Let Us Be the Sort That Have Faith
“We are . . . the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”—HEBREWS 10:39.
1. Why can it be said that the faith of each loyal servant of Jehovah is precious?
THE next time you are in a Kingdom Hall full of worshipers of Jehovah, pause to look at those around you. Think of the many ways in which they show faith. You may see elderly ones who have served God for decades, youths who daily stand up to peer pressure, and parents who work hard to raise God-fearing children. There are congregation elders and ministerial servants, who shoulder many responsibilities. Yes, you may see spiritual brothers and sisters of every age who surmount all manner of obstacles in order to serve Jehovah. How precious the faith of each one!—1 Peter 1:7.
2 Few imperfect humans, if any, have understood the importance of faith better than did the apostle Paul. In fact, he noted that genuine faith leads to “the preserving alive of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:39) Paul knew, though, that faith is subject to attack and erosion in this faithless world. He was deeply concerned about the Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem and Judea, who were struggling to preserve their faith. As we look at parts of Hebrews chapters 10 and 11, let us take note of the methods that Paul used to build up their faith. In the process, we will see how we can build stronger faith in ourselves and in those around us.
Express Confidence in One Another
3. How do Paul’s words found at Hebrews 10:39 show that he had confidence in his brothers and sisters in the faith?
3 The first thing we might note is Paul’s positive attitude toward his audience. He wrote: “Now 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) Paul thought the best, not the worst, of his faithful fellow Christians. Notice, too, that he used the expression “we.” Paul was a righteous man. Yet, he did not speak down to his audience, as if he were on a lofty plane of righteousness far above them. (Compare Ecclesiastes 7:16.) Rather, he included himself with them. He expressed heartfelt confidence that he and his faithful Christian readers would all face the daunting obstacles looming before them, that they would courageously refuse to shrink back to destruction, and that they would prove to be of the sort that have faith.
4. For what reasons did Paul have confidence in his fellow believers?
4 How could Paul have such confidence? Was he blind to the faults of the Hebrew Christians? On the contrary, he offered them specific counsel to help them overcome their spiritual shortcomings. (Hebrews 3:12; 5:12-14; 6:4-6; 10:26, 27; 12:5) Still, Paul had at least two good reasons for having confidence in his brothers. (1) As an imitator of Jehovah, Paul endeavored to see God’s people as Jehovah sees them. That was not merely in terms of their faults but in terms of their good qualities and their potential for choosing to do good in the future. (Psalm 130:3; Ephesians 5:1) (2) Paul had implicit faith in the power of the holy spirit. He knew that no obstacles, no human frailties, could prevent Jehovah from imparting “power beyond what is normal” to any Christian endeavoring to serve Him faithfully. (2 Corinthians 4:7; Philippians 4:13) So Paul’s confidence in his brothers and sisters was not misplaced, unrealistic, or blindly optimistic. It was solidly based and Scripturally founded.
5. How can we imitate Paul’s confidence, and with what likely result?
5 Surely, the confidence Paul displayed proved infectious. It must have meant a great deal to the congregations in Jerusalem and Judea to have Paul speak so encouragingly to them. In the face of the withering scorn and haughty indifference of their Jewish opposers, the Hebrew Christians were helped by such expressions to resolve in their hearts to be the sort that have faith. Can we do the same for one another today? It is all too easy to see in others only a long list of faults and personality quirks. (Matthew 7:1-5) Yet, we can help one another far more if we take note of and value the unique faith that each one possesses. With such encouragement, faith is more likely to grow.—Romans 1:11, 12.
Fitting Use of God’s Word
6. From what source was Paul quoting when he wrote the words recorded at Hebrews 10:38?
6 Paul also built faith in his fellow believers by his skillful use of the Scriptures. For example, he wrote: “‘But my righteous one will live by reason of faith,’ and, ‘if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’” (Hebrews 10:38) Paul was here quoting from the prophet Habakkuk.* These words were likely familiar to Paul’s readers, Hebrew Christians to whom the prophetic books were well-known. Considering his goal—to strengthen the faith of Christians in and near Jerusalem around the year 61 C.E.—the example of Habakkuk was an apt choice. Why?
7. When did Habakkuk record his prophecy, and what were the conditions in Judah at that time?
7 Habakkuk evidently wrote his book just over two decades before the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. In vision, the prophet saw the Chaldeans (or, Babylonians), a “nation bitter and impetuous,” swooping down on Judah and destroying Jerusalem, swallowing up peoples and nations in the process. (Habakkuk 1:5-11) But such a calamity had been foretold since Isaiah’s day, over a century earlier. In Habakkuk’s time, Jehoiakim succeeded good King Josiah, and wickedness again flourished in Judah. Jehoiakim persecuted and even murdered those speaking in Jehovah’s name. (2 Chronicles 36:5; Jeremiah 22:17; 26:20-24) It is no wonder that the anguished prophet Habakkuk cried out: “How long, O Jehovah?”—Habakkuk 1:2.
