Continue to Exercise Your Perceptive Powers
WHAT a delight it is to see a skilled gymnast make graceful movements with agility! The Bible encourages Christians to train their thinking ability even as a gymnast trains himself.
In his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul wrote: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers [Lit., “sense organs”] trained [like a gymnast] to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:14, ftn.) Why did Paul exhort the Hebrew Christians to exercise their thinking ability even as a trained gymnast exercises his muscles? How can we train our perceptive powers?
“You Ought to Be Teachers”
When explaining Jesus’ position as “a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek,” Paul wrote: “Concerning him [Jesus] we have much to say and hard to be explained, since you have become dull in your hearing. For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God; and you have become such as need milk, not solid food.”—Heb. 5:10-12.
Evidently, some first-century Jewish Christians had not moved forward in understanding and had failed to make spiritual progress. For example, it was difficult for them to accept increased light regarding the Law and circumcision. (Acts 15:1, 2, 27-29; Gal. 2:11-14; 6:12, 13) Some found it hard to leave traditional practices associated with the weekly Sabbath and the annual Atonement Day. (Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 9:1-14) Paul therefore encouraged them to train their perceptive powers to be able to distinguish right from wrong and told them to “press on to maturity.” (Heb. 6:1, 2) His admonition must have moved certain ones to reflect on how they were using their thinking ability and likely helped them to make spiritual progress. What about us?
Exercise Your Perceptive Powers
How can we exercise our thinking ability in order to become spiritually mature? “Through use,” said Paul. Like gymnasts, who through exercise train their muscles and body to perform beautiful and complicated movements, we should exercise our thinking ability to distinguish both right and wrong.
“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain,” says John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. According to Gene Cohen, director of the Center on Aging, Health and Humanities at George Washington University, “when we challenge our brains, the brain cells sprout new dendrites, which results in increased synapses, or contact points.”
We are wise, then, to exercise our thinking ability and increase our knowledge of God’s Word. By doing so, we will be better equipped to do the “perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:1, 2.
Develop a Taste for “Solid Food”
If we desire to “press on to maturity,” we need to ask ourselves: ‘Am I progressing in my understanding of Bible truth? Do others view me as a spiritually mature person?’ A mother is happy to feed her infant milk and baby food while it is a baby. But imagine her concern if the years pass by and the child does not eat solid food. In a similar way, we are pleased to see an individual with whom we study the Bible make progress to the point of dedication and baptism. What, though, if the individual fails to make spiritual progress thereafter? Would that not be disheartening? (1 Cor. 3:1-4) The teacher hopes that in due time the new disciple will also become a teacher.
Using our perceptive powers to reason on matters requires meditation, and that calls for effort. (Ps. 1:1-3) We must not allow distractions—such as television watching or hobbies, which do not require much mental exertion—to get in the way of meaningful reflection. In order to develop our thinking ability, it is necessary for us to acquire and satisfy a taste for study of the Bible and the publications of “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) In addition to a regular program of personal Bible reading, it is important for us to set aside time for Family Worship and in-depth study of Bible subjects.
Jerónimo, a traveling overseer in Mexico, says that he studies each issue of The Watchtower as soon as it becomes available. He also sets aside time to study together with his wife. Jerónimo says, “As a couple we have the custom of reading the Bible together every day, and we use such aids as the ‘Good Land’ brochure.” A Christian named Ronald mentions that he always keeps up-to-date with the congregation Bible reading. He also has one or two long-range personal study projects. “These projects make me look forward to my next study period,” says Ronald.
What about us? Are we devoting sufficient time to Bible study and meditation on the Word of God? Are we exercising our thinking ability and gaining experience in making decisions according to Scriptural principles? (Prov. 2:1-7) May it be our aim to be spiritually mature individuals, blessed with the knowledge and wisdom possessed by those who have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong!
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We exercise our thinking ability “through use”