“Make sure of the more important things.”—PHIL. 1:10.
SONG 35 “Make Sure of the More Important Things”
1. Why might some not be inclined to study?
IT TAKES a great deal of effort to earn a living these days. Many of our brothers work long hours just to provide the necessities of life for their families. Countless others spend several hours each workday traveling to and from their place of employment. Many support themselves by doing hard physical labor. By the end of the day, these hardworking brothers and sisters are exhausted! The last thing many are inclined to do is study.
2. When do you find time to study?
2 The fact is, though, that we must find time to study—really study—God’s Word and our Christian publications. Our relationship with Jehovah and our everlasting life depend on it! (1 Tim. 4:15) Some rise early every day and study when their home is quiet and their mind is fresh after a night’s rest. Others set aside a few tranquil minutes at the end of the day to take in spiritual food and meditate on it.
3-4. What adjustments have been made to the amount of material that is provided, and why?
3 No doubt you agree that it is important to find time to study. But what should we study? ‘There is so much to read,’ you may say. ‘I find it hard to keep up.’ Some manage to take full advantage of every spiritual provision, but many of our brothers struggle to find the time to do so. The Governing Body is aware of this. For that reason, direction was recently given to reduce the amount of material provided both in print and in digital form.
4 For example, we no longer publish the Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, since many encouraging experiences are available on jw.org® as well as on the monthly programs of JW Broadcasting®. The public edition of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines are now published just three times a year. These adjustments have not been made so that we will have more time to pursue other activities. They have been put in place to enable us to give careful attention to “the more important things.” (Phil. 1:10) Let us discuss how you can set priorities and how you can benefit fully from personal Bible study.
SET YOUR PRIORITIES
5-6. What publications should we be sure to study carefully?
5 What should our priorities include? We should certainly spend time each day studying God’s Word. The amount of material now scheduled for the congregation’s weekly Bible reading has been reduced in order to give us more time to meditate on what we read and to do extra research. Our goal should be, not merely to cover the assigned material, but to allow the Bible’s message to touch our hearts and to draw us closer to Jehovah.—Ps. 19:14.
6 What else should we study carefully? Of course, we want to prepare the material for the Watchtower Study and the Congregation Bible Study as well as other material for the midweek meeting. We should also keep up with each issue of The Watchtower and Awake!
7. Should we be discouraged if we cannot keep up with the abundance of features published on our website and on JW Broadcasting?
7 ‘Fine,’ you may say, ‘but what about all the features that appear on our website, jw.org, as well as the material that is presented on JW Broadcasting? There is so much!’ Consider an illustration: A great variety of delicious food is available on a buffet at a restaurant. The patrons of the restaurant could never sample everything that is offered. So they choose just a few dishes. Similarly, if you are unable to keep up with everything that is supplied electronically, do not be discouraged. Read or watch what you can. Let us now discuss what is involved in study and how to derive the most benefit from our study.
STUDY IS WORK!
8. What steps might we take when studying The Watchtower, and how will doing so benefit you?
8 To study is to read with sustained, purposeful concentration. It is not just a matter of skimming the assigned material and underlining the answers. When preparing for the Watchtower Study, for example, first take note of the preview at the beginning of the article. Next, consider the title of the article, as well as the subheadings and the review questions. Then, read the article slowly and carefully. Take note of the topic sentence, which is usually the first sentence of every paragraph. The topic sentence will often alert you to the direction in which the paragraph will be taking you. As you read through the article, think about the way each paragraph supports the subheading and ties in with the general theme of the article. Make a note of any unfamiliar words and of points that you would like to clarify through further research.
9. (a) Why and how should we pay particular attention to the scriptures when we study The Watchtower? (b) As noted at Joshua 1:8, what should we do in addition to reading scriptures?
9 The Watchtower Study is a study of the Bible. Therefore, pay particular attention to the scriptures, especially those that will be read when the congregation considers the material. Take special note of how the key words or phrases in the scriptures support the point being made in the paragraph. Moreover, take time to meditate on the scriptures that you read, and reflect on how you can personally apply them in your life.—Read Joshua 1:8.
10. In line with Hebrews 5:14, why should parents spend time during family worship to teach their children how to study and do research?
10 Understandably, parents want the weekly Family Worship period to be a pleasant experience for their children. However, although parents should always have something definite in mind for family worship, there is no need for them to feel that they must organize special activities or exciting projects each week. While the Family Worship period may be spent watching a monthly program on JW Broadcasting or occasionally working on a special project, such as assembling a model of Noah’s ark, it is also important for children to be taught how to study. They need to learn how to prepare for congregation meetings, for example, or how to do research on an issue that has arisen at school. (Read Hebrews 5:14.) If they spend some time on study projects at home, they will be better equipped to focus on the material presented at congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions, which may not always feature a video. Of course, the length of each study period will depend on the age and temperament of the children.
11. Why is it important that we teach our Bible students how to do meaningful study on their own?
11 Our Bible students also need to learn how to study. When they are new, we are happy to see them simply underline the answers in preparation for their Bible study or for congregation meetings. But we do need to teach our Bible students how to do research and how to do meaningful study on their own. In that way, when problems arise, instead of immediately turning to others in the congregation for help, they will know how to get practical advice for themselves by doing research in our publications.
STUDY WITH A PURPOSE
12. What goals might we have when we study?
12 If you are not a studious person, you may not think it possible to learn to enjoy studying. But you can. Start out with shorter periods, and then gradually increase the time you spend. Have a goal in mind. Of course, our ultimate goal should be to draw ever closer to Jehovah. A more immediate goal may be to answer a question that someone has asked or to do research on a problem that we are facing.
