Faith and Your Future
“Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for.”—HEBREWS 11:1.
1. Most people want what kind of future?
ARE you interested in the future? Most people are. What they hope for is a future of peace, freedom from fear, decent living conditions, productive and enjoyable work, good health and long life. No doubt every generation in history has wanted those things. And today, in this world that is so filled with trouble, such conditions are more desirable than ever.
2. How was one view of the future expressed by a statesman?
2 As mankind moves toward the 21st century, is there any way to determine what the future will be like? One way was expressed over 200 years ago by the American statesman Patrick Henry. He said: “I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” According to this view, the future of the human family can be known to a considerable extent by what man did in the past. Many agree with that idea.
What Was the Past Like?
3. What does the record of history indicate regarding prospects for the future?
3 If the future is going to be a reflection of the past, do you find that encouraging? Did the future get better for previous generations down through the ages? Not really. Despite the hopes people have had for thousands of years and despite material progress in some places, history has been filled with oppression, crime, violence, war, and poverty. This world has experienced one calamity after another, mainly brought about by unsatisfactory human rule. The Bible accurately states: “Man has dominated man to his injury.”—Ecclesiastes 8:9.
4, 5. (a) Why were people hopeful in the early 20th century? (b) What happened to their hopes for the future?
4 The fact is that the bad history of mankind keeps repeating itself—but on an ever larger and more damaging scale. This 20th century is proof of that. Did mankind learn from and avoid the mistakes of the past? Well, at the beginning of this century, many put faith in a better future because there had been a relatively long period of peace and because of advances in industry, science, and education. In the early 1900’s, said a university professor, it was believed that war was no longer possible because “people were too civilized.” A former British prime minister said of the view people had back at that time: “Everything would get better and better. This was the world I was born in.” But then he stated: “Suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.”
5 Despite the faith in a better future prevailing at that time, the new century had hardly begun when the world was engulfed in the worst man-made catastrophe ever—World War I. As an example of its nature, consider what took place in 1916 in one battle when British troops attacked German lines near the Somme River in France. In just hours the British suffered a loss of 20,000, and many were killed on the German side. Four years of slaughter took the lives of nearly ten million soldiers and many civilians. France’s population declined for a while because of so many men lost. Economies were ruined, leading to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. No wonder that some have said that the day World War I began was the day the world went mad!
6. Did life get better after World War I?
6 Was this the future hoped for by that generation? No, far from it. Their hopes were dashed to pieces; nor did all of that lead to anything better. Only 21 years after World War I, or in 1939, a much worse man-made catastrophe began—World War II. It took the lives of some 50 million men, women, and children. Mass bombings pulverized cities. In World War I, some thousands of soldiers were killed in one battle in just hours, whereas in World War II, only two atom bombs killed over 100,000 people in just seconds. What many consider even worse was the systematic murder of millions in Nazi concentration camps.
7. What is the reality of this entire century?
7 Several sources state that if we include wars between nations, civil conflicts, and deaths inflicted by governments on their own citizens, those killed in this century would total about 200 million. One source even puts the figure at 360 million. Imagine the horror of it all—the pain, the tears, the anguish, and the ruined lives! In addition, on the average, about 40,000 people, mostly children, die each day from poverty-related causes. Three times that number are killed by abortions every day. Also, about one billion people are too poor to obtain the food needed to do a normal day’s work. All these conditions are evidence of what was foretold in Bible prophecy that we live in “the last days” of this wicked system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Matthew 24:3-12; Luke 21:10, 11; Revelation 6:3-8.
No Human Solutions
8. Why cannot human leaders solve the world’s problems?
8 As this 20th century nears its end, we can add its experience to that of past centuries. And what does that history tell? It tells us that human leaders have never solved the major problems of the world, that they are not solving them now, and that they will not solve them in the future. It is simply beyond their ability to provide the kind of future we want, no matter how well-meaning they may be. And some in authority are not that well-meaning; they seek position and power for their own egotistical and material ends, not for the good of others.
9. Why is there reason to doubt that science has the answers to man’s problems?
9 Does science have the answers? Not if we consider the past. Government scientists have expended huge amounts of money, time, and effort developing terribly destructive chemical, biological, and other kinds of weapons. The nations, including those that can least afford it, spend over 700 billion dollars on armaments every year! Also, ‘scientific progress’ is partly responsible for the chemicals that have contributed to the pollution of air, land, water, and food.
10. Why does even education not ensure a better future?
10 Can we hope that the educational institutions of the world will help build a better future by teaching high moral standards, consideration for others, and love of neighbor? No. Instead, they focus on careers, on making money. They engender a very competitive spirit, not a cooperative one; nor do the schools teach morals. Rather, many of them condone sexual liberty, which has produced a huge increase in teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
11. How does the record of business enterprises cast doubt on the future?
11 Will the great business enterprises of the world suddenly be motivated to take good care of our planet and to show love for others by making products that will be of genuine benefit and not just for profit? That is not likely. Will they stop producing television programs filled with violence and immorality that contribute to corrupting the minds of people, especially the young? The recent past is not at all encouraging because, for the most part, TV has become a cesspool of immorality and violence.
