‘Make Your Advancement Manifest’
1. What do the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy reveal as to whether a spiritually mature Christian can make advancement?
CHRISTIAN maturity does not mean the end of advancement in the case of a devoted servant of Jehovah God. It was to a mature Christian, Timothy, that the apostle Paul wrote: “Continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching. . . . Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”—1 Tim. 4:13-15.
2. How does a man’s normal course of life show that maturity does not end advancement?
2 That maturity does not mean an end to progress is obvious from what we see in the normal course of life. Is not a married man with a family of his own looked upon as mature? Yet, can he not continue to gain greater wisdom as he handles adult responsibilities? Can he not learn from his mistakes and from the successes and failures of others? Surely! He may also look to his father or other older men for counsel and guidance, recognizing their greater experience and wisdom.
3. How can mature Christians continue to advance?
3 So it is with mature Christians. Through study and application of God’s Word, they continue to grow in knowledge, appreciation and discernment. They make improvement in building up a fine spirit among family members and in affecting other people for good. Mature Christians can also learn from one another, for they vary in their manifestations of spiritual qualifications. One may be outstanding in knowledge. Another may be especially notable for his kindness or his patience. Still another may be exceptional in good judgment or discernment as to problems. Another may be unusually generous or hospitable. Still another may have exceptional directive ability.
4. Since mature Christians can continue to make progress, what three areas of advancement would it be good for them to consider?
4 There being room for improvement in various aspects of Christian living, a mature servant of Jehovah God does well to take time to ponder whether he is continuing to make advancement. There are three areas that we might consider: (1) attaining greater knowledge, understanding and wisdom, (2) producing in greater abundance the fruitage of God’s spirit and (3) discharging responsibilities as a family member.
INCREASING KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM
5. How might one analyze whether one is increasing in knowledge, understanding and wisdom?
5 Ask yourself: Is my enjoyment of reading and studying the Bible growing as each year passes? Does it steadily become clearer and more meaningful to me? Am I applying the Bible’s admonition better in my life? If you can answer, Yes, to these questions, you are increasing in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. But if you notice little advancement, what should you do?
6. What can we do to make sure that what we read in God’s Word is moving our hearts to respond appreciatively?
6 You would certainly want to apply yourself in filling your mind and heart with the wisdom found in God’s Word. Regardless of the advancement that we may have made, mere reading of the Bible and Bible study aids, even if done regularly, is not in itself enough for us to continue to make progress. The Bible’s counsel must reach the heart, that is, the heart must be moved to respond appreciatively. Only then will we be impelled to act wisely. (Ps. 119:113) Hence, there is a need for thoughtful meditation, to think in terms of what effect the things read and studied should be having on our life, and why. As you read and study, you might ponder questions such as: What does the material help me to see about Jehovah God? Am I striving to conform to his personality, ways or dealings as revealed in the passage of Scripture being read? Does the Biblical material point up any weakness in me? What could I do to work on this weakness?
7. How do Christian meetings incite us “to love and fine works”?
7 Attending and listening attentively at meetings also increase our fund of knowledge, deepen our understanding and move us to act wisely. Christian meetings serve to incite us “to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) The comments and talks given can stir our hearts to continue showing love for God by conforming ever closer to his Word. What we hear can strengthen our resolve to improve in letting self-sacrificing love have its full expression toward fellow believers, family members and others of the world of mankind. Because of what we hear, we may at times see that our works in a particular area are not truly “fine.” (Matt. 5:16; Titus 3:8) This puts us in position to apply what has been called to our attention and to act wisely.
8. How can preparation for meetings help us to make advancement and be a source of encouragement to others?
8 Furthermore, what we do personally in preparation for meetings can help us to make advancement. Scriptural material is impressed more deeply upon our mind and heart as we consider it beforehand and then hear it repeated at the meetings. Advance preparation puts us in a better position to take note of the details and check whether we understood the specifics of the material when we considered it privately. Because of advance preparation, our comments will be more meaningful. We will be better able to use our own words and not just read points from the printed page without really having given heartfelt consideration to their significance. (Prov. 15:28) This can make us a greater source of encouragement to others, as our heartfelt expressions will have greater appeal to those hearing us.
