Definition: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Heb. 11:1) True faith is not credulity, that is, a readiness to believe something without sound evidence or just because a person wants it to be so. Genuine faith requires basic or fundamental knowledge, acquaintance with evidence, as well as heartfelt appreciation of what that evidence indicates. Thus, although it is impossible to have real faith without accurate knowledge, the Bible says that it is “with the heart” that one exercises faith.—Rom. 10:10.
Why do many people not have faith?
Faith is a fruit of God’s spirit, and God gladly gives his spirit to those who seek it. (Gal. 5:22; Luke 11:13) So persons without faith are not seeking that spirit, or they are doing so for a wrong purpose or are resisting its operation in their lives. Many things influence this:
Lack of accurate Bible knowledge: The Bible is a product of God’s spirit, being inspired by God. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Sam. 23:2) Failure to study it hinders any development of true faith. Although church members may have Bibles, if they have been taught the ideas of men instead of the Word of God, they will lack real faith in God and his purpose. To solve life’s problems, they will be inclined to rely on their own ideas and those of other humans.—Compare Matthew 15:3-9.
Disillusionment with religion: Many have been disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the churches of Christendom, which claim to teach God’s Word but fail to live in harmony with what it says. Others were adherents to a non-Christian religion, but they saw bad fruitage from its practices or found that their beliefs did not really help them to cope with the problems of life. Lacking accurate knowledge of the true God, such persons draw away from everything related to religion.—Compare Romans 3:3, 4; Matthew 7:21-23.
Do not understand God’s permission of wickedness: Most people do not understand why God permits wickedness and so blame him for all the bad things that take place. They do not realize that man’s inclination toward badness is not because of God’s will but because of the sin of Adam. (Rom. 5:12) They may be unaware of the existence of Satan the Devil and of his influence on world affairs, so they ascribe to God the vile things perpetrated by Satan. (1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:12) If they are to some extent aware of these things, they may feel that God is slow about taking action, because they do not see clearly the issue of universal sovereignty and do not grasp the fact that God’s patience down till this time affords them an undeserved opportunity for salvation. (Rom. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) Also, they do not fully realize that God has a set time when he will destroy forever all who practice wickedness.—Rev. 22:10-12; 11:18; Hab. 2:3.
Lives dominated by fleshly desires and viewpoints: Generally, persons who lack faith that has real substance have devoted themselves to the pursuit of other interests. Some may say that they believe the Bible but they may never have thoroughly studied it or may have failed to meditate appreciatively on what they read, on the reasons for it, and how it applies to everyday life. (Compare 1 Chronicles 28:9.) In some cases, they failed to nourish the faith they had but, instead, allowed a desire for unrighteous things to dominate the inclination of their heart so that they drew away from God and his ways.—Heb. 3:12.
How can a person acquire faith?
Rom. 10:17: “Faith follows the thing heard.” (Compare Acts 17:11, 12; John 4:39-42; 2 Chronicles 9:5-8. A person must first find out what the Bible says, and he will strengthen his conviction if he examines it carefully so as to be convinced of its reliability.)
Rom. 10:10: “With the heart one exercises faith.” (By meditating on godly things to build up appreciation for them, a person impresses them on his figurative heart.)
Faith is strengthened when a person acts on God’s promises and then sees the evidence of God’s blessing on what he has done.—See Psalm 106:9-12.
Illustration: Perhaps you have a friend of whom you would say: ‘I trust that man. I can count on him to keep his word; and I know that if I have a problem, he will come to my help.’ It is not likely that you would be saying that about anyone you met for the first time yesterday, is it? He would have to be someone with whom you had long association, someone who had proved his dependability time and again. It is similar with religious faith. To have faith, you need to take time to get to know Jehovah and his way of doing things.
Faith that there is a God
Faith in the prospect of a righteous new system of things
When a person becomes well acquainted with the record of Jehovah’s dealings with his servants, he comes to share the viewpoint of Joshua, who said: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”—Josh. 23:14.
The Bible’s promises of renewed health, resurrection from the dead, and so forth, are fortified by the record of miracles performed by Jesus Christ. These are not fables. Read the Gospel accounts and see the evidence that they bear all the marks of historical authenticity. Geographical locations are named; the names of contemporary secular rulers are given; more than one eyewitness account has been preserved. Meditating on this evidence can strengthen your faith in the Bible’s promises.
Go to the Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses and to their general conventions, and you can then see for yourself evidence that application of Bible counsel transforms lives, that it can make people honest and morally upright, that it can enable people of all races and nationalities to live and work together in a spirit of genuine brotherhood.
Are works really necessary if a person has faith?
Jas. 2:17, 18, 21, 22, 26: “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself. Nevertheless, a certain one will say: ‘You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.’ Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he had offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? You behold that his faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected. Indeed, as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Illustration: A young man may court a young lady, telling her that he loves her. But if he never asks her to marry him, is he really demonstrating that his love is thorough? Likewise, works are a means of demonstrating the genuineness of our faith and our love. If we do not obey God we do not really love him or have faith in the rightness of his ways. (1 John 5:3, 4) But we cannot earn salvation no matter what works we do. Eternal life is a gift from God through Jesus Christ, not payment for our works.—Eph. 2:8, 9.