The Joy of Abounding in Accurate Knowledge
“Daddy,” said pretty little Ingrid, “Paula’s mother said Paula can’t come out because she has mumps. What’s mumps, Daddy?” Karl smiled. When his four-year-old daughter asked questions, she always looked so serious. But sensing that she really wanted to know, he lovingly set her on his lap and explained simply: “The mumps . . . ”
Later, when Ingrid was seven, Karl faced another of her many questions. As she happily sucked some chocolate-covered nuts she said: “These are good, Daddy! But where do they get chocolate?”
Now that she could read, Karl decided to help her learn to find answers. “I could tell you, Ingrid,” he said, “but let’s look up ‘chocolate’ in our small encyclopedia and see what it says. You’ll see how interesting it is to look up answers.”
When she was sixteen, the eye doctor at school told Ingrid that she was slightly farsighted and might soon need glasses. On the way home she stopped at the library. After enjoying the material in the large encyclopedia under “Glasses” and “Eye” she asked the librarian: “I’m interested in learning more about eyes and glasses. I looked in the encyclopedia. Could you suggest some books I could take home?”
After Ingrid married, she was thinking of covering her hallway floor. ‘Which is best, tile or carpet?’ she thought. By reading some pamphlets she obtained from the store and by speaking with some of her friends, she got a fair idea about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Yet she realized that her husband must make the final decision as the head of the household.
If you were one of Ingrid’s parents would you not have received much satisfaction from watching her advance toward physical, mental and emotional maturity? When she was just a young child, her father was happy to answer her questions. Then as she progressed in ability, he helped her to see how she could find information herself. What fine training! And imagine the pleasure it must have brought Ingrid herself to become more able and equipped.
How sad it would have been if Ingrid, as she gained ability, had remained a babe, as it were, asking her parents things that she was qualified to find out herself. That would have implied laziness and lack of initiative. She would have lost much of the joy that comes from seeking and finding knowledge.
As Christians, we are aware of another type of growth to maturity, spiritual growth. Much of what is illustrated in Ingrid’s case takes place in a spiritual way with one who studies the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. And that is true whether the person is young or old. The goal he should have is growth to spiritual adulthood or maturity. The apostle Paul prayed that such progress would be continued even by Christians, “asking that [they] 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.”—Col. 1:9, 10.
Whether you are already one of Jehovah’s witnesses, or are working toward that goal, can you see this advancement manifest in your life? ‘But,’ you might wonder, ‘how can I determine the extent of my progress?’ One gauge, and there are a number of them, is the way you react when a question comes up. What do you do to get information? Do you ask someone without personally trying to find an answer? Or do you do research yourself?
Let us examine some of the steps a person takes in making spiritual progress. You can compare yourself with what you learn. If you see room for personal improvement, you can be sure that you will find real satisfaction in applying yourself to making such improvement. And even if you are already quite “grown up” spiritually, you may see more specialized areas where you can make advancement and so become a light bearer who brings even greater praise to God.—Matt. 5:14-16.
WHEN QUESTIONS COME UP
We can continue to use Ingrid as a good example. Recently she began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses. She had much to learn about it. Each week when Karen, the Witness who was studying the Bible with her, came, Ingrid was full of questions. Realizing that Ingrid was a spiritual babe, Karen was quite willing to answer. She found pleasure in helping Ingrid to find the joy of abounding in accurate knowledge of God.
After they had been studying the Bible for a couple of months, Ingrid mentioned to Karen: “I was reading Matthew 12:8. Jesus used the expression ‘Son of man.’ Why did he call himself that?” Karen said that she would prefer to check further before answering. During the week Ingrid wondered how her teacher was going to find the answer. Ingrid knew that there were many ministers in the local congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses that had considerable knowledge of the Bible. Would Karen ask one of them?
At the next study, Karen directed attention to pages 220 and 221 of “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie,” a Bible-study aid that Ingrid had recently obtained. It showed that Jesus was not just a materialization; he had not materialized a body as some angels had done. Rather, he was actually a human, and the expression “Son of man” emphasized that fact. (Gal. 4:4) Thus he could serve as a suitable ransom and pay back what the man Adam had lost.
“Did you ask someone in the congregation where to find the answer?” asked Ingrid.
“I’d only ask if I couldn’t find the answer myself,” replied Karen. “I’m sure the brothers there would have been happy to make some suggestions if I’d asked them. But, instead, I did personal research. In fact, I brought along today the Index to the publications of the Watch Tower Society for the years 1961 to 1965. Let me show you how to use it. As questions come up in the future we can practice using such Indexes. You’ll see how quickly and satisfyingly most questions can be answered on a personal basis.”
USE OF THE “INDEX”
Can you see the difference in the way Ingrid and Karen reacted to a question both of them wanted answered? Karen did not just ask someone else, but she took the initiative to do personal research. What would you have done? In order to help Christians do personal Bible research and thus find the joy of abounding in accurate knowledge, the Watch Tower Society produces each year an Index of its publications.* This is divided into a Subject Index and a Scripture Index. By using the Index one is able to locate subjects or Bible texts discussed in The Watchtower, Awake! and other publications produced each year for the education of Christians. Let us illustrate how one can effectively use the Index.