9. Why will appealing to Jehovah for the help of his spirit contribute to our making advancement?
9 Prayer, too, plays a vital role in making advancement. Jesus Christ said: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!” (Luke 11:13) It is by means of this spirit that Jehovah God enables us to understand his Word and apply it correctly. The holy spirit serves as a remembrancer and a teacher. As a remembrancer, it brings back to mind Scriptural principles that we know, and, as a teacher, it helps us to discern their correct application. So when we are faced with problems or have to make weighty decisions, we can appeal to Jehovah God for help. His spirit will then aid us to recall what we need to know and prevent us from going astray by helping us to see the proper course to take in the light of what has been recalled to our mind. This is in keeping with Jesus’ words to his disciples: “The helper, the holy spirit, . . . will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the things I told you.”—John 14:26.
10. In what way can our prayers for forgiveness of sins aid us in continuing to progress spiritually?
10 Being imperfect, we need to seek God’s forgiveness for our sins. The apostle John counseled fellow believers: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) When we are specific in our prayers as to how we transgressed, this impresses upon us the seriousness of what we have done. This can serve to strengthen us in our decision to do better as we seek the help of God’s spirit to make improvement in areas wherein we are weak. Thus we are aided to act wisely.
11. What might our prayers reveal about our spiritual advancement and our relationship to Jehovah?
11 The way in which we express ourselves in prayer to Jehovah God can reveal whether we are making advancement in understanding and applying God’s Word in our lives. What of your prayers? Have they become more meaningful? Do they reflect a depth of concern for fellow humans? Are they specific? Do they demonstrate an affectionate relationship with our heavenly Father? Do you find yourself wanting to turn to him in prayer, to voice your appreciation for his loving-kindness? If our relationship to Jehovah is a close one, we will delight to approach him in prayer. His guidance, in answer to our prayers, will be very clear to us. In no way will we feel restrained in prayer to him, fearing that he will not hear us because of our thinking he has some black mark against us. Deep love for Jehovah dispels such fear. That is the point the apostle John made when he wrote: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint. Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love.”—1 John 4:18.
PRODUCING THE SPIRIT’S FRUITAGE
12. What wholesome effect will yielding to the influence of God’s wisdom and spirit have on us?
12 When we yield ourselves to the influence of God’s wisdom as set forth in his Word and the guidance of his spirit, we will find that our spirit or dominant feeling will compel us to conform ever closer to God’s standard of holiness or purity. We will be moved to want to imitate his fine qualities—his love, justice, wisdom, mercy and loyalty. The good and wholesome effect of the training and discipline received through personal and congregational study of the Bible will be manifest to observers in our attitude, speech and actions. Though the sinful tendencies of our fallen flesh may push us in a wrong direction, our spirit or dominant attitude will cooperate with the leading of God’s spirit and restrain the desires of our flesh. As the apostle Paul observed in his letter to the Galatians: “Keep walking by spirit and you will carry out no fleshly desire at all. For the flesh is against the spirit in its desire, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, so that the very things that you would like to do you do not do.”—Gal. 5:16, 17.
13. What questions might we ask ourselves to determine whether we are making progress in displaying godly qualities?
13 In looking objectively at your life as a Christian, what do you see? Do you see this wholesome force or dominant attitude at work in you to a far greater degree than when you were just a spiritual “babe”? Do fellow Christians see your advancement in a fuller manifestation of the spirit’s fruitage, especially in your expression of self-sacrificing love? Does your daily conduct indicate that advancement is taking place in your life? What do people see in you—in your home, at your place of secular employment, in your neighborhood, in your association with others? Is your example one that honors Jehovah by your reflection of kindness, honesty, mild temper and self-control? Are you continuing to make improvement in this regard?—Gal. 5:22-26.
