A word that we commonly use in Christianity is “trials.” By this we mean the times that we are tested to see if we will remain faithful or not. This word typically has a negative connotation, being used to express an unpleasant, yet necessary process.
Trials are different from consequences, in that they are actively put on us by another, not because we did something wrong and are just reaping the natural result of that. Usually those that mention trials are discussing some form of illness, persecution, doubt, or even death.
But I do believe that the tests we are subjected to in Earth life are much broader than just that one category of “affliction.” Trials can take the form of inherent weaknesses and personality traits. Trials can take the form of being given a choice, where we are tempted by that which is easy but wrong. Trials can even take the form of receiving a blessing.
I would like to examine all these different ways of experiencing a trial, how each tests us in its own manner, and how each is meant to help us develop into the person we were born to be. In the meantime I am curious to hear how you have been able to gain a healthy appreciation for trials in your own life. In what ways have they reassured you that your life is following a plan? In what ways have you come to know yourself better through them?
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law
We have discussed how the intervention of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice allows the demands of justice to be satiated in regards to our failures to follow’s God law. Which of course means we can be shown mercy, forgiveness, and all other blessings God has to bestow.
And that includes enjoying all of the positive sides of justice. Once we are no longer under fear of its punishment, then we see really it is a principle given for our own empowerment.
Following the golden rule is the right way to treat others, it is what God wants of us and it cultivates the best qualities in our soul. But even after all that, it also allows for justice to tip the scales in our favor. If we do unto others as we would wish to receive, then sooner or later we will receive that which we wish. We will knock and it will be answered, we will seek and we will find. If we forgive freely, then justice demands we be forgiven freely. If we look for the good in others, we will find the good in our selves as well. This is the side of justice God always meant to show to us. The justice of His mercy.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.
But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law
But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth
Because of our imperfections, each of us must face the punishment which justice demands for breaking God’s laws. At least so it would be if God had not already foreseen this dilemma and provided an escape from it. His plan was always to introduce a Savior that could intercede between us and the law, pay the penalty of our sins, and thus grant us mercy instead.
As Christ was able to perfectly fulfill the demands of God’s law, he was able to author for us a new law to follow, one that each of us is actually capable of fulfilling. This law is the law of repentance.
Christ’s mercy is freely available, but only to those that subscribe to this new law. To those that do, they do not only receive the reward tied to that law (forgiveness), they also receive the reward of God’s higher law of perfection as well (salvation).
Whereas before we could only ever see the curse of the law and never the blessing, now we have the opportunity to enjoy only the benefits of justice and never the penalties.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off
I mentioned yesterday that the gospel is given as God’s highest law, one for which the promised blessing is salvation, the greatest of all His gifts. But given the facts that this law demands perfection and that we are all incapable of perfection, the only logical conclusion is that one would be better off avoiding this gift entirely! Who cares what the reward is if you have a 0% chance of obtaining it? Better that you don’t make any promises to God and therefore never break them. Right?
But even those that reject this higher law still are culpable for their inability to keep even the basic law of their own conscience, a law which is inescapable. As the above scriptures make abundantly clear: if salvation is the reward for obeying the laws, then damnation must be the punishment for breaking them. And we have all broken them, and so we are all damned.
Now obviously I am pausing for dramatic effect. You know and I know that this isn’t the end of the story. Each of these doom-and-gloom verses are immediately followed by declarations of hope. Tomorrow we’ll examine how mercy enters the scene, and does so in a way that still preserves the sanctity of justice. Before we do that, though, I think it is worthwhile to pause and consider the sober realities of what life without a Savior would be like.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.
Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you; and inasmuch as ye keep not my sayings, which I give unto you, ye become transgressors; and justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law.
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death
Ye call upon my name for revelations, and I give them unto you
Yesterday we observed that all people have a basic law written in their hearts, that which we call a conscience. This basic guide leads us towards the “just” life, which has its own natural rewards.
