Youths—Pursue Goals That Honor God
“Be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:7.
1, 2. (a) Why did Paul commend Timothy? (b) How are young ones today ‘training themselves with godly devotion as their aim’?
“I HAVE no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. . . . Like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.” (Philippians 2:20, 22) The apostle Paul included this glowing commendation in his letter to first-century Christians in Philippi. To whom was he referring? To Timothy, his younger traveling companion. Imagine how this confirmation of Paul’s affection and trust must have warmed Timothy’s heart!
2 Spiritually-minded young ones like Timothy have always been a precious asset among Jehovah’s people. (Psalm 110:3) Today, God’s organization is blessed with many young ones who serve as pioneers, missionaries, construction volunteers, and Bethelites. Highly commendable, too, are those who zealously share in congregation activities while caring for other responsibilities. Such young people enjoy the true satisfaction that comes from pursuing goals that honor our heavenly Father, Jehovah. They are truly ‘training themselves with godly devotion as their aim.’—1 Timothy 4:7, 8.
3. What questions will be considered in this article?
3 As a young person, are you reaching out for specific spiritual goals? Where can you find help and encouragement to do so? How can you resist the pressures of this materialistic world? What blessings can you expect to reap if you pursue goals that honor God? Let us find answers to these questions by considering the life and career of Timothy.
4. Briefly outline Timothy’s Christian career.
4 Timothy grew up in Lystra, a small town in the Roman province of Galatia. He likely came in touch with Christianity as a teenager when Paul preached in Lystra about 47 C.E. Timothy quickly gained an excellent reputation among the local Christian brothers. On returning to Lystra two years later and learning of his progress, Paul chose Timothy to serve as his missionary companion. (Acts 14:5-20; 16:1-3) As Timothy matured, he was entrusted with even greater responsibilities, including crucial missions to strengthen the brothers. When Paul wrote to Timothy from prison in Rome about 65 C.E., Timothy was serving as a Christian elder in Ephesus.
5. According to 2 Timothy 3:14, 15, what two factors contributed to Timothy’s decision to pursue spiritual goals?
5 Timothy evidently chose to pursue spiritual goals. But what led him to do so? In his second letter to Timothy, Paul mentioned two determining factors. “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe,” he wrote, “knowing from what persons you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Let us first examine the role that other Christians played in Timothy’s choices.
Benefit From Positive Influences
6. What training did Timothy receive, and how did he respond?
6 Timothy was reared in a religiously divided home. His father was a Greek, and his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother Lois were of Jewish origin. (Acts 16:1) Eunice and Lois taught Timothy truths from the Hebrew Scriptures from his infancy. After they converted to Christianity, they no doubt helped persuade him to believe Christian teachings. Clearly, Timothy took full advantage of this excellent training. Paul noted: “I recollect the faith which is in you without any hypocrisy, and which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, but which I am confident is also in you.”—2 Timothy 1:5.
7. What blessing do many young ones enjoy, and how can this be of benefit to them?
7 Today, many young ones are blessed with God-fearing parents and grandparents who, like Lois and Eunice, recognize the importance of spiritual goals. Samira, for example, still remembers the long conversations that she had with her parents when she was a teenager. “Mom and Dad taught me to have Jehovah’s view of things and to make the preaching work my priority,” she relates. “They always motivated me to pursue full-time service.” Samira reacted favorably to her parents’ encouragement and now enjoys the privilege of serving as a member of the Bethel family in her country. If your parents encourage you to focus on spiritual goals, give careful consideration to their advice. They have your best interests at heart.—Proverbs 1:5.
8. How did Timothy benefit from upbuilding Christian companionship?
8 It is also important for you to seek upbuilding companionship in the Christian brotherhood. Timothy became well-known to the Christian elders in his own congregation and to those in Iconium, some 20 miles [30 km] away. (Acts 16:1, 2) He cultivated a close friendship with Paul, a dynamic person. (Philippians 3:14) Paul’s letters indicate that Timothy welcomed advice and that he was quick to imitate examples of faith. (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:6, 12-16) Paul wrote: “You have closely followed my teaching, my course of life, my purpose, my faith, my long-suffering, my love, my endurance.” (2 Timothy 3:10) Yes, Timothy closely followed Paul’s example. Similarly, if you draw close to spiritually strong individuals in the congregation, you will be helped to develop sound spiritual goals.—2 Timothy 2:20–22.
