Do You Have Faith Like Abraham’s?
“When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—LUKE 18:8.
1. Why is it difficult to keep one’s faith strong today?
IT IS not easy to keep one’s faith strong today. The world puts heavy pressure on Christians in order to divert their attention from spiritual things. (Luke 21:34; 1 John 2:15, 16) Many have to struggle to survive in the face of wars, disasters, diseases, or hunger. (Luke 21:10, 11) In a number of nations, there is a strong secular culture, and any who live by their faith are viewed as unreasonable, even fanatic. Further, many Christians are persecuted for their faith. (Matthew 24:9) Jesus’ question, raised almost 2,000 years ago, is certainly appropriate: “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”—Luke 18:8.
2. (a) Why is strong faith vital for a Christian? (b) Whose example of faith do we do well to consider?
2 The fact is, though, that strong faith is vital if we are to make a success of life now and receive the promised everlasting life in the future. Quoting Jehovah’s words to Habakkuk, the apostle Paul wrote: “‘My righteous one will live by reason of faith,’ and, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ . . . Without faith it is impossible to please [God] well.” (Hebrews 10:38–11:6; Habakkuk 2:4) Paul told Timothy: “Fight the fine fight of the faith, get a firm hold on the everlasting life for which you were called.” (1 Timothy 6:12) How is it possible, then, to have unbreakable faith? In considering that question, we do well to look to a man who lived some 4,000 years ago, yet whose faith is still highly regarded in three major religions—Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. That man is Abraham. Why was his faith so remarkable? Can we imitate him today?
Obedience to God’s Direction
3, 4. Why did Terah move his family from Ur to Haran?
3 Abraham (originally called Abram) is first mentioned very early in the Bible. At Genesis 11:26, we read: “Terah . . . became father to Abram, Nahor and Haran.” Terah and his family lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, a flourishing city in southern Mesopotamia. However, they did not stay there. “Terah took Abram his son and Lot, the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai [Sarah] his daughter-in-law, the wife of Abram his son, and they went with him out of Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. In time they came to Haran and took up dwelling there.” (Genesis 11:31) Abraham’s brother Nahor also moved his family to Haran. (Genesis 24:10, 15; 28:1, 2; 29:4) Why, though, did Terah move from prosperous Ur to distant Haran?
4 Some 2,000 years after Abraham’s time, the faithful man Stephen, speaking before the Jewish Sanhedrin, explained this unusual move by Terah’s family. He said: “The God of glory appeared to our forefather Abraham while he was in Mesopotamia, before he took up residence in Haran, and he said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your relatives and come on into the land I shall show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and took up residence in Haran.” (Acts 7:2-4) Terah submitted to Jehovah’s will for Abraham when he moved his immediate household to Haran.
5. Where did Abraham go after his father died? Why?
5 Terah’s family settled down in their new city. Years later when Abraham spoke of “my country,” he meant the area of Haran, not Ur. (Genesis 24:4) Nevertheless, Haran was not to be Abraham’s permanent home. According to Stephen, “after [Abraham’s] father died, God caused him to change his residence to this land in which you now dwell.” (Acts 7:4) Obedient to Jehovah’s direction, Abraham, accompanied by Lot, crossed the Euphrates into the land of Canaan.*
6. What promise did Jehovah utter to Abraham?
6 Why did Jehovah cause Abraham to move to Canaan? The reason had to do with God’s purposes for that faithful man. Jehovah had said to Abraham: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you; and I shall make a great nation out of you and I shall bless you and I will make your name great; and prove yourself a blessing. And I will bless those who bless you, and him that calls down evil upon you I shall curse, and all the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) Abraham would be father of a great nation that would enjoy Jehovah’s protection and that would possess the land of Canaan. A wonderful promise! But Abraham had to make radical changes in his life in order to inherit that land.
7. What changes did Abraham have to be prepared to make in order to inherit Jehovah’s promise?
7 When Abraham left Ur, he left a prosperous city and likely his father’s extended family—important sources of security in those patriarchal times. When he left Haran, he separated himself from his father’s household, including the family of his brother Nahor, and moved to an unknown land. In Canaan he did not seek safety within the walls of a city. Why not? Shortly after Abraham entered the land, Jehovah said to him: “Go about in the land through its length and through its breadth, because to you I am going to give it.” (Genesis 13:17) The 75-year-old Abraham and his 65-year-old wife, Sarah, followed these instructions. “By faith he resided as an alien in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents.”—Hebrews 11:9; Genesis 12:4.
