Train With Godly Devotion as Your Aim
“Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:7.
1. Why did one good runner fail to win?
SHE was the best runner on the team in her event. Previous victories had given her a national rating. So it was expected that she would win at this distinguished track meet. However, to the disappointment of her coach, teammates, and herself, she ran the worst race of her career. Why? “I slouched off in practice and stopped training hard,” admitted the young woman, deeply embarrassed. “My coach tried to push me to do harder workouts and warned me, but I did not listen.” Her failure to train properly cost her the victory for which she was aiming.
2. In what way must Christians train, and why should all want to know how?
2 As a Christian, particularly if you are young, you also have a vital training. “Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.” (1 Timothy 4:7) The Greek word for “be training” (gy·mnaʹzo) described the strenuous and often painful exercises that athletes performed in the gymnasium. Therefore, regarding godly devotion and its rewards, the apostle Paul added: “To this end we are working hard and exerting ourselves.” (1 Timothy 4:10) This essential quality is not something that just comes naturally or that rubs off from godly parents. But what steps must you take? Christians of all ages should want to know.
Good Communication With God
3. (a) Why is personal study so important? (b) What qualities of God draw you to him?
3 Since godly devotion involves heartfelt appreciation for Jehovah’s qualities, you need to know what he is really like. Jehovah communicates this in the Bible. But you must carefully study his Word and Bible-based publications, thereby being “nourished with the words of the faith and of the fine teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:6) Such study will help you to see “the pleasantness of Jehovah.”—Psalm 27:4.
4. What experiences show the value of personal study, and what questions should you seriously consider?
4 “It makes you feel closer to Jehovah the more you learn about him,” states a 22-year-old, full-time evangelizer (pioneer). “When I read prophecies and see how they are fulfilled, it makes me stand in awe of him. Personal study is what really helps me.” A 16-year-old, who had been severely depressed, wrote about one of the articles in the series “Young People Ask” that appears regularly in the Awake! magazine: “Just when I had given up all hope, this article came out. I was so excited I could not put it down! It made me feel so much closer to Jehovah, and I realized that he understands and cares very much. I feel now I can cope.”* Do you make it a point to read each issue of our journals? Though it requires exertion, do you make time to nourish your mind and heart by personal Bible study? By doing your own research, you can really prove for yourself that you have the truth. When such knowledge reaches the heart, it almost certainly will motivate you, for it is “the teaching that accords with godly devotion.”—1 Timothy 6:3; Romans 12:2.
5, 6. What kind of prayers draw you closer to God? Illustrate.
5 Good communication with God also involves heartfelt and specific prayers. These help toward building a personal friendship with Jehovah. When you make mistakes, be willing to plead as did David: “The sins of my youth and my revolts O do not remember.” (Psalm 25:7, 11) And know that he will forgive you if you are repentant. Learn to linger in prayer, pouring out your heart. One youth, though reared in a godly home, had allowed a speech impediment to hinder her involvement in the true religion. “Then one night,” revealed this 22-year-old, “I begged Jehovah, ‘Help me to want to serve you, and not just because the elders or my parents want me to.’” How her life began to change! Despite her stuttering, she became fully involved in the ministry. Joyfully she declares, “I trust in Jehovah a whole lot more now because I know he always comes through.”—Psalm 62:8.
6 One young Christian prayed specifically regarding her plans to pioneer. When her prayers were answered, she exclaimed: “I knew Jehovah was real and that he cares for us! Before this I thought I had a relationship with him, but now he is more like a friend—my best one.” Jehovah will not always answer in some spectacular way, but if you are earnest and work in harmony with your prayers, you will come to appreciate his loving guidance.—Psalm 145:18.
Hold a Good Conscience
7. What is the conscience, and why must you hold a good one?
7 When Paul urged Timothy to continue “holding . . . a good conscience,” the apostle knew that it would require determined effort. (1 Timothy 1:19) Why so? Our conscience is our God-given capacity to examine ourselves and pass judgment on what we have done or contemplate doing. It can either ‘accuse’ us, painfully condemning our course, or ‘excuse’ us, approving what we do as right. (Romans 2:15) But if it becomes warped, it can send out defective messages. Some with defective consciences can act like ruthless animals, yet the ‘inner voice’ does not ‘accuse’ them. They can even “publicly declare they know God” but “disown him by their works.” How can you guard against developing a defective conscience?—Titus 1:10-16.
