Studying with a Purpose
“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.
1, 2. (a) What privilege may the student of God’s Word enjoy? (b) What is the pitiful condition of man today?
MOST people do not like to study. To use their brain is too toilsome. Especially do they not like to study God’s Word, the Holy Bible. However, the favor and approval of Almighty God is extended to the man who studies and treasures up the instructions contained in that sacred Word. That man is wise in Jehovah’s eyes. To him will come peace and life from God. But, as something of importance now, such man is permitted to stand before Jehovah and minister to Him, handling his Word, dispensing its life-giving truths to a bewildered, spiritually starved world.—Prov. 3:1-6.
2 Today the people of the world are confused and at their wits’ end. They know not where to turn for deliverance from their befuddled state. Innocently and ignorantly they have entrusted their lives to men who have skinned them and knocked them about and led them further astray from the path of righteousness. Is there no hope for the people? Is there no escape from the labyrinth of confusion into which they have been led by their worldly leaders?—Ps. 107:27; Matt. 9:36.
3, 4. Why is a way of escape provided, and by whom?
3 Since the self-appointed religious instructors, schooled by the present evil world, cannot be relied on to provide education leading to life, where can these who are sighing and crying because of the abominations practiced in the land turn for succor? To Jehovah. He will not abandon them. “‘For the violence to the afflicted ones, for the sighing of the poor ones, I shall at this time arise,’ says Jehovah. ‘I shall put [him] in a place safe from anyone that puffs at him.’ The sayings of Jehovah are pure sayings, as silver refined in a smelting furnace of earth, clarified seven times. You yourself, O Jehovah, will guard them; you will preserve each one from this generation onward, which is to time indefinite.”—Ps. 12:5-7.
4 Jehovah, “the Father of the celestial lights,” has indicated the way of escape. In order to have his favor one must enter upon the path of light and pursue it constantly, turning neither to the left nor to the right.—Jas. 1:17; Prov. 4:18.
CHALLENGE CALLS FOR ANSWER
5. How and by whom is Satan’s taunt answered?
5 Satan taunts Jehovah. So to his servant Jehovah calls: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) For centuries the name of Jehovah has been reproached and maligned by Satan and his agents. Many blame Jehovah God for the present woeful ills of the people. Actually, Satan is the cause. Setting himself up as an angel of light and his present system of things as the long-looked-for kingdom, Satan has induced practically all persons to turn aside from true worship and to weak substitutes. Jehovah’s name people must meet the challenge flung at true worship by handling the word of truth aright and by providing to the people the accurate knowledge concerning Jehovah and his purposes, and the opportunity of coming out of darkness into God’s wonderful light. The people have spiritually been on a starvation diet of ‘husks’ long enough. They require and must be provided with accurate knowledge and nourishing food from Jehovah’s storehouse.
6. What spiritual provision has Jehovah made in this his day, but with what obligation?
6 This is the foretold day of Jehovah in which he has turned to his people a “pure language” and they “serve him with one accord.” Not only does he hear the cry of the needy but, in this his day, he has caused his “faithful and discreet slave” to provide spiritual nourishment for them, since without such sustenance they face spiritual starvation and death. All, without exception, may avail themselves of the invitation to partake, “without money.” But a serious obligation rests upon those who apply for such food after turning away from the “weak and inadequate elementary things” of this world. They must obey Jesus’ words: “You received free, give free.”—Zeph. 3:9, AS; RS; Matt. 24:45; Isa. 55:1, 2, AS; Gal. 4:9; Matt. 10:8.
7, 8. What is necessary to attain to an accurate knowledge of the truth, and why cannot the sincere seeker of truth gain it in Christendom?
7 Growing up requires our learning how to learn. This is particularly true with respect to spiritual growth. A wise person not only will hear, willingly listen, but will “take in more instruction,” and will not be one “always learning and yet never able to come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” Learning is a cumulative process. Increase in learning brings us a desire to advance to a complete and accurate knowledge of truth, so as to please and have the approval of Jehovah.—Prov. 1:5; 2 Tim. 3:7; Col. 1:9, 10.
