Maintain Your Confidence Firm to the End
IMAGINE a small plane flying into difficult weather conditions. The pilot can no longer make out landmarks. Thick clouds envelop him. He cannot see beyond his windscreen, yet he feels sure that he can complete his journey safely. What is the reason for his confidence?
He has accurate instruments that enable him to fly through clouds and land in darkness. Along his route, especially near the airport, beacons guide him electronically, and he has radio contact with air-traffic controllers on the ground.
In a comparable way, we can face the future with confidence, even though world conditions get gloomier day by day. Our journey through this wicked system may be taking longer than some expected, but we can be confident that we are on course and on time. Why can we be so sure? Because we have guidance that enables us to detect what human vision cannot.
God’s Word is a ‘light to our roadway,’ and it is “trustworthy, making the inexperienced one wise.” (Psalm 19:7; 119:105) Like beacons that indicate the pilot’s flight path, the Bible accurately outlines future events and gives us clear instructions in order to ensure that we arrive safely at our destination. To benefit from divine guidance, however, we must trust it.
In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul urged Jewish Christians to ‘make fast their hold on the confidence they had at the beginning firm to the end.’ (Hebrews 3:14) Trust may be shaken if our hold on it is not ‘made fast.’ So the question arises, How can we sustain our confidence in Jehovah firm to the end?
Exercise Your Faith
Before a pilot can fly blind, depending totally on his instruments and ground control, he needs adequate training and many hours of flying time. Similarly, a Christian needs to exercise his faith continually so as to maintain his confidence in Jehovah’s guidance, especially when difficult circumstances arise. The apostle Paul wrote: “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 Corinthians 4:13) Thus, when we speak about the good news of God, we are exercising and fortifying our faith.
Magdalena, who spent four years in a concentration camp during the second world war, explains the value of the preaching activity: “My mother taught me that to maintain strong faith, it is essential to be concerned about the spiritual welfare of others. I remember one incident that illustrates how we felt. After our release from Ravensbrück concentration camp, my mother and I reached our home on a Friday. Two days later, on Sunday, we joined the brothers in preaching from house to house. I firmly believe that if we concentrate on helping others to trust in God’s promises, those same promises will become more real to us.”—Compare Acts 5:42.
Maintaining our confidence firm to the end requires spiritual activity in other fields. Personal study is another splendid faith-strengthening exercise. If we imitate the Beroeans and industriously examine the Scriptures daily, it will help us “to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end.” (Hebrews 6:11; Acts 17:11) True, personal study requires time and determination. Possibly, that is why Paul warned the Hebrews about the danger of being “sluggish,” or slothful, in such matters.—Hebrews 6:12.
A slothful attitude may have dire consequences in many areas of life. Solomon observed that “through the letting down of the hands the house leaks.” (Ecclesiastes 10:18) Sooner or later rain starts dripping through a roof that is not cared for. If we let down our hands spiritually and fail to maintain our faith, doubts may creep in. On the other hand, regular meditation on and study of God’s Word will nourish and protect our faith.—Psalm 1:2, 3.
Building Trust Through Experience
Of course, a pilot learns through experience as well as through study that his instruments are trustworthy. Likewise, our confidence in Jehovah grows when we in our own lives see evidence of his loving care. Joshua experienced that, and he reminded his fellow Israelites: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you.”—Joshua 23:14.
Josefina, a married sister from the Philippines, learned the same lesson. She explains what life was like before she knew the truth: “My husband used to drink a lot, and when he got drunk, he would get angry and hit me. Our unhappy marriage was also affecting our son. My husband and I were both working, earning quite good money, but we gambled away most of our wages. My husband had many friends, yet most of them sought his friendship so that he would pay for the drinks, and some even tried to get him drunk just to laugh at him.
“Things changed when we got to know Jehovah and took his counsel to heart. My husband no longer drinks, we have stopped gambling, and we have true friends who love and help us. Our marriage is a happy one, and our son is growing into a fine young man. We work fewer hours, but we have more money. Experience has taught us that Jehovah is like a loving Father, who always leads us in the right direction.”
As a result of radioed instructions or an instrument check, pilots sometimes realize that they need to correct their course. We may likewise have to change direction according to Jehovah’s instruction. “Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) Through his Word and through his organization, we receive counsel alerting us to spiritual dangers. One of these concerns associations.
Associations Can Blow Us Off Course
A small plane can easily be blown off course if needed corrections are not made. Likewise, outside influences constantly buffet Christians today. We live in a fleshly-minded world where many scoff at spiritual values, attaching much more importance to money and pleasure. Paul warned Timothy that the last days would be “hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Teenagers, who yearn for acceptance and popularity, are especially vulnerable to bad associations.—2 Timothy 2:22.
