The Foundation of Our Hopes

“Lord, increase our faith.” —Luke 17:5

THE Scriptures give us few definitions of words; but faith—one of the most important words in the Bible—has been very clearly defined by Paul as “a basis [a well-grounded assurance, Weymouth] of things hoped for, a conviction of [the reality of] things unseen.” (Heb. 11:1, Diaglott) It is the quality that enables us to grasp the reality of the great all-wise Creator and to lay hold of and make our own the things he has been pleased to reveal.

So important is this quality that God has made the blessing of eternal life dependent upon its exercise. And yet it is doubtless the observation of all God’s people that only a few who are living under present evil conditions have the ability to exercise faith. Indeed, most have no faith. Paul says, “All men have not faith.”—II Thess. 3:2

Were the Gospel Age the only “day of salvation,” instead of being the day exclusively for the salvation of the church (II Cor. 6:2), it surely would not be loving, nor even just, to impose such a condition for acceptance with God. Just as there are some born with no ear for music, being unable to distinguish one tune from another, so there are some born without the quality of faith. Even after reaching years of discretion, these find themselves quite unable to exercise faith.

Such are, of course, unfortunate, in that they are barred from participating in the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. But the changed conditions of the Millennial Age and the revelation of the glory of the Lord in that day will be such that the exercise of faith will be an ability possessed by all, for all will come to know the Lord “from the least of them unto the greatest of them.”—Jer. 31:34

Now, however, it is only the few possessing faith who can draw near to God with acceptance. And, thank God, some, through hereditary influences and early training, find themselves able to exercise this quality from very early days. From Paul’s words it would seem that Timothy was one of these. Addressing Timothy, Paul says: “I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and [in] thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that [it dwells] in thee also.”—II Tim. 1:5

However, the Scriptures make it plain that such faith as we may have by nature needs a great deal of development ere we are fully ready for the kingdom. The majority of us are possessed of but a small amount when the Lord accepts our consecration and brings us by the Spirit of sonship into his family.

Increased by Experiences

One of our principal lessons in the school of Christ relates to the development of more faith. When the disciples on one occasion were crossing the Sea of Galilee, they met the Lord walking to them on the water. He invited Peter to come to him, by also walking on the water. Peter made a bold start and then, seeing the fierceness of the winds and waves, became fearful, “and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.” Jesus caught hold of him, with the reprimand, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”—Matt. 14:30,31

So it appears that, to begin with, even the disciples had only a limited amount of faith. Of this they themselves seemed to have a keen realization, and doubtless they on more than one occasion prayed, “Lord, increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5) Such a prayer, uttered in sincerity, surely would be answered, probably by experiences coming to them that would test their faith; and if the tests were met successfully, faith would be increased.

Peter’s faith was tested by his being invited to leave the boat and come to the Lord on the water. But, as he saw the stormy winds and waves, his faith began to fail. Similarly, in these days of the second presence of the Master, some, on being invited to leave the “boat” (appropriately symbolizing the place or things that keep us buoyed up in the midst of the stormy winds and waves of the present social order) and come into full accord with the Lord and his arrangements, have found their faith sorely tested and have been made to realize they had not as much faith as they thought they had. Like Peter, such feel the need to cry to the Lord that their faith might be increased, that they might be obedient to his call and walk in his ways, whatever the cost.

One of the methods by which God develops our faith is well illustrated by the way he sought to increase the faith of his typical people, Israel, just as they were about to enter the Land of Promise. (See Deuteronomy, chapters 1 to 4.) Israel had been given a great many lessons of faith during the forty years in the wilderness, where they were entirely dependent upon the Lord for life and health and all things. But now they were about to enter upon some new and probably more difficult experiences than they had had hitherto.

Under a new leader, Joshua, they were to take possession of a strange and well-defended country, and Moses in his final word to Israel in the plains of Moab specially sought to encourage them along the lines of faith. They were about to do much fighting, and hence Moses reminded Israel of four nations who, in God’s providence, had come from a distance, had conquered their enemies, and had taken possession of their land—the very thing that his people Israel were now required to do. These were the descendants of Esau, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Philistines. (See Deuteronomy 2:1-5,16-22.)

Just at this time, too, as they were about to cross over Jordan to begin the work of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan—and doubtless for their further encouragement—the Israelites were allowed to defeat Sihon, the king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan. (Deut. 2:24-37; 3:1-17) God would have them know that if his providences enabled the descendants of Esau to take possession of Edom, the descendants of the two sons of Lot to possess Moab and Ammon, the Philistines, who came from Caphtor in northern Africa, to conquer and possess what afterwards became the land of the Philistines along the western seaboard of Canaan, so would he much more fulfill his oft-repeated promises that his people Israel should possess Canaan.—Deut. 2:23

In the same way, our experiences—personal ones and those we observe in others—include at times special victories given us in the early stages of our Christian course, which are intended to make our faith sufficient for all the Lord requires of us in the Christian warfare. By these typical examples, too, the Lord would strengthen our faith to take possession of our “land of promise,” resting fully and enjoying fully all the exceeding great and precious promises he has given us.

Even now, as a part of our present inheritance, we have already entered by faith into our “land of promise.” We can enjoy it as a very real thing to the extent that faith has conquered and made her own all the spiritual good things the Lord has provided as a present portion for his people of spiritual Israel.

Dependent upon Knowledge

As true faith is based upon knowledge, to walk by faith means to walk in the light of the divine plan, at the same time being upheld by the divine promises laid hold of by faith. We are assured that what God has promised he is able to perform.—Rom. 4:21

The entire path of the church, leading to “glory and honor and immortality,” is a path of faith. (Rom. 2:7) This is suggested by Paul in Romans 1:17: “For therein [in the light of the great plan of salvation, which centers in Christ Jesus] is the righteousness of God [his loving, just, and righteous character] revealed from faith to faith”—from one degree of faith to another.

We turn from sin because our faith tells us we are going contrary to divine law. Our faith further lays hold of the fact that we can receive forgiveness through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:6) Further faith helps us to see consecration as a reasonable service; for, if we have been redeemed at great cost, making possible eternal life, how reasonable to give up the few short years of the present life to the Lord and his service!

“My remnant of days,
I’ll spend to His praise
Who died the whole world to redeem.
If many or few,
My days are His due;
They all are devoted to Him.”

Our faith, continuing to grow stronger, prompts us to take up our cross and follow the way the Master went. Even if we should, with Paul, “suffer the loss of all things,” (Phil. 3:8) faith, ever growing stronger, enables us to continue to rejoice, as we lay hold of the salvation to be brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Pet. 1:13) Our salvation, therefore, is indeed a salvation by faith, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:9) It is God that worketh in the children of faith, “both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”—Phil. 2:13

Dawn Bible Students Association
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