8 No cheap substitute for accurate knowledge will be tolerated by Jehovah; neither can genuine Christians accept such substitute. Christendom’s leaders produce many pew renters, ‘pillars of the church’; but how many do they produce that are equipped to teach others God’s Word? Concerning present-day lack of accurate knowledge Jehovah through his prophet declared: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: . . . And it shall be, like people, like priest.” No one can come to an accurate knowledge of truth unless the teaching he receives leads to truth. Let each one of us ask himself: Does the teaching I have received square with the Bible? Has it qualified and inspired me to be an active servant of God, from day to day telling the good news of salvation by him?—Hos. 4:6, 9, AS; Ps. 96:2.
QUALIFIED TO BE TEACHERS
9. Why must Jehovah’s witnesses today study with a purpose?
9 Everyone who receives of Jehovah’s spiritual provisions becomes obligated to dispense them to others. But he must first qualify, progressing beyond ‘kindergarten.’ Today’s qualified minister of God needs to know how to nurture and bring to maturity properly many willing learners who are taking their stand for Jehovah’s new world of righteousness. Therefore study, continuous study, deep study, is a requirement in order for one to qualify as undershepherd directing sheeplike persons into Christ’s ‘sheepfold.’ Since the sacred interests of God are involved it behooves God’s servants today to study with a purpose.—Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Tim. 2:15.
10. What three aims do Jehovah’s witnesses have in serving?
10 Jehovah’s witnesses are primarily interested in pleasing the One who has called them to serve under Jesus, the great Teacher. They realize that if their service is acceptable they will receive life from God. This is not a selfish motive for serving; it is merely laying claim to God’s promises. They also experience unmeasured joy from engaging in the gathering work directed by their Leader, especially when their diligent activity prospers and succeeds.—Heb. 11:6; John 10:16.
11, 12. (a) How could lack of accurate knowledge be considered criminal, and under what circumstances especially so? (b) Why is accurate knowledge so vital today?
11 Now the world is full of those equipped with just enough knowledge to ‘get by’ in getting a job for making a living. One so barely equipped may never be found out. And, even if found out, he might suffer no great loss except, possibly, loss of face. But such lack of accurate knowledge could be criminal. For example, an aeronautical student who failed to study with the right purpose might learn only enough to take his plane up and land it. In ideal flying conditions he might be considered a good flier. But his lack of knowledge would come to light when an emergency arose; then it would be too late to learn the fundamental intricacies of flying. He would be ill equipped to protect the lives entrusted to his care.
12 Such unconcern for the lives of others is criminal indeed when the eternal life of such ones is at stake. It may be that so-called religious “sky pilots” with worldly wisdom are thus unconcerned about the spiritual lives of their congregations. But “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness.’ And again: ‘Jehovah knows that the reasonings of the wise men are futile.’” One’s studying for the limited purpose of obtaining a religious degree so as to receive adulation of men and to become a ‘gentleman of the cloth’ may be sufficient to qualify one as a clergyman according to this world’s standards. Yet having a degree and “looking the part” does not make one a trusted servant of God, one to whom Jehovah will entrust the future life of his prospective children in his new world. In order to teach others adequately and bring them to an accurate knowledge of truth, more is required. In the matter of education for life, knowing just enough to ‘get by’ is criminal indeed, because eternal life is involved, life of both teacher and learner. So accurate knowledge is essential and vital, especially now when Jehovah is conducting his training program for endless life.—1 Cor. 3:19, 20; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4; Ezek. 3:17-20, AS; RS.
13, 14. (a) Why is zeal alone insufficient, and may God’s gift of the ministry be bought? (b) Is willingness to serve enough?
13 In the early days of the Christian congregation there were some who aspired to be leaders and teachers and to exercise the authority of the apostles. Whatever other qualities they may have had, they were not equipped to teach Christian doctrine. Consequently, concerning them Paul wrote: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge; for, because of not knowing the righteousness of God but seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.” One ambitious man even sought to purchase a position from the apostle Peter and was soundly rebuked for his effrontery. In this period of the Christian congregation one may not ‘buy’ with money, or otherwise, a position as teacher in Jehovah’s organization. One must meet the Scriptural qualifications. One must be commissioned by Jehovah God.—Rom. 10:2, 3; Acts 8:18-24.
