Make Your Advancement Manifest by Responding to God’s Word
“At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”—Phil. 3:16.
1. What wholesome effect does Christian advancement have on others in the faith?
THE steady advancements made by a Christian bring not only a deep sense of satisfaction to the one thus advancing but also encouragement and a cause for rejoicing to fellow Christians. What a joy it is when the students we are assisting with a study of God’s Word progressively absorb one truth after another so as to get an accurate understanding of the Bible! Their happiness and ours reach sublime heights when they progress to the point of dedication to God and baptism in water. And does your heart quicken when you hear a new one give his first comment at the congregation’s Watchtower study or give his first student talk in the Theocratic Ministry School? How do you feel when a young brother advances to the Christian maturity required of a public speaker and gives his first well-polished but somewhat nervously delivered public talk? We are all encouraged by advancement, are we not? We realize that advancement manifested by responding to God’s Word leads to life; and if our advancement is encouraging to others, this in turn gives us one more good reason why we should move ahead, does it not? It is just as the apostle Paul wrote to young Timothy, at 1 Timothy 4:15, 16: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”
2. (a) How is God’s Word a powerful force to stimulate advancement? (b) In what way do our ears ‘hear a word from behind’ us to guide us today?
2 There is a powerful force from God that stimulates us to make advancement. We are told, at Hebrews 4:12: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” What discerning, penetrating power there is in God’s Word! Everything is there to teach us, to correct us and to inspire within us a strong desire to serve our God Jehovah. He has not left us without the needed counsel and direction to cope with the difficult problems that confront us daily in this age of lawlessness. He has anticipated our needs. The prophet Isaiah, after describing under inspiration the prosperous spiritual condition that would be enjoyed by true servants of God in the “last days,” foretold the unique way in which Jehovah would lead his people. “Your Grand Instructor will no longer hide himself, and your eyes must become eyes seeing your Grand Instructor. And your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isa. 30:20, 21) What today is this “word behind” us? None other than that of our Grand Instructor Jehovah speaking to us through his written Word and through his organization today. When we listen with discernment and get our eyes of understanding open, it is as though we are hearing and seeing our Grand Instructor face to face. His Word clearly illuminates our path so that there is no doubt as to how and where we should walk. No turning aside to the right or to the left when we pay attention to it, but a marching straight ahead in the way that leads to life.
3. What does Jehovah expect of us in the way of advancement?
3 Jehovah has every right to expect steady advancement on the part of all who come to know him. When we study his Word, we learn of his undeserved kindness that he has extended to mankind and the provisions that he has made for our eternal welfare. He provides for us the climate of love in which to grow spiritually. He gives us time to take in knowledge, to renew our minds, to make a dedication to him and, yes, to press on to Christian maturity. He does not expect this in one day, but he does expect us to make steady progress in spiritual growth. And in making advancement, often certain ways of life and attitudes of mind need to be altered or sometimes given up altogether in order to let God’s Word have full expression in our lives. Consider the good counsel at James 1:21, 22: “Hence put away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, moral badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls. However, become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning.”
4. Why do some make little or no advancement spiritually?
4 Millions of persons today fail to respond to God’s Word when they are reached with the message of the Kingdom. They make no advancement in the narrow way that leads to life. Some respond initially but, due to the cares of this life or other factors, slow down in their advancement. (Matt. 7:13, 14; Luke 8:11-14; Heb. 6:1) This is not usually because they deny the truth or because they are not believing certain doctrines. Often you will find that personal or domestic problems have arisen, and a closer examination likely will show that these problems came about because of not applying Bible principles fully in their lives. A certain man asked Jesus, “Lord, are those who are being saved few?” Jesus responded: “Exert yourselves vigorously to get in through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will seek to get in but will not be able.” (Luke 13:23-25) It is not easy to keep on advancing by responding to the counsel in God’s Word on how we are to live, yet Jehovah’s “commandments are not burdensome” and we are confidently assured that the yoke that Jesus invites us to take upon us is indeed light.—1 John 5:3, 4; Matt. 11:28-30.
