Monday, January 26, 2015

Faith in Jesus Christ

Jon and I gave talks yesterday at church. During our first meeting on Sundays we take the sacrament, and members of the congregation are asked to prepare a 10-12 minute talk on an assigned subject. Today's topic was Faith in Jesus Christ.

This is the first time that Jon and I have both had the same topic to speak on, so of course we didn't share our preparation with each other at all :) I like to be surprised and hear what Jon has to say along with everyone else.

Our talks went well, and I was really happy with how much I learned from studying more about this idea of FAITH. I've posted my talk below for you to read (and because I want to keep it for my kids and future generations to read someday.)

Just keep in mind that I spaced it based on how I talk and so that I could separate thoughts for timing. Some things were paraphrased, so there might be a little more or a little less in some areas than when I actually talked in church. There are also no visuals in sacrament meeting talks, but I added pictures here because I know that's what really keeps a blog post worth reading ;) Also, since it was about 11 minutes in talking length, it's a bit long to read. But I hope you enjoy perusing it as much as I enjoyed preparing it :)


Lately our son Edwin has been keeping me really busy at home. He is super adventurous and likes to explore. His newest trick is pulling himself up to standing, and his favorite place to do this is at the edge of the bathtub.

He loves trying to reach for the bath toys that he’s knocked over the edge, and he thinks it’s great fun to try and touch the water when I’m giving Kate a bath. It worries me though, because he’s still kind of unsteady! He gets so excited slapping his hands on the side of the tub, but then one quick move of his little feet and he’s down. A couple times he’s bumped his head on the wall, but it never deters him from trying to stand again. He is so brave J It’s like he doesn’t even know what potential hazards are out there, so he just goes confidently towards whatever makes him happy.

Soon his balance will get better, and he will stand with only one hand for guidance. Next he’ll go off on his own two little feet and walk without any extra support. It’s really a cool process!

I thought about this in relation to my own life.
As a child I relied a lot on the testimonies of my parents. I’m sure that it’s easy for most of us to relate to the feeling of growing up hearing primary lessons and going along with it as fact because there is no reason for you to believe otherwise. Hand-holding is a great start!

But one day it’s important for us all to take the stretch and balance on our own. Some of us may have done so already. Some of us may be teetering on unsteady feet. Some of us may be just starting to stand with the assistance of a table or chair.

Wherever we are in the progress of following Christ, the most important thing is to keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been running, or if we’re just starting to crawl – we should support one another in this journey toward the Savior, and remember that every bit of faith requires an initial step into the unknown.

I have faith in Jesus Christ. I have never seen him in person. I have never talked to him face to face. But I know that he is real.

The life of Jesus Christ has been documented and testified of for thousands of years, yet sometimes he feels very distant and unrelatable. To think of a man who was born of God and virgin, and then grew to fulfill a ministry of miracles unlike any the world has ever seen is really mind boggling! As I have studied and read books and scriptures over the years about the work of the Savior however, a key element has always been present for me, and that is the overwhelming fire of the spirit. When I really meditate about the stories I read and try to understand the true way God has set up his plan for us, it’s been a great process for me to feel closer to the Savior.
For instance, I’ve learned that nothing in Christ’s life, or surrounding his atonement, was coincidental. One of the biggest faith builders for me has always been the relation of the Olive Tree to our Savior.

In the book, Gethsemane, Andrew Skinner explains the symbolism of the Savior’s atonement. He says,
“…the symbolic significance of Jesus shedding his blood in Gethsemane has to do with the very place where it all happened. Gethsemane, the garden of the “oil press” on the Mount of Olives, is where olives were crushed to harvest their oil. Under extreme weight and pressure, the olives yielded their valuable fluid. Under extreme weight and pressure, Jesus bled from every pore. In Gethsemane, not only did Jesus become us but he became the olive. In the garden of the oil press, where olives were pressed out, Jesus himself was pressed out.

            “This symbolic correspondence is no accident, and there are many parallels between Jesus and the olive and between the Atonement and the pressing process that are not mere coincidences. In ancient Israel, the olive tree was supreme among all others, as reflected in scripture. First… [in Genesis 8:11 when Noah released a dove from the ark with an olive leaf in her mouth, we see…] the appearance together of … two symbolic objects, the dove and the olive leaf, [which is] the promise of continuing life on earth and peace with Deity…
            “Jeremiah 11:6 indicates that even Israel itself was called by Jehovah “a green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit.” Later rabbinic commentary expounded on that symbolism: “Israel was called ‘an olive tree, leafy and fair’ because …[Israel] shed light on all (Shmot Raba 36.1) This imagery undoubtedly came from the coloration of the olive leaf itself as well as the fact that the oil was burned for light…
            “One reason the olive tree was foremost among all others was that it was used to worship God as well as to sustain the life of mankind. The olive tree and its oil were unequivocally regarded as a necessity of life.”

It is so fascinating to me how much the Savior’s life is really more than just a string of happy miracles. When I see how all of the symbolism fits together, it brings an undeniable confirmation to me of the spirit testifying that it is true. Reading the book Gethsemane for the first time as a youth was a witness to me of the truthfulness of our Savior’s atonement both to my spiritual and logical sides.

So there are simple, logical reasons to have faith in Jesus Christ and what he did, and that it was religiously significant – but how can we have faith that Jesus Christ as our Savior is relative and important to us today?

