Faith, Not Fear

It is a fundamental belief of my religion that one should live a life of faith. I suppose that is somewhat self-evident, and I think this is probably foundational to many religions. What is faith, and what does it mean to live a life of faith?

It is a fundamental belief of my religion that one should live a life of faith. I suppose that is somewhat self-evident, and I think this is probably foundational to many religions. What is faith, and what does it mean to live a life of faith?

Faith is a belief that things will ultimately work out for the best in the end for those who trust God, in spite of any challenges along the way. Faith is written in the scriptures to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”1, or also translated as the “proof” of things not seen. To have faith we must believe in, and hope for the good things that are ahead for us, even when we don’t have complete proof that those good things are coming.

Faith requires action. The “substance” of faith, as noted in the quote mentioned above, includes the efforts exerted by us in giving life to our hopes, and longings. These actions and efforts may be prayers, studying scriptures, focused and optimistic thoughts, or acts of kindness. Acts of faith may also include stepping out of our comfort zone to build a friendship, apply for a job, go to college, have children, or follow through with an idea to do something good. These are some ways that we live a life of faith.

“Faith is the opposite of fear.”2 In church, and in scripture we’re taught to “be not afraid”3. Instead of being fearful, we are to “walk by faith”4, and to “be of good courage”5. It can be difficult to have faith when life gets hard, things seem bleak, and our faith is tested, and yet these are exactly the times when faith is needed most.

Today, the voices of fear and anxiety in the world seem to be growing louder. These voices would have us believe that when hope is fading and solutions are hard to find, fearfulness and capitulation is the only response. If we act with fear, the result is often more fear, pain and confusion. What does faith offer instead?

“And Christ hath said: if ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”6

“Faith is a principle of power”7. Faith must be centered in Christ. If we have faith in Christ, He enables us to accomplish things we would otherwise consider impossible.

“What, then, are the blessings of faith? What does faith accomplish? The list is almost endless:

Our sins can be forgiven because of faith in Christ.17

As many as have faith have communion with the Holy Spirit.18

Salvation comes through faith on Christ’s name.19

We receive strength according to our faith in Christ.

None enter the Lord’s rest save those who wash their garments in Christ’s blood because of their faith.21

Prayers are answered according to faith.22

Without faith among men, God can do no miracle among them.23

–Elder Quentin L. Cook8
  1. Do Not Fear, President Boyd K. Packer
  2. Hebrews 11:1
  3. Mark 5:36
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:7
  5. Isaiah 41:6
  6. Moroni 7:33
  7. Faith, a Power That Centers in Christ, Doctrines of the Gospel, Student Manual
  8. Foundations of Faith, Elder Quentin L. Cook

The healing of the blind man

I love the story of the blind man being healed by the Savior that is found in the book of John. It not only records the experience of the Savior healing him, but also demonstrates the faith that is required for anyone who would be healed by God. It seems that in addition to the test of having to endure living his life without the ability to see, the man’s faith and integrity are also tested after he is healed and receives his sight.

It’s indication of his faith that the man responds right away when the Lord tells him to “wash in the pool of Siloam”. He doesn’t hesitate, even though he likely has to slowly feel his way there, he is blind after all. He obediently washes and is healed, it was a miracle evident to everyone around him!

We’re then given insight into the level of the man’s loyalty to Jesus as he is questioned and hassled by the Pharisees who want him to deny that it was Christ who had healed him. They don’t seem to put much effort into denying the fact that he was healed, it was too obvious. They were in a position of power and were doing their best to intimidate the man into turning against the Savior so they could have a witness against him. The man didn’t give in even though there could have been consequences for withstanding the Pharisees. He stood up for Christ and the truth of what happened to him. The Pharisees in their apparent disgust then “cast him out”.

After the man has been cast out, the Savior comes to him again, with comfort and possibly to confirm that his integrity and unwavering faithfulness is recognized and approved of by the Lord. Jesus then asks him if he believes in the Son of God. The man didn’t realize at first that Jesus was speaking of himself, he had thought Jesus was a prophet. Now understanding, the man answers, “Lord, I believe”.

