May 9, 2014 by FHElessons
Many years ago I read the Lectures on Faith by Joseph Smith. In them he mentions the concept that faith is power. I have thought about that idea throughout my life but didn’t really feel like I “got it”. How can believing that something is true be the same thing as having power? How can a mere change of mindset or thought process accomplish something physical?
This Easter season my missionary son gave me a list of scriptures to read about the Atonement. He was reading them as well, and he wanted us to be able to discuss them. They were all chapters in the Book of Mormon and were all wonderful scriptures, but the thing I actually got from them is an answer to my question about how faith is equivalent to power.
Here are some things I learned as well as some concepts I have been pondering lately.
4 Ways that Faith Equals Power
1. When we have faith that God is all powerful and that He will grant us whatever we ask Him that is right, then we have a way to share in God’s power.
One of the chapters that my son asked me to read was Jacob 4. When I read the following verse and then stopped to ponder it, I suddenly got a glimpse of how faith can equal power. (See the end of this article for a FREE PRINTABLE of this scripture.)
…and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea. (Book of Mormon l Jacob 4:6)
As I read this, I thought, “How would it be possible for the trees, the mountains, or the waves of the sea to obey a person? Can I truly imagine that actually happening in real life? In my own life?”
As I had that thought, the Lord brought an event to my mind that had happened earlier that day. We were on vacation, and it was our last day at the beach. The previous day we had ended up doing nothing, just kind of hanging around our condo. So, I very much wanted our last day to be a great beach day. I wanted it to be warm and sunny so we could have fun swimming in the ocean and playing on the beach and not be cold. Unfortunately, when I woke up that morning the weather was the absolute worst it had been the whole trip. The sky was full of thick, heavy-looking clouds and the air was cold and breezy. A quick check on the weather report revealed that it would be cold and cloudy all day! What a disappointment! I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father for good weather, stating my reasons that our family could really use a last, relaxing, fun day on the beach. The answer I got was to go ahead and go down to the beach anyway – even if the weather was cold and cloudy, it would still be nice to be on the beach just because it is a beautiful place to be. We packed up our picnic and got all sunblocked and carried all our toys and beach chairs, etc down to the beach. Within 20 minutes of being down there, the sun came out, there was not a single cloud in the sky, and the rest of the day was absolutely beautiful and warm. We played on the beach, went boogie boarding, and even ended up swimming with some dolphins who came to play right by where we were boogie boarding. It was a fantastic day!
So later that night as I was reading in Jacob and thinking about whether a person can truly command the elements, the Lord brought that event into my mind, and I realized that it was almost like I had commanded the elements. The weather report was forecasting cold and clouds, and a visual check on the weather confirmed that this would be the case, but when I asked Heavenly Father to change the weather just for me, it seemed that He did!
I thought about this scripture:
Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth. (Book of Mormon | Mormon 9:21)
Do we really believe this to be true? Will God give us anything we ask for if we ask Him? The scriptures say it plainly, right there in Mormon. Is it just a matter of being completely free from doubt that grants us this promise? We can look at our own experience to know that there are times that we have asked for things that haven’t been granted, right? Many times when I have prayed for something, the answer has been “No.”
On the other hand, Jesus has told us the Parable of the Importuning Neighbor found in Luke 11:5-8. In this parable, a neighbor comes to the door in the night, knocking and asking for bread. The master of the house does not want to get up and give this pesky neighbor any bread, and, at first, he refuses him. But because the neighbor continues to knock and ask, the master finally does get up and give him what he wants, just because he asks. And then, Jesus concludes with this promise: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (New Testament | Luke 11:9)
I also know from experiences in my life that God will frequently grant me a request to which He has previously said “no”, if I continue to ask (and beg and plead) for it. Of course, when this happens, I am always sorry later. Because the reason God said “no” in the first place was because that thing was not good for me; it was not something that would make me happy. But when I didn’t accept the “no” answer and continued to pester Him about it, He granted my request, even though it made me sorry later and taught me that God always knows best.
So, these scriptures combined with this parable teach us that God will grant our requests if we ask. And we know that God is all powerful, right? He can do absolutely anything. In fact, the next few verses that follow the one I mentioned above in Jacob, highlight that very idea:
“For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?” (Book of Mormon | Jacob 4:9)
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” (New Testament | Luke 1:37)
Thus, if God has all power, and we believe (have faith) that He will grant us anything that we ask (as He says He will), then by having faith we tap into God’s power. In other words, faith gives us power. It gives us all the power that God has! So, here was the first part of an answer to how faith equals power, something I had been pondering for 20+ years.
The question remains: if the scriptures tell us that God will give us what we ask for and that that promise is to everyone on Earth, why then do we sometimes not get what we ask for when we pray?
One reason can sometimes be that God has granted to all of us our free agency, and He will not infringe on anyone’s free agency no matter how much we ask Him. He is actually bound by His word, and He has said that He has given us this gift of free agency. So, no matter how much we ask, we will not have power to change anyone else’s agency.
