"faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things...even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge. But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiement upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe..."
-Alma 32: 17-18,21,26-27
|photo credit: Steph, 12-29-15 Temple Square, SLC UT|
On the last Sunday of 2015, I was asked to speak in our church Sacrament meeting. There were about 12 people in the entire congregation (including the Bishop and our High Councilman) because everyone was away for Christmas/New Year break. I don't have a problem with public speaking, so it wasn't really an issue either way to me how many people were there. I was just really glad that I could study this subject more.
The last time that Jon and I gave talks (in January) my talk was on Faith in Jesus Christ. Apparently Faith is a subject I need a lot of work on! I thought the talks might overlap quite a bit, but they didn't at all. There is so much that I could say on the topic, but my goal was to cover the basics. Faith is not perfect knowledge, but it is the idea that can define us. And that is what really counts.
Jon and I were watching Inception the other night, and there's a line that Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Dom, says to Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, that immediately made me think of of Faith:
“An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define, or destroy you.” –Dom Cobb (Inception)
FAITH is an idea. Faith is resilient (returning to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched. Recovers from adversity/being tested.). It is highly contagious (capable of being transmitted or spread from person to person). The smallest seed of faith can grow. Faith can grow to define you, and destroy any fear or negative characteristic that you may have previously held.
Faith is one of those words that we use interchangeably with many others, but it encompasses so much just on its own. Faith is confidence. It is trust in a person or thing. It is the observance of an obligation from loyalty. It is fidelity (strict observance of promises, duties, etc. loyalty, accuracy, exactness) to a person, promise, or engagement. It is a belief not based on proof.
By now your mind is probably spinning with synonyms and concepts of what Faith includes. I know mine was! So I decided to contrast the idea of Faith with other concepts to more clearly define what it is, but also to see what it is not. What, for instance, is the difference between faith and hope? A friend of mine who is currently serving a mission asked this question of us (her friends and family) in an email home this week. Here are the thoughts I came up with:
Q: What is the difference between faith and hope?
A: Hope is something that you look forward to, or want for. “I HOPE that I will get this job…” “I really HOPE that my classes this semester will be great.” Faith on the other hand is an active belief. It is based on at least a little hint of something concrete. Maybe you don’t know a professor yet, but you have had friends tell you that they are a great teacher. You have faith that the class will be excellent based on your confidence in the friends who gave you their testimony of a previous experience. Faith is an act of trust. Hope is a wish and a desire.
In his talk from this past General Conference, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on faith as a matter of CHOICE and not just by CHANCE. He says,
“How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”? Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith.”
If faith is that little seed of an idea within us that motivates us to action and trust, then it should be the most PRECIOUS idea that we keep, not to let anybody tarnish or steal it. Faith can be small, and it can look differently inside of each of us. But faith has incredible potential.
Elder Andersen says, “Although your beginning fire of faith may be small, righteous choices bring greater confidence in God, and your faith grows. The difficulties of mortality blow against you, and evil forces lurk in the darkness, hoping to extinguish your faith. But as you continue to make good choices, trust in God, and follow His Son, the Lord sends increased light and knowledge, and your faith becomes settled and unwavering. President Thomas S. Monson said: “Fear not. … The future is as bright as your faith.””
But if we’re feeling like our concept of faith is shaky, Elder Andersen continues his talk by giving us advice for building faith: “Addressing honest questions is an important part of building faith, and we use both our intellect and our feelings. The Lord said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart.” Not all answers will come immediately, but most questions can be resolved through sincere study and seeking answers from God. Using our mind without our heart will not bring spiritual answers. “The things of God knoweth no man, but [through] the Spirit of God.” And to help us, Jesus promised us “another Comforter” and called Him “even the Spirit of truth. Faith never demands an answer to every question but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward, sometimes acknowledging, “I don’t know everything, but I do know enough to continue on the path of discipleship.”
I loved this so much, because, as Elder Andersen puts it, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. … as the scriptures say, [in Hebrews chapter 1 verse 11] it is… “substance … , the evidence of things not seen.” Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible.” (to be discernible means that it can be perceived by the sight, or some other sense, or by the intellect; it can be recognized, or distinguished mentally; as distinct or different.)
Elder Andersen further continues by saying, “Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it. Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker. Faith is a principle of power, important not only in this life but also in our progression beyond the veil. By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name. The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice.”
Hopefully we all have an idea of Faith. A concept of what Faith in God means to us individually. My question, to myself, and to you, is: What are you doing (TODAY) with your faith to make it active?
This idea of Faith can be defining and grow to be the motivation behind every decision we make, and every direction in life that we choose to go. As we listen to the spirit of guidance from our Heavenly Father and have Faith in his intentions for us, we can find great blessings awaiting us. So LET YOUR FAITH BE BIGGER THAN YOUR FEAR.
If you’re not sure where to start, or aren’t sure of what exactly you have faith in, I would suggest starting with the Articles of Faith! These are the most basic points of belief that we have in the church, and are guideposts to help us simplify the gospel. As we start with the first one and examine where our faith is on the subject, we can work out our concerns by asking honest questions of ourselves, and then build up to the next Article of Faith.
Elder Andersen gives us a warning: “Immersing oneself in persistent doubt, fueled by answers from the faithless and the unfaithful, weakens one’s faith in Jesus Christ and the Restoration. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.” [1 Corinthians 2:14]” These things must be spiritually discerned.
So, start with the basic idea of faith. Build up slowly, increasing your faith by understanding one principle at a time. When you get stuck, acknowledge that you don’t know everything, but you know enough to continue on the path of following Christ and being a disciple of Him. Choose your faith over your fear, and stay True to that Faith that you cherish. Lastly, recognize that Faith is a gift from our Heavenly Father. He knows that we aren’t able to see everything in perfect detail. He knew that it would be hard for us to function here on Earth with a partially blind view of everything. But this is where the gift of faith comes in. To us it is given to discern spiritually what is true and what is worth pursuing. As we trust this gift, nurture it, build upon it, PROTECT it, and help it to grow, it will be the idea that comes to define us, and change us in ways that we never thought possible. [Faith defines character. It is a form of hope. It requires action. Faith is a feeling, and it builds on knowledge. Faith can grow as it is nurtured. Perhaps most importantly, Faith is the first principle of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, our Savior.]
1 Faith is knowing the sun will rise, lighting each new day.
Faith is knowing the Lord will hear my prayers each time I pray.
Faith is like a little seed: if planted it will grow.
Faith is a swelling within my heart. When I do right, I know.
2 Faith is knowing I lived with God before my mortal birth.
Faith is knowing I can return when my life ends on earth.
Faith is trust in God above;
In Christ, who showed the way.
Faith is strengthened; I feel it grow
Whenever I obey.
-Children’s Songbook 96
I know that this is true. I have had personal experience with testing my faith and just following what I know enough to keep going, and it has always brought me out on the other side of a trial with more awesomeness than I started with. Faith and trust in God works. I am thankful for this gift in my life. Especially with this Christmas season coming to a close and the start of a new year in less than a week. I hope we can all make our faith a little more active in 2016.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.