MAKING ADVANCEMENT AS A FAMILY
14. When it comes to spiritual progress, what should be our desire as Christian families?
14 As devoted servants of Jehovah God, we, as family groups, should stand out as different from the world of mankind. Is that true of your family? Do all in the family recognize their God-given responsibilities? Are they continuing to make improvement in meeting the divine requirements applying to them personally?
15. What weighty responsibility has been given to the father, and whose example should a Christian father imitate in discharging it?
15 Are you a father? Then you have the weighty responsibility of exercising proper headship. (1 Cor. 11:3) How are you exercising that headship? Are you conforming more and more to the pattern of Jesus Christ, the head of the Christian congregation? Are you imitating him?—Eph. 5:25-29.
16. How did Jesus show deep concern for the spiritual interests of his disciples?
16 Jesus Christ took genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of his disciples. Even when they were slow to grasp points, he did not get impatient with them. He took time to make things clear for them and saw to it that they really understood his teaching. (Matt. 16:6-12; John 16:16-30) When they continued to have a problem in getting a right view of themselves, Jesus repeated points on the need for humbly ministering to others. (Mark 9:33-37; 10:42-44; Luke 22:24-27) On his final night with them he fortified the point by means of an object lesson—washing their feet. (John 13:14, 15) Jesus also took into consideration their limitations and did not give them more information than they could comprehend.—John 16:4, 12.
17. How might a Christian father question himself to make sure he is imitating Jesus’ example in caring for the spiritual welfare of his family?
17 Do you as a father imitate Jesus’ example when studying the Bible with your family? Do you make sure they really understand? Do you take into consideration their limitations and watch that you do not require too much? When you note wrong attitudes and actions, do you make it clear to members of your family just why they are wrong and why they should want to change? Are you firm for what is right and do you administer discipline in love?
18. (a) How did Jesus demonstrate his interest in the physical welfare of his disciples? (b) How might a Christian father copy Jesus example in this?
18 Jesus Christ was concerned about the physical welfare of his disciples. Thus, when the apostles returned to Jesus from a preaching tour and made report of their activity, he said to them: “Come, you yourselves, privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.” (Mark 6:31) As a family head, are you likewise aware of the needs of your wife and children? Do you treat your wife as the “weaker vessel,” taking into consideration her physical and biological limitations? (1 Pet. 3:7) Do you see to it that your family has time to relax from the regular routine of life?
19. In what other areas might a Christian father check himself to see if he is following Jesus’ example of self-sacrificing love?
19 In expression of his deep love for his disciples, Jesus Christ willingly sacrificed his life. (John 15:13) Are you displaying this kind of love for your wife and children? Are you willing to forgo personal preferences and desires for the sake of your family’s happiness? Do you show your love for your wife by according her a position of honor and dignity in the home, not making light of her weaknesses, belittling her or otherwise making her feel low and degraded? Are you striving to make each member of the family feel wanted, appreciated and needed? Do you take time to listen to them, find out their feelings on matters and take their viewpoint into consideration when making decisions?
20. What can a Christian father learn from Jesus’ exercise of headship over the Christian congregation?
20 Jesus, in exercising his headship, does not dominate the Christian congregation. He does not hem in the individual members by a list of involved rules but allows them to exercise their faculty of conscience. Do you, like Jesus, appeal to your family’s love of righteousness and exercise care not to enforce your demands by sheer weight of authority?
21. How can a Christian wife demonstrate that she is truly in subjection to her husband?
21 The Scriptures counsel wives: “Be in subjection to your husbands, as it is becoming in the Lord.” (Col. 3:18) If you are a wife, do you uphold the decisions of your husband? Do you submit even to decisions that go contrary to your preference and resist the temptation to use feminine influence to get your way? A wife who is truly in subjection to her husband is aware of his attitude and thinking on matters. She, therefore, cares for family affairs in a way that will not conflict with her husband’s feeling. If she is uncertain about his view of a certain activity or a major purchase, she does not presumptuously go ahead with it, but consults him, thereby avoiding problems. She seeks at all times to discharge her wifely duties in a way that will please her husband and not give him valid reason to find fault.
