“From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.”—2 TIM. 3:15.
1, 2. Why might some parents have concerns when their children want to take the steps of dedication and baptism?
THOUSANDS of Bible students make their dedication to Jehovah and get baptized. Many are young people who have been raised in the truth and who have chosen the best way of life. (Ps. 1:1-3) If you are a Christian parent, you no doubt look forward to the day when your son or daughter will get baptized.—Compare 3 John 4.
2 Still, you might have concerns. Perhaps you have seen some youths get baptized but later question the wisdom of living by God’s standards. A number have even left the way of the truth. Hence, you might worry that your child will start out on the Christian course but then change and lose that original love of the truth. He or she might become like those in the first-century congregation in Ephesus of whom Jesus said: “You have left the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4) How can you try to avoid such an outcome and help your child to “grow to salvation”? (1 Pet. 2:2) In answer, let us consider the example of Timothy.
“YOU HAVE KNOWN THE HOLY WRITINGS”
3. (a) Under what circumstances did Timothy become a Christian, and how did he respond to Christian teachings? (b) Paul admonished Timothy about what three aspects of learning?
3 It was likely in 47 C.E., during the apostle Paul’s first visit to Lystra, that Timothy was introduced to Christianity. Though at the time Timothy was likely a teenager, he must have applied himself well. Two years later he became Paul’s traveling companion. Some 16 years after that, Paul wrote to Timothy: “Continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from whom you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings [the Hebrew Scriptures], which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:14, 15) Note that Paul mentions (1) knowing the holy writings, (2) being persuaded to believe the things learned, and (3) becoming wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
4. What tools have you found to be effective when you teach your young children? (See opening picture.)
4 As a Christian parent, you want your child to know the holy writings, which today include the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the Christian Greek Scriptures. Depending on their ability, even very young children can gain a basic education about the people and events of the Bible. Jehovah’s organization has provided a number of tools that parents can use to help their children. Can you think of some that are available in your language? Remember, knowledge of the Scriptures is the foundation on which a strong relationship with Jehovah is built.
“PERSUADED TO BELIEVE”
5. (a) What does “persuaded to believe” mean? (b) How do we know that Timothy was persuaded to believe the good news about Jesus?
5 Knowledge of the holy writings is important. However, more is involved in imparting spiritual education to children than simply teaching them about the people and events of the Bible. Timothy was also “persuaded to believe.” In the original language, that phrase means “to be assured of” or “to be convinced and certain of the truth of something.” Timothy knew the Hebrew Scriptures from infancy. But at some point he was convinced by compelling evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. Put another way, his knowledge was reinforced with conviction. In fact, Timothy’s conviction about the good news was so strong that he became a baptized disciple and joined Paul in the missionary work.
6. How can you help your children to be persuaded to believe what they learn from God’s Word?
6 How can you help build conviction in your children so that they are persuaded to believe, as Timothy was? First, be patient. Conviction does not come about overnight; nor does it pass from you to your offspring simply because you have been persuaded to believe. Each child needs to use his or her own “power of reason” to develop conviction about Bible truth. (Read Romans 12:1.) You as a parent play an important role in that process, especially when your child asks questions. Consider an example.
7, 8. (a) How does one Christian father show patience in teaching his daughter? (b) How have you found the need for similar patience?
7 Thomas, the father of an 11-year-old girl, relates: “My daughter might ask, ‛Could Jehovah have used evolution to develop life on earth?’ or, ‛Why don’t we get involved in the community—with elections, for example—to try to improve things?’ Sometimes I have to bite my tongue so as not to give a dogmatic answer. After all, conviction isn’t the result of one large chunk of truth. It comes from many small pieces of evidence.”
8 As Thomas knows, teaching takes patience. Actually, patience is important for all Christians. (Col. 3:12) Thomas realizes that there may be a need for many discussions over a period of time. He needs to reason on the Scriptures so that his daughter develops conviction about what she learns. “Especially on important points,” says Thomas, “my wife and I want to know if our daughter really believes what she is learning and if it makes sense to her. If she has questions, that’s good. Frankly, I would worry if she accepted something without asking questions.”
9. How can you inculcate God’s Word in your children?
9 With patient teaching from their parents, children will be able gradually to begin to grasp “the breadth and length and height and depth” of faith. (Eph. 3:18) We can look for what is appropriate to their age and ability. As they become convinced of what they learn, they will increasingly be able to defend their beliefs before others, including schoolmates. (1 Pet. 3:15) For example, can your children explain from the Bible what happens at death? Does the Bible’s explanation make sense to them?* Yes, inculcating God’s Word in your child will require patience, but it is worth the effort.—Deut. 6:6, 7.
10. What should be an important part of your teaching?
10 Of course, your example is also important when it comes to building conviction. Stephanie, the mother of three daughters, says: “Ever since my children were very young, I have had to ask myself, ‘Do I talk to my children about why I am convinced of Jehovah’s existence, his love, and the rightness of his ways? Can my children clearly see that I really love Jehovah?’ I can’t expect my children to be persuaded unless I am.”
