Personal Study That Equips Us as Teachers
“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.”—1 TIMOTHY 4:15, 16.
1. What is true about time and personal study?
“FOR everything there is an appointed time,” says the Bible at Ecclesiastes 3:1. That is certainly true of personal study. Many find it difficult to ponder over spiritual things if it is the wrong time or the wrong place. For example, after a hard day’s work and a big evening meal, would you feel like studying, especially if you are reclining in your favorite easy chair in front of the TV? Not likely. So, what is the solution? Clearly, we have to choose when and where to study with a view to deriving the maximum benefit from our efforts.
2. What is often the best time for personal study?
2 Many find that their best time for study is first thing in the morning when they are normally most alert. Others use a midday break for a short study period. Note the reference to time for important spiritual activities in the following examples. King David of ancient Israel wrote: “In the morning cause me to hear your loving-kindness, for in you I have put my trust. Make known to me the way in which I should walk, for to you I have lifted up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8) The prophet Isaiah showed similar appreciation when he said: “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has given me the tongue of the taught ones, that I may know how to answer the tired one with a word. He awakens morning by morning; he awakens my ear to hear like the taught ones.” The point is that we need to study and commune with Jehovah when we are mentally sharp, whatever time of day that may be.—Isaiah 50:4, 5; Psalm 5:3; 88:13.
3. What conditions are desirable for effective study?
3 Another factor in effective study is that we should not choose to sit in the most comfortable chair or sofa. This is not the way to remain alert. When we are studying, our mind must be stimulated, and too much physical comfort seems to do the opposite. Also desirable for study and meditation is relative quiet and freedom from distractions. Trying to study with the radio, TV, or children competing for your attention will not give the best results. When Jesus wanted to meditate, he went off to a quiet spot. He also spoke about the value of finding a private place for praying.—Matthew 6:6; 14:13; Mark 6:30-32.
Personal Study That Equips Us to Answer
4, 5. In what ways is the Require brochure a practical help?
4 Personal study is satisfying when we use various Bible aids in order to dig deeper into a subject, especially when we do so to answer someone’s sincere questions. (1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:23) As a starting point, many new ones are studying the brochure What Does God Require of Us?, * which is now available in 261 languages. It is a very simple but precise publication based entirely on the Bible. It helps its readers to appreciate quickly what God’s requirements are for true worship. However, its format does not allow space for a detailed study of each subject. If your Bible student raises serious questions about certain Bible subjects under discussion, how can you go about finding more Bible information that will help him answer those questions?
5 For those who have Watchtower Library on CD-ROM in their language, it is easy to access a wide range of sources of information on a computer. But what about those people who do not have this equipment? Let us examine two topics that are considered in the Require brochure in order to see how we can expand our understanding and be able to answer in more detail—especially if someone raises such questions as, Who is God, and what was Jesus really like?—Exodus 5:2; Luke 9:18-20; 1 Peter 3:15.
Who Is God?
6, 7. (a) What question arises regarding God? (b) What grave omission did one clergyman make in a lecture?
6 Lesson 2 in the Require brochure answers the vital question, Who is God? This is a fundamental point because a person cannot worship the true God if he does not know Him or perhaps doubts His existence. (Romans 1:19, 20; Hebrews 11:6) Yet, people worldwide hold to hundreds of concepts as to who God is. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6) Every religious philosophy has a different answer to the question of God’s identity. In Christendom most religions view God as a Trinity. One prominent U.S. clergyman gave a lecture entitled “Do You Know God?” but not once in the speech did he mention the divine name, even though he quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures several times. Of course, he read from a Bible translation that used the ambiguous and anonymous “Lord” rather than Jehovah or Yahweh.
7 What a vital point that clergyman missed when he quoted Jeremiah 31:33, 34: “‘No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the Lord” [Hebrew, “Know Jehovah”], for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ says the Lord [Hebrew, Jehovah].” The translation that he used omitted the distinctive divine name, Jehovah.—Psalm 103:1, 2.
