The Faith That Means Survival
“Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practice His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.”—Zeph. 2:3.
1-3. (a) On what basis will there be survivors of the coming global time of trouble? (b) What are some Scriptural examples that show this to be so?
GREAT as the coming catastrophe or tribulation will be, the Bible assures us that there will be survivors. On what basis will these survive? On the basis of their faith in God, even as was illustrated time and again when Jehovah God brought catastrophes upon humankind in the past. Those who exercised faith, which meant, not only believing in God’s existence, but trusting in his promises and acting upon their conviction, survived. The earliest example is that of Noah and his family. They exercised faith and survived. (Heb. 11:7) Notable also was the survival of Lot and his two daughters when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. Lot’s concern for his two prospective sons-in-law caused him to warn them. He kept on saying: “‘Get up! Get out of this place, because Jehovah is bringing the city to ruin!’ But in the eyes of his sons-in-law he seemed like a man who was joking.” They found out too late that Lot was not joking.—Gen. 19:14.
2 In the ninth century before our Common Era Jehovah God sent Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Because of their great wickedness He had decreed their destruction. However, the people heeded the warning: “The men of Nineveh began to put faith in God.” With what result? “The true God got to see their works, that they had turned back from their bad way; and so the true God felt regret over the calamity that he had spoken of causing to them; and he did not cause it.” (Jonah 3:5, 10) That repentant generation of Ninevites survived the crisis.
3 Some centuries later the prophet Jeremiah and the Ethiopian slave Ebed-melech, who was instrumental in saving Jeremiah’s life, survived the destruction of Jerusalem because of their faith. (Jer. 39:16-18) History records how early Christians survived the second destruction of Jerusalem because of their faith in Jesus’ warning words to flee that city when they saw it surrounded by armies.—Luke 21:20, 21.
4. What prophetic commands further assure us that there will be survivors?
4 Holding out hope for survival in our time, Jehovah God caused his prophet Zephaniah to write: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth. . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” (Zeph. 2:3) And as Jehovah said to people of Judah at Isaiah 26:20, so he will say to all his faithful servants: “Go, my people, enter into your interior rooms, and shut your doors behind you. Hide yourself for but a moment until the denunciation passes over. For, look! Jehovah is coming forth from his place to call to account the error of the inhabitant of the land against him.”
RIGHT HEART CONDITION ESSENTIAL
5-7. Why can it be said that conditions for acquiring true faith are (a) honesty? (b) humility? (c) being spiritually hungry?
5 Even as knowledge of the truth is essential to acquiring faith, so is a right heart condition essential to acquiring such knowledge. (Rom. 10:13-15) Well has it been said, therefore, that in order to cultivate unshakable faith and confidence in God one needs to be honest, meek and hungry for the truth. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, not being honest but being hypocrites, simply could not believe Jesus. (Matt. 23:13-33; John 8:46) However, the lowly common people heard him gladly.—Mark 12:37.
6 Nor are the proud likely to put their faith and trust in what God has said. Why not? Because to do so one must be meek, willing to learn, and the proud are anything but teachable. Besides, we are told that faith is a gift of God. Since God opposes the proud, he is not at all likely to give them that gift.—Ps. 25:9; Eph. 2:8; Jas. 4:6.
7 Being spiritually hungry is likewise a prerequisite to gaining a knowledge of God’s purposes. The person who is smug, complacent, indifferent about his own sins and world conditions is not spiritually hungry. A spiritually hungry person is aware of his spiritual need. That is why Jesus could say in his Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need . . . Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness.” (Matt. 5:3, 6) Jesus also gave the invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) Centuries before, Jehovah caused the prophet Isaiah to express a similar thought: “Hey there, all you thirsty ones . . . that have no money! Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk even without money and without price. . . . Listen intently to me . . . Listen, and your soul will keep alive.”—Isa. 55:1-3.
