Youths, Are You Building for the Future?
“I myself well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you, . . . thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”—JEREMIAH 29:11.
1, 2. In what different ways can the years of youth be viewed?
MOST adults think of youth as a wonderful time of life. They remember the energy and enthusiasm they had when they were young. They look back fondly on a time when they had far fewer responsibilities, a time when they had a lot of fun and a whole lifetime of opportunities lay ahead of them.
2 Those of you who are young likely see things differently. You may have problems handling the emotional and physical changes of youth. At school, you may face strong peer pressure. You may have to put up a determined effort to resist drug abuse, alcohol, and immorality. Many of you also face the neutrality issue or other issues related to your faith. Yes, youth can be a difficult time. Still, it is a time of opportunity. The question is, How will you use those opportunities?
Enjoy Your Youth
3. What counsel and what warning did Solomon give to youths?
3 Older people will tell you that youth does not last long, and they are right. In just a few years, your youth will be behind you. So enjoy it while you have it! That was the counsel of King Solomon, who wrote: “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes.” However, Solomon warned youths: “Remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh.” Further, he said: “Youth and the prime of life are vanity.”—Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10.
4, 5. Why is it wise for young people to prepare for the future? Illustrate.
4 Do you grasp what Solomon meant? To illustrate, think of a young person who receives a large gift, perhaps an inheritance. What will he do with it? He can spend it all on enjoying himself—much like the prodigal son of Jesus’ parable. (Luke 15:11-23) But what will happen when the money runs out? Surely he will regret that he was so irresponsible! On the other hand, suppose he uses the gift to build for the future, perhaps investing most of it wisely. In the long run, when he is benefiting from his investment, do you think that he will regret not having spent all his money on having a good time in his youth? Of course not!
5 Think of your youthful years as a gift from God, which they are. How will you use them? You can waste all that energy and enthusiasm on self-indulgence, just going from one good time to another with no thought to the future. If you do that, though, in your case “youth and the prime of life” will indeed prove to be “vanity.” How much better to take advantage of your youth to prepare for the future!
6. (a) What counsel of Solomon provides guidance for youths? (b) What would Jehovah like to do for young people, and how can a young person benefit from this?
6 Solomon stated a principle that can help you to make the best of your youth. He said: “Remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood.” (Ecclesiastes 12:1) That is the key to success—listen to Jehovah and do his will. Jehovah told the ancient Israelites what he wanted to do for them: “I myself well know the thoughts that I am thinking toward you, . . . thoughts of peace, and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Jehovah would also like to give you “a future and a hope.” If you remember him in your actions, thoughts, and decisions, that future and that hope will be good.—Revelation 7:16, 17; 21:3, 4.
“Draw Close to God”
7, 8. How can a young person draw close to God?
7 James encouraged us to remember Jehovah when he urged us: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) Jehovah is the Creator, the heavenly Sovereign, worthy of all worship and praise. (Revelation 4:11) Yet, if we draw close to him, he will draw close to us. Does not such loving interest warm your heart?—Matthew 22:37.
8 We draw close to Jehovah in a number of ways. For example, the apostle Paul says: “Be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2) In other words, cultivate the habit of praying. Do not be satisfied with merely saying amen after your father or a fellow Christian in the congregation has represented you in prayer. Have you ever poured out your heart to Jehovah and told him what you think, what you fear, what challenges you face? Have you ever told him things that you would be embarrassed to discuss with any human? Honest, heartfelt prayers bring a sense of peace. (Philippians 4:6, 7) They help us to draw close to Jehovah and to sense that he is drawing close to us.
9. How can a youth listen to Jehovah?
9 We see another way to draw close to Jehovah in these inspired words: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.” (Proverbs 19:20) Yes, if you listen to Jehovah and obey him, you are building for the future. How can you demonstrate that you do listen to Jehovah? No doubt you regularly attend Christian meetings and listen to the program parts. Also, you “honor your father and your mother” by being present at the family Bible study. (Ephesians 6:1, 2; Hebrews 10:24, 25) That is fine. In addition, though, do you ‘buy out the time’ to prepare for the meetings, to read the Bible regularly, to do research? Do you try to apply what you read, so that you will walk as a ‘wise person’? (Ephesians 5:15-17; Psalm 1:1-3) If you do that, you are drawing close to Jehovah.
