Exercising Faith Is like Acting with a Title Deed
IF SOMEONE you did not know promised to give you a large, beautiful, productive tract of land, tax-free, would you believe him? Probably you would be very skeptical. Would it begin to appear possible if this person also happened to be the wealthiest one in the land? Would you not build up hope if you also discovered that he was a powerful ruler?
If you inquired further and found that this person had established a lifelong reputation of being absolutely trustworthy and had never lied, would you not begin to believe his promise? Then, would you not act on his offer if he actually turned over the title to this land by giving you a deed that had been searched out and was legally binding?
Certainly, at this point, you could be confident that you had actually inherited something of great value. This confidence would enable you to act on the promise, since that promise was assured by your having the deed to the property.
However, even though you had the assurance and confidence needed, you must still actually work the property, or build upon it, to have it be of use to you. Yes, acting in harmony with your confidence is what would produce benefits to you.
This illustration is similar to what is involved regarding God’s promises to humble people of earth. What does he promise? “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Ps. 37:29) Can we believe this? “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:18) Does God have it to give? “To Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it.” (Ps. 24:1) Does he have the power to fulfill this promise? “Jehovah your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the God great, mighty and fear-inspiring.” (Deut. 10:17) Does his past record show that he can be depended upon to fulfill his promise? “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.
Because of Jehovah’s authority, power and reliability, we can have an assurance, or confidence, similar to that of a person who has the title deed to property. Having faith in God’s promises because of his integrity is like having faith that we own property because of possessing a deed to it. It is an assurance that comes because Jehovah has promised it and because he has proved himself completely reliable in fulfilling his promises. This faith in God is best defined for us in the Bible at Hebrews 11:1 in these words: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for.” In the book Word Pictures in the New Testament A. T. Robertson says of this scripture: “We venture to suggest the translation ‘Faith is the title-deed of things hoped for.’” He points out that the Greek word for “assured expectation” has the meaning of what stands under anything, a contract, or a promise. See The Watchtower as of December 15, 1962, page 749, ¶5, 6.
So faith in God is more than a desire or a hope. Faith is something added to hope. It means that we are assured of what God has promised to give us or to do for us, even though we do not see it as yet; it is as good as done, even though not yet actually done. Faith is the absolute assurance that what God says is going to happen will happen.
Faith should not be confused with credulity or wishful thinking. There is a vast difference. Credulity is defined as “a disposition, arising from weakness or ignorance, to believe too readily, especially impossible or absurd things.” To be credulous is to be “easily deceived; gullible.”
Much of what passes for faith in the world today is not true faith, but is credulity. Many, without carefully observing and studying God’s ways, jump to hasty conclusions that often are greatly out of harmony with the spirit of divine truth. Acting and teaching according to such credulity dishonors God and brings great reproach upon his name. Many times credulous ones claim to have the strongest “faith.” But what they feel so strongly about often is what God did not say, and they frequently have no inclination to hear or heed what God did say.
An example of credulity was Adam’s wife, Eve. She believed the serpent in Eden even though she had no evidence that what he spoke was the truth. The outcome was that she “was thoroughly deceived” and lost her life. (1 Tim. 2:14) Millions of people today believe articles of religious faith that are not based on truth. Such credulity will lead to disappointment and even death, as in the case of Eve.
FIRMLY GROUNDED ON EVIDENCE
True faith in God is firmly grounded on evidence and authority. It is the reasonable conclusion derived from examining the facts. These facts that form the basis of evidence come from two sources. One is from what God has created and the other is from what he has revealed.
Reasoning on the established principles of cause and effect, we see in the entire realm of nature the evidences of a Creator. The order and harmony of very small things, such as atoms, as well as the order and harmony of very large things, such as the entire universe, show the intelligent handiwork of a super mind. As Romans 1:20 says: “For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made.” So undeniable is the evidence of an intelligent Creator furnished by nature that the Scriptures state: “The senseless one has said in his heart: ‘There is no Jehovah.’”—Ps. 14:1.
There is much more that serves as a sound basis for our faith. It is the written revelation of God, his Word, the Bible. Such absolute truth that we need as the solid evidence for our faith is found in the Bible. Its internal harmony, the fulfillment of its prophecies, and the corroboration, by historians, archaeologists and others, of the facts it contains, stamp it as being of divine origin and absolutely true as a basis for our faith. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, confirmed this basis for our faith by saying: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) All that God expects us to believe beyond what he has provided in nature is in his Word. In it he has given us a firm foundation of facts so we can reason on them and form a firm conviction that the things unseen, and as yet not realized, are assured.
