1-3. Why do we need to know the Creator?
BY OBSERVING the marvels of creation and reasoning from experience, many people have concluded that there is a Creator. But just believing that there is a Creator would not necessarily do them much good. Many today will readily say that they believe in the existence of God. For example, generations of Chinese, influenced by Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist thinking, more or less believe in Providence, or Heaven, and its retribution. But they feel that comprehending this is beyond human ability. In the West, there are the agnostics who, though not denying the possibility of God’s existence, feel that no human can get to know him. Obviously, such ways of thinking would not help one to develop true faith in the Creator.
2 Thus, in addition to believing that there is a God, we must trust and have faith in him. The Bible points out: “Without faith it is impossible to please him well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Believing that God is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him” means that God is not aloof and uncaring. Rather, as a caring God, he helps those earnestly seeking him to come to know him, and he rewards them.
3 As an old Chinese saying puts it, Among a hundred virtues, filial piety is the foremost. Surely it is proper that children know their father and honor their parents. (Ephesians 6:1-3; Colossians 3:20) Do we not have all the more reason to know our Creator and his will? (Ecclesiastes 12:13) That being so, in order to know the true God and have faith in him, we need to find satisfactory answers to these vital questions: What is God’s name? Why did he create us? What is the purpose of life? What is our ultimate destiny? Why is there so much suffering in the world? We cannot answer these questions simply by logic or by our own experience or reasoning. We need enlightenment and direction from the Creator himself, and he has provided these in his Word, the Bible.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
4. (a) Who is God? (b) What is God’s purpose for mankind and the earth?
4 The Bible tells us that God’s name is Jehovah. It also reveals his purposes, views, and feelings, as well as his dealings with humans so that we can come to know him accurately. Right from the start, the Bible shows clearly what God’s purpose was in creating humans. In its first book, Genesis, the Bible relates: “God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him; male and female he created them. Further, God blessed them and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:27, 28) God placed the first human pair he created, Adam and Eve, in a peaceful and happy garden, called the garden of Eden. They enjoyed ideal living conditions and meaningful work. As time passed, they were to bring forth perfect children. Not only would they not grow old and die but they would enjoy the company of their offspring, and together they would subdue the earth and turn it into a paradise in which a perfect human race could enjoy forever all the blessings that God provides. That, in brief, was God’s original purpose regarding mankind and the earth. (Isaiah 45:18) Does not all of this show that Jehovah is a loving, merciful, kind, and generous God? Is it not most satisfying and happifying to worship and to have faith in such a God?—Psalm 36:9; 103:13; Revelation 4:11.
5-7. (a) How did mankind lose out on God’s original purpose? (b) What loving provisions did God make for distressed mankind?
5 The Bible goes on to tell us, however, that for lack of appreciation and obedience, Adam and Eve broke God’s clearly stated command and thereby lost the right to live forever in the Paradise garden. (Genesis 3:1-19) Not only that, but their transgression also brought sad consequences for their yet unborn offspring. The Bible says: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) The hardships and difficulties that we see today are the results of sin and imperfection. Even so, the merciful God made provisions through the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, to deliver mankind out of slavery to sin and death. (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, 10) What provisions?
6 For the blessing of all mankind, God purposed to set up a Kingdom, or government, in heaven and appointed his Son, Jesus Christ, as the King of that Kingdom. (Matthew 6:10) By means of this Kingdom, God will eliminate all the problems on earth and carry out his original purpose, turning the earth into a paradise home for mankind. (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3, 4) It is not a fantasy to think of living in an earthly paradise under the rule of God’s Kingdom, enjoying perfect health and happiness forever. Jehovah God has given this personal guarantee: “So my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) What love God has demonstrated in all of this! Should we not be grateful to him? Gratitude has impelled millions of people around the world, from different races and cultures, to take action to cultivate a relationship with God and to serve him.
7 How, then, can true faith be cultivated? To those who profess no religion, faith in God is just a psychological crutch that provides comfort for the mind and solace for the heart. Do you agree with that view? What really is faith?
The Way to Cultivate Faith
8-13. (a) What is faith? (b) What steps must we take to develop faith in God? Why?
8 “Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1) As can be seen from this definition given in the Bible, faith is based on accurate knowledge and facts; otherwise, there would be no difference between faith and blind superstition. Therefore, to cultivate faith in God, three steps are essential: (1) Study the Bible diligently, (2) ponder over its teachings and admonitions, and (3) apply in your daily life what you learn.
