Paul wrote that faith “… is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). An alternative translation from the Greek for substance is assurance and for evidence is proof. Thus, one can read this scripture as faith “is the assurance of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen...” Faith is the foundation of our hope. With faith we have complete trust and confidence in our Heavenly Father and in Jesus Christ.
Three elements are necessary for a person to have complete faith. These are: first an acknowledgement that God can do anything that we ask Him to do: second, an acceptance that God’s will supersedes our own; and finally, a willingness to remain faithful when our desires are not granted.
The account of the Savior healing a leper shows the first two of these elements. Luke gives this brief account of the event:
When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was was cleansed. (Luke 5:12-13; emphasis added)
The leper’s declaration of faith was, “Thou canst make me clean.” He had the assurance that the Savior had the power to heal him; there was no question or doubt. King Benjamin taught this principle when he said, “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9). Our Father in Heaven is all powerful and can do all things, and the leper knew this truth.
The only question the leper had was whether or not Jesus would heal him. The leper’s statement “if thou wilt” shows this. The question in his mind was not could Christ heal him but would He. The leper did not know if his will was the same as God’s will. Moroni writes that Christ taught, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33). With faith we hope that God will grant our desires, yet not everything we want is expedient—our will doesn’t always align with God’s will for us. Acknowledging this is also an element of faith. In the words of King Benjamin: “Believe that man doth not comprehend all the things the Lord can comprehend.” Oftentimes it is difficult to accept that God knows what is best for our eternal growth and development, but that acceptance is an essential expression of faith.
How do we respond if Heavenly Father doesn’t grant us our wishes even though we ask in faith? Do we become disappointed, bitter, and lose faith? Are we willing to remain faithful and even grow in faith?
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who lived during the time of King Nebuchadnezzar, powerfully illustrates the importance of our willingness to remain faithful even when God doesn’t grant our pleas. Although Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were Jews, they rose to positions of prominence in Babylon. During this time, Nebuchadnezzar built a golden image and commanded everyone to bow down before it, or he would cast them into a furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to worship the golden image and the king became furious. Confronting them, he told them that he would have them thrown into the furnace if they would not worship the image. He asked them, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15). Then these three men, full of faith, gave the king this answer, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 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. 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 3:16-18, emphasis added).
Those words “but if not” are some of the most important words in all of scripture. These three men knew that the Lord could save them from the flames of the furnace if it were His will. With their declaration of faith, the king had the fire in the furnace stoked so that it was seven times hotter than normal. It was so hot that the fire consumed the guards who threw Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego into the furnace, but miraculously the fire didn’t burn the three Jews. God protected them.
Of this event, Elder Dennis E. Simmons, said,
We must have the same faith as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not …. He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord.
Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has. (Dennis E. Simmons, “But If Not…”, Ensign, May 2004, 74)
My prayer is that I will have the faith to always recognize God’s power, readily accept that His will isn’t always the same as mine, and be willing to remain faithful when such is the case.