However, sometimes our requests to God do not hinge on the free agency of others and still seem not to be granted. Why might that be?
2. Even if our faith is perfect, while our knowledge is limited, our access to power may be limited as well.
I have some tools at home that are pretty powerful. With a chain saw, I can cut down an enormous tree in my back yard. But would I give that chain saw to a 2 year old? No. Because a 2 year old doesn’t yet have the knowledge of how to use that tool safely. If he got ahold of it while it was on, he might hurt himself badly with it. I may have some things that are powerful, but I don’t give that power to someone who could hurt himself with it.
Similarly, God doesn’t give all the power of the universe to us, who are like mere children to Him. Because we don’t know the future and we don’t know how all of our actions will combine together to form consequences, we don’t always ask for the things that will be good for us to have. This is why God sometimes says “no” when we ask for something. He knows what will bring us happiness and what will make us a better person. He knows all our desires and which desires are greater than others, and He grants our requests according to what we really want, not what we think we want at the time.
Many times in my own life I have had the experience of disagreeing with the Lord about the course my life should take only to find out later that He was right. The first time this occurred was when I was in high school. I was running for class president, and I wanted very much to win the election. I prayed and pleaded for that outcome, but every time I prayed, I would get a “no” answer. And, indeed, I did not win. At the time, I felt frustrated, like a spoiled child, that I wasn’t getting what I wanted. But later in the year, when I was so busy with all my activities that I barley got 4 hours of sleep per night, and I was frequently so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open during class, I thought back on that prayer and the answer to it, and I realized that God had given me what was best for my life. There was no way I would have been able to add all the time commitment that would be have been required of me as class president to my schedule. I was glad that I had not won that election.
That may seem like a very trivial experience, but it was the beginning of my lesson to learn to rely on God’s wisdom, to learn that His answer is always the way that will bring me happiness. It would be nice if I was able to totally learn my lesson with that one experience, but, sadly, I continue to learn that lesson over and over again. You can read about more of these experiences in my Why I Believe essay. They are in about the last third of the article.
So, there are many times when I ask for something, God tells me “no”, and, instead of trusting in Him and relying on His judgment, I continue to think that my own judgment is better. I continue to want what I want and don’t want to accept what He tells me. I am learning to “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding…” knowing that when I do, the following will happen: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Old Testament | Proverbs 3:5 – 6) In other words, He will direct my path for good, for my own good, for my own happiness.
3. Accepting the Lord’s answers to our prayers and trusting in his judgment is another form of faith. Faith = Trust. Learning to rely on Him wholly and totally may be a lifelong process for some (me), but when we can put aside our own desires and completely accept His will for us, then we have faith in Him. And that faith gives us power.
A few months ago, I attended a fireside given by Elders Tuttle and Propst, the missionaries from the Saratov Approach. You can read about everything I learned from them HERE. When Elders Tuttle and Propst were contemplating escaping from their captors and were prepared to do whatever was necessary in order to escape, including harm or even kill the men who held them captive, the Lord communicated to them that they should not do what they had planned. He sent them a vision of the front page of the New York Times saying, “Mormon Missionaries Kill Russians.” The Elders realized that their desire for missionary work to go forward unimpeded was greater than their desire to escape. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives in order that the Work not be hindered.
At the fireside, Elder Tuttle told us that when they decided to heed the Lord and not try to escape, they felt that they were choosing to die at the hands of their captors rather than cause harm. He told us how one of the biggest lessons he learned through that whole experience was to be able to accept the absolute worst outcome and be OK with it, if that is what the Lord wills. The whole time they were being held captive, the one thing they were trying to avoid was death. But at that moment, they felt that it was the Lord’s will that they not escape, even though it meant that they would die. They accepted the worst outcome. They accepted the thing that they had been fearing and trying to avoid for days.
Elder Tuttle testified that being able to accept the worst outcome and be OK with it brings peace. Throughout their ordeal, they had been afraid and stressed. But once they were able to accept that they would die, if it was God’s will, they suddenly had peace. All the fear left them. Trusting in the Lord, completely and totally, brings peace. This is another kind of power that we get from faith.
I think this is another skill that may take a lifetime to learn. Elders Tuttle and Propst learned it when they were just 20 years old. I wonder if that lesson has stayed with them throughout their lives or if they have had to keep re-learning it?
A few weeks ago in church we had a lesson given by a man who is a recovering drug addict. He told us that every person will have an experience in his or her life that will be for the purpose of teaching him to give us his will to God. For this man, being an addict was that experience. I believe that many addicts have come to learn the lesson to rely on God while trying to recover from their addictions. In fact, the 12-step program that many have used to help them overcome addiction has the general command to “Let go and let God.” It teaches addicts that they are powerless to control their addictions and that they must give up their will to a higher power. It is only in seeking God in prayer and having faith that He can heal them that these addicts are able to overcome. Is not this power? Faith can give power to those who find themselves powerless.