22. What blessings come to the Christian wife who is submissive to her husband?
22 The wife who comports herself in agreement with the headship of her husband gains a position of honor and dignity in the family. As Proverbs 31:11, 28 says of the capable wife: “In her the heart of her owner has put trust, . . . Her sons have risen up and proceeded to pronounce her happy; her owner rises up, and he praises her.” Her husband is confident that she will not act foolishly and endanger the welfare of the family. Knowing that his wife will not deliberately ignore his view on matters, the husband who imitates Christ will never feel compelled to exercise such strict supervision of her actions that she does not feel free to use her own initiative. This makes it easier for the wife to care for her responsibilities and contributes to the happiness of the entire family. As a wife, are you continuing to make advancement in getting to know your husband’s mind on matters and allowing this to guide your decisions in caring for family affairs?
23. How might a Christian wife’s advancement be seen in her choice of dress and adornment?
23 Another area in which the Bible counsels wives is in the matter of adornment and dress. “Do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:3, 4; compare Proverbs 31:30.) This does not mean that a woman should give no attention to her outward appearance—not at all. Women are admonished in the Scriptures to “adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind.” (1 Tim. 2:9) The emphasis, however, should be on the qualities of the heart, and the outward attire and grooming should reflect the fine quality of modesty. Have you as a wife made progress in this regard? Do you find that you are not as enticed by the latest fads and styles as you once were? Are you more inclined to choose what is modest? Have you made advancement in beautifying yourself by displaying the “quiet and mild spirit,” that is, displaying a dominant feeling of calmness and even temper although unfavorable circumstances may arise?
24. In what areas might children make advancement?
24 Though not usually thought of as mature Christians, children, too, can manifest advancement in spiritual values. There comes a time in a child’s life when he is expected to outgrow childish views and ways. Of his own experience, the apostle Paul noted: “When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, and to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a babe.” (1 Cor. 13:11) Are you, as a child, progressively doing away with the traits of a babe? Are you assuming responsibilities in the home, helping out where you can to make less work for your parents? Do you look for opportunities to do things? Or, do you still have to be asked repeatedly to help with something and then do you respond half-heartedly? Do you show initiative in building yourself up spiritually? On your own, do you read the Bible and Bible study aids and prepare for congregational meetings? Does your use of time show that you believe that ‘bodily training is beneficial for a little and that godly devotion is beneficial for all things’? (1 Tim. 4:8) Do you appreciate that obedience to your parents is right and is a major way in which you can please God?—Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20.
25. How can children demonstrate progress in being obedient to parents?
25 Obedience to parents is not just a matter of doing what they say but also includes conforming to what you know will reflect favorably on the family. It really means submission to the regulations and counsel of your father and mother, in harmony with God’s will. You might ask yourself: When I go out of the house, do I give evidence that I come from a Christian home? Is my spiritual advancement manifest through good manners, a respectful attitude toward older people and those in authority and through firmness for what is right—at school, in the neighborhood and elsewhere? Do I cooperate with my Christian parents in my choice of personal grooming and dress? Or do I seek to adopt immodest and extreme fads and then try to pressure my parents into seeing things my way?
26. When it comes to progress in Christian living, what should others be able to see in us?
26 Whether you live alone or are part of a family, whether you have attained Christian maturity or are working toward that goal, advancement should be apparent in the spirit or dominating force that motivates you to do God’s will. Others should be able to see that adherence to God’s Word has made you a better man or woman, a better wife and mother, a better husband and father, a better son or daughter. A Christian home should be one where happiness, peace and love, rather than quarreling and shouting, prevail. It should be neat, clean and well kept. Is that true of your home? Without practical evidence of spiritual growth in the lives of those who are God’s servants, our preaching means very little. Our religion, our worship, is judged largely by the results it produces in us and in our daily lives.—Col. 3:8-14.