Throughout my life there have been times when my faith has been in crisis; well after being married in the temple and spending years in callings through young women’s and primary. I felt at times that my faith was unfounded and ludicrous. How could I even think of having children and raising them in a church that I wasn’t even sure was true? In all those moments of doubt, though, I always remembered my trust in God. Over the years God has proved his watchful care in my life time and time again; whether it was protecting me in a hydroplaning excursion, helping me through the severe depression of the death of a dear friend, or helping us find employment when our bank account was literally and entirely out of money, Heavenly Father has never given me a reason to doubt his existence. Because of this, I take a step back, I reach a hand out for that chair, because my legs are too shaky to stand on, and I start over again. I do what I can to stay upright, and I remember that God is solid. When nothing else makes sense, I know that simply relying on God is the ultimate trust fall. I’m grateful for my testimony of a loving Heavenly Father that helps me to step forward with faith into that which I don’t know.

Having faith in Christ is also having HOPE in Him. I sure hope that the atonement is real, because I have a lot of flaws to overcome, and without the wonderful mercy provided by the Savior, I would certainly not be able to walk back into the presence of God.
Sister Okazaki, then first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said in a 1996 general conference meeting that, “Part of [our] hope in Christ is hope in the future, a future that includes resurrection and salvation and exaltation. He is my hope on rainy Monday mornings, my hope on dark nights, and my hope in the face of death and despair."

Having faith in Christ is also having GRATITUDE for his atonement. Andrew Skinner continues in his book, Gethsemane, saying that “none of us in this life will escape sin, trials, tribulations, pain, or suffering. To whom, then, shall we turn for the help we so desperately need? Who possesses the kind of power to fulfill all the promises of redemption and exaltation made in the scriptures? It is Jesus Christ. In him we are secure in our hope for help.
            “Through his experience in Gethsemane, the Savior extends his mercy to sinners and his comfort and help to the forlorn and forsaken. He can never forget us nor forsake us. I believe it is simply not in his makeup to be able to do so or even to think of doing so. What Jesus said to ancient Israel in his role as Jehovah is more applicable than ever because it describes his relationship to us: [Isaiah 49:15 reads,] “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee”…
            “Why would anyone choose to ignore the bitter cup? Why would anyone choose not to embrace the Savior’s atonement? Why would anyone think it more advantageous to go it alone in the world or think it advisable to try to pay for one’s own mistakes and sins?”

If nothing else, I believe it is easier to HAVE FAITH in Christ than to not.
 Having faith in Christ – a hope for this great atonement that I have never seen, but which I believe is true – is the stability of a chair to support us through life when we cannot stand or walk entirely on our own.

            “The Savior’s power is of staggering, even infinite, proportions in its ability to change us and make us into something we could not otherwise become. The Savior’s experience in Gethsemane removes the effects of the Fall, the bitterness of life, and allows us to glimpse heaven. Stephen Robinson put it this way:
All of the negative aspects of human existence brought about by the Fall, Jesus Christ absorbed into himself. He experienced vicariously in Gethsemane all the private griefs and heartaches, all the physical pains and handicaps, all the emotional burdens and depressions of the human family. He knows the loneliness of those who don’t fit in, or who aren’t handsome or pretty. He knows what it’s like to choose up teams and be the last one chosen. He knows the anguish of the parents whose children go wrong. He knows these things personally and intimately because he lived them in the Gethsemane experience. Having personally lived a perfect life, he then chose to experience our imperfect lives. In that infinite Gethsemane experience, in the meridian of time, the center of eternity, he lived a billion billion lifetimes of sin, pain, disease, and sorrow.
            God has no magic wand with which to simply wave bad things into nonexistence. The sins that he remits, he remits by making them his own and suffering them. The pain and heartache that he relieves, he relieves by suffering them himself. These things can be transferred, but they cannot be simply wished or waved away. They must be suffered. Thus, we owe him not only for our spiritual cleansing from sin but for our physical, mental, and emotional healings as well, for he has borne these infirmities for us also. All that the Fall put wrong, the Savior in his atonement puts right. It is all part of his infinite sacrifice – of his infinite gift. (Religious Education prayer meeting, 12 February 1992)…
“To use Elder Neal A Maxwell’s phrase, Gethsemane was “enormity multiplied by infinity” (Ensign, May 1985, 78).”

In the end, having faith in Christ is really about choosing to believe in him.

In Sister Okazaki’s book, Lighten Up, she summarizes this idea of choosing faith in Christ perfectly. “…The gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything – absolutely everything.
“Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief.
            “We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer – how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what it felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked, and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism…Let me go further. There is nothing that you have experienced [as an individual] that he does not also know and recognize...His last recorded words to his disciples were, “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20)
            “…On a profound level, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth, and the immense joy… He understands your mother-pain when your five-year-old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your fifth grader…He knows the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors,…when your fiftieth wedding anniversary rolls around and your [spouse] has been dead for two years. He knows all that. He’s been there. He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief." (emphasis added)

I believe in Christ; he is my King!
With all my heart to him I'll sing;
I'll raise my voice in praise and joy,
In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ; he is God's Son.
On earth to dwell his soul did come.
He healed the sick; the dead he raised.
Good works were his; his name be praised.
            (LDS Hymn #134, I Believe in Christ)

            The gospel doesn’t require 100% surety; it just requires our willingness to have faith.

I'll leave with you the words found in Mormon 7:7, which says regarding Jesus Christ, “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.”

Of that, I have faith in.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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