However there are higher laws as well. To each of us God offers the opportunity to follow His personal principles, and by so doing achieve spiritual enlightenment and fulfillment. Whereas the conscience is given to all at birth, this higher way is given out only as we choose to receive it. The more we choose to receive, the greater blessings we can enjoy.
Life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live
For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation… justice and judgment are the penalty which is affixed unto my law
If one receives a law and then breaks it, though, the promised blessing instead becomes a curse. The pattern of justice is that every law carries both a blessing and a curse.
Consider the example of communication. This ability is a great blessing, as it allows us to collaborate and share information. But then we also have the option to misuse that blessing and twist our words into lies. For this we suffer the consequences (curses) of hurt feelings and anxiety.
What is more, the greater the promised blessings are, the greater the curses are as well. Going back to our example, some have a greater range of communication than others. Those with a larger following have more power and influence in their words. They have a greater potential to accomplish good with what they say…or to cause damage.
Therefore one needs to approach God’s laws with proper respect for the weight of justice that is inseparably attached to them. They are given to us as an act of love, but one should not subscribe to these laws unless they intend not to break them.
The problem is…we have all broken them.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness.
Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world
The law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness
To each of us is given a light, or in other words a conscience. When any of us do something that is wrong it pricks at our conscience.
Though we vary in some of our moral beliefs, it is universal to feel bad about stealing, lying, and killing. By our very nature we also know that it is wrong to make someone else feel bad, to make a vow and then break it. It feels wrong even to silently think ill of another, or to speak poorly of them behind their back. Mistreatment of our own selves feels wrong as well.
In short all of us have at least one “law written in [our] hearts,” a law of nature. It guides us from harm and leads towards fulfillment, and is therefore a wonderful blessing to us. And it is a blessing that is given freely to us all.
Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man
However the blessing of the law only applies so long as we adhere to its principles. If not, then justice demands that we suffer the consequences of our transgression. The very first of these consequences is a “remorse of conscience,” and other penalties may follow depending on the severity of the crime. Thus even those that have not received the higher law of the gospel are still responsible for how well they adhere to the law of their own conscience, and the demands of justice are felt by us all.
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk: the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.
Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap
The first and most obvious lesson that the scriptures teach us about sowing and reaping is that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. “What you sow is what you reap” seems so obvious that one can hardly believe it needed to be said even once, though the scriptures repeat this message numerous times.
Yet I’m sure we all can think of times where we did something bad, hoping to somehow avoid the negative consequences that always follow. Though the principle “sow what you reap” held true for everyone else, we were going to be the exception.
Many times we talk about having faith in good. We say to trust that good works bring good rewards. But sometimes I think we need to have faith in the bad as well. We need to have a faith that doing bad things is just going to let us down…every time.
The bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption
Notice that these scriptures allow for the phenomenon of people sowing unwisely and still appearing to be gratified for a time. Perhaps their bud will yield, perhaps they will reap flesh. But sometimes the curse is in the getting. Just ask the Israelites (Numbers 11:32-33).
Often this world puts a delay between action and consequence, but that does not mean the link of cause-and-effect is broken. Play the long game and hedge your bets on the truth that every good deed will be rewarded sooner or later.
I don’t remember exactly how and when the thought occurred to me, but one day I was recognizing a pattern in this world where it seems that blessings seemed to always be tucked behind some sort of trial. Conversely, it always seems that vice provides immediate gratification, but then with anguish tucked behind that.
Suddenly it seemed crystal clear to me why we are all so predisposed to making mistakes. Our temporal nature in which we are only ever conscious of the “now” will always tip the scales towards choosing immediate pleasure over immediate trial. Thus to “deny yourself and take up your cross” will always be an effort that goes against the grain. Furthermore, because there is a delay before consequence, there is always an element of faith required in one’s actions: faith in the eventual outcome be it good or bad.
I find these notions very intriguing and I’d like to explore them more. I want to examine if and how the scriptures support this theory, what further truths might be gleaned from it, and ways to therefore bolster one’s resolve to face their trials with the promise of blessings to come. In the meantime, what are your thoughts? Does this ring true to you? Anything you would add or change to the theory?