ACQUIRING STRONG FAITH
8. What is a reason that some are unable to exercise faith in Jehovah God and in his Word?
8 From the foregoing it is clear that only when a person has the right heart condition can the truth of God’s Word strike a responsive chord in his heart. There must be what has been termed “the will to believe” what is true. The person who proudly and hypocritically challenges evidences upon which faith is built, and who is determined to doubt, cannot be convinced, because he simply does not want to believe. It is as though he feels an emotional need to be hypercritical, to doubt things.
9. What are some scriptures indicating that there are differing degrees of faith?
9 Obviously, there are differing degrees of faith. For example, the Bible mentions such a thing as being “weak in faith,” and Jesus reproved his disciples because of their having “little faith.” (Rom. 4:19; Matt. 8:26) On the other hand, God’s Word speaks also of ‘firmness of faith,’ of “so great a faith” and of faith so outstanding as to be “talked about throughout the whole world.”—Col. 2:5; Matt. 8:10; Rom. 1:8.
10, 11. (a) To become strong in faith, what must one be diligent to do? (b) What Scriptural counsel must one heed to that end?
10 There can be no faith without knowledge. Therefore, to become strong in faith, one must be diligent to take in knowledge. That means heeding the inspired counsel to “quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Only by feeding on God’s Word can you make your mind over, aware of what Jesus said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Rom. 12:2; Matt. 4:4.
11 In these busy days, it takes real effort to find time to care for one’s spiritual needs by considering God’s Word. The counsel given Christians in the first century because of their pagan environment is most apropos today because of the prevalence of materialism and pleasure-seeking pressures. “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” That certainly requires our studying God’s Word, for it alone can tell us what God’s will is.—Eph. 5:15-17.
12. What does it mean to ‘buy out the opportune time’?
12 What does it mean today to ‘buy out the opportune time’ for ourselves? It means that we stop devoting time to worthless pursuits and redeem it for use in a meaningful way. It may mean, by extension, that we have to take some time away from other things that are not absolutely indispensable, from things that simply may be interesting, enjoyable and perhaps even educational. It may mean spending less time watching TV, less time reading the newspaper or secular periodicals. It may also mean pursuing less avidly some time-consuming hobby. The way to do this is to give Bible matters priority. Take care of them first, and then spend what time is left on less important activities. Otherwise you may find these other things so absorbing that they crowd out the spiritual matters that could strengthen your faith. That is why Jesus counseled: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom [of God] and his [God’s] righteousness.”—Matt. 6:33.
13-15. (a) Why is accurate knowledge essential to strong faith? (b) What is needed for us to gain accurate knowledge, and where can it be found? (c) What else is of value in strengthening our faith?
13 But a mere reading of the Bible itself will not result in your growing strong in faith. You must understand and appreciate the importance of what you read. You need to have accurate knowledge. Many Jews in apostolic times had a degree of knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, but since they did not have accurate knowledge, their zeal was in vain. (Rom. 10:1-4) You need help to acquire accurate knowledge, and along with it, understanding. To illustrate, after Jesus’ resurrection he encouraged his mourning disciples by pointing out to them what God’s Word had to say about his needing to suffer and die. (Luke 24:15-47) Similarly, it was necessary for the evangelist Philip to enlighten an Ethiopian court official, for he was reading Isaiah chapter 53 but did not understand what it was all about.—Acts 8:27-39.
14 For this very reason Christians are exhorted: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” At the Bible study meetings of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses you can get help from those who serve as ‘evangelizers, shepherds, teachers, overseers, elders’ and who count it a privilege to aid others to come to an accurate knowledge of God’s truth.—Heb. 10:24, 25; Eph. 4:11-13; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-3.
15 Nor may you overlook the value of prayer in strengthening your faith. Jesus told his followers to pray for God’s holy spirit, and faith is one of the fruits of that spirit. (Luke 11:13; Gal. 5:22, 23) He also assured us that if we ask in faith and persevere in prayer God will answer our prayers. (Matt. 7:7; 17:20) But let us never overlook that we must do our part. We must work at what we pray for. Just as the farmer must plow, sow, and cultivate, but also must look to God to give the sunshine and rain, so it is with our acquiring strong faith. God will do his part if we do ours.—Matt. 5:45.
