“Go On Walking Orderly in This Same Routine”
“To what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”—PHILIPPIANS 3:16.
1, 2. (a) How are exemplary youths a source of encouragement? (b) Yet, what questions about them come to mind?
WHEN Alisa was little more than two years old, she delighted everyone by being able to sing through the names of all the 66 books of the Bible, recite the names of the 12 apostles, and describe by gestures the nine fruits of God’s spirit. (Matthew 10:2-4; Galatians 5:22, 23) By the time she was in the fifth grade at school, she was conducting a weekly Bible study with a girl in the third grade, who, in turn, was able to get her older brother interested in the Bible. Alisa and her little companion have set a goal for themselves. They look forward to being partners in full-time preaching work as special pioneers in due time.
2 Surely, it would be a delight for any one of us to know children such as these, and very likely you do. At the same time, however, we cannot help but wonder: What will they turn out to be when they grow up? Will they continue their spiritual development until they reach their goal? Or will they be distracted by other things and fall by the wayside?
3. Who need to make advancement?
3 Obviously such youngsters need a great deal of spiritual development before they reach their goal. But is it only the young or the new ones that need to make advancement? In fact, is advancement necessary only until one reaches spiritual maturity or becomes qualified for a certain privilege? Not so. Consider the apostle Paul. Rather than being satisfied with what he had achieved, he said in his letter to the Philippians: “Not that I have already received it or am already made perfect, but 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.”—Philippians 3:12.
4. What “goal” was the apostle Paul pursuing?
4 Clearly, Paul was not talking about attaining maturity, for there was no question but that he already was a mature Christian. Yet he said he was “pursuing” something that he had not yet “received.” What was it? Paul went on to explain: “I am pursuing down toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14) The goal he was pursuing was not just Christian maturity or qualification for a certain position, but it was something greater. For him and his fellow anointed Christians, it was “the upward call,” the hope of heavenly life through a resurrection.
5. (a) Why is continuous growth essential? (b) What may “forgetting the things behind” include?
5 This helps us to see the reason for continuing to grow and develop spiritually no matter how long we have been in the truth. If a person made advancement only to the point of being considered mature, or only to the point of qualifying for some special privilege, what lasting benefit would there be for him? Maturity and special privileges are no guarantee that we will reach our final goal—everlasting life. Instead, we must do as the apostle Paul did: ‘Forget the things behind and stretch forward to the things ahead.’ (Philippians 3:13) Not only should we leave behind the unprofitable things we may have done before coming to a knowledge of the truth but we should also be careful not to become self-satisfied with what we have done since that time. In other words, the advice is not to rest on one’s laurels but to press forward without letup. Are you doing this, or are you, for one reason or another, slowing down?—See 1 Corinthians 9:26.
6 With this possibility in mind, Paul continued: “Let us, then, as many of us as are mature, be of this mental attitude; and if you are mentally inclined otherwise in any respect, God will reveal the above attitude to you.” (Philippians 3:15) Earlier, in Php 3 verse 12, Paul indicated that he did not consider himself as “already made perfect.” Yet here he said “as many of us as are mature,” or, “perfect ones.” (Kingdom Interlinear) This is not a contradiction. Rather, it only makes the point that even mature Christians such as Paul must bear in mind that they have not yet reached the ultimate goal, and they must continue to make advancement in order to reach it. That is why he summed it up this way: “At any rate, to what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine.”—Philippians 3:16.
7. What “routine” was Paul urging Christians to follow?
7 When Paul encouraged Christians to “go on walking orderly in this same routine,” was he telling them to work out a comfortable pattern of activity and stay put until the time came for them to receive their reward? To do so would be doing like the slave in Jesus’ illustration who buried the one talent his master had given him and simply waited for the master’s return. (Matthew 25:14-30) Even though the slave did not lose the talent or quit his service, he was called “good-for-nothing” and rejected by the master. Surely Paul was not telling us just to hold on to what we have for fear that we might lose it. He was speaking about making progress. By “routine” Paul evidently had in mind a set course of forward movement, something like that of a soldier who is not standing at attention but is marching forward.
8. With what should we concern ourselves regarding our service to God?
8 Paul’s advice should help us to recognize the importance of putting forth continuous and strenuous effort to advance, improve, and better ourselves in Jehovah’s service. “To what extent we have made progress,” whether elders, ministerial servants, pioneers, or publishers, our chief concern should be to improve the quality and, if possible, the quantity of our service. We must be careful not to fall into the same frame of mind as the delinquent Israelites of Malachi’s day who thought they were getting away with offering inferior sacrifices to Jehovah. But how did Jehovah feel about it? “Yes, you have brought it [the lame and sick offering] as a gift,” he said. Then he added: “Can I take pleasure in it at your hand?”—Malachi 1:13.
9 To the contrary, we should take our service to God seriously. As Paul reminded the Romans, whatever privilege of service we may be given, we should be ‘at it,’ “in real earnest” and not ‘loiter at our business.’ (Romans 12:6-8, 11) To loiter is to hang around aimlessly, with no forward movement toward any specific goal. Interestingly, the Greek word used here literally means “slothful,” a most fitting description. A report shows that, though capable of rapid movement, over a period of 168 hours, one sloth slept or remained completely motionless for 139 hours—83 percent of the time. No wonder we are admonished not to be “slothful” but to “be aglow with the spirit” and “slave for Jehovah”! What can help us to do this?