5. To avoid advancing into an unwise marriage, what does God’s Word counsel?
5 For example, one may desire to marry. There is the instruction in God’s Word that we should marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:15) Yet it sometimes happens that one becomes interested in another of the opposite sex who is not yet a dedicated Christian like oneself. Emotions take over and one begins to justify in one’s mind a course contrary to God’s Word. Marriage to an unbeliever could be the result, bringing unnecessary heartaches and conditions that could influence the believer to compromise on his faith. One’s avoiding or breaking off such relationships may bring to one momentary hurt, but how thankful one will be later if one does comply with God’s Word and advance in the right direction.
6, 7. For the Christian family to make proper advancement, what principles should guide? (b) What is needed if children are to continue in the way to life?
6 Consider, too, the principles involving headship. How happy the family that has a loving head as husband and father, with the mother and children respecting his headship! But how distressing it is when the wife tries to dominate the household or the husband abuses his headship and becomes more of an unloving dictator. Family anarchy results. There is little happiness. The family becomes spiritually sick, and soon all want to go their separate ways.—Eph. 5:21-23; Col. 3:18, 19.
7 God’s Word has much to say regarding the training of children, too. The direction in which they advance depends much on the loving, but firm training given by their parents based on God’s Word. Discipline where needed is not held back. What a satisfying thing it is to Christian parents, and to others of us too, as we see the young people grow up and stick with the truth and God’s organization rather than drift away and be swallowed up by this world.—Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20, 21; Prov. 1:8; 13:24; 22:6.
8. What personal bad habits might be hindering the advancement of some?
8 Spiritual advancement can be hindered by many things. Perhaps you have allowed some bad habits or practices to keep control over you after your coming out of the world. For example, the habit of smoking, or other uses of tobacco, which everyone knows is detrimental to one’s health, has a strong hold on some and, due to lack of self-control and not exercising strong faith in Jehovah, they permit this bad habit to continue to dominate them, leading to a slowing down physically and spiritually as well as to a bad conscience. Where the will is weak in matters of this nature, this is often reflected in handling other matters of serious concern. Then it may be that the overindulgence in food or drink, which dulls the senses, is slowing you down. Excessive pleasures satisfy the desires of the flesh, but gradually encroach on our time and energy so that we become lovers of pleasure more than real lovers of God. (2 Tim. 3:4) The Bible shows that there is a great conflict between the flesh and the spirit. How we think determines which one wins out.—Rom. 8:12, 13; 12:1, 2.
9. How important are our thoughts and speech?
9 Worldly thinking and language are definite hindrances to advancement. God’s Word admonishes: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every kind or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct nor foolish talking nor obscene jesting, things which are not becoming, but rather the giving of thanks.” If we respond to this clear-cut counsel from our Grand Instructor, we will cleanse our minds of any obscene or unclean thoughts and follow the good counsel at Philippians 4:8, to think on things that are of serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, well spoken of, virtuous and praiseworthy.—Eph. 5:3, 4; 4:29-31; 1 Thess. 4:3-8.
10. Show how bad association can slow down our advancement.
10 Then, how is our association with others? Is it the right kind? “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” The attitudes, the ambitions, the ways of life of worldly ones cannot help but influence us if we let ourselves be drawn into their close company. Make it your goal to be with those who can build you up spiritually and who will not tear down the hope, the spirituality and the good conscience that you have before Jehovah.—1 Cor. 15:33; Jas. 4:4.
11. What should be our view toward money and material possessions?
11 And as we make our living in this world, there are things to which we need to give attention here, too. First, are we getting so involved that we begin to taste the love of money and the power it brings us? Remember the Bible’s counsel that many, in reaching out for this love, have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains. Being content with necessities and having godly devotion with self-sufficiency result in great gain.—1 Tim. 6:6-10.
12. (a) In what ways might activities on our secular jobs hinder our progress to maturity? (b) What Scriptural principles will help us keep the proper perspective?
12 Then we are counseled to be honest and upright, as we do our secular work to gain necessities. Is what we are doing legal? Is it honorable? Is it compatible with Christian principles of neutrality? (Eph. 4:25, 28; Isa. 2:4) Is it merely a means to support us and our families in the Kingdom ministry rather than our chief occupation both mentally and physically? While it is getting to be more and more difficult for true Christians to make a living without being visibly identified with the Devil’s beastly political organization, with its violent nationalism, we do have to remain neutral and avoid lending our minds and hands to its purposes in opposition to God. (Rev. 13:16, 17) If there is a compromising on these principles, then there is a dampening of our zeal; we begin to feel unfit for Jehovah’s holy service. Our advancement is slowed down, possibly causing us to come to a halt or even to turn aside. How fitting Paul’s counsel at 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear”! Wisely he admonishes those who want to make advancement: “Put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—Heb. 12:1.
