Ben Gurion, former prime minister of Israel, had a nightly ritual of reading and working. What are your personal study habits? Too often, young people have poor study habits. God expects His young people to be different.
There are many distractions in this superficial society around us, but we can’t let those things disrupt our study time. It takes a lot of focused study time to understand what God is teaching us. It really takes a regular nightly or morning ritual of deep study.
God’s faithful people will lead the charge in the future Millennium. We must prepare now for this responsibility by digging out real depth from the Word of God. This is the start of mature thinking. We need to know what God is thinking and learn to base our conduct on His Scriptures. God is offering His people exalted positions of leadership. As we prepare for these offices of rule, we must be active in the study of books—most importantly, the Bible.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” states 2 Timothy 3:16.
Notice it says the Word of God is for instruction in righteousness. Righteousness is something we must actively submit to (Romans 10:3). Someone who diligently pursues his studies will acquire more depth—and at an accelerated rate—than someone who is halfhearted about it. The Bible is a profitable book. But many people who claim to believe the Bible don’t even read it! If it is not instructing and correcting them, how can it be profitable?
One reason there is so much confusion, disagreement and misunderstanding about the Bible is that people are simply unwilling to submit to what it says. Herbert W. Armstrong said the hardest thing for the average individual to do is to admit he is wrong. Small wonder that the Bible is so confusing to the masses then! Some of the world’s most brilliant minds are unable to understand the Bible. They might buy a book about how to become a ceo and study it thoroughly, but they will not study the Bible—because they don’t want to do what it says.
A recent survey found that 58 percent of people believe the Bible is totally accurate. The same survey found that only 38 percent of those polled actually read the Bible during the course of a week, and their average weekly study time was about 52 minutes (less than 10 minutes a day).
How do your study habits compare? You may think the Bible is totally accurate too, but are you really cracking open your Bible daily and getting into it? How excited are you about filling your Bible pages with good notes? Are you hungry for the correction and reproof God offers through daily Bible study?
Here are several points to make your Bible study more profitable:
1. Go into Bible study prepared to analyze yourself.
There is no book on Earth like the Bible—with all its richness, personality, color and detail—and it is specifically designed for us. God challenges us: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
You study to show yourself where you can improve—not to see where others are falling short. Bible study is not just about gaining academic knowledge or proving a certain doctrine (though that is certainly a part of it). The ultimate goal of Bible study is to get us closer to the measure of the stature of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13). We study the Bible to become perfect. But we’ll never glean much profit from it unless we go into each study session looking to correct ourselves (Jeremiah 10:23-24).
2. Pray for God’s guidance.
There are many brilliant people in the world who can understand nearly any book, yet they cannot understand the most important book there is! That is because they do not have God’s guidance.
God offers His people direct access to Him in prayer. We can ask God to work on our attitude so we’ll be receptive to what we read. It’s amazing how the Bible will come to life—and how we will read things differently—with God’s help. It is miraculous! God can change the way we think and make us very receptive to what we read. But we must go to Him first and admit that we cannot understand without His help.
“Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end,” said King David. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:33-34). David had access to the Hebrew Scriptures, but he knew he needed more—he needed God’s help. So do we.
You don’t have to be a great intellectual to understand the depth of God’s law and plan. You don’t even need a formal education. We all have access to the same God. But you must make it a priority to set aside intimate time with Him each day. Appreciate your quiet time alone with God. Don’t miss out on this extra-special relationship in your life.
God has revealed His truth to the “foolish” of this world (1 Corinthians 1:25-27). The world—in all its wisdom and knowledge—cannot understand God’s plan, but we can if we seek God’s guidance.
Though God has chosen the less capable and less intellectual of the world, He will give us the depth we lack. But we must do our part to be disciplined with our study time and challenge ourselves continually in the Word of God.
If we ever feel overwhelmed by a subject we are studying, we can ask God to show us what is most important and what He wants us to glean from it. If we go humbly before Him, God will open our minds to His Word (1 Corinthians 2:10-14).
This world is wise in producing evil, but when it comes to doing good it has no understanding (Jeremiah 4:20-22). We are training to be teachers who will reverse that trend. We must be wise in the practical principles of God’s Word so we can teach the world. We can gain this wisdom—if God is truly guiding our study.
3. Be positive.
Take a positive approach. Even if you’ve had poor study habits until now, be willing to start somewhere to change that. There is even benefit from studying just one chapter in the Bible.
Our Bible study habits reveal a lot about our character to God. Our pastor general wrote in Malachi’s Message: “Do you realize brethren, that your approach to Bible study helps reveal to God how noble you are? Do you search the Scriptures daily ‘with all readiness of mind,’ eager to see what the Bible says, so you can follow Christ more perfectly? God’s elect are very noble people when it comes to their Bible study.
“Thayer’s Lexicon says the word ‘searched’ is often used as the verb ‘judge’ in the Bible. The Bereans approached their Bible study by investigating and examining the evidence. That includes examining our leaders—as long as it is done with a Berean attitude. God knows if an attitude is right. …
“Luke said these people had greater nobility because of this attitude. That means a higher reward in God’s Kingdom. The noble elect have fallen in love with God’s truth.”
God considered the Bereans noble because of how they studied the Bible (Acts 17:10-11).These Bereans were not searching the Scriptures to prove Paul wrong—they were searching to prove him right. God admonishes us to prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The word prove here is a positive word.
Push yourself. Bible study will become more and more exciting each time you do it. The Bible can offer you the most scintillating study of your entire life—because it comes right from the mind of God.
4. Let the Bible interpret itself.
The Bible states that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). Too many people rely on human reasoning to help them understand the Bible. But Romans 3:4 states, “[L]et God be true, but every man a liar ….” Don’t trust men for biblical understanding—not even yourself. God reveals His truth to those who are growing in the study of His Word (Isaiah 28:9).
