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Congregation Bible Study | Study information for the book: Imitate Their Faith
ia pp. 2-3 and intro. ¶1-15 (30 min.)
A Letter From the Governing Body
To Our Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In its very first issue, January 1, 2008, the public edition of The Watchtower introduced us to a fascinating new series of articles entitled “Imitate Their Faith.” Since then, a new article in that series has been published every three months, much to our delight!
What has been the response to the series? After she finished reading the article on Martha, one reader wrote: “I laughed when I read it because I’m just like her—always desiring to be a good hostess and to be busy but sometimes forgetful of the need to pause and enjoy association with the friends.” A teenager drew this interesting conclusion from the story of Esther: “I could relate to the fact that we can be obsessed with clothes and the latest fashions. We should be well-groomed; yet, we don’t want to go overboard.” She added: “Jehovah cares about who we are inside.” And an article featuring the apostle Peter elicited this enthusiastic reaction from a Christian sister: “You pulled me lock, stock, and barrel into the account. It came to life! I used my senses to feel what the passages only alluded to.”
These readers—and countless others who have written to express their appreciation for the series—confirm what the apostle Paul wrote long ago: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction.” (Rom. 15:4) Yes, Jehovah had these narratives included in the Bible in order to teach us valuable lessons. All of us, no matter how many years we have known the truth, can learn from them.
Romans 15:4 For all the things that were written beforehand were written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.
We warmly encourage you to read this book as soon as possible. Include it as part of your Family Worship program—the children will love it! When the congregation studies the material during the Congregation Bible Study, do not miss a single week! Take your time; read it slowly. Use your imagination; get your senses involved. Try to feel what those Bible characters felt, to see what they saw. Compare how they reacted in a given situation with the way you would likely have responded.
It gives us great pleasure to share this publication with you. May it prove to be a blessing to you and your family. With much love and every good wish,
Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses
“Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”—HEBREWS 6:12.
Hebrews 6:12 so that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
1, 2. How did one traveling overseer evidently view faithful Bible characters, and why would such ones make wonderful friends?
“HE SPEAKS about Bible characters as if they were old friends of his.” After listening to a discourse by an elderly traveling overseer, a Christian woman made that observation. And rightly so, for the brother had spent decades studying God’s Word and teaching from it—so much so that the Bible’s men and women of faith did, indeed, seem like old friends whom he had known all his life.
2 Would not many of those Bible characters make wonderful friends? Are they that real to you? Imagine what it would be like to walk and talk with them, to spend time getting to know such men and women as Noah, Abraham, Ruth, Elijah, and Esther. Think of the influence they might have on your life—the precious words of advice and encouragement they might offer!—Read Proverbs 13:20.
Proverbs 13:20 The one walking with the wise will become wise,But the one who has dealings with the stupid will fare badly.
3. (a) How can we benefit from learning about the Bible’s men and women of faith? (b) What questions will we consider?
3 Of course, at the time of the “resurrection of . . . the righteous,” that kind of rewarding relationship will be fully possible. (Acts 24:15) However, even right now we can benefit from learning about the Bible’s men and women of faith. How? The apostle Paul offers this practical answer: “Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb. 6:12) As we embark on a study of the subject of men and women of faith, let us consider a few questions that Paul’s words bring to mind: Just what is faith, and why do we need it? How can we imitate faithful people of old?
Acts 24:15 And I have hope toward God, which hope these men also look forward to, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
Hebrews 6:12 so that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Faith—What It Is and Why We Need It
4. What do people tend to assume about faith, and why are they mistaken?
4 Faith is an appealing quality, one that all the men and women we will study about in this publication valued highly. Many people today tend to undervalue faith, assuming that it means believing without any real proof or evidence. However, they are mistaken. Faith is not gullibility; it is not a mere feeling; it is more than belief. Gullibility is dangerous. A mere feeling may come and go, and even belief is insufficient when it comes to God, for “the demons believe and shudder.”—Jas. 2:19.
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder.
5, 6. (a) Our faith focuses on what two kinds of unseen things? (b) How solidly grounded should our faith be? Illustrate.
5 True faith towers over such things. Recall how the Bible defines it. (Read Hebrews 11:1.) Paul said that faith focuses on two kinds of things that we cannot see. One, it focuses on present realities that are “not beheld.” Our physical eyes cannot see the realities in the spirit realm—such as Jehovah God, his Son, or the Kingdom that now rules in heaven. Two, faith focuses on “things hoped for”—events that have not yet happened. We cannot now see the new world that God’s Kingdom will soon bring about. Does that mean, then, that our faith in such realities and the things we have hoped for is groundless?
Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen.
6 Far from it! Paul explained that true faith is solidly grounded. When he called faith “the assured expectation,” he used an expression that may also be rendered “title deed.” Imagine that someone decided to give you a house. He might hand you the deed to the place and say, “Here is your new home.” Of course, he does not mean that you will live on that piece of paper; he means that the document is so legally binding that for all practical purposes, it is the house itself. Similarly, the evidence for our faith is so convincing, so strong, that it may be equated to our faith itself.
7. What does true faith involve?
7 Thus, true faith involves well-founded confidence and unshakable conviction that is clearly focused on Jehovah God. Faith causes us to see him as our loving Father and to trust that all his promises are sure to come true. But genuine faith involves more. Like a living thing, it must be nourished to survive. It must be expressed in actions, or it will die.—Jas. 2:26.
James 2:26 Indeed, just as the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
8. Why is faith so important?
8 Why is faith so important? Paul provided a compelling answer. (Read Hebrews 11:6.) We can neither approach Jehovah nor please him unless we have faith. So faith is essential if we are to fulfill the highest, noblest purpose of any intelligent creature: to draw close to and glorify our heavenly Father, Jehovah.
Hebrews 11:6 Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.
9. How has Jehovah shown that he is aware of our need for faith?
9 Jehovah knows how much we need faith, so he provides us with examples to teach us how to build and show faith. He blesses the Christian congregation with examples of faithful men who take the lead. His Word says: “Imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7) And he has given us more. Paul wrote about a “great . . . cloud of witnesses,” men and women of ancient times who left sterling examples of faith. (Heb. 12:1) Paul’s list of faithful ones, recorded in Hebrews chapter 11, is by no means complete. The Bible’s pages are rich with true stories about men and women, young and old, from all walks of life, who lived lives of faith and who have much to teach us in these faithless times.
Hebrews 13:7 Remember those who are taking the lead among you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out, imitate their faith.
Hebrews 12:1 So, then, because we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also throw off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Hebrews 11:1-40 Faith is the assured expectation of what is hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities that are not seen. 2 For by means of it, the men of ancient times had witness borne to them. 3 By faith we perceive that the systems of things were put in order by God’s word, so that what is seen has come into existence from things that are not visible. 4 By faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than that of Cain, and through that faith he received the witness that he was righteous, for God approved his gifts, and although he died, he still speaks through his faith. 5 By faith Eʹnoch was transferred so as not to see death, and he was nowhere to be found because God had transferred him; for before he was transferred he received the witness that he had pleased God well. 6 Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him. 7 By faith Noah, after receiving divine warning of things not yet seen, showed godly fear and constructed an ark for the saving of his household; and through this faith he condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness that results from faith. 8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, although not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he lived as a foreigner in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. 10 For he was awaiting the city having real foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith also Sarah received power to conceive offspring, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who made the promise. 12 For this reason, from one man who was as good as dead, there were born children, as many as the stars of heaven in number and as innumerable as the sands by the seaside. 13 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 and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it evident that they are earnestly seeking a place of their own. 15 And yet, if they had kept remembering the place from which they had departed, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they are reaching out for a better place, that is, one belonging to heaven. Therefore, God is not ashamed of them, to be called on as their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, as good as offered up Isaac—the man who had gladly received the promises attempted to offer up his only-begotten son— 18 although it had been said to him: “What will be called your offspring will be through Isaac.” 19 But he reasoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead, and he did receive him from there in an illustrative way. 20 By faith also Isaac blessed Jacob and Eʹsau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when about to die, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshipped while leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, nearing his end, spoke of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and he gave instructions concerning his bones. 23 By faith Moses was hid by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the young child was beautiful and they did not fear the order of the king. 24 By faith Moses, when grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharʹaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to have the temporary enjoyment of sin, 26 because he considered the reproach of the Christ to be riches greater than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, but not fearing the anger of the king, for he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible. 28 By faith he observed the Passover and the splashing of the blood, so that the destroyer might not harm their firstborn. 29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted it, they were swallowed up. 30 By faith the walls of Jerʹi•cho fell down after the people had marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith Raʹhab the prostitute did not perish with those who acted disobediently, because she received the spies in a peaceable way. 32 And what more will I say? For time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gidʹe•on, Baʹrak, Samson, Jephʹthah, David, as well as Samuel and the other prophets. 33 Through faith they defeated kingdoms, brought about righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful, became mighty in war, routed invading armies. 35 Women received their dead by resurrection, but other men were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection. 36 Yes, others received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by chains and prisons. 37 They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn in two, they were slaughtered by the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in need, in tribulation, mistreated; 38 and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth. 39 And yet all of these, although they received a favorable witness because of their faith, did not obtain the fulfillment of the promise, 40 because God had foreseen something better for us, so that they might not be made perfect apart from us.