13. What may be necessary in arranging our affairs to put spiritual things first?
13 As we make advancement and quicken our pace just this side of the battle of Armageddon, we may find it somewhat difficult to get everything necessary into our schedules. Our meetings, our personal study, our ministerial activity, all must have first place. If they are not fitting into our schedules well, it may be that our schedules are too filled with time-consuming pursuits of little or no real profit to us, or it may be that we have not organized our affairs so as to accomplish the important things first, before we go on to less vital matters. We are told at Ephesians 5:15, 16: “So keep strict watch that how you walk [yes, how you make advancement] is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” Lest we feel there is too much to do theocratically, we are wisely admonished: “Consequently, my beloved brothers, become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
EXAMPLES OF ADVANCEMENT
14. (a) Who was Jehonadab, and how did he respond to Jehu’s invitation? (b) What is pictured by Jehonadab’s ready response?
14 Since the Bible tells us that things written aforetime were written for our instruction, let us consider for a few moments some examples of faithful servants in the past who have made advancement manifest by responding to God’s Word. You likely will remember Jehonadab, the son of Rechab. He was not a natural Israelite, but he was zealous for true worship. The account at 2 Kings 10:15, 16 tells us that he went out to meet King Jehu as he was riding furiously on his way to slaughter the Baal worshipers in Israel. Jehu saw him and wondered if he too would want to go along, asking: “Is your heart upright with me, just as my own heart is with your heart?” No hesitation in answer here! “To this Jehonadab said: ‘It is.’” Immediately he was lifted into the chariot, and off they went. He responded positively to the invitation to associate publicly with Jehu and those taking the lead in advancing true worship. Just as the remaining ones of the anointed must keep imitating Jehu, the Lord’s “other sheep” today, whom Jehonadab pictured, must continue responding as he did. They want to associate actively with the Lord’s anointed in the earth today in proclaiming Jehovah’s judgments against the Devil and all of his supporters, soon to be destroyed. What a fine, positive example we have in Jehonadab!
15. (a) What did the prophet Nathan show was the real reason why David allowed himself to fall into a course of sin? (b) How is David an example of any who are in need of correction?
15 Consider now an example from a little different point of view. David is remembered for his perfect heart devotion to Jehovah, but we remember that David sinned terribly on one occasion. What can we learn from this incident in God’s Word to help us in making advancement? First, look at 2 Samuel 12:7-12, and you will see how courageous the prophet Nathan was in telling David of his sin; and do you notice, in 2Sa 12 verse 9, how it is that David allowed himself not only to commit adultery, but to commit murder? “Why did you despise the word of Jehovah by doing what is bad in his eyes?” David had specifically disregarded the sixth, the seventh and the tenth commandments, regarding murder, adultery and coveting another man’s wife. But what was David’s reaction? Did he arrogantly tell the prophet to mind his own business and then continue making advancement in the wrong direction? The answer is in 2Sa 12 verse 13: “David now said to Nathan: ‘I have sinned against Jehovah.’” Thus David acknowledged his sin immediately and responded to correction. His heartfelt prayer to God for forgiveness and restoration, as contained in Psalm 51, was the result. (See the Ps 51 superscription of this psalm.) The question now presents itself, How do we respond to counsel when it is administered to us? Do we humbly acknowledge wrong and submit to discipline so that we can make proper advancement again? Like David, let us respond to God’s Word, even though it hurts at the time, remembering that ‘Jehovah disciplines those whom he loves.’—Heb. 12:4-11.
