Improving Personal Study
“Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.”—Matt. 7:7.
1, 2. (a) Explain Matthew 7:7. (b) What determines the quality of your faith and appreciation?
THE invaluable treasures of wisdom and knowledge in the Word of God are for those who are willing to seek them. If you make no effort to study the Scriptures, how can you expect to find these treasures? How can you honestly claim that you value the good laws, upbuilding counsel and enlightening truths that God has put in his written Word? When Jesus said what is recorded at Matthew 7:7, he was speaking to people who valued highly the Word of his Father, not to people who think so little of it that they seldom if ever read it. If you are one who recognizes its worth, you will do what Jesus said. In prayer you will ask the Father, not once, but repeatedly, for instruction, knowledge and wisdom. You manifest your sincerity and earnestness when you “keep on asking,” as Jesus said.
2 Your request for instruction, knowledge and wisdom will be granted you if you go to the Scriptures and study them. As a door is opened for the person who makes the effort to knock on it, so the treasures of God’s Word can be opened, to your enjoyment and betterment, if you make the effort to seek them. No one else can do this seeking for you. The firmness of your faith and the deepness of your appreciation for Scriptural truth is related to the amount of personal Bible studying you do. Appreciation for what Jehovah God has done and for what he has promised to do must be maintained in order for one to walk in the way that is pleasing to him. It is the fire to Christian zeal, but that fire grows weak when Bible study is neglected.
3. (a) Why should Bible study be regular? (b) How can you pay more than usual attention to the truths of the Scriptures?
3 Unless Bible study is maintained as a regular thing, the truths you learn will, in time, become hazy and your grasp on them weak. This can open the way for you to drift away from the faith. Warning of this, the apostle Paul said: “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) You pay more than the usual attention to the truths in the Scriptures by reviewing them over and over again. This impresses them deeply upon your mind so they will not leave you as do things to which you give only casual attention. Review helps you to recall them in vivid clarity.
4, 5. Why is it necessary to have a good knowledge of the truth, and how is it obtained?
4 If you are a dedicated Christian, you have indicated by water immersion that you desire to follow the example of Jesus Christ by giving a witness to the truth. When he was standing before Pontius Pilate he said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) You must know that truth before you can give witness to it. The better you know it the better you can use the sword of the spirit to tear down “strongly entrenched things” and to overturn “reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” (2 Cor. 10:4, 5) Religious falsehoods and erroneous reasonings that have become strongly entrenched in the minds of sincere people are not easily torn down. To succeed, you must learn how to use the Bible effectively, just as a good soldier of ancient times had to learn how to use his sword effectively.
5 As a Christian, the Bible is your sword. Have you worked with it so that it feels familiar in your hand? Can you deftly slash away the supports of false doctrines? Can you unerringly puncture arguments that are contrary to the truth? If you cannot, you need to work more with that sword by improving personal study of the Bible and by increasing your use of it in the ministry.
6. What is the value of straight Bible reading?
6 There is no better way to study the Bible than by subject, but that does not mean there is no value in straight reading of the Bible. There is! It gives vital background information and an overall view of God’s Word. It helps you to locate in the stream of time notable events and the periods when people with whom God had dealings lived. It familiarizes you with those people and the things they did. This is all essential information for one who is to be an effective witness to Jehovah’s truth.
7, 8. (a) Why should a witness of Jehovah be able to say Yes when asked if he has read the Bible through? (b) What position does the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society take on Bible reading?
7 What part does Bible reading play in your personal study program? Do you urge other people to read the Bible regularly but fail to do it yourself? When you call on a person for the purpose of bearing witness to the truth, what do you say when he asks if you have read the Bible through? Are you able to give an emphatic Yes? Or do you squirm a bit and say that you have read almost all of it? Do you not think his confidence in you as a proclaimer of Scriptural truth is weakened when you are unable to give him an affirmative answer?