14 Persons commissioned by Jehovah must study “with a view to the training of the holy ones for ministerial work,” with the goal to “attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of growth that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching.” So willingness to serve is not enough; ability also is required—the ability and strength that God supplies.—Eph. 4:11-14.
15. Why is a superficial knowledge of the Bible inadequate to discharge our sacred trust?
15 Not all men in the world of today are satisfied with a mediocre or commonplace knowledge. Many realize the necessity of being well equipped to discharge responsibilities assigned or assumed. So too those in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, being entrusted with the rare privilege of declaring Jehovah’s purposes, are not satisfied with only a superficial knowledge of the Bible. They must be “blameless and innocent, children of God without a blemish in among a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [they] are shining as illuminators in the world, keeping a tight grip on the word of life.” Serving as “ambassadors substituting for Christ,” they must follow his example and speak authoritatively. They must be ready always to provide an answer or explanation concerning the truth to anyone requiring it and deserving of it. This requires them to study.—Phil. 2:15, 16; 2 Cor. 5:20; Matt. 7:29; 5:14-16; Prov. 15:28.
16. In daily studying God’s Word, what examples do Jehovah’s witnesses follow?
16 Jehovah’s witnesses study God’s Word daily. Gladly they do so to be equipped to fulfill their God-given commission to “bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives” in Satan’s organization. Such study is not wearisome, not a chore, but is refreshing. It gives them a ‘lift’ over the many bumps of life. They are not above their Master. Before entering upon his preaching career, Jesus studied. While in the wilderness he meditated on Jehovah’s Word and purposes. For him study was no chore; it was pleasing, refreshing. Later his disciples studied under his direction. There is no record that he made them study too much. Still later the congregation at Beroea is reported to have received the Word and diligently studied therein daily. Is it less important to study today?—Isa. 61:1, AS; Matt. 5:16; Acts 17:10, 11.
17, 18. (a) To what end do Jehovah’s witnesses study the publications of the Watch Tower Society? (b) What “daily bread,” provided by whom, must they feed upon?
17 In order to qualify as witnesses of Jehovah and publishers of his kingdom good news, a continuous, properly directed study is required. By Jehovah’s undeserved kindness his true servants have advanced from being mere Bible students. Studying the Bible and other publications of the Watch Tower Society that explain it is a means to an end. That end is not to develop beautiful personalities. It is that they might be instruments of God for an honorable use by him, “prepared for every good work.” As they study their desire to study increases and so also does their desire to share with others what they have learned. They realize that the days are wicked; hence they keep a strict watch as to how they walk, “buying out the opportune time” for themselves, making the most of every opportunity to increase in accurate knowledge.—2 Tim. 2:20, 21; Gal. 6:6; Eph. 5:15, 16.
18 Christians properly repeat the model prayer recorded in Matthew, chapter 6, especially that the heavenly Father provide daily bread. But knowing their future life does not depend on material bread, but rather on the life-giving words that proceed from Jehovah’s mouth, Christians concentrate on understanding such inspired words. A portion of the prayer that Jesus uttered shortly before he was betrayed further explains the seriousness of studying God’s Word: “Father, . . . This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Yes, a prime purpose in studying the Bible is to become acquainted with the Father, its Author. Christians are admonished to draw close to God, to seek him and call upon him in faith, so that he will respond. This can be done by becoming closely acquainted with his great textbook, the Bible. Happy are those who learn well its lessons!—Matt. 6:11; 4:4; John 4:34; 17:1-3; Jas. 4:8; Isa. 55:6, 7, AS.
19. How only may one’s thirst for knowledge be fully quenched?
19 The Bible is an inexhaustible storehouse of knowledge. Its Author invites the inquirer to keep on asking for knowledge, which will be generously supplied. But mere asking is insufficient. To serve Jehovah expertly to his praise the servant must meditate on God’s words; he must dwell upon them in thought; he must make them all object of study with a view to acting thereon. A shallow reading of God’s ‘letters’ to us will be valueless, even though we may learn to memorize excerpts and, parrotlike, to repeat them. “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” Drink deeply therefrom!—Jas. 1:5, 6; Josh. 1:8; Isa. 12:3, RS.
