We Appreciate the Young Ones Who Are Walking in Jehovah’s Way
“You are my hope, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah, my confidence from my youth.”—Ps. 71:5.
1. What is even more important to parents than seeing their child take his first steps?
HOW happy parents are when their young child begins to learn to walk! How proud it makes them to see his first few steps! But, as time passes, in which way will his steps lead him? Will he learn to follow the way that Jehovah directs? Will his parents help to direct him in this way? Will he learn to know the “path of life” and the “path of uprightness”? Or will he turn aside to the path of the wicked, following the pathway of those forgetting God? Much depends on the child’s early training and the instruction given him by his parents.—Ps. 16:11; 27:11; Prov. 4:14, 18.
2. What trend is noted by a well-known author?
2 The fact that many children turn aside from the right course was admitted in a recent article by James Michener. Although titled “What’s Good About Today’s Youth,” it spotlighted current youth problems, speaking of the “turbulent youth revolt of recent years,” the “generation and cultural gap,” “the drug culture” and the trend toward violence. His article reported: “In Philadelphia, for example, in recent years, there have been among schoolchildren—many of them on their way to school or home from school, around four dozen murders a year. Now, this isn’t a modest change; this is a revolution of extraordinary dimensions. I find in all levels of young people a wildness of attitude, a lack of response to discipline and, most conspicuously, a complete change in attitude toward vocabulary, where the most profane language is now accepted as standard.”
3. How serious is the problem of juvenile delinquency?
3 The same problem with youth is manifest all over the world. An article in the London Daily Mail reported: “Children as young as 10 are increasingly responsible for muggings and violent crime. A startling rise in the number of youngsters involved is disclosed in a Scotland Yard study.” A report from Brazil spoke of the “beginning of a crackdown in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro against the fast-spreading plague of youth crime. Police estimate that juvenile delinquency will increase at least 12 per cent this year. ‘Some parents even teach their sons the tricks,’ one police agent said.” In Los Angeles last year more juveniles (104 in all) than adults were tried for murder. In Ireland a trooper died when a group of children stoned his scout car, causing a fatal crash. In New York city a girl, thirteen years old, was seized in a savings-office holdup. It has been reported that in the United States the average age for runaway youths is now fifteen years, and it is not uncommon for children of that age to be using drugs. So it is clear that children can become involved in serious trouble even at a young age. Can you help your children to avoid such difficulties?
4. In the light of the Bible, should this problem surprise us, and what is often helpful to the children?
4 While some families who make an effort to apply the Bible in their lives still find that their children are unresponsive or rebellious, this is not entirely surprising if we examine the case of Jacob and Esau, two sons of the same family who followed opposite courses in life, or consider the fact that Bible prophecy indicates that the “last days” would be marked by children “disobedient to parents.” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2) However, such problems arise far oftener in families where the children are not given Scriptural guidelines to direct them.
5. Why can many parents and children be commended?
5 Parents with believing children are certainly to be commended for the effort they have made to teach their family God’s Word and purposes. The children too are deserving of commendation, particularly when we consider the pressures that many are subjected to from unbelieving companions and even from schoolteachers who may deride the Bible viewpoint. Additionally, many youths have come to appreciate the wisdom of God’s Word even though discouraged or opposed by their parents or others in the family. From their study of the Bible they have come to say as did the psalmist: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.”—Ps. 119:105.
6. (a) What opposition did a young brother in Trinidad encounter? (b) What Scriptural counsel did he follow?
6 A young lad who studied the Scriptures in Trinidad found much opposition from his family, particularly from his aunt. On one occasion she tore his trousers off to prevent him from going to a meeting. At another time she went to the Kingdom Hall to create a scene to discourage him from attending. His mother used to beat him. When he was scheduled to give his first public Bible talk his shoes were hidden, so he had to borrow a pair from a neighbor. Yet now he is in full-time Christian service and has been able to help others in his family spiritually. In effect, he has said as does Psalm 119:57-61: “Jehovah is my share; I have promised to keep your words. I have softened your face with all my heart. Show me favor according to your saying. I have considered my ways, that I may turn back my feet to your reminders. I hurried up, and I did not delay to keep your commandments. The very ropes of the wicked ones surrounded me. Your law I did not forget.”
