Anchored by Hope, Impelled by Love
“There remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—1 CORINTHIANS 13:13.
1. What warning does the apostle Paul give us?
THE apostle Paul warns us that, like a ship, our faith can be wrecked. He speaks of “holding faith and a good conscience, which some have thrust aside and have experienced shipwreck concerning their faith.” (1 Timothy 1:19) In the first century C.E., seagoing vessels were built of wood. Their seaworthiness depended on the quality of the timber and on skillful shipbuilding.
2. Why must the ship of our faith be well built, and what does this require of us?
2 What might be called the ship of our faith must remain afloat amid the turbulent seas of humanity. (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:15) So it must be well built, and this depends on us. When the “seas” of the Jewish and Roman worlds were becoming particularly rough for the early Christians, Jude wrote: “Beloved ones, by building up yourselves on your most holy faith, and praying with holy spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 20, 21) Since Jude also spoke of fighting for ‘the faith delivered to the holy ones,’ the expression “most holy faith” may refer to the whole range of Christian teachings, including the good news of salvation. (Jude 3) Christ is the foundation of that faith. Strong faith is needed if we are to cling to the true Christian faith.
Weathering the “Sect Scare” Storm
3. How are some using the “sect scare”?
3 In recent years, there have been several horrendous cases of mass suicides, murders, and terrorist attacks involving esoteric sects. Understandably, many individuals, including sincere political leaders, have shown concern about protecting innocent people, particularly minors, from such dangerous sects. “The god of this system of things,” doubtless being behind these heinous crimes, has thus created what some call a sect scare, and he is using this against Jehovah’s people. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 12:12) Some have exploited this situation to arouse opposition to our work. In certain countries, they have mounted a campaign aimed ostensibly at protecting people from “dangerous sects” but erroneously naming Jehovah’s Witnesses and thus accusing us by innuendo. This has made house-to-house witnessing difficult in some European countries and has caused some people who were studying the Bible with us to stop their study. In turn, this has had a negative effect on some of our brothers.
4. Why should opposition not discourage us?
4 Far from discouraging us, however, opposition should strengthen our conviction that we are practicing true Christianity. (Matthew 5:11, 12) The early Christians were accused of being a seditious sect, and they were “spoken against” everywhere. (Acts 24:5; 28:22) But the apostle Peter reassured his fellow believers, writing: “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you. On the contrary, go on rejoicing forasmuch as you are sharers in the sufferings of the Christ, that you may rejoice and be overjoyed also during the revelation of his glory.” (1 Peter 4:12, 13) Similarly, a member of the first-century governing body wrote: “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. But let endurance have its work complete, that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-4) Just as gale-force winds test the seaworthiness of a vessel, storms of opposition will reveal any weaknesses in our ship of faith.
Tribulation Produces Endurance
5. How can we be sure that our faith is stable under tribulation?
5 Christians can be sure of their endurance and of the stability of their faith only after weathering storms of tribulation. Our endurance will “have its work complete” in stormy seas only if we are “complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything,” including strong faith. Paul wrote: “In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties.”—2 Corinthians 6:4.
6. Why should we “exult while in tribulations,” and how does this strengthen our hope?
6 The gale-force winds of tribulation that we may experience at times should be considered opportunities to prove that our ship of faith is sound and stable. To Christians in Rome, Paul wrote: “Let us exult while in tribulations, since we know that tribulation produces endurance; endurance, in turn, an approved condition; the approved condition, in turn, hope, and the hope does not lead to disappointment.” (Romans 5:3-5) Steadfastness under trials brings us Jehovah’s approval. This, in turn, strengthens our hope.
Why Some Suffer Shipwreck
7. (a) As Paul’s words show, how had some experienced spiritual shipwreck? (b) How have some today deviated from the truth?