Though my story is quite different from this man’s story, I’ve spent a large part of my life spiritually blind. During one of the more extreme periods of blindness, there came a point where the Lord reached out to me in a way that I couldn’t ignore, offering His healing. During this time I had become very sick physically and spiritually. I honestly didn’t think I would live much longer, and my family were concerned as well. I made several visits to the doctor but they were inconclusive. I pled for the Lord’s help, made significant changes in my life that were needed in order for me to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the Lord raised me up and changed my heart. This is as obvious to me that Christ’s power healed me as was the miracle of sight given to the blind man in the story above. What the Lord did for me was a miracle. I simply wouldn’t still be here without the Lord intervening, through His power and through loving family members who gave me Priesthood blessings, prayed for me and helped in other ways.

 I still can only partially comprehend and understand the great change He has brought about in my life in such a short time. I know the healing I have received is from Christ. It has taught me about the depth of God’s love and that He doesn’t give up on us. I love and trust Him more deeply. I learned that I have to still trust and rely on Him completely. I know that Jesus Christ has the power to heal us, if we will trust Him, turn our hearts to Him and follow His commandments. I also know that the power of the Priesthood is real, that the power of God is manifest through those who hold the Priesthood, and that this power ultimately comes from the Savior himself.

Why are some people born blind? Why do other people choose to not see the truth? Why does it take some of us so long to learn the things we need to learn? Why are we sometimes afraid to allow the Lord into our life to heal us, and to change us into the people He knows we can become?

I return to John chapter 9:

“And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (John 9:39-41)

And finally, on another occasion Jesus taught why many of us don’t see more miracles like this in our lives:

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matt 13:15)

Joseph Smith on Discouragment

George A. Smith, who served as a counselor to President Brigham Young, received the following counsel from the Prophet Joseph Smith at a time of great difficulty:

“He told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I was sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage and I should come out on the top of the heap at last.”

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Chap. 19

I think knowing about some of what Joseph Smith had to go through makes this all the more meaningful. Great imagery though, I love it. One more quote from that same chapter:

Just a few days before the Prophet was martyred, at a time when he and the Saints knew that his life was in danger, Joseph took the hand of Abraham C. Hodge and said: “Now, Brother Hodge, let what will, come; don’t deny the faith, and all will be well.”

Cheerfulness vs. gloominess in religion

“I do not believe in a religion that makes people gloomy, melancholy, miserable and ascetic …Is there anything gloomy in the works that God has made? Turn where we will, we see harmony, loveliness, cheerfulness, and beauty …It is the corruption of the world, that has made men unhappy; and the corruption of religion that has made it gloomy: these are the miseries entailed by men, not the blessings of God. Talk about gloom! Is there gloom in the warbling of the birds, in the prancing of the horse, in the playfulness of the lamb, or kid; in the beauty of flowers, in any of Nature’s gifts…?”

–Pres. John Taylor, 1852

On a totally separate though somewhat related note, if you haven’t had a chance, see the series of blog posts on Goodly Pearls blog about Living a Happier Life.

Relying on the Promises of God

The scriptures consistently give me an increased sense of hope and well-being that is found few other places. I’ve learned that there’s an important reason to not only read the scriptures, but rather “search” them and rely on them in order to obtain hope:

Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. (D&C 1:37)

God Keeps His Promises to Us Personally

As the years go by more and more scriptures have become meaningful to me on a personal level. I’ve been able to lean on certain scriptures and phrases from the words of God to get me through tough times. It’s evident to me that God uses the scriptures to speak to us. It’s also evident to me that when I take a specific scriptural promise to heart, and if I’m living with integrity, faithfully living God’s commandments associated with that specific promise, God will fulfill that promise in my life according to his timeline. That’s how he works, because he loves us and because he is a God of truth and wants us to trust and rely on Him. He tells us:

“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)

And also has said clearly, “…Behold I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word.” (D&C 17:1)

So what promises in the scriptures can and should be searched for, sought after and relied on? The prophet Nephi in the Book of Mormon explained, “…I did liken all scriptures unto us”. (1 Nephi 19:23)

It might seem a little unusual at first that a promise that God made to the ancient Israelites could have direct application to us in our vastly different modern world of today, but truth is eternal. Every promise that God gives in the scriptures can and should be likened to us, or in other words they can be compared and applied to us personally in our individual lives with whatever challenge we may be experiencing or with whatever righteous gift or blessing that we need or want.