13. (a) Explain the steps a young person could take to defend his beliefs in school. (b) How can you apply the counsel found at Colossians 4:6?
13 As an example, are you a young person in school? Your classmates may all believe in the theory of evolution. You would like to defend the Bible’s teaching, but perhaps you do not feel qualified to do so. That calls for a study project! Your aim could be twofold: (1) to strengthen your own conviction that God created all things and (2) to improve in your ability to defend the truth. (Rom. 1:20; 1 Pet. 3:15) You might first ask yourself, ‘What arguments have my classmates used in support of evolution?’ Then using our publications, do careful research. Defending your beliefs may not be as hard as you think. Most people believe in evolution simply because someone they respect told them that it is true. If you find just a point or two that you can share, you may provide a satisfactory answer to a sincere inquirer.—Read Colossians 4:6.
DEVELOP YOUR INTEREST
14-16. (a) How might you get better acquainted with a Bible book with which you are not very familiar? (b) Using the cited scriptures, explain how you could obtain a more rounded-out picture of the book of Amos. (See also the box “Bring the Bible to Life!”)
14 Suppose that at an upcoming congregation meeting we are scheduled to explore the writings of one of the so-called minor prophets, perhaps one with whom you are not very familiar. The first step might be to develop an interest in what that prophet wrote. How might you accomplish that?
15 First, ask yourself: ‘What do I know about the writer of the book? Who was he, where did he live, what was his occupation?’ The background of the writer may also explain his choice of words or the type of illustrations he used. As you read the Bible, look for phrases that reflect the personality of the writer.
16 Next, you will find it helpful to place the writing of the book in the stream of time. You can easily do that by checking the “Table of the Books of the Bible” in the back of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. In addition, you could review the chart of prophets and kings in Appendix A6. If the Bible book you are studying is prophetic, you would do well to find out about conditions that existed at the time of writing. What bad attitudes or practices did the prophet hope to correct? Who were his contemporaries? To get a complete overview, you may need to consult more than one source. For example, to understand more fully what was taking place when the prophet Amos lived, you will benefit by consulting passages in the books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, which are listed in the marginal references to Amos 1:1. In addition, you might review the writings of Hosea, who may have been a contemporary of Amos. All these sources would help shed light on the period in which Amos lived.—2 Ki. 14:25-28; 2 Chron. 26:1-15; Hos. 1:1-11; Amos 1:1.
PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL
17-18. Using the examples in the paragraphs or an example of your own, illustrate how paying attention to seemingly small details can make personal Bible study enjoyable.
17 It is good to read the Bible with a healthy dose of curiosity. Suppose, for example, that you are reading the 12th chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy, which foretells the death of the Messiah. (Zech. 12:10) When you come to verse 12, you read that “the family of Nathan’s house” would grieve bitterly at the Messiah’s death. Instead of quickly passing over that detail, you pause and ask yourself: ‘What is the connection between the house of Nathan and the Messiah? Is there any way to get more information?’ You do a little “detective” work. A marginal reference leads you to 2 Samuel 5:13, 14, where you learn that Nathan was one of King David’s sons. A second marginal reference, Luke 3:23, 31, reveals that Jesus was a direct descendant of Nathan through Mary. (See “Joseph, son of Heli,” study note on Luke 3:23.) Suddenly, you are intrigued! You knew that Jesus was foretold to be a descendant of David. (Matt. 22:42) But David had more than 20 sons. Is it not amazing that Zechariah pinpoints the household of Nathan in particular as having a reason to mourn the death of Jesus?
18 Consider another example. In the first chapter of Luke, we read that the angel Gabriel visited Mary and announced regarding the son she was to bear: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as King over the house of Jacob forever.” (Luke 1:32, 33) We might be inclined to focus on the first part of Gabriel’s message, namely, that Jesus would be called “Son of the Most High.” But Gabriel also prophesied that Jesus would “rule as King.” So we ask ourselves what those words of Gabriel might have meant to Mary. Did she take Gabriel’s words to mean that Jesus would replace King Herod—or one of his successors as the ruler in Israel? If Jesus did become king, Mary would be the queen mother, and her family would live in the royal palace. Yet, there is no record that Mary even raised such a possibility with Gabriel; nor do we ever read that Mary asked for a position of favor in the Kingdom, as two of Jesus’ disciples did. (Matt. 20:20-23) This detail reinforces our picture of Mary as an extremely humble woman!
19 Let us remember that our ultimate goal in studying God’s Word and our Christian publications is to draw closer to Jehovah. We also want to see more clearly “what sort of person” we are and what changes we need to make in order to please God. (Read James 1:22-25; 4:8.) At the beginning of each study period, then, we should ask Jehovah for his spirit. We should beg him to help us to benefit fully from the material and to see ourselves as he sees us.
20 May all of us be like the man of God described by the psalmist: “His delight is in the law of Jehovah, and he reads His law in an undertone day and night. . . . Everything he does will succeed.”—Ps. 1:2, 3.
SONG 88 Make Me Know Your Ways
^ par. 5 Jehovah generously gives us an abundance of material to watch, to read, and to study. This article will help you decide what to study, and it offers practical suggestions on how to get the most out of your study sessions.
^ par. 61 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Parents show their children how to prepare for the weekly Watchtower Study.
^ par. 63 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A brother does research on the Bible writer Amos. The pictures in the background represent what the brother sees in his imagination as he reads the Bible accounts and meditates on them.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION