“He was awaiting the city having real foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”—HEB. 11:10.
SONG 22 The Kingdom Is in Place—Let It Come!
1. What sacrifices have many made, and why did they make them?
MILLIONS of God’s people today have made sacrifices. Many brothers and sisters have chosen to remain single. Married couples have postponed having children. Families have kept their lives simple. All have made these decisions for one important reason—they want to serve Jehovah as fully as possible. They are content and trust that Jehovah will provide all the things they truly need. Will they be disappointed? No! Why can we be certain of that fact? One reason is that Jehovah blessed Abraham, “the father of all those having faith.”—Rom. 4:11.
2 Abraham willingly left the comfortable lifestyle available to him in the city of Ur. Why? Because he was awaiting “the city having real foundations.” (Read Hebrews 11:8-10, 16.) What is that “city”? What challenges did Abraham face while he waited for that city to be built? And how can we be like Abraham and those in our day who have followed his example?
WHAT IS “THE CITY HAVING REAL FOUNDATIONS”?
3. What is the city that Abraham awaited?
3 The city that Abraham awaited is God’s Kingdom. That Kingdom is made up of Jesus Christ and 144,000 anointed Christians. Paul refers to the Kingdom as “a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem.” (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:8-10; 14:1) Jesus taught his disciples to pray for this same Kingdom, asking that it come so that God’s will can take place on earth as it does in heaven.—Matt. 6:10.
4 Did Abraham know the details of how God’s Kingdom would be structured? No. For many centuries, those details were a “sacred secret.” (Eph. 1:8-10; Col. 1:26, 27) But Abraham did know that some of his offspring would become kings. Jehovah had specifically made that promise to him. (Read Genesis 17:1, 2, 6.) Abraham had such strong faith in God’s promises that it was as if he could see the Anointed One, or Messiah, who would be King of God’s Kingdom. For this reason, Jesus could tell the Jews in his day: “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day, and he saw it and rejoiced.” (John 8:56) Clearly, Abraham knew that his descendants would form a Kingdom that had Jehovah’s backing, and he was willing to wait for Jehovah to fulfill that promise.
5. How do we know that Abraham was waiting for the city designed by God?
5 How did Abraham show that he was waiting for the city, or Kingdom, designed by God? First, Abraham did not join himself to any earthly kingdom. He remained a nomad, choosing not to settle down and give his support to a human king. In addition, Abraham did not try to set up his own kingdom. Instead, he kept obeying Jehovah and waited for Him to fulfill His promise. In doing so, Abraham showed extraordinary faith in Jehovah. Let us examine some of the challenges he faced and see what we can learn from his example.
WHAT CHALLENGES DID ABRAHAM FACE?
6. What kind of city was Ur?
6 The city Abraham left was relatively safe, sophisticated, and comfortable. It was protected by massive fortifications and a moat on three sides. People in Ur were proficient in both writing and arithmetic. And the city apparently was a center for business; many business documents have been found at the site. Private houses were made of brick; the walls were coated with plaster and then whitewashed. Some of these homes had 13 or 14 rooms surrounding a paved courtyard.
7. Why did Abraham have to trust that Jehovah would protect him and his family?
7 Abraham had to trust that Jehovah would protect him and his family. Why? Recall that Abraham and Sarah left the safety and comfort of living in a house in the city of Ur to dwell in tents in the open fields of Canaan. No longer were he and his family protected by thick walls and deep moats. Instead, they were now vulnerable to attack by enemy forces.
8. At one time, what did Abraham have to deal with?
8 Abraham did God’s will, but at one time he struggled to feed his family. He had to deal with a severe famine that struck the very land to which Jehovah had sent him. That famine was so bad that Abraham decided to move his family to Egypt temporarily. However, while he was in Egypt, Pharaoh, the ruler of the country, took his wife from him. Imagine the anxiety that Abraham must have felt until Jehovah persuaded Pharaoh to return Sarah to Abraham.—Gen. 12:10-19.
9. What family difficulties did Abraham have to cope with?
9 Abraham’s family life was difficult. His beloved wife, Sarah, could not have children. For decades they had to deal with that bitter disappointment. Eventually, Sarah gave her servant girl, Hagar, to Abraham so that she could bear children for Abraham and Sarah. But when Hagar became pregnant with Ishmael, she began to despise Sarah. The situation became so difficult that Sarah chased Hagar away from home.—Gen. 16:1-6.
10. What incidents involving Ishmael and Isaac tested Abraham’s trust in Jehovah?
10 Sarah finally became pregnant and gave Abraham a son whom he named Isaac. Abraham loved both of his sons, Ishmael and Isaac. But because of the bad way that Ishmael treated Isaac, Abraham was forced to send Ishmael and Hagar away. (Gen. 21:9-14) Later, Jehovah asked Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. (Gen. 22:1, 2; Heb. 11:17-19) In both cases, Abraham had to trust that Jehovah would eventually make things turn out well for his sons.
11. Why did Abraham have to wait patiently on Jehovah?
11 Throughout this time, Abraham had to learn to wait patiently on Jehovah. He was likely over 70 when he and his family left Ur. (Gen. 11:31–12:4) And for some one hundred years, he lived in tents, roaming the land of Canaan. Abraham died when he was 175. (Gen. 25:7) But he did not see Jehovah fulfill His promise to give the land he walked on to his descendants. And he did not live to see the city, God’s Kingdom, established. Even so, Abraham is described as dying “old and satisfied.” (Gen. 25:8) Despite all the challenges he had to deal with, Abraham maintained strong faith and was content to wait on Jehovah. Why was he able to endure? Because throughout Abraham’s life, Jehovah protected him and treated him as a friend.—Gen. 15:1; Isa. 41:8; Jas. 2:22, 23.
12. What are we waiting for, and what will we consider?
12 Like Abraham, we are awaiting the city having real foundations. We are not waiting for it to be built, however. God’s Kingdom was established in 1914 and has already taken complete control of heaven. (Rev. 12:7-10) But we are waiting for it to take complete control of the earth. While we wait for that to happen, there are many situations that we must deal with that are similar to those that Abraham and Sarah faced. Have Jehovah’s modern-day servants been able to imitate Abraham’s example? The life stories published in The Watchtower show that, like Abraham and Sarah, many today have had faith and patience. Let us consider just a few of those stories and see what we can learn.
IMITATING ABRAHAM’S EXAMPLE
13. What do you learn from the experience of Brother Walden?
13 Be willing to make sacrifices. If we are to put God’s city, the Kingdom, first in our lives, we must be like Abraham, who willingly made sacrifices to please God. (Matt. 6:33; Mark 10:28-30) Note the example of a brother named Bill Walden.* In 1942, Bill was about to graduate from a U.S. university with a degree in architectural engineering when he started studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Bill’s professor had arranged for Bill to have a job after graduation, but Bill declined. He explained that he had decided to give up the promise of a secular career in order to serve God more fully. Shortly afterward, Bill was drafted for military service. He respectfully refused and as a result was fined $10,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released after three years. Later, he was invited to attend Gilead School and served as a missionary in Africa. Then Bill married Eva, and they served together in Africa, which called for sacrifices. Eventually they returned to the United States to care for Bill’s mother. Summarizing his life story, Bill says: “Tears come to my eyes when I think of the awesome privilege of having been used by Jehovah for more than 70 years in his service. I often thank him for guiding me toward making his service my career.” Are you able to make the full-time ministry your career?
14-15. What do you learn from the experience of Brother and Sister Apostolidis?
14 Do not expect your life to be trouble-free. From Abraham’s example we learn that even those who devote their entire life to serving Jehovah must still deal with problems. (Jas. 1:2; 1 Pet. 5:9) Consider how this proved true in the experience of Aristotelis Apostolidis.* He got baptized in 1946 in Greece, and in 1952 he got engaged to a sister named Eleni, who had the same goals as he did. However, Eleni fell ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was removed, but just a few years after the couple got married, the tumor came back. The doctors operated again, but Eleni was left partially paralyzed, and her speech was impaired. She remained a zealous minister despite her illness and despite the government persecution at the time.
15 For 30 years, Aristotelis cared for his wife. During this time he served as an elder, worked on assembly committees, and helped to build an Assembly Hall. Then, in 1987, Eleni was hurt in an accident while she was preaching. She was in a coma for three years, and then she died. Aristotelis sums up his experience by saying: “Over the years, trying circumstances, difficult challenges, and unforeseen occurrences have called for an inordinate amount of tenacity and perseverance. Yet, Jehovah has always given me the needed strength to overcome these problems.” (Ps. 94:18, 19) How Jehovah loves those who do all they can for him despite dealing with trials!
16. What good advice did Brother Knorr give his wife?
16 Focus on the future. Abraham focused on the future rewards that Jehovah would give him, and this helped him to overcome his immediate challenges. Sister Audrey Hyde tried to keep this positive outlook, even though her first husband, Nathan H. Knorr, died of cancer and her second husband, Glenn Hyde, became afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.* She says that she was helped by something Brother Knorr told her just a few weeks before his death. She says: “Nathan reminded me: ‘After death, our hope is sure, and we will never have to suffer pain again.’ Then he urged me: ‘Look ahead, for there is where your reward is.’ . . . He added: ‘Keep busy—try to use your life doing something for others. This will help you to find joy.’” What practical advice it is to stay busy in doing good for others and to “rejoice in the hope”!—Rom. 12:12.
17. (a) Why do we have good reason to focus on the future? (b) How will following the example recorded at Micah 7:7 help us to enjoy future blessings?
17 Today, we have more reason than ever to focus on the future. World events clearly show that we are in the final part of the last days of this system of things. Soon we will no longer need to wait for the city having real foundations to take full control of all the earth. Among the many blessings we will enjoy will be that of seeing our loved ones raised from the dead. At that time, Jehovah will reward Abraham for his faith and patience by bringing him and his family back to life on earth. Will you be there to welcome them? You can be if you, like Abraham, are willing to make sacrifices for God’s Kingdom, if you keep your faith despite problems, and if you learn to wait patiently on Jehovah.—Read Micah 7:7.
SONG 74 Join in the Kingdom Song!
Waiting for the fulfillment of a promise can test our patience—and in some cases, our faith. What lessons can we learn from Abraham that will strengthen our determination to wait patiently for the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises? And what good example have some modern-day servants of Jehovah set?
Brother Walden’s life story is published in the December 1, 2013, issue of The Watchtower, pp. 8-10.
Brother Apostolidis’ life story is published in the February 1, 2002, issue of The Watchtower, pp. 24-28.
Sister Hyde’s life story is published in the July 1, 2004, issue of The Watchtower, pp. 23-29.
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: An elderly couple continue faithfully serving Jehovah despite challenges. They keep their faith strong by focusing on Jehovah’s promises for the future.