“FIGHT THE FINE FIGHT OF THE FAITH”
16. What connection is there between faith and works?
16 Exercising the faith that means survival is not a case of following the lines of least resistance. It is not easy, but also it is not too difficult. Faith manifests itself by works, for without works it is like a corpse, a lifeless body. Faith without works is vain; it will not mean survival. (Jas. 2:14-26) To survive you must fight, even as the apostle Paul reminded his friend Timothy: “Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life.”—1 Tim. 6:12.
17-19. (a) What illustrations underscore the value of faith? (b) What protection does faith provide? (c) What else is included in fighting the fine fight of faith?
17 By fighting the fine fight of faith you will not be “tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men.” Rather, with the “large shield of faith” you will “be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles.” (Eph. 4:14; 6:16) Faith also serves as a breastplate to protect your heart from being infected by all the gross selfishness that is in the world today. (1 Thess. 5:8; 1 John 2:16) With such protection you will be able to ‘consider it all joy when meeting up with various trials, knowing that the tested quality of your faith works out endurance.’ Having such faith, Jeremiah was able to bear witness fearlessly to a rebellious people for more than forty years.—Jas. 1:2, 3.
18 Even as it was in Jesus’ time, the world today is bitterly opposed to true Christians who live by righteous principles. Jesus’ words still hold true about his followers being no part of the world, and about their being hated by it. He said: “In the world you are having tribulation, but take courage! I have conquered the world.” How did he do this? By his faith, for we read: “This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.” (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4) Such faith will keep you from deviating from Bible teachings, will make you impervious to the allures of false knowledge and the wisdom of the world. It will also protect you from this world’s materialism, its love of money. (1 Tim. 6:10, 20, 21) And it will enable you to obey the divine command to sever your connections with “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”—Rev. 18:4.
19 Fighting the fine fight of faith includes telling others what you have learned about the basis for faith and the prospect of survival. As the apostle Paul so well expressed it: “Now because we have the same spirit of faith as that of which it is written: ‘I exercised faith, therefore I spoke,’ we too exercise faith and therefore we speak.”—2 Cor. 4:13.
SURVIVING INTO WHAT?
20. (a) The heeding of what prophetic command will aid toward survival? (b) Why does Zephaniah say “probably,” and how does this apply to us today?
20 By acquiring strong faith and ‘fighting the fine fight of faith’ you will be able to heed the counsel that today takes on greater urgency than ever before, namely: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth. . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” Why does it say, “Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger”? It is because those words originally applied to the nation of Israel before its destruction in 607 B.C.E., and it was a question of God’s showing mercy toward those who conform. These words are thus a reminder that we cannot presume on God’s mercy.—Zeph. 2:3.
21. To what can those who survive the global time of trouble look forward?
21 Surviving the end of this old system of things, you can look forward to what? To a new order of peace, righteousness and plenty; to seeing the earth made into a paradise, in keeping with Jehovah’s original purpose for earth and man. (Gen. 1:28; 2:16) Then God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things [will then] have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) Then also the words of the prophet Isaiah at Isa 25:6, 8 will be fulfilled: “On this mountain the LORD of Hosts [Jehovah of armies] will prepare a banquet of rich fare for all the peoples, a banquet of wines well matured and richest fare, well-matured wines strained clear. . . . he will swallow up death for ever. Then the Lord GOD [the Sovereign Lord Jehovah] will wipe away the tears from every face and remove the reproach of his people from the whole earth. The LORD [Jehovah] has spoken.” (NE, NW) What a glorious prospect for all who, because of their faith, survive the “great tribulation”!
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In these busy days we need to make time for a study of God’s Word at the expense of less important, even enjoyable things, if we are to have strong faith
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To grow strong in faith we also need to meet regularly with fellow Christians