The Tested Quality of Faith Works Out Endurance
“This tested quality of your faith works out endurance.”—Jas. 1:3.
1. What is faith, as defined in the Bible?
WHAT is faith? The most complete definition or description is found in the eleventh chapter of Heb the Bible book of Hebrews. We read: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”—Heb. 11:1.
2, 3. (a) What is the force of the expression “assured expectation” in the definition of faith? (b) How is faith “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld”?
2 “Assured expectation” is translated from the Greek term meaning “sub-standing.” (Kingdom Interlinear) It means ground, basis, support, foundation, confidence, and also reality, substance, in contradistinction to that which is unreal or imaginary.
3 Jesus said to a Samaritan woman: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth,” not according to fables or imaginary ideas. (John 4:24) The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also went on to say that faith is “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Faith, then, causes a person to act as though the things unseen were real, just as if he saw them. The reason is that the things are positively real, and the one having genuine faith knows it, though these things are unseen at the time. What may be called “faith” but which is not based on reality is not really faith, but credulity.—Compare Hebrews 11:27.
4. Give an illustration, from everyday affairs, of what faith is.
4 For example, you have faith that certain cities such as Moscow and Peking exist, even though you probably were never there. You may not even have seen a picture of these cities. But you have heard and read news reports and have seen the location of these cities on maps. Because of the firmness of your faith, not founded on supposition or imagination, you would not hesitate to board a plane to fly to either of these cities if you found it necessary to make the trip. You would be sure that your hope of seeing the city there would be realized when the plane landed. Or, if you have a loved and trusted friend who has never deceived you, you believe what he tells you and will go so far as to act on it as reality, unless what he says positively contradicts the known facts as well as what he is personally, which you know well. You have an abundance of previous instances of his truthfulness on which to base faith.
5. When the Bible writer says that faith is “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld,” just what does he show about faith?
5 In showing even more distinctly what faith is, the apostle uses the Greek word for “reproof” or “reproving,” rendered by various translators as “evident demonstration,” “conviction,” ‘make certain,’ and similar expressions. (Heb. 11:1; 2 Tim. 3:16; Kingdom Interlinear, Diaglott, New English Bible) When we reprove someone we go into a matter thoroughly, looking at it from every angle. We bring to bear pertinent facts and strong arguments proving the point at issue, so that the hearer is convinced beyond a doubt by the powerful evidence. Faith, then, has to be based on evidence that is convincing. Mere emotional feeling is not faith. Faith must have facts, previous experience or irrefutable testimony in which to place confidence. Then the things believed or the things hoped for will not come to be disappointing.—Compare Romans 9:33; 10:11.
FAITH REQUIRES SOUND EVIDENCE
6, 7. What are two, yes, three “witnesses” that establish faith in the existence of God?
6 To exercise faith in something unseen we must have evidence from reliable sources. As to the existence of God the Creator, we have the evidence of creation —too marvelous for mere humans fully to comprehend. We view life on earth, with its creatures interdependent and essential to one another. Then we have the Bible, which tells us that God created these things, and his purpose for doing so. So we have the testimony of the created things themselves, and the word of God, spoken through, not one man, but many men of integrity and faithfulness.—Rom. 1:19, 20; Acts 4:24.
7 We also possess the faculty of logic, which tells us that a Creator obviously must be beyond the complete comprehension of those whom he creates. When we look at the tremendous expanse of the physical universe in which we live, we can comprehend only a minute part of it. Must its Creator not be far above it, even invisible to us? This fact God corroborates through the prophet Isaiah: “Who has measured the waters in the mere hollow of his hand, and taken the proportions of the heavens themselves with a mere span and included in a measure the dust of the earth, or weighed with an indicator the mountains, and the hills in the scales?” “To whom can you people liken God, and what likeness can you put alongside him?”—Isa. 40:12, 18.