Isaiah 28:10-11 reveal an important Bible study principle. God’s Word is understood by studying it “here a little and there a little.” God designed the Bible to have gaps or pauses between related material (verse 11). This material must be brought together before the meaning becomes clear.
Studying the Bible is like putting together a large puzzle—you start with a little corner piece, and as you put all the tiny pieces together the picture becomes clear. The more you study, the more the pieces of the Bible will come together and the more vivid the overall picture will be.
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages: “If one begins reading the Bible continuously from beginning to end, one becomes bewildered. The Bible simply cannot be read like any other book. It is a mystery because it is a coded book. It is like a jigsaw puzzle ….”
“This present book,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “merely puts the many pieces of the great puzzle together so they can be clearly understood.
“As you read and reread this book, compare constantly with your own Bible. See these truths with your own eyes in your own Bible. And open your mind to God’s leading you into His truth as you do. It will make a lot of sense as nothing ever did before.”
Don’t underestimate how important Mystery of the Ages is to unlocking the truths of the Bible. It puts the jigsaw puzzle pieces together. We live in an age where God has seen fit to restore all things. Through that book, anyone who submits to God can have the key to the Bible. But those who continue living in rebellion can never understand it. God arranged it in such a way that they simply could not!
Mr. Armstrong continued, “Instead of putting the various pieces of the jigsaw puzzle properly and sensibly together, it has become the practice and custom to read an already-believed false teaching into each particular scripture, taken out of context. In other words to interpret the scriptures to say what they have already been taught and come to believe. The Bible needs no interpretation because it interprets itself. This becomes clear when one sees the various scriptures of each subject properly put together, as the Bible itself says, ‘here a little, and there a little’ (Isaiah 28:10)” (ibid.).
This is not to say that context is not important when studying the Bible—it is. But it is firstly important to put all the pieces together to get the big picture. When I was a student at Ambassador College, one of the first things I learned was to gather all the facts on any given Bible subject. If we really do our part in researching, the Bible will interpret itself.
5. Add color to your studies.
Organization is an important key to profitable Bible study—and can add more interest and enjoyment.
First, it is necessary to get the right Bible for your studies. The King James Version is the most reliable for regular use. A good companion volume can be found in the Moffatt translation. You may desire to purchase a Bible with a wide margin so you can write notes on the sides.
There are a few Bible helps that can help you organize your study. For example, Bible concordances—such as Strong’s—are helpful in listing key words and where they appear in the Bible and can provide Greek or Hebrew definitions. Another helpful aid is a Bible dictionary, which provides valuable historical background information about biblical cultures. Also, Bible atlases can help you visualize things better (most people have not seen the Middle East themselves, but anyone can familiarize himself with a Bible atlas). Bible commentaries can be useful at times, but it is best to stick to older ones or those used and quoted by Mr. Flurry.
Establish a system for marking your Bible. You could use colored pens, pencils or highlighters—designating different colors for underlining key words or writing about different subjects, for example. However you decide to do it, find a system you like and make it exciting to you. Have fun with it. This can go a long way in making your study more fascinating.
6. Review and apply what you learn.
Mr. Armstrong divided his daily spiritual intake into three parts—one third prayer, one third diligent study of the Scriptures and one third thinking over the things he studied. Notice—two thirds of that time was devoted directly to what he was studying.
David was the master at combining meditation with Bible study (Psalm 1:1-2). When David meditated, he compared his actions each day with God’s immutable laws. From this, he was able to draw broad conclusions or learn principles that he could apply to his life. What a man David was! Meditation can help us love the Bible the way he did.
The importance of meditation cannot be overemphasized. Too often, it falls by the wayside in Bible study. It takes discipline to meditate—you can’t just let your mind wander off. If we are to retain what we study, we must review and apply it. Let’s face it, if we forget the knowledge, or don’t apply it, there is little use for us in acquiring it in the first place.
Learn to take good notes during Sabbath services. Take as detailed notes as you can, then go back and study them later—filling in your notes with your own thoughts and meditative contributions. Realize what a tremendous benefit sermons can provide for your Bible study—the speaker has already done the research for you. With the groundwork laid, you can dig further into that subject on your own and gain even more depth. Remember to review what you hear soon after you hear it, and then again a few weeks later.
Apply what you learn instantly and do so until it becomes habit. You will never truly understand God’s laws unless you live by them. You won’t appreciate their real value in your life. God’s Word can reveal the wisdom behind avoiding harmful things—and it can spare you from making terrible mistakes in your life. The truths God reveals in His Bible stand fast as a sure foundation. Our task is to fasten ourselves to that foundation.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth forever” (Psalm 111:10). A proper, God-fearing attitude is the beginning of profitable Bible study, but it ends with our application of what we learn (Philippians 4:8-9).
Bible study is the best use of your time. It can be incredibly exciting, even if it seems boring at first. Just keep doing it, and you’ll see. God can open your mind to be passionate about it (Psalm 119:34-40).
Don’t allow anything to choke out God (Matthew 13:22). Don’t let the cares of this world push God out of your life.
We only have a short time left, in this end time, to glean the wisdom we need from God’s Word. We must get into our Bibles now like never before. If we become wise in God’s Word, we will “shine as the brightness of the firmament” (Daniel 12:3).
Demonstrate to God how much you love His Word and that you know it is profitable and can change and improve your life. Make Bible study fun and enjoyable and applicable to your life.
Determine now to dig deeper and to give God more quality time through the study of His Bible. Become wise in God’s Word so you can shine as the brightness of the firmament forever.