8. What illustrates the importance of using God’s name?
8 Psalm 8:9 illustrates why the use of Jehovah’s name is so significant: “O Jehovah our Lord, how majestic your name is in all the earth!” Compare that with: “O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (King James Version; see also The New American Bible, The Holy Bible—New International Version, Tanakh—The Holy Scriptures) Yet, as mentioned in the preceding article, we can obtain “the very knowledge of God” if we allow his Word to illuminate us. But which Bible study aid will readily answer our questions about the importance of the divine name?—Proverbs 2:1-6.
9. (a) Which publication can help us to explain the importance of using the divine name? (b) How have many translators failed to show respect for God’s name?
9 We can turn to the brochure The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, which has been translated into 69 languages. * The section entitled “God’s Name—Its Meaning and Pronunciation” (pages 6-11) shows clearly that the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (from the Greek, meaning “four letters”) appears almost 7,000 times in the ancient Hebrew texts. Yet, clergy and translators of Judaism and Christendom have deliberately omitted it from the majority of their Bible translations. * How can they claim to know God and have an acceptable relationship with him if they refuse to acknowledge him by his name? His true name opens the way to understanding what his purposes are and who he is. Furthermore, of what value is the part of Jesus’ model prayer “our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified” if God’s name is not even used?—Matthew 6:9; John 5:43; 17:6.
Who Is Jesus Christ?
10. In what ways can we get a complete picture of the life and ministry of Jesus?
10 Lesson 3 in the Require brochure is entitled “Who Is Jesus Christ?” In just six paragraphs, it gives a very brief outline of Jesus, his origin, and his purpose in coming to the earth. However, if you want a complete account of his life, there is none better—aside from the Gospel accounts themselves—than The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, which is available in 111 languages. * This book presents a complete chronological account of Christ’s life and teachings, based on the four Gospels. Its 133 chapters cover the events of Jesus’ life and ministry. For a different, analytical approach, you can refer to Insight, Volume 2, under the heading “Jesus Christ.”
11. (a) What makes Jehovah’s Witnesses different in their belief about Jesus? (b) What are some Bible texts that clearly refute the Trinity doctrine, and what publication is helpful in this regard?
11 In Christendom the controversy regarding Jesus centers on whether he is “the Son of God” as well as “God the Son”—in other words, the dispute over what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “the central mystery of Christian faith,” the Trinity. Standing apart from the religions of Christendom, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is of divine origin but is not God. An excellent exposition on this subject is found in the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity?, translated into 95 languages. * Among the numerous scriptures it uses to refute the Trinity doctrine are Mark 13:32 and 1 Corinthians 15:24, 28.
12. What further question deserves our attention?
12 The discussions above regarding God and Jesus Christ serve to illustrate ways in which we can do personal study with a view to helping those unacquainted with Bible truth to gain accurate knowledge. (John 17:3) What, though, about those who have been associated with the Christian congregation for many years? With their background of accumulated Bible knowledge, do they still need to pay attention to their personal study of Jehovah’s Word?
Why “Pay Constant Attention”?
13. What mistaken view might some have about personal study?
13 Some who have been members of the congregation for many years may fall into the habit of just relying on the Bible knowledge they acquired in their first few years as Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is easy to reason: “I do not need to study as seriously as the newer ones. After all, look at the number of times I have been through the Bible and Bible publications over the years.” This would be similar to saying: “I do not really need to pay much attention to my diet now, for look at all the meals I have eaten in the past.” We know that the body requires constant nourishment from good, properly prepared food in order to keep it healthy and active. How much more so that is true of maintaining our spiritual health and strength!—Hebrews 5:12-14.
14. Why do we need to pay constant attention to ourselves?
14 Therefore, all of us, whether longtime Bible students or not, need to heed Paul’s counsel to Timothy, who was by then a mature, responsible overseer: “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 Timothy 4:15, 16) Why should we take Paul’s advice to heart? Remember, Paul also pointed out that we have a fight against “the machinations [“crafty acts,” footnote] of the Devil” and “against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” And the apostle Peter warned that the Devil is “seeking to devour someone,” and that “someone” could be any one of us. Our complacency can be just the sort of opening that he is looking for.—Ephesians 6:11, 12; 1 Peter 5:8.