Faith Like Abraham’s Today
8. In view of the example of Abraham and other ancient witnesses, what should we cultivate?
8 Abraham and his family are named among the great “cloud of [pre-Christian] witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11. In view of the faith of these early servants of God, Paul encourages Christians to “put off every weight and the sin [lack of faith] that easily entangles us.” (Hebrews 12:1) Yes, lack of faith can ‘easily entangle us.’ But in Paul’s day and ours, genuine Christians have been able to cultivate strong faith comparable to that of Abraham and others of ancient times. Speaking of himself and fellow Christians, Paul says: “We are not the sort that shrink back to destruction, but the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—Hebrews 10:39.
9, 10. What evidence is there that many today have faith like that of Abraham?
9 True, the world has changed from Abraham’s time. Nevertheless, we still serve the same “God of Abraham,” and he does not change. (Acts 3:13; Malachi 3:6) Jehovah deserves to be worshiped today just as he did in Abraham’s time. (Revelation 4:11) Many dedicate themselves wholly to Jehovah and, like Abraham, make whatever changes are necessary in their lives in order to do God’s will. Last year, 316,092 gave public evidence of their dedication by submitting to water baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit.”—Matthew 28:19.
10 Most of these new Christians did not have to travel to distant foreign lands in order to fulfill their dedication. In a spiritual sense, though, many of them traveled a considerable distance. For example, in Mauritius, Elsie used to be a sorceress. Everyone feared her. A special pioneer arranged a Bible study with Elsie’s daughter, and this opened the way for Elsie ‘to turn from darkness to light.’ (Acts 26:18) In view of her daughter’s interest, Elsie agreed to study My Book of Bible Stories. Her study was conducted three times a week because she needed constant encouragement. Her occult practices brought her no happiness, and she had many personal problems. Eventually, though, she was able to complete the long journey from demonism to true worship. When people came to seek her services, she would explain that only Jehovah could protect them from evil. Elsie is now a baptized Witness, and 14 people from among her family and acquaintances have accepted the truth.
11. What adjustments are those who dedicate themselves to Jehovah willing to make?
11 Most of those who last year dedicated themselves to serve God did not have to make such radical changes. But all moved from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive. (Ephesians 2:1) Although still in the world physically, they are no longer part of it. (John 17:15, 16) Similar to anointed Christians, whose “citizenship exists in the heavens,” they are like “aliens and temporary residents.” (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11) They brought their lives into harmony with God’s standards, motivated above all by love of God and love of neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-39) They do not pursue selfish, materialistic goals or feel the need for personal fulfillment in this world. Instead, they fix their eyes on the promised ‘new heavens and new earth in which righteousness is to dwell.’—2 Peter 3:13; 2 Corinthians 4:18.
12. What activity reported last year gives evidence that Jesus during his presence has found “the faith on the earth”?
12 When Abraham moved to Canaan, he and his family were alone there with only Jehovah to support and protect them. However, these 316,092 newly baptized Christians are far from alone. True, Jehovah supports and protects them by his spirit, as he did Abraham. (Proverbs 18:10) In addition, though, he supports them through a vibrant, international “nation” that is more populous than some secular nations today. (Isaiah 66:8) Last year, a peak of 5,888,650 citizens of that nation gave evidence of their active faith by talking to their neighbors about God’s promises. (Mark 13:10) They spent the extraordinary amount of 1,186,666,708 hours in this work, seeking to find interested ones. As a result, 4,302,852 Bible studies were conducted with others who wish to cultivate faith. As a further demonstration of their zeal, 698,781 in this “nation” shared in the pioneer service, either full-time or for a month or more. (Details of the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses last year are found on pages 12 to 15.) This remarkable record is a positive, living answer to Jesus’ question, “When the Son of man arrives, will he really find the faith on the earth?”
Faithful Despite Tests
13, 14. Describe some of the difficulties encountered by Abraham and his family in Canaan.
13 Things were often difficult for Abraham and his household in Canaan. On at least one occasion, there was a severe famine that drove him out of Canaan down to Egypt. Moreover, both the ruler of Egypt and the ruler of Gerar (near Gaza) tried to take Abraham’s wife, Sarah, for themselves. (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18) There were also conflicts between the herders of Abraham’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock, and this caused a separation between the two households. Unselfishly, Abraham gave Lot first choice of the land, and Lot chose to live in the District of the Jordan, which appeared Edenic in its fertility and beauty.—Genesis 13:5-13.
