Some years ago, my family went to the northwest United States and took a tour of the sites from the early years of Herbert W. Armstrong’s ministry. One of those sites was the Portland Library. From the fall of 1926 into 1927, Mr. Armstrong went to this library daily to study God’s truth.
Mr. Armstrong wrote that this was where “[m]ost of this painstaking study was done.” He continued, “Day after day, I would arrive at the library building waiting for the doors to open at 9 a.m. Night after night, librarians had to tell me politely that it was 9 p.m. and the library was closing. Then I would go home and study. Often my wife would awaken at 1 a.m. and ask me if I wouldn’t leave off studying and come to bed” (Plain Truth, May 1965). This was extreme, but this is one reason why God put him into the position of the end-time Elijah.
My father has the same quality. We traveled to Enid, Oklahoma, in the early years of the Philadelphia Church of God because the little meeting hall there had an office adjacent to it. My father often drove there to be alone and have the privacy needed to concentrate on God’s truth while writing Malachi’s Message. Today’s Work shows the fruits that came from that deep study.
The environment inside the Portland Library today is much different from back in 1926, as it was 40 years later when Mr. Armstrong wrote this in his Personal: “The ground-floor lobby was all changed—new information desks, display cases and things unfamiliar. Two display cases were showing new books, under the caption: ‘Notable Books—1964.’ I strolled over to one of the cases. Among the ‘notable books’ published last year I saw Episode: Report on the Accident Inside My Skull. Another ‘notable’ book was ‘Bad Character.’ Yes, people would rather read about bad character than good! Another: Censorship—The Search for the Obscene. That one should be real ‘notable.’ … There was also in the display case a novel: The Stone Angel. I always thought angels were made of spirit, not stone. Ah, well! Most readers of such ‘notable’ books would never know the difference. They might as well waste their time on that kind of fiction as any other. They are bound to waste it, anyway!”
The Modern Library
Brad Macdonald wrote in his article “A Lesson From the Library”: “Far from being asylums for thought and private reflection, libraries are becoming vibrant high-tech hubs for people seeking social interaction. The modern library is an eccentric mix of the Internet café, Blockbuster movie store and old-school library” (theTrumpet.com, July 8, 2010).
More and more people are resorting to noisy, distracting environments, even for times when they intend to study. Being a student who excels academically requires in-depth study. Your top responsibility as a student is to become a diligent studier.
Zechariah 6:15 reads: “And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord, your God”—if you are diligent in your Christian living, your obedience, your study of God’s Word.
My father writes in The New Throne of David, “The word translated ‘obey’ also means to give undivided attention, obedience or listening; it means to understand what one has heard. The main idea of the Hebrew word, shama, is perceiving a message—understanding it. The Moffatt says, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the Eternal your God.’ Listen carefully and hear God’s message. You can know and prove it is God’s message. That is what God wants. We must give serious attention to this new revelation! This is not easy to grasp. It requires in-depth Bible study and prayer!”
The God Family vision requires in-depth study! God requires that you know His truth, plan and purpose for your life. Salvation is education, a practical day-by-day learning and application of God’s truth. God wants His young people to be academically motivated. The study habits you build today will affect your ability to understand new truth God gives to His Church in the future.
Libraries today illustrate what is wrong with our shallow society. Young people go to libraries to use the Internet, play games and watch movies—if they go at all. Writer Nicholas Carr discusses modern libraries in his book, The Shallows: “Although we don’t tend to think of libraries as media technologies, they are. The public library is, in fact, one of the most important and influential informational media ever created—and one that proliferated only after the arrival of silent reading and movable-type printing. A community’s attitudes and preferences toward information take concrete shape in its library’s design and services. Until recently, the public library was an oasis of bookish tranquility where people searched through shelves of neatly arranged volumes or sat in carrels and read quietly. Today’s library is very different. Internet access is rapidly becoming its most popular service.”
Bookstores have practically ceased to exist. If they do, they have a café and sell board games in an attempt to make buying books fun. Carr quotes the Strategy and Business journal writing about the Bronx Library Center’s architecture: “On the library’s four main floors, the stacks of books have been placed at each end, leaving ample space in the middle for tables that have computers on them, many with broadband access to the Internet. The people using the computers are young and aren’t necessarily using them for academic purposes—here is one doing a Google search on Hannah Montana pictures, there is one updating his Facebook page, and over there a few children are playing video games.” This is not education; rather it destroys the minds of young people.
Develop Your Mind
Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” If you want to become an expert in any subject, you have to be diligent in your research.
The human spirit, though incomplete, is a blessing. We need God’s help to open our minds so we can understand His Word. Soon it will join together with God’s mind; you want to give God a lot to work with! Everyone has different academic inclinations, but we all need to be diligently searching.
You have to develop your mind. The minds of youth in society are going to waste, and Satan is taking advantage of their ignorance.
In John 6:12, Jesus instructed His disciples: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” Every single leftover had to be gathered; nothing could go to waste.
“Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (verse 27). If you labor spiritually, then God will feed you. But you have to really work for it. It is easy to overestimate the depth of our studies. After all, human nature loves to exaggerate its abilities. God can give you a truer picture of where you are doing well and where you need to improve.
