Youth’s Greatest Opportunity
“Godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come. Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is that statement.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:8, 9.
1, 2. (a) What do many youths consider important opportunities, and what questions are raised? (b) Why are there special pressures on today’s youth?
WHAT is the greatest opportunity that life holds out to you? Recent surveys of a cross section of young people reveal that the majority consider “getting a job that I enjoy” and “being very well-off financially” to be their most important goals. Increasing numbers of youths are career-minded, and in some places they are entering universities in record numbers in a quest for well-paying jobs. Many look to such material opportunities to find security, strength, and fulfillment in life. If you are a youth, is that how you feel? And how do you who are adults, especially parents, really consider such opportunities? Are these the key to the “good life”?
2 If ever young people needed strength and fulfillment, it is now during these “last days” when times are “hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Today’s young folks have grown up under stresses that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. The rapid changes in society, such as the breakdown of family life and morals, have caused great emotional turmoil.
The Need for Strength and Fulfillment
3, 4. What evidence shows that many youths lack inner strength, and why do material advantages not provide such?
3 More and more young people find that they lack the inner strength to cope with the pressures of life. (Compare Ephesians 3:16.) A recent National Institute of Mental Health report concludes that one out of five youths is seriously depressed.a From 1961 to 1975, the rate of juvenile suicide in the United States more than doubled! In that one land nearly 8,000 youths die by their own hands annually, yet 50 times that number attempt suicide. Some authorities call the problem a pandemic. Reports also show that a surprising number of youths are being admitted to mental hospitals.b
4 Of course, not all young people live in circumstances that offer material opportunities. However, when you consider that the reports mentioned earlier involve a major country where material opportunities abound, it is clear that such alone do not help young people to ‘remove vexation from their heart and calamity from their flesh.’ (Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10) Material advantages supply little strength to a person whose heart is plagued with discouraging self-doubts, insecurities, or guilts. The Bible observes: “Have you shown yourself discouraged in the day of distress? Your power will be scanty.”—Proverbs 24:10.
5, 6. Will gaining material things bring the “good life” in the future? Illustrate.
5 But will laying hold on material things eventually bring satisfaction, the “good life”? Wealthy King Solomon admitted: “I, even I, turned toward all the works of mine that my hands had done and toward the hard work that I had worked hard to accomplish, and, look! everything was vanity and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:3-11) Though his attainments brought him some pleasure, he still sensed a feeling of emptiness, of vanity.
6 Many today herald higher education as one of the keys to the future “good life.” One former U.S. state governor even called such schooling “a necessity for strength, fulfillment and survival.” Is it really? Well, 846 graduates from a prestigious university compiled a “class report” about how they were faring ten years after being graduated. “While jolly good cheer spreads through the report,” observed one class member, “there is an underlay of pessimism, bitterness and even despair.” After 25 years, one graduate had achieved “certain financial goals,” but he admitted: “The failures in my own personal life so outnumber the successes that both will mercifully go unreported.” Is this the best that life offers?
The Greatest Opportunity
7. For what careers could Timothy have trained, but what did Paul recommend?
7 In his inspired letters to the Christian disciple Timothy, the apostle Paul pointed to something much better. This young man had been assigned to serve in Ephesus, one of the greatest commercial centers in ancient times. What careers he must have seen! He himself could have striven to become a prosperous merchant or sought fame either at the school of Tyrannus or in the local theater. (1 Timothy 1:3; Acts 19:1, 9, 29) Timothy could no doubt have trained for a lucrative secular career, but Paul wrote: “Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim. For bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” Yes, godly devotion is “beneficial for all things.” This was not mere speculation, for Paul added: “Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is that statement.” From personal experience, Paul knew what would open up the best way of life.—1 Timothy 4:7-9; 2 Corinthians 6:10.
8, 9. (a) What is godly devotion? (b) What is your greatest opportunity, and why is effort needed to take advantage of it?
