Why Not Now?
Faith is something that we all develop at different rates, because we all work at building faith at different rates. My message today is that of urgency, why we must build faith NOW, instead of waiting until it is more convenient, when we have fewer pressures and burdens on our minds.
The reason for acting NOW can be illustrated in a quote from Michael Jordan, when asked by a reporter after a game-winning shot how it felt to make that shot. Michael answered, “It felt like the 10,000 shots I practiced had paid off.” The heroics, the glory, and his clutch weren’t hatched when he ate his Wheaties that morning. They were homegrown in gyms, early morning workout sessions, eating right, listening to coaches, and practicing for that moment when it would all pay off.
That is why we must build faith. Not because we’re trying to go to Spiritual All-Star games, but we are all seeking spiritual victories. Victories of faith over fear and doubt. The courage to turn off a movie, to turn on the lights when we’re with our significant others, wake up and go to the Temple, and get out of bed to say our prayers. Becoming spiritually strong requires a constant nourishment of faith, and faith building activities. To know how to build faith, we must first know what it is, and how we can get more of it.
“Faith,” the Apostle Paul wrote, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Alma added that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things.” Faith is an expression of an inner knowledge, an action word, and an example to those around us. It is an invitation to “Come unto Christ” and live by His teachings. Jeffrey R. Holland once wrote:
So how does one "come unto Christ" in response to this constant invitation? The scriptures give scores of examples and avenues. You are well acquainted with the most basic ones. The easiest and the earliest comes simply with the desire of our heart, the most basic form of faith that we know. "If ye can no more than desire to believe," Alma says, exercising just "a particle of faith," giving even a small place for the promises of God to find a home—that is enough to begin. Just believing, just having a "molecule" of faith—simply hoping for things which are not yet seen in our lives, but which are nevertheless truly there to be bestowed that simple step, when focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, has ever been and always will be the first principle of His eternal gospel.
That first step of wanting to believe is something that all of us in this room have. We all want to share the Gospel, read our scriptures, say our prayers, and do our home teaching. And it all begins with something incredibly simple, the desire to believe. And as Grandpa Joe said in Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “you deserve it more, because you want it more!” When we want something to the point that we’re willing to sacrifice all that we have, we find ourselves doing the things required to keep what we want. In short, we act on our desires. Prophets and Apostles have taught this from the beginning. One famous example is the case of Joshua, who wrote that we must “choose this day whom ye will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This day. Not tomorrow, or some day. There is a danger in the phrase some day, when it means, not “this day.” I’ve found that the most popular day of the week to start something new is “tomorrow.” The prophet Amulek warned of this when he wrote:
31 Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
King Benjamin also taught that we are immediately blessed for keeping the commandments of God, and the Prophet Joseph taught that:
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
Thus, acting now, in obedience, we are qualified to receive the help and strength of the Lord in our trials and travails. We need the Savior’s help more and more each day. Faith unto repentance, or believing that Christ will do what He says He can do (make us clean and pure), rather than believing that He is able to do something. Faith is knowing that the Lord will make good on His promises, and comfort us in our times of weakness. That He will save us. Stephen E. Robinson taught this, and I paraphrase:
Because what good is a Savior that doesn’t save anyone? It’s like a lifeguard that watches the people that He has promised to protect drowning, maybe even offering encouraging advice, like “try the backstroke!” But our Savior will dive in, and support us in our times of struggle. Though we may be spiritually thrashing, panicking, and requiring His (or in the case of the Savior, His servant’s) attention, He will never let us go. He holds on to us when we are in the most danger, and when we cannot support ourselves. If we will but call to the Master who implored, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” we will find His supporting arms around us. But we must allow Him to save us. We must say our prayers, read the scriptures, attend church, and the Temple, and serve others. We cannot merely believe that He will save us…we must allow Him to through our faithfulness. And we must turn to Him because we love Him, not because things are hard. Because we want to be close to Him for our own sakes, and not merely for His ability to bless and deliver. For that is how God loves us.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin once wrote:
True love lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the love our Heavenly Father bears for us. We all yearn to experience love like this. Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it. Oh, it is wonderful to know that our Heavenly Father loves us—even with all our flaws! His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will. We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.
