Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"If Thou Canst Believe, All Things are Possible to Him that Believeth"

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak in church last Sunday. Below is the full version of my talk.

“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

In the Gospel of Mark we learn of a father who brought his son possessed with a dumb spirit to Jesus Christ to be healed. The apostles had thus far failed to cast the evil spirit out of the boy and the father pleaded with the Master Healer for His help. The father desperately explained that the spirit, “cast [his son] into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him,” and pleaded, “but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.” The Master Healer, who is also the Master Teacher, used this opportunity to teach all present about faith saying, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”

The father, having exhausted all other imagined means to help his son, “cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe.” The Savior did not immediately respond, instead He paused for the father to think about the significance of the statement, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible.” Elder James E. Talmage explained, “The man’s understanding was enlightened; up to that moment he had thought that all depended upon Jesus; he now saw that the issue rested largely with himself. . . . the father added penitently, ‘help thou my unbelief’” (Jesus the Christ, Deseret Book Company 1983, 383).

The faith of the father was sufficient and the Savior in His infinite compassion cast out the evil spirit. (See Mark 9:14-29.)

What was the counsel given by the Master Healer? “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” We can learn a number of eternal principles from this story, a few of which we will discuss today.

Think of the magnitude of the statement, “all things are possible to him that believeth.” That leaves nothing impossible, nothing at all. With enough faith—if we can believe—and with the right authority, we can move mountains, part seas, build ships, destroy city walls, build temples, receive visits from angels, slay giants, survive fiery furnaces, be healed, even see God and Jesus Christ. If we can believe, we can survive finals—even do well; we can find the right job, make next month’s rent, finish school, find that right someone, fulfill our callings, and have fun. All at the same time; men are that they might have joy remember? If we can believe, we can live in the world and not of the world, we can help those of our family and friends who have strayed, we can hold our marriage and family together in this world of shifting and changing values, and we can endure all our trials and hardships well. If we can believe, we can make the sacrifices right now for the things that matter most, for the things of eternal significance and importance.

How, then, do we develop the faith to believe these things and thus create or be worthy of our own miracles? The prophet Alma taught, “if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon [the words of Christ], and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that you can give place for a portion of [the words of Christ].” What does he say? “Awake and arouse your faculties, even unto an experiment?” If we want to develop a greater faith in Jesus Christ and His power, we need to act, we must act.

I offer four suggestions how we can develop the faith necessary to make all things possible for us.

I. Prayer and Fasting

When His disciples asked Him why they were not able to cast out the evil spirit from the child, Jesus answered them, “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29). Their faith needed to be strengthened by prayer and fasting in order to bring about the miracle of casting out the evil spirit.

Prayer helps us increase in faith in numerous ways. The Lord both hears and answers prayers; when we pray, we receive answers and thus our faith that miracles can occur if we pray and ask for them increases. As our faith increases, we pray more, believing even more that we will receive; the process is a wonderful upward spiral. Indeed, the Lord has said numerous times, “ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” In addition, prayer is made more effective when we engage in meaningful fasting. As we fast, we allow our spirit strength over our physical appetites and passions and are therefore more receptive of the guidance of the Lord.

Now, miracles do not occur merely by us praying for them. Prayer is active and prayer is a form of work. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that, “asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence” (“Ask in Faith,” Ensign, May 2008, 95). We must pray and then we must do many good things of our own free will and bring to pass much righteousness. We cannot expect all things to be made possible if we merely ask for them and do nothing else. If we need a job, we must do all in our power to make ourselves qualified for the desired job and we must actively seek employment. If we need to do well in school, we must study hard, sacrificing fun activities once in a while to do all in our power to get the grades we seek. If we wish for our family or friends to return to activity in the church or to gain testimonies of the truthfulness of the restored gospel, we must do all we can to live worthy of the blessings of the gospel that they may see from our example that the gospel does, indeed, bless lives. If we need help dealing with the death of a loved one or some other trial, we must seek the Lord and do those things He commands us that we may be worthy of the Comforter. We must pray as if everything depends on the Lord and then work as if everything depends on us.

II. Scripture Study

The second way in which we can develop the faith necessary to make all things possible for us is through diligent study of the scriptures. The Spirit makes God’s will known unto us as we read His word as given through His holy prophets. We have been commanded to search the scriptures and the promises are made clear. The scriptures contain the words of eternal life. They are fundamental in gaining a testimony of our Heavenly Father, of Jesus Christ and His Atonement, of the restored gospel, and of the possibility of miracles. The pages of the scriptures are filled with stories of miracles, of all things being made possible to those who believed.

