What Is the Appropriate Balance Between Hard Work and Faith?

Near the end of King Benjamin’s sermon, after he taught his people about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, after they prayed and received a remission of their sins, and after he gave them counsel about what they should do to retain that remission of their sins, he gave them some guidance about how to maintain appropriate balance in their discipleship. The guidance came in two parts:

  1. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”
  2. “And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize.”

In summary, he said, “Therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).

How can we find this balance in our lives? How can we know when we need to work harder, when we need to do something different, and when we need to simply trust God? As I’ve pondered this question today, I’ve had the following insights:

  1. Pray first. Nephi taught, “Ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Nephi 32:9). That prayer will invite God’s power, so that the effects of your actions will be multiplied. It will also give you an opportunity to hear if God wants you to do something different or if there is a better way to do it.
  2. Trust that God will help you obey His commandments. Nephi was given multiple specific assignments from God, many of which seemed hard to accomplish. But they understood a fundamental principle of the gospel: Nothing is too hard for God, and when He asks you to do something, He will also prepare a way for you to do it. Nephi repeats this principle multiple times as he tells his story (1 Nephi 3:7, 1 Nephi 5:8, 1 Nephi 9:61 Nephi 17:3). Because Nephi knew that these commandments came from God, he kept going even when he encountered obstacles, trying new approaches as needed but believing that he would be successful in the end.
  3. Be patient. When the people of Alma were in bondage to the Lamanites, they “began to cry mightily to God.” Seeing this, their captors forbade them to pray, so they stopped praying aloud, but continued to pray in their hearts. God promised to ease their burdens, but He did not yet promise them deliverance from bondage. Mormon tells them that their burdens did become lighter because “the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease.” This was not the blessing they had sought, but it was a blessing. For a period of time, “they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” Eventually, because of their faith and their patience, the Lord did deliver them from bondage (Mosiah 24:10-16).
  4. Make use of the means you have. In Captain Moroni’s letter to Pahoran, the chief judge, he questions whether Pahoran’s trust in God has led him to complacency. “Could ye suppose that ye could sit upon your thrones, and because of the exceeding goodness of God ye could do nothing and he would deliver you?” he asked. “Do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?” (Alma 60:11, 21). The message is clear: God expects us to do what we can. We shouldn’t expect Him to do for us what He has given us the ability to do for ourselves.

Today, I will strive to find an appropriate balance between faith and diligence. I will remember to pray first, to believe that God will help me fulfill His commandments, to submit cheerfully to God’s will when there are things I can’t control, and to make use of the means He has given to me.

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2 Responses to What Is the Appropriate Balance Between Hard Work and Faith?

  1. Aaron Roome Gmail says:

    I love the organization of your thoughts but isn’t faith active?…or in other words, isn’t hard work a manifestation of our faith?

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    • Paul Anderson says:

      That’s a good question. Does it even make sense to talk about a balance between work and faith, since our faith is so often manifest in our works (James 2:18)?
      Here’s my thought: work can be a manifestation of our faith in God, but our faith isn’t always manifest through work. Sometimes, our faith is manifest by following the counsel, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). I also think we work differently when our work is based on faith. Our work is likely to be less frantic or anxious because it is built on a solid foundation.
      Here’s another way to frame the question, which might be more effective: To what degree and how should we work in order to appropriately exercise our faith in God?

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