Youths—Are You Spiritually Progressive?
“Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:15.
1, 2. What does it mean, and not mean, to be spiritually progressive?
WHAT does it mean to be spiritually progressive? It means being like young Jesus and Timothy, who put spiritual interests first in their lives. If you are spiritually progressive, you will know what you want to do with your life. You will not say: ‘I’ll begin to think seriously about serving Jehovah when I get older.’ No, you will serve him now!
2 On the other hand, being spiritually progressive does not mean being monklike, putting on religious airs, or even becoming a bookworm; nor does it mean being sad, solemn, and never socializing. (John 2:1-10) Jehovah is a happy God, and he wants his earthly children to be happy. So moderate participation in sports and other recreational activities has God’s approval.—1 Timothy 1:11; 4:8.
Baptism an Evidence
3. When was Timothy most likely baptized?
3 Preparing for and getting baptized are evidences that a youth is spiritually progressive. If, as has been suggested, Timothy was still a teenager when he became the apostle Paul’s missionary companion, Timothy was probably baptized when he was in his mid or early teens. He had been instructed in the Scriptures from infancy, and once equipped with adequate knowledge and appreciation, he did not hesitate to get baptized.—2 Timothy 3:15.
4. What question was Philip asked, and although the questioner had just learned about Christ, why did Philip grant his request?
4 What about you teenagers who have been instructed in the Scriptures? Have you considered the question: “What prevents me from getting baptized?” In the first century, that question was asked by a man who was well versed in the Scriptures but who had just then learned the identity of Christ. True, the man did not know all there is to know about God’s purposes, yet he was moved with deep appreciation for what he did know! Thus, the disciple Philip had no legitimate reason for not baptizing him.—Acts 8:26-39.
5. What is required for you to be baptized?
5 What prevents you from getting baptized? To qualify, of course, you must comprehend what is involved. You must truly want to serve Jehovah because you love him. You also need to make a personal dedication to him in prayer. In addition, you must be adhering to God’s moral requirements and have sufficient experience in sharing your faith with others. When you thus qualify, it is vital to follow through and get baptized.—Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 2:38.
6. What may baptism be compared to, and what must follow it?
6 Though getting baptized is evidence that you are spiritually progressive, remember that baptism is just a beginning step. By making a dedication to Jehovah, you become an alien in this old world ruled by Satan. So dedication may be compared to applying for everlasting life in God’s new system, and the formal ceremony of baptism is, in effect, a demonstration before witnesses confirming this fact. (John 12:31; Hebrews 11:13) Afterward you must faithfully live up to your dedication in order to receive God’s gift of everlasting life.—Romans 6:23.
Evidenced by Conduct
7. How does your attitude toward things of the world relate to your spiritual progressiveness?
7 Whether you are spiritually progressive or not will also be evidenced by your attitude toward things of the world. What things? They include a freewheeling life-style, drugs, sexual freedom, immoral movies, suggestive music, obscene talk, sensuous dancing, racial and national pride, and so forth. (1 John 2:16; Ephesians 5:3-5) Youths, in particular, need to be on guard. Remember, the way you behave regarding such things will reveal the state of your spiritual health.—Proverbs 20:11.
8. Why do some youths hesitate to get baptized?
8 Satan sees to it that the world’s immoral ways appear very attractive. In fact, a 15-year-old said: “The more we see sex and drugs on TV, the more it seems normal in society.” Youths who do not participate in the ways of the world are made to feel that they are oddballs and that they are missing out on fun. Do you ever feel that way? Some associated with the congregation do, and they are indecisive. When asked about getting baptized, one youth said: ‘I don’t want to now because I may do something I would be disfellowshipped for.’ Yet you cannot straddle the fence or be limping on two different opinions. God’s prophet once said: “If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.”—1 Kings 18:21.
9. What protection is realized by being spiritually progressive?
9 Really, by avoiding the immoral ways of the world, all that you are missing out on is a lot of trouble. “An enormous feeling of revulsion and remorse for the life I had been leading overwhelmed me,” confessed one woman. “I had cheapened and cheated myself and the child I had conceived.” Yes, the apparent glamour and glitter of the Devil’s world is only a mirage, a deception. It holds nothing of value. Following the world’s ways leads to out-of-wedlock pregnancies, broken homes, sexually transmitted disease, and untold frustration and misery. So listen to counsel, be spiritually progressive. “Turn away from what is bad and do what is good.”—1 Peter 3:11.