8. How did some in the first century “thrust aside” a good conscience.
8 Paul had told Timothy that some Christians had “thrust aside” their good conscience by ‘paying attention to false stories’ and “empty speeches that violate what is holy.” (1 Timothy 1:4, 19, 20; 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:16-18) Because they listened to these things, their faith was subverted, and this resulted in spiritual shipwreck. Paul, however, showed that other things besides apostate teachings were “in opposition to the healthful teaching.” At 1 Timothy 1:9, 10 he lists such things as murder, fornication, and homosexuality.
9, 10. (a) What can be learned from the example of a Christian couple who failed to hold a good conscience? (b) How can we prevent our conscience from becoming seared?
9 Today violence and sexual immorality pervade movie and TV presentations as well as the printed page. If we feed our mind on such, our conscience can gradually become seared. This happened to a young Christian couple who committed fornication shortly before their wedding day. “I think it had to do with what we had been watching on TV,” admitted the young woman. “You see persons all the time necking and petting, so it does not seem to be serious. You get used to it. So we started doing it. If I had only thought more about how serious it was!” Before she realized it, she lost her good conscience. The young man added: “I also had a problem with masturbation, and this sears your conscience so it is not so hard to engage in necking and petting and then finally in fornication.” Though they seemed to be setting a good example before others, what they watched for entertainment, together with a secret unclean practice, had worked toward deadening the conscience just as flesh is cauterized by repeated touches from a red-hot branding iron.—1 Timothy 4:2.
10 Could your conscience be similarly deadened by what you watch or read for entertainment? Are you really working hard to overcome any bad habit that could defile your conscience? For your protection, you could take positive action by reading—and rereading—Bible-based literature that specially deals with your problem or by discussing the problem with an elder. A good, clean conscience is a precious gift from God that will help you to develop godly devotion. Do not let anything cause you to lose it!
Choose Proper Associates
11, 12. (a) What warning is given at 2 Timothy 2:20, 21? (b) How can you heed that warning?
11 The apostle Paul writes: “In a large house [the congregation] there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and earthenware, and some for an honorable purpose but others for a purpose lacking honor. If, therefore, anyone keeps clear of the latter ones, he will be a vessel for an honorable purpose, sanctified, useful to his owner, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:20, 21) Our emotions and conduct are greatly affected by those whom we choose as friends. Obviously, unbelievers are not the best associates. But Paul here shows frankly that even within the congregation there could be persons who are undesirable associates. True, you may find such ones fun to be around, but their influence will never help you to “flee from the desires incidental to youth” or to develop godly devotion. Reach out for upbuilding associates within the congregation. Paul continues in 2Ti 2 verse 22: “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call upon the Lord out of a clean heart.”—Compare Philippians 4:8, 9.
12 Take the case of one Christian youth who, despite godly training, was always getting into trouble. “It was largely because of the people I was associating with,” she said. When she saw her life becoming a failure, she changed her friends. She concludes: “If you have friends around you who love Jehovah, it helps you to keep a sensitive conscience and stay out of trouble. When they express disgust for wrongdoing, it makes you feel the same way.” By keeping clear of questionable associates, she has become a vessel “useful to [her] owner, prepared for every good work.” Having served for ten years as a pioneer, she adds: “I find that now Jehovah has used me to help others.”—2 Timothy 2:21; Proverbs 15:31.
13. How can you determine who are good associates, and how may they influence you?
13 Hence, realistically consider your associates. Do they pursue righteousness, faith, principled love, and peace? Are they full of Christian zeal? By making such ones your close companions, you yourself may become an example in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness, just as did Timothy, the close associate of Paul. This does not mean that you should become cold or unfriendly toward less exemplary ones. Your joyful example may stir these, also, to make straight paths for their feet.—1 Timothy 4:12; Hebrews 12:12-15.
Make Sacrifices for God
14, 15. (a) What was required of ancient athletes while training? (b) What work requires sacrifice, and what good examples do we have?
14 During Timothy’s day, while athletes were in training they exercised “self-control in all things,” denying themselves many legitimate pleasures. (1 Corinthians 9:25) They followed a strict diet. According to Horace, poet of the first century B.C.E., they “abstained from women and wine” to “reach the longed-for goal.” Similarly, to train with godly devotion as your aim requires sacrifice. Paul said of Timothy: “I have no one else of a disposition like his . . . for all the others are seeking their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. But . . . he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.”—Philippians 2:19-22.
