Where to Turn for Advice
Life can be confusing. When you come up against a problem and look for help, you can hear one piece of advice from one friend, different advice from a different friend, opposite advice from a colleague, and conflicting advice from your spouse. How can you tell the right answer from the wrong one? Or should you just “do what feels right”?
Imagine knowing the right answer, every time. Imagine having someone right beside you throughout your life who always gives you the best advice.
What a relief that would be!
Where can you turn for dependable advice every time? To the same source that the Trumpet turns: the Bible!
The Bible may seem deeply mysterious, impossibly huge, terribly complicated or excessively difficult to read. But believe it or not, it has the answers to the everyday difficulties you face. Get to know it, and it will be your most reliable, lifelong counselor, because it contains the counsel of the Source of all wisdom: the living God. And He will advise you, through the pages of His inspired Word.
Do You Really Need Advice?
1. Does man really need guidance from God? Can he reason out for himself how to properly lead his own life? Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 10:23.
Most people disagree with these verses. They believe that they ultimately have the answers. But our world is a disaster not because we intentionally choose the worst courses of action, but because we choose what we think is the best course—and we are wrong! And we make these disasters even worse because we don’t admit that we are incapable of correctly discerning right from wrong. The sooner you acknowledge that you don’t have the answers, the better off you will be. Only after you admit you do not know better will you be willing to listen to advice.
2. Why can’t human beings look to themselves for the answers? Jeremiah 17:9. The “heart” this verse speaks of is the human mind without God—a state the Bible refers to as “carnal.” What’s wrong with allowing yourself to be governed by your carnal mind? Romans 8:6-8.
This is hard to admit, because we like to think we’re pretty good. But it is reality!
3. Why did God give us His Word? 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Notice the words reproof and correction. Most people do not like to be corrected, even though correction shows them the right course. Do you? Will you let God’s Word show you how to change your life? After you read a scripture or a passage, ask yourself, how do I need to change my life to follow what God is telling me?
4. Is there an attitude God wants in us as we seek Him through Bible study? 1 Peter 5:5; Isaiah 66:2.
We cannot seek God with a “take me as I am” attitude and expect results. We must be humble, knowing that we do not have the answers. Then we will tremble at His word, respecting what God says enough to act upon it and to turn away from our mistakes (see also Isaiah 57:15). When you are humble, God can actually dwell with you, coming to your side as your Adviser.
5. What did the psalmist do when he needed help, understanding and guidance? Who was his source? Psalm 119:9-11, 17-18, 140-144. How zealously did he seek God? Verse 10.
To truly understand the Bible, you must pray first for understanding. Throughout the Psalms, you will see the wonderful relationship between the authors and God. In your studies, the Psalms can help you see how to develop the same deep relationship with your Creator. If you feel like you do not know how to pray, do not be afraid to kneel down and openly, honestly, humbly talk to God. This is just the type of prayer God will hear!
6. What are the rewards of seeking God’s understanding through His Word? Proverbs 3:13-18.
Seek God’s advice, and you will receive these blessings! In fact, this is the only way to receive these rewards. Bible study is the chief way to do that. This is the way to achieve success, peace, happiness and abundance. If you lack the motivation to study, ask God to give you the desire for it! Read Luke 11:9-10.
7. How important does God consider Bible study? Deuteronomy 8:3; 11:18-21.
God compares Bible study to nothing less than the food we eat every day for physical survival. It may be hard to perceive this “spiritual hunger,” but spiritual starvation is just as real as—and far more common than—physical starvation!
Practical Advice on Seeking Advice
How do you begin to find the practical wisdom contained within this massive book?
1) Study consistently, study frequently. For the Bible to become an effective counselor in your life, you have to get to know it well. Daily study is essential. Set a regular study schedule into your everyday routine. Study when you are alert, when it can be an activity you will truly anticipate.
2) Try different types of studies. When you face a specific problem, do a special study on the subject to get the rock-solid advice you are looking for. A couple of basic Bible tools can help.
The simplest tool is a concordance. This allows you to look up any word and see all the places where that word appears in the Bible. Strong’s Concordance shows you what the original Hebrew or Greek words are, and can help you more deeply understand the meaning of the words that have been translated into English. With a topical Bible, you can search for the subject you need advice on and find many relevant scriptures grouped under that subject. Another great reference tool is a cross-referencing Bible like Thompson’s Chain Reference Bible, which references a topical index beside each Bible verse pointing you to other passages that can give you additional instruction.
A Bible dictionaryor Bible encyclopedia can define difficult Bible words or give you helpful background information so you can understand the historical context of books in the Bible. Commentaries can have good information and insight, but they also have conflicting and erroneous interpretations as well.
Two other effective Bible studies are: 1) studying the life of a person in the Bible, whether good or bad; and 2) studying a specific book, such as Proverbs.
The translation you read is also important. We recommend the King James Version and, as supplements, the Revised Standard Version and the Moffatt translation. A translation can contain many errors; for instance, the New International Version has mistranslations in many cases and even leaves a few scriptures completely out. Some “translations” of the Bible aren’t even translations, but are paraphrases of other translations.
3) Develop a system to mark your Bible. Choose a color code for highlighting scriptures. For instance, you might mark promises in green, personal correction in yellow, and doctrine in orange. Colored pencils work well. You can also find good, indelible fine-point ink pens that will allow you to write notes in your margin to remind you of details and instruction that apply to the noted verses.
4) Meditate and review. After learning lessons, it does not take long to forget them. How can you make God’s Word come alive and really penetrate your heart and consciousness? Meditate. (See Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2; 77:12.) For God’s advice to sink in, you have to think often and think deeply about what you study.
Am I Reading This Right?
Although we understand that the Bible is God’s Word, it seems there are as many different interpretations of the Bible as there are religions and churches. The Bible itself is often written in what you could call a code. How can you know if you’re reading it correctly and getting the right advice?
1. Should we rely on our own or any other man’s interpretation of the Bible? Proverbs 3:5; 2 Peter 1:20.
Let the Bible interpret itself! Herbert W. Armstrong often compared the Bible to a jigsaw puzzle, with all the scriptures on a given subject scattered “here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). Avoid taking scriptures out of context, or using only one scripture to prove a point. Read numerous scriptures on a given subject to see the complete picture of what a specific verse or passage means.
2. Amid all the confusion, how can we get God’s interpretation, and not that of the many men who claim to understand the Bible? 1 Thessalonians 5:21.
Study to prove God’s Word. Look into history and see if God has brought His prophecies to pass. Look into world events today and see whether God’s predictions have come true.
Never approach Bible study with an attitude of disproving God. Only if you test and prove God’s Word by obeying it will you receive the incredible blessings of Bible study. God promises blessings for heeding His commands and taking correction. Obey and put those promises to the test. See if God keeps His promises. (Read Malachi 3:10 as an example.)
Then, once you prove something good, hold fast to it! Never let it go! Build your life around the foundational truths you learn in your Bible study. Learn what your Creator advises you to do. Begin your study of the Bible today!