Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Luke 11:5, 7-9, 13

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

COMMENTARY

Because of his importunity he will rise and give him
The parable of the friend at midnight is somewhat amusing. A neighbor comes, asking for food in the dead of the night. At first the homeowner refuses, but relents after some persistence from the neighbor. It is very similar to the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18, who nags an unjust ruler until he gives her what she wants, just to finally be rid of her.
Now the point of these parables is not to suggest that we should pester God into giving us things that He does not want to. You cannot nag Him into solving your every problem like a genie. Rather, Jesus is saying that even if flawed friends and rulers can be convinced to grant a correct desire, then certainly God will be even more willing to do so.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
If ye know how to give good gifts: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

But even if God is willing, Jesus suggests that we still need to ask. I have found that God has had many spiritual blessings that He was ready to give me, but He wouldn’t do so until I asked for them. This is clever. For one thing, it fosters a relationship between He and I. To ask Him for something, I must be praying to Him, and thus I have a strong self-interest to talk to Him regularly, the very thing that He wants me to do.
Additionally, if I decide to ask Him for something, I often have a moment of checking in with myself. For example, if I am going to ask for a greater portion of the Holy Spirit, even before I get the words out I might realize that I am actively living in a way that offends it. Indeed, I have gone to God intending to ask why He was not manifesting Himself more in my life, but along the way changed it to asking forgiveness for shutting Him out myself.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Matthew 4:6-7, Matthew 26:39

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

COMMENTARY

Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God
I have just discussed how we are instructed to seek and knock, so that we may open and find. Yet in the past I always felt that it was too arrogant for me to ask spiritual blessings from God, and a major reason for it was this verse from the temptation of Jesus.
But I was misreading it. Yes, it is inappropriate to make inappropriate requests of God…but that does not mean that all requests are inappropriate. Jesus knew that casting himself down and demanding a miracle, just to prove a point, would be disrespectful of His father. It is one thing to humbly ask God if He will grant us a portion of the Spirit, and another to demand miracles on a whim. If you are asking for something you should not have, then there is no promise.

If it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt
Jesus shows us the proper way to ask for something that God may or may not be willing to grant. The thing to note is that he is asking and not telling. He does not say that he will withhold faithfulness unless God meets his terms, he does not give God a deadline to answer him by, he just expresses what he desires…and commits to abide by whatever his Father chooses.
It is perfectly acceptable for us to ask God to relieve our trials, and even to grant us a miracle, but only if we do so while emulating the obedience and humility our Savior exemplified. We may ask, but we must be content with whichever answer we receive. In the end, God will not necessarily grant every request that is brought to Him, but He will grant every one that is right.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Matthew 7:7, Malachi 3:10, 1 Corinthians 14: 1 (ESV)

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

COMMENTARY

Ask, and it shall be given you
Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing
When it comes to spiritual witnesses, some might feel that it is inappropriate to ask for them. “Do not test the Lord” we are frequently reminded. Yes, there certainly are things that are inappropriate for us to ask, such as for God to grant our every passing fancy. But when it comes to spiritual blessings, we are not only sanctioned to pursue these, we are encouraged to!

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Question

Scriptures, and the testimonies of others, are full of spiritual witnesses: moments where God showed up for an individual in a very personal and powerful way. It might be an angelic manifestation, hearing a heavenly voice, receiving a miracle, or just a powerful message spoken straight to the heart. Those that have not yet experienced these moments wish that they could. Those that have had them wish they could happen more frequently!

Much of my childhood I found myself trying to “make” spiritual experiences happen. I would try to convince myself that I was having one when I wasn’t, and fear that some might have happened without me even realizing it. As a father I am now anxious that my son have spiritual experiences, but I don’t want to repeat in him the same frantic, second-guessing game that I employed.

I would like to explore this concept over the next few days, that of how we can properly pursue and recognize God’s witnesses to us. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your own experiences as well. What ways have you found to foster spiritual experiences? Have you had any control over when or how they occur, or is it entirely up to God? How have you been able to tell the difference between an actual witness versus your own mind playing tricks on you?

What Kind of Disciple Are You?- Summary

A wonderful, if difficult, aspect of writing this blog has been examining my own spiritual nature. I have written about principles that I feel strongly about, only to realize that I am not living them as fully as I could. There are many things I know well enough in my head, but that I am still awkwardly trying to follow with my feet.

Many of these disconnects I was happily ignorant of before starting this blog, but that is the nature of spiritual study: it illuminates your areas for improvement. As has been said many times before, the gospel comforts the afflicted, but afflicts the comfortable!

As awkward and frustrating as this self-realization has been, I do not regret it in the least. If you will allow me a moment of personal pride, I believe that I am a better person now than when I started this blog, and a good portion of the credit goes to this self-awakening. Throughout this study I have expressed some of the self-delusions I was suffering from, and hopefully you have felt encouraged to honestly examine your own soul as well.

