Your Personal Study
“Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—2 Tim. 2:15, NW.
1. How has Jehovah richly blessed the spiritual position of his people in this day?
IT IS Jehovah himself who has opened to the view of his people the glorious vision of the new world set out in his Word. He it is who has pointed them to their privilege of serving now as a New World society, and he has now brought his people to their present position, poised for entry into the actual new world. He knows full well their needs for endurance at this crucial time and he fulfills his prophetic promise: “And in this mountain will Jehovah of hosts make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” (Isa. 25:6, AS) This strengthening feast we regularly receive through the loving administration of the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47, NW) It comes to us in rich portions through the columns of The Watchtower, through the bound books and booklets, instructions received at congregational meetings and at larger assemblies of Jehovah’s people.
2. Who respond to his invitation to the feast, and what is their attitude toward the superabundant provision made?
2 It is only “those who are conscious of their spiritual need,” “those hungering and thirsting for righteousness,” that gather to this table provided by Jehovah, here to be sustained with food for everlasting life. (Matt. 5:3, 6; John 17:3, NW) They are the ones that rejoice at the fulfillment of the promise: “Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith Jehovah of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10, AS) Now that they have come near and beheld this marvelous provision, will they leave? Will they say that Jehovah requires too much of them, that there are too many meetings, that there is too much to study? Will they spurn the table of Jehovah? Or will they accept this provision of Jehovah and yet miss its purpose, heaping rich spiritual portions before themselves and then failing to take time to consume the feast? (Ps. 23:5; 2 Cor. 6:1) No, but we raise our voices in heartfelt thanks to God for his undeserved kindness, glad that he has made our cup to run over with his loving provisions. And, showing this expression on our part to be sincere, we set ourselves to diligent study, congregationally and personally, to assimilate the spiritual food.
3. (a) What effect does a study of the truth have on us? (b) What should be done with more difficult study material?
3 While much study of old-world literature is a weariness of the flesh, the life-giving waters of truth that flow from the throne of God are refreshing and of them we delight to partake. (Eccl. 12:12) True, some of it may be hard to grasp at first, but, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar, if we drink of this water of truth that he provides we shall never get thirsty again. (John 4:13, 14) Jesus’ apostles, too, although they found some of his instruction at first difficult to understand, recognized what Jesus offered as “sayings of everlasting life,” and they stuck with him. (John 6:68, NW) When they failed to grasp the point of his teaching they did not lazily let it pass, but said: “Make the illustration plain to us.” (Matt. 15:15, NW) When we fail to get the full import of an argument in The Watchtower or when we do not grasp the meaning of a scripture, do we stay with it—even as 97-year-old Jacob wrestled all night with the angel to receive a blessing—and thus reap the blessing of increased understanding? (Gen. 32:24-28) If we do not at first understand the instructions Jehovah gives us through his organization, we do not want to be stumbled as were the Pharisees; rather, ask a mature brother to try to make them plain.
4. Illustrate the need of proper spiritual feeding.
4 It at once becomes apparent that to be properly nourished from Jehovah’s table we must go about it in a systematic way. If we only snatch bites of food on the run and swallow them hurriedly, we can hardly expect to enjoy physical health. Regular eating habits and proper mastication of food are essential. Is not the same true of our spiritual diet? Each day we should set aside time for study; if possible, at a time when our mind is alert. It should be done at regular times and in a proper manner. Then when you set aside time, hold to it. Your spiritual health depends on it. If you are eating dinner when a friend comes in, do you just shove the food aside and carry on idle conversation instead? No; you probably invite him to join you at the table. Well, then, when you are studying The Watchtower or your Bible and a friend comes in and asks, “What are you doing?” do you say, “Oh, nothing,” and set it aside? Why not rather invite him to join you? For the sake of your spiritual health, do not treat lightly your habits of spiritual feeding.
5. (a) What is a prerequisite to instructive congregational meetings? (b) How will it benefit us individually and as a congregation?