8 The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has for many years urged Bible reading as well as Bible study by subjects. On its publishing plant in Brooklyn, New York, there is a large painted sign that says: “Read God’s Word the Holy Bible Daily.” To the thousands of people who drive past that sign every day on their way to and from work, it expresses the Society’s position on Bible reading. It shows that the Society believes that everyone should read God’s Word regularly. Certainly Jehovah’s witnesses should be the foremost Bible readers in the world. This is recognized in the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead, where every student is required to read the Bible through before he completes his course of study. This emphasis on Bible reading is proper. Our whole life is centered around God’s Word. Its truths are what we preach; its promises are what we trust; its principles are what we live. Every day we, of all people, should read it.
WHEN TO STUDY
9. Why must a Witness teach himself?
9 If you are a dedicated witness of Jehovah, you have a very full schedule. Your secular work and ministerial activities consume the major portion of your time. With so much to do, it becomes a problem to find time for personal study. Yet personal study is essential to your spiritual well-being and to your spiritual maturity. You cannot afford to neglect it. How can you efficiently and effectively teach others if you are not continually teaching yourself? Adjust your busy schedule so that it is balanced with a personal study program.
10. How can time be found for personal study and Bible reading?
10 Set aside a study period each week if possible. Use that time for study, not permitting television shows, radio programs or other forms of entertainment to distract you from it. If you are unable to use an evening for a study period, perhaps there is a morning or an afternoon you could use. Even an hour at regular periods is better than nothing at all. Do you find time to watch several popular television shows during the week? Why not take the time you spend at one or two of these shows and devote it to personal study? Using short periods of fifteen minutes to half an hour are fine for daily Bible reading. Carry the Bible with you so you can take advantage of the time you may otherwise waste while waiting in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, for buses or streetcars, in beauty parlors or barbershops and for other people. Perhaps you can do some Bible reading in the morning, during lunch or at night before retiring. By making this a daily habit, you can read the Bible through, not only once, but several times over a period of time.
11. What is a suggested way for seeing how your study time balances with other activities?
11 As a dedicated Christian you strive to spend at least ten hours every month in ministerial activity. Why not set the same amount of time as a goal for personal study? Recognize the fact that you need to feed yourself spiritually in order to be active spiritually. If you keep a personal record of the time you spend in the field ministry, you might also consider keeping a record of the time you spend in personal study. At the end of each month you will then be able to see how your study time balances with your other activities.
STUDY WITH CHILDREN
12, 13. Describe a way parents can instruct their children and how they can be questioned.
12 Establish a study period for your children. They need to learn the life-giving truths of God’s Word as much as you do, and it is your responsibility as parents to teach them. At each of their study periods give them an assignment to work on. Like at the Bible School of Gilead, require them to read a certain number of pages from a publication of the Society and to report on them at the next study period. Repeat this until the book is completed. This can be alternated with assignments to read several chapters from the Bible and to give reports on those chapters. A fine practice is for them to learn the order of the books of the Bible. When there are several children, you can play a game with them by having them take their Bibles and then when you name a book see which one finds it first. This is educational as well as enjoyable.
13 When the children give a report to you on their homework assignments, quiz them on the material to make sure they understand it. In fact, you can ask them questions on the Bible at almost any time—riding in the car, at meals, and so forth. Ask them questions on Bible doctrines, Bible geography, Bible characters, Bible events and other things that they learn in their study periods. Helping them establish good study habits when they are young will help them to have such habits when they are older.
HOW TO STUDY
14. What is necessary before beginning a study period?
14 Improving personal study requires you to learn how to study. Knowing this, you can get the most benefit from your study periods. First of all, decide in advance what you will study during your study period. You may choose to spend the time preparing for a congregation meeting or studying a new publication from the Society or doing some research. Whatever it is, have it as a definite goal instead of aimlessly wandering from one thing to another. By having a specific goal in mind, you will make the study period much more profitable than if you had no goal. Assignments in the Theocratic Ministry School at Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses are helpful in providing such goals from time to time.
