Study Is Rewarding
1. For what does study prepare us?
1 Would you like to see your faith increase, feel your love for God grow stronger, enjoy greater discernment and increased fruitage from your ministerial efforts? The progress that you make in all these respects is, to a considerable extent, dependent on what you do in the way of personal and family study. Such study is an essential part of our lives as Christians. Not only does it equip us to serve God now, but it is part of the preparation for life in God’s new world. Do you personally study as you should?—Matt. 4:4.
2, 3. How can we find time for study?
2 Finding adequate time for study is often a problem, but not an insurmountable one. If you realize that your program of study needs improvement, analyze your weekly schedule of activities. It is not likely that you will find much time that is not already being used. But the Bible urges us to ‘buy out time’ from other pursuits. (Eph. 5:15-17) If you have a television set, why not keep a record of the time that you spend watching it during the week? You might be surprised at the amount of time used in that way. How much time do you spend in “small talk” over the telephone, visiting with neighbors or reading the newspaper or worldly magazines? Could some of this time each week be channeled into one or more periods of study that would be lastingly beneficial? Such study can be done during the daytime, in the evening or whenever it is best for you. Usually a person finds time for the things that are most important to him, and there is no question but that study of God’s Word is one of “the more important things” to a person who values his relationship with Jehovah.—Phil. 1:9-11; Prov. 2:1-5.
3 While you may find it difficult at first to settle down and concentrate on studying, in time it will become easier and more enjoyable. But you need to appreciate its importance, set aside time to do it regularly and put forth an earnest effort.
4, 5. What does study include, and why is it appropriate to begin study sessions with prayer?
4 Study should be done with a view to being able to recall and explain the material clearly. Casual reading, while it has a proper place in our lives, is not study. Study requires research, thought and application. Do not plan to cover more material than you can effectively or you will find your study shallow and unrewarding. Rather, allow time for research and meditation. However, plan to cover sufficient material so that you will see that you are really accomplishing something.
5 The Christian student does not rely on his own ability to find his way into the deep things of God’s Word of truth. He realizes that he needs the help of God’s holy spirit, God’s organization of devoted servants, and the Word itself. This is why it is appropriate to seek God’s blessing on study periods by prayer.—Jas. 1:5; Luke 11:9-13.
6, 7. What helpful suggestions might be tried with a view to getting more out of family Bible reading?
6 Bible study. In the Theocratic Ministry School provision is usually made for a certain portion of the Bible to be read each week. Often this can be done as a family group, reading a chapter or two of the Bible in the evening. To obtain benefits from this reading, after each paragraph it is helpful if the one reading or someone in the group will comment on the key thought of the paragraph. If you are reading the material yourself, take a moment to meditate on the thought being expressed, how it fits in with the rest of the chapter and how it affects you personally.
7 When you are finished with the Bible reading, if points are not clear, it would be appropriate to take some time to do research. Perhaps the thought or sense of a particular scripture was unclear to you. How can you get more information on it? You might first check the Scripture Index section of the Watch Tower Publications Indexes to find places where the scripture has been explained. If your question involves a particular expression in the scripture such as “sanctification” or “Babylon the Great,” you might find additional comments by consulting the Subject Index section of the Watch Tower Publications Indexes in your library. The same procedure may be followed to get more information about a person or place mentioned in the Bible. You may also find information about persons and places in Insight on the Scriptures or by simply referring to the alphabetical scripture index in the back of your Bible and then looking up the Scripture references shown.
8, 9. How can answers to Bible questions be found, and what should we seek in addition to the answers?
8 Research to find answers. At times on a return visit or at a Bible study a question may be raised that you are not sure how to answer. Research on such questions can be done during your home study period. In this way you will be sure that you are “handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Tim. 2:15) With a little effort a satisfying answer usually can be found. First of all, if it is the explanation of a scripture that is needed, be sure to read the context. What is the surrounding material discussing and therefore what is the sense of the scripture under discussion? Having ascertained that, you are ready to check the Scripture Index section of the Watch Tower Publications Indexes for further help. Is the question about doctrine or prophecy, or does it involve applying Scriptural principles to the life of the student? Both the Subject and the Scripture Index sections of the Watch Tower Publications Indexes can help you to locate the information that you need.
