Youths—What Are You Pursuing?
“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.
1. What is our hope for the young people in our midst?
“JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES,” declared the Swedish Pentecostal newspaper Dagen (The Day), “compose the group that wins the greatest number of new members every year and has the largest crowd of youths.” Perhaps you are a part of this crowd of clean, God-fearing youths. You may have been reared in the Christian way from infancy, or you may have heard and responded to the Kingdom message on your own. In any case, we are glad to have you in our midst. And it is our hope that you will pursue a course of righteousness, as did loyal Christian youths in the first century. The apostle John’s words may well describe you: “You are strong and the word of God remains in you and you have conquered the wicked one.”—1 John 2:14.
2. What factors can make pursuing a righteous course difficult during “the bloom of youth”?
2 Many—yes the majority—of Christian youths today are standing up to the world’s pressures. You may find, though, that maintaining such a course is not easy. When you are in “the bloom of youth,” you can feel overwhelmed by new and intense emotions. (1 Corinthians 7:36) At the same time, you may be feeling an increasing load of responsibilities in school, at home, and in the congregation. There is even pressure from Satan the Devil himself. Determined to mislead as many as possible, he attacks those who may seem vulnerable—just as he did in the garden of Eden. Back then, he focused his persuasive guile, not on the older, more knowledgeable Adam, but on the younger and relatively inexperienced woman, Eve. (Genesis 3:1-5) Centuries later, Satan used similar tactics on the fledgling congregation of Christians in Corinth. Said the apostle Paul: “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.”—2 Corinthians 11:3.
3, 4. What are some tools that Satan the Devil uses to mislead young people, and with what possible outcome?
3 Today, your Christian parents may likewise be afraid for you. Not that they think you are wickedly inclined, but they know from experience that young people are especially vulnerable to Satan’s “crafty acts.” (Ephesians 6:11, footnote) Far from appearing sinister, Satan’s traps are made to look quite appealing, desirable. Television neatly packages materialism, explicit sex, graphic violence, and spiritism as entertainment. Young minds may become filled with things that are anything but ‘true, of serious concern, righteous, chaste, and lovable.’ (Philippians 4:8) Peer pressure is another potent tool of Satan. Peers may put you under intense pressure to conform to their life-style, dress, and grooming. (1 Peter 4:3, 4) Newspaper columnist William Brown observed: “If there is any single, secular God for the teenager it is the God of conformity. . . . Being different for teens is a fate worse than death.” One Witness girl in Italy confessed: “I was ashamed to let my schoolmates know that I was a Witness. And because I knew that Jehovah was not happy with me, I was sad and downhearted.”
4 Make no mistake—Satan wants to lead you to your ruin. Many young ones out in the world will suffer the loss of their lives during the great tribulation because they allowed themselves to be misled. (Ezekiel 9:6) The only way to survive is to pursue what is right.
Guard Against Bad Associations
5, 6. (a) The young man Timothy faced what challenges while living in Ephesus? (b) What counsel did Paul have for Timothy?
5 That was the gist of the advice the apostle Paul gave the young man Timothy. For over ten years, Timothy had accompanied the apostle Paul on his missionary travels. At a time when Timothy was ministering in the pagan city of Ephesus, Paul sat in a Roman prison awaiting execution. As the time of his death approached, Paul was no doubt concerned as to how Timothy would fare. Ephesus was a city renowned for its wealth, immorality, and decadent entertainment, and Timothy would no longer have the support of his beloved mentor.
6 Paul therefore wrote his “beloved child” the following: “Now in a large house 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. So, 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 1:2; 2:20-22.
7. (a) What were the ‘vessels lacking honor’ that Paul warned of? (b) How can youths today apply Paul’s words?
7 Paul thus cautioned Timothy that even among fellow Christians there might have been ‘vessels lacking honor’—individuals who did not conduct themselves aright. Now if association with certain anointed Christians could have been harmful for Timothy, how much more so would association with worldlings be damaging to a Christian youth today! (1 Corinthians 15:33) This does not mean giving your schoolmates the cold shoulder. But you should take care not to get overly involved with them, even if that makes you appear to be a loner at times. This can be very difficult. Says one Brazilian girl: “It is hard. I am always being invited by my schoolmates to go to parties and places that are improper for Christian youths. They say: ‘What! You’re not going? You’re crazy!’”
