The Faith That Pleases God
“The tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:7.
1, 2, (a) How is it true that faith takes many forms? (b) What did Jesus mean when he spoke of “the faith”?
WHETHER person is religiously inclined or not, everyone puts his faith in something. He may not believe in God, but he will believe in himself, the security of his bank account, the value of education, the superiority of a certain form of government, the integrity of a friend. So faith takes on many forms. But it was to man’s relationship to his Creator and his confidence in the outworking of God’s purposes that Jesus referred when he said: “Nevertheless, when the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:8.
2 What is “the faith” that Jesus referred to, and why is it so important to each one of us? Obviously Jesus was not referring to many different ideologies or even to what man might accomplish of his own will when he spoke of “the faith.” Rather he was referring to God and confidence in what He would do for the blessing of mankind, saying: “Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily.” (Luke 18:7, 8) However, Jesus did not indicate that God was going to use many channels or promote variant ideologies in dealing with mankind, each one to please the taste of some, when he spoke of “the faith.”
3. How is early Christianity described, and what viewpoint did the disciples have regarding it?
3 Similarly the apostles indicated that there was a faith and a way that was pleasing to God. Concerning Paul’s ministry in Ephesus the account at Acts 19:9 states: “Some went on hardening themselves and not believing, speaking injuriously about The Way before the multitude.” Here the true faith was called “The Way,” and, indeed, it was a way of life for those early Christians. Even when on trial Paul boldly admitted “that, according to the way that they call a ‘sect,’ in this manner I am rendering sacred service to the God of my forefathers.” These early Christians did not each one go his own way or follow his own line of thought, but endeavored to understand and follow closely the teachings of Christ and to gain insight into the mind of God, that their faith might have a solid base. As Paul wrote, “Now may the God who supplies endurance and comfort grant you to have among yourselves the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Each one was not teaching a different philosophy, creed or belief, but they were in “one accord” and, in fact, believed in “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all persons.”—Acts 24:14; Rom. 15:5, 6; Eph. 4:5, 6.
4. What should be our goal, and why?
4 Can we have that “one faith” today? If you feel that your religious conviction is that one original faith, can you back it up with Scripture? Do you know it well enough to impart it to others, making disciples of people of all nations as the early Christians did? This should be the goal of everyone who truly follows in the footsteps of Jesus. Regardless of a person’s belief, it is good to know exactly what one’s religion teaches and the basis for it.
“SOLID IN THE FAITH”
5, 6. (a) How did Jesus describe a person with true faith as compared with one lacking it? (b) How can we make our faith firm?
5 Our faith should be solid like a rock-mass that sinks deep into the earth and cannot be moved regardless of the forces pushing against it. But some have faith that is more like sandy soil that gives or shifts under pressure or even washes away completely when the rains pour down. Still others are so devoid of substance to their faith that it is like quicksand that not only is completely lacking in support but also will envelop and destroy anyone trusting in it.—Matt. 7:24-27.
6 Faith, to be like a rock-mass, must be based on truth. It must be clearly defined in one’s mind, solidly established on accurate knowledge and facts. Such a faith will stand up to questions and opposing viewpoints. Our faith should be a God-given faith. But how can we be sure? As 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” Yes, we have to keep testing and examining our faith: Is it logical, is it reasonable, does it harmonize with the book of faith, the Bible?
7, 8. Why have some persons lost faith? (b) What is necessary for faith?
7 Many have found their faith to be like the sandy soil that gave out on them under stress, having been built on traditions. human philosophies, not on the rocklike foundation of truth. This was the case of a woman who lost faith in the value of prayer and refused to teach her children to pray, because she had been taught to pray for the wrong thing, and when her prayers were not answered her faith was destroyed. She had built it on sandy soil. The individual she prayed for was violating God’s righteous commandments, yet she thought God should miraculously protect him. She was encouraged in this belief by her religious adviser, but her faith was sadly misplaced.
