I received an achingly real response to my “Lord’s Yoke” article. A reader said, “My question is: how does one physically do this? How is the burden made lighter? I understand the concept, but am having difficulty on seeing how one experiences this physically.”
By “experience this physically” I suspect the reader meant, “How does one make it real so I know and feel it happening for me?” If so, oh how I relate!
Most of us have questions, such as, “How can I experience the Atonement personally and really know it is being implemented in my life?” “How can I really experience being born again feel the difference in my life?” – and, “When I make the decision to take the Savior up on His invitation to take His yoke upon me, how can I know that I’ve really done it? How should I feel?”
The concepts sound so wonderful, but I’ve asked myself so many times, “How, how, how can I make them real in my life? How can I bring Christ’s magnificent power into the reality field of my own experience?”
Receiving the Gift
In trying to sort out these weighty questions of the soul, a Christian writer who lived in the early 1900s, Hannah Whitall Smith, gave us words of worth. She indicates that the reception of all the gifts Christ offers us in the scriptures is based on our faith. She says:
Faith is an absolutely necessary element in the reception of any gift; for let our friends give a thing to us ever so fully, it is not really ours until we believe it has been given, and claim it as our own. Above all, this is true in gifts which are purely mental or spiritual. Love may be lavished upon us by another without stint or measure, but until we believe that we are loved, it never becomes ours (The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, reprinted in 1952, 51).
Putting the Facts First
Hannah explains that whenever we decide to accept His gifts, to consecrate our lives, to become clay on His Potter’s Wheel, the chief temptation we will encounter at every step along our way thereafter is to doubt that we are receiving, or being changed because we don’t immediately “feel” different. She says we are inclined to put feeling first, faith second, and fact last of all, when it should be the exact opposite.
The fact is the Lord has promised to forgive sins, to lighten loads, to grant us His spirit when we in sincerity repent, ask, believe. When we put that fact first, then our faith holds strong and no subversive feelings can sway us. (59, 60) The fact is that God cannot lie so we can trust Him absolutely. The fact is God is the very essence of love and He loves every one of His children more than we can imagine. When we let the facts come first, our faith can grow and grow, and every now and then our fickle feelings will come along for the ride.
When we make a firm decision to repent and follow Christ, to take His name and His yoke upon us, there is no need to argue the matter because of how we may feel at any future moment. We can repel any doubt or fear instantly (knowing where the temptation comes from).
The Lord knows that our feelings are affected by hormones, illness, emotional and physical diseases, and other things, and that feelings will not always be in line with purpose. But we can say, “I meant it then; I mean it now,” and God will honor our purpose and intent.
I beg of you to recognize, then, the extreme simplicity of faith; namely, that it is nothing more nor less than just believing God when He says He either has done something for us, or will do it; and then trusting Him to keep His word.
Finally she reasons with us:
Is it possible that you can trust your fellow men, and cannot trust your God; that you can receive the “witness of man” and cannot receive the “witness of God”; that you can believe man’s records, and cannot believe God’s record; that you can commit your dearest earthly interests to your weak, failing fellow creatures without a fear, and are afraid to commit your spiritual interests to the Savior who laid down His life for you, and of whom it is declared that He is “able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him”? (Christian’s Secret, 67-73)
Whew! What a long and powerful sentence!
The Enos Formula
Enos gives us a great scriptural witness of experiencing Christ’s power, and gives us clues in regard to our part in the process. First he believed in his father’s teachings enough to pray. Then he had the persistence to keep praying until he got an answer. When he received the answer, he believed it. He said, “I knew God could not lie.”
To me that is the key. Whatever He promises us, we can count on. God cannot lie. Enos, awestruck, asked, “Lord, how is it done?” The Lord said, “Through your faith in my only begotten Son.” Those words didn’t reveal to Enos any of the mysteries of Christ’s saving and redeeming and cleansing power. However, they did reveal to him – and to us – the fact that His power was loosed in Enos’s soul because of the faith Enos showed in Christ, because of his belief.
Simple as it seems, I suspect that is the answer to so much. There is no limit to God’s power in our lives – except as we limit Him by our doubt and unbelief. Only as we believe and trust Him can he bless us as He desires. What an awesome risk He took to give us agency, knowing we could use it to shut Him out of our lives. He stands at the door and knocks, but when we choose not to believe we leave Him standing out in the cold.
Over and over, one situation at a time, the Lord is asking us to believe, to throw open the door wide and invite Him in, to trust Him. In the movie Prophet of the Restoration, as Joseph languishes in Liberty Jail, Isn’t that what he learned? In the most difficult kind of circumstance he said, “We must trust God.” Isn’t that what accepting the Lord’s yoke really means?
We ask for His sweet presence to reassure and guide us and tell Him we are willing to do it His way on His timetable – even when that means being led into the valley of the shadow of death. But wherever we are, whenever we feel His presence at all, the heaviness is lifted.
Ridding Ourselves of the Weight of Lies
Whenever I am heavy-laden, I sooner or later come to the realization that the weight is caused by lies and that the truth sets me free. What kind of lies? That I should be able to control what I can’t control, that I should be able to do more than I can do, that I’m a failure if others don’t respond positively to my efforts, that the world should be different than it is, that people should be different than they are – including me!, and that life shouldn’t be so hard.
Under the influence of the Spirit, these lies lift, and what is left is my belief in the pure sweet gospel truths that God loves us more than we can imagine and that His whole work is in our behalf to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life, that He never rests from that work and is mindful of every person and that the whole weight of all that is His to carry, not ours.
The Decision to Believe
A lot of scriptures have come to my mind this week about about the power of belief, the power of the decision to believe. I looked up the word “believe” in the topical guide and the list goes on and on. Paul said the gospel of Christ “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The Lord places great stock in our belief. Of all the decisions we make in our lives, whether or not to believe in all the spiritual realities that must be accepted on faith because they cannot be proved with the five senses is right there at the top.
Doubting Thomas said : “Unless I shall see … I will not believe” (John 20:25). Korihor said, “I do not believe that there is a God … and except ye show me a sign I will not believe.” Alma 30: 48). Notice the terminology, “I will not believe.” Belief is a choice; we can say, “I will believe, or I will not believe.
Belief is a decision to align ourselves with those who have seen, with witnesses of His power and might through the ages, with Old and New Testament prophets and modern apostles and prophets, with all the evidence of God’s hand in nature, and in our lives. As Alma said to Korihor, “I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true, and will ye deny them?” (Alma 30:41)
Every time we sing the song “I Believe in Christ,” I think of the author of those words and treasure the power of Elder McConkie’s last testimony of Christ.
I want to be counted as one of the believers. I don’t haves to worry about how the Atonement works, or how the Lord does miracles or how the resurrection is brought to pass. I only need to believe that it does work, that miracles are real (I’m alive because of them) and that, without one drop of my understanding of the process, the resurrection will surely happen.
Yet somehow I relate to the father who brought his afflicted son to Jesus, who said unto him “if thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:22-23)
What can we do when it is hard to believe? I think the answer is in the Matthew 11:29 “yoke’ scripture: “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” (emphasis added). Our belief needs to be constantly bolstered by learning of Christ – by pondering His life in the scriptures, by serving Him. “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:12-13).
The more we learn of Him, the more we focus our thoughts and the intents of our hearts on Him, the more we serve Him, the more unshakable our belief.
“Lord, how is it done?” By faith. By our choice to believe. By our choice to learn of Him, and accept the Lord’s gifts into our lives.
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