Monday, July 29, 2013

Farewell Talk: Lord, I believe

July 28, 2013
“Lord, I believe”
In this mortal life we all experience great joy; we experience happiness, bliss, cheerfulness, gladness and peace. There are times of such tremendous joy that we might often feel that nothing could ever go wrong. However, for many, these feelings can be quite rare; and unfortunately for all of us these feelings do not usually last as long as we hope they will. This is because this mortal life is full of challenges and difficulties that seem to inevitably get in the way of our search for lasting happiness. Some challenges will demand every bit of effort and perseverance that we possess. Many difficulties we face will test and try all of our weaknesses. But if that’s not enough we are constantly surrounded by the negativity and selfishness of mankind. Complaints and curses are heard almost everywhere we go. There are people who seek to rob or hurt you for their own gain, pleasure, or for no apparent reason at all.  The adversary is constantly attacking us. He never ceases to try and tempt, beguile, belittle, distract and ultimately destroy us. He wants us to feel like there is no hope; that there is no help for us. He wants us to be as miserable as possible. He pushes us until we feel like we are doomed to suffer forever. In these times of adversity we become desperate. We seek for resolve and the very second we see a chance for it, we go for it; whether we know for certain it will help or not.
Such was the case of a certain young father with an afflicted child. In desperation this man carried his beloved child to the feet of Jesus and cried:
“If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”
This man had an urgent, emphatic desire in behalf of his only child. With no other hope remaining, this father asserts what faith he has and pleads with the Savior “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.” Elder Jeffery R. Holland states that the plural pronoun “us” is obviously used intentionally. This man is saying, in effect, “Our whole family   is pleading. Our struggle never ceases. We are exhausted. Our son falls into the water. He falls into the fire. He is continually in danger, and we are continually afraid. We don’t know where else to turn. Can you help us? We will be grateful for anything—a partial blessing, a glimmer of hope, some small lifting of the burden carried by this boy’s mother every day of her life.”…
“If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”
Jesus says to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
“Straightway,” the father cries out in his unvarnished parental pain, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” In response to new and still partial faith from this desperate father, Jesus heals the boy, almost literally raising him from the dead.
This man’s conviction was limited, but his urgent, emphatic desire was good enough for a beginning. Alma chapter 32, verse 27 says, “…even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you even until ye believe…”
That young father found his relief. He found the ultimate source of all hope. It is the same source that we can all turn to for relief no matter what situation we find ourselves in or the severity of it. That source is The Savior, Jesus Christ who is the Redeemer of the world. But we must have faith in Him. I repeat His words “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”
Elder Holland finds a few observations from this story. One observation is this:
*Quote* “When facing the challenge of faith, the father asserts his strength first and only then acknowledges his limitation. His initial declaration is affirmative and without hesitation: “Lord, I believe.” I would say to all who wish for more faith, remember this man! In moments of fear or doubt or troubling times, hold the ground you have already won, even if that ground is limited. In the growth we all have to experience in mortality, the spiritual equivalent of this boy’s affliction or this parent’s desperation is going to come to all of us. When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes. It was of this very incident, this specific miracle, that Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” *Close quote. You might wonder if you possess enough faith to do such a thing. But the size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.
Elder Holland counsels us to lead your quest for faith with the belief that you do have, not what you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief”. We are not asked to pretend to have the faith that we do not have, but again, be true to the faith we do have. That being said, you might ask yourself “What if the faith I have isn’t enough?” To this I would advise you to remember the young father in the story. His faith was brand new, fragile and untested. It was more of a desire to believe rather than actual belief. And yet, it was good enough for a beginning and his son was healed. Use what amount of faith you have and let it grow. President Eyring said: “Acting on even a twig of faith allows God to grow it.” In example to that truth we can use Elder Holland, who I believe to be one of the greatest examples of faith in these latter days. He described his own faith as a tiny seed of belief that has grown into the tree of life. This great growth is possible for all of us.