8 Even a rocklike faith may be shattered in time if it is not constantly built up, reinforced and strengthened; so it is no surprise if the uncertain beliefs of some youths are eroded when subject to attack. As Time magazine reported: “The objectivity of the religious courses sometimes startles students, who frequently sign up to have their faith reinforced, not scrutinized.” No wonder they are startled when the theologian commences his course by an attack on the basis for their faith, saying: “The Bible is the greatest collection of mythology in the history of Western civilization.” Certainly the faith of such students will never be built up by those who lack it, those casting doubts on God’s Word. Rather, as Romans 10:17 tells us, “faith follows the thing heard. In turn the thing heard is through the word about Christ.” So, to reinforce and strengthen one’s faith, hearing the Word of God with understanding is required.—Jas. 1:5-8; Neh. 8:8.
9. Describe true faith and why it is so important.
9 The true faith directs us toward God and strengthens us for his service. True faith is not just a passive belief now any more than it was for Jesus and his apostles. It requires a solid foundation and real effort to build it up through proper study and associations. It is vitally important for each Christian to build up his faith, because it governs his course in life and, in fact, his relationship to his Creator. As Paul wrote: “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus.” Again, Paul declared: “The life that I now live in flesh I live by the faith that is toward the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me.” Does your faith mean that much in your life?—Gal. 3:26; 2:20; 2 Thess. 1:3.
10. How can attacks against faith be thwarted?
10 If one knows he is weak in faith, it is vital to work to build it up. Those whose faith is weak are likely objects for attack, for as Peter warned, “Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” To ward off such Satanic attacks, Peter urges: “Take your stand against him, solid in the faith.” If you do, then “the God of all undeserved kindness . . . will himself finish your training, he will make you firm, he will make you strong.” (1 Pet. 5:8-10; Eph. 6:16) How does this strengthening take place? In Galatians chapter three Paul shows that by exercising faith the individual receives the backing of Jehovah’s holy spirit when under attack. The fact that training and exercising are mentioned in connection with faith shows need for an effort on our part to build it up. Earnestly seeking such faith leads one to a righteous standing with God; in fact, God assures us that he declares the “people of the nations righteous due to faith.”—Gal. 3:5, 6, 8, 22.
11. Why should we not despair of pleasing God?
11 Do you think you could never live up to God’s righteous requirements or share your faith with others as Jesus did? God does not ask us to do the impossible, but with the backing of his spirit these are things we can do. As Jesus said, “That expression, ‘If you can’! Why, all things can be to one if one has faith.” (Mark 9:23) To be pleasing to God our faith must be unwavering. As Hebrews 10:38 tells us, “‘My righteous one will live by reason of faith,’ and, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’” Instead of shrinking back, we want to move ahead, to live in faith and to exercise our faith daily by sharing it with others.
THE GOD OF TRUE FAITH
12. Why is not just any kind of belief pleasing to God?
12 However, again the matter of the right faith comes into the picture if we want Jehovah to have pleasure in us. Many people believe in some kind of deity, and Paul recognized that, as recorded at 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6, “there are those who are called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords.’” But he emphasized, “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.” So just believing in any god would not be pleasing to the true God, Jehovah. He tells us that he becomes “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) But if we doggedly persist in looking for him in the wrong place or with the wrong concept we will not find him any more than if we look for a friend on the wrong street. Similarly, persons who put faith in man and deny the power and invisible qualities of God as seen through His creation will not find Him or have the faith pleasing to Him. Even religious people who put their faith in images, including those, please note, of imperfect or “corruptible man,” “even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created,” are not pleasing to God. (Rom. 1:20-25) So, obviously, what is pleasing to God is faith in the right thing, the right kind of faith, faith based on God’s Word and a knowledge of the Almighty as a personal and intelligent Being.—Rev. 22:8, 9.