20. What sacred trust has God placed in our hands? How may it be discharged?
20 Jehovah’s servants have been entrusted with the responsibility of speaking “the sacred pronouncements of God.” This trust they may not shirk. In order to discharge it they must excel in learning, doing this “whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men.” To bring to spiritual maturity the many persons of good will daily associating themselves with the New World society, they must do their utmost in qualifying as workmen “with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.”—1 Pet. 4:11; Col. 3:23; 2 Tim. 2:15.
21. How can we apply our minds to instruction?
21 Regular attendance at Sunday meetings and weekday meetings, to listen and to learn Bible truths, and also regularly sharing in meeting the cost of maintaining the meeting place—these are fine acts of faith. But to win God’s approval more is required. “Do your utmost,” urges Paul, “to present yourself approved to God, a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of the truth aright.” Can you be satisfied with attending meetings and just listening, letting others do all the work of communicating and explaining to still others the good things heard and learned? Would you be satisfied with such course as the full measure of your presenting yourself to God? Here persuasive words of Proverbs 23:12 aptly apply: “Do bring your heart to discipline and your ear to the sayings of knowledge.” Truly our meditation and our close mental application and exclusive attention to the taking in of accurate knowledge, for Jehovah’s purpose in providing it, are necessary. Be like the writer of Psalm 119:97-104: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern. Wiser than my enemies your commandment makes me, because to time indefinite it is mine. More insight than all my teachers I have come to have, because your reminders are a concern to me. With more understanding than older men I behave, because I have observed your own orders. From every bad path I have restrained my feet, in order that I may keep your word. From your judicial decisions I have not turned aside, for you yourself have instructed me. How smooth to my palate your sayings have been, more so than honey to my mouth! Owing to your orders I behave with understanding. That is why I have hated every false path.”
22. To be qualified to teach, what progress must be made?
22 It certainly is high time for Jehovah’s servants to be equipped to teach, so as not to have applied to them Paul’s cutting words: “Although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the first principles of the sacred pronouncements of God.” Those first or basic principles are vital, the “ABCs” of Scriptural knowledge; but “in view of the time” there should be our graduating from such foundation principles. There should be progressing a building of a superstructure on them, because “solid food belongs to mature people.” Shall what we build thereon be a work likened to “gold, silver, precious stones”—meriting a reward? Or shall the building be a work likened to destructible “wood materials, hay, stubble”? Which will bring honor to the Lord God? Which will provide quality in teaching?—Heb. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 3:12.
THE PURPOSE OF STUDYING
23, 24. (a) How does Jehovah use his Word, spirit and organization to guide his people today? (b) Especially how is this magazine helpful in this regard?
23 Long ago Jehovah provided his Word, the Bible. Today it is translated into many languages and dialects. No longer is it kept hidden in dead languages. Its information means life to the one diligently searching its pages, loving its counsel, obeying its commands. Even as Jehovah has done through the ages, so too he today is guiding his people by means of his holy spirit, his active force. Especially in these momentous pre-Armageddon days, since Jehovah has come to his temple, accompanied by his “messenger of the covenant,” he has turned his attention to the affairs of his people in a marked degree. He uses his visible organization, represented in his “faithful and discreet slave,” to cause to be published, earth-wide, information concerning his purposes. That “slave” has faithfully dispensed “food at the proper time,” especially in this magazine, The Watchtower.—Matt. 24:45.
24 The Watchtower has become available, in fifty languages, to all lovers of righteousness. In its columns everyone conscious of spiritual need finds invaluable aid. It regularly provides much-needed Scriptural counsel, instruction and timely information to servants of the true God. It endeavors alertly to keep Christians up to date as to the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The Watchtower is written to upbuild and bless. This is the best entertainment one can find—good reading. It does not compete with nor is it like any other religious magazine. It does not provide some man’s opinion, because what is said is based on a Greater One’s thought. An understanding of Jehovah’s Word is a gift from God and the best help today to the earnest seeker for truth.
