“Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for.”—HEB. 11:1.
1, 2. (a) How does the cherished hope of true Christians differ from the hope of people in Satan’s world? (b) What important questions will we now consider?
WHAT a wonderful hope true Christians share! All of us, whether of the anointed or of the “other sheep,” hope to see the fulfillment of God’s original purpose and the sanctification of Jehovah’s name. (John 10:16; Matt. 6:9, 10) Such expectations are the most noble any human can cherish. We also long for the promised reward of everlasting life, either as part of God’s “new heavens” or as part of his “new earth.” (2 Pet. 3:13) In the meantime, we hope for the continued increase of the spiritual prosperity of God’s people.
2 Those who are part of Satan’s world also have some sort of hope, but they may doubt whether theirs will ever be realized. For example, millions of gamblers may hope to win a lottery, but they could hardly feel sure about that. Real faith, on the other hand, is “the assured expectation” of our Christian hope. (Heb. 11:1) You may wonder, though, how can your expectation become more sure? And what are the benefits of having a strong faith in what you hope for?
3. True Christian faith is based on what fact?
3 Faith is not a quality that sinful humans are born with; nor does it develop naturally. Christian faith is the result of God’s holy spirit working on a receptive heart. (Gal. 5:22) The Bible does not say that Jehovah has or needs faith. Because Jehovah is almighty and all-wise, nothing can stop him from fulfilling his purpose. Our heavenly Father is so certain about the fulfillment of his promised blessings that to him they are already a reality. Therefore, he says: “They have come to pass!” (Read Revelation 21:3-6.) Christian faith stems from the fact that Jehovah is “the faithful God,” who always does what he promises.—Deut. 7:9.
LEARNING FROM ANCIENT EXAMPLES OF FAITH
4. What hope did faithful men and women of pre-Christian times cherish?
4 Chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews lists the names of 16 men and women of faith. The inspired writer referred to them and many others who “received a favorable witness because of their faith.” (Heb. 11:39) All of them had an “assured expectation” that God would raise up the promised “offspring” to crush Satan’s rebellion and to fulfill Jehovah’s original purpose. (Gen. 3:15) Those faithful ones died before the promised “offspring,” Jesus Christ, opened the way to heavenly life. (Gal. 3:16) Nevertheless, thanks to Jehovah’s unfailing promises, they will be resurrected to perfect human life in an earthly paradise.—Ps. 37:11; Isa. 26:19; Hos. 13:14.
5, 6. On what did Abraham and his family members focus their hope, and how did they maintain strong faith? (See opening picture.)
5 Hebrews 11:13 says of some who lived in pre-Christian times: “In faith all of these died, although they did not receive the fulfillment of the promises; but they saw them from a distance and welcomed them.” One of these was Abraham. Did he keep clear in mind the happy hope of life under the promised “offspring”? Jesus gave a clear answer to that question when he said to his opposers: “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” (John 8:56) The same was true of Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, and many others who focused their hope on the future Kingdom, “whose designer and builder is God.”—Heb. 11:8-11.
6 How did Abraham and his family keep their faith strong? They likely learned about God by listening to faithful older ones, from receiving divine revelations, or from reading reliable ancient documents. More important, they did not forget what they had learned but cherished God’s promises and requirements and meditated on them. Because their hope was so sure, these men and women were prepared to suffer any hardship to remain loyal to God.
7. What provisions has Jehovah kindly made for us to develop a strong faith, and what must we do with those provisions?
7 To keep our faith strong, Jehovah has kindly provided us with his complete Word, the Bible. To be “happy” and to “succeed,” we must regularly read God’s Word, daily if possible. (Ps. 1:1-3; read Acts 17:11.) Then, like pre-Christian worshippers of Jehovah, we need to keep meditating on God’s promises and be obedient to his requirements. Jehovah has also blessed us with an abundant supply of spiritual food provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45) Thus, by cherishing what we learn from the spiritual provisions that Jehovah has made available, we will be like the ancient examples of faith who had an “assured expectation” of their Kingdom hope.
8. How can prayer strengthen our faith?
8 Prayer also played a vital part in keeping the faith of pre-Christian witnesses strong. Their faith was strengthened as they experienced God’s answers to their prayers. (Neh. 1:4, 11; Ps. 34:4, 15, 17; Dan. 9:19-21) We too can pour out our concerns to Jehovah, knowing that he will hear us and strengthen us to endure with joy. And when our prayers are answered, our faith gets stronger. (Read 1 John 5:14, 15.) Since faith is an aspect of the fruitage of the spirit, we need to “keep on asking” for God’s spirit, as Jesus urged us to do.—Luke 11:9, 13.
9. In addition to praying for ourselves, for whom else should we pray?
9 Our prayers, though, should not be limited to asking God for personal help. “Too numerous to recount” are the “wonderful works” we can thank and praise Jehovah for daily! (Ps. 40:5) Also, our prayers should reflect that we “keep in mind those in prison, as though [we] were imprisoned with them.” And we should pray for our worldwide brotherhood, especially “those who are taking the lead among [us].” Our hearts are touched when we see how Jehovah answers our united prayers!—Heb. 13:3, 7.
