What Is Happening to Faith?
Is materialism destroying faith? Can strong Christian faith exist today?
FAITH is not a gift that some persons receive and others do not. It is not something a person is born with, but it is a quality that must be cultivated. Men of ancient times who became famous because of their faith were not supermen. They were human just like us. They had to cultivate their strong faith as they grew in knowledge and understanding of Jehovah God. They could see his wisdom and power reflected in the things of creation, and they were familiar with how he dealt with people that lived before their day. Their own experiences with him also contributed to the building of their faith. Upon the basis of the knowledge they gained about him, they cultivated implicit trust in him.
It was faith in Jehovah that enabled Moses confidently to tell the fleeing Israelites: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and see the salvation of Jehovah, which he will perform for you today. For the Egyptians whom you do see today you will not see again, no, never again. Jehovah will himself fight for you and you yourselves will be silent.” (Ex. 14:13, 14) It took faith for him to lead two million or more people across the Red Sea and into a desert wilderness where food and water were scarce, but Moses trusted God to be with them, for he was doing as God commanded him.
Many were the men who cultivated a strong faith that enabled them to do great things to the honor of Jehovah. “What more shall I say? For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets, who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, effected righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, stayed the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful, became valiant in war, routed the armies of foreigners.” (Heb. 11:32-34) Their faith made them outstanding.
WHERE IS FAITH TODAY?
When reading the Scriptural record about the great faith shown by men of ancient times, do you wonder where such faith is today? Do you ask yourself, What has become of faith? Where are there men with the faith of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jeremiah? Look throughout the modern world and you will find little genuine faith in man’s Creator. Materialistic thinking so dominates the world that more trust is placed in man’s opinion than in God’s Word, in man’s laws than God’s laws and in man’s strength than in God’s power.
By trusting in human wisdom and military might as their protective arm the people of this generation show themselves to be without faith in the Supreme Sovereign. “This is what Jehovah has said: ‘Cursed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in earthling man and actually makes flesh his arm and whose heart turns away from Jehovah himself. And he will certainly become like a solitary tree in the desert plain and will not see when good comes.’”—Jer. 17:5, 6.
Because Jesus foreknew that the world would become filled with professed Christians who would draw near to God with their mouths but whose hearts would be far removed from him, he said: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find this faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) He cannot find it in the religions of Christendom, because they have made themselves close friends with the governments of this world. They are quick to express faith in human leaders and human schemes for peace but are slow to express trust in God’s kingdom as the only hope for mankind.
Faith in God’s kingdom and trust in his protective power can be found, however, in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. Instead of putting its trust in the arm of flesh to bring about a peaceful world, it puts its trust exclusively in Jehovah God.
If you are a dedicated Christian in the New World society, you must continually strive to cultivate a strong faith and to maintain it. Because you live in a world where faith is lacking, you cannot afford to become lax about cultivating it. You must not permit materialism to encroach upon your interests and time until your faith is weakened. At all times you need the attitude of Jesus’ followers who said to him: “Give us more faith.”—Luke 17:5.
How does your faith compare with that of Moses or of the apostle Paul? Do you have the same faith that moved Paul to endure many dangers for the sake of the ministry? “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I experienced shipwreck, a night and a day I have spent in the deep; in travels often, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from highwaymen, in dangers from my own race, in dangers from the nations, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers among false brothers, in labor and toil, in sleepless nights often, in hunger and thirst, in abstinence from food many times, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor. 11:25-27) Do you have the faith it takes to face such dangers and physical discomforts for God’s service? Is his service that important to you? If it is not, what has happened to your faith? Have you failed to continue cultivating it?
Paul maintained a strong faith in Jehovah until the day of his death, about thirty years after his becoming a Christian. He did not permit a long period of service to dampen his zeal or to weaken his trust in God. He did not hold back from giving the ministry his very best effort. Can you say that you are doing the same?
The extent to which you expend yourselves in the Christian ministry can, in a way, be a measurement of your faith. If you make little effort on your own to serve God and allow other interests to take up most of your attention and time, your faith is very weak. Your lack of enthusiasm for God’s service indicates that you do not fully trust him to do as he has promised. You need to build up your faith, cultivating it so that it will become strong. This is essential for your own survival and for winning God’s approval. “Without faith it is impossible to win his good pleasure, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
Do you hold back from giving student talks in the ministry school or from accepting a position of responsibility in the congregation because you feel a lack of ability? Did not Moses feel a lack of ability to do what God asked him to do? Did not Jeremiah feel as if he were a child when presented with the very responsible task of being God’s prophet? Yet by faith these men did what they thought they could not do. By the same faith, you can do things in the ministry that you may think you cannot do. If you refuse privileges of service, what has happened to your faith? Do you not trust God to help you by means of his spirit? “If anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent on the strength which God supplies.”—1 Pet. 4:11.
For those in the New World society there is the opportunity to devote a great amount of time to the ministry as a pioneer. Many express a desire to do this work but are reluctant to reduce their material possessions and make changes in their secular employment so they can. Is this because their faith is weak? Are they unwilling to show the faith of Paul by offering to serve God directly with most of their time as he did? They should take stock of themselves and build up their faith if this is why they hold back. If you are one who is not tied to unavoidable obligations, manifest your faith by devoting your time to God’s service as a pioneer. Cultivate the trust in God and the zeal for him that Paul had.
Men of ancient times expended themselves in God’s service because they knew that was the right thing to do. They knew that the work they did was for the good of man and for the honor of Jehovah God. Does your faith move you to do as they did? Although they did not, at the time, receive fulfillment of the divine promises for faithfulness, they will, in due time, by being resurrected from the dead. Of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob we read: “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and hailed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” (Heb. 11:13) They knew that their service to Jehovah was not in vain and that he would fulfill every promise to them. You can exercise the same trust today without disappointment. You can plan for the future “upon the basis of a hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised long ago.”—Titus 1:2.
The strong faith possessed by men of ancient times can exist today. It can be cultivated through accurate knowledge of the Scriptures, activity in the ministry and love for God. Although the world in general trusts in the arm of flesh, all in the New World society who are cultivating faith put their implicit trust in the arm of God. He is their strength, their protection and their hope, and they will not permit materialism or anything else to break down their faith in him. Like the men of ancient times, they trust in him and expend their vital energies in his service. “Blessed is the able-bodied man who puts his trust in Jehovah, and whose confidence Jehovah has become.”—Jer. 17:7.