Do you find yourself having to struggle to achieve regular Bible study? Here are some helpful tips.
How does a housewife, with a couple of preschoolers always clinging to her skirt, do it? How does a busy worker, with only so many hours in a day, manage it? How important is it, really, to study God's Word daily? We live in an amazing age of technological, timesaving devices and advances, and yet, paradoxically, there still seems to be little time left to be alone with the Bible. Our day is taken up with travel to and from work, school and homework hours, household chores and necessary shopping trips. Add to this the reading of daily newspapers, weekly magazines and books, further education courses, watching television, the wide array of other available entertainments plus keeping up with Church literature, booklets and articles. By the time you get to the Bible you can be suffering from information overload and a mind not disposed to study God's handbook for man. How can you achieve daily Bible study in this busy rush of life?
We should first consider this question: Why should you even be motivated to study the Bible at all — what gain is there in it for you — what spiritual benefits are there in making Bible study a high priority? There is, you may be sure, eternal gain in establishing and maintaining a habit of daily Bible study. Here's why: • Foremost, through Bible study you gain the keys to salvation. The Bible reveals the wisdom required to be righteous; obtaining this wisdom is a priority concern for Christians (II Tim. 3:13-17). Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong, writing to members of God's true Church in the pages of The Good News, has noted this hallmark of God's way of life: "The Bible will be the authority that you obey, the authority that you look to for everything in your life." • Bible study helps you shun error and avoid seduction from God's truth. Knowing what the Bible says is vital protection to keep true Christians on the right track — to keep the mind focused on God's true knowledge (II Tim. 2:16-18). • When you study the Bible, the Holy Spirit is able to lead you — to open your mind and enable you to understand spiritual truth. Through studying inspired Scripture, you allow God's mind and thoughts to influence your own (John 14:26, 16:13). • You can build your faith by studying biblical examples of God's faithful servants. In this world of materialism, confident faith is a rich asset. • Bible study helps you resist the devil. Christ quoted Scripture to ward off Satan (Matt. 4:4). Studying Scripture and memorizing key verses can likewise be your safety in resisting evil influences. • You will gain serenity, sanity and peace of mind through studying the Bible (II Tim. 1:7). Is there an earthly price that can be put upon these priceless mental and emotional virtues? They are all gained through Bible study. Once you have the motivation for studying the Bible daily, it becomes a matter of how to do it with the available time during each day.
Make time for study
True Christians are building spiritual character, and God must be a central part of that building program. Christians must make salvation a daily priority. They must seek the Kingdom of God over all else (Matt. 6:33) and they must give of their time each day to pursue godly things. It comes down to the simple fact that a Christian must make time for study. He just has to set aside some time each day to do it. When you study will depend on your personal needs and life-style, whether in the morning, during the day or at night. But study when your mind is fresh, not when you're sleepy and tired or when you have to think about something else. What about young mothers busy with preschoolers all day? How can they find the time for personal Bible study? The ideal marital situation is having a husband who responds to I Peter 3:7: "Husbands, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel." Such a husband realizes that his wife's time can be monopolized by young children and by the job of making a good home. He realizes that God made him provider and that, over and above the paycheck he brings home, he must also help supply her emotional and spiritual needs. It is, therefore, another responsibility of the husband to see that she has the time for study. A husband can do this by helping his wife have spare time — by not leaving the care of the children up to her all the time and by not avoiding household responsibilities when it would be helpful for him to handle them. When he has provided the time and opportunity for her, then it is her responsibility to see that she uses the time wisely.
What to study?
When we have both the motivation and the time set aside, then we are faced with the question of what to study, or how to reinvigorate study. How can we approach Bible study with an enthusiastic attitude? Examine the following points. One or all of them may help you gain a fresh, excited approach to studying God's Word. • Read a new Bible. You may have an old Bible that is trusty and faithful, but it also may be dog-eared, worn and have a too-well-read feeling. By starting with a new Bible you can gain new incentive and a fresh approach. • Study specific subjects — like afflictions, patience, endurance, diligence, judgment and reward. You can gather information on Christian character traits with the assistance of concordances, dictionaries, topical Bibles and Bible helps. These all list related scriptures together in reference to a particular topic. Use these study aids in balance, however — use them to study the Bible; don't study them. • Study people. Read about the "pillars of faith" — Abraham, David, Ruth and Paul, among others. You will gain inspiration and encouragement from their Christian experiences. • Study God's answers to problems. Seek God's approach on how to deal with your difficulties. Search the Scriptures to develop His mind and attitude in dealing with the problems of life. • Study God's nature, attributes and character. Christians are training in this life to become spirit-born members of the Family of God. To be like Him, study what He is like as revealed in the pages of His Word. • Study the geography, customs and animals of the Bible. Increase your knowledge of Bible history. You will then better appreciate the authors of the Bible, how they lived and why they wrote of the things they did the way they did.
The overall goal
Finally, what should be the overall goal of your daily Bible study? A good answer is to allow the mind of God to increasingly become your mind and character as you study God's Word. And as a byproduct, the vigor of your spiritual life will hinge on how regularly you study the Bible and on how much you accomplish when you study. From your daily study you should gain an increasing delight. You should constantly gain new understanding from your daily search of God's Word. These pearls of truth should add zest, peace and a sense of purpose to your existence on earth. Look upon it as a lost day — a neglected opportunity — if you have not had a rewarding, inspirational, exciting time studying God's Word, the Bible.
You May Have Read the Book, But... by Frank W Nelte
How often it happens! Someone writes a book that becomes a bestseller. Then one of the major movie companies buys the film rights. A movie is produced and it, too, becomes a financial success. Soon there are not only several million people who have read the original book, but several million more who have seen the movie. Let's suppose that you've read such a book and a friend of yours has seen the movie with the same title. You discuss with him some of the major plots and the leading characters from the book. Your friend then tells you that the overall plot indeed turns out as you predict. However, many of the details along the way, he tells you, are different from what you with your knowledge of the book expected. You then see the movie yourself. Some of the characters look different from what you had anticipated. Some scenes work out exactly as you expected; others catch you by surprise. Still, on the whole, the story unfolds as you expect it to. Now what has all this got to do with you as a Christian? Simply this: If you are trying to live God's way of life, then you are certainly studying God's Word, the Bible. God admonishes us, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15, Authorized Version). So you, too, have read "the Book." If you are rightly dividing God's Word, you comprehend the major underlying themes. You understand the purpose for human life, you can separate true doctrines from falsehoods and you even know about many events that are prophesied to occur. But never forget: You haven't yet seen the movie! You still don't know how all the details will work out. This is the origin of the phrase, "You may have read the book, but wait till you see the movie!" Now back to making a movie. Why are there such discrepancies between a book and its movie version? In moviemaking the director is usually not the author of the book. So a film director will usually create an interpretation of a book from his particular perspective, taking the actors, scenery and special effects at his disposal into consideration. Applying the analogy to us: God is the author of "the Book," and He is also the director of "the movie"! When we attempt to guess exactly how somewhat obscure prophecies will work out, we are, in effect, taking on a task that really belongs to the "director." And we put our interpretation on the script.
Don't second-guess God
In our desire to see God's perfect society replace "this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4), we are at times overly eager to figure out all the prophesied events ahead. Certainly, we are to pray that God's Kingdom will be established soon (Matt. 6:10), and we are to sigh and cry because of today's wickedness (Ezek. 9:4). But, although God has given us an overall picture of end-time events, there are details that God has not revealed. For instance: When will Christ return? The Father has not let us know exactly (Matt. 24:36, 25:13). Where will God's Church be "nourished" for 3 1/2 years (Rev. 12:14)? While there are certain biblical indications, God has thus far not revealed the place with certainty. Who will be the two witnesses (Rev. 11:3)? No doubt God is training people for these roles, but He hasn't revealed their identities. How will we get to the place where we will be protected and trained during the Great Tribulation and plagues of the Day of the Lord? How will God take care of us once we are there? We don't know right now. To these and similar questions God's Word answers, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" (Deut. 29:29). This does not mean God has not revealed anything. He has, as the second part of this verse shows: "But those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever."
In God's own time
As God's Church needs to understand more details regarding the events ahead, God reveals that knowledge. "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). God always works through a human leader. And God is constantly giving His servant on earth today, Herbert W. Armstrong, understanding of more and more truths. He then uses Mr. Armstrong to communicate these truths to us. God sees to it that the things we need to know are available to us. During the time of the ancient Chaldean empire, Daniel asked God for specific understanding. God gave Daniel this specific understanding in a vision. Daniel then prayed: "I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You" (Dan. 2:23). To King Nebuchadnezzar Daniel explained that "there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets" (verse 28). Yet, later in Daniel's life, after God had given him many prophecies for us today, Daniel himself said: "Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, 'My lord, what shall be the end of these things?' And he said, 'Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end'" (Dan. 12:8-9). God gave Daniel understanding of the things Daniel needed to know. In some other matters God chose not to enlighten Daniel. The same applies to us today. As we need understanding in certain prophetic matters, God will reveal it to His servants. So let's beware that we don't second-guess God. It is our responsibility to study the Bible diligently and learn as much from it as God allows us to understand. Never forget: You may indeed have read "the Book," but just wait until you see " the movie"!