“Stand firm in the faith, . . . grow mighty.”
1. (a) What experience did Peter have during a windstorm on the Sea of Galilee? (See opening image.) (b) Why did Peter start to sink?
THE apostle Peter and some other disciples are struggling to row their boat across the Sea of Galilee during a nighttime windstorm. Suddenly, they see Jesus walking on the sea. Peter calls out to Jesus, asking if he could walk across the water to his Master. When Jesus tells him to come, Peter gets out of the boat and miraculously walks toward Jesus on the choppy surface. Moments later, though, Peter starts to sink. Why? He looked at the windstorm and became afraid. Peter cries out to Jesus, who quickly catches hold of him and says: “You with little faith, why did you give way to doubt?”
2. What will we now consider?
2 Let us consider three aspects of Peter’s experience related to faith: (1) how Peter first showed faith in God’s support, (2) why Peter began to lose faith, and (3) what helped Peter to regain his faith. Examining these points can help us to see how we can “stand firm in the faith.”
FAITH IN GOD’S SUPPORT
3. Why did Peter climb out of the boat, and how have we done something similar?
3 When Peter climbed out of the boat to walk on the water, he did so in faith. Jesus had called him, and Peter trusted that God’s power would support him just as it was supporting Jesus. Similarly, when we dedicated ourselves to Jehovah and got baptized, we did so because of our faith. Jesus called us to be his followers, to walk in his footsteps. We had to exercise faith in both Jesus and God, trusting that they would support us in various ways.
4, 5. Why is faith a precious possession?
4 Faith is truly a precious possession. Just as Peter’s faith enabled him to walk on water, our faith enables us to do things that from a human standpoint may seem impossible. (Matt. 21:21, 22) For instance, many of us have changed our attitudes and practices so drastically that we are almost unrecognizable to those who knew us before. Jehovah supported our efforts because we took these steps based on our faith in him. (Read Colossians 3:5-10.) Once our faith moved us to dedicate ourselves to Jehovah, we became his friends, something we could never have done in our own power.
5 Our faith continues to empower us. In faith we are able to resist the attacks of our superhuman adversary, the Devil. (Eph. 6:16) In addition, trust in Jehovah helps us to minimize our anxiety during challenging times. Jehovah says that when our faith moves us to put Kingdom interests first, he will provide for our material needs. (Matt. 6:30-34) More than that, because of our faith, we will receive a gift no human could ever obtain by his own efforts
LOSS OF FOCUS CAN LEAD TO LOSS OF FAITH
6, 7. (a) To what might we compare the storm and waves that surrounded Peter? (b) Why should we take seriously the possibility that our faith could diminish?
6 The wind and waves surrounding Peter as he walked on the water might be compared to the trials and temptations we face in our life of dedication to God. Even when these are severe, we can stand firm with Jehovah’s support. Recall that Peter did not sink because of a gust of wind or a big wave. Think back on the sequence of events: “Looking at the windstorm, he became afraid.” (Matt. 14:30) Peter lost his focus on Jesus, and then his faith wavered. We could begin to sink if we were to begin “looking at the windstorm,” focusing on its power and doubting that Jehovah will support us.
7 We should take seriously the possibility that our faith could diminish, for the Bible refers to a weakening of faith or loss of faith as “the sin that easily entangles us.” (Heb. 12:1) As Peter’s experience shows, our faith can quickly weaken if we focus on the wrong things. How can we tell whether we are in danger of that happening? Consider some questions that we can use to examine ourselves.
8. How might God’s promises seem less real to us than they once did?
8 Do God’s promises seem less real to me now than they once did? For instance, God has promised to destroy the present system of things. Yet, are we distracted by the world’s array of entertainment options, thus weakening our faith in God’s promise? We might start to doubt that the end is really near. (Hab. 2:3) Here is another example. God promises to forgive us on the basis of the ransom. If, though, we became obsessed with guilt over our past mistakes, we could begin to doubt whether Jehovah has really “blotted out” all our sins. (Acts 3:19) Consequently, we could lose our joy in God’s service and become inactive.
9. What could happen if we focused on personal pursuits?
9 Am I as diligent in God’s service as I once was? The apostle Paul showed that working hard for Jehovah leads to our having “the full assurance of the hope down to the end.” However, what could happen if we began to focus our efforts on personal pursuits, such as by taking a job that pays well but that interferes with our worship? Our faith could weaken, and we could “become sluggish,” doing less for Jehovah than our circumstances allow.
10. How do we demonstrate faith in Jehovah when we forgive others?
10 Do I struggle to forgive personal offenses? When others offend or hurt us, we could focus on how we feel and then be tempted to tell them off or to cut them off by not speaking to them. On the other hand, if we forgive, we show our faith in Jehovah. How so? Those who sin against us owe us a debt, just as our sins put us in debt to God. (Luke 11:4) When we forgive others, we have to trust that gaining God’s favor by doing so is worth more than making them pay back their debt. Jesus’ disciples recognized that forgiving others requires faith. When he told them to forgive even those who had sinned against them repeatedly, they begged: “Give us more faith.”