Study “the Holy Writings”
9. Besides choosing the right associations, what must you do to ‘train yourself with godly devotion as your aim’?
9 Is reaching spiritual goals just a matter of choosing the right associations? No. Like Timothy, you need to make a careful examination of “the holy writings.” Studying may not be your favorite activity, but remember that Timothy had to ‘train himself with godly devotion as his aim.’ Athletes often train hard for many months in order to reach their goal. Similarly, reaching spiritual goals requires sacrifice and serious effort. (1 Timothy 4:7, 8, 10, footnote) ‘But how,’ you may ask, ‘can studying the Bible help me to reach my goals?’ Let us consider three ways.
10, 11. Why will the Scriptures motivate you to reach spiritual goals? Give an illustration.
10 First, the Scriptures will provide you with the right motivation. They reveal the wonderful personality of our heavenly Father, his supreme act of love in our behalf, and the eternal blessings in store for his faithful servants. (Amos 3:7; John 3:16; Romans 15:4) As your knowledge of Jehovah grows, so will your love for him and your desire to dedicate your life to him.
11 Many young Christians say that regular personal Bible study has been fundamental to helping them to make the truth their own. Adele, for example, was brought up in a Christian home but had never set any spiritual goals. “My parents took me to the Kingdom Hall,” she relates, “but I did not do personal study or listen at the meetings.” After her sister was baptized, Adele began to take the truth more seriously. “I set out to read the entire Bible. I would read a little and then write down a comment about what I had just read. I still have all my notes. I read the Bible in one year.” As a result, Adele was motivated to dedicate her life to Jehovah. Despite a serious physical disability, she is now a pioneer, or full-time evangelizer.
12, 13. (a) What changes will Bible study help a young person to make, and how? (b) Give examples of the practical wisdom contained in God’s Word.
12 Second, the Bible will help you to make needed changes in your personality. Paul told Timothy that “the holy writings” are “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) By regularly meditating on matters related to God’s Word and by applying Bible principles, you will allow God’s spirit to refine your personality. It will nurture in you essential qualities, such as humility, perseverance, industriousness, and genuine love for fellow Christians. (1 Timothy 4:15) Timothy possessed these qualities, and they made him an asset both to Paul and to the congregations Timothy served.—Philippians 2:20-22.
13 Third, God’s Word is a storehouse of practical wisdom. (Psalm 1:1-3; 19:7; 2 Timothy 2:7; 3:15) It will help you choose your friends wisely, select wholesome entertainment, and deal with countless other challenges. (Genesis 34:1, 2; Psalm 119:37; 1 Corinthians 7:36) Making wise decisions now is vital to your reaching spiritual goals.
“Fight the Fine Fight”
14. Why is pursuing spiritual goals not the easiest course?
14 Giving priority to goals that honor Jehovah is the wisest course but by no means the easiest. When it comes to choosing a career, for example, you may come under a great deal of pressure from relatives, peers, and well-meaning educators who believe that a higher education and a lucrative career are the keys to true success and happiness. (Romans 12:2) Like Timothy, you will need to “fight the fine fight of the faith” in order to “get a firm hold on the everlasting life” that Jehovah holds out to you.—1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 3:12.
15. What opposition did Timothy possibly face?
15 When unbelieving family members disapprove of your choices, the test can be especially severe. Possibly, Timothy had to overcome such opposition. According to one reference work, Timothy’s family probably “belonged to the educated and upper income bracket.” His father may well have expected him to seek higher education and to continue a family business.* Imagine how Timothy’s father may have reacted on discovering that Timothy preferred the dangers and financial uncertainties of missionary work with Paul!