7. What blessing, despite opposition, did a young girl enjoy due to trusting Jehovah’s Word?
7 In another family the daughter relates that it was her brother who learned the truth first and began to interest her in it, but for some reason their mother immediately objected. To keep on studying they had to do it secretly, studying under the table to keep from getting caught, but soon their mother put a stop to it and they were forbidden even to mention the name of Jehovah in the house. Later the daughter was sent to a girls’ school and was forced to go to church, although she begged the minister to let one of Jehovah’s witnesses come and study with her. The teachers at the school were very sarcastic about her beliefs and many of her classmates ridiculed her and tried to pick fights. Later, when she was left at the foster home of a Lutheran couple, she did not give up although they were very much opposed to her faith and finally put her out on the street. In high school she took the opportunity to speak to her science class on the subject “Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation?” She then placed twenty-four books with them and started a Bible study. One of the young people she studied with is now a dedicated witness of Jehovah, and this young sister has been a regular pioneer for over three years. Experiences such as this show that youngsters can walk in Jehovah’s way despite what opposition may come, saying, in effect: “I have trusted in your word . . . and I will keep your law constantly, to time indefinite, even forever.”—Ps. 119:42-44; Eccl. 12:1.
8. How can elders strengthen young people who are facing opposition to their efforts to follow Jehovah’s way?
8 Congregations with children who face such family opposition do well to give all possible encouragement to these young ones. Elders in the congregations should give help and encouragement not only to family groups, but especially to young people from homes that are divided religiously, talking to them at the Kingdom Hall, visiting them at their homes, if it is convenient, and inviting them to share the spiritual association, as well as recreation, of the elder’s own family when it is appropriate. These young Witnesses should know that others in the congregation are very much interested in them, and it is good to talk to them about what they are doing, their goals in life, giving fatherly and Scriptural counsel when it seems appropriate. This is all part of the work of being a congregation elder and is another indication that he appreciates these young ones who are endeavoring to walk in Jehovah’s way despite hindrances that are put in their paths. By such encouragement on the part of their associates in the congregation, the young will be encouraged to say: “A partner I am of all those who do fear you, and of those keeping your orders. Your loving-kindness, O Jehovah, has filled the earth. Teach me your own regulations.”—Ps. 119:63, 64.
TAKING A FIRM STAND
9. What scriptures have helped many young persons to give a fine witness for Christian neutrality?
9 The integrity and neutrality of Christian youths are being challenged in many ways, particularly during their school years. An issue often arises in connection with national or school anthems and the flag salute, as countries are desirous of instilling nationalism in their students. Young Christian witnesses of Jehovah have, as a group, stood firm against such pressures, thereby maintaining their Christian neutrality even though, for some, it has meant expulsion from school. However, those having in mind the Scriptural principle of Exodus 20:4, 5 (“You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything . . . you must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them”) and the example of the three faithful Hebrews, recorded at Daniel chapter 3, who refrained from image worship, have been strengthened to endure these trials, and they have thereby given an excellent witness to school and government officials.—Prov. 20:11.
10. How did the firm stand of a young schoolgirl result in a blessing?
10 An eleven-year-old schoolgirl in California was approached by a schoolmate who asked if she was one of Jehovah’s witnesses; she felt that must be the reason why she did not stand for and sing the national anthem. The girl who inquired had had her interest in the truth aroused by her grandparents and wanted to have a Bible study, although her parents were not interested. Others soon showed interest in the study, so that at one time eleven were studying together during free time at school. This position taken by a young girl for what she believes resulted in a fine witness to others.
11. (a) What other issues do young Witnesses face? (b) What pressures to compromise Bible principles have young ones faced, and how have these been overcome?
