need to know more about God than creation alone can reveal. God has therefore provided his written Word. That book reveals God to be, not some nameless entity or impersonal force, but a real Person with a name. “Know that Jehovah is God,” declares the psalmist. (Psalm 100:3) The Bible also reveals the Person behind that name: “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) Its detailed record of God’s dealings with mankind allows us, in effect, to see God in action! Reading the Bible is thus an essential part of getting close to God.
Making Bible Reading Pleasurable
Admittedly, the Bible is a long book to read. Its sheer bulk often frightens youths away from reading it. Some also complain that the Bible is boring. The Bible, though, is God’s revelation to man. It tells us how we got here and where we are going. It spells out exactly what we must do to live forever in Paradise on earth. How could that possibly be boring? Granted, the Bible is not light reading, and in it are “some things hard to understand.” (2 Peter 3:16) But Bible reading need not be drudgery.
Young Marvin gives one practical way to make Bible reading more interesting, saying: “I try to picture the setting and put myself there.” Consider, for instance, the account in Daniel chapter 6. Instead of reading it passively, try to imagine that you are Daniel. You have been arrested on the outrageous charge of praying to your God. The penalty? Death! Persian soldiers roughly drag you to your tomb—a pit filled with hungry lions.
With a low rumble, the huge stone covering the pit is rolled back. The lions below let loose spine-tingling roars. Recoiling in horror, you are overpowered by the king’s soldiers, who pitch you into that pit of death and roll the stone back over the hole. And in the enshrouding gloom, a furry presence rubs up against you . . .
Boring? Hardly! But remember: You are not reading to be entertained. Try to discern what the account teaches about Jehovah. For example, do not Daniel’s experiences demonstrate that Jehovah allows his servants to face difficult trials?
Try, also, to have a regular reading schedule. Why, if you spend just 15 minutes a day reading the Bible, you might be able to complete it in about a year! ‘Buy out the time’ from some less important activity—like TV watching. (Ephesians 5:16) As you apply yourself to Bible reading, you are bound to feel closer than ever to God.—Proverbs 2:1, 5.
Prayer Draws You Close to Him
A teenage girl named Laverne observed, “It’s hard to say you really have a personal relationship with someone if you don’t talk to him.” As the “Hearer of prayer,” Jehovah invites us to talk to him. (Psalm 65:2) If we pray to him in faith, “no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us.”—1 John 5:14.
Lynda (mentioned earlier) learned this from personal experience. She recalls that at a certain point in her life, when problems and tensions were building up, she ‘prayed incessantly for days for answers to her problems.’ God, who had seemed so distant before, began to seem near to her as she found the strength to cope with her difficulties. Another youth, named Kay, similarly learned the value of prayer: “Sometimes you just feel like expressing your inner feelings to someone, and there is no one better than Jehovah to express them to because Jehovah understands, and you know that he is the only one who can really help you.”
But does prayer simply provide emotional relief? No, James 1:2-5 assures us that when meeting with various trials, we should “keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” God may not provide escape from the trial, but he guarantees us the wisdom to deal with that trial! He may call to your mind Bible principles that bear on the matter. (Compare John 14:26.) Or he may see to it that certain matters are brought to your attention through your personal study of the Bible or at Christian meetings. And don’t forget, “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but . . . he will also make the way out.” Yes, he will not leave you “in the lurch.” (1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 4:9) Would you not feel closer to God, having experienced his help in coping with a trial?
But do not pray only about personal problems. In his model prayer, Jesus gave primary importance to the sanctification of Jehovah’s name, the coming of His Kingdom, and the realization of God’s will. (Matthew 6:9-13) “Supplication along with thanksgiving” is also a vital ingredient in prayer.—Philippians 4:6.
What if you simply find prayer awkward? Pray about that! Ask God to help you open your heart before him. “Persevere in prayer,” and in time you will find that you can talk as freely to Jehovah as you do with a close friend. (Romans 12:12) “I know that whenever I have a problem,” says young Maria, “I can turn to Jehovah for guidance and he will help me.”
It is not necessary to address God with fancy or pretentious language. “Before him pour out your heart,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 62:8) Let him know your feelings, your concerns. Ask him for help in dealing with your weaknesses. Pray for his blessing upon your family and upon fellow Christians. Beg him for forgiveness when you err. Thank him daily for the gift of life. When prayer becomes a regular part of your life, it can bring you into a close and happy relationship with Jehovah God.
Publicly Declaring Your Friendship With God
Having begun to enjoy a friendship with God, should you not be eager to help others gain that precious relationship too? Indeed, it is a requirement for those who wish to be God’s friends that they make “public declaration for salvation.”—Romans 10:10.
Many begin by sharing their faith informally, talking to schoolmates, neighbors, and relatives. Later on, they join Jehovah’s Witnesses in their work of preaching “from house to house.” (Acts 5:42) For some youths, though, this public work is a stumbling block. “I think a lot of young people are embarrassed to go from house to house,” says one young Christian. “They’re afraid of how their friends will look at them.”
But whose approval do you really value—that of your peers or that of your heavenly Friend, Jehovah? Should you let fear or embarrassment hinder you from gaining salvation? “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering,” urges the apostle Paul. (Hebrews 10:23) And you will find that with sufficient training and preparation, you can begin to find real joy in the preaching work!—1 Peter 3:15.
In due time your appreciation for your heavenly Friend should move you to make an unreserved dedication to God and to symbolize it by water baptism. (Romans 12:1; Matthew 28:19, 20) Making a public declaration to become a baptized disciple of Christ is not something to be taken lightly. It involves ‘disowning yourself’—setting aside personal ambitions and seeking first the interests of Jehovah God. (Mark 8:34) It further involves identifying yourself with the worldwide organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“I think a lot of young people hesitate to get baptized,” observed a youth named Robert. “They fear it’s a final step that they can’t back out of.” True, one cannot back out of a dedication to God. (Compare Ecclesiastes 5:4.) But “if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him”—baptized or unbaptized! (James 4:17) The issue is, Do you appreciate God’s friendship? Are you moved to want to serve him forever? Then do not let fear hinder you from proclaiming yourself a friend of God!
Eternal Benefits for God’s Friends!
Choosing God’s friendship will put you at odds with the whole world. (John 15:19) You may become the target of ridicule. Difficulties, problems, and temptations may assail you. But do not let anyone or anything rob you of your relationship with God. He promises his unfailing support, saying: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Hebrews 13:5.
This book is but one evidence of the interest that Jehovah and his organization have in your eternal welfare. And while it has not been possible to address all of your questions and problems in these pages, surely you appreciate more than ever what an inexhaustible source of wisdom the Bible is! (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) When problems perplex you, search through that sacred book. (Proverbs 2:4, 5) If you have God-fearing parents, you have yet another source of spiritual wisdom and support—if you will just open your heart to them.
Above all, remember that Jehovah God has all the answers. He is “a help that is readily to be found during distresses,” and he can guide you through any difficulty. (Psalm 46:1) So ‘remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your youth.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:1) That is the course that will make Jehovah’s heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) And it is the way to gain life eternal in a never-fading Paradise—the reward God holds in store for those who are his friends.