10. What admonition and whose examples will a spiritually progressive youth heed?
10 A spiritually progressive youth will heed the admonition of the apostle Paul: “Be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding.” (1 Corinthians 14:20) Young Timothy certainly applied this counsel. Can you imagine his seeking the companionship of licentious, worldly youths of his day? Not at all! His companions were fellow servants of God. (Proverbs 13:20) Imitate his example. When about to engage in any questionable activity, ask yourself: Would Timothy or Jesus do this?
Evidenced by Bible Study
11. What vision do youths of the world lack, and how is it gained and maintained?
11 An article from Italy published in World Press Review said: “The youths’ delusion and desperation mount daily, and no one can offer them an encouraging future.” The blinded eyes of those in Satan’s world have no vision of God’s promised new world and of the glorious future that awaits those who qualify for life there. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Proverbs 29:18; 2 Peter 3:13) But spiritually progressive youths have such a vision that is kept bright and clear through regular Bible study.
12. (a) How must we go about obtaining knowledge of God? (b) Why is this knowledge worth the effort?
12 Is God’s new world real to you? It can be, but attaining it requires real effort on your part. You need to develop a keen appetite for Bible understanding so that “you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it.” (Proverbs 2:1-6) What keeps a treasure hunter searching and digging, sometimes for years? He passionately desires the riches that the treasure will bring him. Yet knowledge is so much more precious than material treasure. “This means everlasting life,” Jesus said, “taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) If you really believe what Jesus there said, Bible study will become an eager pursuit that will reward you with what is more precious than priceless gems.—Proverbs 3:13-18.
13. What suggestions for study will spiritually progressive youths follow?
13 You will find that the more you study, the greater your appetite will be for spiritual food. Learn good study methods. Do not simply underline answers, but look up cited Bible texts, and then pursue related texts through the Bible cross-references. You can also do additional research using indexes, such as the Watch Tower Publications Index 1930-1985. Analyze how the material applies and how it can be put to use. Talk to others about what you are studying. This will impress points on your mind and will serve to encourage others to do research as well. By really applying yourself, you will be heeding the counsel given to young Timothy: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons.”—1 Timothy 4:15; 2 Timothy 2:15.
Shown at Meetings and in Service
14. What helps to make Christian meetings a greater pleasure, and in what ways can you encourage others while attending?
14 When you enjoy Bible study and have prepared well, Christian meetings become a greater pleasure. (Psalm 122:1; Hebrews 2:12) You then look forward even more to sharing in audience-participation parts and to giving talks in the Theocratic Ministry School. But when attending meetings, there are other ways to fulfill the instruction ‘to encourage one another’ and “to incite to love and fine works.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Do you, for instance, take the initiative to speak to others? A friendly, “Hello, I’m glad to see you!” or a sincere inquiry, “How are you feeling?” can be so encouraging, especially when coming from a young person.
15. How can you make yourself available to perform needful services, and why is it good to keep Christ’s example in mind?
15 A lot of work is involved in the operations of a congregation. Can you share? Likely, young Timothy performed many helpful services for Paul—running errands, obtaining supplies, delivering messages, and so forth. If you have not done so, why not mention to the elders your willingness to be of help. Perhaps you will be asked to hand out meeting assignments, keep the hall clean, or perform some other needful service. Remember, Christ washed his disciples’ feet, so no work is beneath the dignity of one who is spiritually progressive.—John 13:4, 5.
16. What activity did a Catholic periodical recognize to be a Christian responsibility?
16 When we look at other religions, we can indeed be grateful for the training we receive at our meetings for the all-important preaching work. Writing in U.S. Catholic last September, Kenneth Guentert said: “I grew up in the days when Catholics weren’t supposed to read the Bible because they’d get strange ideas—like thinking Christians should go around knocking on doors trying to convert people. Then came Vatican II, and I started to read the Bible. Sure enough; now I think Christians should go around knocking on doors to try to convert people.” He added: “It’s not that I’m terribly comfortable with the idea, you understand; but if you read the New Testament, it is almost impossible to avoid this conclusion.”—Matthew 10:11-13; Luke 10:1-6; Acts 20:20, 21.