11 Even if the issue of nationalism is not strong, other pressures may arise. A good student is urged to pursue “higher education” or may be lured with material advantages through secular employment. (1 Tim. 6:17, 20, 21) In school many are faced with pressures to conform in regard to dress and hairstyles. But young Witnesses have refused to dress like worldly youths, avoiding the adoption of dress standards that may be immodest and perhaps lead to immorality or cause them to be classified with a rebel group. One young sister was teased about being an “untouchable” due to her modest dress, but she simply explained that, as one of Jehovah’s witnesses, this was the standard she kept. The father of a family of seven children reported that they have had no problem with immodest clothing or extreme hairstyles, because the parents insisted on a certain length of hair and modesty in clothing style. This has actually worked for a protection to his family, as the dress of other children in the neighborhood appears weird to them now and they do not desire to associate with them.
12, 13. How can Bible standards serve as a protection?
12 Similarly, these parents have been able to guide their children in the matter of entertainment by setting standards that are compatible with Bible principles in regard to music, reading and television. Such training is very helpful later on, when children are of an age when they choose their own entertainment, the kind of movies they will see, the songs they will sing, the things in which they will interest themselves.
13 Fear to displease Jehovah will also help to ward off pressures in school—the dares to do this or that, including the use of drugs. (Ps. 111:10) Many young Witnesses have found that their best protection against getting into difficulty or having bad associates is to share with others what they believe. If one is known as a witness of Jehovah, because of one’s talking the truth from the Bible as one has opportunity, it will repel those who do not have a good heart or high standards, while it attracts those who do.
SHARING THE GOOD NEWS
14. What have many young Witnesses done to share the truth at school? Include local experiences.
14 Many young Witnesses have taken advantage of opportunities to share the good news at school, witnessing to teachers and classmates. Some have based their school reports or comments in class discussion on the Bible or material from the Watch Tower Society’s publications. They enjoy taking advantage of favorable opportunities to witness at school, sometimes presenting special magazines of interest or copies of the Evolution book, thousands of copies of which have been placed in this way. They have found the words of the psalmist true: “More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, because your reminders are a concern to me.”—Ps. 119:99.
15. Relate an example of a witness given at school by an alert youngster.
15 In the state of Arkansas, a Witness girl remembered an Awake! article on sewing that would be appropriate to her home-economics class, so she brought it to her teacher, who read it to the whole class. Later, she took other publications, and a study was started with the teacher. In Germany, a Witness youth did some studying on the subject of drugs, with a view to giving a witness during class discussion following a film showing on that subject. When the teacher asked for his observations as one of Jehovah’s witnesses, he did such a fine job that he was permitted to speak to two classes for over a period of two hours, using the Scriptures and the publications he had brought. Later, he was invited to speak to sixteen classes for a period of four hours. All together, the audience included 691 students, and hundreds of magazines were placed.
16. How have others shared the truth with their classmates?
16 In Cyprus, a nine-year-old Christian boy had the opportunity to give a fine witness when a question on what Jehovah’s witnesses believe came up in class. After a few remarks by others he said that, since he was a Witness himself, he would be in the best position to answer the question and then proceeded to give an extemporaneous talk showing that Jehovah’s witnesses are Christians who worship Jehovah, since He is both the Creator and the Father of Jesus. He answered one objection by pointing out that not getting involved in armed conflict is in harmony with the angels’ expression at Jesus’ birth: “upon earth peace among men of goodwill.” (Luke 2:13, 14; compare Matthew 11:25.) Another who took advantage of an opportunity to give a witness was a young Christian girl in California who was selected to speak as valedictorian for her graduating class. This witness of Jehovah spoke to 800 on the subject “My Hope for the Future,” giving a wonderful witness about Bible promises. But, as she said, “I couldn’t have done it without Jehovah’s help.”
17. (a) What part would desire and effort play in making possible such a fine experience as that of the young Witness in Chile? (b) How do young publishers giving a witness apply the thought of Psalm 119:46-48?
17 Have you taken advantage of such opportunities to give a witness? You may have a wonderful privilege such as that enjoyed by a thirteen-year-old publisher of God’s kingdom in Chile. Her teacher was telling the class that the Bible is a myth and that evolution is true, and so the publisher gave some comments to explain why she could not agree. Before long some of the students asked her to teach them the Bible, and soon she had a group of twenty-seven that she was instructing twice a week. She prepared carefully and even gave them written reviews. At the end of the year the school director agreed that these examination grades should be considered as a part of their regular schoolwork. Now three children from this group are coming to meetings.—Ps. 119:46-48.