Amanda, who is 17 years of age, explains: “For a while my faith was weakened to a certain extent by my classmates. They kept saying that my religion was restrictive and unreasonable, and this began to discourage me. My parents, however, helped me to understand that Christian guidelines serve to protect rather than restrict. Now I realize that these principles are helping me to have a more satisfying life than that of my former school companions. I have learned to trust the ones who really care for me—my parents and Jehovah—and I am enjoying pioneer service.”
Whichever age-group we belong to, we will encounter people who make disparaging remarks about our beliefs. They may appear sophisticated, but to God they are physical, unspiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:14) An influential group in the Corinth of Paul’s day were the worldly-wise Skeptics. The teachings of these philosophers likely led some Corinthian Christians to lose faith in the resurrection hope. (1 Corinthians 15:12) “Do not be misled,” warned the apostle Paul. “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
On the other hand, good associations strengthen us spiritually. Within the Christian congregation, we have the opportunity to mingle with people who live a life of faith. Norman, a brother who learned the truth in 1939, is still a source of great encouragement to all. What has kept his spiritual perspective sharp? “Meetings and close friendships with faithful brothers are vital,” he replies. “This sort of association has helped me to see clearly the difference between God’s organization and Satan’s.”
The Deceptive Power of Riches
Brian, an experienced pilot, explains that “a pilot sometimes may find it difficult to believe his instruments—simply because his instincts disagree. Experienced military pilots have been known to fly upside down because lights on the ground looked just like stars—even though their instruments told them otherwise.”
Similarly, our selfish instincts can mislead us in a spiritual sense. Jesus said that riches have “deceptive power,” and Paul warned that ‘the love of money has led many away from the faith.’—Mark 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:10.
Like deceptive twinkling lights, glitzy material goals can point us in the wrong direction. Rather than rejoicing in the “expectation of things hoped for,” we can get sidetracked by the showy display of the world that is passing away. (Hebrews 11:1; 1 John 2:16, 17) If we are “determined” to have an affluent life-style, we will likely have little time left for spiritual growth.—1 Timothy 6:9; Matthew 6:24; Hebrews 13:5.
A young married man named Patrick admitted that he and his wife sacrificed spiritual goals for the sake of enjoying a better standard of living. He explains: “We were influenced by those in the congregation with big cars and luxurious homes. Though we never lost sight of the Kingdom hope, we felt that we might as well be comfortable along the way. In time, however, we realized that true happiness comes through serving Jehovah and from growing spiritually. Now our lives once again are simple. We have reduced our working hours, and we have become regular pioneers.”
Faith Depends Upon a Receptive Heart
A receptive heart also plays an important role in building confidence in Jehovah. True, “faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration [or, “convincing evidence,” footnote] of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1) But unless we have a receptive heart, it is unlikely that we will be convinced. (Proverbs 18:15; Matthew 5:6) For this reason the apostle Paul said that “faith is not a possession of all people.”—2 Thessalonians 3:2.
How, then, can we keep our hearts responsive to all the convincing evidence available? By cultivating godly qualities, qualities that enrich and stimulate faith. Peter urges us to ‘supply to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godly devotion, brotherly affection, and love.’ (2 Peter 1:5-7; Galatians 5:22, 23) On the other hand, if we lead a self-centered life or render Jehovah only token service, we cannot reasonably expect our faith to grow.
Ezra “prepared his heart” to read Jehovah’s Word and to put it into practice. (Ezra 7:10) Micah likewise had a receptive heart. “As for me, it is for Jehovah that I shall keep on the lookout. I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.”—Micah 7:7.
Magdalena, quoted earlier, also waits patiently for Jehovah. (Habakkuk 2:3) She says: “We already have the spiritual paradise. The second step, the physical Paradise, will come soon enough. In the meantime hundreds of thousands are joining the great crowd. It thrills me to see so many flocking to God’s organization.”
Looking to the God of Our Salvation
Maintaining our confidence firm to the end requires exercising our faith and listening carefully to the guidance we receive from Jehovah and his organization. It is certainly worth the effort. A pilot feels deep satisfaction when after a long, difficult journey, he descends and finally breaks through the thick clouds. There spread out before him lies the earth—green and welcoming. The airport runway is below, waiting to receive him.
A thrilling experience awaits us too. This gloomy, wicked world will give way to a new earth of righteousness. A divine welcome awaits us. We can arrive there if we heed the words of the psalmist: “You are my hope, O Sovereign Lord Jehovah, my confidence from my youth. . . . In you my praise is constantly.”—Psalm 71:5, 6.