“Just as you have always obeyed, . . . keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”—PHIL. 2:12.
1. Why is baptism such an important step? (See opening picture.)
EACH year thousands of Bible students get baptized. Many are young people—teenagers and preteens. They may have been raised in the truth. Are you one of them? If so, you are to be commended. Baptism is a requirement for Christians, and it is an essential step to gaining salvation.—Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Pet. 3:21.
2. Why is the step of dedication not to be feared or avoided?
2 Although baptism opens the door to many blessings, it also involves responsibility. In what way? On the day of your baptism, you answered yes to the question, “On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?” Your baptism symbolizes your dedication. It is a solemn promise that you made to Jehovah to love him and to put his will above everything else. That is a serious commitment. Should you regret making it? No, you definitely should not. Putting yourself in Jehovah’s hands is never a wrong move. Consider the alternative! A person who lives apart from Jehovah is under Satan’s rule. The Devil has no interest in your salvation. In fact, he would be happy if you lost out on everlasting life by siding with him in rejecting Jehovah’s sovereignty.
3. What blessings come from dedicating yourself to Jehovah?
3 In contrast to supporting Satan, consider the blessings you have as a dedicated and baptized Christian. Now that you have given your life to Jehovah, you can say with greater confidence than ever before: “Jehovah is on my side; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6) You could have no greater privilege in life than being on God’s side and having him approve of you.
A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
4, 5. (a) In what way is dedication a personal responsibility? (b) What challenges are not unique to young people?
4 As a baptized Christian, your relationship with Jehovah is not a ‘family plan,’ such as some people have for cellular telephone service. On the contrary, you are now responsible for your own salvation, even if you still live under your parents’ roof. Why is it important to remember that? Because you cannot always predict what challenges you will face in the future. For example, if you were baptized as a preteen, you likely will face new feelings and pressures as you enter and pass through adolescence. One teenage girl put it this way: “A child usually won’t resent being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses just because of not having a piece of birthday cake at school. But in a few years when the urge to have sex becomes stronger, he or she needs to be thoroughly convinced that obeying Jehovah’s laws is always the best choice.”
5 Of course, being confronted with new challenges is not unique to young people. Even those who got baptized as adults face many unanticipated tests of faith. Such tests may have to do with marriage, health issues, or employment. Really, everyone, regardless of his or her age, will encounter situations that require faithfulness to Jehovah.—Jas. 1:12-14.
6. (a) In what way is your dedication to Jehovah unconditional? (b) What can you learn from Philippians 4:11-13?
6 To help you stay faithful in any circumstance, never forget that your promise to Jehovah is unconditional. That means that you have told the Sovereign of the universe that you will continue to serve him even if your friends or parents stop doing so. (Ps. 27:10) In all situations, you can summon the strength—with Jehovah’s help—to live up to your dedication.—Read Philippians 4:11-13.
7. What does it mean to work out your own salvation “with fear and trembling”?
7 Jehovah wants you to be his friend. But maintaining that friendship and working out your own salvation will require effort. In fact, Philippians 2:12 says: “Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Those words indicate that you need to consider how you will maintain your friendship with Jehovah and remain faithful to him despite any challenges. You cannot become overconfident. Even some of God’s longtime servants have gone astray. Hence, what steps can you take to work out your own salvation?
BIBLE STUDY IS IMPORTANT
8. What does personal study include, and why is it important?
8 Friendship with Jehovah involves two-way communication—listening and talking. Personal study of the Bible is the prime way we listen to Jehovah. That includes taking in knowledge by reading and meditating on God’s Word and Bible-based publications. As you do that, remember that study of the Bible is not a mere academic exercise. It should not be as if you were memorizing facts just to pass a school exam. Fruitful study is more like an expedition on which you can explore and discover new aspects of Jehovah’s personality. This will help you to draw close to God, and then he will draw close to you.—Jas. 4:8.
9. What tools have helped you in your personal study?
9 Jehovah’s organization has provided a number of tools to help you put together an effective study program. For example, “Bible Study Activities” found on the “Teenagers” section of jw.org can help you to learn practical lessons from Bible events. Also on jw.org, the study guides “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” can help you to build your conviction about your beliefs. Those study guides can help you to learn how to explain your beliefs to others. Other ideas for study can be found in the article “Young People Ask . . . How Can I Make Bible Reading Enjoyable?” in the April 2009 issue of Awake! Study and meditation play an important role in working out your own salvation.—Read Psalm 119:105.
PRAYER IS VITAL
10. Why is prayer vital for a baptized Christian?
10 While personal study is one way we listen to Jehovah, prayer is a way in which we speak to him. A Christian should not view prayer as a meaningless ritual; nor is it a ‘good luck charm’ to increase the chances of success at some endeavor. Rather, prayer is real communication with our Creator. Jehovah wants to hear from you. (Read Philippians 4:6.) When you experience any kind of anxiety, the Bible’s wise advice is to “throw your burden on Jehovah.” (Ps. 55:22) Do you really believe that? There are millions of brothers and sisters who can assure you that it has helped them. It can help you too!
