Youths—Train Your Perceptive Powers!
“Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—HEBREWS 5:14.
1, 2. (a) How does our situation today compare to that of ancient Christians in Ephesus? (b) What abilities can protect you from danger, and how can you develop them?
“KEEP strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Since the apostle Paul penned those words two thousand years ago, ‘wicked men and impostors have advanced from bad to worse.’ We live in “critical times hard to deal with,” or as another translation puts it, times that are “full of danger.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Phillips.
2 You can avoid being harmed by the dangers that may lurk in your path, however, by developing “shrewdness, . . . knowledge and thinking ability.” (Proverbs 1:4) Says Proverbs 2:10-12: “When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things.” But just how can you develop those abilities? Says Hebrews 5:14: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” As with any skill, mastering the use of one’s perceptive powers requires training. The Greek word Paul used literally means ‘having been trained like a gymnast.’ How do you begin such training?
Training Your Perceptive Powers
3. How can you use your perceptive powers when called upon to make a decision?
3 Note that your perceptive powers—your ability to discern right from wrong—are trained “through use.” When you must make a decision, guessing, acting on impulse, or simply following the crowd will rarely result in a wise choice. To make wise decisions, you must use your perceptive powers. How? First of all, by thoroughly investigating the situation and getting all the facts. Ask questions if necessary. Determine what your options are. Proverbs 13:16 says: “Everyone shrewd will act with knowledge.” Next, try to determine which Bible laws or principles bear on the subject. (Proverbs 3:5) To do this, of course, you must have a knowledge of the Bible. That is why Paul encourages us to take in “solid food”—to learn “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the truth.—Ephesians 3:18.
4. Why is a knowledge of God’s principles essential?
4 Doing so is essential, since we are imperfect, prone to sin. (Genesis 8:21; Romans 5:12) “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate,” says Jeremiah 17:9. Without godly principles to guide us, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that something bad is good—simply because our flesh craves it. (Compare Isaiah 5:20.) The psalmist wrote: “How will a young man cleanse his path? By keeping on guard according to your word. Owing to your orders I behave with understanding. That is why I have hated every false path.”—Psalm 119:9, 104.
5. (a) Why do some youths follow false paths? (b) How did one youth make the truth her own?
5 Why have some youths who were raised in Christian households followed false paths? Could it be that such ones have never ‘proved to themselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God’? (Romans 12:2) Some may attend meetings with their parents and be able to recite some of the basic teachings of the Bible. But when asked to give proof of their beliefs or to explain some of the deeper things of God’s Word, their knowledge proves to be disappointingly shallow. Such youths can easily be misled. (Ephesians 4:14) If this is true of you, why not resolve to make changes? One young sister recalls: “I did research. I asked myself, ‘How do I know that this is the right religion? How do I know that there is a God named Jehovah?’”* Carefully examining the Scriptures convinced her that the things she had learned from her parents were really so!—Compare Acts 17:11.
6. How can you make “sure of what is acceptable to the Lord,” Jehovah?
6 Armed with a knowledge of Jehovah’s principles, you will more easily make “sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10) Yet what if you are not certain of the wise course to take in a particular situation? Pray to Jehovah for direction. (Psalm 119:144) Try talking matters over with your parents or with a mature Christian. (Proverbs 15:22; 27:17) Helpful direction can also be found by doing research in the Bible and in Watch Tower publications. (Proverbs 2:3-5) The more you use your perceptive powers, the sharper they will become.
Showing Discernment in Recreation
7, 8. (a) How can you use your perceptive powers in determining whether to attend a gathering or not? (b) What is the Bible’s view of recreation?
7 Let us now look at how you might use your perceptive powers in some specific situations. Imagine, for example, that you have been invited to a gathering. You might even have received a printed flier advertising the get-together. You are told that a large number of Witness youths will be there. But a fee to cover expenses will be charged. Should you attend?
