Manifesting Faith Under Attack
“No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”—1 Cor. 10:13.
1. What questions about faith may we all ask ourselves?
HOW MUCH faith do you have? Do you have enough to carry you through when the going gets rough? Could you remain firm and still trust in Jehovah, while being deprived of the food you prefer to eat, the clothing you would like to wear, the house you love so much? Could you endure imprisonment, the loss of your health, and even your life and not lose faith in God’s promises for the future? Such “faith is not a possession of all people.” No doubt, the faithful Christian witnesses of Jehovah feel like the apostles who said to Jesus: “Give us more faith.”—2 Thess. 3:2; Luke 17:5.
2. With regard to Satan’s opposition, of what can we be certain?
2 Some may feel, ‘It will never happen to me.’ Jesus forewarned true Christians: “But before all these things people will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, you being haled before kings and governors for the sake of my name. Moreover, you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death; and you will be objects of hatred by all people because of my name.” (Luke 21:12, 16, 17) The apostles who heard these words knew that just as surely as the sun would rise the next day, this prophecy would be fulfilled on them and all of Christ’s followers. Of course, Jesus did not say that each individual Christian would have to endure every type of persecution. These things were to fall upon God’s people as a group. But regardless of the method of attack used, we can be certain that Satan will see to it that “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.”—2 Tim. 3:12.
3. Why is faith still needed today?
3 Today we have more than prophetic utterances; we have a historical record outlining persecution upon the Christian witnesses of Jehovah dating from the first century of our Common Era down to this year 1976. Students of Roman history are well acquainted with the horrible record of Christians being torn apart by wild animals while thousands of Rome’s bloodthirsty citizenry cheered from the grandstands. In this twentieth century, the pressure is still on God’s people. Why, even today the Christian work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is banned in a number of countries. Many true Christians are in prison, and some have lost their lives. In one form or another all of God’s people are being subjected to forces designed to break down their integrity. We need faith to stand firm.
4. In what way have God’s people in modern times demonstrated great faith?
4 There is no need to doubt that God’s people in our day do have the faith to meet the test. Did it not take faith for a handful of men and women around the turn of the century to break away from traditional religious thinking and denounce as false the teachings that had been followed as truth for centuries? And did it not call for faith for just a few thousand of them to respond to the call sent forth at the Cedar Point Convention in 1922: “Advertise, advertise, advertise, the King and his kingdom”? No one at that time could have foreseen the vast increases enjoyed by God’s organization today with millions now associating. And during the years of World War II when nationalism was rampant, and one who did not line up politically was viewed as a hater of mankind, who were the ones to hold faithfully to the Word of God and remain neutral? Jehovah’s Christian witnesses! From their early beginnings in the first century down throughout their modern history they have been “walking by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) Faith caused them to believe what God’s Word says, when everyone else scorned its message. This believing by the faithful ones has been rewarded. Their confidence was not in vain, and millions today now recognize this.
5. What will occur in the future that will require faith?
5 But the future still holds challenges that will require faith in order for Jehovah’s Witnesses to come off victorious in the face of Satan’s attack. Today we are on the brink of the destruction of this system of things. At this point it is not clear just how far Jehovah will permit the enemy to go in his endeavor to break down the faith of His people. Nor is it clear just what his means of salvation will be for us individually.—Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21.
FAITH NEEDED WHEN THE WAY OUT IS NOT CLEAR
6. What conditions could develop to test our faith?
6 As this “time of the end” moves rapidly to its climax, God’s people could be placed in situations where the way out is not clear. In fact, emergencies could arise in our lives so that it might seem from a human viewpoint that there is no means of escape. Some today are quite concerned about their welfare next month and next year, but things might reach a crisis where provisions for food, clothing and shelter, and our freedom and life for the next day are in question. How will we react if it seems there is no way to turn? On whom will we depend to take us through? Our faith could be put to the ultimate test.
7. Paul learned what “secret” that strengthened him?
7 From a Roman prison Paul wrote a letter to a congregation of fellow believers in Philippi. In this letter he tells about a “secret” he had learned from some twenty-five years of Christian experience. He said: “Not that I am speaking with regard to being in want, for I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to be low on provisions, I know indeed how to have an abundance. In everything and in all circumstances I have learned the secret of both how to be full and how to hunger, both how to have an abundance and how to suffer want. For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Phil. 4:11-13.
8. Through what experiences did Paul learn valuable lessons?
8 For many of Jehovah’s people, the way He provides for them in time of need is something that they have yet to experience. Regarding this secret the apostle Paul’s life gives us insight. Read, for example, Second Corinthians 4:8-11 where the apostle says we may be oppressed, perplexed, persecuted and thrown down, but never “left in the lurch . . . not destroyed.” Also read Second Corinthians 11:24-27: “By Jews I five times received forty strokes less one, 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 journeys 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.” Surely, here was a man who often had good cause to wonder how he was going to make it through to the next day. But through his Christian experience he learned lessons from which we also can benefit.
9. How can we learn the same “secret” Paul learned?
9 One who quits when the going gets rough or when the way out is not clear may never see for himself just how God strengthens and provides in time of need and makes the way out of a seemingly hopeless situation. The human reaction is to hold back unless we can see just what is going to happen. Here is where faith comes in. It is belief so strong and powerful that in the mind of the one having faith the thing undetected by human senses is a reality. He has a sure guarantee, and that guarantee is his faith. Paul defined faith in this way: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”—Heb. 11:1.
10. (a) The Israelites were faced with what obstacle in 1473 B.C.E.? (b) Yet what did God command them to do?