I personally want to testify of the power that comes from studying the scriptures. As I was going through school, there were many days when I would wake up wondering if there was any possible way to get everything done that needed to be done. On top of that, I was training hard for upcoming jump rope competitions and I was working so I could pay rent. Scheduling was a nightmare and I was quite often overwhelmed. Scheduled, consistent scripture study became the key to making everything work. I knew that scripture study was a daily necessity and not just reading my scriptures but actually studying them, but I found that if I waited until everything else was accomplished I wouldn’t get a very effective scripture study at the end of the day, if any at all. I began to get up earlier in order to get my hour scripture study before any classes started and before I started homework or other projects. I would get up to practice, come home and study, and then get ready and do everything that school and work required of me. My days went and continue to go so much better when do my scripture study in the morning before everything else starts. Life doesn’t get easier because trying situations help us to stretch and to grow, but life does get better and less stressful when we search the words of the prophets early and consistently. And I promise that revelation comes easier in the morning because that’s when ideas come clearly (see Boyd K. Packer and L. Tom Perry, “Principles of Teaching and Learning,” Ensign, Jun 2007, 84).

III. Repentance

The third means by which we can develop the faith to make all things possible is repentance. Repentance enables us to take part in perhaps the greatest miracle ever to occur on the earth—the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each time we repent and change our lives for the better, we are allowing the Spirit to change us from the natural man into children of our Heavenly Father. Repentance is a miracle. The fact that we can rid ourselves of old habits and constantly strive to do better, receiving forgiveness and having the Savior vicariously suffer for our sins is a miracle, a wonderful miracle for which we should thank the Lord every day.

Because of the miracle of forgiveness, repentance enables us to be worthy of other miracles. Mormon taught in 3 Nephi, “and there was not any man who could do a miracle in the name of Jesus save he were cleansed every whit from his iniquity—” (3 Ne 8:1). If all things are made possible to him that believeth, he must be cleansed every whit from his iniquity. We must be continually striving to do better and to become better through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “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 laws the greater will be the endowment of faith” (Mormon Doctrine, Boocraft 1966, 264). All things are possible to him that is righteous.

IV. Service

Repentance requires us to do more and to replace our bad habits with good ones. The fourth way to develop the faith necessary to make all things possible is through service. Remember that God will grant us according to our desires when we do as He asks. Our love for our Heavenly Father should be reflected in our actions and when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are in the service of our God (see Mosiah 2:17). “Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings” (Mosiah 8:18). If we want miracles, we need to be willing to be miracles in others’ lives.

Preparation

Now, I say a few words concerning preparation. Sometimes we know when we will require miracles. As one of the many examples from my life I know that when I was in school, many days I woke up knowing that I would need a miracle just to get through the day and accomplish everything that needed to be accomplished with classes, projects, and other activities. However, often we know not when we will need miracles and when our life will require miracles. Therefore, we must prepare now that we may be worthy of miracles that will be required in future days.

In the Book of Mormon, we learn of the faith that Nephi had and the miracles he was able to accomplish by his faith. The account in Helaman 11 tells us of a time when the Gadianton robbers were at war with the people and that wickedness prevailed. President Henry B. Eyring recounts, “the people did not repent. So Nephi asked God to change the seasons. He asked for a miracle to help the people choose to repent because of famine. The famine came. The people repented, and then they begged Nephi to have God send rain. He did ask God, and God honored his unshakable faith.

“That faith did not come in the moment when Nephi needed it, nor did God’s trust in Nephi. He earned that great faith and God’s confidence by courageous and sustained labor in the Lord’s service. You young men are building that faith now for the days ahead when you will need it” (“Be Ready,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 60).

Conclusion

Sincere, heartfelt prayer helps us prepare spiritually against the fiery darts of the adversary. Prayer, together with diligent, consistent study of the scriptures, helps us develop the faith we need to move mountains or part seas. As our faith increases, so will our desire to repent and strive to become better through the Atonement and grace of our Savior. Our personal righteousness will qualify us for the miracles and blessings that the Lord wishes to bestow upon us. And we show our gratitude to the Lord by living a life of selfless service. By living the gospel of Jesus Christ, we develop faith in him and all things become possible for us.

I echo the words of our prophet President Thomas S. Monson, “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith” (“Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign, May 2009, 92).

Jeremy