This is a talk I gave in church about exercising Faith in Jesus Christ. Despite my current physique, I have had plenty of experience with physical exercise and the benefits it has on our bodies and our minds.
Dictionary.com gives us the following definitions for exercise:
bodily or mental exertion, especially for the sake of training or improvement of health:
Walking is good exercise.
Something done or performed as a means of practice or training:
exercises for the piano.
I think anybody who has been in a sport, plays an instrument, or goes to the gym regularly can tell you, Exercise has a lot of repetition, it has a lot of focus, and it takes a lot of effort.
When I was in middle school I learned to play the violin. I was quite good then, there were a LOT of basics drilled into us during our exercise period each day. But I did not continue into high school, and middle school was many years ago for me. Every other January or so, I’ll pick it back up trying to keep a resolution to myself only to shortly set it back down again. I have not picked it up in at least a year and a half. And yet, I could play you the first song I ever learned. It is simple, but I require no sheet music, I require no reminders. My fingers were so trained in that first year of learning how to play the violin, that there is simple muscle memory. An automatic reaction. It is the very first thing I play when I pick up my violin (and often the last).
I talk about physical exercise, because I feel that most people are able to relate in some way. Most of us have at some point be put in a little league group, dance classes, piano, martial arts, etc. We have had to exercise our bodies and minds to learn a skill or task, and like my little song, our minds and body remember those initial skills for the rest of our lives.
Most of us have also been exercising our faith in Christ since a young age. What are the automatic responses to almost any question asked in church, often shouted out in primary? Jesus Christ, The book of Mormon, or Joseph Smith! Even my little Alexis, who has very few words to share can repeat these names at the drop of a hat, much like my fingers can play that simple song I learned more than 20 years ago.
When we exercise physically, we often have a coach, trainer, or teacher, sometimes just a youtube video, guiding our actions. In the church, we are so lucky. Do you know how lucky we are? We don’t have just one person showing us how to exercise our faith in Christ, we have many! We have the scriptures, The words of the prophets, both written in the monthly issues of the church magazines, but also live at conference!, we also are very blessed to have examples of those around us. The bishop’s compassion with all of us, especially those who might be giving an iffy talk in church… We have the example of the relief society president, the teachers, parents who have yet to eat their children, simply, each other. All of us who call ourselves Disciples of Christ and strive to live his teachings can be an example for others.
How can we exercise our faith in Christ?
First, we have to remind ourselves that “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not Ethereal” says Elder Anderson, “Floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. It is, as the scriptures say, Substance… that evidence of things not seen”
In Alma Chapter 32, he tells us “O then, is this not real? I say unto , Yea, Because it is light, and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good.”
Faith in Christ is Light, We can see it, we can sense it, and we can feel it.
Alma Tells us to “ Awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, even if you can no more than desire to believe, Let this desire work in you, even until you believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words”
Now for some of us that are a bit out of Eh-hem, shape, we may not be able to do a full pushup, or sit up, or just sit up… BUT we can desire to! We can want to! And that want will get us to at least lay on the ground!
Then Alma tells us to Plant that seed of faith. What seeds can we plant? Maybe prayer, scripture reading, tithing, service to others, temple work, missionary service, or Simply being happy to know that we have a loving, good, father in heaven that has a plan for us.
Being spring time, my wife and I have been working on a garden. We have planted many many seeds. Some never sprouted, some have sprouted and withered, but most have started to take hold and really become a strong plant. Some of our seeds are old, some are new, a variety of different plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables.
The ones that have not sprung up, or have sprung up and then died have done so for a number of reasons. Some we did not remember where we planted them, forgetting to water them, some we have watered but put in poor soil, so they did their best, but couldn’t gain root, and others the seeds were just too old, and despite our best efforts, nothing came of them.
Alma tells us in chaper 32 vs 36-43:
36 Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good.
37 And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit.
38 But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out.
39 Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof.
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life.
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.
42 And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.
Brothers and sisters, When we exercise faith, we:
1) Desire to plant the seed
2) Plant the seed
3) Nourish the seeds that grow
4) Toss out the seeds that do not grow
5) Care for the tree until it brings forth fruit
6) Partake of the fruit
7) PLANT MORE SEEDS!
We cannot rely on the fruit of only one tree! Just like my little garden at home, to nourish our bodies, I have many kinds of plants, from tomatoes and peppers, to watermelon and lettuce, our spirits cannot live with the fruit of only one tree.
When I served my mission in Holland, several of the areas where I lived were below sea level, and as such, there were no natural trees, no forests. After the land had been reclaimed, they took trees that were almost fully grown, and planted them in long rows, close to the sea. These trees became a barrier for the ones behind them. They were a shelter from the storms. Often these trees were bent as far as a 45* angle from years of the wind pounding against them. However, the trees behind them, the ones that were able to grow from seedlings behind the protection of the trees in front, to grow strong deep roots, were able to stand up straight, and be stronger than the trees that protected them. And soon there was a whole forest of tall strong trees that protected whole cities from the wind.
Our faith is like that, one tree is simply not enough, we also cannot rely on somebody else’s tree. We have to have our first tree, but then continue to build our forest of faith. Once one tree is established we can turn our attention to the next, and each time one more tree of faith is established, it becomes easier and easier to build our forest of faith, to stand against the winds of this world.
Those of us who are parents or who have been parents, or who will one day be parents, we can be that first line of trees for our children, to give them that opportunity to start their own small grove of faith. Teachers, Leaders, and those who are able to serve others, we too stand as a wall against the wind, allowing seeds of faith in others to germinate and grow. And just like that song I learned so many years ago, once established, they cannot be easily uprooted, even if they are not cared for like they once were. However, if we were to continue to care for those trees, partake of their fruit, those trees become the pillar of who we are.
Brothers and sisters. I have faith in the lord Jesus Christ. I have faith in the atonement, in repentance, baptism, the resurrection. In the restoration of the church of jesus Christ of latter day saints. I have faith in eternal marriage, tithing, and the priesthood. These are just some of the seeds that I planted as a young person, that have grown to be my pillars and shields against the storm. And with them, and the forest that has grown behind them, I know that I am able to endure the storms, with a full heart, to the end. In the name of Jesus Christ, A-men.