Safeguarded by Faith and Hope
“[Christ] was made manifest . . . so that your faith and hope might be in God.”—1 Pet. 1:20, 21.
1. How does the question as to whether this life is all there is affect people?
IS THIS life all there is? That question affects everyone alive today. It is a question that perplexes many people, and the answer that a person accepts deeply influences his life. Every year tens of thousands of persons find that the right answer brings them true joy and gives purposeful direction to their life. On the other hand, because of accepting wrong answers, millions upon millions of persons are being exploited and are leading lives that result in very little satisfaction.
2. Why is the evolutionist’s view of life not satisfying?
2 Consider the evolutionist. To him, this life is all there is. But what does that leave him? Evolution cannot explain why world conditions are worsening nor can it give him solutions for the problems of life that he must face. And he has no hope for the future. Evolution holds before him as an individual only the eventual prospect of being dead forever.
3, 4. What shows that many professedly religious people have no real faith and hope?
3 What about the members of religious organizations that do not teach God’s Word or, at best, only make a pretense of doing so? Are they any better off? Do they have real faith and a well-founded hope? As you know, many professedly religious people today are as materialistic as those who claim no religion. They live only for the present, struggling to make a living, to get comfortably situated materially. To attain their goal, they may sacrifice principle, disregard the welfare of fellowmen and, as a result, suffer the pangs of a disturbed conscience. Many members of these organizations do not really believe what their religion teaches. But they go along with tradition, not wanting to be different from their neighbors. They may even pay out hard-earned money for ceremonies that are part of the religion, but that they do not believe to have any real value.
4 But what if a person is not like that? What if he really does believe in his religion and molds his hopes in harmony with it? Nevertheless, of what benefit is it if he has not been taught the truth? Unknowingly, he is building his whole life around falsehoods, and this is bound to lead to disappointment.
5. What is the situation of those whose faith and hope are solidly based on the Bible?
5 Only the truth, as contained in the Word of God, can lastingly benefit mankind. That Word provides the basis for genuine faith. (Compare Romans 10:5-15.) It does not encourage gullibility, a readiness to believe even when evidence is lacking. Instead, it sets out ample evidence as a basis for one’s faith. As a result, genuine Christians know that Jehovah is the true God, that the Bible is his Word, and that hope based on his promises will never come to disappointment. (Josh. 21:45) They are convinced that, just as he has promised, God will soon destroy the present wicked system and transform this earth into a lovely paradise. (Rev. 11:18; 21:3, 4) They firmly believe that under his kingdom he will, by means of his Son, restore the dead to life and aid obedient ones to attain to perfection. (John 5:26-29) They are persuaded that even now God cares for his servants. (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) It is this conviction, based on God’s Word, that safeguards devoted servants of Jehovah against the frustrations of a life from which faith and hope are missing.
SAFEGUARDED AGAINST MATERIALISM
6. Why, as illustrated in the case of Asaph, should devoted servants of Jehovah not take their faith and hope for granted?
6 Yet even though true Christians have such faith and hope, they cannot allow themselves to lose sight of the fact that, if they are careless, the world’s materialistic view can infect them. Their faith can weaken and their hope can grow dim. This is what happened to a man named Asaph who lived many centuries ago. He found that his attitude about the prosperity of the wicked had deprived him of joy. Regarding his feelings, Asaph wrote:
“As for me, my feet had almost turned aside, my steps had nearly been made to slip. For I became envious of the boasters, when I would see the very peace of wicked people. For they have no deathly pangs; and their paunch is fat. They are not even in the trouble of mortal man, and they are not plagued the same as other men. Therefore haughtiness has served as a necklace to them; violence envelops them as a garment. Their eye has bulged from fatness; they have exceeded the imaginations of the heart. They scoff and speak about what is bad; about defrauding they speak in an elevated style. They have put their mouth in the very heavens, and their tongue itself walks about in the earth. And they have said: ‘How has God come to know? And does there exist knowledge in the Most High?’ Look! These are the wicked, who are at ease indefinitely. They have increased their means of maintenance. Surely it is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself.”—Ps. 73:2-9, 11-13.
7, 8. (a) What was wrong with Asaph’s thinking? (b) What is the real source of happiness?
7 Asaph’s reasoning was dangerous. He had lost sight of the fact that genuine happiness and contentment do not come through material prosperity alone. He was actually thinking like those who were not serving Jehovah God. As he himself said, “These are the wicked.”—Ps. 73:12.
8 The wrongness of Asaph’s thinking is further emphasized in Psalm 144. In this psalm David has the wicked express the following thoughts: “Our sons are like little plants grown up in their youth, our daughters like corners carved in palace style, our garners full, furnishing products of one sort after another, our flocks multiplying by thousands, ten thousand to one, in our streets, our cattle loaded down, without any rupture and with no abortion, and with no outcry in our public squares. Happy is the people for whom it is just like that!” So it would seem. But is material prosperity alone the source of happiness? No, in itself it can leave life empty and meaningless. Genuine happiness lies elsewhere. In the latter part of Ps 144 verse 15 David indicates a change to another speaker; there David rightly points to what makes for true happiness, saying, “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!” (Ps. 144:12-15) Is that the way you view life? Certainly, a fine relationship with the Creator brings true happiness.
