In Come, Follow Me we recently studied the story of Naaman, captain of the Syrian guard. Having contracted leprosy, his future was unstable and uncertain. One of his servants was an Israelite and spoke of the prophet Elisha’s power to create miracles. Naaman believed and made the journey to see the prophet. Surely, he was filled with hope and faith that his life would shortly be put back on track. Yet he was about to receive a double dose of disappointment.
First, Elisha himself did not visit with him, but sent a servant to deliver a message. Second, in Naaman’s estimation, the delivered message was just plain ridiculous: “And Elisha sent a messenger unto him [Naaman], saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10). Was this a joke? This so-called prophet sends an errand boy to tell him to go wash in a river so dirty that getting clean in it was practically impossible. He was not happy. “But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage” (2 Kings 5:11-12).
Most are familiar with the end of the story. Naaman’s better judgement prevailed, he did as Elisha’s servant instructed, and his leprosy was miraculously cured. We know that the river had no true healing properties. We know that Elisha could have “struck his hand” over Naaman and cured him. The Lord could have cured Naaman while still in Syria, or even prevented the leprosy in the first place. But the Lord had appointed a plan for this particular miracle, and it involved work on Naaman’s part.
In the April 2022 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson gave us five suggestions to maintain spiritual momentum. The fourth suggestion, and my personal favorite, was to “seek and expect miracles.” It caught me a little off guard. I always knew it was good to seek miracles, but the idea of “expecting” them seemed bolder and more faith-filled than I had previously considered. President Nelson said, “The Lord will bless you with miracles if you believe in Him, ‘doubting nothing.’ Do the spiritual work to seek miracles. Prayerfully ask God to help you exercise that kind of faith. I promise that you can experience for yourself that Jesus Christ ‘giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.’ Few things will accelerate your spiritual momentum more than realizing the Lord is helping you to move a mountain in your life.”
The statement that particularly influenced me was “do the spiritual work to seek miracles.” The work to seek miracles? I thought that miracles were things that God did, out of the blue, to help us in times of difficulty. Perhaps they are like that at times. But it also seems there are other times when creating that miracle is a combination of His efforts and ours. President Nelson also said that spiritual momentum increases when we realize the Lord is helping us to move mountains. Helping us—like we are both pushing and pulling, exerting joint effort to move our mountains of grief, anxiety, depression, chronic illness, or whatever our liability may be. Let’s look at a few miracles and the work that was required by the recipients.
The Work of Exercising Faith
When Moses led the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, the honeymoon quickly ended when they realized Pharaoh’s armies were in hot pursuit. Literally trapped between the massive Red Sea and the deadly soldiers, the people bemoaned their fate and rightly anticipated a grisly end (see Exodus 14:10-12). Yet the Lord had not done miracle after miracle, providing for their deliverance, only to abandon them on the seashore. Moses knew this, and cried to the people with stunning faith: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14).
For this miracle, the work required for the recipients was simply to exercise faith. “Fear ye not, stand still…The Lord shall fight for you.” Sometimes this is the case with us. The Lord will move the mountain and our part is to watch in faith. If you think this is easy, think again. Imagine the Israelites trying to keep a positive outlook as they were backed into a corner while chariots full of murderous warriors raced towards them. Having faith in promised outcomes, especially when such outcomes seem unlikely, takes great effort. I think this is what prophets have meant when discussing the exercise of our faith. Exercise happens when effort is exerted against resistance. When moving the mountain seems impossible, and yet the Lord asks you to believe it can be done, that is work on your part. Push against the doubt. Exercise your faith. The mountain will be moved, and your faith will grow as well.
The Work of Following a Plan
After wandering in the desert for a generation, the Israelites finally reached their native home and promised land. In the centuries of their absence, others had claimed the lands of Canaan. The Lord promised Israel that He would provide a way for them to reclaim their inheritance. Some years before, when Israelite spies had observed the Canaanites to assess the strength of their foes, they reported, “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great. … We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. … And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight” (Numbers 13:27, 28, 31, 33).
In other words, “it looks great, we’d love to live there, but there’s no way we can defeat the current residents.” Another mountain stood in Israel’s way; how would it get moved? When the time came for battle, the Lord gave them a complicated plan of marching, blowing horns, and shouting. This plan, when faithfully executed, resulted in the destruction of Jericho and the Israelite’s first military victory under Joshua in the promised land (see Joshua chapter 6).
For this miracle, the work required was in two phases. First, the people had to exercise faith. Faith will always be essential work for miracles to occur. Second, the people had to follow a prescribed plan. At times, and I think most often, the Lord will require faith plus additional effort for your miracle. Sometimes the plans make sense, sometimes they don’t. Typically, shouting and blowing ram’s horns at a massive wall has little effect, unless the plan is ordained of God.
Remember Naaman and his miracle with the muddy Jordan? Are you looking for a miracle to help with mental health issues? Perhaps the Lord will have you seek counseling and appropriate psychiatric medication. That makes sense. But what if the Spirit advises that in addition to such efforts, He wants you to do more temple and family history work? What in the world would genealogy have to do with mental health management? For most people, perhaps nothing. But if this is part of an individual, heaven-ordained plan for your miracle, then do your best to follow counsel. I know that when the Lord commands, if we follow in faith, we will see results. Trust in and follow any plan that the Lord prescribes to move your mountain.
The Work of Creating a Plan
The brother of Jared was faced with a dilemma. After he and his people arrived at the ocean, he knew that the promised land lie beyond the shores. They needed a way to cross the great waters. He went to work, crafting barges sufficient for such transportation. Shortly after the construction was complete, he discovered two problems. First, the barges were so water-tight that they were air-tight as well, meaning the people inside would surely die during a long journey. Second, when closed the interior was pitch black. He took his problem to the Lord for counsel, perhaps expecting a miracle.
The Lord quickly resolved the breathing problem, giving the brother of Jared a technological solution to provide air while still keeping the barges water-tight. Perhaps he also expected a similar solution regarding the darkness, but the Lord’s counsel for this came as a question: “And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire. … Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? (Ether 2:23, 25).
This miracle seemed to place almost all the burden on the one requesting it. Have faith, come up with your own plan, and then execute that plan. We don’t know how the brother of Jared came up with his plan, but we know the outcome. After crafting sixteen clear stones, he asked the Lord to touch and cause them to glow. The result was miraculous in more ways than one. Not only did the Lord do as he had asked, He also showed Himself to the brother of Jared, resulting in what may have been one of the greatest spiritual experiences of his life.
Sometimes, the work required for your miracle will fall mostly to you. In such cases, the Lord won’t fight your battles for you, but He will fight alongside of you. He won’t give you a ready-made plan but will inspire you as you consider your own. As you truly move that mountain together with the Lord, you will grow in faith, strength, and depth of testimony. You’ll develop skills to face future mountains with greater determination. When faced with trials, please follow prophetic counsel to seek and expect miracles. Counsel with the Lord to discover what your work assignment is to help move the mountain. Then get to work and follow through.