15, 16. (a) Explain how you can pursue adventurous excursions into the Word of God. (b) Give examples of possible subjects for investigation, not necessarily those mentioned in the paragraph.
15 Periodically devote your study period to adventurous excursions into the Word of God. At such times have as your goal the finding of an answer to a question that someone may have asked or that may have come to your own mind, the obtaining of background information about a certain event or period in Bible history or the enlarging of your understanding of a certain prophecy. With the help of the Watch Tower Publications Index dig into the publications of the Society for information.
16 Seek background information from non-theocratic references you have in your personal library, such as maps and Bible dictionaries. Do not overlook a concordance. It can be very useful in directing you to additional information. When the material you are reading is about Biblical locations, use maps so you can visualize where they are. Take the missionary travels of the apostle Paul as an example. You gain a vivid visualization of those travels if you follow them step by step on a map. When studying about the building of Solomon’s temple learn what you can about the materials used in the building work. From where did they come, who did the work and in what manner? How were giant cedar logs transported from the mountains of Lebanon to Jerusalem? When studying about the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, examine a map to see where Babylon was located in relationship to Jerusalem. Note the distance the captives were forced to travel. Possibly further research will reveal how they may have been treated and what type of country they passed through. All this is background information that will contribute to a better understanding about what you are studying. How well you remember what you study depends to a great extent upon how well you understand it.
17. Why must there be a desire to learn?
17 These suggestions will be of no benefit to you unless you have a desire to learn. Without that desire you will not be moved to seek the wisdom of God’s Word. You will have no incentive to dig for knowledge and understanding. If you are a dedicated Christian, you should have that desire. You should want to learn about your Creator and about the things he caused to be written in his Word. Out of love for him you should thirst for knowledge and understanding. “The understanding heart is one that searches for knowledge.”—Prov. 15:14.
18. What surroundings are desirable for study, and what effort should be made to get them?
18 During your study period strive to have surroundings that are conducive to study. Do not imagine that you can study with a radio blasting in your ear or even playing quietly. Profitable study requires refreshing silence. This allows your mind to focus sharply on what you are studying. But what if your home is not large enough to find a quiet room where you can shut out the noise of energetic children? Pick a study time when the children are not around or after they have gone to bed. If this is impossible, go to the public library or the park if the weather permits. Perhaps you could go to a friend’s house when he studies, and his children could be sent to your house for the study period or vice versa. There certainly must be a time or place you can find where the surroundings are conducive to concentration.
19. What part does interest and concentration play in making your efforts to study fruitful?
19 It is only by concentration that you can really benefit from your study efforts. If you are worrying about a problem, your mind is divided, preventing you from centering your attention on what you are studying. For the time being endeavor to dismiss the problem from your mind and cultivate a deep interest in what you are reading. Without interest and concentration, you will find yourself reading page after page mechanically, not remembering what you are reading. Lack of concentration is one of the reasons so many people have poor results when they try to study. Their mind wanders off to other subjects, and what they read makes very little impression. Perhaps you find that you fall asleep when you try to study. This is usually due to lack of interest in the material. What helps to cultivate that interest is to have something specifically in mind for which you want to use the material. Then you are studying with an objective, alert for information you can use. By improving your interest in the material and your concentration, you can improve ability to study.
THE MECHANICS OF STUDY
20. (a) Describe how a preliminary survey can be taken of a book before studying it. (b) What is the purpose of this survey?
20 Let us say that you have on your study program a newly released book from the Society. What is the best way to study it? The first thing to do is read the title and think about what you know on the subject. This begins the procedure of getting an overall view of what the book contains. We might compare the procedure to examining an automobile. How much could you learn about it if you looked only at the individual parts of the auto? You learn much more by looking first at the assembled automobile as a whole. Walk around it, looking at it from various angles. Now come in closer and see how the various parts are related to one another. After that you can, with greater understanding, examine the individual parts in detail. The same procedure is the way to begin studying a book. Get the overall view by looking at the title and the table of contents, thinking about the things you will possibly find. Take a closer look by reading the subheadings in the chapters, relating them to the chapter headings. This preliminary survey need not take long, but it is well worth the effort.