8. Why would Habakkuk’s example prove helpful to Christians in the first century and today?
8 Habakkuk did not know how close the destruction of Jerusalem was. Similarly, the first-century Christians did not know when the Jewish system of things would end. Nor do we today know the “day and hour” when Jehovah’s judgment will come against this wicked system. (Matthew 24:36) Let us note, then, Jehovah’s twofold answer to Habakkuk. First, he assured the prophet that the end would come right on time. “It will not be late,” God said, even though from a human standpoint, it might appear to delay. (Habakkuk 2:3) Second, Jehovah reminded Habakkuk: “As for the righteous one, by his faithfulness he will keep living.” (Habakkuk 2:4) What beautiful, simple truths! What matters most is, not when the end comes, but whether we continue to live a life of faith.
9. How did obedient servants of Jehovah keep living by their faithfulness (a) in 607 B.C.E.? (b) after 66 C.E.? (c) Why is it vital that we strengthen our faith?
9 When Jerusalem was sacked in 607 B.C.E., Jeremiah, his secretary Baruch, Ebed-melech, and the loyal Rechabites saw the truth of Jehovah’s promise to Habakkuk. They ‘kept living’ by escaping the terrible destruction of Jerusalem. Why? Jehovah rewarded their faithfulness. (Jeremiah 35:1-19; 39:15-18; 43:4-7; 45:1-5) Similarly, the first-century Hebrew Christians must have responded well to Paul’s counsel, for when the Roman armies attacked Jerusalem in 66 C.E. and then inexplicably withdrew, those Christians faithfully heeded Jesus’ warning to flee. (Luke 21:20, 21) They kept living because of their faithfulness. Likewise, we will keep living if we are found faithful when the end comes. What a vital reason for strengthening our faith now!
Bringing Examples of Faith to Life
10. How did Paul describe Moses’ faith, and how might we imitate Moses in this regard?
10 Paul also built faith by powerful use of examples. As you read Hebrews chapter 11, note how he brings the examples of Bible characters to life. He says, for instance, that Moses “continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:27) In other words, Jehovah was so real to Moses that it was as if he could see the invisible God. Could the same be said of us? It is easy to talk about a relationship with Jehovah, but to build and strengthen that relationship requires work. That is work we need to do! Is Jehovah so real to us that we take him into consideration when making decisions, including seemingly minor ones? Faith of that kind will help us to endure even the worst opposition.
11, 12. (a) Under what conditions may Enoch’s faith have been tested? (b) What encouraging reward did Enoch receive?
11 Consider, too, the faith of Enoch. The opposition he faced is difficult for us to imagine. Enoch had to deliver a stinging message of judgment against the wicked people living then. (Jude 14, 15) The persecution that threatened this faithful man was evidently so vicious, so violent, that Jehovah “transferred him,” taking him from the living state to the sleep of death before the enemies could lay hold of him. So Enoch did not get to see the fulfillment of the prophecy he uttered. However, he received a gift that was, in some respects, even better.—Hebrews 11:5; Genesis 5:22-24.
12 Paul explains: “Before his transference [Enoch] had the witness that he had pleased God well.” (Hebrews 11:5) What did this mean? Before he went into the sleep of death, Enoch may have had a vision of some kind, perhaps of the earthly Paradise in which he will awaken one day soon. In any case, Jehovah let Enoch know that He was well pleased by his faithful course. Enoch had made Jehovah’s heart rejoice. (Compare Proverbs 27:11.) Thinking of Enoch’s life is touching, is it not? Would you like to live such a life of faith? Then ponder over such examples; see them as real people. Be determined to live by faith, day by day. Remember, too, that the sort that have faith do not serve Jehovah on the basis of a date or deadline when God will fulfill all his promises. Rather, we are resolved to serve Jehovah forever! Doing so means the very best way of life in this system of things and in the next.
How to Grow Stronger in the Faith
13, 14. (a) How might Paul’s words recorded at Hebrews 10:24, 25 help us to make our meetings joyous occasions? (b) What is the primary reason for Christian meetings?
