This is a talk I gave four years ago that I found while looking for something else on my hard-drive. This is possibly the hardest Sacrament Meeting talk to write that I’ve ever written.
Having Faith in Christ
24 August 2008
I’d like to start my remarks today with an annoying nit-pick. While preparing them, I considered calling this challenging a false doctrine, which would likely have grabbed your attention, but, on reflection, I decided to call it an annoying nit-pick. I have heard a number of times that the first principle of the gospel is faith – truth to tell, I have said this before. However, this is not completely true, and I’m certain that most of the children in the Primary know what’s wrong with saying that. The first principle of the gospel is not just faith – it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. For the next several minutes, I’m going to discuss the difference between faith and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, why they are absolutely necessary, and how we can develop the faith we most need.
Faith, as Sis. McCain pointed out just last week, requires action. It is a belief in something which compels the faithful person to actions that only make sense if the object of that faith is true. Faith is congruent, in the same way that nodding while saying “yes” is congruent. Saying “I’m very happy” while frowning is not congruent. We believe something and we behave as if what we believe is actually true.
This is something we do all the time – all of our choices all day every day demonstrate our faith in what we really believe.
Open eyes – sun rise
flip switch – electricity works
go to work – will be paid
accept a check – will be money
accept money – can use money
Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ means trusting in his words, his works, and his atonement, and relying on them. It means doing things which will make you look stupid if, in fact, your faith is misplaced. In fact, you may look a bit foolish to those who do not share your belief if you exercise faith in the Savior. It means acknowledging when you do something wrong and repenting of it, rather than hiding it. It means doing what you know to be right when it is inconvenient or scary or both.
The opposite of having Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ is not disbelief in the Savior and his atonement. The opposite of faith is not disbelief. Rather, it is fear that leads to inaction. The opposite of having Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ is to be found in the fear that relying on the Savior, his words, works, and atonement will fail, particularly when that fear keeps us from putting him to the test to see if he is, in fact, reliable and trustworthy. It is when we fear the disapproval of our peers, our employers, our family members, or anybody else more than we are willing to demonstrate our love of the Savior by keeping his commandments.
Faith is to be found in the little girl who, when the town gathers at the church to pray for rain in the middle of a drought, brings her umbrella. It is to be found in the alcoholic, deep in the despair and slavery of addiction, who stumbles into a meeting to find the love of God in the hands and hearts of those who have received that love and mercy from God. It is to be found in the amazing courage of the young mother who is frazzled and frustrated and exhausted who picks up the world’s heaviest phone to admit that she doesn’t have everything under control and to ask for help. It is found in the purity of the toddler (who will remain nameless) who jumps off the top of the refrigerator and yells “Catch me” to the mother who has her back turned and is on the other side of the kitchen.
Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, is to be found in those who make use of his atonement to repent of their sins, even when they don’t feel worthy of his love or help. Those who step through their fear, uncertainty and doubt to leap off the cliff of repentance and obedience and silently pray “Catch me.” God doesn’t love us because we deserve his love. He doesn’t love us because we are worthy of his love, and he doesn’t help us because we are worthy of his help. He doesn’t save us because our obedience and righteousness has earned salvation. Repentance is not straightening out our lives, and then coming to God for a pat on the back. God loves us because he has become perfect in love. He helps us because we allow him to help us by asking for help in faith. He saves us because we allow him to by doing our best to follow his paths for us and repenting when we don’t. And repentance is coming to God in humility and seeking his help in straightening out or lives. Righteousness is not a gift we bring to God from our strength – it is a gift we receive from God as we seek him in our weakness and do our best to follow him.
2 Cor. 12: 9-10
And he said unto me,
My grace is sufficient for thee:
for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities,
in distresses for Christ’s sake:
for when I am weak, then am I strong.
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;
and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;
for if they humble themselves before me,
and have faith in me,
then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
It is not in our nature to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not in our nature to be God’s friend. In Mosiah 3: 19, King Benjamin teaches us that the natural man is an enemy to God. It is the nature of the fallen man then, to oppose God, and we are all the natural man until, as King Benjamin teaches, we put off the natural man and become saints through the Atonement of Christ. The natural man does not necessarily hate God or call him bad names. Just as the opposite of faith is not disbelief but fear, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. The natural man says “I don’t need God’s help with this. I’ll let him use his energy on those who really need his help, and I’ll just take care of this on my own.” That sounds very self-reliant, doesn’t it? I thought so when I said it in my heart, and perhaps you did too. The word that describes this enmity with God is called “pride,” and Pres. Benson had some very strong things to say about this kind of pride. The opposite of pride is humility, and it is in humility that we can develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And it is in the exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, through repenting of our sins, that we are able to develop humility.
When we have put off the natural man and become saints through the Atonement, we will be submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon us. We won’t become those things all at once, because putting off the natural man comes a bit at a time, as we learn how to make use of the Atonement on our hearts to change their nature to become less like the natural man and more like God.
Moroni, while describing the operation of the Church in his time, tells us that after people had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.
So Jesus is not only the one in whom we have faith – if we are to be saved, he must also be the author and finisher of that faith. He writes faith in our hearts, and then, if we let him, he will polish and perfect that faith and our hearts, until we are like him. His grace is sufficient for us, and he will do all of these things for us if we will humble ourselves before him and have faith in him.
Now, have I managed to tie this all into knots yet? God will create and finish our faith if we will have faith in him – this can sound like a circle without a beginning or an end, which can be very confusing if I say it wrong. And I probably did. But it’s not really a circle – it’s a cycle that we need to go through many times. Our part of the cycle is to be found in exercising Faith in Jesus Christ, in repenting, in keeping the commandments, and bringing ourselves to God with the willingness and desire to allow him to change our hearts, through his grace in the power of the Atonement, so that we have the strength to better keep the commandments, the willingness to follow his path for our lives, and the desire to do what we need to do to continue down that path that leads to eternal happiness.
So, what can we do with this today, right now? We can reach outside our comfort zones to follow the Savior. Two weeks ago right now, on this very spot, Bro. Brooks introduced us to the Ward Mission Plan, which challenged us to set a date by which we would have someone ready to talk to the missionaries. Like many of you, I don’t like this program. It challenges my comfort zone. I can make endless excuses for why it doesn’t make any sense to do this. It is a program that requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and following it doesn’t make any sense unless the program is inspired by the Savior.
I know that the Savior leads his Church. This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a church owned by Jesus Christ, and made up of Latter-day Saints like you and me. The Savior is perfect, and the Latter-day Saints are not. If we will trust him and rely on his word, whether it is found in scriptures or in the mouths of his servants, we will find that his word will not pass away without being fulfilled, and that fulfillment in our lives and hearts promises us eternal happiness in his presence. I leave you my witness of the power of his grace in our lives and hearts in the name of Jesus Christ.