8. How did God kindly supply Abraham with two strong reasons or evidences for faith in a resurrection?
8 “When Abraham’s faith was tested in connection with offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice, for at least two reasons he had faith that God would resurrect Isaac. He had God’s word that through Isaac a great nation would come, which, of course, was sufficient. But he also knew that Isaac had been given to him by a miracle, Abraham’s and Sarah’s reproductive powers being renewed for this purpose. This work of God was as great a miracle as a resurrection. For these reasons, and because of God’s loyalty and His love for him, Abraham reckoned that God would resurrect his beloved Isaac.—Rom. 4:17-21; Heb. 11:17-19.
GOD’S SPIRIT ESSENTIAL TO TRUE FAITH
9, 10. (a) Even though evidence for faith is present, how does this evidence appear to one not having faith? (b) What kind of faith does God want his people to have? (c) How does Psalm 27:1-3 illustrate this kind of faith? (d) How did Jesus’ words at Matthew 13:11-15 show why “faith is not a possession of all people,” as stated in 2 Thessalonians 3:2?
9 A feature of faith in the things pertaining to God—what he promises, facts in fulfillment of his prophecies, and so forth—is that, to the person without knowledge of God, the facts, on the surface, may seem to be contrary to or in contradiction to the true Christian’s faith. This is because God wants his people to have faith in him, just as a son has faith in a good father, and to prove their faith, even though the things that God has promised seem remote or even impossible from a strictly human point of view. He does not want as his worshipers those who have to see everything literally to believe. Note that Jesus often gave parables that he explained later to those who had enough interest—enough faith in him—to inquire. But those not having sincere, searching hearts—not deeply believing—went their way not understanding and without faith. Jesus said to his disciples:
10 “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted. For whoever has, more will be given him and he will be made to abound; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations, because, looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah is having fulfillment, which says, ‘By hearing, you will hear but by no means get the sense of it; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response.’” (Matt. 13:11-15) Yet, all around the Jews there was an abundance of evidence that the Messiah had indeed arrived.
11, 12. Give an example of an “evident demonstration of realities” that is hidden from the world in general.
11 Today, the Bible reader is surrounded by events that indicate that the Messianic kingdom is at hand. But to those putting hope in this world it appears that things are going to go on as they are now to time indefinite. The situation when Jesus was on earth was similar, though the end of the Jewish system of things was only a few years away. Jesus said to them:
12 “When you see a cloud rising in western parts, at once you say, ‘A storm is coming,’ and it turns out so. And when you see that a south wind is blowing, you say, ‘There will be a heat wave,’ and it occurs. Hypocrites, you know how to examine the outward appearance of earth and sky, but how is it you do not know how to examine this particular time?”—Luke 12:54-56.
13. How does 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 reveal why the physical man cannot see things that are clearly evident to the Christian?
13 Someone may say, Why is it, then, if faith is based on such strong evidence, that other people cannot see things the way the Christian does? The apostle explains this: “Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God. . . . But a physical [carnal-minded] man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually.”—1 Cor. 2:12-14.
14. Give an illustration showing reasons why those not having faith misinterpret facts.
14 For instance, it is a common religious belief that when someone dies, particularly if it is a baby, ‘God took him.’ We hear the complaint, ‘Why did God have to take away my baby (or, my husband)?’ On the surface it may seem that, since God is almighty, everything that happens is at his direction. However, these people do not see that it was not God but Adam who brought death into his family when he deliberately rebelled against God and lost life for his offspring. (Rom. 5:12) They fail to see that Satan the Devil then challenged God’s sovereignty, saying that no one would keep integrity to God when under test. (Job 2:4, 5) They do not understand that God has allowed wickedness and sorrow for a limited time because of this issue. They do not know that the dead are resting in the grave, awaiting the resurrection through Jesus Christ—a merciful provision of God. (John 11:11-14, 24) But, primarily, they do not know the personality of God, that he would never act so cruelly and selfishly as to ‘take’ someone needed away from wife or parents.—Ex. 34:6, 7.