7 When Paul warned of experiencing “shipwreck,” he had in mind some who had “thrust aside” their good conscience and had lost their faith. (1 Timothy 1:19) Among them were Hymenaeus and Alexander who fell into apostasy, deviating from the truth and speaking abusively. (1 Timothy 1:20, footnote; 2 Timothy 2:17, 18) Today, apostates, who deviate from the truth, verbally beat “the faithful and discreet slave,” in effect biting the hand that had been feeding them spiritually. Some resemble the “evil slave,” implicitly saying, “My master is delaying.” (Matthew 24:44-49; 2 Timothy 4:14, 15) They deny that the end of this wicked system of things is near and criticize the spiritually alert slave class for maintaining a sense of urgency among Jehovah’s people. (Isaiah 1:3) Such apostates succeed in “subverting the faith of some,” inducing spiritual shipwreck.—2 Timothy 2:18.
8. What has caused some to wreck or to scuttle the ship of their faith?
8 Other dedicated Christians have wrecked the ship of their faith by thrusting aside their conscience and indulging in this world’s unbridled pleasure-seeking and its sexual immorality. (2 Peter 2:20-22) Still others scuttle their ship of faith because in their view the haven of the new system of things does not yet seem to be appearing on the horizon. Unable to make time calculations concerning the fulfillment of certain prophecies, and putting “Jehovah’s day” off in their minds, they abandon true worship. (2 Peter 3:10-13; 1 Peter 1:9) They soon find themselves back in the murky, troubled waters of the present system of things. (Isaiah 17:12, 13; 57:20) Some who have stopped associating with the Christian congregation still believe that it practices the true religion. However, they evidently lack the patience and endurance required to wait for the new world that Jehovah God has promised. Life in Paradise has not come soon enough for them.
9. What are a few dedicated Christians doing, and what should these facts lead us to consider?
9 A few dedicated Christians in some parts of the world appear to have reefed the sails of their ship of faith. The ship is still afloat, but instead of forging ahead in full faith, they have adopted a cruising speed. Drawn by the hope of “Paradise soon,” some were prepared to spare no efforts to attain it—zealous in the preaching work and regular in attendance at all meetings, assemblies, and conventions. Now thinking that the realization of their hopes is farther off than they anticipated, they have lowered the price they are willing to pay. This is evident in reduced preaching activity, irregularity at meetings, and willingness to miss parts of assembly or convention programs. Others are devoting more time to recreation and to obtaining material comforts. These facts lead us to consider what should be the driving force in our lives in line with our dedication to Jehovah. Should our zeal in his service be dependent on the hope of “Paradise soon”?
Hope Compared to an Anchor
10, 11. To what did Paul liken our hope, and why was this comparison appropriate?
10 Paul pointed out that Jehovah had made a promise of blessings to come through Abraham. Then the apostle explained: “God . . . stepped in with an oath, in order that, through two unchangeable things [his word and his oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to the refuge may have strong encouragement to lay hold on the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm.” (Hebrews 6:17-19; Genesis 22:16-18) The hope set before anointed Christians is that of immortal life in heaven. Today, the vast majority of Jehovah’s servants have the splendid hope of everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Luke 23:43) Without such hope, one can have no faith.
11 An anchor is a powerful safety device, indispensable for holding a ship in place and preventing it from drifting. No mariner would venture out of port without an anchor. Since Paul had been shipwrecked several times, he knew from experience that the lives of seafarers often depended on their ship’s anchors. (Acts 27:29, 39, 40; 2 Corinthians 11:25) In the first century, a ship had no engine to enable the captain to maneuver as he wished. Except for oar-driven warships, vessels depended primarily on the wind for movement. If his ship was in danger of being driven onto rocks, a captain’s only recourse was to drop anchor and ride out the storm, trusting that the anchor would not lose its grip on the seabed. Paul therefore compared a Christian’s hope to “an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm.” (Hebrews 6:19) When we are assailed by storms of opposition or experience other trials, our wonderful hope is like an anchor that stabilizes us as living souls, so that our ship of faith does not drift onto the dangerous shoals of doubt or the disastrous rocks of apostasy.—Hebrews 2:1; Jude 8-13.
