Putting of Your Faithfulness to Proof
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.—Jas. 1:2, 3, NW.
1. Describe faith.
JEHOVAH is the source of true faith. Faith based on accurate knowledge is a strong chain that binds man to God. Yet, as with any chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link. Therefore it is good to examine our faith, to test it, to see if it can hold up under stress or if it needs to be reinforced. Our faith in Jehovah God is built upon a solid foundation, the inspired record of the Bible. True faith is far different from mere credulity or blind superstition. Faith does not mean believing in something just because others do. Faith is not governed by emotion or sentiments, nor is it held for selfish, personal reasons. Faith has as its groundwork logic, facts, reason and truth.
2, 3. How do we gain true faith?
2 True Christians are not driven into their faith by fear of world events. Thus we cannot accept the contention of Toronto archbishop Michael who said: “Communism is a blessing in disguise because it is making mankind more Christian.” Communism certainly does not promote true faith in God, nor does fear of communism promote such faith. Faith does not come because we are forced into it. If people adopt Christianity because of fear of communism, is that pleasing to God? Are they accepting it because it will protect them from something they dread? No, faith does not come through fear, nor is it built upon fear. The Scriptures show there is one true faith and one way to attain it.
3 To gain faith we need a meek and teachable heart attitude. Our faith is not in men or in the wisdom of men, for this is far surpassed by the limitless knowledge of our Creator. No wonder the Bible says that the wisdom of the world is foolishness in the sight of God. Faith comes, not through such human wisdom, but by a study of the Bible, God’s Word of truth. This is the foundation of true faith. However, knowledge in itself does not necessarily give a person faith. It must be supplemented with understanding that comes through God’s organization and by means of His spirit. (1 Cor. 2:9, 10) In order to establish the faith of his apostles, Jesus told the meaning of events of his day: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27, NW) His apostles had need for such instruction and correction, for Acts 1:6 shows they expected the restoration of the kingdom to Israel during his earthly ministry. In a similar way today our faith is built up by a hearing of the Word of God with an open mind coupled with instruction from those of like precious faith.
4. What is the foundation for faith?
4 An example of the solid foundation for faith is set out by Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, about the resurrection. First he presents the evidence about Christ’s resurrection by the testimony of the apostles and five hundred brothers who witnessed his reappearing. He shows the Scriptural evidence on the subject, also using illustrations and argumentation to show a good reason for our faith in the power of God to resurrect. Thus Paul’s faith was not a matter of guessing or a sentimental delusion. He had a reason for his faith. We should in like manner “prove all things,” thereby confirming our faith, building it upon a sure foundation of accurate knowledge. Because of such true faith we have confidence in things not seen as yet.
5. Why did men of old have faith?
5 Among the outstanding examples of faith was Abraham. So unshakable was his faith that he proceeded to the point of killing his son, trusting in the resurrection power of God. His great faith was counted to him as righteousness. Further, Abraham looked to the future for a city whose builder and maker is God, just as today we look to the kingdom of Christ to bring peace and happiness to men of faith during this generation. This is in keeping with Jesus’ words in the Lord’s prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10; 24:34, NW) In days gone by other men, such as Moses and Elijah, had their faith confirmed time after time as Jehovah acted in their behalf. Moses knew he could rely on Jehovah when he struck the rock in the wilderness and water gushed out to quench the thirst of the people and the cattle. His confidence was from faith based on experience and knowledge. (Heb. 11:23-29) Elijah showed similar faith, calling for fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice he had prepared in defiance of Baal, and to honor Jehovah. His faith was an “assured expectation of things hoped for”; he knew he could put his trust in Jehovah. Today we do not expect miracles or a sign to establish our faith. But just as we have confidence and trust in a person we know well, so we learn to know God through a study of his Word and this gives us confidence and assurance.