17. How can the ministry become more pleasurable for you?
17 Yes, early Christians were active in house-to-house preaching, and evidently youngsters like Timothy were right out there in the ministry with older ones. Yet, admittedly, for some today this is not the most enjoyable work. Why not? Adeptness is a factor. For example, when you do well in a game or a sport, do you not enjoy it more? It is much the same with the ministry. As you become more proficient in using the Bible and discussing Bible topics, the ministry will become a source of pleasure, especially when you find someone with whom you can share life-giving knowledge. So be spiritually progressive! Practice your door-to-door presentations. Get suggestions from others. Petition Jehovah’s help.—Luke 11:13.
By Relationships With Older Ones
18. What kind of relationships did Jesus and Timothy enjoy with older ones?
18 When he was just a youth of 12, Jesus enjoyed spending time with older ones, discussing spiritual things. His parents once “found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers and listening to them and questioning them.” (Luke 2:46) It was similar with Timothy. When the apostle Paul and his companions visited Lystra, Timothy evidently enjoyed their company and paid earnest attention to their teachings. He had a rapport with the local brothers who highly recommended him.—Acts 16:1-3.
19. Why particularly did Paul choose Timothy as a traveling companion, and how was Timothy of help?
19 Although Timothy willingly performed physical services for others, Paul chose him as a traveling companion particularly for his ability to minister to people’s spiritual needs. In view of that, when a mob forced Paul to leave Thessalonica, he sent young Timothy to comfort and strengthen the new disciples. So not only was Timothy eager to learn from older ones and to enjoy their company; he was of real spiritual help to them as well.—Acts 17:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3.
20. What will you be wise to do, and what services can you perform in behalf of older ones?
20 You will be wise to imitate Jesus and Timothy and be eager to benefit from the experience and knowledge of older ones. Seek their company and ask them questions. But also show your spiritual progressiveness by being of assistance to them. Are there aged or infirm ones that would appreciate having you do some shopping or other needful services? Perhaps you could simply visit them, read to them, and share experiences you have enjoyed in the ministry.
Role of Parents and Others
21. How important is the role of parents, and what cannot be overemphasized?
21 The spiritual health of youths is largely dependent upon the instruction and example provided by their parents. (Proverbs 22:6) Jesus surely benefited from the guidance given by his God-fearing earthly parents. (Luke 2:51, 52) And most certainly Timothy would not have been the spiritually progressive lad he was had it not been for the training of his mother and grandmother. (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15) The importance of regular Bible instruction cannot be overemphasized! As parents, are you providing this? Or is it neglected?
22. (a) When parents consider family Bible study vital, how are children affected? (b) What direction should parents give to their children?
22 A young man at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses explains that through the years of growing up, an invariable feature of their family life was the weekly Bible study with the children. “Sometimes Dad would be so tired from work he could hardly keep awake, but the study was held regardless, and this helped us to appreciate the seriousness of it.” Parents, it is unlikely that your children will highly value spiritual matters unless you do. So hold forth the goals of pioneering and of missionary and Bethel service. Help them to appreciate that the ministry is a career with a future and that there is no real future in worldly careers.—Compare 1 Samuel 1:26-28.
23. How can others in the congregation help youths to be spiritually progressive?
23 Others, too, can help youths to progress spiritually. You can make a point of conversing with them at meetings. Also, try to include them in some of your activities. With the parent’s permission, an elder might arrange to take a youth on a speaking assignment or to include him on an outing. (Job 31:16-18) What may seem to be a little thing can mean a lot. A traveling overseer, noting that a boy who was listening to his talk did not have a Bible, afterward made a gift of one to him. The lad was impressed not only with the gift but also with the interest shown in him. Over 30 years later, the boy, now an elder himself, still remembers with fondness that brother’s loving gesture.
24. What is it thrilling to realize, and what should be our determination?
24 Is it not thrilling to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of “young men just like dewdrops” publishing the refreshing Kingdom message and that there is at least an equal number of young women forming ‘a large army telling the good news’? May all of them apply themselves to being spiritually progressive, and may all of us help them to that end.—Psalm 110:3; 68:11.
Questions for Review
□ What can help a youth to decide when to be baptized?
□ How is a youth’s conduct a measure of his spiritual progressiveness?
□ What can help youths to enjoy meetings and field service?
□ What relationship should youths develop with older ones?
□ How can parents and older ones help youths?
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What prevents you from being baptized?