8 What is this godly devotion? It is personal attachment to God springing from a heart stirred by deep appreciation of his appealing qualities. While “godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28) means primarily reverential dread of doing anything displeasing to God, “godly devotion” is a response of the heart that will move you to live in a way that pleases God because you love him.c Such a quality of the heart leads to an “intimacy with God,” a personal relationship wherein you sense his approval and help. (Job 29:4) The opportunity to have this personal friendship with God is more valuable than anything else that may be offered to you.—Compare Jeremiah 9:23, 24.
9 Does having godly parents or getting baptized as a Christian automatically bring about this relationship with God? No, because sincerity of heart must be cultivated, along with other Christian virtues. (2 Peter 1:5-8) You must become a person ‘whose heart impels’ him to render “deeds of godly devotion.” (Compare Exodus 36:2; 2 Peter 3:11; Colossians 3:22.) Though reared from infancy in the way of the truth, Timothy had to develop godly devotion. Today, too, rigorous effort is necessary, yet this godly devotion will prove to be “a means of great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) How so?
An Elevated Way of Life
10, 11. How did godly devotion elevate Timothy’s life?
10 In Ephesus, Timothy pursued godly devotion among people who were ‘walking in the unprofitableness of their minds.’ (Ephesians 4:17) What filled their minds was of no real profit but was vanity. “What a picture!” states Bible scholar R. C. H. Lenski about Ephesians 4:17. “Men with thinking, willing minds, rational creatures, walking and walking on and on throughout life, following the dictates of a mind that leads them at every step and at the end to nothing, to monumental, tragic failure!”
11 Timothy could see that the Ephesians’ course of life was vain and debasing. Many worshiped the goddess Artemis, but their fanatical worship was directed to a lifeless image. It included wild orgies and ceremonial prostitution. (Acts 19:23-34) Timothy’s way of life, though, was elevated above that of the nations, who were “alienated from the life that belongs to God . . . [and] past all moral sense.” (Ephesians 2:6; 4:18, 19) His godly course in living “the life that belongs to God” had given him the greatest Friend in the universe! The opportunity to develop this relationship with the living God through godly devotion is most precious indeed! Can you lay hold on it?
12. What did one Christian youth say about the “great gain” of godly devotion? How do you feel about that?
12 Many today worship sex, pleasure, riches, and higher education with the same intensity that the ancient Ephesians did Artemis. (Matthew 6:24; Ephesians 5:3-5; Philippians 3:19) However, those pursuing godly devotion enjoy a superior quality of life. “I look at the kids I used to run around with before I began to study the Bible,” reports one 24-year-old Christian. “Half of them are in jail. Most are on drugs, and many of the girls have illegitimate babies. Their lives are a mess. Several are even dead. I am so thankful to be able to look at my life and be proud of what I see.” Other Christian youths heartily agree!
13. Why does following the command at 2 Timothy 4:5 add meaning to life?
13 Those who live with godly devotion have the treasure of the ministry. (2 Corinthians 4:1, 7; 2 Timothy 4:5) This provides real purpose and challenge. Rather than the pseudo excitement of some fictional TV or movie drama, Christians involved in the ministry visit the homes of real people to help them. They deal also with real problems. What indescribable joy as they see people who have lived immoral, violent, or hopeless lives respond to Bible instruction and put away former bad habits, develop self-respect, and serve Jehovah. No other career is as meaningful or produces such lasting good!
Contentment and a Clean Conscience
14, 15. How does godly contentment as to money make for a better life?
14 “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. . . . So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things. However, those who are determined to be rich . . . have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10) In 1981 a survey by Psychology Today revealed that young people think “much more” about money than any other age group. However, half the group of respondents who were most concerned about money (including wealthy and poor) complained of “constant worry and anxiety.”
15 A young man in Japan succeeded in going from ‘rags to riches,’ but in doing so he damaged his health. Later, with the help of a Bible study, he developed godly devotion. “When I think back to when my chief goal in life was to become wealthy, there is no comparison as to how much happier I’ve been since I changed my goal,” he concludes. “Truly there is nothing that can match the contentment and satisfaction that come with using one’s life in the service of the Grand Creator.”d—Proverbs 10:22; Ecclesiastes 5:10-12.