25. With what attitude should we consider each issue of The Watchtower on receiving it?
25 What do I do with my copy of The Watchtower when I receive it? Do I merely scan through it to see the latest news and then lay it aside for a more favorable opportunity to give more careful consideration to the contents of the particular issue? Or, instead, recognizing its high value, do I read it immediately? Do I read it as if it were a duty, or because I am anxious to learn more of God’s truth? When I read it am I absorbed in it? Do I give more than the usual attention to The Watchtower? Before I eat physical food I thank the Lord God for it and ask his blessing on it. So what about the spiritual food I expect to assimilate when I consider The Watchtower? As when I study the Bible, so with The Watchtower: I should seek the truths contained in it, as ‘silver and hid treasures.’ Each issue of The Watchtower should be eagerly awaited and its contents consumed with relish.
26. What do we have in mind when studying The Watchtower?
26 What do I have in mind when studying The Watchtower? Is it that I wish to increase my understanding of God’s purposes? Why do I desire this increase? For my personal satisfaction alone? Or possibly I have in mind the apostle’s words: “That you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, 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.” (Col. 1:9, 10) That is a commendable attitude. My spiritual discernment will be put to a good use, that of aiding others. But how will your study be an aid to others?
27, 28. (a) How can one’s personal, advance study of The Watchtower equip one to help new ones grasp deep spiritual truths? (b) help new ones in our home Bible study work?
27 At the weekly congregational study there are many new ones who find it difficult to understand the truth all at once. Many of the articles in The Watchtower contain ‘solid food,’ that is to say, deep spiritual material necessary for the mature Christian. God has promised to reveal such deep things through his spirit, “for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God.” Here at the congregational study is where you can help; here is where your comment will open up to the minds of the newer ones an understanding of a point not clear to them. So your advance personal study of The Watchtower should not overlook this privilege. Prepare to that end by possibly underlining or noting such outstanding points. Then at the suitable moment during the meeting be quick to contribute your share to the congregational study for the edifying of others. You can thus also be inciting others to love and right works in making there this “public declaration.”—1 Cor. 2:10; Heb. 10:23-25.
28 Or perhaps in your private study of The Watchtower you have in mind aiding those newly engaging in field preaching by your participating in the ‘training program,’ or aiding those upon whom you call and with whom you may be conducting a private home Bible study. This would be studying with a purpose and would be in harmony with instructions Paul gave Timothy: “These things commit to faithful men who in turn will be adequately qualified to teach others.” Remember that when you share what you learn, you can expect rich dividends: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out they will measure out to you in return.” On the other hand, if you selfishly hoard the truth and do not share it with others, then, like the sluggish slave, you stand to lose God’s favor as well as the privilege of serving him.—2 Tim. 2:2; Luke 6:38; Matt. 25:24-30.
29. (a) What methods may be used in studying prior to the congregation meeting? (b) What arrangements should be made as to a definite time to have such study?
29 How can one get the most out of the study? What will be the most profitable method to follow? Will one study alone or with others? Today, in most homes, Bible study and even Bible reading are either passing away or entirely unknown. A joint study will be profitable in the family circle and especially so where there are children. The parents are held responsible for the spiritual upbringing of children, as well as the physical. But whatever method is used, we shall find that it is necessary to arrange specifically for a time to study The Watchtower. There are so many demands on one’s time that one dare not conclude that one will study only when time permits. Time will never permit. Time will have to be taken and used for study. When it is understood that studying in order to be a better servant of God is a basic “must” in life, then one will take sufficient time for it. So let us include it in our time schedule. Put it on the top of the list. Yes, the top. And do not begrudge the time thus spent. Remember that the Christian has dedicated his all (including his time) to the service of God. So jealously guard such time and see that it is used in a manner pleasing to its Owner.
30. Why does the New World society place such great emphasis on study?
30 Realizing the inevitable end of those who despise instruction, it behooves the servant of God to give the more earnest heed to cultivating the good habit of study. For that reason the New World society emphasizes individual and group study. The world is in a period of crisis. For our generation it is the judgment day. Righteous persons desire a favorable judgment, security and protection. God has provided such protection in this wicked day for those earnestly and honestly seeking him. The instructions contained in the inspired Word of God, the Bible, provide the means of finding such protection and blessing from God.—Ps. 50:16; Prov. 1:30-32.