How Can We Imitate the Faith of Others?
10. How might our personal study help us to imitate the faithful men and women in the Bible record?
10 You cannot imitate a person unless you first observe him closely. As you read through this publication, you will notice that much research has been done to help you observe these men and women of faith. Why not follow suit and do additional research of your own? In your personal study, dig into the Bible with the research tools you have at hand. As you meditate on what you study, try to picture the setting and background of Bible accounts. Try to see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the aromas, so to speak. More important, try to discern the feelings of the people involved. As you empathize with those faithful men and women, they will become more real to you, more familiar—some may even come to seem like dear old friends.
11, 12. (a) How might you come to feel closer to Abram and Sarai? (b) How might you benefit from the example of Hannah, Elijah, or Samuel?
11 When you truly come to know them, you will want to imitate them. For instance, imagine contemplating a new assignment. Through Jehovah’s organization, you are invited to expand your ministry in some way. Perhaps you are asked to move to a territory where there is an urgent need for more preachers, or maybe you are invited to try some form of preaching that you find unfamiliar or uncomfortable. As you contemplate the assignment and pray about it, would it help to meditate on the example of Abram? He and Sarai were willing to forgo the comforts of Ur and were richly blessed as a result. As you follow in their footsteps, you will surely feel that you now know them better than ever before.
12 Similarly, what if someone close to you were to treat you spitefully and you felt discouraged—even felt tempted to stay home from the meetings? If you contemplated Hannah’s example and the way she rose above Peninnah’s spitefulness, it would help you to make the right decision—and it might make Hannah seem more like a dear friend too. Likewise, if you are discouraged by feelings of worthlessness, you might feel closer to Elijah as you study his plight and the way Jehovah comforted him. And youths who are bombarded by pressures from immoral schoolmates may feel closer to Samuel after studying how he handled the corrupt influence of Eli’s sons at the tabernacle.
13. Would imitating the faith of a Bible character somehow make you less of an individual? Explain.
13 Does imitating the faith of such Bible characters somehow make you a mere imitation or less of an individual? Far from it! Remember, Jehovah’s Word encourages us to imitate people of faith. (1 Cor. 4:16; 11:1; 2 Thess. 3:7, 9) What is more, some of the people whom we will study herein were themselves imitators of faithful ones who went before them. For instance, we note in Chapter 17 of this book that in her speech, Mary evidently drew on Hannah’s words, clearly seeing her as an example. Did that make Mary’s faith any less strong? Hardly! Rather, Hannah’s example helped Mary to build faith so that she could make her own unique name with Jehovah God.
1 Corinthians 4:16 I urge you, therefore, become imitators of me.
1 Corinthians 11:1 Become imitators of me, just as I am of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:7 For you yourselves know how you should imitate us, because we did not behave in a disorderly way among you,
2 Thessalonians 3:9 Not that we do not have authority, but we wanted to offer ourselves as an example for you to imitate.
14, 15. What are some features of this publication, and how can we make good use of it?
14 This book has been designed to help you strengthen your faith. The chapters that follow are a compilation of articles from the “Imitate Their Faith” series published in The Watchtower between 2008 and 2013. However, some new material has been added. Questions are provided for discussion and application. Many colorful, detailed illustrations have been created for this volume, and existing ones have been enlarged and enhanced. Other helpful features, such as a time line and maps, have been included. Imitate Their Faith is a tool designed for personal, family, and congregation study. Many families might also enjoy simply reading the stories aloud together.
15 May this book help you to imitate the faith of Jehovah’s loyal servants from the past. And may it help you to grow in faith as you draw closer to your heavenly Father, Jehovah!
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