Christian Faith Will Be Tested
“Faith is not a possession of all people.”—2 THESSALONIANS 3:2.
1. How has history shown that not all have true faith?
DOWN through history, there have been men, women, and children with true faith. The qualifier “true” is fitting because millions of others have displayed a sort of faith that has been like credulity, a readiness to believe without valid basis or reason. Such faith has often involved false gods or forms of worship that are out of harmony with the Almighty, Jehovah, and his revealed Word. The apostle Paul thus wrote: “Faith is not a possession of all people.”—2 Thessalonians 3:2.
2. Why is it vital that we examine our own faith?
2 But Paul’s statement implies that back then some did have true faith and, by implication, some today do. Most readers of this journal desire to have and to increase in such true faith—faith in harmony with accurate knowledge of divine truth. (John 18:37; Hebrews 11:6) Is that so with you? Then it is imperative that you recognize and be prepared for the fact that your faith will be tested. Why can that be said?
3, 4. Why should we look to Jesus in regard to tests of faith?
3 We must admit that Jesus Christ is central to our faith. Indeed, the Bible speaks of him as the Perfecter of our faith. That is because of what Jesus said and did, particularly how he fulfilled prophecy. He strengthened the basis on which humans can establish true faith. (Hebrews 12:2; Revelation 1:1, 2) Still, we read that Jesus was “tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Yes, Jesus’ faith was tested. Far from discouraging us or creating apprehension, that should comfort us.
4 By going through great trials even to the point of death on the stake, Jesus “learned obedience.” (Hebrews 5:8) He proved that humans can live by true faith despite any tests that might come upon them. This takes on particular significance when we think of what Jesus said about his followers: “Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master.” (John 15:20) In fact, regarding his followers in our time, Jesus predicted: “You will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.”—Matthew 24:9.
5. How do the Scriptures indicate that we will face tests?
5 Early in this century, judgment began with the house of God. The Scriptures foretold: “It is the appointed time for the judgment to start with the house of God. Now if it starts first with us, what will the end be of those who are not obedient to the good news of God? ‘And if the righteous man is being saved with difficulty, where will the ungodly man and the sinner make a showing?’”—1 Peter 4:17, 18.
6. Why is tested faith invaluable?
6 In a sense, faith that is untested has no proven worth, and its quality remains unknown. You might liken it to a check that has not yet been cashed. You may have received a check for work that you did, for goods that you provided, or even as a gift. The check may look good, but is it? Is it really worth the amount that appears on it? Similarly, our faith must be more than just an appearance or a mere profession. It must be tested if we are to prove that it has substance and real quality. When our faith is tested, we may find that it is strong and valuable. A test may also reveal any areas in which our faith needs refinement or bolstering.
7, 8. From what source do tests of our faith come?
7 God permits persecution and other tests of faith to come upon us. We read: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) Who or what is responsible for such trials? It is Satan, the world, and our own imperfect flesh.
8 We may admit that Satan exerts a powerful influence over the world, over its thinking and its ways. (1 John 5:19) And we probably know that he instigates persecution against Christians. (Revelation 12:17) But are we equally convinced that Satan tries to mislead us by appealing to our imperfect flesh, dangling worldly enticements before our eyes, hoping that we will take the bait, disobey God, and end up disapproved by Jehovah? Of course, Satan’s methods should not surprise us, for he used the same tactics when trying to tempt Jesus.—Matthew 4:1-11.
9. How can we benefit from examples of faith?
9 Through his Word and the Christian congregation, Jehovah sets before our eyes positive examples of faith that we can imitate. Paul admonished: “Unitedly become imitators of me, brothers, and keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17) As one of God’s anointed servants in the first century, Paul took the lead in performing works of faith despite the great trials he experienced. Down at the end of the 20th century, we are not lacking in comparable examples of faith. The words of Hebrews 13:7 apply now with as much force as when Paul wrote them: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith.”
10. What particular examples of faith do we have in recent times?
10 That admonition has particular force when we consider how the conduct of the anointed remnant has turned out. We can contemplate their example and imitate their faith. Their’s is a true faith that has been refined by trials. With small beginnings back in the 1870’s, a worldwide Christian brotherhood developed. As fruitage of the faith and endurance of the anointed ones from then on, over five and a half million Witnesses of Jehovah are now preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God. The present global congregation of zealous true worshipers is a testament to tested faith.—Titus 2:14.
