Faith vs Fear- Matthew 14:29-31

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?

COMMENTARY

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid
O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
Faith and Fear is a dichotomy. It is a choice between which side we put our trust in, the power of the world or the power of God. Whichever side we trust in the power of we also give power over us.
Peter was filled with faith and he walked upon the water. The only reason why he got into any trouble was that he acknowledged the storm. He had been defying the laws of physics, but in that moment he regarded them, feared them, and gave them power. In that moment the storm, not the miracle, defined his reality. And he sank.

And he said, Come.
Jesus knew that Peter could do the miracle. He knew that Peter had the faith, even if only for a moment. Though Peter may have slipped, the Lord did not cease to invite him to keep exercising faith. Though Peter would slip again in the future, still Jesus called on him to lead the others.
“And he said, Come,” is therefore not a one-time invitation. Perhaps we will succumb to fear at times in our own discipleship as well. It is alright, the invitation to rise again remains forever in full force.

Faith vs Fear- Psalm 56:4, Matthew 10:28, Doctrine and Covenants 101:36-37

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul.

COMMENTARY

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul
Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul
As we have mentioned, part of replacing fear with faith is acknowledging that God possesses all power, and that He can save us from every threat imaginable…if it is His will. The other element of surrendering our fear, then, is to accept the times when it is not God’s will. We need to believe that even in those moments we are still preserved in what really matters.
Many the faithful disciple has prayed for relief from sickness, oppression, and even death, yet been told “no, this trial is one that you are supposed to pass through.” At first this might sound like being abandoned back to fear, but in reality it is being lifted to greater faith.

For in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full
If our hope is that depending on God will shield us from every pain, then our happiness is still tied to worldly security. We are still living in the “fear of the world.” And even if God did circumvent all worldly pain and give us all worldly pleasure, our joy would still be unfulfilled, because this world simply does not have what it takes to provide completeness. Fulfillment of the flesh is a game you just cannot win.
God wants something better for us. He does not want to merely mask our fears, He wants to help us overcome them. So sometimes He isn’t going to give us worldly comfort and He isn’t going to spare us worldly pain. What He is going to do, though, is help us through worldly pain with spiritual comfort. In this way He is bit-by-bit weaning us from the flesh and supplanting it with the soul. And in the needs of the soul He does provide all and we do find fullness of joy.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- 1 Kings 19:11-12

And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

COMMENTARY

But the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire
When one endeavors to try to become something better, they may be surprised that the Lord does not bless their efforts immediately. In fact, often it is Satan who comes to us first.
I have had my own journey through addiction recovery, at the beginning of which I was excited to finally meet the healthier, worthier me. I was shocked, then, when I instead met a very different version of myself: one that was extremely pessimistic and cruel. This version assured me that I would never get any better, that deep down I didn’t even want to get better, that soon I would fail, and that recovery would never work because I just happen to be fundamentally flawed to my core.
This voice was one that raged, too. One might say it came in like a great wind, or an earthquake, or maybe a fire…but the Lord was not in these furies at all. After that harsher version of me passed, another identity came. A still, small one that rang truer and far more hopeful. The one I had been waiting for.
I feel I have very good company in this pattern that I lived. Jonah tried to run before he eventually carried out his mission to Nineveh, Peter sunk into the water the first time he tried to walk on it, Zacharias doubted his son’s birth but later defended that boy, Moses doubted his abilities before leading Israel to freedom. It seems most all of us have the self of doubt before the self of faith.
The problem is when people meet that first doubting self and then assume that that is all there is. They may start to believe that some people have a good core, and others an evil, and there’s just nothing you can do about that. The truth is everyone has both identities, and the test is simply whether we will hold out long enough for the good to make itself known.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Exodus 32:1, Deuteronomy 8:2, Ecclesiastes 8:11

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

COMMENTARY

When the people saw that Moses delayed…[they] said…Up, make us gods
The LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart
After the Israelites were led out of Egypt they struggled to maintain faith in God’s ability to protect and provide. At a time where patience was required, they instead sought the immediate gratification of a new god. Eventually they were given a test of forty years, and from the passage above we learn the purpose of it was prove whether they would remain faithful for a period so long.
Where many of us fall from our faith is during the waiting, because frankly most of us initially only do good for the hope of receiving a reward. If there is a delay on that reward, though, our true motivations eventually reveal themselves.

