How Can I Develop Faith in Jesus Christ?
A number of years ago I was prompted to audition for a community theater role. This was a huge stretch for me, as I am NOT an actor. Surprisingly, I was given a lead role with a solo part and no understudy. Opening night came and we ran our show through the week. Saturday hosted a double performance, one matinee and one evening show. I woke that morning with a painfully swollen throat, so swollen I could barely speak.
I headed to the instant care clinic where I received a mega-shot of antibiotic, but was told I wouldn’t see any improvement for at least 12 hours and curtain was in three. I headed home. My father, who had been staying with us while waiting to move into his new home, gave me a priesthood blessing. In it was stated the promise that I would be able to sing when I opened my mouth.
During the performances, I shivered in the wings with a full-blown fever. Every second that I was not performing, I laid on the dressing room floor. I didn’t care that the floor was hard, dirty and I had no pillow or blanket. I was deeply ill.
My solo was a huge concern and it was approaching fast. I hadn’t even tried to sing yet as my throat was severely swollen and sore. I stepped out onto the stage, the scene passed like lightning. The orchestra started playing the introduction to my song. I stepped toward the white gazebo that was part of the set, right on cue. I opened my mouth in an act of faith.
Miracles always seem to occur for other people, but that night I experienced one for myself. I sang my entire song without any difficulty at all. After the last note, the lights faded and I walked off stage shaking from head to toe with illness. The crowd whistled and cheered. They had no idea I was sick.
Back stage I collapsed into a chair, partly from exhaustion, partly in gratitude for the blessing of faith that knocked down the walls between Heaven and Earth and delivered a small miracle to someone like me.
What is faith?
Faith is the first principle of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul said in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
From this scripture we learn that faith is simply belief. But belief and faith, though often used synonymously each have specific meanings.
Belief is intellectual or mental assent.
Faith implies confidence and conviction that will impel one to action.
In the experience I shared above the miraculous outcome of my being able to sing (and it was miraculous to me) came about because I both believed and acted on that belief.
Was I scared? Absolutely. Terrified. I hoped for, and kept my eye on, the outcome I desired and then opened my mouth.
As a result I was rewarded with the ability to sing and also the knowledge that God rewards acts of faith, no matter how small.
James E. Talmage tells us that “Belief is in a sense passive, an agreement or acceptance only; faith is active and positive, embracing such reliance and confidence as will lead to works. Faith in Christ comprises belief in Him, combined with trust in Him. One cannot have faith without belief; yet he may believe and still lack faith.”
I think that last part is worth repeating: One cannot have faith without belief; yet he may believe and still lack faith.
Personal Experience—Activating the Atonement in my life
I have experienced over 20 years of increasingly difficult trials. I often prayed for the Atonement to work in my life and nothing was changed. I thought I must be doing something wrong. I must be missing something because I didn’t feel any different.
What I discovered was that in order for the Atonement to work in my life I had to DO something different. See, I kept praying for help but then keep doing the same things because I didn’t know what else to do. I kept experiencing the same feelings because I didn’t change my thought patterns in relation to repetitive stresses.
Here are two things I have learned about trials, faith and the Atonement:
- Faith requires that we push through a circumstance, trial or suffering until we have learned all we need to learn from it. We must trust the Lord’s timing.
- We have to take action (the exercise of true faith) if we would have results.
If you want to change something you have to exercise the action part of faith! And then submit to the Lord’s will regarding timing.
What do I do? What action should I take?
If you don’t know what to do then study. As you study and act to acquire knowledge and then strenuously ponder and wrestle to discover solutions you are exercising faith that brings the peace and release you seek. I can testify of this from personal experience.
The blind man in the New Testament didn’t sit in his house and believe the Lord could heal him, he sought him out. He took action, and that action combined with belief delivered his healing.
To further distinguish faith and belief James tells us in his epistle to the Saints that even “the devils believe and tremble.”
Talmage says, “Satan and his followers believe in Christ and their belief amounts to knowledge as to who He is, etc. . . Call to mind the case of the man possessed by evil spirits in the land of the Gadarenes, a man so grievously tormented as to be a terror to all who came near him. He could be neither tamed nor bound; people were afraid to approach him; yet when he saw Christ, he ran to Him and worshiped, and the wicked spirit within him begged for mercy at the hands of that Righteous One, addressing Him as ; Jesus, thou Son of the most high God’.”
BUT neither belief nor its superior, actual knowledge is efficient to save, for neither of these is faith.
Both Peter, the Apostle, and the devils the Lord cast out identified him as Christ, the Son of the Living God. However, Peter’s faith was shown by his forsaking much that had become dear to follow the Lord through persecution and suffering. His knowledge of God as the Father and his Son as the Redeemer was perhaps no greater than the knowledge the unclean spirits possessed, but it did not change their evil natures. To them this knowledge was an added condemnation, while to Peter it was a means of salvation.