One might ponder to themself whether or not they have any faith at all. To you I say that you do have faith. “Furthermore, you have more faith than you think you do because of what the Book of Mormon   calls “the greatness of the evidences.” “Ye shall know them by their fruits,” Jesus said, and the fruit of living the gospel is evident in the lives of Latter-day Saints everywhere.” a notable miracle hath been done in the lives of millions of members of this Church. That cannot be denied! The evidence of the gospel being true is everywhere. 14.7 million people living today and counting, have willingly accepted it as the true gospel of Christ.  The church is growing substantially because the spirit of the Lord is testifying to people all around the world of the truthfulness of the gospel. Even prideful, stiff-necked teenagers, at a most pivotal time in their lives leave their homes, families, friends, jobs, relationships, school and more to share this gospel with people whom they have never met. They do this because they love The Lord and His gospel. The blessings that come to those who live the gospel are obvious. Church members are happy. They are pleasant. They are optimistic. “There’s just something about them.” That “something” isn’t something that can be explained. It just has to be experienced. If you haven’t experienced that “something” for yourself or haven’t felt it in a while, then I invite you to try it for yourself. Come unto Christ in faith. Use His atonement; repent, you can be forgiven! Be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Endure to the end. I promise you will notice a change. Your life will be better. Not necessarily easier. But better. That “something” will become your reality. And if ye do these things and keep His commandments, ye shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest gift of God. So if you do not trust yourself to use the faith that you do have, then you are invited to use the faith of those faithful members around you until you can say for yourself, “Lord, I believe.” It is never too late to start believing. Just put some effort in your desire, and He will help you. If we are trying to follow His teachings and paying attention, we can almost feel the Savior’s arms around us and feel those assurances as the Spirit whispers of The Saviors love for us: ‘I love you. Trust me.’ And if we do trust Him, he can help us, whispering through the spirit: ‘Okay, now attend sacrament meeting. Very good. Now accept a call to serve.’ And so we begin to make progress and our faith increases. This is the same for any commandment we struggle with.
 A quorum advisor or a Sunday school teacher or even a bishop might make a mistake. None of us are perfect; we are all a work in progress; all of us make mistakes, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will trump what we do not know for now. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith. Elder Holland goes on to say: Quote* “Be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” *Close quote… “The limitation is not in the divinity of the work.”… To help you understand that phrase I’d like you to imagine the work of the gospel in the image of a most delicious, refreshing, and precious drink. Now imagine that drink is being poured into cups so that everyone can have an equal share of this most delightful drink. But as the drink is being poured into a certain cup, some of it spills onto the floor creating a small mess. One cannot blame the divine beverage for spilling to the floor. It was the mistake of the one pouring it into the cup for missing even though they did not intend to do it. However, messes can be cleaned up, and they can be cleaned up better and faster if people work together. Failing to separate the mistakes of man from the divinity of the work of God will only impede your belief and will put you in danger of not receiving the glorious blessings and miracles that having faith in Christ brings. Do not let your doubt and/or questions about people or even the gospel stand in the way of faith working its miracle!
Another observation made by Elder Holland is this: “When doubt or difficulties come, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we want it as humbly and honestly as this father did, we can get it. The scriptures phrase such earnest desire as being of “real intent,” pursued “with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God” In response to that kind of importuning, God will send help from both sides of the veil to strengthen our belief.”
There are those of us who are here, and everywhere, who do believe in Christ and do believe the church is true, but aren’t sure for themselves if they know it is true and therefore might feel inferior or even uncomfortable in a setting like this. Brothers and sisters, belief is a precious word, and an even more precious act. We need never feel bad for “only believing.” Christ Himself said, “Be not afraid, only believe,” Belief is always the first step toward conviction and surety. The definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase “We believe.” And frankly, we are all merely new believers who are striving to build more and more upon the rock of faith that we do have. Do not feel bad because you don’t know for sure yet, for we all fall short with the relatively small amount of faith that we all have. Act on the belief that you have, fan the flame of your faith, and God will let it grow. A testimony is a gift that is granted to us after we exercise some faith in God. There is no reason to wait for a testimony of Christ, for the blessings He offers are so great and we need them every day. He is “the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and Believeth in me shall never die.” He is the bread of life: he that cometh to Him shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Him shall never thirst.
Many have said, “Seeing is believing.” But even seeing things requires faith, for without faith not even seeing is believing. First have faith, then you will see. A more accurate phrase would be this: Believing is seeing.
 I would strongly advise you not to compare your testimony to the testimony of others. This allows Satan to place doubt and despair in your heart concerning all of your characteristics, making you feel inadequate. But when the Lord looks at us, He measures us against ourselves. He works with everyone individually. His expectations are based on our abilities. He simply asks, ‘Are you doing all that you can do at this time?’ Consider the principle of tithing. The man with ten million dollars is expected to pay one million dollars in tithing. The child with ten cents is expected to pay one penny. Both offerings are a full tithing in the eyes of God. Everyone walks at their own pace. God knows this. He is willing to help you at whatever pace you need. He loves you no matter how strong your testimony is. And remember, it is always okay to ask for help.