You Are a Mystery to Yourself

It is commonly accepted that those we are closest to can surprise us with who they really are. We think that we know a person for years, and then one day they defy every assumption we had made for them.
What is more of a surprise, though, is that this person whom we have known for years and still surprises us, might be our very own selves. We are immortal beings, with traits and tendencies that we do not fully comprehend. We have weaknesses we did not know were there until tested. We have strengths we did not know were there until tested, too.
Beyond these hidden traits, there is also the self-delusion that so many of us employ. As part of our instinct, we observe the behaviors of those around us, and identify ourselves as having the same distinctions. But imitation does not reveal identity. Because this imitation is so natural to us, we play it very effectively, so much so that even we are fooled…at least until we take a closer look.
Matthew 26:33, 74: Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.

It is Okay Not to Know Some Things

When one realizes that they have been wearing a spiritual mask, they may start to recognize that many around them are doing the same. However one should not make the mistake of assuming that all people are being insincere. There truly are spiritual giants in the world today. Individuals whose conviction is not pretend, ones who have truly witnessed the things that they bear testimony of. I have met some of them, and in their eyes the Savior is reflected.
This is not all, I have heard spiritual giants testify that once they were as second-guessing and weak as me! Never forget that Peter was not always Peter, once he was only Simon. And Paul was not always Paul, once he was only Saul. These men were weak once, and then afterwards they were strong. If we are still weak, then it is alright. All of us are born weak, and there is no shame in having to be refined. What matters is that we are seeking that refinement!
Also, there is no shame in feeling that the refinement is hard. It simply is, and is so for everyone. Never forget that even Jesus, the Son of God, had to grow into the role he was meant to fill.
Luke 2:52- And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Isaiah 28:10- For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.

There is No Progress Until You Are Honest

So long as you maintain that you have no growing to do, well…you will have no growing to do! I know this firsthand. For a long while I was unteachable because I already knew everything. Then I experienced a miserable failure, and finally admitted that there was still a thing or two I needed to learn.
When Peter affirmed that he would follow Jesus to the death, Jesus prophesied that this was not actually true. Peter stressed that no, he really was totally committed to the cause. Like me, Peter had to fail miserably to see things honestly.
There is a term for these sorts of miserable failures: they are humbling. Or at least, they are if we allow them to make us be humble. And then, if we are humble, we are teachable. And then, if we are teachable, we are growable. Will those closest to us be disappointed to learn that we aren’t so magnificent as we pretended? Honestly, yeah, they might be. But now you are finally on track to authentic magnificence.
Luke 22:61-62- And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Ether 12:27- And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Matthew 26:33-34, 16:18

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

COMMENTARY

Jesus said unto him, This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice
Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it
Previously I shared how Peter thought he was ready to die for Jesus, but when his moment to prove it came, he was found lacking. Clearly he had misjudged himself. Today I reflected back on that story, and I realized that there was another lesson to be found within it.
Yes, Peter misjudged himself in that moment, but Jesus saw him rightly. After his failure, Peter became understandably discouraged, and following Jesus’s burial he returned to his old lifestyle as a fisherman. Perhaps that was all he felt he was cut out for anymore. But if so, then once again he was misjudging himself. For even before Jesus had rightly predicted Peter’s failure, he had also rightly predicted his eventual triumph. In fact, it was Jesus who gave him the name Peter, which means “rock,” and testified that this disciple would become the foundation of strength for the gospel moving forward. And Jesus was right.
I suspect that many of us, like Peter, are both weaker and stronger than we think. Our Heavenly Father and our Elder Brother truly know us better than we know ourselves. Jesus revealed Peter’s true nature to him, and he is ready to also reveal yourself to you. You only have to be ready to receive it.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Personal Example

I spent two years of my life serving a mission in the Caribbean. It was a wonderful opportunity to see various countries and cultures, and be educated by the similarities and differences between them. One trend that stood out to me was how powerful of an influence one’s society could be.

For example, it was not uncommon to hear of individuals changing their religion after moving to another country. Hindus from Guyana might very well become Christians after moving out to the islands, to better fit in with those around them. Similarly, Christians from the islands might become Hindus after moving to Guyana.

I, myself, come from an environment where a single religion makes up the majority of the culture. Many that move here join the religion, and so long as one remains in this bubble it is far easier to maintain that faith. It is very easy to believe that we are the way that we are forever, that we would never embrace a different walk of life. But if you have never lived in a culture where you are a minority, then you do not realize how tempting it is to change yourself just to fit it in.

Our default tendency is to believe whatever we are surrounded by. It is possible to believe more deeply than this, but that requires conscious, intentional discipleship. Whatever your religion is, it may be helpful to ask yourself if you are that religion because it is convenient, or because you actually believe in it. For example, I am a Christian, but is that because I am surrounded by Christians, or do I really and truly believe that Christ is the only way to spiritual perfection. Do I really believe that his teachings will provide me peace and fulfillment that I cannot find in any other place? I do, but I had to do real work to obtain that belief.