THE SHIELD OF FAITH
6. What fight is ahead, and how can we prepare for it?
6 In Ephesians chapter 6 Paul shows that we must “go on acquiring power in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength.” We are in a fight against the machinations of Satan, who, with his wicked spirit forces in heavenly places, is described as fighting against the Lamb and against the remnant on earth to destroy them. Now Satan is mustering his demon princes for an all-out assault against those representing the New World society of Jehovah. Therefore we are told to take up the complete suit of armor of God that we may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after having done all things thoroughly, to stand firm.
7. What is the purpose of a shield in real or in spiritual war?
7 “Above all things,” Paul continues, “take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles.” This large shield as used by soldiers was actually a great oblong made of two layers of wood, covered with canvas and then with hide. It was a real protection for a soldier in battle, as it would ward off blows as well as flaming darts—arrows or spears tipped with pitch and shot flaming at the enemy. A soldier could crouch behind his great shield and be protected from these missiles. Today the shield of faith is of greatest importance. Just as a soldier between battles would examine his protective shield for any weaknesses, so a Christian must continually examine and strengthen his faith so that he does not lose his protection in time of need. We know the wicked one continually brings reproach and persecution as flaming missiles against God’s people, and the protection of faith is needed to ward them off.—Eph. 6:10-20; Isa. 59:17.
8. How can we keep our faith strong?
8 We must also direct our prayers and supplications to Jehovah that we may be found serving him at all times in full faith and in keeping with his spirit and purpose. As good soldiers we must keep awake, alert to the attack, and with boldness and freeness of speech announce the good news that we have received. We must keep our faith strong by using the means provided: being refreshed in knowledge by attending meetings and speaking the truth to others, following the course of righteousness and good works, being active in the service by preaching, and being built up in the spirit of God by calling on Him in prayer. Doing these things, you will be able to stand firm against the onslaughts of Satan, protected by an impenetrable shield of faith that gives not only protection to you but courage to those who behold it.
FAITH NOT POSSESSED BY ALL
9. Why are many weak in faith? What do they lack?
9 Despite the fact that Jehovah has made every provision to strengthen the faith of the people today, not all have faith. In fact, the faith of many professed Christians has been shattered. The weak link in their chain of confidence in God has been broken. As James Cardinal McGuigan of Canada wrote: “God is dead as far as the consciousness of masses of men and women today is concerned. Even to those who still pay him lip service he enjoys little or no part in the formation of human life.” Is God dead for you? Or do you live with faith? Those who have faith supported by accurate knowledge are unshakable in their convictions. (1 Cor. 1:4-9, NW) But the majority of mankind have permitted their faith to be undermined. They have built on sandy soil that can be quickly washed away in time of stress. This weak foundation that destroys the faith of many sincere persons is often due to false teachings and corrupt religious practices.
10. Why not trust in political moves for peace?
10 As an example, in all parts of the world today honest people put faith in political efforts to achieve lasting peace and world unity. Yet even secular history shows over and over again the futility of such human attempts to bring tranquillity to this globe. Those knowing the Bible account immediately detect the source of the turmoil as being Satan, whom Paul identified in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NW) as the “god of this system of things.” Thus, instead of bringing world peace by political or religious efforts, these attempts are foredoomed to failure. The Scriptures show that, when men think they have achieved peace apart from God, sudden destruction will come upon them and the kingdoms of the earth will be broken in pieces to make way for the kingdom of Jehovah. Those who are trusting in such human attempts are bound for disillusionment, but faith in the kingdom of God is certain.—1 Thess. 5:2, 3; Dan. 2:44.
11. What is wrong with “faith healing” now?
11 Similarly misplaced confidence in “faith healers” brings disappointment and keeps the true faith from those so blinded. The Scriptural evidence is that such temporary cures are not of God. (2 Thess. 2:9) Surely they cannot be of God and by his spirit when those practicing such things teach God-dishonoring doctrines of hell-fire, trinity, immortality of the soul and other things contrary to the Word of God. The real cure for humankind today comes by means of the ‘water of life,’ which is the source of faith. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman concerning this, saying: “The water that I will give him will become in him a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.” Such spiritually curative waters and the prospect of life go only to those worshiping according to spirit and truth. (John 4:14-24, NW) In the new world of righteousness the work of restoring men of faithfulness to physical health, as performed on a limited scale by Jesus and his apostles during his earthly ministry, will be fully accomplished following Armageddon. This will not be done as a special favor to a person here or there, but to all men of faith living at that time. Do not, then, be led aside now by misplaced faith for selfish motives.—Rev. 21:4; 22:2.
12. How do many misplace their faith?
12 If we put faith in something that cannot possibly help us, we should not lose faith in God because we are not rewarded. Many persons put their trust in medallions, statues of plaster, fetishes, charms and mammoth representations of dead ancestors. Should living and intelligent persons pray to and worship that which is dead or inanimate? It is foolish to do so, just as it is foolhardy to put faith in the realm of demonism, superstition and witchcraft. (Isa. 8:19, 20) Our faith should be in the living, eternal God as revealed through his Word. When faith is not properly guided according to God’s Word, disappointment is certain to lie ahead. Those who pray for jobs or for divine intervention to preserve their life in perilous circumstances show they base their hope on selfish personal desires rather than knowledge of God’s Word. They should not expect a special favor from God. And James explained that, even though you ask, you may not receive if you ask for a wrong purpose. (Jas. 4:3, NW) God does not intercede here or there because one is wearing a medal or carrying a Bible. It is the faith and devotion of the person and his adherence to the commands of Jehovah that count, for God can look upon the heart. Those who lose faith because of a misconception of such things have had it destroyed because of lack of knowledge, being misguided by false shepherds.
DEMONSTRATING TRUE FAITH
13. Should hard times weaken faith? Why?
13 No Christian will let disaster, hard times, accident, sickness or death break his faith with God. In the Bible record we can see that similar things happened to Job. He lost his home, property, children; and finally his wife turned against him, urging him to curse God and die. These things were not acts brought by God, but rather were actions of Satan to destroy the faith of Job if possible. Job was content to wait upon Jehovah for deliverance, and his faith was rewarded. He was not tested beyond his endurance, though he cried for deliverance. Just as Job was faithful, so Christ, whom he pictured, was faithful even to death. Is our faith today of like quality? It will be if it is based on accurate knowledge. If we are willing to follow Jehovah’s counsel, then we shall receive his protection and guidance.
14. By what provisions does Jehovah help us?
14 Jehovah looks out for those who serve him. By his Word he guides us in the proper path to follow. It is for our own welfare and in our own interests to keep on that path. By his spirit he gives us strength in time of need, supporting us when weak. By his organization he enables us to keep in harmony with his purposes. We receive instruction, correction and encouragement by association with our brothers. By our ministerial service our faith is continually tried and tempered. As we meet objections in the field service of preaching and learn to counter and thrust them aside by the “sword of the spirit,” weak points of our knowledge are strengthened. Thus by helping others to an accurate knowledge, we are helping ourselves. If we follow the path Jehovah outlines, our faith will never weaken and our course will be blessed.
15, 16. (a) In whom should our faith rest? Why? (b) What attitude should we have toward our brothers? (c) Give Scriptural examples.
15 Our faith should always be in Jehovah rather than in men. If we remember that our dedication is to Jehovah we shall never be stumbled by what others do. Each one stands or falls before his own master; therefore we will not be offended because of seeming slights or oversights at congregation meetings. We shall not become angry because we are not given a part on the meeting as often as we wish, or are overlooked for privileges of service. Love helps us forget such petty things. If we are mature in our faith we shall have the proper Christian attitude toward our brothers at all times. When we have maturity in our outlook we shall always be constant in our disposition, attitude and dealings with others, even if they vary and change. We know our brothers have love for God or they would not be serving him. For that reason we should have confidence and trust in them as they prove themselves faithful to Jehovah. We should love them for their faith and service and overlook personal differences. Such close unity and devotion are vital when we are under persecution. It is a part of making the mind over. If we cannot get along in peaceful times, how can we in times of danger? Further, if we cannot love our brother and show patience and long-suffering for his actions, how can we say we truly love God whom our brothers are serving? Yes, faith, like love, will help us overlook inconsequential things.
16 Joseph showed this maturity of outlook although ill-treated by his brothers and sold into slavery. When his brothers came to him for food and help, instead of returning evil for evil he showed his right disposition by returning their evil with good. What others had done did not change his outlook or influence his action. He told them: “As for you, you had evil in mind against me. God had it in mind for good for the purpose of acting as at this day to preserve many people alive. So now do not be afraid. I myself shall keep supplying you and your little children with food.” (Gen. 50:20, 21, NW) His test of faith did not sour or break him, and it did not turn him against his brothers. A different reaction is seen in the brother of the prodigal son. He protested against the warm welcome given the profligate one, showing selfishness rather than love. But, as Jesus said, there is more rejoicing in heaven over the return of one that has gone astray than over ninety-nine who remained in the fold. (Matt. 18:13) So we should always be glad to see a brother correct his course; we should show joy even as the Father in heaven does. Whatever another person does, it should not shake our confidence in Jehovah or in his purposes.
17, 18. How and why do we show confidence in Jehovah’s organization?
17 Faith in the anointed organization Jehovah uses today is also important. His anointed organization is shown in the Scriptures to be the “faithful and discreet slave” that dispenses the meat in due season. We certainly rejoice in the spiritual food and understanding we have received; and we should grow strong in our faith as a result of it. We should prove all things and build our foundation of Scriptural knowledge and faith on what we know to be good and true. However, having received such information and knowledge through the faithful slave class, should we suddenly develop pessimism or disbelief because we do not clearly understand all things? We recall that Daniel had questions regarding the material he recorded under inspiration, but he was content to wait upon Jehovah for the right understanding. We should take a similar positive attitude and exercise faith rather than be negative in our outlook or demand unreasonable proof.
18 We know the light of truth shines brighter and brighter until the perfect day and that Jehovah through his organization constantly clarifies and reveals the truth to us. In the account in Matthew 7:9 Jesus reminded that if a son asked his father for bread he would not give him a stone, and neither does our heavenly Father mislead us when we seek for the truth. As a word of caution, James writes that the one lacking in wisdom should keep on asking God, “but let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah.” (Jas. 1:5-8, NW) Therefore, continue proving all things Scripturally, at the same time exercising faith in the provisions and instructions of Jehovah through his organization.
19. How does discipline prove our faith? What benefits are received?
19 Faith is also put to the proof according to our reaction to discipline. We need confidence in God’s organization and the actions taken through the congregations. In order to keep the standard of pure worship high the leaven of unrighteousness must be purged out. If we are corrected for error or wrongdoing and discipline is administered, we should be grateful for the reproof. Never think, “I am right and everyone else is wrong.” Rather show faith in the organization and appreciation for the chastisement received. Perhaps a friend has been disfellowshiped. How do we show faith in the organization? We know discipline never hurts a righteously disposed person. What is important is how that individual reacts to the correction with the proper spirit. That is what counts in the sight of God and the brothers. Hebrews 12:4-13 (NW) gives much good instruction showing that we should not belittle the discipline from Jehovah nor give out when corrected by him. “It is for discipline you are enduring. God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is he that a father does not discipline?” We should certainly subject ourselves to the “Father of our spiritual life,” as his correction is for our good. “True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”
20. What attitude should we have when corrected?
20 That is actually the reason for the discipline, to bring forth the fruit of righteousness. This cannot be done if the one disciplined resists the spirit of God and the action of his organization. Should the one disciplined say, “These servants who reprimand me are not perfect; they make mistakes too,” and in such manner condemn others instead of acknowledging his own error? Or will he show real faith and in contrition accept the correction with prayer and hope that God will forgive him? Will he strive to correct his position? Will his friends show true friendship and wisdom with faith in the organization, observing the terms of the censure, or will they manifest little faith by attempting to justify his wrong course by flagrant, ill-advised association?