8, 9. (a) How can association, even with seemingly nice worldlings, pose a danger for a Christian? (b) Where can you find wholesome friends?
8 Some worldly youths may seem nice simply because they do not smoke, use bad language, or engage in immoral sex. If they are not pursuing righteousness, though, their fleshly thinking and attitudes can easily rub off on you. Besides, how much could you have in common with unbelievers? (2 Corinthians 6:14-16) Why, the spiritual values you hold dear are mere “foolishness” to them! (1 Corinthians 2:14) Could you maintain their friendship without compromising your principles?
9 So keep clear of unwholesome associates. Limit your association to spiritually minded Christians who really love Jehovah. Be careful even of youths in the congregation who are negative or critical. As you grow spiritually, your taste in friends will likely change. Says one teenage Witness girl: “I have been making new friends in different congregations. It has made me realize how unnecessary worldly friends are.”
Fleeing Wrong Desires
10, 11. (a) What does it mean to “flee from the desires incidental to youth”? (b) How can one “flee from fornication”?
10 Paul also urged Timothy to “flee from the desires incidental to youth.” When you are young, the wish to be popular, to have fun, or to satisfy sexual desires can be compelling. Left unchecked, such cravings can lead you into sin. Paul therefore said to flee harmful desires—to run as if one’s life were at stake.*
11 Sexual desire, for example, has led many Christian youths into spiritual ruin. With good reason, then, the Bible tells us to “flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) If a couple are courting, dating, they can apply this principle by avoiding tempting circumstances—such as being alone in an apartment or a parked car. Having a chaperon accompany you may sound old-fashioned, but it can be a real protection. And while some expressions of affection may be appropriate, reasonable limits must be set so as to avoid unclean behavior. (1 Thessalonians 4:7) Fleeing from fornication would also include avoiding movies or TV shows that might arouse wrong desire. (James 1:14, 15) If immoral thoughts enter your mind uninvited, change the subject mentally. Go for a walk; do some reading; perform some household chore. Prayer is a particularly powerful aid in this regard.—Psalm 62:8.*
12. How do you learn to hate what is bad? Illustrate.
12 Above all, you must learn to hate, abhor, and detest what is bad. (Psalm 97:10) How do you hate what may at first be fun or pleasurable? By thinking about the consequences! “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh.” (Galatians 6:7, 8) When tempted to give in to passion, think of what is of greater consequence—how this would hurt Jehovah God. (Compare Psalm 78:41.) Think, too, about the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy or of contracting a disease, such as AIDS. Consider the emotional devastation and loss of self-respect you would suffer. There may also be long-term consequences. One Christian woman admits: “My husband and I had sex relations before we met each other. Although we are both Christians today, our past sex life is a source of contention and jealousy in our marriage.” Not to be overlooked, either, is the loss of your theocratic privileges or the possibility of being expelled from the Christian congregation! (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) Is any momentary pleasure worth so high a price?
Pursuing a Close Relationship With Jehovah
13, 14. (a) Why is it not enough to flee from what is bad? (b) How can one “pursue to know Jehovah”?
13 It is not enough, however, to flee from what is bad. Timothy was also urged to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace.” This suggests vigorous action. The prophet Hosea similarly begged the unfaithful nation of Israel: “Come, you people, and do let us return to Jehovah . . . We will pursue to know Jehovah.” (Hosea 6:1-3) Have you made such a pursuit yourself? It involves more than simply attending meetings and accompanying your parents in the field service. One Christian woman confessed: “My parents raised me in the truth, and I was baptized at an early age. . . . I rarely missed a meeting and never missed a month of service, but I never developed a close personal relationship with Jehovah.”