9. (a) What prevented Asaph from being completely stumbled by wrong thinking? (b) How did he come to feel about his relationship with Jehovah?
9 Although Asaph had nearly been caused to stumble due to his failure to appreciate this all-important relationship, he succeeded in recovering himself. He, like the psalmist David, came to see that a fine relationship with Jehovah God meant more than anything else. How did this change in Asaph’s outlook come about? Realizing that his thinking was wrong, Asaph went to the sanctuary. There, among the congregation of Jehovah’s people, he began to discern that the seeming prosperity of the wicked is only short-lived, whereas a good relationship with God leads to permanent blessings, including material ones. (Ps. 73:15-22; 72:16) Out of the abundance of an appreciative heart, Asaph then expressed himself to God in the words found at Psalm 73:23-28:
“I am constantly with you; you have taken hold of my right hand. With your counsel you will lead me, and afterward you will take me even to glory. Whom do I have in the heavens? And besides you I do have no other delight on the earth. My organism and my heart have failed. God is the rock of my heart and my share to time indefinite. For, look! the very ones keeping away from you will perish. You will certainly silence every one immorally leaving you. But as for me, the drawing near to God is good for me. In the Sovereign Lord Jehovah I have placed my refuge, to declare all your works.”
10. What should be a Christian’s view of material possessions, and how will this right view prevent him from losing God’s favor?
10 If you are a dedicated Christian, is this the way you feel about your relationship with Jehovah God? All of us should. But could it be that some have allowed the materialistic thinking of the world to mold their viewpoint? While professing to serve God, are they really putting the acquiring of material things first in life? Such a course would surely be damaging to their relationship with the One on whom their life depends. Jesus Christ truthfully said: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Under inspiration the apostle John wrote: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) True, the world’s economic situation is shaky; it can be difficult to provide for one’s family. But if we have faith and hope that are centered in Jehovah, we will be safeguarded against any temptation to relegate our service to God to a secondary place in life. Regardless of what conditions develop, we will be able to face the future with full confidence, knowing that God cares for his faithful servants. His promise is: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.”—Heb. 13:5; Matt. 6:25-34.
PROTECTED FROM DIRECT DEMON INFLUENCE
11. What did King Saul resort to in an attempt to get to know the future?
11 People of the world, lacking such faith, often seek guidance from sources that only worsen their situation. That is what King Saul of ancient Israel did. Because of having sinned against Jehovah, Saul was cut off from all divine communication. As he put it, “God himself has departed from me and has answered me no more, either by means of the prophets or by dreams.” About to face the Philistines in battle, Saul desperately wanted some direction about what he should do. (1 Sam. 28:15) So, instead of humbly begging Jehovah God for forgiveness, he turned to spiritism for help. Contrary to the Law that he as an Israelite was under obligation to obey, he consulted a spirit medium.—Lev. 19:31; 20:6; 1 Sam. 28:8.
12. Did Saul’s consulting a spirit medium bring him the comfort and direction that he wanted, and why was that the case?
12 But did Saul’s action give him the comfort and direction that he desired? Not in the least. He received a gloomy message. As to the effect that this had on him, the Bible record tells us: “Saul quickly fell down his full length to the earth and became very much afraid.” (1 Sam. 28:20) He certainly did not improve his situation by what he did. Though he had told the spirit medium that he wanted to speak with Samuel the prophet, Saul knew that Samuel was dead, unable to speak. The fact that God’s law condemned talking with the dead as something detestable should have made Saul realize that seeming communication with the dead through spirit mediums was a fraudulent deception perpetrated by wicked spirit forces.—Deut. 18:10-12.
13. Why may one’s knowing what the Bible says not prevent one from falling into the trap that King Saul did?
13 A person may know what the Bible says about such matters. Nevertheless, the great amount of publicity given to occult practices may cause him to become curious. He may hear about someone who reportedly can predict the future accurately. Or he may come to know about the various means of divination used—Ouija boards, ESP, astrology, crystal-ball gazing and the like. His fascination may become so great that he may want to find out firsthand whether such things really work. He might be willing to ‘try anything once.’
14. What can happen to those who dabble in the occult?
14 Is that wise? Definitely not. His curiosity can lead to his coming under demon harassment. Supernatural disturbances may rob him of sleep and fill even daylight hours with dread. He may begin to hear strange voices, suggesting that he kill himself or someone else. This is no mere supposition. Case histories prove that this has actually happened.
15, 16. How does Jehovah view occult practices?
15 If we truly have faith in God’s Word, we will not allow any undue curiosity about occult practices to build up in our minds, and this will be a safeguard. Jehovah God does not view this matter lightly. To protect the Israelites from being deceived and harmed by wicked spirits, he made the practice of divination an offense worthy of death. God’s Word said: “You must not preserve a sorceress alive.” (Ex. 22:18) “As for a man or woman in whom there proves to be a mediumistic spirit or spirit of prediction, they should be put to death without fail.”—Lev. 20:27.