In my own life, I am learning to give up my will and totally trust in God as I worry about a son who has made some bad choices in his life. As I mentioned before, I haven’t been able to pray this child into changing because, unfortunately, he has free agency. Although I have faith that God can do all things, and I believe that He will grant me whatever I ask for that is right, I have had no power to change my son to a course that will bring him happiness instead of misery. But the lesson I have learned for myself is to rely on God. I trust that, as He tells me, my son will eventually overcome his demons and find happiness. I am learning to totally turn my will over to God, to not try to force the things that I want to happen. My responsibility is to do my part well, and that is all. I try to keep myself spiritually fit so that I will be able to hear whatever promptings the Lord might give me that might help my son, but I also try to have patience that things will happen in the Lord’s time, and according to my son’s time. It is a HARD lesson to learn, I tell you. Very hard.
Maybe others have different experiences in their lives that teach them to rely on God. Maybe they struggle with cancer or other illness, with losing a child to death, with infertility or other delayed blessings. I have also noticed that some people have had more than one big, hard experience of this type. Personally, I hope that I can learn my lesson of relying on the Lord quickly and continue to retain the ability to rely on Him throughout my life so that I don’t have to suffer more of these super hard experiences to teach it to me over and over again.
In the scriptures we read:
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 3:19)
So we see that one of the lessons God wants us to learn is to submit to Him, the same way a small child would submit to his earthly father.
A small child will suffer whatever punishments his father inflicts on him. He will do whatever he is asked. This is what we need to strive for in respect to our Heavenly Father. We must be willing to submit to whatever difficulties are placed before us. We must be willing to accept the absolute worst and be OK with it. We must learn to let go and let God take charge of our lives. We must follow Christ’s example when he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before enacting the Atonement. Although he didn’t want to suffer and actually asked His Father to allow Him to avoid it, He still added that He was willing to do whatever God willed. That is the submissive, humble, willing attitude for which we all need to strive.
And the paradox is that when we are willing to submit, when we give up our will to God, even expecting to suffer, we are given peace. Furthermore, when we trust that God has all knowledge and that He also wants us to be happy and wants what is best for us, we know that submitting to Him will, in the end, bring us joy. His way is always the best way. We can trust that we will be happy with our lives when we follow His counsel and direction. When we give up our power to Him and have faith, that faith gives us the power to achieve peace in the here and now and joy throughout eternity.
Now for a very interesting point:
4. Faith also gives us power to achieve salvation. In fact, our faith gives God power to give that salvation to us.
That’s a powerful thought, isn’t it? That our faith grants power to God? I discovered this concept while reading another scripture that was part of the list given to me by my son:
“And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.” (Book of Mormon | Alma 11:40)
I know I’ve read this scripture many, many times in my life, but this time through, I was floored by the understanding that the only way Christ can take upon Himself our transgressions is if we have faith in Him. In fact, the scripture says that ONLY those who have faith in Christ will receive salvation. “Salvation cometh to none else.”
Does this seem like a hard doctrine to bear – that only those who have faith can be saved? Actually, God has given it to us as a way to make things easy. Consider the following scripture:
“Behold, he was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live. But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them. O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?” (Book of Mormon l Alma 33:19-21)
This scripture is given at the end of Alma’s monumental discourse on faith. He refers to the time when the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness were bitten by poisonous serpents. God created a miracle that anyone bitten could be healed simply by looking upon a staff that Moses erected. But even though it was such an easy thing to do to be healed, simply to look, many did not do it, and they died of their wounds.
from LDS.org media library
Alma tells us that the way to Eternal Life is the same for us as the way to life was for those Israelites afflicted with snake bites. All we have to do is look to Christ. All we have to do is have faith in Him. He continues:
“If so [that you refuse to look], wo shall come upon you; but if not so, then cast about your eyes and begin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people, and that he shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and that he shall rise again from the dead, which shall bring to pass the resurrection, that all men shall stand before him, to be judged at the last and judgment day, according to their works.” (Book of Mormon | Alma 33:22)
“O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.” (Book of Mormon | Alma 37:46)
God wants to save us all. But He only has power to do it if we have faith. Salvation is easy – we have only to look to Christ and live! Christ has atoned for our sins. He has paid our price. He has done the rest for us. If we have faith in Him, He has power to save us, for He is mighty to save! (2 Nephi 31:19)
from LDS.org media library
Let us have faith in His power – His power over the elements, His power to do what seems to us impossible, His power to save us, bring us back into God’s presence, and grant us Eternal Life. When we exercise faith, we allow Him to use His power to benefit us as well as to share His power with us. When we align our will with God’s, our faith gives us power – power to do anything, even obtain Eternal Life. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Above is a little printable for you. Click on the picture and then right click to save or print it. Same goes for the Trust in the Lord print earlier on.
***Coming Soon: an FHE lesson on how to have and increase our faith! ***