We are all children of God, with the potential to become like Him. Sometimes we forget that. There is a family that I count as some of my best friends. This family is loving, accepting, and faithful. But they were not always as faithful as they could be. After serving full-time missions, the parents raised their children in the Gospel for many years. But slowly, through heartaches and offenses, and convenience, they slowly stopped coming to Church. They fed the missionaries once a week, and they seemed to think this was all they needed to be “active” and “faithful” in the Church. But they struggled mightily with their children, were unhappy in their personal lives, and their marriage was in shambles. With a little help from some over-zealous missionaries, they began to call to their Savior. It started with scripture study. Then personal prayer. Then family prayer. Then church attendance. Then tithing. Then home and visiting teaching. Over a period of three months, they were temple worthy once more. This family, which had been missionary-friendly for years, had come back. Not because of anything that anyone had done for them, but because they had done what they knew to be true for themselves. They were able to see what they had been missing. One of their sons is in Washington DC on a mission, and one recently returned home, after serving faithfully for two years in Texas. Their parents work in the Temple. Later, I asked them why they decided to become fully active, after all these years of inactivity. Mama, as I affectionately call her, said “because we realized that we couldn’t be a forever family based on what we had done in the past. We needed to move forward on what we knew, and act on what we knew was right. The fear that we had left when we once again tasted of the goodness of the Atonement of Christ. And I never want to feel that fear again.”
And the Atonement of Christ is the ultimate re-assurance to you and I that we can follow in the Savior’s footsteps. Alma wrote that:
11 And [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
This is the testimony that is also in me. In the times that are most troubling in my life, I have found that the Savior is always there beside me. But perhaps the most important times when I have felt the Atonement working in my life, is when I turn to Him when I’m not in crisis. Because the Atonement is not only the lifejacket, it’s the boat that we need to be safe in our entire lives. We can’t only hop in the boat when there are sharks in the water, but to stay away from the sharks in general. We need to enjoy the sunshine, and the company that is on the boat with us. And we must invite others to come into the boat, like Lehi invited his family, to partake of the goodness of Jesus Christ, and His saving Atonement. We can do that by doing simple things; being an example to our neighbors, inviting others to activities and to Church. And the comfort that we have is that He will be with us every step of the way.
The Savior suffered body and Spirit that we could change through faith in Him. Paraphrasing the Savior’s words, to the Prophet Joseph he spoke of His experience in performing the Atonement:
15 Therefore I command you to [exercise faith]—i.e. repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
To all those who do not know where to start, I suggest this: ask the Lord in prayer where to begin. The Spirit has done a wonderful thing and prompted me to change several things in my life that are out of place. I know that He will help me overcome, as I seek Him, for He has promised that “He will go before my face, that He will be on my right hand, and on my left, with His angels round about me to bear me up.” The Savior taught this in 3 Nephi 17:7-8:
Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you.
What one of us does not need to be healed? What one of us does not have broken things to mend? Elder Holland once wrote:
“If you are lonely, please know you can find comfort. If you are discouraged, please know you can find hope. If you are poor in spirit, please know you can be strengthened. If you feel you are broken, please know you can be mended.”
I close with a poem that Elder Holland cited in his talk Broken Things To Mend
In Nazareth, the narrow road,
That tires the feet and steals the breath,
Passes the place where once abode
The Carpenter of Nazareth.
And up and down the dusty way
The village folk would often wend;
And on the bench, beside Him, lay
Their broken things for Him to mend.
The maiden with the doll she broke,
The woman with the broken chair,
The man with broken plough, or yoke,
Said, "Can you mend it, Carpenter?"
And each received the thing he sought,
In yoke, or plough, or chair, or doll;
The broken thing which each had brought
Returned again a perfect whole.
So, up the hill the long years through,
With heavy step and wistful eye,
The burdened souls their way pursue,
Uttering each the plaintive cry:
"O Carpenter of Nazareth,
This heart, that's broken past repair,
This life, that's shattered nigh to death,
Oh, can You mend them, Carpenter?"
And by His kind and ready hand,
His own sweet life is woven through
Our broken lives, until they stand
A New Creation—"all things new."
"The shattered [substance] of [the] heart,
Desire, ambition, hope, and faith,
Mould Thou into the perfect part,
O, Carpenter of Nazareth!"19