THEY REFUSED TO COMPROMISE
10. What examples do we have of servants of God who refused to compromise their integrity, and what gave them the strength to do so?
10 In Hebrews chapter 11, the apostle Paul describes the trials that many unnamed servants of God endured. For example, the apostle mentions women of faith who lost their sons in death but later received them back by resurrection. Then he mentions others who “would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection.” (Heb. 11:35) Though we cannot be sure whom Paul had in mind, some, like Naboth and Zechariah, were stoned to death for obeying God and doing his will. (1 Ki. 21:3, 15; 2 Chron. 24:20, 21) Daniel and his companions clearly had the opportunity to “accept release” by compromising their integrity. Instead, their faith in God’s power enabled them, so to speak, to ‘stop the mouths of lions’ and ‘quench the force of fire.’—Heb. 11:33, 34; Dan. 3:16-18, 20, 28; 6:13, 16, 21-23.
11. What trials did some of the prophets endure because of their faith?
11 Because of their faith, such prophets as Micaiah and Jeremiah “received their trial by mockings . . . and prisons.” Others, like Elijah, “wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth.” All of them endured because they had an “assured expectation of what is hoped for.”—Heb. 11:1, 36-38; 1 Ki. 18:13; 22:24-27; Jer. 20:1, 2; 28:10, 11; 32:2.
12. Who set the most outstanding example of enduring trials, and what helped him to do so?
12 After describing various men and women of faith, Paul highlighted the most outstanding example of all—our Lord Jesus Christ. “For the joy that was set before him,” states Hebrews 12:2, “he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Indeed, we should “consider closely” Jesus’ example of faith in the face of the severest of trials. (Read Hebrews 12:3.) Like Jesus, early Christian martyrs, such as the disciple Antipas, refused to compromise their integrity. (Rev. 2:13) They would have the reward of a resurrection to heavenly life—surpassing the “better resurrection” that ancient men of faith looked forward to. (Heb. 11:35) Sometime after the Kingdom’s birth in 1914, all such faithful anointed ones, who were sleeping in death, were raised to spirit life in heaven to share with Jesus in his rulership over mankind.—Rev. 20:4.
MODERN-DAY EXAMPLES OF FAITH
13, 14. What trials did Rudolf Graichen experience, and what helped him to endure?
13 Millions of modern-day worshippers of God are following the example of Jesus by keeping their hope in clear focus and not allowing trials to weaken their faith. Consider the example of Rudolf Graichen, who was born in Germany in 1925. He recalled pictures of Bible scenes that hung on the walls of his home. “One picture,” he wrote, “showed the wolf and the lamb, the kid and the leopard, the calf and the lion—all in peace, being led by a little boy. . . . Such pictures made a lasting impression on me.” (Isa. 11:6-9) Despite many years of cruel persecution, first by the Nazi Gestapo and later by the Communist Stasi of East Germany, Rudolf maintained his strong faith in an earthly paradise.
14 Other severe trials faced by Rudolf were the loss of his beloved mother, who died of typhus in the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and seeing his father weaken in faith to the point that he signed a document in which he renounced being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. After being released from prison, Rudolf enjoyed the privilege of serving as a circuit overseer and was then invited to Gilead School. He was assigned as a missionary to Chile, where he again served as a circuit overseer. But Rudolf’s trials had still not ended. A year after he married Patsy, a fellow missionary, their baby daughter died. Later, his beloved wife, who was only 43 years old, also died. Rudolf endured all these trials and, although aged and sickly, was serving as a regular pioneer and an elder when his life story appeared in the August 1, 1997, issue of The Watchtower, pages 20-25.
15. What current examples do we have of Jehovah’s Witnesses joyfully enduring persecution?
15 Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to rejoice in their hope despite intense and ongoing persecution. For example, many of our brothers and sisters are imprisoned in Eritrea, Singapore, and South Korea, in most cases because of acting in harmony with Jesus’ words not to take up the sword. (Matt. 26:52) Among these hundreds of prisoners are Isaac, Negede, and Paulos, who have been in an Eritrean prison camp for over 20 years! Denied the freedom to support their aging parents and to marry, these brothers have remained loyal in spite of severe mistreatment. The positive look on their faces, as seen on our jw.org website, shows that they have kept their faith strong. Even their prison guards have come to respect them.
16. How can strong faith protect you?
16 Most of Jehovah’s people have not had to endure severe persecution. Their tests of faith have been different. Many have had to endure poverty or have suffered during civil wars or natural disasters. Others are like Moses and the patriarchs in that they have given up a life of worldly ease or fame. They fight hard to resist being tempted to live a materialistic, self-centered lifestyle. What is it that enables them to do this? Their love for Jehovah and their strong faith in the promise that he will correct all injustices and reward his faithful servants with everlasting life in a new world of righteousness.—Read Psalm 37:5, 7, 9, 29.
17. What are you determined to do, and what will be discussed in the next article?
17 In this article, we have seen how meditation on God’s promises and regular prayer will keep our faith strong. That, in turn, will enable us to endure trials of faith as we focus on our Christian hope with an “assured expectation.” But the Bible’s description of faith involves more, as the next article will show.