9 When you are satisfied that you have the answer, ask yourself what proofs you have for it. Is your answer just a statement of fact that may seem dogmatic to your hearer, or do you see the reason for the conclusions presented in the Society’s publications? Can you demonstrate that it is true? The one on whom you are calling may want you to explain the reasons for your conclusions or give Scriptural support. Could you illustrate the point? Do you have in mind leading questions that you can use to help the student arrive at the correct conclusion? Your study of the subject will help to equip you to present the answer effectively.
10, 11. Give suggestions on how to prepare for the Watchtower study and the congregation book study.
10 Preparing for the “Watchtower” study. In some lands The Watchtower is not regularly available due to opposition to the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses. In such places the brothers have to review older issues or rely on what they remember from previous studies. Can you remember the outstanding points in recent issues of The Watchtower that you have studied? We should study with a view to remembering the material for later application, whether in our own lives or in the field ministry.
11 It is advantageous to read the magazine from cover to cover when it is first received, thus getting an overall view of the material. Then, sometime before the congregational study of the material, it is good to review it personally or to discuss it as a family. When you do this, first note the theme of the article, the key scripture and the boldface subheadings for the entire article. This gives you an overall view of the subject and will help you to appreciate the relationship of the details in the individual paragraphs. Now read the lesson through paragraph by paragraph, locating the answers to the questions and underlining just the key points for future reference. As you finish each paragraph, if you find that you cannot answer the question in your own words, it would be good to read the paragraph again so you can do so. Pay attention to the Scriptural reasons for answers given, looking up texts cited and noting those on which you would like to comment at the meeting. When you complete all the paragraphs under a subheading, pause briefly and review how that material has contributed to the development of the entire subject. Do this again at the end of the article. Ask yourself where you will be able to use what you have learned, how it affects your own life or how you would explain it to someone else. In this way you will be, not merely marking answers, but acquiring both wisdom and understanding. (Prov. 4:7) And your enjoyment of the Watchtower study with the congregation will be greatly increased. The same procedure may be followed in preparing for the congregation book study.
12-14. Why is family study very important, and what material might be covered?
12 Family study. Above all, be sure that your study arrangements include your family so that each one benefits fully. Would it be loving if the head of a family studied carefully while his wife and children were starving spiritually? Not only physically but also spiritually the family head is under obligation to “provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household.” (1 Tim. 5:8) The wisdom of early Bible training for one’s children is seen in the counsel of Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” Do not think your child is too young to benefit. From infancy children learn. (2 Tim. 3:15) Family members making the most rapid progress are often those who have made it a practice to have a period of family reading and study. Regularity is of utmost importance.
13 Do you discuss the daily text with your family, letting them comment and asking questions to be sure they understand? This can provide rich spiritual food for your family. Many families do it at mealtime. In addition, each family ought to have a regular time set aside every week for more extensive study as a family. It may be an evening or any other suitable time. Adequate time is required to get a satisfying grasp of many Bible subjects, to explore their various aspects and to impress them on the heart. The regular family study enables all of you to benefit from such study together. Do you have such a family study? If it is not a regular thing in your home, why not discuss the matter with the entire family today and take definite steps to make this a part of your life?—Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:4-7.
14 If children are quite young, it is good to include material to study together that will be understandable and helpful to them. But even the most difficult material can be discussed in a way so as to involve the young ones with an occasional simple question on a point they can grasp. Many families prepare the Watchtower lesson during their family study time. But any material appropriate to the needs of the family may be used as the basis for the study. Such training builds strong family bonds as well as spiritual appreciation.
15-17. What rewards come from regular study?
15 Rewards for diligence. One immediate reward of diligent study is improvement of the memory through exercise and stimulation. In the field ministry and at congregational meetings it becomes easier to recall and comment on points that have been studied. We find ourselves able to answer the questions of newly interested persons almost from memory, and to put our finger quickly on the scriptures that support our comments. But more than that, study gives us a richer, all-around knowledge of God’s Word. It gives us stronger faith, clearer discernment of Bible principles and increased joy in serving Jehovah.—Heb. 5:14.
16 Wise persons put matters pertaining to their spiritual life in the foremost place. Lesser matters may have to give way because of lack of time, but never the study of the Word of life. It is to those who adopt this view that Jehovah promises that ‘I will let myself be found by you.’ (1 Chron. 28:9) This will particularly be true if you study, not just to gain head knowledge, but to feed your heart. Let your love and appreciation for Jehovah and his wonderful works grow as you study his Word.
17 The real purpose of study by God’s ministers is clearly revealed in this prayer of the apostle Paul, recorded at Colossians 1:9, 10: “That you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual comprehension, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.”