Saturday, December 16, 2006

Faith: An Assurance

Priesthood Blessings:
While serving as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ, I recall only being sick for one 1/2 day. I remember waking up with fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. I remember feeling discouraged because we had a very busy day scheduled. A bout of stomach flu could have interrupted the important work of sharing the gospel for days. I prayed and received a priesthood blessing from my companions that I would recover (James 5: 14). It seemed pointless to be on the Lord's errand and have to deal with an illness. After the blessing I returned to bed and when I awoke at lunch time I was completely healed.

Now, I have been sick many times before that experience and many times since. I have received priesthood blessings and not recovered in such a dramatic fashion. Has my faith waned since my mission? I don't necessarily think so. I feel that faith is more about accepting the will of God than just positive thinking. I have met people who would not permit themselves to acknowledge their illness. Denial is not faith. And trying to force or change God's will is not faith. Job had great faith, but still suffered from boils.

I remember being asked to give my first priesthood blessing while attending college. Elders who hold the Melchesidek priesthood anoint and bless the sick at their request in the name of Jesus Christ. The words of the blessing are to be given according to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I remember feeling very anxious about being asked to give my first priesthood blessing. I knew it was the will of God that I do so. Did I lack faith. I think the important thing was that despite my nervousness, I gave the blessing. Since then, I have have the opportunity to give many more priesthood blessings. And each time I feel less and less anxious and feel more and thankfulness for the power and authority of the priesthood of God, and the privileges to serve my family and others. Reflecting on these inexperiences has taught me that faith has a lot more to with accepting God's will and going and doing what you know is right then feeling anxious or confident. Hope and pure love develop from faith in time.

James 5: 14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

Job 1: 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Parable of the Seat Belt:
Wearing seat belts while driving saves lives. There is a mountain of supporting evidence to support this claim. However, I don't have a perfect knowledge of this principle and, fortunately, I haven't yet been in a severe accident. Nevertheless, I do believe seat belts save lives. Although, I can say I believe that seat belts will save me in the event of a car accident all day long. I can even do research on the subject and write blog postings about it. Is this faith? Not by itself, according to James in the New Testament. James suggests that it is necessary to demonstrate my faith by consistently using the seat belt every time I ride in or drive a car. He says, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2: 20, 26).

Assurance vs. Vain Hope:
Brigham Young University administers a majority of its tests at the Heber J. Grant Testing Center. This building has the capacity to test 750 students at a time. During my 4 years at BYU I spent many long, agonizing hours in this building. Upon completing your test, if the test was multiple-guess, you return your scan-tron answer sheet to the testing center staff. The staff then feed the answer sheet through a scanner and before you can say "Bob's yer uncle," a laser printer spits out a half sheet of paper with your exam score. While taking numerous tests at the testing center I can vividly recall the reaction of many other students as they received their test results. Shouts of jubilation or sobs of anguish could often be heard from just outside the testing area. During those few minutes waiting for my own testing scores to be printed, I feel I learned a lot about the principles of faith and hope.

First, I discovered that no amount of positive thinking, prayer, or sheer belief could make up for being ill-prepared. Sometimes I hoped that, although I didn't study as much as I should have, that maybe on this test, God would bless me to fill in the correct circles. I found myself thinking, if I just believe hard enough than just maybe the laser printer would spit out my test report with a "Congratulations on a Nice Test Score." After a while, I started feeling like I was gambling in Las Vegas every time I went to the testing center (vain hope). I didn't take long before I needed to develop a new test taking strategy. I was tired of the disappointment of bad test scores, so, I decided to be better prepared. What a difference studying made. Adequate pre-test preparation eliminated nearly all my fear and anxiety while waiting for my test scores. I no longer felt like I was rolling the dice. Instead, I had an assurance, because of my faithful study, that I would receive a good grade report. What's more, even moderate self doubt couldn't ruin a test result after sufficient test preparation. But after getting into the habit of studying and seeing the fruits of my labor, I doubted less, and enjoyed a calm assurance that I had been successful with the Lord's help.

Heb. 11: 1 Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Heb. 10: 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Ether 12: 4Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.

This experience also taught me the relationship between faith, hope and charity (pure love). Faith is the not only desire and belief, but also valiant effort, diligence, and hard work. Hope or assurance then becomes the natural fruit of true faith. This is God's spiritual law of the harvest. We are promised, through Christ, to reap the eternal rewards of the works we sow (Job 4: 8). Through faith in Jesus Christ comes a perfect brightness of hope. And then if we continue to endure, our confidence will wax stronger and stronger (D&C 121: 45). John teaches that "pure love casteth out fear" (1 Jn. 4: 12, 17-18). As our confidence increases in God, we will exemplify more love for God and man. Therefore, a hope in Christ develops into charity; which is the pure love of Christ.

2 Ne. 31: 20 Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

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