15 Timothy was commanded: “Do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5) Regardless of how appealing any of his personal interests might have been, he sacrificed these to complete God’s work. Are you willing to do the same? Today some young Christians who are free of heavy Scriptural responsibilities have pursued higher education or high-paying full-time jobs rather than making the Christian ministry their career. One of these was eagerly awaiting such a job. However, before he started work, he accepted the invitation to work with a pioneer couple in the field service all summer. He loved it. As a result, he sacrificed that coveted full-time job and took less interesting part-time work in order to pioneer. With this same Timothy-like spirit, he now serves at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The willingness to sacrifice is evidence of genuine love, and the sacrifices deepen that love, as he found out.
16. What are some sacrifices that young people may have to make?
16 As “a preacher and an apostle,” Paul emphasized the desirability of modesty in dress. Would you be willing to sacrifice a certain style of dress or grooming that could upset others or hinder your effectiveness as a preacher? (1 Timothy 2:7-10) Continuing, Paul wrote: “All those desiring to live with godly devotion . . . will also be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Are you willing to stand up for the truth when it may mean ridicule, sacrificing a favored position with your classmates? All such sacrifices done with the right motive will help you to develop godly devotion and at the same time teach you to rely on Jehovah and consider his feelings above all else.
17. In making advancement, how was Timothy an example for young ministers today?
17 Developing godly devotion is an ongoing process. Paul told Timothy: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.” (1 Timothy 4:15) Some, because of being too young to be a ministerial servant or an elder, may feel unable to advance, thinking that progress is measured solely by congregational responsibilities and privileges. True, Timothy had qualified not only in spiritual development but also in years to serve as an elder. But Timothy was to continue applying himself, and in this he set an outstanding example for all young ministers to follow in whatever field may be open to them.—1 Timothy 4:12, 13.
18. In what ways can young Christians make advancement?
18 So, like Timothy, you maturing servant of Jehovah can be “an example to the faithful ones” by letting the truth deeply influence the way you live and by improving in your ministry. Right now you can strive to advance by learning to cultivate such qualities as being moderate in habits, orderly, hospitable, and serious. By making yourself available to the elders and by taking seriously any task they ask you to perform, you can work toward proving your ‘fitness under test.’ (1 Timothy 3:1, 2, 8-10) Even if your progress is not quickly recognized by others, be assured that Jehovah sees. In time, others will also.—1 Timothy 5:25.
19. Despite the effort, why should you train with godly devotion as your aim?
19 Never forget that it is by developing godly devotion that you may attain to an approved personal relationship with Jehovah. Lack of spiritual training results in a loss far greater than that of the embarrassed runner mentioned at the outset of this article. Developing godly devotion is hard work. But all over the world, multitudes of joyful young voices thunder: IT IS WORTH ALL THE EFFORT! Gaining this quality leads to a satisfying way of life now, with no regrets, and it opens up the hope of eternal happiness. So keep training. Continue to do your best, even when it is difficult. Take comfort that “the God of all undeserved kindness . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong. To him be the might forever. Amen.”—1 Peter 5:10, 11.
“Why Do I Get So Depressed?” in the August 22, 1982, issue of Awake!, companion magazine of The Watchtower.
Can You Answer?
□ What effort is needed to maintain good communication with God?
□ What is involved in holding a good conscience?
□ How may 2 Timothy 2:20-22 be applied in developing godly devotion?
□ How can young Christians make advancement?
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Some Qualities of Our Warmhearted God
▪ While humans often look just at another’s appearance, he “sees what the heart is.”—1 Samuel 16:7.
▪ While not condoning wrongdoing, when we repent over a mistake or a weakness, he is “ready to forgive,” not doing “to us even according to our sins” nor bringing “upon us what we deserve.”—Psalm 86:5; 103:8-14.
▪ He is approachable, and he encourages his loyal creatures to use their abilities. Despite his infinite wisdom, he listens to suggestions. “Your own humility will make me great,” wrote King David.—Psalm 18:35; 1 Kings 22:19-22.
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Many Christians find deeper joy in the ministry than in high-paying jobs