14 Another youth admits that she too failed to get to know Jehovah as a Friend and Father, viewing him more as an abstract Spirit. She lapsed into immorality and became an unwed mother at age 18. Do not make the same mistake! “Pursue to know Jehovah,” as Hosea urged. By prayer and daily walking with Jehovah, you can make him your confidential friend. (Compare Micah 6:8; Jeremiah 3:4.) “He is not far off from each one of us” if we seek him. (Acts 17:27) A regular program of personal Bible study is thus essential. Such a routine need not be elaborate or complicated. “Every day I read the Bible for about 15 minutes,” says a young girl named Melody. Set aside time to read each issue of The Watchtower and Awake! Be prepared for congregation meetings so that you can “incite [others] to love and fine works.”—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Give Your Heart to Your Parents
15. (a) Why is it at times difficult to obey one’s parents? (b) Why is obedience usually to a youth’s advantage?
15 God-fearing parents can be a source of real help and support. But note the part you must play: “Be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous: ‘Honor your father and your mother’; which is the first command with a promise: ‘That it may go well with you and you may endure a long time on the earth.’” (Ephesians 6:1-3) True, you are getting older and likely want more freedom. You may also be increasingly aware of your parents’ limitations. “Our human fathers,” admitted the apostle Paul, “could only do what they thought best.” (Hebrews 12:10, The Jerusalem Bible) Nevertheless, in the long run, it is still to your advantage to obey them. Your parents love you and know you better than anyone else. While you may not always agree with them, they usually have your best interests at heart. Why resist their efforts to rear you “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah”? (Ephesians 6:4) Really, only a fool “disrespects the discipline of his father.” (Proverbs 15:5) A wise youth will recognize his parents’ authority and show proper respect.—Proverbs 1:8.
16. (a) Why is it unwise for youths to hide problems from their parents? (b) What might youths do to improve communication with their parents?
16 That would include speaking truth to your parents, letting them know if you are having problems, such as nagging doubts about the truth or a lapse into questionable conduct. (Ephesians 4:25) Hiding such perturbing situations from parents creates more problems. (Psalm 26:4) Granted, some parents make little effort to communicate. “My mother never sits down and has a talk with me,” complained one young girl. “I never have the nerve to say what I feel because I am afraid she will criticize me.” If you are in a similar situation, wisely select a proper time to let your parents know how you feel. “My son, do give your heart to me,” urges Proverbs 23:26. Attempt to discuss your concerns with them regularly, before serious problems develop.
Keep Pursuing Righteousness!
17, 18. What will help a youth continue in his pursuit of righteousness?
17 Toward the close of his second letter, Paul exhorted Timothy: “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe.” (2 Timothy 3:14) You must do likewise. Do not let anyone or anything lure you away from your pursuit of righteousness. Satan’s world—for all its allure—is overrun with wickedness. Soon it and all who are a part of it will suffer annihilation. (Psalm 92:7) Be determined not to go down with Satan’s crowd.
18 To that end, you must constantly examine your goals, desires, and interests. Ask yourself, ‘Do I maintain high standards of speech and conduct when my parents and congregation members cannot see me? What kind of friends do I choose? Do worldly peers dictate my dress and grooming? What goals have I set for myself? Is my heart set on the full-time ministry—or on a career in Satan’s dying system of things?’
19, 20. (a) Why should a youth not feel overwhelmed by Jehovah’s requirements? (b) Of what provisions can youths avail themselves?
19 Perhaps you see the need to make some adjustments in your thinking. (2 Corinthians 13:11) Do not feel overwhelmed. Remember, Jehovah does not expect more of you than is reasonable. Asked the prophet Micah: “What is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?” (Micah 6:8) This will not be too difficult if you take advantage of Jehovah’s provisions to help you. Stay close to your parents. Regularly associate with the Christian congregation. In particular, make an effort to get to know the congregation elders. They are concerned about your welfare and can be a source of support and comfort. (Isaiah 32:2) Above all, cultivate a close, warm relationship with Jehovah God. He will give you the strength and the will to pursue what is right!
20 Some youths, though, undermine their efforts to grow spiritually by listening to unwholesome music. The following article will give this subject special attention.
You will find a number of helpful suggestions for controlling sexual desire in chapter 26 of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Do You Remember?
□ Why are youths especially vulnerable to Satan’s “crafty acts”?
□ Why is closely associating with worldly youths dangerous?
□ How may you flee from sexual immorality?
□ How can you pursue a close relationship with Jehovah?
□ Why is it important to communicate with your parents?
[Picture on page 16]
Courting couples wisely get to know each other in settings, such as ice skating, that do not isolate them from other people