Religion—My Choice or My Parents’?
IN Poland quite a few people say to Jehovah’s Witnesses, “I was born into my religion, and I will die in it.” That implies that, in their view, religion is passed down from one generation to another. Do you find a similar attitude toward religion in your area? What often results from such a viewpoint? Religion tends to become formalistic and just a family tradition. Could this happen to those of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have received a wonderful spiritual heritage from their parents or grandparents?
It did not happen to Timothy, who was guided by his devout mother and grandmother to believe in and love the true God. Timothy knew the holy writings “from infancy.” In time, along with his mother and grandmother, Timothy became convinced that Christianity was the truth. He was “persuaded to believe” what he heard from the Scriptures concerning Jesus Christ. (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15) So although Christian parents today do their best to help their children to become servants of Jehovah, the children themselves need to develop a desire to become such.—Mark 8:34.
Each one must be persuaded to believe through convincing reasoning if he is to serve Jehovah out of love and maintain integrity no matter what happens. Then his faith will be solid and well-rooted.—Eph. 3:17; Col. 2:6, 7.
The Children’s Role
“I have always felt that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the true religion,” explains Albert, * who was raised in a family of Witnesses, “but I had a hard time accepting what they were saying about the way I should live.” If you are a youth, you may share his opinion. Why not make the effort to see what is involved in the way of life that God wants us to lead and then find delight in doing his will? (Ps. 40:8) “I simply started praying,” Albert says. “At first, I found it difficult. I had to force myself to do so. Before long, however, I felt I could be valuable in God’s eyes if I tried to do what is right. This gave me the strength to make needed changes.” By cultivating a personal relationship with Jehovah, you can develop the desire to do what he requires of us.—Ps. 25:14; Jas. 4:8.
Think of a game you have played, such as a board game or a particular sport. If you do not know the rules or cannot play it well, it will probably be boring. Yet, if you learned the rules and became good at the game, would you not look forward to playing it, even making opportunities to do so? The same is true of Christian activities. So take the initiative to prepare for Christian meetings. Get involved. Why, despite your age, you may even encourage others by your example!—Heb. 10:24, 25.
The same applies to telling others about your faith. This too should be done out of love, not out of compulsion. Ask yourself: ‘Why do I want to tell others about Jehovah? What reasons do I have to love him?’ You need to know Jehovah as a loving Father. He said through Jeremiah: “You will actually seek me and find me, for you will search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13, 14) What may this require of you? “I had to change my way of thinking,” says Jakub. “I have attended meetings and gone out in the ministry from childhood, but these activities became somewhat routine. Only when I got to know Jehovah better and developed a personal relationship with him did I really become involved in the truth.”
Good, upbuilding association has a lot to do with how much you enjoy your ministry. “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise,” says the inspired proverb. (Prov. 13:20) So seek friendship with those who pursue spiritual goals and who are happy in Jehovah’s service. Jola says: “I found the association with many young, spiritually-minded people encouraging. I began to share regularly in the ministry with great joy.”
The Parents’ Role
“I am very grateful to my parents for teaching me about Jehovah,” says Jola. Yes, parents can have a powerful influence on their children’s choice. The apostle Paul wrote: “You, fathers, . . . go on bringing [your children] up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) This inspired counsel clearly shows that the parents’ role is to teach their children Jehovah’s ways, not their own. Rather than putting into the mind of your children what you may have wanted to achieve, how wonderful it would be if you could help them make it their goal in life to live in harmony with Jehovah’s purposes!
You can inculcate Jehovah’s words in your children and “speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:6, 7) “We talked a lot about various avenues of the full-time ministry,” recall Ewa and Ryszard, the parents of three sons. The result? “The boys wanted to enroll in the Theocratic Ministry School at an early age, became publishers, and eventually decided on their own to get baptized. Later, they took up Bethel or pioneer service.”
Good parental example is vital. Ryszard says, “We were determined not to lead a double life, acting one way at home and another way in the congregation.” Therefore, ask yourself: ‘What do my children see in my life? Do they see a real love for Jehovah? Do they observe this love in my prayers and routine of personal study? Do they see it in my attitude toward field service, entertainment, and material things and in what I say about other members of the congregation?’ (Luke 6:40) Children will observe your daily life and note any inconsistency between what you say and what you do.
Discipline plays an important role in rearing children. However, God’s inspired Word tells us to “train up a boy according to the way for him.” (Prov. 22:6) Ewa and Ryszard comment, “We took the time to have a Bible study with each child separately.” Of course, it is up to the parents to decide if a separate study is needed for each child. Whatever the case, a child needs to be treated as an individual. This requires flexibility and reasonableness. Rather than just telling your children that certain music is bad, for example, why not show them how to make wise decisions, how Bible principles are involved?
Your children may know exactly what you expect of them and may seem to conform to your wishes. Yet, you have to reach their heart. Remember, “counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up.” (Prov. 20:5) Be discerning, look for signs of any problem that may lurk in your children’s heart, and take action immediately. Without making any accusations, show that you are concerned, and ask appropriate questions. Still, be careful not to be overly inquisitive. Your sincere concern will reach the heart and help you to assist them.
The Role of the Congregation
Can you as one of God’s servants help youths in the congregation appreciate the spiritual heritage they have received? Though parents are responsible for training their children, other congregation members, especially elders, can support their efforts. It is particularly important to reach out to those in religiously divided families.
What can the elders do to help young ones love Jehovah and feel needed and appreciated? Mariusz, who serves as an overseer in a congregation in Poland, says: “Elders should communicate, communicate, communicate with the young ones. That should be not only when problems arise but on other occasions as well—in the ministry, after the meetings, or over a cup of tea.” Why not ask the young ones how they feel about the congregation? Such open communication draws young ones close to the congregation and enables them to feel a part of it.
If you are an elder, are you getting to know the youths in your congregation? Although he is now serving as an elder, Albert, mentioned earlier, experienced various trials during adolescence. He says, “As a young adult, I needed a personal shepherding call.” Elders can also show personal interest in youths by praying for their spiritual well-being.—2 Tim. 1:3.
It is good for young ones to get involved in congregation activities. Otherwise, they might focus on pursuing worldly goals. Can you older ones share with them in the ministry and make friends with them? Spend leisure time with young ones, creating an atmosphere of trust and friendship. Jola recalls: “A pioneer sister showed personal interest in me. It was with her that I went in the ministry for the first time because I wanted to.”
Your Personal Choice
Young ones, ask yourselves: ‘What are my goals? If I am not yet baptized, do I have baptism as a goal?’ The decision to get baptized should stem from a heart full of love for Jehovah, not from any obligation to a family tradition.
Yes, may Jehovah be your true Friend, and the truth be your treasure. Jehovah declared by means of the prophet Isaiah: “Do not gaze about, for I am your God.” Jehovah will be with you as long as you are his friend. He will indeed strengthen you and “keep fast hold of you with [his] right hand of righteousness.”—Isa. 41:10.
^ par. 6 Some names have been changed.
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Try to discern what is in your child’s heart
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The decision to get baptized stems from a heart full of love for Jehovah