21 September 2010

Aligning Our Faith to Act: Determining the Unknown Variables

Faith, despite all of the time I've devoted to learning about it, is still quite a mystery to me, like mathematics is. There are numerous nuances to this "simple" principle of the Gospel--and therefore, there is MUCH for me to still learn about faith and how to apply it in my life. Often I know that faith is the "right answer"...but I can't figure out how to get there or why it is the answer.

Take the current perplexing situation in my life, for example. Faith is the answer...but I'm not certain how to "show my work" like I did in my algebra class. What equations and algorithims get me to where faith aligns with God's will and equals power to act (Faith + God = Action)?

My first step to figuring out the unknown variables is to review the principles of faith. First, words from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin provide great insight into faith leading to action.

"The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:7), we are told in holy writ. I ask again, What is faith?

Faith exists when absolute confidence in that which we cannot see combines with action that is in absolute conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father. Without all three--first, absolute confidence; second, action; and third, absolute conformity--without these three all we have is a counterfeit, a weak and watered-down faith. Let me discuss each of these three imperatives of faith.

First, we must have confidence in that which we cannot see....

Second, for our faith to make a difference, we must act. We must do all that is in our power to change passive belief into active faith, for truly, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (James 2:17)....

Third, one's faith should be consistent with the will of our Heavenly Father, including His laws of nature. The sparrow flying into a hurricane may believe that he can successfully navigate the storm, but the unforgiving natural law will convince him otherwise in the end.

Are we wiser than the sparrow? Often what passes for faith in this world is little more than gullibility. It is distressing to see how eager some people are to embrace fads and theories while rejecting or giving less credence and attention to the everlasting principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is distressing how eagerly some rush into foolish or unethical behavior, believing that God will somehow deliver them from the inevitable tragic consequences of their actions. They even go so far as to ask for the blessings of heaven, knowing in their hearts that what they do is contrary to the will of our Father in Heaven.

How do we know when our faith conforms to the will of our Heavenly Father and He approves of that which we seek? We must know the word of God. One of the reasons we immerse ourselves in the scriptures is to know of Heavenly Father's dealings with man from the beginning. If the desires of our heart are contrary to scripture, then we should not pursue them further.

Next, we must heed the counsel of latter-day prophets as they give inspired instruction.

Additionally, we must ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit. If we do so, the Lord has promised, "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2).

Only when our faith is aligned with the will of our Heavenly Father will we be empowered to receive the blessings we seek.

--Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Shall He Find Faith On the Earth," Ensign, Nov. 2002, pp. 82-84, emphasis added.
So, my equation must have the elements of absolute confidence (in what I cannot see), a willingness to act upon what I do not see, and absolute conformity to the will of God--as well as an assumption that I know what God's will is for me. That would change the equation to this:

Faith + God = Action
|Confidence in God| + Willingness to Act + |Conformity to God's Will| = Faith

And we can expand the equation to include data from Elder David A. Bednar about tender mercies, a very important but misunderstood component of the faith equation.
My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi's phrase "the tender mercies of the Lord," and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy. A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord's timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.

-- Elder David A. Bednar, "The Tender Mercies of the Lord," General Conference, April 2005, emphasis added.

With this added understanding from Elder Bednar, we can extend our understanding of faith to include tender mercies of the Lord, especially His timing of executing the miracles in our lives.
|Confidence in God| + Willingness to Act + |Conformity to God's Will| = Faith

Faith x The Lord's Timing = Tender Mercies

1 comment:

  1. The most powerful thing that I have ever learned in the past few years is what the true definition of faith is. It is this: If you were not feeling fear, worry, anxiousness, etc...what would you do? That action, THAT thing that you would do...that is you stepping out in faith. That is doing what in your mind makes absolutely NO sense whatsoever, but having complete and total faith in the Father that He will make it work.

    The things that you would be doing if fear weren't stopping you...those are things of faith.