5 Congregational study is a requirement for the New World society, but personal study is a prerequisite to worthwhile congregational studies. Do you have the happy privilege of reading a portion of the Bible at the ministry school? (Rev. 1:3) Then study it carefully in advance so you can properly convey the instruction it contains. Remember, it is a living word! Present it that way. Do you regularly study the material for the service meeting in advance? Your ability to retain and apply the instruction there given will be greatly increased if you do. When you attend the congregation book study, the Watchtower study, the ministry school and service meeting, do you really enjoy them to the full? It is a pleasure to take in the truth, but “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Acts 20:35, NW) That happiness is yours if you hold fast the public declaration of your hope by oral expression of your faith in congregational meetings. Consider your brothers by making a contribution to the study and, when you give, give your best. “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” (Heb. 10:23-25; Col. 3:23, NW) To do this you must personally study your lesson in advance.
6. How does personal study affect our service, and what is the only way to be sure we will actually do that needed studying?
6 The Christian congregation is a ministerial organization by means of which “this good news of the kingdom” is being preached in all the world for the purpose of a witness. It is now mature, well equipped to carry out its commission. What about you? Have you kept pace with the organization and are you equipped to share in this Kingdom ministry? You may have taken the forward step of sharing in the preaching work, but now strive to make your hours of service the most productive of fruit to Jehovah’s praise. Paul counsels: “Keep your balance in all things, . . . thoroughly accomplish your ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:5, NW) To accomplish your ministry thoroughly you must be properly equipped for it. That requires study of the truth, and to get it done you must set aside time for it just as you do for field service.—2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
7. How will servants in the congregation view personal study?
7 Perhaps as you consider the great need for personal study, reading the Bible, carefully going through each issue of The Watchtower and Awake! and preparing for congregational meetings, you feel that it just cannot all be done. As a servant in the congregation you may feel that with service activity and servant’s duties, there is no time left for all this personal study. But, on the other hand, consider this as another field of theocratic activity in which you want to take the lead and aid others. Remember, a requirement of overseers is that they be “qualified to teach.” This requires personal study on your part. “Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 3:2; 4:16, NW) Your good example will lead others of the Lord’s sheep in the right way and will help them to acquire good habits, in service and study, as ministers of God. So give careful consideration to the responsibility laid upon you by the instruction at 1 Peter 5:2, 3 (NW), which says: “Shepherd the flock of God in your care, not under compulsion, but willingly, . . . becoming examples to the flock.”
FINDING TIME OR OCCASION FOR IT
8. What view of personal study will those in full-time service take?
8 Are you in some branch of the full-time service, in the field or at a Bethel home? Actively carrying out your ministry all day, you may find yourself bypassing necessary study. But to “fully accomplish your ministry” diligent personal study is mandatory. Just as a doctor who does not take time to keep up with the advances in medical science is of ever-diminishing value to his clients, so the ministry of one who does not regularly apply himself in careful personal study constantly lessens in force and effectiveness. Even he becomes vulnerable to the snares of the wicked one. “On this account take up the complete suit of armor from God, that you may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after you have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm.”—Eph. 6:13, NW.
9. Even though we are busy, why is personal study so necessary?
9 No matter what your position in the New World society, no matter how busy you may be with family obligations or with Kingdom interests, keep in condition for the theocratic fight! Remember Gideon’s little band of three hundred warriors as they pressed on to the fight. Although they did not get down on their knees to drink, yet they made sure they were refreshed. They kept their eyes toward the work ahead, but they knew they must be fit to undertake it, and so must we.—Judg. 7:5-7.
10. How might theocratic family groups arrange their study?
10 While much personal study can best be done alone, some find that they benefit greatly by studying in company with a close friend or their marriage mate, “that there may be an interchange of encouragement.” (Rom. 1:12, NW) In their case this serves, not to supplant congregational study meetings, but to equip them better for participation in such meetings. Parents, heeding the Bible command to bring up their children in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah, may find it advantageous to do this studying as a family group. Ample opportunity is afforded for such study in a family consideration of the daily Bible text, study of The Watchtower and discussion of the Awake! articles, preparation for the congregational meetings and in regular consecutive reading of the Bible itself. The father, who is not only a material breadwinner for the household but also looks after their spiritual growth, should organize such study and then see that the schedule is followed. (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:6, 7) However, when not all members of the family are in the truth, that obligation may fall to the mother. (2 Tim. 1:5) Theocratic children, too, will delight to take advantage of the provision, that they may remember their Creator in the days of their youth. They will not use their youth as an excuse for indifference, but will want to be exemplary in faith and service to others of their own age and even to those of older years. They accept the good counsel given Timothy: “Let no man ever look down on your youth. On the contrary, become an example to the faithful ones in speaking, in conduct, in love, in faith, in chasteness. While I am coming, continue applying yourself to public reading, to exhortation, to teaching.”—1 Tim. 4:12, 13, NW.