WHY STRONG, ENDURING FAITH IS REQUIRED
15. How is loss or weakness of faith “the sin that easily entangles us”?
15 Because a Christian’s integrity and his course of action are based on faith, and any deviation from the right course represents a measure of weakness in his faith, the apostle continues with his discussion of faith, citing examples, and then says: “So, then, because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1) Therefore, the quality of the Christian’s faith must be of high caliber.
16, 17. Give two illustrations highlighting why faith and integrity of high caliber are required of those who hope to live in the “new earth.”
16 Why is it essential that the Christian’s faith be of such high quality that it will withstand any attack from any quarter? For illustration, take the case of the “great crowd” that will survive the “great tribulation” when it destroys the present world system of things. (Rev. 7:9-14) Entering into a cleansed earth, they will become the “foundation” of a “new earth” society. Being a foundation, they must be strong. They must represent the Universal Sovereign Jehovah without wavering. They will live during the fulfillment of Revelation 20:11-15, and so they will be responsible to teach the resurrected ones the right way, the understanding of Jehovah and of his Son Jesus Christ. These resurrected people from all backgrounds of former life and history will undoubtedly include some who will present resistance to the truth, and the faith of the “great crowd” will have to be firmly founded. They will not be swayed from a faithful course by pressure or personal feelings.
17 Then, at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign, the final test provided by the loosing of Satan will try the faith of all on earth. This test will test out each one’s continued integrity and faith toward God, even one’s very smallest consideration of the thought of unfaithfulness. This is necessary for the reason that the ones passing this test will be granted everlasting life. Because of their demonstrating unbreakable faith Jehovah and his entire universe will know that they will never weaken or turn away from the truth.—1 Cor. 15:24-28.
18. How do Peter and James show that it should be no surprise to the Christian if his faith is tested in various ways, even severely?
18 Seeing that our faith should be able to endure any attack, we should not be surprised at the things that may take place in the way of a test—even things contrary to what we ever expected to happen. The apostle Peter apprises Christians of this, saying: “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you.” (1 Pet. 4:12) Jesus’ half brother James concurs: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.”—Jas. 1:2, 3.
19. How can a Christian test his own faith?
19 So faith can vary in quality. Each one of us can examine his own faith. The apostle Paul counsels: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Cor. 13:5) The Christian can think about the trials and problems he has faced and how he has met them. He can consider how he is meeting his present problems and responsibilities. Is he making progress in producing the fruits of the spirit? Is he doing what he can to help others? Is what he does toward his brothers always for their good? Is he making public declaration of his faith?
GOD REWARDS ENDURANCE WITH APPROVAL
20. What does the successful undergoing of trials do for the Christian?
20 James says that this tested, tried, proved quality of your faith works out endurance. The apostle Peter speaks of the trials that Christians undergo, and gives the reason: “In order that 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) The more we pass tests of our faith successfully the stronger we are—we can endure. We also receive Jehovah’s approval and make him and his Son happy, because we stand as witnesses for Jehovah in the issue of integrity.—Rom. 5:3, 4.
21. Of what value is an enduring faith?
21 In fact, having strong, enduring faith is better than being a great conqueror, because the apostle John says: “This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.” (1 John 5:4) It is a question of integrity, not of might. Enduring with faith is following the pattern of the one with greatest faith and the conqueror of the world, Jesus Christ.—John 16:33.
22. How does 1 Peter 1:7 show the durability of tested faith and the durability of its possessor?
22 Yes, any material thing, even gold, can perish by wearing away or being dissolved by certain chemicals. But faith, being tested and tried and found to be of strong, sterling quality, is “incorruptible.” It cannot be destroyed, because it is founded upon the everlasting God, the Almighty. The apostle says that it is impossible to please God without faith. (Heb. 11:6) One without faith cannot believe the truth. He overlooks the greatest truth in the universe, the rightful sovereignty of Jehovah God. He cannot please God because what he does is out of harmony with the entire universe. The man or woman with tested faith will endure forever, because God, who lives forever, loves and protects the life of such persons.—Ps. 145:18-20; Rev. 7:15-17.
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Jehovah did not take Abraham’s faith for granted but put him to the test in connection with offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice