‘Save Yourself and Those Who Listen to You’
“Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. . . . By doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:16.
1, 2. What motivates true Christians to continue in their lifesaving work?
IN AN isolated village in northern Thailand, a married couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses try their newly acquired language skills on members of a hill tribe. In order to share the good news of God’s Kingdom with the villagers, the couple have recently taken up the Lahu language.
2 “It is difficult to describe the joy and satisfaction we have, working among these interesting people,” explains the husband. “We really feel involved with the fulfillment of Revelation 14:6, 7, declaring glad tidings ‘to every nation and tribe and tongue.’ There are few frontiers left where the good news has not yet penetrated, and this is certainly one of them. We have almost more Bible studies than we can handle.” Clearly, this couple hope to save not only themselves but also those who listen to them. As Christians, do we not all hope to do the same?
“Pay Constant Attention to Yourself”
3. In order to save others, what must we first do?
3 The apostle Paul counseled Timothy, “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching,” and this applies to all Christians. (1 Timothy 4:16) Indeed, to help others gain salvation, we must first pay attention to ourselves. How can we do this? For one thing, we must stay alert to the times in which we live. Jesus gave a composite sign so that his followers would know when “the conclusion of the system of things” had arrived. Yet, Jesus also said that we would not know precisely when the end would come. (Matthew 24:3, 36) How should we react to that fact?
4. (a) What attitude should we adopt toward the time remaining in this system? (b) What attitude should we avoid?
4 Each of us might ask, ‘Am I using whatever time remains for this system to save myself and those who listen to me? Or am I thinking, “Since we do not know exactly when the end will come, I will not concern myself with it”?’ The latter attitude is dangerous. It runs directly counter to Jesus’ exhortation: “Prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.” (Matthew 24:44) Surely this is not the time to lose our enthusiasm for Jehovah’s service or to look to the world for security or satisfaction.—Luke 21:34-36.
5. What examples did Jehovah’s pre-Christian witnesses set?
5 Another way that we can show that we are paying attention to ourselves is by faithfully enduring as Christians. God’s servants in the past kept enduring, whether they expected immediate deliverance or not. After citing the examples of such pre-Christian witnesses as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, Paul noted: “They did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” They did not give in to any desires for a life of ease, nor did they succumb to the immoral pressures around them, but they eagerly looked forward to “the fulfillment of the promises.”—Hebrews 11:13; 12:1.
6. How did the first-century Christians’ view of salvation affect their way of living?
6 First-century Christians also saw themselves as “aliens” in this world. (1 Peter 2:11) Even after being saved through the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., true Christians did not stop preaching or fall back into a secular way of life. They knew that a grand salvation awaited those who remained faithful. In fact, as late as 98 C.E., the apostle John wrote: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17, 28.
7. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses shown endurance in modern times?
7 In modern times Jehovah’s Witnesses have also persevered in the Christian work, even though they have experienced vicious persecution. Has their endurance been in vain? Certainly not, for Jesus assured us: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved,” whether that proves to be the end of the old system or the end of one’s present life. In the resurrection, Jehovah will remember and reward all his faithful servants who have died.—Matthew 24:13; Hebrews 6:10.
8. How can we show that we appreciate the endurance of Christians of the past?
8 Moreover, we are happy that faithful Christians of the past were not concerned only with their own salvation. Surely we who have learned about God’s Kingdom through their efforts are grateful that they endured in carrying out Jesus’ commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) As long as the opportunity remains open to us, we can demonstrate our gratitude by preaching to others who have not yet heard the good news. However, preaching is just the first step toward making disciples.
‘Pay Attention to Your Teaching’
9. How can a positive attitude help us to start Bible studies?
9 Our assignment includes not only preaching but also teaching. Jesus commissioned us to teach people to observe all the things he commanded. True, in some territories, few seem to want to learn about Jehovah. But having a negative view of the territory can impede our efforts to start Bible studies. Yvette, a pioneer in a territory that some had called fruitless, noticed that visitors to the area, who did not have such a negative attitude, started home Bible studies. After she adopted a more positive outlook, Yvette too found people who wanted to study the Bible.
10. What is our basic role as Bible teachers?
10 Some Christians may hesitate to offer to study the Bible with interested ones because they do not feel that they could conduct a study. Granted, we have differing levels of ability. But we do not have to be highly skilled to succeed as teachers of God’s Word. The pure message of the Bible is powerful, and Jesus said that sheeplike ones know the voice of the true Shepherd when they hear it. Our task, then, is simply to convey the message of the Fine Shepherd, Jesus, as clearly as we are able to.—John 10:4, 14.
11. How can you be more effective in helping a Bible student?
11 How can you convey Jesus’ message more effectively? To begin with, familiarize yourself with what the Bible says about the topic under consideration. You have to understand a subject yourself before you can teach it to others. Also, try to maintain a dignified but friendly atmosphere during the study. Students, including very young ones, learn better when they are relaxed and the teacher shows them respect and kindness.—Proverbs 16:21.
12. How can you make sure that the student understands what you are teaching him?
12 As a teacher, you do not want merely to present facts for the student to repeat by rote. Help him to understand what he is learning. A student’s education, life experience, and familiarity with the Bible will affect his comprehension of what you are saying. Therefore, you might ask yourself, ‘Does he grasp the significance of the scriptures cited in the study material?’ You can draw him out with questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no but that require an explanation. (Luke 9:18-20) On the other hand, some students hesitate to question a teacher. Thus, they may go along without fully comprehending what they are being taught. Encourage the student to ask questions and to tell you when he does not fully understand some point.—Mark 4:10; 9:32, 33.