16. What is the result to those who fail to ‘hold a good conscience’?
16 Paul urged Timothy to ‘hold a good conscience.’ How? One way was for him to treat women “with all chasteness.” (1 Timothy 1:19; 5:2) However, chastity has all but vanished from among many youths as their consciences have become seared. (1 Timothy 4:2) But immorality does not bring inner peace and satisfaction. One study considered the sexual attitudes and conduct of several hundred adolescents. Concerning those who were the most sexually promiscuous, the report stated: “They believe they are functioning with little purpose and self-contentment.” Nearly half of these felt: “The way I’m living right now, most of my abilities are going to waste.”
17. Why does ‘love out of a good conscience’ help us to get the best out of life?
17 If, in time, a couple pursue honorable marriage, they will be benefited by showing “love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience.” (1 Timothy 1:5) In 1984 the Journal of Marriage and the Family reported that a study of 309 recently married couples showed that premarital sex was associated with “significantly lower marital satisfaction for both spouses.” But what a contrast with those who are chaste! “It is such a beautiful feeling looking back and knowing I am clean,” states one young Christian wife who has now been happily married for seven years. Yes, a clean conscience is a rich reward to youths who “become an example . . . in chasteness.”—1 Timothy 4:12.
18, 19. (a) Timothy had to deal with what pressures? (b) How did God help him?
18 No doubt Timothy met with many pressures in Ephesus. The temptations of the prosperous and immoral city with its emphasis on ‘fun and games’ could bring external stress. Timothy’s apparent diffidence as well as his “frequent cases of sickness” certainly created pressures within him. (1 Timothy 5:23) But Paul reminded him: “God gave us not a spirit of cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind.”—2 Timothy 1:7.
19 Indeed, how many of your peers yearn for such strength! One young woman fully overcame a life of prostitution and drug addiction. “It was only by Jehovah’s help,” she said. “There are certain times I will get those old feelings back, but I just start praying—immediately. The ability to overcome these problems is more exciting than anything I have ever accomplished in my life!” No question about it, God can ‘infuse power’ into you and give you the inner strength to cope with any pressure and to make sound decisions.—2 Timothy 4:17.
20, 21. (a) Relate some of the benefits of godly devotion. (b) What will be considered in the following article?
20 So godly devotion brings you a host of benefits. Your “course of life” takes on a purpose that towers over the goals of those who reach only for material opportunities. (2 Timothy 3:10) As one Christian youth who gave up a college scholarship and became a full-time evangelizer exclaimed: “I have the best career anyone could want, being a teacher of the good news and helping others to learn of our loving Father! And the ‘fringe benefit’—my own improved personality—is better than anyone could offer. Add to that the reward of living in a paradise forever with no more sorrows. Now ask: What better life could anyone ever want?”
21 You may say, ‘How can I develop godly devotion?’ For an answer, read the following article.
a “A number of experts in adolescent development and behavior see such depression as a major contributing factor to serious teen problems such as truancy and trouble at school, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual acting out, pregnancy, running away from home and suicide,” reports author Kathleen McCoy in Coping with Teenage Depression.
b While in the United States the number of admissions of all age groups has declined during a 13-year period, the 15-24 age group increased 19 percent, and the under-15 group increased 158 percent!
c “The spontaneous feeling of the heart [toward God]” is how the Lexicon by Edward Robinson defines the original Greek word eu·seʹbei·a. J. A. H. Tittmann, in his Remarks on the Synonyms of the New Testament, adds: “[Godly devotion] expresses that reverence for the Deity which shows itself in actions, . . . but [godly fear] indicates that disposition, which dreads and avoids the doing of any thing contrary to right, . . . [godly devotion] is the energy of piety in the life.”
d Read the life story of Shozo Mima, “Finding Something Better Than Wealth,” in The Watchtower of March 1, 1978.
Do You Recall?
◻ Why are material opportunities of limited value?
◻ What is your greatest opportunity?
◻ What does godly devotion provide that helps you to get the best out of life?
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What will make you genuinely happy?
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Timothy trained with godly devotion as his aim. This elevated his life above that of the immoral Ephesians