14 Then, Lot was caught up in a war between the king of distant Elam and his allies and the kings of five cities on the Low Plain of Siddim. The foreign kings vanquished the local kings and took much spoil, including Lot and his goods. When Abraham heard what had happened, he fearlessly pursued the foreign kings and was able to recover Lot and his household, as well as the goods of the local kings. (Genesis 14:1-16) However, that was not Lot’s worst experience in Canaan. For some reason he took up residence in Sodom, in spite of the city’s immoral reputation.* (2 Peter 2:6-8) When warned by two angels that the city would be destroyed, Lot fled with his wife and daughters. However, Lot’s wife ignored the specific instructions of the angels and, as a result, became entombed in salt. Lot was reduced to living for a time in a cave in Zoar with his two daughters. (Genesis 19:1-30) These events must have disturbed Abraham very much, especially since Lot had come into Canaan as part of Abraham’s household.
15. Despite the problems Abraham faced while living in tents in a strange land, what negative thinking did he evidently avoid?
15 Did Abraham ever wonder whether he and Lot should have stayed in the security of Ur with his father’s extended family or in Haran with his brother Nahor? Did he ever wish he could have put down roots in the safety of a walled city instead of living in tents? Did he, perhaps, question the wisdom of the sacrifices he made by being a wanderer in a strange land? Speaking of Abraham and his family, the apostle Paul noted: “If they had indeed kept remembering that place from which they had gone forth, they would have had opportunity to return.” (Hebrews 11:15) Yet, they did not return. Undeterred by the hardships, they stayed where Jehovah wanted them to be.
16, 17. (a) What difficulties do many Christians face today? (b) What positive attitude do Christians have? Why?
16 Similar endurance is seen in Christians today. Although serving God is a source of great joy to them, life is not easy for true Christians in these last days. Although they live in a spiritual paradise, they suffer the same economic pressures as do their neighbors. (Isaiah 11:6-9) Many have become innocent victims in the wars of the nations, and some have been reduced to extreme poverty through no fault of their own. In addition, they endure the problems of being an unpopular minority. In many lands they preach the good news in the face of overwhelming apathy. In others they suffer the deceptive attacks of those who ‘frame trouble by decree’ and “pronounce wicked even the blood of the innocent one.” (Psalm 94:20, 21) Even in lands where Christians are not under attack and where they are praised by some for their high standards, they are conscious of being different from their schoolmates and workmates—rather like Abraham, who lived in tents while most people around him dwelt in cities. Yes, it is not easy to live in the world and yet be “no part” of it.—John 17:14.
17 Do we, then, regret our dedication to God? Do we wish that we had stayed part of the world, being like everyone else? Do we lament the sacrifices we have made in Jehovah’s service? By no means! Rather than looking back longingly, we recognize that anything we might have sacrificed had no real value compared with the blessings enjoyed now and those to be enjoyed in the future. (Luke 9:62; Philippians 3:8) Besides, are people in the world happy? The truth is, many of them are seeking answers that we already possess. They suffer because of not following the guidance that we follow from God through the pages of the Bible. (Psalm 119:105) And many of them long for the kind of Christian companionship and delightful fellowship that we enjoy with fellow believers.—Psalm 133:1; Colossians 3:14.
18. What is the eventual result when Christians show courage like that of Abraham?
18 True, we sometimes have to be courageous like Abraham when he chased after Lot’s captors. But when we are, Jehovah blesses the outcome. For example, in Northern Ireland hatreds have become entrenched as a result of the sectarian violence, and it takes courage to be neutral. Yet, faithful Christians have followed Jehovah’s words to Joshua: “Be courageous and strong. Do not suffer shock or be terrified, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9; Psalm 27:14) Over the years their fearless stand has won them respect, and today they can preach freely in all communities of that land.
19. Where are Christians happy to be, and what outcome do they confidently expect when they follow Jehovah’s direction?
19 We need never doubt that whatever situation we face, if we follow Jehovah’s direction, the final outcome will be to his glory and to our long-term benefit. Despite challenges and sacrifices, there is no place we would rather be than in Jehovah’s service, enjoying fellowship with our Christian brothers and looking forward confidently to the eternal future that God has promised.
Some have suggested that Lot took up residence in a city for greater security after having been part of the booty of the four kings.
Do You Remember?
□ Why is strong faith essential?
□ How did Abraham show that he had strong faith?
□ How is dedication accompanied by changes in one’s life?
□ Why are we happy to serve God despite any problems we may face?
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Abraham was willing to make big changes in his life in order to inherit the promise
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The evidence shows that Jesus has found “the faith on the earth” during his presence