10. Why should we be keenly interested in Paul’s counsel to Timothy at 1 Timothy 4:12-16?
10 At 1 Timothy 4:12-16 the apostle Paul spelled out in detail the things Timothy should do so that his advancement might “be manifest to all persons.” At the time, the disciple Timothy was neither a youngster nor a novice. In fact, by then he had worked closely with Paul for more than ten years and had considerable responsibility and authority entrusted to him in the Christian congregation, no doubt because of the advancement he already had made up to that point. Yet, Paul still gave Timothy such counsel. Clearly, it behooves all of us to pay close attention to what Paul had to say.
Become an example in speech and conduct
11, 12. (a) What is the first area we should give attention to in making advancement? (b) Why is it more important than advancement in knowledge or skill?
11 First, in 1Ti 4 verse 12, Paul said: “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.” This list reminds us of “the fruitage of the spirit,” which Paul detailed at Galatians 5:22, 23. Who can deny that every one of us needs to produce this fruitage to a greater extent in our lives? Most of us put forth a great deal of effort to learn and memorize the nine fruits of the spirit, and to teach the young and the new ones to do the same. But do we put forth at least that much effort to cultivate them? Paul made the point that those who are mature should be exemplary in these matters. Surely, this is one area in our lives where all of us can easily make advancement.
12 In one sense, perhaps, these qualities are even more of an indicator of our spiritual progress than knowledge and skills are, because the former are products of God’s spirit, whereas the latter are often related to one’s natural abilities and education. The scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were well versed in the Scriptures, and they were scrupulous in observing the intricate details of the Law. Yet, Jesus condemned them, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23) How important it is for us to continue to make advancement in cultivating these “weightier matters” in our lives!
Application to reading, exhortation, and teaching
13. How can appointed overseers benefit from Paul’s counsel at 1 Timothy 4:13?
13 Next, Paul admonished Timothy to “continue applying [himself] to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13) Elsewhere in his letters, Paul spoke highly of Timothy as an able and faithful minister. (Philippians 2:20-22; 2 Timothy 1:4, 5) Yet he advised Timothy to continue giving attention to these essential responsibilities of an overseer. If you are an appointed overseer in the congregation, do you “continue applying yourself” to these matters? For example, do you take seriously the suggestions offered in the Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook and work on your deficiencies, or do you feel that this counsel is only for the beginners? Do you study the Bible and the Society’s publications carefully so that you can “exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching”?—2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9.
Do not neglect the gift of service
14. How can we show advancement in our field ministry?
14 While only a few are appointed to teach in the congregation, all Christians are commissioned by Jesus Christ to share in the Kingdom witnessing and the disciple-making work. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) This involves teaching honest-hearted ones the Bible truth, exhorting them to make changes in their lives and to take their stand on Jehovah’s side. Do you “continue applying yourself” to improve your ministerial skills? Do you conscientiously make use of the suggestions offered in Our Kingdom Ministry and the weekly Service Meeting so as to ‘do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplishing your ministry’?—2 Timothy 4:5.
15. What was Timothy’s “gift,” and what about today?
15 Previously, Paul had given Timothy this reminder: “Do not be neglecting the gift in you that was given you through a prediction and when the body of older men laid their hands upon you.” (1 Timothy 4:14) Apparently, through the operation of the holy spirit, Timothy had been designated for and subsequently appointed to some special service in the Christian congregation. (1 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 1:6) Similarly, today there are many in the organization who have cultivated God-given abilities, resulting in their being appointed as traveling overseers, missionaries, regular or special pioneers, elders, and so on. Even though no special prediction or laying on of hands is involved, the counsel “do not be neglecting the gift in you” applies with similar force.
16. What can prevent us from neglecting our “gift”?
16 To neglect something, according to the dictionary, means to give little attention to it or to leave it undone through carelessness. When something becomes commonplace, it is easy to neglect it. This could happen if we stop making progress, or advancement, but take our assignments for granted. Therefore, we can profit from what Paul said at Colossians 3:23, 24: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance. Slave for the Master, Christ.”
Continuous Effort Brings Blessings
17. How only will we see the result of our efforts?
17 When we give close attention to the matters discussed above, we can be assured that we will not fall into the trap of complacency or self-satisfaction. “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons,” said Paul. (1 Timothy 4:15) The “advancement,” of course, is not for the purpose of showing off or impressing others. When we, young and old, grow and develop spiritually, we bring joy and encouragement to all who associate with us, as did young Alisa and her companion, mentioned earlier in this article.
18. What double blessing awaits us if we apply Paul’s counsel diligently?
18 A double blessing awaits us if we apply Paul’s counsel diligently. “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching,” said Paul. “Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Yes, by constantly examining ourselves as to whether we are doing what we teach others to do, that is, to advance, grow, and develop spiritually, we will avoid the tragedy of ‘becoming disapproved somehow.’ (1 Corinthians 9:27) Rather, the happy prospect of life in God’s promised New Order is assured for us and for those whom we have the joyful privilege to help. Thus, for our blessing and for the blessing of others, and for the praise of Jehovah God: “Go on walking orderly in this same routine”!—Philippians 3:16.
Do You Remember?
□ What is the ultimate “goal” we should have in mind? How do we pursue it? (Philippians 3:12, 13)
□ What is the “routine” in which we should walk? (Philippians 3:16)
□ Why must we continue to improve in Christian conduct and speech? (1 Timothy 4:12)
□ How can elders, ministerial servants, and others make advancement in their teaching skill? (1 Timothy 4:13)
□ What must we do not to neglect “the gift” entrusted to us? (1 Timothy 4:14)
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Alisa and her Bible student have the full-time ministry as their goal