13. On what should true faith be based, and what basis do we have for it?
13 True faith must be based on a knowledge of the Creator. After contrasting false beliefs with the true, Moses declared: “You well know that Jehovah your God is the true God, the faithful God, keeping covenant and loving-kindness in the case of those who love him and those who keep his commandments to a thousand generations.” (Deut. 7:9) Can you say that “you well know that Jehovah your God is the true God, the faithful God”? What is the evidence, both from the world around us and from the Bible, regarding the existence of God? True, we cannot see him, for God is spirit and invisible to us, but this is no reason to believe he is nonexistent. Rather, as Paul said at Romans 1:20, “his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Heb. 11:27) We know that man did not make the universe, nor does he have the power to do so, and it is illogical to assume that it just came about without intelligent creative force in view of the intricate nature of all matter, animate and inanimate.
14. Why is God’s invisibility no reason for disbelief?
14 Many things that are quite real to us are invisible yet have power to bring about audible or visible effects; for example, gravity, air, radio waves, even some light waves that are invisible to the human eye and yet make stones glow in the dark. We believe in these things we cannot see because we know the results they bring about. We may not see the strong wind that blows us about on a windy day, but we feel it. We may not see the powerful hand of gravity pulling us to the earth, but we feel its power when we plunge off a ladder, hitting hard on the ground. We see no lines tying in our radio or TV set to a transmitter many miles away, yet the invisible signal comes through the air and we hear or see the resulting program. Surely God is not less powerful or wonderful than his creation nor is there less reason to believe in his reality than in these other things that we recognize to be realities.
15. How do we know that Genesis 1:1 is true?
15 The fact that radioactive elements in the rocks decay at a steady, measurable rate over thousands of years shows the passing of time and that the material had a beginning. Otherwise the radioactivity would finally have been exhausted. So the question arises, How and when did creative activity begin? Information such as this serves to strengthen our faith in the Creator and in the Bible account of a beginning to his creative works.—Gen. 1:1.
16. How do men’s efforts compare with God’s?
16 Again we might ask, Where did plants, trees, and finally man, get their life? Not from men, who cannot artificially reproduce even the simplest forms of microscopic life, nor could it have started spontaneously with creatures lower than man, with even less intellect, when modern scientists with the latest equipment at their command cannot artificially reproduce the most simple living organism. As Thomas A. Edison, the great inventor, is reported to have said, “Until man duplicates a single plant, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge.” No efforts of man have come close to the creative wisdom of Jehovah. So the Scriptures testify that God’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen . . . because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”—Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1; 100:3.
17. What did a French lecturer say about philosophies that ignore God?
17 No wonder Professor Tresmontant, lecturer on the philosophy of science at the Sorbonne in Paris, stated: “Those who find no place for God in their philosophy must be prepared to affirm that mindless, inanimate matter has been able to organize itself, to become animated, and to endow itself with consciousness and thought . . . Matter must be credited with all the attributes that theologians specify as belonging to God, including supreme intelligence, creative power and eternal, autonomous existence . . . Even if by the great act of faith you accept the theory that the first large molecule was created by a chance collision of the right atoms under the right circumstances . . . The operations of chance would have to be brought in again at each stage to account for the development of each new organ . . . If you go on attributing to chance results that in fact are radically contradictory to the laws of probability, you find that you are in effect spelling chance with a capital letter, and using it as a synonym for God.”
WORLD TROUBLES NO REASON TO LOSE FAITH
18. What reasons do the Scriptures give for present world distress?
18 An argument sometimes raised by those who deny the existence of God is that if God is so powerful and really does exist, why does not he do something to straighten out world conditions and alleviate our sufferings? Such skeptics are not usually persons who are really concerned about the Creator or interested in serving him, but rather they want a basis on which to divorce themselves from faith and its requirements. It is not that they are interested in God’s purpose or where they fit in the stream of time, but rather in the results to themselves. Actually their question is well answered in the Scriptures, which reveal that it is not God, but his agelong opposer Satan who is causing the misery and distress from which people suffer, while God is doing something and those who serve him are doing something, pointing men to the only real remedy for the situation, God’s Kingdom government. (Rev. 12:12; 1 John 5:19) God has permitted Satan to continue exercising power in the earth in order to demonstrate His power and justice and permit His name to be declared while a great crowd of faithful persons are gathered to the side of His kingdom. Rather than God’s being the source of the troubles on the earth today, Moses declared: “They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not his children, the defect is their own. A generation crooked and twisted!”—Deut. 32:4, 5.