11. Why should you always give thanks to Jehovah?
11 Prayer offers you the opportunity to do more than simply ask Jehovah for help. The Bible says: “Show yourselves thankful.” (Col. 3:15) Sometimes we can become so consumed by our problems that we overlook the many blessings we have. Why not determine that each day you will think of at least three things for which you can be thankful? Then thank Jehovah in prayer for those blessings. A teenager named Abigail, who got baptized at age 12, says: “I feel that Jehovah deserves our thanks more than anyone else in the universe. We should thank him at every opportunity for the gifts he has given us. I once heard an excellent reminder: If we woke up tomorrow with only the things we thanked Jehovah for today, what would we end up with?” *
THE VALUE OF PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
12, 13. Why is it important to think of how you personally have tasted Jehovah’s goodness?
12 Ancient King David, who had been delivered from many grievous trials, expressed these words in song: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good; happy is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Ps. 34:8) That verse highlights the value of personal experience. When you read the Bible and our publications and when you attend Christian meetings, you hear encouraging experiences of how God has helped others to stay faithful. But as you grow spiritually, you need to see Jehovah’s hand in your own life. How have you personally tasted Jehovah’s goodness?
13 There is one way that all Christians have tasted Jehovah’s goodness. It is by being invited to draw close to God and his Son. Jesus said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) Do you feel that those words apply to you? A youth might reason, ‘Jehovah drew my parents, and I merely followed.’ But when you dedicated yourself to Jehovah and got baptized, you showed that you had come into a privileged relationship with him. Now you are truly known by him. The Bible assures us: “If anyone loves God, this one is known by him.” (1 Cor. 8:3) Try always to treasure, to appreciate, your place in Jehovah’s organization.
14, 15. How can the ministry help you to strengthen your faith?
14 Another way you can taste Jehovah’s goodness is by experiencing his support as you share your faith with others. You can do that in the ministry as well as at school. Some find it difficult to preach to their peers at school. You likely can understand why. You have no idea how they will react. It can be especially challenging when speaking to a large group rather than to a classmate one-on-one. What can help you?
15 First, think about why you are convinced of your beliefs. Are the study guides found on jw.org available in your language? If you are not sure, take the time to look for them. They are designed to help you reflect on what you believe, why you believe it, and how you can explain your beliefs to others. When your conviction is strong and you are well-prepared, you will feel impelled to give a witness for Jehovah’s name.—Jer. 20:8, 9.
16. What might help you overcome hesitancy to speak up about your beliefs?
16 Even with preparation, however, you may be hesitant to speak up about your beliefs. An 18-year-old sister, baptized when she was 13, admits, “I know what I believe, but sometimes I have trouble putting my thoughts into words.” How does she deal with this obstacle? “I just try to be casual,” she says. “My classmates talk freely about the things that they do. I should feel free to do the same. So I’ll mention something in passing, such as, ‘I was teaching the Bible the other day, and . . .’ Then I continue with the point of my story. Although the immediate point is not in itself about the Bible, often others are curious about what I do when teaching the Bible. Sometimes they ask questions about it. The more I use this approach, the easier it gets. And afterward, I always feel great!”
17. How can your view of your faith help you to speak to others?
17 As you show respect for others and take a personal interest in them, it is more likely that they will respond in kind. “I had always been afraid that if I worked the Bible into a conversation, people would view me as a fanatic.” That is a comment made by Olivia, who is 17 and who got baptized as a preteen. Then she started to think differently. Rather than give too much thought to her fears, Olivia reasoned: “A lot of young people don’t know anything about Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are the only Witnesses they are exposed to. So the way we act can determine how they will respond. What if we are shy or timid or have a hard time speaking up about our faith, or what if we cringe when we do speak up? Then they may look at us as if we aren’t proud of who we are. They may even respond unkindly because of our lack of confidence. However, if we talk with ease and assurance about what we believe, making it a normal part of conversation, it’s more likely that they will respect us.”
KEEP WORKING OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION
18. What is involved in your working out your own salvation?
18 As we have seen, working out your own salvation is a serious responsibility. Some of the things involved are reading God’s Word and meditating on it, praying to Jehovah, and thinking of ways that Jehovah has blessed you as an individual. Applying yourself in those aspects will boost your confidence in your privilege of having a friendship with Jehovah. That, in turn, will move you to speak up about your beliefs.—Read Psalm 73:28.
19. Why is the effort you put into your salvation worthwhile?
19 Jesus said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and keep following me.” (Matt. 16:24) Clearly, discipleship—including dedication and baptism—is an obligation for you as a Christian. Yet, it opens the door to countless blessings now and to everlasting life in God’s new world. You have every reason, then, to keep working out your own salvation!