9 Since faith is based on accurate knowledge, it is logical that to have faith in God, one must study God’s Word, the Bible. In this regard the Beroeans of the first century are good examples for us. Though steeped in both Jewish and Greek religious traditions, some of them were open-minded and readily gave ear to the apostle Paul’s message. They “received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily,” and many of them “became believers.” (Acts 17:11, 12) To acquire an accurate knowledge of God and his Word, we too need to be open-minded and carefully examine the teachings of God’s Word and take them to heart.—John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
10 It is true that we have to work for a living, but laboring only to satisfy our physical and material needs will not bring us real happiness. Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) If we allow our busy routine to stifle our spiritual needs, we are putting the cart before the horse and are shortsighted indeed. So we need to do our best to find time in our busy lives to study the Bible regularly. God’s Word exhorts: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Take this advice, and arrange a practical schedule so that you can keep your activities in proper balance. Jehovah God will sustain those who are earnestly seeking him.—Matthew 7:7.
11 To cultivate genuine faith in God, the next step is to meditate on what you have learned. Actually, to appreciate the value of what you have read, meditation is indispensable, even more important than repeated reading. Only by doing this can you grasp, digest, and assimilate the information, and then the seeds of truth will become deeply embedded and take root in your heart. Therefore, compare the things you are learning from the Bible with your own views, think objectively and reasonably, and weigh them against one another. On the other hand, do not allow personal prejudices or certain deep-rooted opinions to deprive you of a fair opportunity to determine what is the truth and worthy of your belief. Proceeding this way, you will not only realize that God is a real individual but also be impelled to establish a personal relationship with him.
12 The third step in cultivating faith is to put into practice what God tells us to do. We must remember that a living faith is supported by actions. (James 2:17, 26) If a man wants to have enough faith or confidence in his ability to drive a car, he cannot just read an instruction manual or even go over the procedure in his mind and then drive off in a car, can he? No. He needs to have someone help him to put into practice step-by-step the things he learned from the manual. In this way, after several driving lessons, he will develop enough confidence to start driving and can become a qualified driver. It is the same with cultivating faith in God. Besides studying and meditating, you must put into practice, as soon as possible, the things you learn from the Bible. For example, since you have learned that God is an invisible spirit, do you appreciate that you cannot worship him through any idols or images? You have also learned that Jehovah is a loving heavenly Father. Then, are you willing to express your feelings for him in prayer to him?
13 When you are willing to apply what you have learned from the Bible, you are demonstrating to God that you believe in him and his Word, the Bible. Your faith will accordingly grow stronger. However, only by practicing what you are learning will you be convinced that what the Bible says is not empty theory but is of great practical value. The Bible’s advice is: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O you people; happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8) Yes, applying Bible principles in our lives is an indispensable ingredient in cultivating faith in God and finding lasting peace and happiness.
A Vital Factor
14-17. (a) What are some things that may prevent people from accepting the truth about God? (b) What proper heart attitude should we cultivate?
14 Although you have now seen enough evidence to show that there is a Creator, that the Bible is his Word, and that it is his desire for you to establish a personal relationship with him, there is yet another vital factor that will determine whether you will benefit from all of this. What is that factor? It is your own heart condition.
15 A good heart condition is essential for the truth of God’s Word to strike a responsive chord. If a person is obstinately unwilling to believe, he will remain unconvinced no matter how overwhelming the evidence may be. Well has it been said that to cultivate genuine faith in God, we need to be honest, humble, and spiritually hungry. The hypocritical and selfish religious leaders in Jesus’ day hardened their hearts so much that they were unable to exercise faith in Jesus. However, many among the lowly, common people readily gave ear to Jesus’ teachings. The situation is no different today.—Luke 21:37, 38; John 8:43-47.
16 Why is an honest, humble, and teachable attitude so essential? It is because if a person is obsessed with his racial, cultural, or religious upbringing, it will greatly hinder him from taking in accurate knowledge of the Bible. In everyday life, if we are humble, open-minded, and willing to learn new things, we will certainly enhance the quality of our work and improve the condition of our life. So then, why not adopt the same open-minded attitude when it comes to religion and humbly study God’s Word and apply its healthful teachings?
17 Today, there is a great crowd worldwide consisting of people from different races, language groups, and cultural backgrounds doing just that. They have to cope with the problems of life just as you do, but they deeply appreciate that the best way to find peace and happiness is to take in knowledge of the Creator and exercise faith in him. They make up God’s organization on earth today. Who are these people?