10 A good example of how Jehovah God expects our faith to work is found in connection with the Israelites’ moving into the Promised Land, as recorded in Joshua chapters 3 and 4. It is springtime of the year 1473 B.C.E. The Israelites are encamped on the eastern side of the Jordan River just to the north of the Salt Sea. For forty years they have been wandering in the wilderness and now at last it is God’s time for them to move in and capture from their enemies a land that rightfully belongs to them. But how are some three million men, women and children, along with animals and supplies, going to cross the Jordan at the time when melting snows and spring rain turn the Jordan into a flooding torrent? And yet Jehovah’s direction is that they march right into the river with the priests in the lead. The command is given with this assurance: “It must occur that at the instant that the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of Jehovah, the Lord of the whole earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan will be cut off, the waters descending from above, and they will stand still as one dam.”—Josh. 3:13.
11. (a) What attitude might the Israelites have taken? (b) In what way did they demonstrate faith?
11 What will the Israelites do? Will they take the attitude: ‘It is impossible to ford that raging torrent now. We should wait a few weeks until the water level goes down. We would hate to see some of our tents, animals or young ones swept downstream trying to cross under these “impossible” conditions. In the meantime, if Jehovah opens a path through the water as he did at the Red Sea, then of course we will be happy to cross over’? Let us read what happened: “And it came about that when the people pulled away from their tents just before passing over the Jordan, with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and at the instant that the carriers of the Ark came as far as the Jordan and the feet of the priests carrying the Ark were dipped in the edge of the waters (now the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), then the waters descending from above began to stand still. They rose up as one dam very far away at Adam, the city at the side of Zarethan, while those descending toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were exhausted. They were cut off, and the people passed over in front of Jericho. Meanwhile the priests carrying the ark of Jehovah’s covenant kept standing immovable on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan as all Israel were passing over on dry ground, until the whole nation had completed passing over the Jordan.”—Josh. 3:14-17.
12. The Israelites’ example teaches us what lesson?
12 What a marvelous demonstration of faith, and a good lesson for all of God’s people as they may face uncertainties in the future! If Jehovah spelled out all the details of what he is going to do and how he is going to do it, what need would there be for faith? Faith means heading in the direction God leads regardless of how impossible the course may seem from a human standpoint. Jehovah God wants to see if we have enough faith to ‘get our feet wet.’ Then, if we act in faith, we will observe how he can and will bring us through. No wonder the Bible speaks of the “tested quality of your faith.”—Jas. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:7.
NO BREAKING POINT
13. When it comes to trials, what are some questions about which we may wonder?
13 Some wonder about this: ‘I am confident that Jehovah will be faithful and back up his people, but sometimes I worry about myself and how I will react to certain trials and pressures. Will I have the strength to endure? Do I have a weak spot that can be used to bring me to the “breaking point”?’ Others may feel, ‘I can endure anything myself, but I am a parent and I could not bear to see anything happen to my children. I do not think I could endure it if they were threatened with harm.’
14. (a) Are we to undergo trials never before experienced by God’s people? How do we know? (b) What assurance does the Bible give concerning temptation?
14 With such questions in mind what an encouraging answer we have from the apostle Paul! Writing to a congregation of fellow believers he reviewed things that proved to be a downfall to many of the Israelites. At First Corinthians 10:7-10 we read: “Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and they got up to have a good time.’ Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day. Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents. Neither be murmurers, just as some of them murmured, only to perish by the destroyer.” He said that those things happened as an example to Christians, and he warned against the folly of thinking that ‘it could never happen to me.’ He then made a statement that was to prove to be one of the most encouraging, faith-strengthening thoughts in the Bible. He said: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.”—1 Cor. 10:13.
15. (a) Does Christian integrity have a ‘breaking point’? (b) How does Jehovah “make the way out”?
15 Do you know what this verse means for faithful Christians who are sincerely trying to do God’s will? If you are such a person it means that as far as your integrity to God is concerned, you do not have a ‘breaking point.’ There is no power, force, contrivance, or ‘secret weapon’ visible or invisible that can be brought to bear against you with the certainty that you will break your integrity to God. You do not have any so-called ‘weak spot’ that your adversaries can use against you with sure success. If you will go as far as your human flesh will take you in being faithful to God, then you can know for a certainty that, when you think you cannot hold out any longer in your own strength, Jehovah God will step in with his help and “make the way out.” This does not mean necessarily that he will remove the temptation. Rather, the purpose of this divine intervention will be “in order for you to be able to endure it.”
16. Faith plays what part in endurance? Illustrate.
16 This proper understanding of matters from the Scriptures will help us to have the right view of things no matter how extreme they become. For example, the parents who might have their child taken from them by persecutors will be able to endure even this, but only with God’s help. They will know they have done what they could and that, if Jehovah is going to allow such a thing to occur, they can confidently leave the matter in his hands. Who is more qualified to look after your child? You or Jehovah God and his army of angels? The situation may seem utterly hopeless, and we may not see immediately how Jehovah is going to work things out, but here is where faith and childlike trust in Jehovah must come in. We could not endure without it.—Heb. 11:6.
BE FAITHFUL IN LITTLE THINGS NOW
17. Confidence in what principle will help us to face the trials ahead?
17 God’s people are not certain what trials await them in the future, but, whatever these may be, we are confident that the principle stated by Jesus will hold true: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.”—Luke 16:10.
18. How will faithfulness “in what is least” now help us in the days ahead?
18 This being true, Jehovah’s Christian witnesses endeavor each day to handle successfully the tests of faith that come along. There are many things that may loom up as an obstacle in our daily living and in serving Jehovah, but if we successfully meet these tests “in what is least” or what is basic to Christianity, we will be strengthened to face with faith whatever the future may bring. Then let the Devil do his worst. Let him put into operation whatever schemes he may have in mind. They are nothing new. They have been met and will be met successfully by those manifesting faith under Satan’s attack.