21. How can we keep our faith alive and strong?
21 Faith can also be tested by little things, a gentle pulling that is hardly noticeable, but dangerous. Instead of being tried by opposition, one may be smothered by worldly opportunities. Soon he finds the faith he has built up collapsing because of neglect. Perhaps he has a promotion and must spend more time at work. This means less time for meetings and service and his spiritual welfare. He is prospering materially but dying spiritually. Another man marries and expects to work with his wife in the service, only to find that he is spending long hours working at other things, first getting a car, then building a house and finally looking after his growing family. He finds little time for God’s service because he is not motivated by strong faith; he is not putting the important things first in his life. He is like the ones who, when invited to the marriage feast, said: ‘I have just taken a wife, or bought some land or cattle and therefore cannot come.’ (Luke 14:18-20) Whether we are married or single, the importance of Jehovah’s service should always be kept in mind, for by so doing we prove our devotion to Him. Moses set a good example as one who avoided the entanglements of the old-world system. He refused all the riches and pleasures of Egypt, for he counted of greater value his faithful service to God. (Heb. 11:24-26) Always remember that faith, like love, can grow cold. If we continue to manifest real love toward God, then our faith will also remain strong.
WORKS OF FAITH
22. How can we show our trust in Jehovah?
22 One with true faith will follow the course that Jesus set. The service of Jehovah and the advancing of the Kingdom interests will be the motivating interests in his life. Jesus assured us that the necessities of life would be provided by God if we faithfully serve him. While a man must work to provide things needed for his family, he need not store up for the future by building large barns and being concerned with the years to come. David pointed out that he had been young but now he was old and he had never seen Jehovah’s servants forsaken or begging for bread. Jesus showed the same point in telling us to pray: “Give us today our bread for this day.” God provides wonderfully for the lilies and bountifully for the animals, and he can do as well for us. Do we believe that? We know it is true, and therefore we can devote ourselves without fear to God’s service. If we do so we shall have the privilege of helping others to life and also shall receive God’s blessing for the service rendered. So do not be burdened down with the things of this world, but show faith and make room for the service of God.
23. Tell ways in which we can show faith.
23 You can show faith by coming regularly to meetings; and you protect your spiritual health by so doing, strengthening the weaknesses in your knowledge. Faithfulness is shown by diligently performing small assignments and by carrying out in a joyful way the responsibilities given through Jehovah’s organization. This is being faithful in what is little, and, as a result, more privileges will be added. We also show faith by not becoming discouraged when some oppose the truth we bring to them. We patiently and tactfully continue bringing the message to those who desire to hear. We can show faith by telling our friends and business acquaintances our hope. Scriptural examples show preaching was done by men of all kinds and even to those who mocked and opposed. Noah was known as a “preacher of righteousness,” although the people proved heedless to his warning message. The faith of Joseph was known to Pharaoh himself as Joseph continued to honor Jehovah in Egypt. We recall how Daniel never hid his faith or showed shame for it despite his high rank in the Babylonian government. More recently we have the example of Christ, who showed the importance of preaching by devoting himself full-time in Jehovah’s service and urging his followers to do likewise. Today Jehovah’s witnesses are known for their sincerity and zealousness in talking about the Kingdom as they make their faith known from the house-tops.—Matt. 10:27.
24, 25. What opposition do the Scriptures foretell? How is the truth spreading despite that?
