This Faith Was Never Meant to be Passive
Talking to a friend a few days ago about some administrative changes in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I made the statement that has become the title of this post. For some reason that phrase stuck with me, and I've been thinking about it ever since. This post has almost nothing to do with the conversation we were having. Somehow it morphed into my thoughts on how to handle my faith.
Faith only exists as a principle of action. James taught us this in the New Testament:
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Faith is meant to be an instigator to action. We show our faith through our works. In some ways this is very simple. If I say I believe in Christ, but treat any person badly then I'm a liar. Or at best I'm inexperienced in my faith and need to repent, because Christ told us:
...I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; St. Matthew 5:44
But there's more to faith than just blindly following commandments.
Hear, Ask, Do
There's an oft-quoted scripture from the Book of Mormon:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
1 Nephi 3:7
This verse, in isolation, sounds good when you're teaching obedience. But it leaves out an important part of Nephi's example. When Lehi asked his sons to go back to Jerusalem, Nephi didn't just instantly start singing “I will go, I will do, the things the Lord commands!” In chapter 2 we see what happened first:
I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father...
1 Nephi 2:16
In other words, Nephi asked God before he did what his father had asked. He didn't passively obey his prophet father, he heard the commandment, asked about it, and, when he had his own confirmation from the Lord, he did what was asked.
And this is pretty much always the pattern. We can't be bystanders in our faith. We are meant to be actively working out our own relationship with God, asking questions, asking for confirmation, and acting according to our own personal revelation.
Once we've received an answer we should put it into action, changing our lives to fit this new revelation and observing the results. (See Alma 32:26-43 for Alma's discussion of “faith as a seed” that lays this out far better than I could.) Otherwise why even bother asking?
This isn't easy; I vary in my ability to follow this pattern. But I try, and so far I've seen good results when I'm trying.