19. Why should we be happy over God’s patience?
19 Fortunately for us, God has kindly allowed time to settle permanently the challenge raised by Satan, while giving us the opportunity to show faith in him and to serve him. “What shall we say, then? Is there injustice with God? Never may that become so!” Instead, we are reminded, “If, now, God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, . . . ” then certainly we should be happy that he has given us this opportunity of knowing the truth and serving him, rather than get upset that he has not wiped out the present system along with many good-hearted persons who may yet learn the way to life.—Rom. 9:14, 22, 23.
20. How will Jehovah’s kingdom magnify his name?
20 So one who bases his faith on the Bible and knows it well could answer the question by saying that God has permitted the continuation of wickedness for several reasons. He has given plenty of time for his Adversary to marshal all the degenerates in heaven and earth in opposition to His righteous purposes, and then He will show His power, not only at Armageddon when the earth is cleansed of wickedness to make way for the Kingdom rule, but finally at the end of the 1,000-year rule of Christ when wickedness is finally stamped out forever according to Jehovah’s great purpose. (Rev. 20:7-10) By following this course of long-suffering and patience despite the reproach that God-dishonoring people have brought against him, Jehovah will magnify his name through the operation of his kingdom.—Mal. 3:14-18.
21. How do the Scriptures give us the right viewpoint to avoid Satan’s trap?
21 The day-by-day passage of time that may seem slow to men and make us impatient for a quick change in conditions is as nothing to our God who is without beginning or end. Yet the time that he has set for the accomplishment of his righteous purpose toward the earth is scheduled to run out within the coming few years of this generation. So we do not want to fall now at this late date in man’s history into Satan’s trap of unbelief and lack of faith.—Matt. 24:34; Ps. 92:7; Eccl. 8:11-13.
BUILDING FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD
22. (a) How can one show that he is earnestly seeking God? (b) How can one demonstrate the reality of one’s faith?
22 If you are among those “earnestly seeking” God, then you will want to keep strengthening your faith by study and association with Jehovah’s witnesses, who are today truly exercising faith by bringing the good news of God’s kingdom to others. If you feel you have need to strengthen your faith lest you or your family be among the sad ones whose faith cools off and who have nothing to replace it, then “continue applying yourself” to taking in knowledge and sharing it with others, “for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” (1 Tim. 4:13-16; 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:15) The true faith is not some intangible, unexplainable feeling, for Hebrews 11:1 shows that faith is tied in with realities, not unrealities. What one does about his faith gives a demonstration of the reality of his faith to others, convincing them that his belief in God and his purposes is an assured expectation.
23. To what can the faith that pleases God be likened?
23 So instead of putting your faith in financial resources that may quickly be wiped out, or in friends who may prove to be short-lived or of the fair-weather type, or even in a government whose administration may change when one least expects it, put your faith in the one who can help you, the one who has power of life or death. Let your faith be as solid as David’s was when Jehovah delivered him out of the hand of his enemy Saul. He beautifully expressed it in 2 Samuel 22, verse three of which says: “My God is my rock. I shall take refuge in him.” Let your faith be of tested quality, purified like fine gold, but of greater value before Jehovah. (1 Pet. 1:7) Let it be not like an uncontrolled, windblown wave of the sea, but like a ship under control, now anchored securely against a storm, now moving forward surely on course under the propelling force of God’s spirit. (Jas. 1:6, 7) Be sure you have “the faith” that Jesus spoke of, that you are following “The Way” as the apostles did, and that yours is the faith that pleases God.—1 John 5:4.
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