Can Faith Benefit You?
IN ORDER to answer this question properly, we must first examine another question: What is genuine faith? Strange as it may seem, the common notion of “faith” is quite different from what the Bible teaches. A well-known dictionary veers far wide of the mark when it defines faith as “belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion” and “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” How is this so?
In the first place, the traditional doctrines of a religion are not necessarily true doctrine. Jesus showed this when he spoke of the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees in these words: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? . . . You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’” (Matt. 15:3-9) They were the leaders in a “faithless and twisted generation” that demonstrated its lack of faith by killing God’s promised Messiah, his “Chief Agent of life.”—Matt. 17:17; Acts 2:40; 3:15.
Moreover, “firm belief in something for which there is no proof” is the very opposite of true faith. Of course, the dictionary may be referring to visible proof. But, where there is no proof at all, such belief is properly described as credulity. It flies in the face of the Bible definition of faith, as given at Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Note that faith has to do with actualities, things that are assured and that are demonstrated as to their reality. Faith has the firmest of foundations, is based on an abundance of proof.
FOUNDATION FOR OUR FAITH
In another of his letters, the apostle Paul gives a strong reason for exercising faith. At Romans 1:20 he tells us that God’s “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.” These are the marvels that we see with our own eyes—the starry heavens, the wonderfully balanced creation on earth, the beauties of “nature,” so called, wherein the love and wisdom of a master-architect are clearly apparent. The contemplation of these creations should help to build within us a faith such as that expressed in Psalm 104:24: “How many your works are, O Jehovah! All of them in wisdom you have made.” This is not a faith “for which there is no proof.”
However, our faith toward God does not stop with acknowledging his existence and appreciating the glories of his creation. It extends to our privilege of entering into a most blessed personal relationship with this God and Creator. If we will seek after him, then we may find him, “although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-27) Our finding and knowing God can bring a satisfaction and joy in life that is unsurpassed by any other human experience. Our pleasing him can bring the grandest of rewards. And this is possible through faith. As the apostle writes: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
A FATHER WHO CARES
Our God and Creator is the kindest of all fathers. To the prophet Moses, he described himself as: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.” (Ex. 34:6, 7) Could we imagine that a God who personifies such high principles would fail in carrying out his promises toward his human creation here on earth? Never! Why, if an imperfect human father promises something to his children, he will assuredly follow through in making his promised gift a reality. How much more so the heavenly Father of mankind! As Jesus told his listeners in the course of his Sermon on the Mount: “If you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?” (Matt. 7:11) We can have implicit faith that all of God’s promises will come true in his good time and way.—Josh. 23:14.
But what are those promises? They are not just onetime promises. Rather, God’s promises concerning the good that he will do to all mankind were repeated, repeated, repeated over a period of more than 4,000 years. They are not to be compared with the promises of politicians, who say that they will do one thing and finish up in doing something else. God’s promises are dependable. They are certain of execution, for they are given over his peerless name, Jehovah. And in the case of one of his grandest promises, he even sealed it with his oath. “God, when he purposed to demonstrate more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of his counsel, stepped in with an oath.”—Heb. 6:17.
FAITH IN GOD’S PROMISES
In the 11th chapter of Heb the Bible book of Hebrews, God’s promises are inseparably woven in with the theme of faith. The first man of faith in Bible history, Abel, evidently knew of God’s promise recorded at Genesis 3:15 concerning a “seed”—an offspring which proved to be produced from among God’s angelic organization of the heavens—that would bring to nought the works of “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan.” (Rev. 12:9) Abel offered a fatty sacrifice from the “firstlings of his flock,” appropriately pictorial of the sacrifice that the promised “seed,” “the Lamb of God,” would make some 4,000 years later, in order to redeem mankind from sin and death. Thus, “by faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain.”—Gen. 4:4; John 1:29; Heb. 11:4.
Then, there was Enoch, who lived also in pre-Flood times. “By faith Enoch was transferred so as not to see death.” Not in failing to die, for in 1 Corinthians 15:22 Paul writes: “In Adam all are dying.” But God did not permit him to experience the pangs of death. Obviously, Enoch’s faith was based on knowledge of God’s promises, for he knew of the judgment that God’s angelic host would in due course execute in removing all wicked persons from this earth. Thus it was that Enoch prophesied: “Look! Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way, and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.” (Heb. 11:5; Gen. 5:21-24; Jude 14, 15) Like Enoch, we today can exercise faith in God’s promise to rid the earth of all wickedness.