11. Why is it that some learn faster than others?
11 The problem now to be met, by both young and old, is how to carry on this personal study in the most profitable manner. Why is it that one individual is able to learn and grasp new thoughts more quickly than another? Apart from natural ability, it is usually because he has adopted proper study habits and has replaced carelessness with systematic effort. It is easier to study the right way than to poke along in the wrong way.
12. Offer suggestions on how to remember what is studied.
12 While the ability to cover material rapidly is often desirable, it is not always the best thing to do; it is far more important to be able to retain and use what we read. However, you can strive to improve your ability in reading by practicing until you learn to read phrases and thoughts instead of words. The result will be not only proper coverage of more material, but also thoughts instead of mere words will be conveyed to your mind. What we learn must make a lasting impression on our mind. That requires concentration, which means focusing attention on just one thing at a time. Here some have adopted the erroneous view that they must force their mind to dwell on a subject, but will a forced or tense mind work most efficiently? Instead of forcing your mind, cultivate keen interest in the subject at hand. You will naturally become absorbed in the material, dismissing from mind all irrelevant ideas and concerns, and then concentration is easy. As you study keep interest alive by constantly analyzing the material to ascertain how it can be used. Determine of what practical benefit it will be to you. Does it help you to understand better the world around you? Will it help you to meet the problems of life? Does it clear up some questions to which you did not previously know the answer? Can you see in it an illustration or argument that can be used by you in making clear to another the truths of God’s Word? We remember the things that particularly interest us. Worldlings may remember juicy bits of gossip about their neighbors. The interest of Jehovah’s people is in the new world of righteousness; so they remember the things that concern New World living and the Creator of the new world, Jehovah God.—2 Pet. 3:13.
13. What else makes possible complete concentration?
13 Concentration is also strengthened by imagination. Much of the Bible is composed of historical narrative and prophetic illustrations. Therefore, when applying your mind to a study of the Scriptures, use imagination and the several senses to picture the subject vividly. For example, consider the trial of Jesus before Pilate. Do not merely read words, but visualize every detail of the occasion. (John 19:1-16, NW) Feel the chill morning air. See Jesus arrayed in a purple robe, the crown of thorns pushed down on his head. Feel the sting of the blows as the soldiers insolently slap his face. As you place yourself there in the street before the governor’s palace in Jerusalem, feel the press of the crowd. Taste the dust stirred up by the feet of the milling people. Hear the mob led by the robed Pharisees as they shout: “Take him away! Impale him!” Disgust will seize you when they say: “We have no king but Caesar”; your heart will pound as the tension of the scene grows. Yes, live it; then you will remember it. Your mind is fed by the five senses: touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing. Consequently, when you employ imagination, allowing all your senses to contribute freely, your mind will be completely engrossed, concentration will be complete and the impression made will be deep and lasting.
14. How can proofs and arguments best be remembered?
14 Arguments and reasons in support of doctrines may be difficult to visualize, but with hearing them stated and seeing them in print you can couple the memory-strengthening factor of association. Consider the reasonableness of the statements you read, the reason the statement is made, proof of its truthfulness and illustrations of its application. Consciously associate all these together. See each of these factors in its relation to the others, and when you call one to mind the others will be brought forth with it to complete the picture.
15. (a) Why must the Christian minister spend time to study out refutation of objections? (b) Even with a busy schedule, how can he find time to do this?
15 There may be some objection based on prejudice or on religious doctrine that is raised by the people in your territory. That objection hinders you from presenting the Kingdom message to them. What can be done? In order to “thoroughly accomplish your ministry” you will want to cultivate the ability to overcome those objections. But when? Perhaps you arrive at the congregational meeting place ten or fifteen minutes before the study, or you may arrive at the service center a little before the others. Why not use that time wisely? Exchange suggestions. Practice them on one another. Discuss how to refute the objection without raising antagonism, but rather stirring up curiosity or interest in our work. Perhaps an apt illustration will help to put across the point while side-stepping prejudice. Analyze the scriptures you wish to use so they will be presented most effectively. Work up new sermons for house-to-house and back-call work in the same way. Such discussions as a part of your personal study program require very little extra time and will not be at all like work, but, rather, enjoyable, stimulating, and at the same time they will equip you to be a more able minister.—Prov. 27:17.