16 Has Jehovah’s view of spirit mediums, sorcerers and diviners changed? Not at all! A decree from God still stands against all who persist in the practice of spiritism. Revelation 21:8 lists them among those meriting the judgment of “second death.” That means eternal death from which recovery is impossible. So, if any persons who have dabbled in this sort of thing want to do the will of God, now is the time to clean it out of their lives.
17. What should those seeking God’s approval do with items associated with the occult?
17 As to any items closely associated with spiritistic practices, make sure that none of such things are in your home. Imitate the example of those who accepted true worship in Ephesus, of whom Acts 19:19 reports: “Quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody.” Expensive as these items were, the Ephesians who embraced Christianity did not hold back from destroying them.
18. What does the situation in Christendom regarding occultism reveal about the failure of her religious leaders?
18 The current upsurge of interest in occult practices in the midst of Christendom certainly points up the failure of her religious leaders. Even so-called educated people consult fortune-tellers, dabble in astrology, carry “lucky” charms or, in some parts of the earth, seek cures from medicine men who invoke false gods. It would come as a great surprise to most of these persons to learn that the Bible condemns what they are doing. They have not been told what God’s Word says. Their clergymen have failed to teach them these things and have therefore left them open to demonic assault.
SAFEGUARDED AGAINST SUCCUMBING TO THE FEAR OF DEATH
19. According to Hebrews 2:14, 15, what powerful means has Satan used to control people?
19 Besides demon possession and harassment, another powerful device that Satan has used to control humankind is the fear of death. Consider what Hebrews 2:14, 15 says about this. Here Jesus Christ is referred to as the one who is in a position to “bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil.” We are also told that Jesus can “emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.”
20. Illustrate how Satan has used fear of violent death to hold people in slavery.
20 There can be no question that humans generally fear having their life cut off prematurely by violent means. This is the kind of death referred to in this scripture, and Satan the Devil has exploited fear of such death to the full. He uses this fear to maneuver humans into doing his bidding. Events of this century well illustrate this. For example, in Nazi Germany many people were afraid of the consequences of not doing what their superiors demanded. These people feared the possibility of being executed. So they went against the dictates of their conscience and committed dastardly crimes against humanity.
21, 22. What liberates Jehovah’s devoted servants from being unduly fearful about having their life taken by violent means?
21 Our God-given faith and hope, however, can safeguard us from becoming so fearful that we back down from what we know is right, and thereby ruin our conscience and lose divine favor. We need not fear unduly, because we know that Jehovah loves us, that our lives are precious to him. Note the comforting words of Jesus Christ: “My friends, Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. But I will indicate to you whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One. Five sparrows sell for two coins of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them goes forgotten before God. But even the hairs of your heads are all numbered. Have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows.”—Luke 12:4-7.
22 True men can kill the body. But they cannot destroy the soul everlastingly. (Matt. 10:28) And what is the “soul” in this case? It is the person’s God-given title to be a living being. Men cannot blot the person out of God’s provision and so make it impossible for him to live again. So any who refuse to yield to the fear of death and who maintain integrity, even when their lives are taken, continue living according to God’s viewpoint. Jehovah will safeguard their title to life. He will not forget a single detail about them. He remembers their personality, their mental growth and experience in life. And he will restore such in the resurrection.—2 Cor. 1:8, 9.
23. How can faith and hope strengthen us when confronted with the threat of death?
23 Faith in God’s promise of a resurrection can strengthen us to do what is right even if that might mean death for us. That faith enables us to appreciate that the eternal life to be enjoyed upon our being raised from the dead is far more precious than a few years of life now. It safeguards us against jeopardizing our opportunities to gain that everlasting life. That is what faith did for men of ancient times; of them the Bible book of Hebrews reports: “[They] were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom [some compromise of what is right], in order that they might attain a better resurrection.”—Heb. 11:35.
24. What did faith enable Jesus Christ to endure?
24 It was unshakable faith in Jehovah’s ability to resurrect and reward him that also enabled Jesus Christ to maintain perfect integrity. Think of what he endured. He was reviled, slapped, hit with fists, spit upon, scourged and, finally, nailed to a stake, to die like the worst kind of criminal. Yet never did Jesus Christ waver. He did not lose sight of the reward. What a faith-strengthening example he set for us! As Hebrews 12:2, 3 puts it: “For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”
25. What benefits come from living in harmony with the truth that this life is not all there is?
25 Indeed, this life is not all there is. Living in harmony with that fact results in our avoiding the vain, empty life of materialistic people. Not even the possibility of death can dim our joy in living now and cause us to view the future with despair and uncertainty. Thanks be to God for making it possible for sincere truth seekers to have a solid hope and a firm faith!
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Asaph’s envy of the prosperity of the wicked ones robbed him of joy—until he realized that only a good relationship with God leads to permanent blessings