18. How have many enjoyed serving Jehovah during youth, and with what benefits?
18 Others have taken advantage of holiday seasons and school vacations to use their free time for the field service, and many who are baptized have shared in the temporary pioneer work. This serves to build up their own spirituality, as well as to direct others to the congregation. Often this temporary pioneer service leads to full-time preaching service. As one young Christian girl who has enjoyed such full-time work for four years wrote recently: “I wish I could convey to all young brothers and sisters the joy there is to be had in serving Jehovah in your youth. Many young ones may feel that they will be tied down too much by taking up the full-time preaching work, but really it is quite to the contrary. You feel as though you have more freedom, for you know that you are doing what you should be doing, and when you do have time for yourself you can enjoy it with such a peace of mind and clear conscience.”
19. What should be considered in setting our goals in life, and how can young ones be assisted in this regard?
19 The goals held before young ones by both their family and the congregation help them to walk in Jehovah’s way. What goals do you have? Are you thinking about the full-time field service and doing Jehovah’s will? Or are your goals simply directed toward personal interests, toward getting a job, buying a car, looking forward to marriage? While there is nothing wrong with such goals, in themselves alone they lack an important element that brings joy to life—the service of our Creator. They are similar to the desires of the people of Noah’s day who “took no note” of Noah’s warning “until the flood came and swept them all away.” (Matt. 24:38-42) When children are given family encouragement to put Kingdom service first in their lives, they are happy to respond. This has been true for a family with five girls who were always encouraged to make pioneering their goal after finishing high school. Now three are sharing in this activity and their younger sisters have enjoyed temporary pioneering along with their parents.
20. What can young Witnesses do to help the congregation in ways that are much appreciated?
20 Regardless of whether one gets into the full-time preaching work or not, all can contribute upbuilding comments during meetings and have a share in the Theocratic Ministry School program at the Kingdom Hall. The efforts of the young ones to share in such ways are greatly appreciated by all. Others are happy to have a share in keeping the hall clean and presentable. Many youths have worked with older ones in the congregation on Kingdom Hall building projects, not only learning something about construction, but also enjoying upbuilding spiritual association with their brothers. And later there are opportunities to share in caring for the lawn and grounds or to help with things that need to be done on the inside, arranging the stage, handling the microphones, helping with cleaning or other duties. Many comment with appreciation on the fine conduct of young publishers at the Kingdom Hall. How pleasant it is to have young brothers and sisters greet visitors and introduce themselves or to have them express appreciation to a speaker for his talk! And since so many young children come to meetings, the fine example of those who have learned to conduct themselves courteously and pay attention during the program is very helpful in giving new or younger ones an example to imitate.
21. What privileges are before those walking in Jehovah’s way?
21 Many parents have testified to the happiness that it has brought them to see their children progress spiritually, overcoming worldly pressures and reaching out for privileges of service, some becoming pioneers or missionaries, some taking up the circuit or district overseer’s work, others becoming members of the Bethel family, and many being ministerial servants and elders in the congregations. Much of this progress can be attributed to the fine foundation that was laid when they were young. By cooperating in such family and congregational arrangements, youths can expect Jehovah to bless and reward them.—Prov. 22:6.
22. What modern application does Exodus 20:12 have?
22 It is not easy to maintain integrity when one is under pressure from this system of things, but those who are determined to walk in Jehovah’s way will have his blessing and backing. As Exodus 20:12 counsels: “Honor your father and your mother in order that your days may prove long upon the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.” These words were given to Israel before entering the Promised Land and therefore have special significance now as we approach the end of this system of things and see the new order of righteousness rapidly approaching. It is important for the young to respect and honor not only their father and mother, but also the heavenly Father, Jehovah, and his wifelike organization. (Prov. 1:8, 9) By doing so they may look forward with confidence to a place in that new system that Jehovah has promised. Yes, we do appreciate the young ones who are walking in Jehovah’s way.—Prov. 3:1-7.