13 Paul showed the Hebrew Christians a number of practical ways in which they could strengthen their faith. Let us consider just two. We likely are familiar with his exhortation at Hebrews 10:24, 25, urging us to gather regularly at our Christian meetings. Remember, though, that Paul’s inspired words there do not imply that we are to be mere passive observers at such meetings. Rather, Paul describes meetings as opportunities to get to know one another, to move one another to serve God more fully, and to encourage one another. We are there to give, not just to receive. That helps to make our meetings joyous occasions.—Acts 20:35.
14 Primarily, though, we attend Christian meetings to worship Jehovah God. We do so by joining in prayer and song, by listening intently, and by offering “the fruit of lips”—expressions of praise to Jehovah in our comments and parts on the meeting. (Hebrews 13:15) If we keep those goals in mind and act on them at every meeting, our faith will without fail be built up each time.
15. Why did Paul urge the Hebrew Christians to hold fast to their ministry, and why is the same counsel appropriate today?
15 Another way to build faith is through the preaching work. Paul wrote: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised.” (Hebrews 10:23) You might urge others to hold fast to something when they seem in danger of letting go. Satan was certainly pressuring those Hebrew Christians to let go of their ministry, and he is pressuring God’s people today as well. In the face of such pressure, what should we do? Consider what Paul did.
16, 17. (a) How did Paul acquire boldness for the ministry? (b) What measures should we take if we find ourselves intimidated by some aspect of our Christian ministry?
16 To the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul wrote: “After we had first suffered and been insolently treated (just as you know) in Philippi, we mustered up boldness by means of our God to speak to you the good news of God with a great deal of struggling.” (1 Thessalonians 2:2) How had Paul and his companions been “insolently treated” in Philippi? According to some scholars, the Greek word used by Paul expresses insulting, shameful, or outrageous treatment. The Philippian authorities had beaten them with rods, thrown them into prison, and confined them in stocks. (Acts 16:16-24) How did that painful experience affect Paul? Did ones in the next city on his missionary tour, Thessalonica, find Paul shrinking back in fear? No, he “mustered up boldness.” He conquered fear and continued to preach boldly.
17 From where did Paul’s boldness come? From within? No, he said that he mustered up boldness “by means of our God.” A reference work for Bible translators says that this statement may be rendered “God took fear out of our hearts.” So if you do not feel particularly bold about your ministry, or if some aspect of it in particular strikes you as intimidating, why not appeal to Jehovah to do the same for you? Ask him to take the fear from your heart. Ask him to help you muster up boldness for the work. In addition, take some other practical measures. For example, arrange to work with someone who is adept at the form of witnessing that concerns you. It may involve business territory, street witnessing, informal preaching, or telephone witnessing. Perhaps your partner will be willing to take the lead at first. If so, observe and learn. But then muster up the boldness to give it a try.
18. What blessings may we experience if we muster up boldness in our ministry?
18 If you do muster up boldness, think of what may result. When you persist and do not let yourself become discouraged, you are likely to have good experiences in sharing the truth, experiences that you might otherwise have missed. (See page 25.) You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have pleased Jehovah by doing something that is difficult for you. You will experience his blessing and help in overcoming your fears. Your faith will be stronger. Really, you cannot work at building faith in others without building your own faith at the same time.—Jude 20, 21.
19. What precious reward is in store for “the sort that have faith”?
19 May you continue to strengthen your faith and the faith of those around you. You can do so by building yourself and others up through adept use of God’s Word, by studying Bible examples of faith and bringing them to life, by preparing for and participating in Christian meetings, and by holding fast to the precious privilege of the public ministry. As you do these things, be assured that you are, indeed, one of “the sort that have faith.” Remember, too, that those of this sort have a precious reward. They are “the sort that have faith to the preserving alive of the soul.”* May your faith continue to grow, and may Jehovah God preserve you alive forever!
Paul quoted the Septuagint rendering of Habakkuk 2:4, which includes the phrase “if anyone shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” This statement does not appear in any extant Hebrew manuscript. Some have suggested that the Septuagint was based on earlier Hebrew manuscripts that no longer exist. In any event, Paul included it here under the influence of God’s holy spirit. It therefore has divine authorization.
The yeartext of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the year 2000 will be: “We are not the sort that shrink back . . . but the sort that have faith.”—Hebrews 10:39.
How Would You Answer?
□ How did Paul express confidence in the Hebrew Christians, and what can we learn from this?
□ Why was Paul’s reference to the prophet Habakkuk so fitting?
□ What Scriptural examples of faith did Paul bring to life?
□ What practical means of building faith did Paul recommend?
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After his painful experience in Philippi, Paul mustered up boldness to continue preaching
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Can you muster up boldness to try various forms of witnessing?