8 Well, use your perceptive powers. First, get the facts. How large will this gathering be? Who will be there? When will it begin? When will it end? What activities are planned? How will it be supervised? Next, do some research, looking up “Social Gatherings,” and “Entertainment” in the Watch Tower Publications Index.* What might your research reveal? For one thing, that Jehovah does not condemn getting together to have a good time. In fact, Ecclesiastes 8:15 says that along with working hard, “mankind have nothing better under the sun than to eat and drink and rejoice.” Why, Jesus Christ himself attended special meals and at least one wedding. (Luke 5:27-29; John 2:1-10) Kept in balance, socializing can be beneficial.
9, 10. (a) What dangers may some gatherings present? (b) What questions might you ask yourself before deciding whether to attend a gathering or not?
9 Nevertheless, badly organized gatherings may spell trouble. At 1 Corinthians 10:8, we read of how unwise associations led to fornication and the execution of “twenty-three thousand [unfaithful Israelites] in one day.” Another sobering warning is found at Romans 13:13: “As in the daytime let us walk decently, not in revelries and drunken bouts, not in illicit intercourse and loose conduct, not in strife and jealousy.” (Compare 1 Peter 4:3.) True, no fixed number can be set for how many can attend a gathering. But experience shows that the larger a gathering is, the harder it is to supervise it. Smaller, well-managed gatherings are less likely to turn into “wild parties.”—Galatians 5:21, Byington.
10 Your research will no doubt spark further questions, such as: Will some mature adult Christians be at the gathering? Indeed, who is sponsoring it? Is the purpose of the gathering to promote wholesome association or to make a profit for someone? Are there any restrictions as to who can attend? If the gathering is during the weekend, will it end at a reasonable time so that those attending can share in the Christian ministry the next day? If there is to be music and dancing, will it be consistent with Christian standards? (2 Corinthians 6:3) Asking such questions may not be easy. But Proverbs 22:3 warns: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” Yes, you can avoid risky situations by using your perceptive powers.
Discernment in Planning Your Education
11. How can youths use their perceptive powers in planning their future?
11 The Bible says that it is wise to plan for the future. (Proverbs 21:5) Have you and your parents discussed your future? Perhaps you plan to enter the full-time ministry as a pioneer. Really, no career choice could bring greater satisfaction. If you are cultivating good study habits and developing skills in the ministry, you are preparing for this exciting career. Have you thought about how you will support yourself in the ministry? If, in the future, you choose to raise a family, will you be able to care for that added responsibility? Making balanced, realistic decisions about such things requires the use of perceptive powers.
12. (a) How have some families chosen to adapt to the changing economic situation? (b) Is obtaining some supplementary education necessarily at odds with having pioneering as a goal? Explain.
12 In some places it is still possible to get on-the-job training in a useful skill or profession. There are youths who learn the family business or receive training from adult friends who have businesses. Others take courses at school that will be useful in earning a living later. Where such opportunities are not available, after careful thought parents may arrange for their children to receive some supplementary education after high school. Planning ahead in this way so as to care for adult responsibilities and especially so as to be able to share in the pioneer service over the long term is not incompatible with putting God’s Kingdom first. (Matthew 6:33) And supplementary education does not rule out pioneering. One young Witness, for example, had wanted to pioneer for a long time. After she finished high school, her parents—regular pioneers themselves—arranged for her to have some supplementary education. She was able to pioneer while she received her schooling, and now she has a skill with which she supports herself as she continues pioneering.
13. How should families count the cost of supplementary education?
13 In the matter of supplementary education, each family has the right and responsibility to make its own decision. When such education is well chosen, it can be helpful. It can, though, be a trap. If you are considering such education, what is your goal? Is it to prepare yourself to handle adult responsibilities in an honorable way? Or are you “seeking great things for yourself”? (Jeremiah 45:5; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:8; 6:9) What about pursuing supplementary education away from home, perhaps living on a campus? Would that be wise in view of Paul’s warning that “bad associations spoil useful habits”? (1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 2:22) Remember, too, that “the time left is reduced.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) How much time will you devote to such education? Will it consume the bulk of your youthful years? If so, how will you apply the Bible’s encouragement to “remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood”? (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Further, will the courses you take allow time for such vital Christian activities as meeting attendance, field service, and personal study? (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) If your perceptive powers are keen, you will never lose sight of spiritual goals as you and your parents plan for your future.