PUTTING FAITH INTO ACTION
Scoffers will contend that they must first see God’s promises come true, then they will believe them. But there is nothing more common or necessary, even in the course of everyday living, than faith. It is exercised by our reliance and dependence on things as yet unseen. Does the farmer actually see next season’s harvest when he plants the seed? Why does he labor continually for what he does not see? All he has is the seed. How does he know it will grow into a plant? The farmer knows because he has reasoned that the sun that was shining yesterday will shine again, that the rain of yesterday will come again, and that vegetation will still be true to the laws of growth. Faith in the future harvest is based on sound evidence. It is based on the reliability of natural laws that have proved dependable for centuries. Therefore, faith that the harvest will be realized is justified and the farmer acts on this faith, this assurance, by commencing his work. How foolish it would be for him to refuse to plant the seed because of fear that the sun will never shine again, or that it will never rain again, or that the seed will refuse to grow!
Similarly, as we become acquainted with Jehovah and study his works in nature and especially his written revelation, the Bible, we will begin to cultivate confidence in his promises for the future. As the farmer confidently anticipates autumn harvest, and plows, sows, cultivates and waters before he ever sees it, so we should act in harmony with the confidence we have in God’s promises being fulfilled in due season before we actually see them fulfilled.
By learning of God’s characteristics, we will not have difficulty in exercising, or putting into action, the faith we have in his promises, just as we would not have difficulty in acting with the assurance we would have if we held a title deed to property. Many in times past have put their faith into action because of their confidence in Jehovah. The apostle Paul refers to some of these when he mentions that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and many prophets had faith in God’s promises and acted upon that faith. As a result, they were able to defeat kingdoms, stop the mouths of lions, stay the force of fire, receive dead ones back to life, suffer persecution and deprivation, yes, even die, because they had the assured expectation of a resurrection from the dead to life in God’s new world. So many were these men and women of faith that Paul refers to them as a great “cloud.”—Heb. 11:1–12:1.
When God says that a flood is coming and tells man to build an ark for safety, the reasonable course, based on past experience with God and his word, is to have faith in his word and then act upon it by building an ark, even though the flood may be years away. Faithful Noah “did just so.” (Gen. 6:22) When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, it was reasonable for Abraham to act in harmony with the faith he had in God and let God care for the fulfillment of the promises made concerning this son. (Gen. 22:1-12) When God commanded Lot to flee out of Sodom to avoid impending disaster, it was reasonable for Lot to believe it and hurry out, even though it may have appeared to be a nice day.—Gen. 19:12-25.
These were all commendable acts of simple, childlike faith. But please note that in each case there were absolute grounds for that faith. There was a clear command from God. No foolish imagination or whim was the basis for this faith. Noah would have been foolish to build an ark and warn the people for so many years if he had only imagined a flood was coming. Abraham would have been guilty of a criminal act in attempting to offer up Isaac if he just imagined that God wanted him to do so. Lot would have been very simple-minded to run away from Sodom on a bright morning and declare the city about to be destroyed if he had no positive information about it. But in each case God gave clear evidence of his will. So today, we have clear evidence of God’s will in his Word. Also, we have this evidence strengthened by observing the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.
OBTAINING TRUE FAITH
How can we obtain this true faith, this “assured expectation,” like the assurance that comes by having a title deed to property? First of all, we must have the right heart attitude. We must be humble and we must want to cultivate faith. If we are proud and try to be independent of God, he will not bless our efforts. Next, we must acquire knowledge from the Bible to provide us with the evidence that will assure us of God’s ability to back up his word. As Romans 10:17 states: “Faith follows the thing heard,” which is the knowledge contained in God’s Word. Then we will want to associate with God’s people so we can be built up spiritually by them. Meeting with other more mature Christians will help us to understand what we study. An example of this is found at Acts, chapter 8, where the Ethiopian eunuch received assistance from the evangelizer Philip. Finally, we must continually pray for God’s holy spirit to aid us.—1 Cor. 2:9, 10.
Faith, then, is reasonable. Acting upon it is also reasonable. God, through the natural and written revelation of himself, appeals to the highest faculty of humans, our reason, and asks us to act upon the proper conclusions that result from the study of his works, words and ways.
True faith, this “assured expectation,” is necessary, because “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
Acting on that faith is also necessary, because, as the Bible writer James stated, “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” Thus, one who exercises faith acts as one does who has a title deed to property.—Jas. 2:17.
In the very near future, those who properly exercise this faith will actually take possession of what Jehovah now promises. On a beautiful, productive, tax-free earth, “they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken it.”—Mic. 4:4.