12. What is the human condition as to sickness and death?
12 Furthermore, however sincere medical doctors are, they cannot conquer sickness and death. For instance, at the end of World War I, they were unable to contain the Spanish influenza; worldwide, it took some 20 million lives. Today, heart disease, cancer, and other death-dealing ailments are rampant. Neither has the medical world conquered the modern plague of AIDS. On the contrary, a U.N. report publicized in November 1997 concluded that the rate at which the AIDS virus is spreading is double previous estimates. Already, millions have died from it. In a recent year, another three million became infected.
How Jehovah’s Witnesses View the Future
13, 14. (a) How do Jehovah’s Witnesses view the future? (b) Why can humans not bring about a better future?
13 However, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that mankind has a bright future, the very best! But they do not expect that better future to come by human efforts. Instead, they look to the Creator, Jehovah God. He knows what the future will be like, and it will be a marvelous one! He also knows that humans cannot bring about such a future. Since God created them, he knows their limitations far better than anyone else. In his Word, he clearly tells us that he did not create humans with the ability to govern successfully without divine guidance. God’s long permission of human rule independent of him has demonstrated that inability beyond any doubt. One author acknowledged: “The mind of man has tried all possible combinations of sovereignty, and in vain.”
14 At Jeremiah 10:23, we read the words of the inspired prophet: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” Also, Psalm 146:3 states: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” In fact, because we are born imperfect, as Romans 5:12 shows, God’s Word cautions us not to trust in ourselves either. Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else.” Thus, Proverbs 28:26 declares: “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”
15. Where can we find the wisdom to guide us?
15 Where can we find this wisdom? “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Most Holy One is what understanding is.” (Proverbs 9:10) Only Jehovah has the wisdom that can guide us through these fearful times. And he has given us access to his wisdom through the Holy Scriptures, which he inspired for our guidance.—Proverbs 2:1-9; 3:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
The Future of Human Rule
16. Who has determined the future?
16 What, then, does God’s Word tell us about the future? It tells us that the future will most certainly not reflect what humans have done in the past. So Patrick Henry’s viewpoint was wrong. The future of this earth and the people on it is to be determined, not by humans, but by Jehovah God. His will is going to be done on earth, not the will of any men or nations of this world. “Many are the plans in the heart of a man, but the counsel of Jehovah is what will stand.”—Proverbs 19:21.
17, 18. What is God’s will for our time?
17 What is God’s will for our time? He has purposed to bring an end to this violent, immoral system of things. The centuries-old bad reign of humans will soon be replaced with a rulership of God’s making. The prophecy found at Daniel 2:44 states: “In the days of those kings [that exist today] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [in heaven] that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” The Kingdom will also remove the evil influence of Satan the Devil, something humans could never do. His rulership of this world will forever cease.—Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19.
18 Note that the heavenly government will crush out of existence all forms of human rule. The governing of this earth will not be left to people. In heaven, those who make up God’s Kingdom will control all earth’s affairs for the good of mankind. (Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6) On earth, faithful humans will cooperate with the directives of God’s Kingdom. This is the rulership Jesus taught us to pray for when he said: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
19, 20. (a) How does the Bible describe the Kingdom arrangement? (b) What will its rule do for mankind?
19 Jehovah’s Witnesses put their faith in the Kingdom of God. It is the “new heavens” that the apostle Peter wrote about: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Peter 3:13) The “new earth” is the new human society that will be governed by the new heavens, God’s Kingdom. This is the arrangement God revealed in a vision to the apostle John, who wrote: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away . . . And [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.”—Revelation 21:1, 4.
20 Notice that the new earth will be a righteous one. All unrighteous elements will have been removed by an act of God, the battle of Armageddon. (Revelation 16:14, 16) The prophecy at Proverbs 2:21, 22 puts it this way: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth.” And Psalm 37:9 promises: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.” Would you not like to live in such a new world?
Put Faith in Jehovah’s Promises
21. Why can we put faith in Jehovah’s promises?
21 Can we put faith in Jehovah’s promises? Listen to what he states through his prophet Isaiah: “Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.’” The latter part of Isa 46 verse 11 says: “I have even spoken it; I shall also bring it in. I have formed it, I shall also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11) Yes, we can have faith in Jehovah and his promises just as surely as if those promises had already come true. The Bible expresses it this way: “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.”—Hebrews 11:1.
22. Why can we be confident that Jehovah will fulfill his promises?
22 Humble people display such faith because they know that God will fulfill his promises. For example, at Psalm 37:29, we read: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” Can we believe this? Yes, because Hebrews 6:18 says: “It is impossible for God to lie.” Does God own the earth, so that he can give it to humble ones? Revelation 4:11 declares: “You created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.” Thus, Psalm 24:1 says: “To Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it.” Jehovah created the earth, owns it, and gives it to those who have faith in him. To help build our confidence in this, the next article will show how Jehovah has kept his promises to his people in times past as well as in our day and why we can have absolute confidence that he will do so in the future.
Points for Review
□ What has happened to the hopes of people throughout history?
□ Why should we not look to humans for a better future?
□ What is God’s will regarding the future?
□ Why are we confident that God will fulfill his promises?
[Picture on page 10]
The Bible accurately states: “It does not belong to man . . . to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23
Bomb: U.S. National Archives photo; famished children: WHO/OXFAM; refugees: UN PHOTO 186763/J. Isaac; Mussolini and Hitler: U.S. National Archives photo