Using God’s Promises as Spiritual Armor

A while ago I decided to more actively pursue the promises in the scriptures that were meaningful to me or that I felt I needed to have fulfilled in my life. I wrote several of them down on 3×5 cards so that I could quickly and easily access and read throughout the day and make them part of my everyday thoughts and desires. By reading them often and memorizing many of them, they have been a source of strength even when I’m not consciously thinking about them and also as a shield against discouragement as well as negative and faithless thinking. Here’s a few examples:

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa 41:10)

“Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10)

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” (Psalms 34:17)

“…I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)

These are just a few of the promises God has given us in the scriptures that I rely on daily. There are hundreds more I could add, but the promises that are the most meaningful and valuable are the ones that God will personalize to us individually through the power of Holy Ghost. In my experience these kinds of personal promises are most often found through prayer when seeking specific blessings and then searching/studying the scriptures, then allowing the Holy Ghost to teach by considering them with deep reflection.

God’s Laws Each Have Promised Blessings

It’s no coincidence that each commandment that God gives us comes with a promised blessing for following it. A good example is the law of tithing, giving back one tenth of your income to God. The heavenly law as well as the associated promises for following it is spoken of in the book of Malachi (3:10-12):

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Here’s the rest of the promise:

“..And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.”

Aren’t these amazing promises for such a simple commandment? A blessing that is so abundant you won’t be able to contain it all? And a promise that the “devourer” will be rebuked in your life, i.e. possibly protection from major financial problems, or possibly protection from other “devouring” calamities in the last days. What a great assurance and blessing to have.

Relying On the Promises of God

While many in the world look for fulfillment and comfort in things that only lead to confusion, regret and sorrow, the Lord is rescuing, healing and lifting up those who humbly follow Him and do His will. By living according to God’s commandments and also taking his promises to heart and seeking them, you will receive them. Let your focus, your thoughts, your faith and desires be squarely placed on God’s promises. If you do this, miracles will happen in your life and family, and the mercy and grace of God will be with you. Your faith and relationship with God will grow and you come to realize for yourself that God “hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words.” (1 Ne 9:6)

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever.” (D&C 1:38-39)

A God of Miracles

“And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing …Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.

For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are.” (Mormon 9:7-11)

I like how Moroni says “if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary…”. Regardless of what we think or try to make of him in our minds, God is who he is. It’s amazing to me to consider that the same God who parted the Red Sea to save the Israelites is watching over us now. When I think about that, and also about the great things our loving father has already done for me, any doubts and fears fade away that I have about my future and the good things that are ahead for me.

Moroni wrote that he saw our day and knew of the unbelief and hardheartedness that would exist in our society. In particular I find it sad that so many will rely on the limited knowledge of man alone when facing difficult health issues or other struggles and would forget that God has promised help and healing to those who have faith in him and rely on him. We live in a day of miracles, no challenge is too difficult and that can’t be met and overcome with God’s help.

Angels are declaring it unto many…

I love the lessons learned from prophets of God who have preached repentance throughout time. I have no doubt that we as individuals and as a society would be blessed greatly if we would hear this call now.

Repentance has been defined as “…a change of mind and heart that gives us a fresh view about God, about ourselves, and about the world. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness.” (ref.)

Old Testament Prophets Preached Repentance

The prophet Jonah was called by God to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah. Jonah first tried to run away and avoid this heavenly commission, he consequently ended up in the belly of a “fish” (or a whale). He prayed to the Lord mightily for mercy and the Lord delivered him. Jonah then went to Ninevah and did as he was commanded “…and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” The king of Ninevah sensed the truth of his preaching and his heart was softened. He joined Jonah’s cause and spread the call of repentance throughout the land, telling his people to “cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands”, also proclaiming, “Who can tell if God will …turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 1-3)

Through Jonah’s preaching the great work was brought about of convincing the people of Ninevah to turn their hearts to God. They repented and were spared destruction.