Faith Tested Concerning 1914
11. How was 1914 significant for C. T. Russell and his associates?
11 Years before the outbreak of the first world war, the anointed remnant had been proclaiming that 1914 would be a significant date in Bible prophecy. However, some of their expectations were premature, and their view of what would happen was less than perfect. For example, C. T. Russell, first president of the Watch Tower Society, and his associates could see that a vast preaching work was necessary. They read: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14, King James Version) How, though, could their relatively small group ever do that?
12. How did one of Russell’s associates respond to Bible truth?
12 Consider how this affected A. H. Macmillan, an associate of Russell. Born in Canada, Macmillan was not yet 20 when he obtained Russell’s book The Plan of the Ages (1886). (This book, also called The Divine Plan of the Ages, became Volume 1 of the widely distributed set Studies in the Scriptures. Volume 2, The Time Is at Hand , pointed to 1914 as the end of “the times of the Gentiles.” [Luke 21:24, KJ]) The very night Macmillan began reading, he thought: “Well, that sounds like the truth!” In the summer of 1900, he met Russell at a convention of the Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then called. Soon Macmillan was baptized and began working with Brother Russell at the Society’s headquarters in New York.
13. What problem did Macmillan and others see as to the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14?
13 Based on their reading of the Bible, those anointed Christians pointed to 1914 as a turning point in God’s purpose. But Macmillan and others wondered how the preaching to the nations foretold at Matthew 24:14 could be accomplished in the short remaining time. He later said: “I remember discussing that with Brother Russell frequently, and he would say, ‘Well, brother, right in New York we have more Jews than there are in Jerusalem. We have more Irishmen here than there are in Dublin. And we have more Italians than there are in Rome. Now if we reach them here, that will be reaching the world with the message.’ But that didn’t seem to satisfy our minds. So then the ‘Photo-Drama’ was thought of.”
14. Prior to 1914, what outstanding project was undertaken?
14 What a ground-breaking undertaking the “Photo-Drama of Creation” was! It combined motion pictures and colored glass slides, synchronized with Bible talks and music on phonograph records. In 1913, The Watch Tower said of a convention in Arkansas, U.S.A.: “It was unanimously resolved that the time has come for the use of moving pictures in teaching Bible truths. . . . [Russell] explained that he had been at work upon this very plan for three years and now had almost ready hundreds of beautiful pictures, which will undoubtedly attract great crowds and herald the Gospel, and help the public back to faith in God.”
15. What sort of results did the “Photo-Drama” have?
15 The “Photo-Drama” did that very thing after its inaugural showing in January 1914. Following are reports from The Watch Tower of 1914:
April 1: “A minister, after seeing two parts, said, ‘I have seen only one-half of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, but already have learned from it more about the Bible than I learned in my three years’ course in the theological seminary.’ A Jew after seeing it remarked, ‘I go away a better Jew than when I came in.’ Several Catholic priests and nuns have visited the DRAMA and expressed great appreciation. . . . Only twelve sets of the DRAMA are yet complete . . . Nevertheless we have already reached and are serving thirty-one cities . . . Over thirty-five thousand per day are seeing, hearing, admiring, thinking and being blessed.”
June 15: “The pictures have made me more zealous to spread the Truth, and have increased my love for the Heavenly Father and our dear Elder Brother Jesus. I daily pray God’s richest blessing upon the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION and all engaged in its presentation . . . I am your servant in Him, F. W. KNOCHE.—Iowa.”
July 15: “We are pleased to note what a wonderful impression for good the pictures have left in this city, and we feel assured that this witness to the world is also being used to gather in many who give evidence of being jewels of the Lord’s own choosing. We know of quite a number of earnest Bible students who are now associated with the Class here as a result of the Photo-Drama work. . . . Your sister in the Lord, EMMA L. BRICKER.”
November 15: “We feel sure you will be glad to hear of the splendid witness that is being given by means of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION at The London Opera House, Kingsway. The guiding hand of the Lord has been so wonderfully manifest in every detail of this exhibition that the brethren are rejoicing greatly . . . Our audiences were made up from all classes and kinds of people; we have noted many of the clergy in attendance. One vicar . . . asked for tickets that he and his wife might come and see it again. A Church of England Rector has attended the DRAMA several times, and . . . has brought many of his friends to witness it. Two bishops have also been present, and several titled people.”
December 1: “My wife and I truly thank our Heavenly Father for the great and priceless blessing which has come to us through your instrumentality. It was your beautiful PHOTO-DRAMA which was the cause of our seeing and accepting the Truth . . . We have your six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES. They are a great help.”