11. Why might we fail to benefit from Scriptural counsel?
11 Do I chafe at Scriptural counsel? Instead of looking for a way to benefit from the counsel, we might be focusing on some defect in the counsel or in the counselor. (Prov. 19:20) We might thus miss an opportunity to bring our thinking into line with God’s.
12. A person who constantly grumbles about those whom Jehovah is using to lead his people gives evidence of what?
12 Do I murmur against appointed brothers in the congregation? When the Israelites focused on the bad report of the ten faithless spies, they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron. Jehovah then asked Moses: “How much longer will they not put faith in me?” (Num. 14:2-4, 11) Yes, the Israelites’ murmuring actually showed a lack of trust in God, who had appointed Moses and Aaron. Likewise, if we constantly grumble about those whom God is using to lead his people, is this not an indication that our faith in God has weakened?
13. Why should we not be disheartened if we detect some weaknesses in our faith?
13 Still, do not be disheartened if your self-examination exposes weaknesses in your faith. Even Peter, an apostle, gave way to fear and doubt. In fact, Jesus at times reproved all the apostles for having “little faith.” (Matt. 16:8) Keep in mind that an important lesson we learn from Peter’s experience comes from what he did after his faith wavered and he started to sink into the sea.
FOCUS ON JESUS TO STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH
14, 15. (a) What did Peter do when he started to sink? (b) We cannot actually see Jesus, so how can we “look intently” at him?
14 When Peter looked at the storm and started to sink, he could have tried to make it back to the boat on his own. He was an able swimmer, so this might even have been his natural response. (John 21:7) Yet, instead of relying on himself, he refocused on Jesus and accepted Jesus’ help. If we sense that our faith is weakening, we should imitate Peter’s example. But how can we do that?
15 Just as Peter refocused on Jesus, we too must “look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Read Hebrews 12:2, 3.) Of course, we cannot literally see Jesus as Peter did. Instead, we “look intently” at Jesus by examining his teachings and actions and then following these closely. Consider some steps we can take based on the model Jesus set. If we put these into practice, we will receive the help we need to make our faith firm.
16. How can we study the Bible in a way that builds our faith?
16 Strengthen your confidence in the Bible. Jesus was convinced that the Bible is God’s Word, which provides the best guidance in life. (John 17:17) Following Jesus’ example, we must read the Bible daily, study it, and meditate on what we learn. Along with general Bible study, dig into topics about which you may have questions. To illustrate, you might increase your conviction that the end of this system of things really is near by studying in detail the Scriptural proof that we live in the last days. Strengthen your trust in the Bible’s promises for the future by investigating its many prophecies that have already come true. Develop your confidence in the practical value of the Bible by considering examples of how the Bible improves people’s lives.*
17. Why was Jesus able to remain faithful despite extreme tests, and how can you imitate him?
17 Focus on the blessings Jehovah has promised. By fixing his sights on “the joy that was set before him,” Jesus was able to remain faithful despite extreme tests. (Heb. 12:2) He was never distracted by what the world could offer. (Matt. 4:8-10) You can imitate Jesus by meditating on the wonderful promises Jehovah has made to you. Put yourself in the picture by writing down or making a drawing of what you hope to do once God has removed this wicked system. Make a list of people whom you look forward to meeting when they are resurrected and what you would like to discuss with them. See these as God’s promises not just to mankind in general but to you personally.
18. How can prayer help to strengthen your faith?
18 Pray for more faith. Jesus taught his disciples to ask Jehovah for holy spirit. (Luke 11:9, 13) As you do this, pray for more faith; it is an aspect of the fruitage of the spirit. Be specific in your request, asking God to help you overcome any trait that you may have found that indicates a weakening of faith, such as an inability to forgive.
19. What should we look for in a friend?
19 Associate with people of faith. Jesus chose his friends carefully, especially those whom he welcomed into his inner circle. His closest companions, the apostles, had proved their faith and loyalty by obeying his commands. (Read John 15:14, 15.) So when choosing your friends, look for people who show their faith by their obedience to Jesus. And remember that one sign of a good friendship is open communication, even when this calls for giving or accepting counsel.
20. What benefit do we receive when we help others build their faith?
20 Help others strengthen their faith. By both word and deed, Jesus built up the faith of his disciples. (Mark 11:20-24) We should follow his example because helping others build up their faith also strengthens our own. (Prov. 11:25) In your preaching and teaching, highlight the proof that God exists, that he cares about us, and that the Bible is his inspired Word. Help your brothers and sisters bolster their faith as well. If any show signs of doubt, perhaps by starting to grumble against appointed brothers, do not quickly shun them. Instead, tactfully come to their aid, helping them take steps to restore their faith. (Jude 22, 23) If you are in school and the theory of evolution is discussed, boldly defend your faith in creation
21. What promise has Jehovah made to each of us about our faith?
21 With God’s help through Jesus, Peter conquered his fears and doubts, becoming a pillar of faith among early Christians. In the same way, Jehovah helps all of us to stand firm in the faith. (Read 1 Peter 5:9, 10.) The effort we put into building our faith is well worth it, for the rewards of faith are incomparable.
For instance, see the series “The Bible Changes Lives” in the public edition of The Watchtower.