16. How did the apostles set a fine example for us today in responding to invitations to enlarge our privileges?
16 As to acceptance and ready response to God’s direction, we have a fine example in the apostles. The account at Matthew 4:18-22 tells us that shortly after the beginning of his public ministry Jesus approached Simon and Andrew his brother, who made their living by fishing on the Sea of Galilee, saying: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Did they offer excuses as to why they could not do so? No, the record tells us, “At once abandoning the nets, they followed him.” Right afterward there was a similar response from James and John: “At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.” Are we willing to make sacrifices such as the apostles did in order to keep the ministry in first place in our lives? Are we willing to give up a good secular job, as the apostles gave up their fishing business, and be content with the necessities of life in order to pioneer or to serve where the need for Kingdom preachers is greater? Do we recognize the voice of our Grand Instructor when we receive invitations through The Watchtower and Kingdom Ministry to expand our ministry? What fine opportunities we have to make advancement today!
17. What counsel from God’s Word is given to young servants of Jehovah to ensure proper advancement?
17 Young ministers of Jehovah have often been directed to Timothy’s example of advancement in the ministry. Timothy listened to his mother and grandmother who believed God’s Word. He responded to counsel from older brothers such as Paul, who wrote: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” Do you young folks respond to your Grand Instructor in the days of your youth as Timothy did? Do you pay attention to Jehovah’s motherlike organization so as to make proper advancement? Are you obedient to your earthly parents? Do you accept counsel from older ones in the organization? Consider the wise counsel from Jehovah, leading to life: “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. For the commandment is a lamp, and a light the law is, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”—1 Tim. 4:15; Prov. 6:20, 23.
18, 19. As young brothers and sisters grow to maturity, what fine privileges are open to them?
18 Then as you grow up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah, how are you reaching out for additional privileges of service? Are you like Timothy in this respect, too? Timothy, by now already an overseer in his youth, responded to the fatherly counsel of Paul: “Keep on giving these commands and teaching them. Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness. While I am coming, continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not be neglecting the gift in you.”—1 Tim. 4:11-14.
19 What grand rewarding privileges are open to all young brothers and sisters in Jehovah’s organization today, such as the pioneer service, going to serve in one of the Bethel homes or becoming a missionary after attending Gilead school! Let your advancement be manifest as Timothy let his. How would you like to receive this recommendation from one like the apostle Paul, as stated regarding Timothy? “For I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. For all the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But you know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.” What a fine recommendation! What an excellent example we have in Timothy!—Phil. 2:20-22.
20. In what practical ways can we show that we are making continual progress?
20 There are so many ways younger and older ones alike can make advancement. It is reflected in our willingness to take on a home Bible study, whereas before we might have felt unqualified to conduct one or thought we did not have enough time for it. It is manifest too in the way we make opportunities to assist one of our brothers or sisters who has become weak spiritually. Every day privileges are before us, inviting us to take hold of them and contribute to the advancement of true worship. We will not hold back if we respond to God’s Word and look for opportunities to let love bestow a blessing.
21. What should be evident about us, whether we have been associated with God’s organization many years or only a short time?
21 The question presents itself now, Where are we at the moment in our Christian advancement? Have we just started in “The Way,” or have we been associated for many years? Are we young in years, or have we grown old in Jehovah’s service? Have we progressed in spiritual growth, or do we yet find that we are occupied with the elementary things of the truth? No matter what our circumstances or how far we have progressed already, are we conscious of steady spiritual growth? Do others around us see our advancement manifest, not to praise us or to be envious, but that they might be encouraged and stimulated to increased faith and good works? Let your family, those in your book study group, yes, all in the congregation, see your steady advancement! Make the hearts of the servants glad as they see you growing to maturity and not needing special help week by week, rather proving to be of help to others. Paul admonished: “At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine. Unitedly become imitators of me, brothers, and keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us.”—Phil. 3:16, 17; Heb. 6:1.
22. What will be the happy reward of those who keep making advancement in harmony with God’s Word?
22 And when we speak of advancement, we must remember that all the time that we are moving ahead in a spiritual sense we are also moving forward as to time. Here we are right on the very threshold of entry into God’s new order. If we keep right on making steady advancement, one day soon we will have the grand privilege of going through the coming features of the great tribulation, and then looking around us to see that there is nothing left of the Devil’s wicked, vicious system of things. It will have just melted away in the heat of Armageddon. None will be living except those who made their advancement manifest by responding to God’s Word. How happy we will be that we heeded daily Jehovah’s counsel at Proverbs 3:1, 2: “My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you”!
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Children advance in the right direction when parents train them to respond to God’s Word