Faith is not by Chance, but by Choice

This post focus on a talk given by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entitled ‘Faith is not by Chance, but by Choice’. 

I will not spend a long amount of time defining faith, but I will let the great Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, do this for me when he said:

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” (Alma 32:21) – I will also add then when referring to faith we usually mean having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His enabling power to bring us salvation and exaltation.

One of Elder Andersen’s concluding comments, which I feel sets up my thoughts well, was:

My dear friends, your faith did not begin at birth, and it will not end at death. Faith is a choice. Strengthen your faith, and live to be deserving of the Savior’s approving words: “Great is thy faith.”

We are the children of our Heavenly Father. We existed before our current situation here on Earth. We began the important process of developing our faith way before we came to Earth to have it tested, otherwise we would have no faith TO be tested. This life-long practice of developing our faith will not end with death either. However, whilst here on Earth, away from our Father in Heaven and those beyond the veil who we love, this will be a vital time to strengthen our faith. It is, and will always be, a daily battle.

The Daily Battle

Ponder the following question – Is my faith getting stronger or getting weaker? It is important we ask ourselves this question, because it is only one of these two events that are occurring. Our faith in Christ is either being strengthened or it is diminishing. Have you ever stopped to ponder how significant this is? In our day to day lives, whatever we are doing has the influence to bring our faith closer to the Saviour or lead us further away. Elder Andersen put it forward clearly when he said:

“How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”? Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith.” 

There is one who seeks to drag us all away from our loyal Mediator that we will be as miserable as he is. Satan is real. He is fighting maybe more valiantly than we sometimes do, to pull us away from the Lord, the influence of His Spirit and, in the process, diminish our faith.

Despite this powerful adversary, we can still find ways in our day to day life to strengthen our faith. These methods are not unfamiliar to us. We partake of the sacrament, we learn more by the power of the Holy Ghost (who can teach us the truth of all things). This is a good place to start. It’s easy to feel our faith building in a sanctuary provided for us at Church each week – but how well are we developing our faith in the other 165 hours we are given in the week outside of our Sunday worship? Again, the list of things we can do to develop our faith is too long to discuss in this setting but it should be something we are constantly aware of. To help us, Moroni including an edifying sermon from his father Mormon in the scriptures, where he was recorded saying:

“Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.”

If we are striving to strengthen our faith, our choices should be made clear to us, by the Spirit, what we can do. But one thing is definitely true, our faith will not develop by chance. It is our choices that will define how strong our faith is, and therefore, how well we will endure trials and tribulations. No matter how weak we think our faith may be now, the only way our faith will go will be stronger (if we support it by doing the right things). Elder Neil L. Andersen taught:

“Although your beginning fire of faith may be small, righteous choices bring greater confidence in God, and your faith grows. The difficulties of mortality blow against you, and evil forces lurk in the darkness, hoping to extinguish your faith. But as you continue to make good choices, trust in God, and follow His Son, the Lord sends increased light and knowledge, and your faith becomes settled and unwavering. President Thomas S. Monson said: “Fear not. … The future is as bright as your faith.””

This is not an easy task. Life will throw challenges before us. However – in our Heavenly Father’s grand plan, the very influence that seeks to overthrow us by sending us trials is actually strengthening us…trials, if tackled with the faith we currently have, can help our faith grow even stronger. We just need to tackle them with full reliance on the Lord and a vision that we will get through – and our faith will help us do that.

The Eye of Faith

In Ether 12 we are taught about spiritual giants in the scriptures who had immovable faith, who truly saw miracles because of the faith they had developed – from Alma and Amulek who saw themselves miraculously delivered from bondage because of their faith to the Brother of Jared who’s literal vision could not be kept from the veil because of his faith – he saw the premortal Son of God.

In Ether 12:19-20 we read:

“And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad. And behold, we have seen in this record that one of these was the brother of Jared; for so great was his faith in God, that when God put forth his finger he could not hide it from the sight of the brother of Jared, because of his word which he had spoken unto him, which word he had obtained by faith.”

This phrase ‘eye of faith’ appears previously in Alma 5:15 where we are asked by Alma: Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality…? As we develop our faith, it is recorded that we can look forward with an eye of faith, in (to paraphrase Alma) hope of things not seen which are true. We can receive a vision from our Father in Heaven to guide and direct our next steps. Now, when we say a ‘vision’, I am not suggesting that when we strive to see with an eye of faith, or pray with strengthened faith for guidance, that we will see an angel. Neither am I saying that we will be asked to go and uncover some sacred discovery that will be a testament to the world of our Saviour, but what I am saying is that we can receive direct, personal guidance for ourselves, our family and for the stewardship we have in the Church.

You can receive a vision. As a newly called Elders Quorum President three years ago, I was encouraged by our Stake President to pray and seek revelation, a vision even, on how to lead the Melchizedek Priesthood in my area of stewardship. As I did so, with an eye of faith (faith that I would receive an answer), promptings and direction began to flow. I will never forget that moment.

A more practical example occurred on my mission. I was in my third area and I was training a new missionary. We were very excited to serve; we were white-washing a new area (opening an area that had previously been closed to missionaries) and we wanted to see miracles. However, after a few weeks we had been teaching a number of investigators but nothing ‘miraculous’ (in our eyes) had happened. The following Sunday was a Fast Sunday and we were studying together this very principle (which had been taught by our Mission President), to receive a vision, find our own Sacred Grove, and try to see with an eye of faith. As a companionship we put our full trust in the Lord, admitted our faults and pleaded that we would see our faith bear fruit.

As we sat in our Ward Council meeting that morning, we noticed out of the corner of our eye an unfamiliar person walk into the entrance area of the chapel. My companion and I looked at each other, and without a word to each other, left the meeting to go to talk to this man. He was baptised three weeks later and invited a number of his friends to hear the Gospel.

I share this example with the full knowledge that stories like these might instill faith in the principle being considered, but events do not always happen that ‘perfectly’ – for that one investigator we had, there were probably dozens if not hundreds of situations where things did not happen quite as we would have liked. However, if we seek for a vision, as we look with an eye of faith, to have the Lord direct us and then we do all within our power to realise these goals, then the Lord will make up the rest in His own way and time.

As an Apostle of the Lord has stated, “Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker.” Do not let it fail.

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