IMPRESSING KNOWLEDGE ON ONESELF
16. Instead of merely memorizing, what does a wise student do?
16 Some try to acquire information by memorizing, but it is laborious and artificial. And while you might be able to repeat word for word the statement you want, unless you fully understand it you will not be able to use it effectively. For that reason it is usually better to grasp thoughts, not words. Toy with new ideas, view them from different aspects, consider their value, put them into your own words; then they are yours. Even when you do want to commit some material to memory, as, for example, a Scripture text, before you do so be sure you understand the thought it contains and its value. If you do, it will be far easier to learn and to retain.
17. How might one underscore study material? Of what benefit is it?
17 When you do study you may find it advantageous to underscore certain points if the publication you are reading is your own. These marks can be used to designate weak points in your mastery of the subject, or they can set forth the principal thoughts of the article. This should never be too extensive, but key words or phrases will at a glance help you to recall the thoughts presented. Such underscoring is of particular benefit for purposes of review and participation in congregational discussion of the material. It will aid you to locate the main points and to reconstruct quickly in your mind the essence of the material.
18. What gives some a distorted view of the Bible’s contents?
18 There are many who get what might be termed a nearsighted view of the subjects they study. Many false religious organizations have such a view of the Bible. They see only the few isolated texts upon which they base their belief. They fail to consider the context; they fail to see the entire Bible as the inspired Word of God. The Kingdom theme, which runs from Genesis to Revelation, escapes their view. Their concept of God is distorted and, although they may ever be learning, they never come to an accurate knowledge of the truth. Do not imitate them.—2 Tim. 3:7.
19. How would one properly proceed with the study of a Watchtower article with a view to appreciating and remembering fully the points for use in his ministry?
19 When you study try to view the subject in its entirety. Tie each thought in to the central theme, ascertaining its relative importance. When you find the answer to the question on one paragraph of the Watchtower lesson, make it a point to note the relationship of that particular answer to the theme of the study. Observe the logical build-up of arguments and illustrations as the theme is developed, paragraph by paragraph, to present just one complete picture, well balanced and with all its details properly and proportionately placed. When you finish reading the article, deliberately pause and mentally reconstruct that picture, either by use of subheadings, topic sentences, questions at the bottom of the page or key thoughts you have underscored while reading. Let your mind run through the outline of arguments and scriptures that developed the subject theme. Then close the magazine or book and see if you can do it again without looking at the printed material. It will take only a minute or two to do this, but then it will be firmly imbedded in your mind. It will be yours to use. We want the things we learn from God’s Word and through his organization to stay with us as a guide to Christian living and as equipment for use in the ministry. “That is why it is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.”—Heb. 2:1, NW.
20. How can these principles of study be applied to reading of the day’s text, to Bible reading, and with what benefit?
20 You may already apply these principles to some extent. At the conclusion of your weekly congregation book study, do you have a closed-book review of important points of the lesson? Does the Watchtower study conductor give a comment and highlight some part of the lesson once or twice during the study? Now, why not extend those principles farther? Do the same thing for yourself while you read each article in The Watchtower. After you have considered the day’s text from the Yearbook, close the book and see if you can concisely express its essence in one sentence. Do the same with your personal Bible reading. As you finish reading each chapter try to epitomize it for yourself. See if you can ascertain the central theme of the chapter or the essence of the entire Bible book, and then note the relationship of each verse to that central thought. Try to see the entire book as a well-arranged whole, observing the relationship of thoughts to one another. Your appreciation of things learned will be greatly enhanced because you will understand the setting, background and relationship of the statements made. It will make it much easier for you to locate Scripture texts, to remember arguments, and to use them effectively in overturning false doctrine and establishing right worship.—2 Cor. 10:4, 5.
21. Why will all in the New World society be diligent in their study and strive to improve their study habits?
21 You want to advance with the New World society. You want to be equipped for an effective share in the ministry. Then apply these principles we have discussed in your personal study. “Do your utmost to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” (2 Tim. 2:15, NW) Look at the ingathering work before us. Consider the privileges of service that await you as you expand your ministry. Look ahead to the vast reconstruction and educational work that lies beyond Armageddon. Set your mind to equip yourself for a greater share in this God-given work, and Jehovah’s blessing will surely be yours.
Ponder over these things, be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.—1 Tim. 4:15, 16, NW.