Happy Youth in a Corrupt World
This article was written particularly for youths. So we invite young people to take a lead in commenting when it is discussed at the Kingdom Hall.
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”—Ecclesiastes 12:1, The New English Bible.
1. Why do many people think this is not a good time to be young?
WHAT a fine time to be young! Does that sound strange to you? Many young people would point to the bad conditions they see—to crime in the streets, immorality, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, abortion and venereal diseases. They could point to the danger of atomic war or to the pollution that is ruining the earth. They might ask how this could possibly be a good time to be young, facing the future.
2. (a) Why is this really a fine time to be alive? (b) What effect should that fact have on you?
2 Other young people know that Bible prophecies say that God will not let men destroy the earth. The Bible promises that God will change things—that he will step in and bring about conditions of righteousness and peace. (Psalm 37:10, 11; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4; 11:18) Do you believe those promises? If you do, they should have a great effect on your life, for they mean that you can have a bright future.
3. Why is no one too young to be concerned about serving God?
3 You may be thinking: ‘Oh, I’m too young for all of that!’ But are you? The Bible urges young people—boys and girls—to serve God. (Psalm 148:12, 13) It tells about a little Hebrew girl who led a Syrian army officer, Naaman, to become one of Jehovah’s servants. (2 Kings 5:2, 3, 15-17) It says children hailed Jesus, and that when religious leaders did not like that, Jesus asked them: “Didn’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘Even little babies shall praise him!’” (Matthew 21:15, 16, The Living Bible) Jesus showed personal interest in young people. He said to let them come to him. And congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses all over the earth are especially interested in young people today—and in the fine things they do to serve God.—Matthew 19:14.
Principles for a Happy Life
4. How can the Bible help you to lead a happier life?
4 You know that your parents want you to be happy. So does your heavenly Father, Jehovah God. His Word, the Bible, gives advice that can keep you out of a lot of trouble. It does not tell you every little thing that you should do, but, in many instances, it merely states principles. These are truths that give you the basis on which to decide things, so your own good judgment will tell you what is right. For example, here is a principle that was mentioned in the previous article and that you probably have heard discussed many times: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
5. (a) What are some ways that “bad associations” can spoil “useful habits”? (b) What do the scriptures cited in this paragraph show about (1) bad language, (2) dirty stories, (3) sexual immorality?
5 What does that mean? It means we are influenced by the people around us. If you spend a lot of time with people who use filthy language or who tell dirty stories, you probably will follow their example. If you associate with people whose ideas about sex and marriage are different from what you know God requires, you will get to the point of not being shocked by those things. You can have such association without realizing it. When you read books or watch films or television, you are taking the author’s ideas into your own mind. If these ideas are bad, they can dirty up your mind. The Bible does not say to enjoy such things, but to avoid them. (Ephesians 5:3, 4; compare 1 Corinthians 6:18.) It also says: “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.”—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
6. (a) What problems have people had because they ignored the Bible’s counsel about bad association? (b) What should we remember about our minds, and where can we find good association?
6 We are influenced by the people around us. As The Living Bible puts 1 Corinthians 15:33: “If you listen to them you will start acting like them.” Young people have been tempted into smoking, drug abuse, stealing and all sorts of immoral things because people they associated with did these things or made fun of them for not doing them. Do you think people who make fun of you for doing right are worthwhile friends? It is important to remember that your mind is much like a computer. If you put wrong information into it, you will get wrong decisions out of it. So it would be wise to associate with godly persons—with those who come to the Kingdom Hall and who apply what they learn there.—Proverbs 18:24.
7. (a) Does everyone who comes to Christian meetings necessarily apply godly principles? (b) What example in Samuel’s day shows that this is nothing new? (c) What did Samuel do, and with what results?
7 But what should you do if someone who should set a good example does not do so? This happened more than once in Bible times. Young Samuel had the outstanding privilege of serving at Jehovah’s place of worship, but the sons of the high priest Eli set a very bad example. They were scoundrels who violated Jehovah’s law and even had immoral relations with the women who served where Jehovah was worshiped. But young Samuel knew what was right. He did not follow their bad example. The Bible says: “All the while the boy Samuel was growing bigger and more likable both from Jehovah’s standpoint and from that of men.” (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 22-26) Samuel was greatly blessed by God. He grew up to be a prophet, and he was used to write the Bible books of Judges and Ruth and part of the first book of Samuel, which bears his name. He is an example of the statement made in Proverbs 20:11: “Even by his practices a boy makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.” Obviously, when you see someone doing wrong, you want to be like young Samuel and not like Eli’s sons, who knew Jehovah’s way but did not follow it.
Your Christian Conscience
8. What might a young Christian’s Bible-trained conscience keep him from doing?
8 As a faithful young Christian, you know that there are things your Bible-trained conscience will not let you do. For example, you know that many holidays have a pagan origin. They have come from false religious customs. So your conscience will not let you celebrate them. You also know that schools often have nationalistic programs or ceremonies that exalt their nation over others, and thus they are not in keeping with your Bible-based view that “[God] made out of one man every nation of men.” (Acts 17:26) Also, you know that schools often push competitive sports to an excess, urging students to spend a great deal of time in such activities—not just for recreation but with such a drive to win that violence may sometimes be the outcome.*
9, 10. How have some young Christians handled such problems?
9 Does following higher standards present problems for you? One young Witness commented: “We have few problems about our Christian consciences as long as the teacher knows our position in advance—before the problem comes up.” Young people who calmly and respectfully explain the reason for a certain viewpoint based on their Christian conscience—and do this before the teacher has taken a position in front of the class and the matter has become an emotional one—find they have fewer problems in this regard.