15. What spiritual defense do we have, and how can we maintain it?
15 So, what defense do we have? The apostle Paul reminds us: “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.” (Ephesians 6:13) The effectiveness of that spiritual suit of armor depends not only on its initial quality but also on regular maintenance. That complete equipment from God must, therefore, include up-to-date knowledge of God’s Word. This points to the importance of keeping up with our understanding of the truth as revealed by Jehovah through his Word and through the faithful and discreet slave class. Regular personal study of the Bible and Bible publications is vital to the maintenance of our spiritual armor.—Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 6:14, 15.
16. What can we do to be sure that our “large shield of faith” is in good working order?
16 Paul highlights as an essential part of our defensive armor “the large shield of faith,” with which we can deflect and extinguish Satan’s burning missiles of false accusations and apostate teachings. (Ephesians 6:16) So it is essential that we check how strong our shield of faith is and what steps we take to maintain and strengthen it. You might ask, for example: ‘How do I prepare for the weekly Bible study with the use of The Watchtower? Have I studied sufficiently to be able to “incite to love and fine works” by giving well-thought-out answers during the meeting? Do I open the Bible and read the scriptures that are cited but not quoted? Do I encourage others by my enthusiastic involvement in the meetings?’ Our spiritual food is solid, and thorough digestion is needed for us to benefit fully.—Hebrews 5:14; 10:24.
17. (a) What poison is Satan using to try to undermine our spirituality? (b) What is the antidote to Satan’s venom?
17 Satan knows the weaknesses of the fallen flesh, and his machinations are insidious. One of the ways he spreads his evil influence is by making pornography ever so easily available on TV, the Internet, videos, and in printed publications. Some Christians have allowed this poison to penetrate their weakened defenses, and it has led to loss of privileges in the congregation or even more serious consequences. (Ephesians 4:17-19) What is the antidote to Satan’s spiritual venom? We must not neglect our regular personal Bible study, our Christian meetings, and the complete suit of armor from God. Together, these give us the ability to distinguish between right and wrong and to hate that which God hates.—Psalm 97:10; Romans 12:9.
18. How can “the sword of the spirit” help us in our spiritual fight?
18 If we maintain our regular Bible study habits, we will have not only the solid defense provided by our accurate knowledge of God’s Word but also the effective offense by means of “the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.” The word of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) If we become skilled in the use of that “sword,” then when we face temptations, we will be able to cut through what may appear to be harmless, or even appealing, and expose it as a death-dealing trap of the wicked one. Our storehouse of Bible knowledge and understanding will help us to reject what is wicked and to do what is fine. So all of us need to ask ourselves: ‘Is my sword trusty, or is it rusty? Do I have a hard time recalling Bible texts that can strengthen the offense?’ Let us maintain our good habits of personal Bible study and thus resist the Devil.—Ephesians 4:22-24.
19. What benefits can be ours if we apply ourselves in personal study?
19 Paul wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” If we take to heart Paul’s words to Timothy, we can strengthen our own spirituality and we can make our ministry more effective. Spiritual elders and ministerial servants can be of greater benefit to the congregation, and we can all remain solid in the faith.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Matthew 7:24-27.
^ par. 4 Normally, a newly interested person who is studying the Require brochure would move on to the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, both published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Suggestions given here will help clear up obstacles to spiritual progress.
^ par. 9 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those who have Insight on the Scriptures in their language can consult Volume 2, under the heading “Jehovah.”
^ par. 9 Several Spanish and Catalonian translations are notable exceptions in their rendering of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, using “Yavé,” “Yahveh,” “Jahvè,” and “Jehová.”
^ par. 10 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
^ par. 11 Published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Remember?
• What circumstances contribute to effective personal study?
• What error do many Bible translations make regarding God’s name?
• What Bible texts would you use to refute the teaching of the Trinity?
• What must we do to protect ourselves from Satan’s machinations, even if we have been true Christians for many years?
[Pictures on page 19]
For effective personal study, you need the right setting with minimal distractions
[Pictures on page 23]
Is your “sword” trusty or rusty?