Monday, July 7, 2008

What is faith and how do we increase it?

Yesterday in Sunday School our substitute teacher told us that he had always had troubles with the idea of faith and what it is. I raised my hand but he must have gotten too much from me already, because he passed me over.. So of course I will unburden my soul on the subject as the first post of this blog.
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard see, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. (Luke 17:6)
I think the Christ chose the perfect example as an illustration of how faith works. Let us say Christ wants us to go plant a tree in the middle of the ocean. With faith the size of a mustard seed we start by saying to ourselves, "Because I have been commanded by God to do this task, it must be done, so it must be possible." And instead of spending any time and energy evaluating the reasonableness of the task, we put that energy into figuring out how to accomplish it. At that stage, in our minds we think of it as already done, and it is only a matter of time before reality reflects our inner vision.

Does it matter how impossible the task sounds? Do we really need to think about that?

The above verse was the first part of Christ's response to his disciple's request for Him to increase their faith. The second part takes it to the next step.

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded of him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded of you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke 17:7-10)
Christ pointed out that if we had servants (or employees or whatever) once they get finished with one task, we usually have something else for them to do after that, and so on until the end. Christ was pointing out that the mental energy that the servant has to have to keep going from one thing to the next is exactly what is required to increase our faith. With each additional task, we begin to wonder, "Can I do really do this?" and with our mustard-seed-sized faith we say to ourselves, "Yes, it must be done and it is possible!" and then we go and do it with the Lord's help, and then we gain a greater sense of our ability to endure and a greater confidence in the Lord.

Example: My husband and I both served together as activities committee chair and co-chair. The bishop wanted us to have a ward activity every month. We made the determination to do what he asked us to do. It took us a few months to find out that that was an unusually high rate of activity, but even when we did, we didn't complain. We spent no time or energy considering the possibility/impossibility of the task we had been set, only figuring out how to accomplish it, and it automatically was possible. We also found that once we finished one activity we had to start right in on planning the next one; there was no time to rest. I feel that it increased my faith that Heavenly Father was the one in charge and that He was helping things to work out. All in all, that year in the activities committee was probably like 3 years elsewhere, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Do I expect thanks for how I executed my calling? No, I don't; I just did what I was asked to do. I wish I could say I was a profitable servant, but I can't. I wish there was more I could do.

Now, if you will humor me, I'll share with you a poem I wrote on this subject some time ago. It's not that great, but I sort of like it.

"Mustard Seed, Mustered Servant"

There's a way to make faith increase
It's not done at divine caprice
It lies in us
In scripture thus -
At first a mustard seed

We plant desire in our heart
Dig it deep as if shot with a dart
Make no delay
Haste to obey
Let no doubt sprout weed

Whate'er it is that must be done
Work with single eye once begun
That mount will move
On railroad groove
And you'll have done the deed

But servants mustered mustn't take rest
Rush on, nearing next complying crest
There's more to do
More faith accrue
Done duties breed a godly greed