Response to Tests Back Then
16. Why did 1914 bring a test of faith?
16 What, though, when such sincere and devoted Christians found that their expectation of being joined with the Lord in 1914 was not realized? Those anointed ones went through an exceptionally trialsome period. The Watch Tower of November 1, 1914, declared: “Let us remember that we are in a testing season.” About this, Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (1993) states: “The years from 1914 to 1918 did, indeed, prove to be ‘a testing season’ for the Bible Students.” Would they allow their faith to be refined and their thinking to be adjusted so that they could undertake the great work ahead?
17. How did the faithful anointed ones react to remaining on earth past 1914?
17 The Watch Tower of September 1, 1916, said: “We imagined that the Harvest work of gathering the Church [the anointed] would be accomplished before the end of the Gentile Times; but nothing in the Bible so said. . . . Are we regretful that the Harvest work continues? . . . Our present attitude, dear brethren, should be one of great gratitude toward God, increasing appreciation of the beautiful Truth which He has granted us the privilege of seeing and being identified with, and increasing zeal in helping to bring that Truth to the knowledge of others.” Their faith had been put to a test, yet they faced that test and met it successfully. But we Christians should be aware that tests of faith may be many and varied.
18, 19. What other tests of faith followed for God’s people soon after Brother Russell’s death?
18 For example, another kind of test came upon the remnant shortly after Brother Charles T. Russell died. That was a test of their loyalty and faith. Who was ‘the faithful slave’ of Matthew 24:45? Some felt that it was Brother Russell himself, and they balked at cooperating with new organizational arrangements. If he had been the slave, what were the brothers to do now that he had died? Should they follow some newly designated individual, or was it now time to recognize that Jehovah was using, not just one person, but an entire group of Christians as an instrument, or slave class?
19 An additional test came upon true Christians in 1918 when worldly authorities, goaded on by the clergy of Christendom, ‘framed mischief by law’ against Jehovah’s organization. (Psalm 94:20, KJ) A wave of violent persecution was launched against the Bible Students both in North America and in Europe. The clergy-inspired opposition came to a head on May 7, 1918, when U.S. federal warrants were issued for the arrest of J. F. Rutherford and several of his close associates, including A. H. Macmillan. They were falsely accused of sedition, and the authorities ignored their pleas of innocence.
20, 21. As foretold at Malachi 3:1-3, what work was done among the anointed?
20 Though not recognized as such then, a purifying work was under way, as described at Malachi 3:1-3: “Who will be putting up with the day of his coming, and who will be the one standing when he appears? For [the messenger of the covenant] will be like the fire of a refiner and like the lye of laundrymen. And he must sit as a refiner and cleanser of silver and must cleanse the sons of Levi; and he must clarify them like gold and like silver, and they will certainly become to Jehovah people presenting a gift offering in righteousness.”
21 As World War I drew to a close, some of the Bible Students faced another test of faith—whether they would maintain strict neutrality as to worldly military affairs. (John 17:16; 18:36) Some did not. So in 1918, Jehovah sent “the messenger of the covenant,” Christ Jesus, to His spiritual temple arrangement to cleanse the small group of His worshipers from worldly blemishes. Those who were committed to displaying true faith learned from the experience and moved forward, zealously continuing to preach.
22. As to tests of faith, what remains to be considered?
22 What we have considered is not just of passing historical interest. It is directly related to the present spiritual condition of Jehovah’s worldwide congregation. But let us in the following article consider some of the tests of faith being faced by God’s people today and see how we may successfully overcome these.
Do You Recall?
□ Why should Jehovah’s people expect that their faith will be tested?
□ What sort of efforts to spread God’s message were under way prior to 1914?
□ What was the “Photo-Drama,” and what results did it produce?
□ How did events in the 1914-18 period serve to test the anointed?
[Picture on page 12]
Around the turn of the century, people in many lands were studying the Bible with the help of the “Millennial Dawn” series, later called “Studies in the Scriptures”
[Picture on page 13]
A letter from C. T. Russell with introductory text for a recording in which he said: “‘The Photo-Drama of Creation’ is presented by the IBSA—the International Bible Students Association. Its aim is public instruction along religio-scientific lines, and in defense of the Bible”
[Picture on page 15]
Demetrius Papageorge traveled showing the “Photo-Drama of Creation.” Later, he was imprisoned because of his Christian neutrality