“Faith is . . . the convincing evidence of realities that are not seen.”—HEB. 11:1, ftn.
1. How should we view Christian faith?
CHRISTIAN faith is a precious quality. Not all humans possess it. (2 Thess. 3:2) However, Jehovah has given to each one of his worshippers “a measure of faith.” (Rom. 12:3; Gal. 5:22) All who have it should be deeply grateful.
2, 3. (a) What blessings are possible for someone who has faith? (b) What questions will we now consider?
2 Jesus Christ said that his heavenly Father draws people to himself through His Son. (John 6:44, 65) Acquiring faith in Jesus, in turn, makes it possible for an individual to gain forgiveness of sins. That, then, opens up the prospect of enjoying an everlasting relationship with Jehovah. (Rom. 6:23) What did we do to deserve such a wonderful blessing? As sinners, the only thing we deserve is death. (Ps. 103:10) But Jehovah saw a potential for good in us. Out of his undeserved kindness, he opened our heart to the good news. So we began to exercise faith in Jesus with everlasting life in view.—Read 1 John 4:9, 10.
3 But what exactly is faith? Is it limited to a mental grasp of the blessings that God has in store for us? And more important, in what ways must we exercise our faith?
“EXERCISE FAITH IN YOUR HEART”
4. Explain why faith is more than just a mental process.
4 Faith involves much more than a mental understanding of God’s purpose. It is a powerful motivating force that impels a person to act in harmony with God’s will. Faith in God’s means of salvation moves a believer to share the good news with others. The apostle Paul explained: “If you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.”—Rom. 10:9, 10; 2 Cor. 4:13.
5. Why is faith so important, and how can we keep it strong? Illustrate.
5 Clearly, our prospect of enjoying eternal life in God’s new world depends on our having faith and keeping it strong. The need to keep our faith healthy can be likened to a plant’s need for water. Unlike an artificial plant, a living plant keeps changing. A live plant either withers because of a lack of water or continues to thrive with a regular supply of moisture. If deprived of sufficient water, a once healthy plant will eventually die. So, too, our faith. It will wither and die if neglected. (Luke 22:32; Heb. 3:12) But if we give it due attention, our faith will stay alive and keep “growing,” and we will be “healthy in faith.”—2 Thess. 1:3; Titus 2:2.
THE BIBLE’S DESCRIPTION OF FAITH
6. In what two ways does Hebrews 11:1 describe faith?
6 The Bible’s description of faith is found at Hebrews 11:1. (Read.) Faith focuses on two kinds of things that are not visible to us: (1) “What is hoped for”—this may include future events that have been promised to happen but that have not yet occurred, such as the end of all wickedness and the coming new world. (2) “Realities that are not seen.” In this context, the Greek word translated “evident demonstration” refers to “convincing evidence” of an invisible reality, such as the existence of Jehovah God, Jesus Christ, the angels, and the activities of the heavenly Kingdom. (Heb. 11:3) How do we prove that our hope is alive and that we believe in the unseen things spoken of in God’s Word? By our words and deeds—without which our faith would be incomplete.
7. How does Noah’s example help us to understand what it means to have faith? (See opening picture.)
7 Hebrews 11:7 highlights the faith of Noah who, “after receiving divine warning of things not yet seen, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household.” Noah exercised his faith by building the gigantic ark. Without doubt, his neighbors must have asked him why he was building such a colossal structure. Did Noah keep quiet or tell them to mind their own business? By no means! His faith moved him to witness boldly and to warn his contemporaries of God’s coming judgment. Quite likely, Noah repeated to the people the exact words that Jehovah had spoken to him: “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, because the earth is full of violence on account of them . . . I am going to bring floodwaters upon the earth to destroy from under the heavens all flesh that has the breath of life. Everything on the earth will perish.” Also, Noah no doubt explained to the people the only means of escape, repeating God’s command: “You must go into the ark.” Thus, Noah further exercised his faith by being “a preacher of righteousness.”—Gen. 6:13, 17, 18; 2 Pet. 2:5.
8. What was the disciple James inspired to explain regarding the meaning of true Christian faith?
8 The letter of James was likely written shortly after the apostle Paul wrote his inspired description of faith. Like Paul, James explained that true Christian faith is not just a matter of believing; action is involved. “Show me your faith without the works,” wrote James, “and I will show you my faith by my works.” (Jas. 2:18) James goes on to show the clear difference between mere belief and the exercising of one’s faith. The demons believe that God exists, but they have no true faith. Rather, they faithlessly work against the fulfillment of God’s purposes. (Jas. 2:19, 20) By contrast, referring to another ancient man of faith, James asks: “Was not Abraham our father declared righteous by works after he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that his faith was active along with his works and his faith was perfected by his works.” Then to drive home the point that faith must be shown by works, James adds: “Just as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”—Jas. 2:21-23, 26.
