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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

He Overcame the World

The world we live in is a crazy place full of crime, injustices, tragedies, and sorrow. We hear so much every day about worldwide calamities and scary events. Confusion abounds in the media and sometimes it is difficult to know who or what is right or what we should do. In our own personal lives and families we experience trials as well. We may become unsure of our future and worry about how we will make it through. These hardships are very real and should certainly be considered seriously. We have to decide where we stand and how we will react in difficult situations. But I know that as long as we have faith in Jesus Christ and put our trust in Him and His teachings, we will not be led astray. We will be inspired to know which way we need to go or how to handle all that is thrown at us. In the end, if we are good and faithful to the gospel, we have nothing to worry about! This is not to say that believing in Jesus is easy, or that once you commit to follow Him you will never have sadness or troubles again. The world is meant to be a place of testing. However, we have been given a map of sorts to follow in order to navigate ourselves safely through the confusion. This "map" is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the steps of having faith, repenting of our sins, being cleansed through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring obediently for the rest of our lives. If we will stick to this path, no matter what troubles come we can know for a surety that we will be safe in the end.

In John 16:33, Jesus sums this up very well. He says, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Jesus sacrificed Himself for this purpose. Because of Him, all things evil and bad will eventually lose. Light always overcomes darkness. It is frightening to walk in darkness, not quite knowing where you are headed along the way. But, as we look ahead to the "light at the end of the tunnel", we will make it safely back to God. Even more, this knowledge can bring us peace and joy in this life too. The understanding that Jesus overcame the world gives one an eternal perspective. They can work through trials with faith, knowing that whatever hard things they must endure, everything will work out in the end. Jesus does not want us to be sad or scared of the world we live in. He wants us to hope, have faith, and "be of good cheer". There is nothing to worry about if we are living the Lord's commandments and following His chosen prophets.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Serve Others, Serve the Lord

In my reading this week of Matthew 25, I learned more about the nature of service. In this chapter, Jesus tells the story of the ten virgins and the righteous people who are prepared for the second coming of the Savior. He then goes on to bless them for the service that they did for Him when He was hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison. The people did not understand this at first -- when had they ever seen Him in these circumstances? Jesus explains "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (v. 40). 

As we serve those around us, we are in effect serving God. Through our actions of love and aid to others, we can act as His "hands" here on Earth. Of course, God is all-powerful and can make whatever He wants to happen come to fruition. But, He knows it is so much more meaningful for us to be able to act as instruments in His hands. He can use us as tools to make His good purposes come to pass. That way not only those whom we serve are blessed, but we are made even better for it too. God's purpose is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). He does this in several ways, but allowing us to serve one another is a major way in which God lets us grow. True discipleship strengthens as we focus less on our selfish needs and turn outwards to help another. Sometimes it may seem illogical to stop and serve someone -- maybe they seem to have things under control themselves, or you may be in a rush. But, I know that when we act on the desire to do good to others, it always ends well. You may not see any dramatic results, but you can rest assured that you have done some measure of good in the life of another. Serving others is something I strive to do, but I'll admit that sometimes it is hard! It's hard to go outside of your comfort zone or to use your time for someone else when you may feel in need. However, I have seen that whenever I choose to make sacrifices to help another it always works out well for me. Things fall into place and I feel so much happier. Service helps us grow and feel God's love for others. If every day we made the effort to do at least ONE purposeful act of service, just think how much better the world would be! 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Listening and Love

"Jesus wept."

This is the shortest verse in all of canonized scripture, yet to me it has one of the deepest meanings. The context of this scripture is the story of Lazarus and when Jesus raises him from the dead. Jesus was well acquainted with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, who were all followers of the Savior. He had shared His teachings with them before and it seems like they were His friends too. When they told Jesus that Lazarus had been dead for at least 4 days, He already knew this. He knew that He had the power to bring Lazarus back to life as well, and that He would do that. From Jesus' perspective, there was no problem. There was not anything to be sad about. However, when He saw these people whom He loved crying and in despair over the loss of their family member, He had compassion and wept with them. Some people may think that they cannot relate to Jesus because He led a perfect life. But, it is important to note that although Jesus had great knowledge and understanding, He also felt human emotions. He wanted to understand the sorrow, pain, frustration, confusion, loneliness, joy, faith, hope, and love that mortals experience.

In this story, Jesus also shows us a great example that we can apply in our daily lives. Sometimes, like I'm sure all of us have experienced, a friend will come to me with a concern or issue of theirs. They may complain about it and express their feelings of fear, low self-confidence, sadness, and pain. From my perspective, the answer to their problems can often seem quite clear or it may seem like they are overreacting. My first instinct is to tell them that it isn't as bad as it seems, or to offer reasonable solutions for the issue at hand. However, what most people truly need is just to feel loved and understood. They will figure out the solutions to their problems over time and with patience, work, and faith. God gives us these problems to work through so that we can grow. Sometimes, we just need to let others work out their own concerns. Most often what we can do to truly help is give a listening, compassionate ear and mourn with them. Jesus clearly knew that everything would work out with Lazarus. He could have told Mary and Martha that they did not need to be sad because Lazarus would live again. But, He is loving and compassionate and wants to give us comfort and assurance. He feels sad when we are sad, even though everything is under control in the eternal scheme of things. In the same way, we should all strive to be a little more patient and compassionate with those around us. Criticism never helps anyone. When we love others and help to carry their burdens, that is when true power comes. So many barriers can be broken down through a simple act of listening and love.