21. Describe the procedure while reading a chapter.
21 With a general idea in mind about the contents of the book, turn your attention to the first chapter. While reading it, be on the alert to note the topic sentences. These usually appear at the beginning of each paragraph but sometimes are in the middle, or sometimes at the end where the principal idea of the paragraph is finished off. They tell you briefly what the paragraph is about. You could even underline these. By reading the chapter in this observant way, you can mentally build up a general outline of the chapter. The same method can be effectively used when studying a magazine article.
22. What is the value of reading groups of words rather than one word at a time, and when is slow reading necessary?
22 As you read, try to read word groupings rather than one word at a time. As your hand can hold more than one marble at a time, so your eye can take in more than one word at each eye fixation. This contributes to faster reading and to a better grasping of the thought content. At times, however, you will encounter very weighty material that does not lend itself to rapid reading. You may even have to slow down to reading one word at a time, such as when reading the meaty sentences of the book of Proverbs. Generally, however, the reading of word groups makes it much easier to extract the thought from a sentence.
23. What is suggested for impressing the material on your mind as you read?
23 When you come to a subheading, stop and review in your mind what you have just read. Do you remember the points that were made? If the material is hazy in your mind, go back and read the topic sentences of each paragraph to refresh your memory. When there is an explanation of a scripture, see if you can remember it. If not, read the explanation again. Now proceed with your reading until you come to another subheading. As you read keep the theme in mind and the progressive development of the chapter.
24. (a) How should a pencil be used while studying? (b) What should you do when you reach the end of a chapter?
24 Read with a pencil in your hand if the book or magazine is yours so you can underline key words and outstanding information. Do this sparingly. It will help you to refresh your memory when you review the material and when the material is used in a group study. Never underline or mark up a book that is not your own. Other people will be reading it, and they will not appreciate your markings. When you complete your reading of the chapter, give it a final and brief mental review. Fix the main points in mind. Think about what you could tell a person regarding what you have just read.
25. How can the mind be kept active while you are reading?
25 By keeping your mind active while you are reading you will not find your mind blank of information when you have completed a page or two. An active mind while you read is essential for good results. Visualize events when they are described. Note fundamental Bible truths and prophetic fulfillments. Compare what is said in the material with your own actions so that you might personally profit from it. Look for new thoughts as well as the reasons why specific statements are made. Reason on the material. Look for things you can use as a preacher of God’s Word in the field ministry. All this contributes to a fruitful study period.
26. What are the good results that come from improving your personal study?
26 The good results that come to you from improving your personal study are manifold. The more you learn, the better you are able to give a reason to others for the hope you have, the better will be your judgments when faced with decisions and the stronger will be your conviction that you are doing what is right. You will enlarge and strengthen your shield of faith that protects you from the bad effects of worldly scepticism and atheistic propaganda. You will give better student talks in the congregation’s Theocratic Ministry School and more edifying comments in group Bible studies. You will be able to speak more confidently in the door-to-door ministry, make better back-calls on interested persons and conduct more informative Bible studies in the homes of the people. Instead of remaining as spiritual babes, you will be able to grow to spiritual maturity. By improving your study habits you can plant your feet more firmly on the road to life.
27. How should the treasures of God’s Word be regarded?
27 Look upon God’s Word as a treasure-house of spiritual riches that can be yours if you make a diligent effort to seek them. They can bring you things that silver and gold could never buy. Cherish them as long as you live, finding delight in meditating on them and in talking about them. Make them the center of all your interests. Show your appreciation for them and manifest your desire to use them more fruitfully in the Christian ministry by improving your personal study.