9, 10. How does the apostle John help us to understand the importance of exercising our faith?
9 Over three decades later, the apostle John wrote his Gospel and three letters. Did he appreciate the depth of meaning that other Bible writers had been inspired to explain respecting true Christian faith? More than any other Bible writer, John used the Greek verb that is sometimes translated “exercise faith.”
10 For example, John explained: “The one who exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” (John 3:36) Christian faith includes a demonstration of obedience to Jesus’ commands. John often quoted Jesus’ words that show that exercising faith is an ongoing process.—John 3:16; 6:29, 40; 11:25, 26; 14:1, 12.
11. How can we show appreciation for knowing the truth?
11 How grateful we should be that Jehovah used his holy spirit to reveal the truth to us and to enable us to exercise faith in the good news! (Read Luke 10:21.) We should never cease thanking Jehovah for drawing us to himself through his Son, “the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) To show our appreciation for such undeserved kindness, we should keep strengthening our faith through prayer and study of God’s Word.—Eph. 6:18; 1 Pet. 2:2.
12. In what ways should we exercise our faith?
12 We should keep exercising our faith in Jehovah’s promises. We must do this in ways that are clearly evident to others. For example, we keep on preaching about God’s Kingdom and sharing in the work of making disciples. We also keep working “what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Gal. 6:10) And we work hard to “strip off the old personality with its practices,” guarding against anything that could weaken us spiritually.—Col. 3:5, 8-10.
FAITH IN GOD IS PART OF OUR FOUNDATION
13. How important is “faith in God,” and to what is it likened, and why?
13 “Without faith,” the Bible states, “it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he exists and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6, ftn.) God’s Word describes “faith in God” as part of the “foundation” that is needed for anyone to become and remain a true Christian. (Heb. 6:1) On that foundation, Christians must “supply to [their] faith” other important qualities “in order to keep [themselves] in God’s love.”—Read 2 Peter 1:5-7; Jude 20, 21.
14, 15. Compared with love, how important is faith?
14 The Christian Bible writers emphasized the importance of faith by referring to it hundreds of times. No other Christian quality is mentioned as often. Does this mean that faith is the most important Christian quality?
15 Comparing faith with love, Paul wrote: “If I have all the faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2) Jesus emphasized the all-important quality of love for God when he answered the question: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matt. 22:35-40) Love embraces many essential Christian qualities, including faith. “Love,” the Bible states, “believes all things.” It has faith in the things God has said in his Word of truth.—1 Cor. 13:4, 7.
16, 17. How are faith and love highlighted together in the Scriptures, but which is the greatest, and why?
16 Because of the importance of faith and love, Christian Bible writers highlighted these qualities together multiple times, often in the same sentence or phrase. Paul urged his brothers to “put on the breastplate of faith and love.” (1 Thess. 5:8) Peter wrote: “Though you never saw [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not see him now, yet you exercise faith in him.” (1 Pet. 1:8) James asked his anointed brothers: “Did not God choose those who are poor from the world’s standpoint to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, which he promised to those who love him?” (Jas. 2:5) John wrote: “This is [God’s] commandment: that we have faith in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.”—1 John 3:23.
17 Although faith is essential, aspects of this quality will pass away when we see the fulfillment of God’s promises and experience the reality of our Christian hope. But the need to grow in love for God and for our neighbor will never cease. Thus, Paul could write: “Now, however, these three remain: faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.”—1 Cor. 13:13.
A POWERFUL DEMONSTRATION OF FAITH
18, 19. What powerful demonstration of faith do we see today, and who deserves the credit for this?
18 In our present day, Jehovah’s people have been exercising their faith in God’s established Kingdom. This has resulted in the development of a worldwide spiritual paradise that has over eight million inhabitants. It is a place that abounds with the fruitage of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) What a powerful demonstration of true Christian faith and love!
19 No human can take credit for this. It has been accomplished by our God. This wonderful work is bringing “fame to Jehovah, an everlasting sign that will never perish.” (Isa. 55:13) Indeed, it is “God’s gift” that we be “saved through faith.” (Eph. 2:8) Our spiritual paradise will continue to grow and to flourish until the whole earth is filled with perfect, righteous, and happy humans to the eternal praise of Jehovah’s name. May we keep on exercising our faith in Jehovah’s promises!