We learn from the Book of Mormon that Melchizedek, king of ancient Jerusalem in Old Testament times, was called to preach repentance:

“Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days;” (Alma 13:17-18)

The Savior’s Commission to Preach Repentance

John the Baptist went before the Lord to prepare the way for Him. The Book of Mark states that “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (Mark 1:4)

After His resurrection, Jesus Christ briefly returned to Jerusalem and taught “…that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47)

After the Savior’s ascension into heaven, in the book of Acts there is the account of Peter preaching the Lord’s gospel of repentance and baptism boldly to the people of Israel:

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

…Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:22-38)

Repentance preached in our day

With the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith, God has again sent prophets to preach repentance to all nations as Jesus has commissioned, and they will continue to do so until peace, righteousness and “…love of God and neighbor rules the world” (Elder Jefferey Holland, Oct 2012).

The prophets are not alone in their call to repentance:

For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory. And now we only wait to hear the joyful news declared unto us by the mouth of angels, of his coming; for the time cometh, we know not how soon…

And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; (Alma 13:24-25,27)

Alma also taught earlier in Alma chapter 5:

Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.

…I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life.

Watch LDS General Conference Live Online Oct. 6th and 7th

The General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is being held today and tomorrow, there is live streaming video of the sessions available online. You can watch it here:

Watch LDS General Conference live online

Leaders of our church, our beloved prophet President Thomas S. Monson, the Twelve Apostles, and other men and women who lead the church will speak about matters of faith, about the Savior Jesus Christ, about the restored church of Jesus Christ, and about how to find strength in God in spite of issues facing us in the world today.

Sessions
Oct 6th, Saturday
10am-12pm MDT
2pm-4pm MDT

Oct 7th, Sunday
10am-12pm MDT
2pm-4pm MDT

I encourage everyone to check it out and find out more about our church and I promise you will feel the Spirit of the Lord if you seek to do so, and that you will be uplifted. I have been inspired and uplifted this morning while watching the first session.

If aren’t able to watch it live, it is recorded and can be viewed online here:

Watch video of past session of LDS General Conference

A True Spirit of Freedom

I stand with the great Thomas Jefferson who said, “I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind”. Yet there are a few documented moments in history where a common voice of reason, a voice of truth and soberness has awakened in the hearts of men and women the true causes for which any necessary, just war in heaven or in Earth should be fought. This voice with it’s common sound, though not commonly found in the world, is a voice that cuts through darkness and despair even amidst the most daunting opposition to shine a ray of hope. This voice of heavenly reason, with it’s call to duty and honor inspires the defense of families, homes, and nations. It inspires no wars of conquest or subjugation and has no tyrants as it’s bearer. It always leads to a greater and more lasting peace. This pure voice for true liberty has the same source, “the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them” (Alma 61:15).

George Washington Persuades Colonists to Continue Fighting

During the American Revolutionary War, General George Washington seemed to draw upon the power of heaven and the depth of love that he possessed to persuade his worn out, tattered, yet much needed volunteer army of colonists to continue fighting during a turning point in the war for independence.

…While we were at Trenton, on the last of December, 1776, the time for which I and most of my regiment had enlisted expired. At this trying time General Washington, having now but a little handful of men and many of them new recruits in which he could place but little confidence, ordered our regiment to be paraded, and personally addressed us, urging that we should stay a month longer. He alluded to our recent victory at Trenton; told us that our services were greatly needed, and that we could now do more for our country than we ever could at any future period; and in the most affectionate manner entreated us to stay. The drums beat for volunteers, but not a man turned out. The soldiers, worn down with fatigue and privations, had their hearts fixed on home and the comforts of the domestic circle, and it was hard to forego the anticipated pleasures of the society of our dearest friends.

The General wheeled his horse about, rode in front of the regiment and addressing us again said, “My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay only one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country which you probably never can do under any other circumstances.”

A few stepped forth, and their example was immediately followed by nearly all who were fit for duty in the regiment…” (from General R )

Winston Churchill Rallies His Country During WWII

In 1940, when England was being “blitz’d” 9 times a day with bombings and Germany seemed to be close to consuming all of Europe with their military might and tyranny, then Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his nation. Who would doubt that it was the Spirit of freedom that was within him that inspired his words of firm resolve and determination in his speech to country entitled, “We shall Fight Them on the Beaches”:

Standing on the shoulders of these giants of men may we adopt as our own, the following words that Churchill left with his country– may we make the present day “our finest hour”, one of noble victory for the ages to remember, with all of our present battles, be they physical or spiritual; may we call upon and receive strength from heaven such as would enable us to arise with faith that has not been known among men and women for a long time, in overcoming evil and tyranny in all it’s forms.