13. How can you help the student to become a teacher?
13 An important purpose of conducting a Bible study is to help the student become a teacher. (Galatians 6:6) To that end, as a review of your study, you might ask him to explain a point to you in simple terms, as if he were explaining it to someone hearing it for the first time. Later, when he becomes qualified to participate in the ministry, you can invite him to join you in the field. He will likely feel comfortable working with you, and the experience will help him to grow in confidence until he is ready to go out in the ministry on his own.
Help the Student to Become Jehovah’s Friend
14. What is your primary goal as a teacher, and what will contribute to success in attaining it?
14 The primary goal of every Christian teacher is to help the student to gain Jehovah’s friendship. You will accomplish this not only by your words but also by your example. Teaching by example has a powerful effect on the hearts of students. Actions really can speak louder than words, especially when it comes to instilling moral qualities and inspiring zeal in the student. If he sees that your words and actions spring from a good relationship with Jehovah, he may be more motivated to cultivate such a relationship himself.
15. (a) Why is it important that the student develop the right motive for serving Jehovah? (b) How can you help the student to continue making spiritual progress?
15 You want the student to serve Jehovah not merely because he does not want to be destroyed at Armageddon but because he loves him. By helping him to develop such a pure motive, you will be building with fire-resistant materials that will survive tests of his faith. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) A wrong motive, such as an inordinate desire to emulate you or any other human, will give him neither the strength to resist unchristian influences nor the courage to do what is right. Remember, you will not be his teacher forever. While you have the opportunity, you can encourage him to draw ever closer to Jehovah by reading God’s Word every day and thinking about it. In this way he will continue to absorb “the pattern of healthful words” from the Bible and Bible-based publications long after your study with him is over.—2 Timothy 1:13.
16. How can you teach the student to pray from the heart?
16 You can also help the student to grow closer to Jehovah by teaching him to pray from the heart. How can you do this? Perhaps you might direct him to Jesus’ model prayer, as well as to the many wholehearted prayers recorded in the Bible, such as those in the psalms. (Psalms 17, 86, 143; Matthew 6:9, 10) Additionally, when your student hears you pray to open and close the study, he will sense your feelings toward Jehovah. Thus, your prayers should always reflect sincerity and openness, as well as spiritual and emotional balance.
Working to Save Your Children
17. How can parents help their children to stay on the path to salvation?
17 Among those whom we want to save, of course, are our family members. A great number of the children of Christian parents are sincere and “solid in the faith.” Others, though, may not have the truth deeply rooted in their hearts. (1 Peter 5:9; Ephesians 3:17; Colossians 2:7) Many of these young people leave the Christian way when they approach or enter adulthood. If you are a parent, what can you do to make such an outcome less likely? First, you can work on creating a wholesome family atmosphere. A good family life lays the groundwork for a healthy view of authority, appreciation of proper values, and happy relations with others. (Hebrews 12:9) Thus, close bonds within the family can be the seedbed in which a child’s friendship with Jehovah can grow. (Psalm 22:10) Strong families do things together as a unit—even if parents must sacrifice time that could be used to personal advantage. In this way you can by example teach your children to make right decisions in life. Parents, what your children need most from you is, not material advantages, but you—your time, energy, and love. Are you giving your children these things?
18. What sort of questions must parents help their children to resolve?
18 Christian parents must never assume that their children will automatically become Christians too. Daniel, an elder and father of five, observes: “Parents must take the time to help dispel the doubts that their children inevitably pick up at school and other places. They must patiently help their children work out the answers to such questions as: ‘Are we actually living in the time of the end? Is there really only one true religion? Why is a certain seemingly nice schoolmate not good association? Is it always wrong to have sex before marriage?’” Parents, you can count on Jehovah to bless your efforts, for he too is interested in your children’s welfare.
19. Why is it best that parents themselves study with their children?
19 Some parents may feel inadequate when it comes to studying with their own children. However, you need not feel this way, for no one is in a better position to instruct your children than you are. (Ephesians 6:4) Studying with your own children will allow you to know firsthand what is in their hearts and minds. Are their expressions heartfelt or perfunctory? Do they really believe what they are learning? Is Jehovah real to them? You can find the answers to these and other vital questions only if you personally study with your children.—2 Timothy 1:5.
20. How can parents make the family study enjoyable and beneficial?
20 How can you maintain your family study program once you have started it? Joseph, an elder and father of a young son and daughter, says: “Like all Bible studies, the family study should be enjoyable, something everyone looks forward to. To achieve that in our family, we can’t be too rigid with regard to time. Our study may last an hour, but even if occasionally we have only ten minutes, we still study. One thing that makes our study a high point in the week for the children is that we act out scenes from My Book of Bible Stories.* The depth of impression and the comprehension that result are far more important than how many paragraphs we cover.”
21. When may parents instruct their children?
21 Of course, teaching your children is not limited to formal study periods. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7) The Witness in Thailand mentioned at the outset says: “I vividly remember how Dad used to take me along in the preaching work, on our bicycles, to the far corners of our congregation territory. Definitely, it was our parents’ fine example and their teaching us under all circumstances that helped us to decide to enter the full-time ministry. And the lessons must have stuck. I’m still working in the far corners of the field!”
22. What will result from your ‘paying attention to yourself and to your teaching’?
22 One day soon, at just the right time, Jesus will come to execute God’s judgment on this system. That great event will then pass into universal history, but Jehovah’s faithful servants will keep right on serving him with eternal salvation in view. Do you hope to be among them, along with your children and Bible students? Then remember: “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Timothy 4:16.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Can You Explain?
• What should be our attitude, since we do not know the exact time of God’s judgment?
• In what ways can we ‘pay attention to our teaching’?
• How can you help a student to become Jehovah’s friend?
• Why is it important that parents take time to teach their children?
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Learning is enhanced by a dignified but friendly atmosphere
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Acting out Bible stories, such as Solomon judging the two harlots, makes family studies enjoyable