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
Similarly, many of us initially avoid evil only for the fear of receiving a punishment. If there is a delay on that punishment, though, our true desires eventually reveal themselves as well.
We are wheat and tares, indistinguishable in our infancy and still deciding what we are ultimately going to be. We are trying to learn how to do good things simply because they are good, never mind if we receive a reward right away. And we are trying to learn how to avoid evil things simply because they are evil, never mind if we feel their consequences right away.
If every good and evil act showed their consequences immediately, then we would never define our core selves, we would become dumb creatures of habit. It is only in the waiting that the core self is revealed.

A word of caution: some have interpreted passages like these to suggest that some of us have an evil core self and others a good core self. I want to take a moment to refute that notion entirely. All of us are good at our core. Tomorrow I’ll explain why this misconception arises, and why it is a misconception.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- John 9:4, Doctrine and Covenants 64:25

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today.

COMMENTARY

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day.
Labor while it is called today.
Yesterday we examined how it is difficult for us to choose unpleasantness in the moment, even when we know a greater good will follow afterwards. I mentioned how our bodies are constrained by the “now.” They do not feel tomorrow or next week, they only feel this moment. Therefore asking a body to experience discomfort in “this moment” is hard, no matter what. It always will be.
However there is a salvation in the body’s state of constant immediacy as well. It is this finite-ness that makes us wary of procrastination. Note how the above scriptures appeal directly to the our physical, time-bound natures: work during today, don’t procrastinate until the night.
Think of it this way: any time your body complains about discomfort in the now it is reminding you that the “now” is all you have to work with. Whenever I commit to repenting “tomorrow,” it is my temporal body that calls me out for making an empty promise. It knows that I can’t do anything tomorrow, only right now.
We are confined to only having a finite amount of time in this earth life, and in that finite time we are confined to only having the present to do any work in. These limitations are blessings! If we had infinity to work with then the pull of procrastination might be undeniable. It would become so much harder, perhaps even impossible, to feel motivated to accomplish anything. “Don’t worry, I’ll do it next century. I promise.”
It is the fear of our time limits that gives us the power to overcome the fear of present discomfort.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Hebrews 12:11 (NIV), Proverbs 20:4

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.

COMMENTARY

The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.
Yesterday we discussed the phenomenon we see of enduring discomfort in the moment so that one might obtain a better reward later on. One example is exercising now so that we can feel healthier over time.
And yet we still struggle to endure even the momentary pain, and the reason why is captured in the two snippets above. Each of them is taken out of context to only show the pain and discomfort stages. Each of them sounds entirely unappealing once the promise of reward has been removed.
But this more limited perspective is the constant state of the body. In our minds and in our spirits we may know the promise of the future, but in our bodies we only feel the immediacy of right now. As Jesus observed “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
And so I knew I needed to study for my tests in school, I knew that would result in better grades and a better future, but for right now I really wanted to play this new video game. Telling me that I could always play the game later wasn’t much help because I wasn’t concerned about having fun later, I was concerned about right now.
Denying oneself pleasure for the greater good seems to go against our nature, then. More accurately, it goes against one of our natures: the physical nature. But we also have a spiritual nature, and it maintains constant tension against the physical one. But this isn’t to say that the physical nature is all bad. Perhaps it produces the conundrum, but as we will see tomorrow, it also delivers us from it!

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Ether 12:6-7, 12, 18

I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.
For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him…
For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith.
And neither at any time hath any wrought miracles until after their faith; wherefore they first believed in the Son of God.

COMMENTARY

Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith
Wherefore they first believed in the Son of God

The obvious reason for why this pattern of trial first and blessings afterwards is, of course, to promote faith. Although there are many different religions in the world, almost every one begins with a principle of faith: some notion of exercising belief in something first, and only later finding the reassurance of it.
This isn’t to suggest that God does nothing before we reach out in faith. After all, we need a catalyst to have faith in anything to begin with. If following God could only begin from a total vacuum, then following him would only occur as a random mistake, rather than as a directed path. And so the pattern that seems most accurate is: God partially discloses Himself, He then invites His child to do something on faith alone, and then God reveals Himself more fully after they do.
This is how he called Moses: first He appeared to Moses in the burning bush, then He called Moses to free the Israelites, then manifested His full power as Moses obeyed. He first promised Abraham a son, then He required Abraham to sacrifice that son, and then He intervened when Abraham obeyed.
The initial encouragement is never enough to make the following trial easy. It is still always a leap of faith. This one fact is enough to hide the journey in plain sight. The way is there for everyone, yet because it is gated by faith alone “few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:14)