The Quality of Your Faith—Tested Now
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.”—JAMES 1:2, 3.
1. Why should Christians expect tests of their faith?
TRUE Christians have no taste for suffering, and they draw no pleasure from pain or humiliation. Yet, they bear in mind the above words written by Jesus’ half brother James. Christ made it clear to his disciples that they could expect persecution and other difficulties because of their adhering to God’s standards. (Matthew 10:34; 24:9-13; John 16:33) Nonetheless, joy can result from such tests. How so?
2. (a) How can tests of our faith result in joy? (b) How can endurance have its work complete in our case?
2 A key reason that we find joy when under trials or tests of faith is that these can produce good fruitage. As James says, bearing up in the face of tests or difficulties “works out endurance.” We can benefit from developing that valuable Christian quality. James wrote: “Let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:4) Endurance has a job to do, a “work.” Its assignment is to make us complete in all respects, aiding us to be well rounded out as Christians. Hence, by letting trials run their course without any attempts to use unscriptural means to bring them to a swift end, our faith is tested and refined. If we have been lacking in patience, compassion, kindness, or love in dealing with situations or with fellow humans, endurance can make us more complete. Yes, the sequence is: Tests produce endurance; endurance increases Christian qualities; these are a cause of joy.—1 Peter 4:14; 2 Peter 1:5-8.
3. Why should we not shrink back in fear of trials or tests of faith?
3 The apostle Peter also highlighted why we need not fear or shrink back from tests of our faith. He wrote: “In this fact you are greatly rejoicing, though for a little while at present, if it must be, you have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6, 7) These words are especially encouraging now because the “great tribulation”—the time of praise, glory, honor, and survival—is much closer than some may think and much closer than when we became believers.—Matthew 24:21; Romans 13:11, 12.
4. How did one brother feel about tests that he and other anointed Christians had experienced?
4 In the preceding article, we considered tests that the anointed remnant faced from 1914 onward. Were these a basis for joy? A. H. Macmillan offered this retrospective view: “I have seen many severe trials come upon the organization and testings of the faith of those in it. With the help of God’s spirit it survived and continued to flourish. I have seen the wisdom of patiently waiting on Jehovah to clear up our understanding of Scriptural things instead of getting upset over a new thought. . . . No matter what adjustments we would have to make from time to time in our views, that would not change the gracious provision of the ransom and God’s promise of eternal life. So there was no need for us to let our faith be weakened by unfulfilled expectations or changes in views.”—The Watchtower, August 15, 1966, page 504.
5. (a) What benefits resulted from the remnant’s undergoing tests? (b) Why should the matter of testing interest us now?
5 Anointed Christians who survived the testing period of 1914-19 were freed from the dominating influence of the world and from many Babylonish religious practices. The remnant went forward as a cleansed and refined people, willingly offering sacrifices of praise to God and having the assurance that they as a people were acceptable to him. (Isaiah 52:11; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18) Judgment had begun with the house of God, but it would not be completed in one fixed period. The testing and the sifting of God’s people continues. Those who hope to survive the approaching “great tribulation” as part of the “great crowd” are also having their faith tested. (Revelation 7:9, 14) This is being done in ways similar to what the anointed remnant faced as well as in other ways.
How Might You Be Tested?
6. What is one sort of severe test that many have experienced?
6 Many Christians have thought about the challenge of standing up to tests in the form of direct frontal assaults. They recall this report: “[The Jewish leaders] summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go. These, therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name.” (Acts 5:40, 41) And the modern history of God’s people, especially during the world wars, makes it plain that many of Jehovah’s Witnesses actually experienced beatings, and far worse, at the hands of persecutors.
7. To what extent have some modern-day Christians gone in displaying faith?
7 With regard to Christians’ being objects of persecution, the world makes no distinction between the anointed remnant and the great crowd of “other sheep.” (John 10:16) Down through the years, members of both groups have been tested severely by imprisonment and even martyrdom because of their love of God and their faith in him. Both groups have needed God’s spirit, regardless of their hope. (Compare The Watchtower, June 15, 1996, page 31.) During the 1930’s and 1940’s in Nazi Germany, many of Jehovah’s servants, including children, displayed extraordinary faith, and not a few were tested to the limit. In more recent times, Jehovah’s people have faced the test of persecution in such lands as Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Singapore, and Zaire. And tests of this sort continue.
8. How do the comments of one African brother show that more is involved in the testing of our faith than enduring persecution in the form of beatings?
8 As already noted, however, our faith is also being tested in more subtle ways. Some of the tests are not so direct and easily identifiable. Consider how you would react to some of the following. A brother in Angola who had ten children was in a congregation that for a time was cut off from communication with responsible brothers. Later it became possible for others to visit the congregation. He was asked how he was managing to feed his family. It was not easy for him to answer, and all he would say was that the situation was difficult. Was he able to feed his children at least one meal a day? He replied: “Well, hardly. We have learned to get by with what we have.” Then with a voice full of conviction, he said: “But isn’t this what we expect in these last days?” Such faith is remarkable in the world, but it is not unusual among loyal Christians, who have full confidence that the Kingdom promises will be fulfilled.
9. How are we being tested in connection with 1 Corinthians 11:3?
9 The great crowd are also being tested in connection with theocratic procedures. The worldwide Christian congregation is directed according to divine principles and theocratic standards. This means first of all recognizing Jesus as the Leader, the one appointed as Head of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 11:3) Willing submission to him and to his Father is manifested through our faith in theocratic appointments and decisions related to our unitedly doing Jehovah’s will. Furthermore, in each local congregation, there are men appointed to take the lead. They are imperfect men whose faults we may readily see; yet we are urged to respect such overseers and to be submissive. (Hebrews 13:7, 17) Do you at times find that challenging? Is this really a test for you? If so, are you benefiting from this test of your faith?