24 Do you make your faith known to your friends? Are you faithful to the terms of your dedication? To the vow you made to Jehovah? Are you fulfilling the commission that Jesus gave for all Christians that this good news of the Kingdom would be preached world-wide? (Eccl. 5:4, 5; Isa. 61:1, 2; Matt. 24:14) Never let your faith diminish, even though opposed by your own family. Micah 7:6 shows that a man’s worst enemies may be those of his own household; a daughter may turn against the mother and the son against the father. Jesus went on to explain that, because of faith or the lack of faith, one would be taken along and the other abandoned at the end of this old-world system, though they had been living or working side by side. (Matt. 24:40, 41) Faith is our protection and our salvation, even though it may be put to the proof by family ties.
25 We know faith can move mountains, but do we let it move us? If some do not want to hear the truth, we need not force it on them as pearls of truth to swine, but we should let our faith be known so that those who want to can hear and learn. Then we shall be able to say in the words of Paul: “They did not fail to hear, did they? Why, in fact, ‘into all the earth their sound went out, and to the ends of the inhabited earth their words.’” (Rom. 10:18-21, NW) Again Paul declared: “Your faith is talked about throughout the whole world.” (Rom. 1:8, NW) Certainly that is true today as the thundering message of truth is proclaimed by Jehovah’s faithful witnesses in 160 countries in all parts of the earth. If we thus display our faith and make it known to others it will make glad the heart of Jehovah and we shall have the joy of leading men of good will toward life.—Zech. 8:23.
26. Is only faith necessary to salvation?
26 Some persons have the thought that they will be saved because of their faith alone, but many scriptures show that faith must be tried and tested and proved by works. It must be based on accurate knowledge and must be demonstrated to the full end. In this connection, Revelation 2:25, 26 (NW) says: “Just the same, hold fast what you have until I come. And to him that conquers and observes my deeds down to the complete end I will give authority over the nations.” Do not think that God is a sentimentalist who will compromise, change his word or make special provision for some person not showing enduring faith and love for him. God does not change his righteous requirements. Just because we have faith now, that will not save us if we permit it to grow weak and die.
27. Is “once saved always saved” true? Give scriptures.
27 Even though a person progresses in the truth and comes to the cherished relationship of sonship with God, having accurate knowledge and receiving the spirit of God, still if his faith toward God crumbles he shows himself to be no son but an outcast. He is like the son who promised to work for his father and then never did so. He proved himself faithless to his word and vow. (Matt. 21:28-31) At Hebrews 10:26 (NW), we are told: “For if we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left.” Hebrews 6:4-6 (NW) clearly says: “For it is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened and who have tasted the heavenly free gift and who have become partakers of holy spirit and who have tasted the right word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away, to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame.” Such ones had faith, they were blessed by God, only to disown their sonship and be cast off. Exercising faith and strengthening it saves one from coming to such a condition. We are now approaching the great hour of testing at Armageddon. We must show our faith by positive action one way or the other. If we are lukewarm in our devotion to Jehovah, or show lack of faith to move us to action, we shall be cast off.—Rev. 3:10, 16.
28. Why should no one be discouraged from sharing in God’s service?
28 This should not discourage those who are weak in faith or new in understanding, but it should rather spur them on to strengthen their knowledge and faith in God and to increase their service to His honor. Jesus explained that if we have faith even as tiny as a grain of mustard it can move mountains. (Matt. 17:20) Keep your binding chain of faith toward God strong by refreshing your mind constantly on his Word; keep it free and bright by constant use. Inspect it for defects and then remedy them. As Paul wrote: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.”—2 Cor. 13:5, NW.
29. What does God require of us in addition to faith?
29 If our faith is deep-rooted and founded in accurate knowledge then the little seed of faith will grow and flourish unaffected by the chill of indifference or the heat of persecution. This faith will continue growing as we cultivate it and will be richly blessed by Jehovah. Such faith is closely tied in with other qualities as shown in 2 Peter 1:5-11 (NW). We must make a painstaking effort to supply to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection and love. “For if these things exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to render the calling and choosing of you firm for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail.” Therefore be encouraged to press on in faith to Jehovah. Do not be daunted by the trials that may beset a Christian, but rely on the power and Word of God and put your trust in him.