Keeping Courtship Honorable
14. (a) What principles should guide courting couples as they show affection for each other? (b) How have some couples shown poor judgment in this regard?
14 Another area in which your perceptive powers are needed is that of courtship. It is only natural to want to show affection to someone you care about. The chaste couple in the Song of Solomon evidently exchanged some displays of affection before they married. (Song of Solomon 1:2; 2:6; 8:5) Today, some courting couples may likewise feel that holding hands, kissing, and embracing are appropriate, especially when marriage seems imminent. But remember: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid.” (Proverbs 28:26) Tragically, a number of couples have shown bad judgment by putting themselves into compromising circumstances. Displays of affection have become intense and uncontrolled; unclean acts have resulted and have even escalated to sexual immorality.
15, 16. What reasonable precautions can couples take to make sure that their courtship will remain honorable?
15 If you are dating, you are wise to avoid being alone with your prospective mate under inappropriate circumstances. So it may be best to enjoy each other’s association in a group setting or in public places. Some couples arrange to have a chaperon. Also, consider the words of Hosea 4:11: “Wine and sweet wine are what take away good motive.” Alcohol can impair good judgment and lead a couple to act in a way that they will later regret.
16 Proverbs 13:10 says: “By presumptuousness one only causes a struggle, but with those consulting together there is wisdom.” Yes, ‘consult together’ and discuss how you will conduct yourselves. Place limits on displays of affection, each respecting the other’s feelings and conscience. (1 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7; 1 Peter 3:16) Talking about this sensitive subject may be difficult at first, but it can prevent serious problems from developing later on.
Being Taught ‘From Youth On’
17. How did David make Jehovah ‘his confidence from his youth on,’ and what lesson is there in this for youths today?
17 Avoiding Satan’s snares will require constant vigilance on your part—and sometimes, great courage. Why, at times you may find yourself at odds, not simply with your peers, but with the whole world. The psalmist David prayed: “You are my hope, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah, my confidence from my youth. O God, you have taught me from my youth on, and until now I keep telling about your wonderful works.” (Psalm 71:5, 17)* David is known for his courage. But when did he develop it? As a youth! Even before his famed confrontation with Goliath, David had shown extraordinary courage in protecting his father’s flocks—killing both a lion and a bear. (1 Samuel 17:34-37) However, David gave Jehovah full credit for whatever bravery he displayed, calling him “my confidence from my youth.” David’s ability to lean on Jehovah made him equal to any trial that he faced. You too will find that if you lean upon Jehovah, he will give you the courage and strength to ‘conquer the world.’—1 John 5:4.
18. What exhortation is given to godly youths today?
18 Thousands of young ones like you have taken a courageous stand and now serve as baptized publishers of the good news. We thank God for the faith and courage of you young ones! Remain determined to escape the world’s corruption. (2 Peter 1:4) Keep using your Bible-trained perceptive powers. Doing so will protect you from calamity now and will ultimately make your salvation sure. Indeed, as our final article will show, you will make your life successful.
See the article “Young People Ask . . . How Can I Make the Truth My Own?” in the October 22, 1998, issue of Awake!
The article “Social Entertainment—Enjoy the Benefits, Avoid the Snares” appearing in the August 15, 1992, issue of The Watchtower has a wealth of information on this subject.
Questions for Review
□ How does a youth train his perceptive powers?
□ How can a youth use his perceptive powers when it comes to attending Christian gatherings?
□ What factors may be considered in planning one’s education?
□ How can couples who are courting avoid the snare of sexual immorality?
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Learning to do research will help you train your perceptive powers
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Smaller gatherings are easier to oversee and less likely to turn into uncontrolled revelries
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Parents should assist their children in planning their education
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Dating in a group setting is a protection