Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It is extremely tiny, but Jesus taught us that if we have even faith the size of a mustard seed we can do miracles.
When Jesus was asked why He had been able to cast out devils from a child when His disciples had not, He answered, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20, King James Translation of the Bible.)
Another time His apostles asked Him to strengthen their faith for them. He responded, “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, 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, King James translation of the Bible.)
If faith the size of a mustard seed could lead to those kinds of miracles, imagine what you could do with faith even half that size. In the Book of Mormon, we’re taught that even a longing for faith is enough to start the process of learning to trust God.
Although many of us struggle with faith, it is often because we’re thinking we need so much more to start the process than we really do. Of course, we want to continually work to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, but we only need desire to get started.
Faith means to believe in something we can’t prove scientifically. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1.)
Although most of us hope for a great many things, God and Jesus are the only certainties. Everything else can be altered or lost. For that reason, our journey for faith has to start with God and Jesus.
When we read the scripture above, Paul’s great sermon on faith found in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we can find examples of people whose lives are recorded in the scriptures and who demonstrated faith. One way to start our journey is by studying those lives and the lives of others who have shown great faith in their own lives. As you read, ask why God wanted that story in the Bible and how you could apply the lessons of faith learned in your own life.
The Bible offers several different pieces of advice on gaining faith. Paul taught the Romans, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This means we need to learn more about God and Jesus in order to begin developing faith. This can come by reading the Bible, praying, pondering, and studying good material on the subject. When gathering material from sources other than the direct word of God, it’s important to pray to know whether or not what you are reading is true.
James taught us that another step is obedience to the laws of God. He reminded us of Abraham, who was willing, if necessary, to sacrifice his only son simply because God asked him to. James said that Abraham’s faith was perfected through his works or actions. This means our beginning faith can grow when we live the teachings of Jesus Christ. Works are not what save us, but they are the manifestation of our faith. “Faith without works is dead,” taught James. He reminded the early Christians that Satan himself believes in God—has faith—but of course, Satan refuses to obey the laws of God, and therefore, cannot be saved. (See James 2 in the New Testament.) Neither faith nor works alone is enough. Faith brings with it a longing to live the commandments. The greater our faith, the easier it becomes to obey God, because we trust Him and we believe that by obeying God, the rewards will be far better than the sacrifices. James uses as an example a poor person approaching and asking for food and clothing. Preaching a sermon is not enough. We must follow up the teaching of our faith by helping that person physically. Our actions will flow naturally from our faith because we know God taught us the responsibilities to the poor, and out of love for Him and for the child of God who is in need, we obey.
Kevin W. Pearson summed up the stages of faith a person will go through as he sets a goal to develop faith:
“Desire is a particle of faith that develops within us as we experience divine truth. It is like spiritual photosynthesis. The influence of the Holy Ghost, acting on the Light of Christ within every human being, produces the spiritual equivalent of a chemical reaction—a stirring, a change of heart, or a desire to know. Hope develops as particles of faith become molecules and as simple efforts to live true principles occur.
As patterns of obedience develop, the specific blessings associated with obedience are realized and belief emerges. Desire, hope, and belief are forms of faith, but faith as a principle of power comes from a consistent pattern of obedient behavior and attitudes. Personal righteousness is a choice. Faith is a gift from God, and one possessed of it can receive enormous spiritual power” (Kevin W. Pearson, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Ensign, May 2009, 38–40.)
It’s often said that fear and faith can’t exist in the same place. When we find ourselves afraid, it is due to a weak spot in our faith.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid,” Jesus told His followers shortly before leaving them. He often asked them not to be afraid, but they often found this harder than they expected. In Matthew 14, Peter wanted to walk on water after seeing Jesus doing it. He thought he had the faith to do that, and he had enough to step out of the boat and into the water. It was a starting faith. However, the wind picked up and Peter let his faith blow away with it. He panicked and called to Jesus for help. Jesus gently rebuked him, reminding him that he needed to strengthen his faith.
Although Jesus said we didn’t have to be afraid, we can choose to be afraid. Fear—lack of faith—is a choice. Naturally, everyone has times when he is afraid and it’s simply hard to hold on to the faith we normally have, particularly when the wind is blowing hard while we’re trying to walk on fragile water. These times are signals to us to increase our faith through prayer, scripture study, conversations with those who have faith, and obedience to the commandments. The more often we simply let God show us the way, instead of trying to take charge of our lives ourselves, the easier faith will become. We will see the good results that come—not always instantly, but eventually—of trusting God and our faith will grow.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.