12. How can we avoid drawing away from Jehovah?
12 Paul warned Hebrew Christians: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12) In the Greek text, “drawing away” literally means “to stand off,” that is, to apostatize. But we can avoid such utter shipwreck. Faith and hope will enable us to stick to Jehovah even during the worst storms of testing. (Deuteronomy 4:4; 30:19, 20) Our faith will not be like a ship tossed about by winds of apostate teaching. (Ephesians 4:13, 14) And with hope as our anchor, we will be able to weather the storms of life as Jehovah’s servants.
Impelled by Love and Holy Spirit
13, 14. (a) Why is the anchor of our hope not sufficient in itself? (b) What should be the motivating force in rendering sacred service to Jehovah, and why?
13 A Christian will not progress toward the new system if his only motive for serving Jehovah is the hope of living forever on a paradise earth. While keeping his anchor of hope as a stabilizing factor in his life, he needs to add to it and to his faith the impelling force of love. Paul underscored this fact when he wrote: “There remain faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—1 Corinthians 13:13.
14 Our motivating force in rendering sacred service should be heartfelt love for Jehovah, in response to his immeasurable love for us. The apostle John wrote: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love. By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him. As for us, we love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:8, 9, 19) Out of gratitude to Jehovah, our primary concern should be, not to gain personal salvation, but to witness the sanctification of his holy name and the vindication of his righteous sovereignty.
15. How is our love for Jehovah related to the question of his sovereignty?
15 Jehovah wants us to serve him because we love him, not just Paradise. The Bible encyclopedia Insight on the Scriptures* states: “Jehovah glories in the fact that his sovereignty and the support of it by his creatures is based primarily on love. He desires only those who love his sovereignty because of his fine qualities and because it is righteous, who prefer his sovereignty to any other. (1Co 2:9) They choose to serve under his sovereignty rather than try to be independent—this because of their knowledge of him and of his love, justice, and wisdom, which they realize far surpasses their own. (Ps 84:10, 11)”—Volume 2, page 275.
16. How is love for Jesus an impelling force in our lives?
16 As Christians, we also show love for Jesus in response to his love for us. Paul reasoned: “The love the Christ has compels us, because this is what we have judged, that one man died for all; so, then, all had died; and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) Christ is the very foundation upon which our spiritual lives, our faith, and our hope are built. Our love for Christ Jesus bolsters our hope and stabilizes our faith, especially in times of stormy testing.—1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 1:23; 2:6, 7.
17 While our love for God and for his Son is the main impelling force in our lives as Christians, Jehovah provides something else that impels us, energizes us, and gives us strength to go forward in his service. It is his active force, or holy spirit. The Hebrew and Greek words rendered “spirit” basically refer to the dynamic movement of the air, such as wind. Sailing ships like those Paul boarded relied on the invisible force of the wind to get to their destination. Similarly, we need love and the action of God’s invisible active force if our ship of faith is to move us onward in Jehovah’s service.—Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:16.
Onward to Our Destination!
18. What will enable us to endure any future tests of our faith?
18 Our faith and love may be severely tested before we reach the new system of things. But Jehovah has provided us with an anchor “both sure and firm”—our wonderful hope. (Hebrews 6:19; Romans 15:4, 13) When we are battered by opposition or other trials, we can endure if we are securely anchored by means of our hope. After one storm subsides but before another one breaks out, let us be determined to fortify our hope and strengthen our faith.
19. How can we keep the ship of our faith on course and reach the haven of God’s new world?
19 Before mentioning the “anchor for the soul,” Paul said: “We desire each one of you to show the same industriousness [to “speed up,” footnote] so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, in order that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:11, 12) Impelled by love for Jehovah and for his Son and empowered by holy spirit, let us keep the ship of our faith on course until we reach the haven of God’s promised new world.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
By Way of Review
□ With regard to our faith, what warning did Paul give us?
□ How have some experienced spiritual shipwreck, and how are others slowing down?
□ What godly quality needs to be coupled with our faith?
□ What will enable us to reach the haven of God’s promised new world?
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The ship of our faith must be well built in order to withstand the storms of life
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Our faith could suffer shipwreck
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Hope is an anchor for our life as Christians