The real-life experience of still another man of faith underlines the certainty of God’s promise. That man was Noah, concerning whom it is written: “By faith Noah, after being given divine warning of things not yet beheld, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; and through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that is according to faith.” (Heb. 11:7) Likewise, those who today serve Jehovah God in faith stand as a living witness in condemnation of a wicked world. And their faith is well placed. For did not “the Son of man,” Jesus Christ, draw a comparison with the deluge in prophesying concerning the “conclusion of the system of things”? He said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:36-39) But does not our faith include more than expecting that today’s wicked “system of things” will be swept from the face of the earth? Certainly it does.
IDENTIFYING THE “SEED” OF PROMISE
The word “faith” first appears in the Bible in connection with Abraham, who lived 2,000 years after Abel. Abraham “put faith in Jehovah; and he proceeded to count it to him as righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6) Abel, Enoch and Noah had exercised faith in Jehovah’s promise of a “seed” that would execute judgment on God’s enemies, but to Abraham Jehovah gave an expanded promise. This was after Jehovah had tested Abraham as to his willingness to give his only-begotten son, Isaac, in sacrifice. God then said: “I shall surely bless you and I shall surely multiply your seed like the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are on the seashore; and your seed will take possession of the gate of his enemies. And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”—Gen. 22:1-18.
Thus, the blessing of all peoples of the earth must come through Abraham’s “seed.” And who is that “seed”? The apostle Paul answers: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. . . . ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ.”—Gal. 3:16.
By what means, then, does Christ bring blessing to the people of all nations? It is through a governmental “city.” In faith, Abraham looked forward to that promised city: “He was awaiting the city having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:10) This is a heavenly city, in which “the Lamb,” Christ Jesus, is enthroned as king. And he has associates from among faithful humans, resurrected from the dead, who are to rule with him “as kings over the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-12) Remember, Abraham lived some 2,000 years before Christ Jesus appeared as the “seed” of promise, and yet his faith in that promise was immovable. Your faith, too, can become real—firm like Abraham’s faith in God’s promise.—Rom. 4:20-22.
FAITH DOES NOT DISAPPOINT
Down to this day, there have been on earth faithful footstep followers of Christ Jesus, and of these Jesus himself says: “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and ministry and endurance.” Because of their conquest by faith they receive a reward in the heavens. (Rev. 2:19, 26-28) Moreover, since the mid-1930’s, their faithful “deeds” in witnessing concerning Jehovah’s name and kingdom have resulted in the gathering of “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb [the principal one of the Seed of promise, Jesus Christ].” Because of their exercising faith in the redemptive power of “the blood of the Lamb,” they come out of the “great tribulation” upon the wicked, to render God “sacred service day and night.” He spreads his protective “tent” over them.—Rev. 7:9, 14, 15.
Other grand benefits also become the happy portion of the “great crowd.” For it is written concerning these earthly servants of God: “They will hunger no more nor thirst anymore, neither will the sun beat down upon them nor any scorching heat, because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:16, 17) Because of their faith maintained up until and through the “great tribulation,” they will be provided for abundantly, both spiritually and physically. They will have been spared the “scorching heat” of the day of Jehovah’s anger. God’s own Son refreshes them and shepherds them into the endless blessings of paradise restored on earth! Their weeping because of religious ignorance and separation from the true God will be a thing of the distant past.
Toward the end of the Revelation the apostle John envisions a “new heaven” and “the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” Ah, here is a symbolic picture of the “bride” of Christ, which will be associated with the Lamb, Jesus Christ, in his heavenly kingdom! (Rev. 21:1, 2, 9) Under that Kingdom rule, the “great crowd,” together with the resurrected human dead, form a “new earth” society that enters into a close, intimate relationship with the loving heavenly Father. “He will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.” And the apostle John again emphasizes the benefits to those who exercise faith: “[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 have passed away.” What blessings from the God who really cares!—Rev. 21:3, 4; John 5:28, 29.
Do you have faith that these promises will become a reality? You should have that faith, for God himself declares from his throne in the heavens: “Look! I am making all things new.” To this he adds the words: “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” (Rev. 21:5) The promises of God are real! Through 6,000 years of human history men of faith have believed and acted on these promises. Such faith will benefit you too. As one of the apostles of the “Seed,” Christ Jesus, said of him: “None that rests his faith on him will be disappointed.”—Rom. 10:11.