Saturday, September 11, 2010

Exercising Faith

We've all sat in a sacrament meeting or temple service or some host of other places when the request has come to 'exercise our faith' on someone else's behalf. If you're like me, most of those times you haven't been exactly sure how to do that. Yes, I have empathy for the afflicted. In any such moment I might say an extra prayer inside-- a kind of hoping really hard that the person will be healed, or find comfort or whatever else was requested. I might simply sit there feeling empathetic. Or, at most, I might decide to go home and make some cookies for whomever may be struggling-- because cookies solve most anything.

But my confession here is that I have too often misunderstood what it means to exercise my faith. I have too often not done-- or at least done only inadvertently-- what is necessary for the power of God to be active in my life. So I must learn and relearn this same, vitally important lesson.

President Eyring taught of unwavering faith, "Faith is not to hope. Faith is not simply to know God could do something. Faith is to know He will."

What is the difference? What changes when we believe God will act versus simply knowing that He could act? In the popularized terminology of Stephen Robinson, what is the difference between believing Christ and believing in Christ?

The greatest difference must be our behavior. If we settle for knowing only that God could do something, we will go through life with a lot of hopes-- and a lot of disappointments. We will not seek, nor will we find. We will know there is an all-powerful atonement, but simultaneously trudge along under the weight of our own heavy load. Our religious feelings will drift toward superstition and our life will be undermined by a lingering hope that maybe, just maybe, God will intervene and save us from our drudgery today.

Conversely, if we know that God will act on our behalf, our behavior will be very different. We will not fear, nor will we doubt or hesitate. Our actions will be intentional, confident and divinely directed. We will spend much of our time in prayer, scripture study and in doing good. We will happily obey the principles that lead to the Lord's blessings. Thus our loads will be lightened by the power of the atonement, through our faith, and we will have a sure foundation.

In short, exercising faith is behaving with the knowledge that God recognizes and responds to our efforts. It is acting with the knowledge that the atonement has already been successfully performed. It is moving forward with a firm belief that good things will happen if you are doing what you should be.

However much room for improvement I have recognized in myself, I understand and do know that God is real. I have felt the spirit of God confirm that the atonement of Jesus Christ truly happened, that salvation is available to all through the gospel of Jesus Christ and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's organized church on the earth.

Our task, yours and mine, is to show our belief with our actions as well as our words. This is true faith. It is through our faith that God acts in our lives. May we then show our faith by our behaviors, that God may confirm it through his magnificent blessings. He can. And He will.

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