16. How did one youth deal with parental opposition?
16 Young Christians today face similar challenges. Matthew, who serves at a branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, recalls: “When I began serving as a pioneer, my father was extremely disappointed. He felt that I had ‘wasted’ my education by taking a job as a cleaner to support me in my ministry. He would taunt me, reminding me of how much I could earn if I took a full-time job.” How did Matthew deal with that opposition? “I kept up a solid Bible-reading schedule and constantly prayed, especially at moments when it would have been easy for me to lose my temper.” Matthew’s determination has been rewarded. Over time, his relationship with his father improved. Matthew has also drawn closer to Jehovah. “I have seen Jehovah provide for me, encourage me, and protect me from bad decisions,” says Matthew. “I would not have experienced any of these things if I had not reached out for spiritual goals.”
Keep Spiritual Goals in Focus
17. How may some mistakenly discourage those who plan to enter full-time service? (Matthew 16:22)
17 A subtle challenge to your pursuing spiritual goals may even come from fellow believers. ‘Why be a pioneer?’ some may ask. ‘You can lead a normal life and still share in the preaching work. Get a good job and guarantee your financial security.’ This may seem to be sound advice, but would you really be training yourself with godly devotion as your aim if you were to follow it?
18, 19. (a) How can you keep your focus on spiritual goals? (b) Explain what sacrifices you, as a youth, are making for the sake of the Kingdom.
18 Some Christians in Timothy’s time apparently had similar thoughts. (1 Timothy 6:17) To help Timothy keep his eye on spiritual goals, Paul encouraged him, saying: “No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life, in order that he may gain the approval of the one who enrolled him as a soldier.” (2 Timothy 2:4) A soldier on active duty cannot afford to be distracted by civilian pursuits. His life and the lives of others depend on his always being ready to act on the orders of his commanding officer. As a soldier under Christ, you must be equally single-minded and avoid becoming tied up in unnecessary material pursuits that could prevent you from fully accomplishing your lifesaving ministry.—Matthew 6:24; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:2, 5.
19 Rather than making a life of ease your goal, cultivate a self-sacrificing spirit. “Be ready to do without the comforts of life, as one of the army of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3, The English Bible in Basic English) In Paul’s company, Timothy learned the secret of being content in even the most difficult circumstances. (Philippians 4:11, 12; 1 Timothy 6:6-8) You can do the same. Are you willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the Kingdom?
Blessings Now and in the Future
20, 21. (a) Describe some of the blessings that come from pursuing spiritual goals. (b) What are you determined to do?
20 For some 15 years, Timothy stuck with Paul. Timothy witnessed firsthand the formation of new congregations as the good news spread to almost all of the northern Mediterranean area. His life was more thrilling and satisfying than it would have been had he chosen to live a “normal” life. By pursuing spiritual goals, you too will reap priceless spiritual blessings. You will draw close to Jehovah and earn the love and respect of fellow Christians. Instead of the pain and frustration that result from pursuing material wealth, you will enjoy the genuine happiness that comes from unselfish giving. Most precious of all, you will “get a firm hold on the real life”—eternal life on a paradise earth.—1 Timothy 6:9, 10, 17-19; Acts 20:35.
21 So if you have not already done so, we warmly encourage you to begin immediately to train yourself with godly devotion as your aim. Draw close to those in the congregation who can help you reach out for spiritual goals, and seek their guidance. Make regular personal study of God’s Word a priority. Be determined to resist the materialistic spirit of this world. And always remember that the God “who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment” promises you that you can have rich blessings both now and in the future if you choose goals that honor him.—1 Timothy 6:17.
Greek society placed a high value on education. Plutarch, a contemporary of Timothy, wrote: “To receive a proper education is the source and root of all goodness. . . . It is this, I say, which leads on and helps towards moral excellence and towards happiness. . . . All other advantages are human, and trivial, and not worth our serious concern.”—Moralia, I, “The Education of Children.”
Do You Remember?
• Where can young ones find help to reach out for spiritual goals?
• Why is careful Bible study so important?
• How can young ones resist the materialistic influence of this world?
• What blessings come from seeking spiritual goals?
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Timothy pursued fine goals
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What positive influences helped Timothy?
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Are you reaching out for spiritual goals?