10, 11. What great benefits do young people receive when they listen to Jehovah?
10 In the opening words of the book of Proverbs, the inspired writer explains the purpose of that Bible book. It is, he says, “for one to know wisdom and discipline, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive the discipline that gives insight, righteousness and judgment and uprightness, to give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.” (Proverbs 1:1-4) Hence, as you read and apply the words of Proverbs—as well as the rest of the Bible—you will cultivate righteousness and uprightness, and Jehovah will be happy to have you draw close to him. (Psalm 15:1-5) The more you cultivate judgment, shrewdness, knowledge, and thinking ability, the better will be your decisions.
11 Is it unreasonable to expect a young person to act wisely in this way? No, for many young Christians do so. As a result, others respect them and ‘do not look down on their youth.’ (1 Timothy 4:12) Their parents are justly proud of them, and Jehovah says that they make his heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) Even though they are young, they can be confident that these inspired words apply to them: “Watch the blameless one and keep the upright one in sight, for the future of that man will be peaceful.”—Psalm 37:37.
Make Good Choices
12. What is one of the important choices that young people make, and why does that choice have long-term consequences?
12 Youth is a time for making choices, some of which have lasting consequences. Some choices you make now will affect you for many years to come. Wise choices contribute to a happy, successful life. Unwise choices can blemish a whole lifetime. Consider how that is true of two choices you have to make. First: Whom do you choose to associate with? Why is that important? Well, the inspired proverb says: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) In other words, eventually we get to be like those with whom we associate—either wise or stupid. Which would you rather be?
13, 14. (a) Besides direct contact with people, what does association include? (b) What mistake should young ones avoid?
13 When you think of association, you likely think of being with people. That is correct, but more is involved. When you watch a television program, listen to music, read a novel, go to a movie, or use certain resources on the Internet, you are having association. If that association panders to violent and immoral inclinations or encourages drug abuse, drunkenness, or anything else contrary to Bible principles, you are keeping company with “the senseless one,” who acts as if Jehovah did not exist.—Psalm 14:1.
14 Perhaps you feel that since you attend Christian meetings and are active with the congregation, you are strong enough to handle a violent movie or a music album with good tunes but questionable lyrics. Maybe you feel that there will be no bad results if you take a quick look at a pornographic Web site on the Internet. The apostle Paul tells you that you are wrong! He says: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Sadly, many promising young Christians have had their good habits spoiled by unwise associations. Be determined, then, to shun such associations. If you do so, you will follow Paul’s counsel: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:2.
15. What is a second choice that young people have to make, and what pressures are sometimes put on them in this regard?
15 Here is a second choice you face. A time will come when you will have to decide what you want to do when you finish school. If you live in a land with a shortage of employment opportunities, you might feel pressured to grasp the best available. If you live in a prosperous country, there might be many choices, some of them very tempting. With the best of motives, your teachers or your parents might urge you to pursue a career offering financial security, perhaps even wealth. However, training for that career might severely limit the time you can spend serving Jehovah.
16, 17. Explain how different scriptures can help a young person to get a balanced view of employment.
16 Remember to consult the Bible before making a decision. The Bible encourages us to work for a living, showing that we are responsible for supporting ourselves. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) Still, other things are involved. We encourage you to read the following scriptures and think about how they can help a young person to be balanced in the matter of choosing a career: Proverbs 30:8, 9; Ecclesiastes 7:11, 12; Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 Timothy 6:9, 10. After reading those verses, do you see Jehovah’s view on the matter?