10. What test do we face as regards the field ministry?
10 We are also tested in connection with the privilege and requirement to engage regularly in the field ministry. For us to pass this test, we must realize that having a full share in the ministry involves more than a minimal, or token, amount of preaching. Recall Jesus’ approving comment about the poor widow who gave her all. (Mark 12:41-44) We might ask ourselves, ‘Am I similarly giving of myself in connection with my field ministry?’ All of us are to be Witnesses of Jehovah all day long, ready at every opportunity to let our light shine.—Matthew 5:16.
11. How can changes in understanding or counsel on conduct be a test?
11 Another test we might face relates to the degree of our appreciation for the increasing light being shed on Bible truth and for the counsel provided by the faithful slave class. (Matthew 24:45) Sometimes this calls for adjustments in personal conduct, such as when it became clear that those who use tobacco would have to quit if they wanted to remain in the congregation.* (2 Corinthians 7:1) Or the test may be in our accepting the need to modify our taste in music or certain other forms of entertainment.* Will we question the wisdom of the counsel offered? Or will we let God’s spirit mold our thinking and help us to put on the Christian personality?—Ephesians 4:20-24; 5:3-5.
12. What is needed to strengthen faith after one is baptized?
12 For decades, the number of those of the great crowd has been increasing, and after their baptism they are continuing to strengthen their relationship with Jehovah. This involves more than attending a Christian assembly, going to some meetings at the Kingdom Hall, or occasionally sharing in field service. To illustrate: A person may be physically outside of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, but has he truly left it behind? Does he still cling to those things that reflect the spirit of Babylon the Great—a spirit that flouts God’s righteous standards? Does he treat morality and marital faithfulness lightly? Does he emphasize personal and material interests more than spiritual interests? Yes, has he remained unspotted by the world?—James 1:27.
Benefit From Tested Faith
13, 14. What have some done after starting on the way of true worship?
13 If we have truly fled from Babylon the Great and have also come out of the world, let us not look at the things behind. In line with the principle found at Luke 9:62, for any of us to look back could mean losing out on being a subject of God’s Kingdom. Jesus said: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.”
14 But some who became Christians in the past have since then allowed themselves to be fashioned after this system of things. They have not resisted the spirit of the world. (2 Peter 2:20-22) Worldly distractions have absorbed their interest and time, thus impeding their progress. Instead of keeping their minds and hearts fixed firmly on God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, putting such first in life, they have turned aside to pursue materialistic goals. Unless they are moved to acknowledge their weak faith and lukewarm state and to change their course by seeking divine counsel, they are in danger of losing their precious relationship with Jehovah and his organization.—Revelation 3:15-19.
15. What does it take to remain acceptable to God?
15 Our being found approved and in line for surviving the fast-approaching great tribulation depends on our keeping clean, having our robes ‘washed in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:9-14; 1 Corinthians 6:11) If we do not maintain a clean, righteous standing before God, our sacred service will not be acceptable. Surely, each one of us should realize that the tested quality of faith will help us to endure and to avoid incurring God’s displeasure.
16. In what ways may lies prove to be a test of our faith?
16 At times, the news media and secular authorities pin false labels on God’s people, misrepresenting our Christian beliefs and way of life. This should not surprise us, for Jesus clearly shows that the ‘world would hate us because we are no part of it.’ (John 17:14) Will we allow those who are blinded by Satan to intimidate and dishearten us and make us feel ashamed of the good news? Will we permit lies about the truth to affect our regular meeting attendance and our preaching activity? Or will we stand fast and be courageous and more determined than ever to continue declaring the truth about Jehovah and his Kingdom?
17. What assurance can stimulate us to continue showing faith?
17 According to fulfilled Bible prophecy, we are now living deep in the time of the end. Our Bible-based expectations for a new world of righteousness are certain to become a delightful reality. Until that day comes, may all of us exercise unshakable faith in God’s Word and prove our faith by not letting up in preaching the good news of the Kingdom worldwide. Think of the thousands of new disciples being baptized every week. Is that not reason enough for us to appreciate that Jehovah’s patience regarding the execution of his judgment can result in the salvation of many more people? Are we not joyful that God has allowed the lifesaving Kingdom-preaching activity to continue? And are we not delighted that millions have accepted the truth and are demonstrating their faith?
18. What is your determination as to serving Jehovah?
18 How long the present testing of our faith will continue we cannot say. But this much is certain: Jehovah has a fixed day of reckoning for the present wicked heavens and earth. Meanwhile, let us be determined to imitate the sterling quality of tested faith manifested by the Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. And let us follow the example of the aging anointed remnant and that of others who are courageously serving among us.
19. What can you be sure will conquer this world?
19 We should be determined to declare without letup the everlasting good news to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people in cooperation with the angel flying in midheaven. Let them hear the angelic declaration: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived.” (Revelation 14:6, 7) When that divine judgment is rendered, what will be the result as regards the tested quality of our faith? Will it not be a glorious triumph—deliverance from the present system of things into God’s righteous new world? By enduring the tests of our faith, we will be able to say, as did the apostle John: “This is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith.”—1 John 5:4.
Do You Recall?
□ How is it that tests of our faith can be a cause for joy?
□ What are some tests of our faith that may not be easily identified?
□ How can we benefit by successfully enduring tests of our faith?
[Pictures on page 17]
A. H. Macmillan (front left) about the time he and officials of the Watch Tower Society were unjustly imprisoned
He was a delegate to the convention in Detroit, Michigan, 1928
In his final years, Brother Macmillan was still displaying faith
[Picture on page 18]
Like this family, many Christians in Africa have displayed a tested quality of faith