Matthew 4:4 says, “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” God doesn’t want you to be average or ordinary. He wants you to become a leader and a pillar in your congregation. God’s youth should become leading members, real servants of Christ. The more you are nourished by God’s Word, the more spiritual maturity you will develop. We want and need youth with real depth!
The Key to Deep Study
One purpose of God’s schools is to teach God’s young people how to think and study deeply. Strive to learn and build more effective study techniques while you are still in school. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for good habits—habits that are crucial to your spiritual success.
Proverbs 3:13 says, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.” There is nothing quite as enjoyable, exciting and uplifting as a good study session. There must be no distractions. Only focused study sessions will achieve depth of thinking. Bible study should inspire you to love learning. By the end of a diligent session, you will want more time to pour into that effort.
Carr writes, “According to an extensive 2009 study conducted by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, most Americans, no matter what their age, spend at least 8 1/2 hours a day looking at a television, a computer monitor, or the screen of their mobile phone.
“Frequently, they use two or even all three of the devices simultaneously. What does seem to be decreasing as Net use grows is the time we spend reading print publications—particularly newspapers and magazines, but also books.
“Of the four major categories of personal media, print is now the least used, lagging well behind television, computers and radio. By 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the time that the average American over the age of 14 devoted to reading printed works had fallen to 143 minutes a week, a drop of 11 percent since 2004. Young adults between the ages of 25 and 34, who are among the most avid Net users, were reading printed works for a total of just 49 minutes a week in 2008, down a precipitous 29 percent from 2004.”
How much worse would it be today, 13 years since that was written? If that spirit rubs off on you, you won’t be able to study God’s literature. You won’t carve out time for daily Bible study. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” New truth is deep and requires in-depth study to understand it as we should! Don’t settle for mediocrity in your daily study!
Being a good student is more than just scraping by. We are all disciples of Christ. The meaning of “disciple” is student. Christ is the Master, Teacher, Schoolmaster; we are His pupils, here to learn at His feet. He wants to give you so much more understanding than you have now. But that comes down to your hunger, desire, habits and routines. It depends on how much you allow distractions to interfere with your study sessions.
Build Good Habits
Acts 17:10-11 say, “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” The Bereans were prepared to receive instruction. They were good disciples—good students! They searched and compared what Paul preached to them with what is revealed in Scripture. They plowed through their studies every day! As a result, God was working in their minds.
“Why was Peter chosen as chief apostle?” my father asks in The Epistles of Peter—A Living Hope. “One of the major reasons was that he knew the Bible! Are you known as a person who really knows his or her Bible? Christ said we would be held accountable for every word. The Bible is Jesus Christ in print. What a mind-jarring blessing this book is for God’s very elect. We must know the mind of God and be deeply grounded in the Bible in order to have the hope we need.”
Isaiah 28:9 records the questions, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.” You can only advance in education and understanding by digging into God’s truth. We move from the milk to the meat spiritually (Hebrews 5:12-14). Paul lamented that he had to go back and start over with God’s people. It’s definitely possible for you to regress, even within a good environment. You can build bad habits that hinder your progress.
Thousands of students went through Ambassador College from 1947 to 1997, yet how many stayed with God? How many lost interest because they filled up on worldliness? That is what happens when you stop educating yourself in God’s way of life. You begin to starve spiritually, and you can starve to death if you don’t catch yourself in time.
Isaiah 28:10-11 read, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” You have to put the Bible together like a jigsaw puzzle. Often, God’s ministers will bounce around the Bible in a sermon to create connections we may not have seen before. Conversely, in some Bible classes, we go straight through passages of Scripture in order to gain context and see a bigger picture emerge.
Are You a Feeble Thinker?
The gadgets of modern technology have reshaped our thinking habits to where people can only dart around, skim or read half an article. They won’t read a full article that would take merely five or six minutes. Their reading is constantly interrupted by distractions. We need continuous stretches of time to delve deeply into God’s mind. Try to avoid doing most of your reading online. Build a physical, personal library of literature.
Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The Phillips translation says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould.” Come out of the world, and God will fill your mind with the truth that will set you free.
Ernest Dimnet wrote in his book The Art of Thinking, “If the moment a book or a newspaper raises a question demanding some supplementary information or reflection, we yawn, fidget, or hurriedly do something else, we abhor thinking.” This was written in the 1930s! What would he or Mr. Armstrong say today?
Dimnet continued, “If, when trying to reflect, we at once feel a weariness, a drowsiness or a tendency to repeat mere words, we do not know what thought is. If we do know what it is, but, as Montaigne says, are too lazy to tackle a problem with more than ‘a charge or two,’ we are feeble thinkers.” Feeble thinkers are all around us. God wants us to bring depth into our learning.
Here are two practical tips to become a better disciple of Christ: 1) Learn how to study by developing a love for reading the printed word. Make your books your companions. You already have a free library with all the literature produced by God’s Church. 2) Get into the habit of turning off distractions when studying. It is helpful to put your deep study session early in the morning when all distractions are off.
Use these points to grow in diligent study. Maximize the time you have today to build habits that inspire deep study into God’s Word.