17 Secular employment should never become so important that it overshadows our service to Jehovah. If you can qualify for reasonable employment with a high school education, fine. If you need some additional training after high school, that is something to discuss with your parents. However, never lose sight of “the more important things”—the spiritual things. (Philippians 1:9, 10) Do not make the mistake that Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe, made. He lost appreciation for his privilege of service and went ‘seeking great things for himself.’ (Jeremiah 45:5) He forgot for a time that no ‘great thing’ in this world would bring him closer to Jehovah or help him to survive the destruction of Jerusalem. Something similar can be said of us today.
Appreciate Spiritual Things
18, 19. (a) What are most of your neighbors suffering from, and how should you feel toward them? (b) Why do many not feel spiritually hungry?
18 Have you seen pictures in the media of children in famine-stricken countries? If you have, your heart surely went out to them. Does your heart go out in a similar way to people in your neighborhood? Why should it? Because most of them are also starving. They are suffering from the famine prophesied by Amos: “‘There are days coming,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and I will send a famine into the land, a famine, not for bread, and a thirst, not for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah.’”—Amos 8:11.
19 True, most of those suffering from this spiritual starvation are not “conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) Many do not feel spiritually hungry. Some might even feel that they are well fed. But if they do, it is because they are feeding on the worthless “wisdom of the world,” which includes materialism, scientific speculation, opinions about morality, and other such things. Some feel that modern “wisdom” makes Bible teachings out-of-date. However, “the world through its wisdom did not get to know God.” The wisdom of the world will not help you to draw close to God. It is nothing but “foolishness with God.”—1 Corinthians 1:20, 21; 3:19.
20. Why is it not reasonable to want to imitate people who do not worship Jehovah?
20 When you look at those pictures of hungry children, do you ever want to be like them? Of course not! Yet, some youths in Christian families have shown a desire to be like the spiritually starving people around them. Likely, such young ones think that youths in the world are carefree, enjoying life. They forget that those youths are alienated from Jehovah. (Ephesians 4:17, 18) They forget, too, the bad effects of spiritual starvation. Some of these are unwanted teen pregnancies and the physical and emotional effects of immorality, smoking, drunkenness, and drug abuse. Spiritual starvation allows for a rebellious spirit, an underlying hopelessness, and a lack of direction in life.
21. How can we protect ourselves from adopting the wrong attitudes of those who do not worship Jehovah?
21 Therefore, when you are at school among ones who are not fellow worshipers of Jehovah, do not be overwhelmed by their attitudes. (2 Corinthians 4:18) Some will speak disdainfully about spiritual things. In addition, the media will deliver subtle propaganda, implying that it is normal to commit immorality, to get drunk, or to use foul language. Fight that influence. Continue to associate regularly with people who are “holding faith and a good conscience.” Always have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Timothy 1:19; 1 Corinthians 15:58) Keep busy at the Kingdom Hall and in the field service. During your school years, share in the auxiliary pioneer service from time to time. Reinforce your spiritual view in this way, and you will not lose your balance.—2 Timothy 4:5.
22, 23. (a) Why will a young Christian often make choices that others do not understand? (b) What are youths encouraged to do?
22 A spiritual view of things will likely lead you to make decisions that others will not understand. For example, one young Christian man was a gifted musician and an honor student in every subject at school. When he graduated, he joined his father in a window-cleaning business so that he could pursue his chosen vocation as a full-time evangelizer, or pioneer. His teachers never did understand the reasons for his decision, but if you have drawn close to Jehovah, we are sure that you do.
23 As you consider how to use the precious resources of your youth, ‘safely treasure up for yourself a fine foundation for the future, in order that you may get a firm hold on the real life.’ (1 Timothy 6:19) Be determined to ‘remember your Grand Creator’ in your youth—and all the rest of your life. That is the only way to build for a successful future, a future that will never end.
What Is Your Conclusion?
• What inspired counsel helps young people in their planning for the future?
• What are some ways in which a youth can “draw close to God”?
• What are some decisions a young person makes that will affect his future?
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Will you allow personal pursuits to absorb all your youthful energy and enthusiasm?
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Wise young Christians keep their spiritual vision clear