10 A youngster who liked music and wanted to play in the school orchestra said: “I explained to the teacher at the beginning of school that I would like to be in the orchestra, but that there was some music I could not play, and I told her why.” When such music comes up, the teacher knows in advance that this student will sit quietly without playing. In fact, teachers have been known to rearrange an entire program to fit such a Christian conscience. Of course, as young people point out, it helps if you have a good reputation in all other school matters—if the teachers know that you really live your religion and that you try hard in their classes.
11. (a) How can goals be of value to young people? (b) What are some worthwhile goals?
11 What are your plans for the future? Do you realize that many people do not have any? They have no goals, so they have few successes. They take what comes but accomplish little. One goal might be to bring your grades up to a certain level. Another might be to learn a particular trade so as to be able to support yourself.
12. What are other, more important, goals?
12 But the Bible shows we also need spiritual goals—things for which to reach out in God’s service. It says the person “pursuing righteousness” will be loved by Jehovah and that he will “find life, righteousness and glory.” (Proverbs 15:9; 21:21) Jesus said: “From the days of John the Baptist . . . the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press.” Paul said: “I am pursuing to see if I may also lay hold on that for which I have also been laid hold on by Christ Jesus. . . . I am pursuing down toward the goal.” (Matthew 11:12; Philippians 3:12-14) Thus, it is fine to have worthwhile goals.
13. How important is accurate knowledge?
13 As a young person today, do you pursue knowledge? Many young persons do not. Yet knowing about Jehovah is very important. In prayer to his Father, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) What reason could be more important than that?
14. What step-by-step progress can help you to know Jehovah and to understand his Word?
14 Do you find God’s Word and the Watch Tower publications that explain it interesting, or do you think they are hard to understand? If you find them hard to understand, My Book of Bible Stories will help you to get the whole history of the Bible in the right order. It will help you to fit things together and grasp them more easily. Then, the book Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It will help you to understand Bible principles that will add joy to your life. The more you learn, the easier learning will become, and you will want to prepare deeper material, including the Watchtower lesson, the material for the Theocratic Ministry School and the weekly Bible reading. You cannot do this all in one day, but you can develop spiritual maturity if you set individual goals and progress step by step toward knowledge and ability.—Proverbs 1:5; 2:10-12.
15. What other goals might you set for yourself?
15 Do you pursue privileges of Christian service? Do you have a personal goal of putting a certain amount of time in the house-to-house teaching work each week or month? Do you encourage other young people to come with you? Do you have a goal of becoming more capable of teaching during return visits and home Bible studies? Some young people have a yearly goal of being a pioneer (full-time volunteer preacher) during school vacation.
16. What long-range goals should be considered?
16 What about long-range goals? What do you want to accomplish by this time next year? Or in five years, if the end of this old system has not come by then? Do you have a long-range goal of becoming a regular pioneer minister or enjoying other privileges, such as being a member of the Bethel family that provides Bible literature for your part of the world? Setting goals, and working toward them, is a way of directing your life in a more useful way.
17. (a) Where can you find examples of people who developed such knowledge and ability during youth? (b) Do you know of examples that fit this description?
17 Think about the loving elders in your congregation and about your circuit and district overseers. At one time they were young people like you. But they reached out, years ago, developing knowledge and ability and serving God and their brothers. Does their example encourage you to make good use of the time you have in your youth? If so, you could become like the psalmist who wrote: “O God, you have taught me from my youth on, and until now I keep telling about your wonderful works.”—Psalm 71:17.
18. How was Timothy an outstanding example of what we have been talking about?
18 Timothy was an outstanding example of this. Paul told him: “From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) Timothy had learned the truth as a child, and he knew it was of great value. He grew in faith and knowledge. That fact did not go unnoticed, for the Scriptures say “he was well reported on” by the brothers. He was given the outstanding privilege of becoming the faithful coworker and traveling companion of the apostle Paul as that apostle established congregations in the non-Jewish world.—Acts 16:2-5.
19. How was Timothy to keep people from looking down on his youth?
19 You can be like Timothy. Take a firm hold on the truth. Use the added time you have now, while you are free from the time-consuming responsibilities of a family and major assignments in the congregation. Study, develop knowledge and ability. Most young people remember that Paul told Timothy: “Let no man ever look down on your youth.” But it is important to remember how Timothy was to do that. Paul said: “Become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness.” (1 Timothy 4:12) Also, he told Timothy: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth, but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) If you really pursue these things, you will find that this is indeed a wonderful time to be alive!
20. What is your own attitude, as you see this old world facing its end?
20 The old world is facing a catastrophic end, but by following the examples of Samuel, Timothy and other faithful servants of God, you can look to better things. Seek God’s favor. Strive to survive the end of this old system and to live through into the righteous conditions near at hand. Yes, heed Paul’s counsel to “ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”—1 Timothy 4:15.
For fine discussions of these matters, see The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, pages 145-149; Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It, chapter 16.
YOUTHS, WHAT POINTS DO YOU REMEMBER ON SEEKING TRUE HAPPINESS?
□ Why is it now a fine time to be young?
□ Who were some children who served God in Bible times?
□ Why should we avoid bad associations?
□ How may you avoid problems at school?
□ Why should goals be important to you?
□ What worthwhile goals may you have now?
□ What long-range goals may you pursue?
□ What major goal may you strive for, and how?