“WISE FOR SALVATION”
11, 12. What is wisdom, and why can we conclude that it is not measured solely by a person’s age?
11 As we have seen, Timothy had (1) knowledge of the Scriptures and (2) conviction about his beliefs. But what did Paul mean by saying that the holy writings could make Timothy “wise for salvation”?
12 Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, explains that, in the Bible, wisdom includes “the ability to use knowledge and understanding successfully to solve problems, avoid or avert dangers, attain certain goals, or counsel others in doing so. It is the opposite of foolishness.” The Bible says that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” (Prov. 22:15, ftn.) Logically, then, wisdom—the opposite of foolishness—would be one evidence of maturity. Spiritual maturity is not determined primarily by age but by a person’s healthy fear of Jehovah and readiness to obey his commands.—Read Psalm 111:10.
13. How can a young person demonstrate that he or she is wise for salvation?
13 Young ones who are reasonably mature spiritually are not “tossed about as by waves and carried here and there” by their desires or by pressure from their peers. (Eph. 4:14) Rather, they are making progress in having “their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:14) They demonstrate that they are progressing toward maturity by making wise decisions—even when their parents or other adults are not watching. (Phil. 2:12) That kind of wisdom is necessary for salvation. (Read Proverbs 24:14.) How can you help your children to acquire it? First of all, make sure that you clearly state your Bible-based values to your children. By your words and by your example, let them know that the values found in God’s Word are also your values.—Rom. 2:21-23.
14, 15. (a) A young person contemplating baptism should consider what weighty issues? (b) How can you help your children ponder blessings that come from obeying God’s laws?
14 However, more is involved than simply telling your children what is right and what is wrong. You would also do well to help them reason on such questions as: ‘Why does the Bible forbid things that can be appealing to the flesh? What convinces me that Bible standards are always for my own good?’—Isa. 48:17, 18.
15 A child who expresses interest in getting baptized should be helped to reason on yet another matter—how he or she feels about the responsibilities that come with being a Christian. What are the benefits? What are the costs? How do the benefits greatly outweigh the costs? (Mark 10:29, 30) Those are issues that one is likely to face after baptism. Therefore, it is crucial to think these matters through before taking that serious step. When children are helped to consider deeply the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience, they are more likely to develop a personal conviction. Which one? That Bible standards are always in their best interests.—Deut. 30:19, 20.
WHEN A BAPTIZED YOUTH STRUGGLES
16. What should parents consider if a child who is already baptized begins to waver in faith?
16 What, though, if your son or daughter begins to express doubts at some point after baptism? For example, a baptized adolescent may seem attracted to the things of the world or may begin to question the wisdom of living by Bible principles. (Ps. 73:1-3, 12, 13) As a parent, realize that how you handle such questioning on the part of your son or daughter may influence whether your child will choose to draw closer to your faith or he will draw away from it. Be determined not to declare war with your child over this issue, whether he is still quite young or he is now an adolescent. Your goal should be to provide loving support and help in a winning way.
17, 18. If a young person has doubts, how can parents provide assistance?
17 Of course, a youth who is baptized has made a solemn dedication to Jehovah. That dedication is a promise to love God and to put his will above everything else. (Read Mark 12:30.) Jehovah does not take that promise lightly, and it should not be taken lightly by anyone who has made it. (Eccl. 5:4, 5) At an appropriate time and in a kind manner, remind your child of those facts. Before doing that, however, make good use of material that Jehovah’s organization has provided for parents. Your doing so may lay the groundwork for stressing both the seriousness and the blessings of being dedicated to Jehovah and of being a baptized Christian.
18 For example, helpful advice can be found in the appendix entitled “Questions Parents Ask,” at the back of the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 1. It says: “Don’t hastily conclude that your teen has rejected your faith. In many cases, there is an underlying issue.” It could be peer pressure. Other possible causes may be loneliness or the feeling that other Christian youths are doing better spiritually. “Significantly,” the appendix continues, “issues such as these have little to do with the tenets of your faith. They have more to do with circumstances that make practicing faith a challenge—at least for now.” The appendix then provides several suggestions about how a Christian parent might help a youth whose conviction is wavering.
19. How can parents help their children to become “wise for salvation”?
19 As a parent, you have the weighty responsibility—and privilege—to bring up your children “in the discipline and admonition of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) As we have seen, that requires not only teaching them what the Bible says but also helping them to develop conviction about what they learn. Yes, they need a conviction that is so strong that it moves them to dedicate themselves to Jehovah and to serve him wholeheartedly. May Jehovah’s Word, his spirit, and your efforts as a parent help your children to become “wise for salvation.”
The “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” study guides are excellent tools to help both young ones and adults to understand and explain Bible truths. They can be found on jw.org in many languages. Look under BIBLE TEACHINGS > BIBLE STUDY TOOLS.