But If Not…

Faith isn’t faith if it demands specific outcomes. Faith does invite miracles, but it does not guarantee that we will receive the exact miracles we want exactly when we want them.

King Nebuchadnezzar was proud of a gold statue, about 90 feet tall, which he had commanded to be built. He wanted everyone in the Babylonian empire to worship it, and he was angry when he heard that three Hebrew youth in his own palace—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego—were unwilling to do so. He gave them an ultimatum: “If ye…fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Then he added, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15).

These three young men had seen their home country of Judah conquered by the Babylonians. They had been carried to Babylon against their will, and they now lived under strict supervision. They had every reason to believe that Nebuchadnezzar would follow through on his threat, and they had plenty of experience with God not rescuing them from negative outcomes. So they framed their answer in two parts:

  1. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”
  2. “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”

(Daniel 3:17-18)

Their trust in God and commitment to honor Him was not linked in their minds to specific blessings, even blessings they desperately hoped for.

This life is a probationary state, a time to prepare to return to God. (See Alma 12:24Alma 42:4–13.) We are tested when we face challenging circumstances, things that are difficult, things that we can’t fully explain. Elder Lance B. Wickman said:

We mortals quite naturally want to know the why. Yet, in pressing too earnestly for the answer, we may forget that mortality was designed, in a manner of speaking, as the season of unanswered questions….

Reduced to their essence, humility and submissiveness are an expression of complete willingness to let the “why” questions go unanswered for now.

But If Not,” General Conference, October 2002

Elder Wickman went on to remind us that the first principle of the gospel isn’t merely faith in the abstract but “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Articles of Faith 1:4). “Too often,” he said, “we offer our prayer or perform our administration and then wait nervously to see whether our request will be granted, as though approval would provide needed evidence of His existence. That is not faith! Faith is, quite simply, a confidence in the Lord…. Significantly, [when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace], not three but four men were seen in the midst of the flames, and ‘the form of the fourth [was] like the Son of God’ (Dan. 3:25).”

Today, I will exercise faith in Jesus Christ. I will trust Him to lead me in good paths, and I will be willing to follow where He leads. I will believe in miracles, and I will pray for miracles, but I will not base my confidence in Him on the expectation of specific outcomes. Instead, I will trust Him to provide good things, even things I might not have foreseen.

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