Karen looked in the Subject Index section of the Index for 1961-1965. She wanted to know about the expression “Son of man.” Under that heading there are two subheadings, “identified” and “meaning of term,” with references provided after each. One reference was to “im 220-1.” Checking the list at the bottom of every even-numbered page, she saw that the reference was to the ‘Impossible to Lie’ book. On pages 220 and 221 she found the information presented above.
But what if you wanted information on a certain subject and there was no listing for the word you had in mind? For example, maybe you recalled reading something about the number of times that humans heard Jehovah’s voice. When were those occasions? Where should you look in the Index? Well, remember that the first section of the Index is a subject listing. What is the subject? You are thinking about Jehovah and his voice. So why not look under the heading “Jehovah”? In the Index for 1961-1965, under the heading “Jehovah,” there is the subheading “voice” and you are referred to page 28 of Awake! of August 8, 1962. Looking that up, you will find that there seem to have been three occasions when humans heard Jehovah’s own voice, and they were all when Jesus was down on earth. We read of these occasions at Matthew 3:17; 17:5 and John 12:28.
What if the question you have is on a particular Bible verse? For instance, possibly you read in Judges 16:28 that blinded Samson prayed to Jehovah: “Let me avenge myself upon the Philistines with vengeance for one of my two eyes.” Why just one eye? Here is where the Scripture Index section is useful. The first place to look would be in the most recent Index, the one for 1967, under Judges 16:28. You will find a reference to page 117 of The Watchtower for 1967; that is in the February 15 issue. At that location you will find the comment that apparently Samson considered that the loss of one of his eyes was because of a lack of wakefulness on his part in his dealing with Delilah. The other eye, though, he charged to the Philistines and so asked that Jehovah help him avenge that and thus uphold true worship.
If you add to your theocratic library on a regular basis by keeping the issues of The Watchtower and Awake! as they come out, or obtaining the bound volumes of these magazines at the end of each year, as well as collecting the Society’s books, you will over the years accumulate a valuable storehouse of knowledge. Then you can draw on this accumulated knowledge when questions arise. But if you look in the Index and are referred to a publication you do not have, what can you do? At most Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s witnesses there is a library that one can use before and after meetings. Why not consult the publication there? Or maybe someone in the local congregation who has been adding to his personal library for many years has the publication in his library. It would undoubtedly bring him satisfaction to know that he could help you, and the two of you might well share pleasant moments of Christian association.
Does that sound as if effort is required? It is! But is not one thing that distinguishes a mature adult from a babe the way in which the mature person is willing to use initiative and persistence in pursuing something worth while? God’s Word says: “The heart of the understanding one acquires knowledge, and the ear of wise ones seeks to find knowledge.”—Prov. 18:15.
Do you remember what Ingrid did after she did personal research but felt that she needed some suggestions as to where to obtain more information? She asked someone who was qualified to assist. How does that apply locally when one seeks accurate knowledge of God?
Speaking about a Christian overseer, 1 Timothy 3:2, 6 shows that he is to be “qualified to teach” and “not a newly converted man.” So if you have done all the personal research you are able to do, and you still have not answered your question, why not ask one of the many qualified individuals in the local congregation? The overseer and ministerial servants have had years of experience and are recognized as ones who are especially able to teach. They may be able to make a suggestion as to some places where you could find the information you seek or join you in doing research.
Also, it is good to analyze the question or problem. Is it one for which you are responsible to make a decision? Maybe someone else actually bears that responsibility. As in Ingrid’s case, if a wife is involved, the question may be one that the husband must decide, after he considers the Bible principles that bear on the matter. (Titus 2:4, 5) Questions pertaining to congregation activities are to be handled in the local congregation by those appointed by holy spirit to decide such matters.—Acts 20:28.
INCREASING IN ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE
As already noted, the apostle Paul prayed that Christians continue increasing in accurate knowledge. This is a possibility even for those who have studied the Bible for years, for Jesus indicated that there would be a group of anointed Christians on earth to dispense spiritual food at the proper time. (Matt. 24:45) Jehovah’s witnesses have experienced the fulfillment of this, having received rich spiritual food over the years in the publications of the Watch Tower Society.
Since this is so, if one wants to know how a particular scripture or subject is understood by Jehovah’s witnesses, he can consult the publications where it has already been explained. True, some matters have not yet been discussed. Would it be advisable, then, to write to the Watch Tower Society and request a special advance personal explanation? No, that is not the way God provides spiritual “food at the proper time.” He furnishes it for his people as a group. When the prophetic significance of some portion of the Bible is available, that information is published for the benefit of all.
Christians can expect spiritual light of understanding to get “lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Prov. 4:18) So we can patiently wait for information on points that have not yet been discussed, joyfully receiving with appreciation the advancing and increasing light of truth of God’s Word.
But, as we have seen, one can likely locate information on most Scriptural questions locally by consulting available publications or discussing the matter with the experienced Christian ministers in the congregation. Thus he will find the answer quickly and get much personal satisfaction for his efforts.
Let the joy Ingrid received be just a small illustration of the great joy you will receive as you keep spiritual maturity as your goal and as you seek to abound in accurate knowledge!
In its foreign-language publications an index is provided in the back of most books and in the final issue of The Watchtower and Awake! every year.