Talmage tells a story in “The Articles of Faith” that during an epidemic of Cholera in a great city a scientific man proved that the water supply was infected and that was how the contagion was being spread. He proclaimed the fact throughout the city and warned all to boil their water. Many people, though not having the scientific proof of his words, heeded his warnings and counsel, acted on faith and avoided death. He however, with all his empirical data, in a moment of forgetfulness, drank the water and soon died. His knowledge did not save him. “Knowledge is to wisdom what belief is to faith, one an abstract principle, the other a living application. Not possession merely, but the proper use of knowledge constitutes wisdom.” (p. 99-100)
Knowledge doesn’t give us wisdom any more than believe gives us faith. Though they are essential elements, they are only part of the whole.
The Gospel is filled with many seemingly abstract principles to live by. Faith is one of those. We can study Gospel principles endlessly but it is only through the living application of these principles that we are saved and justified.
Perhaps we have learned a powerful lesson about charity, gaining knowledge through trials and suffering and then we fail to consciously live in accordance with the knowledge we have gained and exercise the living application of those lessons. If so, we have missed the point of the Gospel. It is in living and embodying principles that we become like God. It is through living knowledge that our natures are changed—that we experience a mighty change of heart. We have to take what we know in our heads and live it! The faith we exercise as we live it changes our hearts and feelings until we are changed in nature by faith. Then we possess living breathing faith. We become living, breathing charity. We become the embodiment of Gospel principles. We become like Christ.
We must examine our lives and exercise faith through belief and works to receive the blessings we desire. As we do so, with consistent application of the knowledge we’ve gained through experience, we acquire a true substantial and unwavering testimony of Jesus Christ. We come to know him as we become like him.
Spencer W. Kimball says in Faith Precedes the Miracle, “Many of us would have the vigor without the observance of the health laws, prosperity through the opened windows of heaven without the payment of tithes. We would have the close communion with our Father without fasting and praying; we would have rain in due season and peace in the land without observing the Sabbath and keeping the other commandments of the Lord. We would pluck the rose before planting the roots; we would harvest the grain before sowing and cultivating.”
Matt 12:39, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.”
If we desire results without the work—without faith—is this not a form of sign-seeking? Could we be an evil and adulterous generation? Do we believe we are entitled to privileges? To ease? To results without faith and work?
It is by the exercise of faith through works that spiritual development occurs. And isn’t this the point of our sojourn on earth? Developing faith is the crux of our mortal probation.
How do we develop faith?
- The same way we would any other skill, by study, practice and work
- Act on our desire to have faith in him (Read Alma 32:28-29)
- We can pray about our hopes, desires and needs, but we can’t just ask—(James 2:17) “Faith without works is dead.”
- Hear and study the word of God
- Listen to the testimonies of others who have faith
- “Strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Bible Dictionary p. 669)
The effects of true faith in Jesus Christ include:
- An actual knowledge that the course of life one is pursing is acceptable to the Lord
- A reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life
- An assurance of personal salvation in the world to come
Remember that “all true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results.” (Bible Dictionary)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Faith is a gift of God bestowed as a reward for personal righteousness. It is always given when righteousness is present, and the greater the measure of obedience to God’s law the greater will be the endowment of faith.”
If we desire more faith we must be more obedient.
Neal A. Maxwell said, “If we lack faith, it shows up in interesting ways. You and I see it expressed as a failure to pay a full tithing, failure to wear the holy garments, refusal to work more meekly at making a marriage more successful or a family happier, the resentment of personal trials, trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil (we have quite a few Church members who are trying to do just that), failing to sustain the Brethren, neglecting prayer, neglecting the holy scriptures, neglecting neighbors, neglecting sacrament meetings, and neglecting temple attendance.”
Questions for Personal Reflection
- Are there any areas of my life where I am exercising faith as belief, but failing to exercise faith as action? Am I teaching my children to be casual or situational in keeping God’s commandments?
- What is one area in which I can increase my obedience and faith today?
- What specific actions can I take to bring me closer to my Savior Jesus Christ?
Challenging times require greater spiritual power but The Savior has promised us in Moroni 7:33, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”
Just as I stepped out onto that stage many years ago and was unsure but hopeful that the Lord would bless me with the ability to sing, we can join our voices with that plea of a father long ago whose son was possessed of an evil spirit and cry out, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
To which the Lord ever and always will reply:
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” (Mark 9:23)
He will help us find our voices; he will help us find our faith. May our desire to increase our faith and show our love for the Lord through our works be ever expanded.
I bear testimony that the Lord loves each of us. That as we exercise faith in Jesus Christ we will be blessed beyond comprehension. He can heal us. I bear testimony that he lives.