 If you find yourself to be on the other side of the testimonial scale and you believe that you have a strong testimony, it is still just as important that you do not compare yourself and your testimony to those who YOU THINK are struggling. This invites a poison known as pride to enter your heart, and it easily goes to your head and it will tear you away from the presence of God and His spirit. It is your reverent responsibility to be a humble, Christ-like example, as well as to love and encourage those around you. Assist those in need of help when you are asked or prompted to. But always love and encourage! Also, I might add, if you have discovered for yourself that the church is true and you come to church each week to hear the teachings of the gospel, it is important to show your faith. “Be you doers or the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” We cannot simply say we believe and then expect to be saved. Faith is a principle of action, and faith without works is nothing.
I have one more observation from the young father in the story, only this observation is my own. It is something that is not only evident in the young father, but also evident in the lives of all those who remain faithful in adversity. This man was at the lowest point of his life. He was constantly suffering from deep sadness and depression. He didn’t understand why he and his family had to go through such a hard trial that none of them deserved. He could ask himself, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Am I meant to suffer with this forever?” He hadn’t felt stress-free or peaceful in years. That stress was only building and he was tired of it; he was almost ready to give up. But it was in this time of great sorrow that he became closer to The Lord than he ever would have had he not had that burden cast on him and his family. This is the same for all of us. We all go through these depressing times that make us feel like we have been completely abandoned. Even Christ, the perfect Son of God, who had never done wrong or spoken evil, nor touched an unclean thing, went through such a time when He suffered on the cross in Gethsemane for many hours, having already felt every burden of every soul. It was at this time that the Spirit of God left The Savior, leaving Him utterly helpless and alone. But there was a reason for this. The reason that the Savior had to suffer that was so the Atonement could be complete; so that He would know exactly how we would feel at the times when we feel utterly and completely alone. So He could help us.
Now, the reason God allows us to be placed in adversity, despair, and utter loneliness is for our growth. That may sound very simple, but in truth, it is quite profound and most important for us because the growth that is promised to us is growth of our testimonies and growth in our relationship with Christ and our Heavenly Father. It is in our darkest hours and the times when we feel like God has never been further from us that He is actually closest. He gives us trials in hopes that we will turn to Him. (Open scriptures) Matthew 11:28-30 says… He is there helping us, lifting us up. All we must do is trust Him and put our faith in Him that He knows what He is doing. He trusts you to be able to go through any trial you face. He will not make you do anything too hard. And as it says in Doctrine and Covenants section 121, “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” The Lord loves us and only wishes to bless us as much as possible. Being faithful in adversity allows Him to bless us the most. He compensates the faithful for every loss. What is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude. I know this is true. It was in my hardest, darkest times that I have come closer to Christ. I know I have a great relationship with Christ, and it is because of my trials that that growth in relationship and testimony was possible. My advice to anyone facing a trial in their life right now would be to trust in The Lord and believe in Him.
It is my fervent prayer that we will accept Christ, for unless we accept Him, He cannot accept us into His presence, which has been our goal since before we came to this earth. (Open scriptures: Mosiah 26:23-24) Christ said… Believe in Christ and be steadfast in your belief in Him and not be ashamed. Do not let this discouraging world or the evils of the adversary make you doubt or abandon the faith that you have. I pray that we will all strive to increase our faith in Christ and in His gospel; that we will put all our trust in Him; that we will stand strong in His ways; that we will put behind us all of our doubts, uncertainties, questions and pride, and instead, rely upon The Lord and put all our trust in Him for He is the way of light and of truth. He is one with The Father and He is The Fathers only begotten son. He is the only thing in the universe that we can trust with a certainty. He is perfect and He knows all. He is the ultimate source of hope, peace, comfort, help and love. He loves us dearly and wants to help us. If we humble ourselves and pray earnestly with pure intent then He will help us. He knows what we need most in our lives at all times. He will allow you to go through rough times. He does this because he knows you can handle it.  It is not until you experience adversity that you learn and grow the most. It is through adversity that we become closer to Christ, but only if we endure it with faith in Him. I pray that we will be kind, forgiving and understanding with everyone we associate with; in doing so we will be greatly blessed from on high. In any situation of life may we follow the profound counsel of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, when he said: “Come what may, and love it.” And in the times when our faith is tested, I pray that we will be able turn to God and say with a certainty, ‘Lord, I believe. Yea, Lord, I know!’…
…continue with testimony.