For Our Own Good- 2 Nephi 28:30, Luke 2:52

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

COMMENTARY

I will give line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man

When it comes to commandments that we do not understand the reasons for, it is important to know that there is nothing wrong in our ignorance. There is no shame in saying “I do not understand why this matters.” As we see in these verses, it is the natural and expected course for us to learn one step at a time, which implies that we have not attained all knowledge yet. Even Jesus followed this pattern. Though he showed great wisdom in his youth, that does not mean he came to earth knowing absolutely everything. In fact the record showed that he learned and grew, just like the rest of us.
Consider, also, the example of a small child that has yet to learn addition. Yes, they need to learn that skill, it is important, but there is no shame that they have not attained it yet. For now, mastering counting is sufficient for them.

For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have
What would be concerning, though, is the child that refuses to learn to count, and by extension refuses to learn every higher form of mathematics. It is okay to not know all things, but it is not okay to stop learning.
It can be tempting to take what commandments we do understand and say “I’ll just keep these ones and not worry about the rest,” but that would be limiting ourselves. Neither should we look at the commandments that we do not understand and say “I feel deeply ashamed for my ignorance,” that would be abusive. As with so many things, the middle path is the right way forward. We can accept that we are ignorant, without shame, and also strive to grow past it.

Active Discipleship- Summary

This has been a very good study for me. I find it very easy to slip back into a state of idle complacency, and every time I catch myself in it, I need to find a source of inspiration to push back into intentional discipleship. At those times I find that motivational words and stories go a long way to building up my resolve. Perhaps this study will be another good resource for me to reflect on in those moments.
Indeed, the more I think about it, all scripture is meant to motivate us towards a life of active discipleship in one way or another. Reading them, I find myself compelled to do the things I am otherwise hesitant to do. Keeping the commandments, reaching out to others, finding productive ways to improve myself…each of these sound like a chore when I am not drinking from God’s words.
Here are some of the principles that stood out to me the most from this study.

God Does Not Call Us to Live Passively

The example everywhere in the scriptures is of active men and women who would go and do. David fought Goliath where others remained idle. Esther spoke up to the king where others were afraid. Jesus healed the lepers that others refused to approach. Testimony is built by those who go out and look for it, not by those who sit and wait for it.
Each one of us wants to live a meaningful life as well, but we want it to come to us easily. We want to live passively, but still feel like we are adventurous. I have watched myself go through all sorts of mental gymnastics to try and accomplish just that. I try to convince myself that my sedentary life is actually one of purpose, that my small trials are epic giants, that my passive hobbies are my great calling.
But no matter how I try to spin it, a hollow life is still hollow and I know it. I have called mediocrity significant, but the words always tasted a lie. I only can have the active, adventurous, and meaningful life that God meant for me to live when I do that which I find hard to do.
2 Nephi 1:21, 23- Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;
Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

The Conscience Distresses the Idle

What is the part of me that tastes the lie when I claim I am content with an idle life? That sense of in-authenticity cannot be explained by chemistry or biology, it something in my soul that discerns the truth from the error. It is something given by God.
When I feel the push to overcome my laziness and act, I know that it is divinity that is inspiring me. And therefore I know that I ignore those urges at my own peril. One of the greatest gifts God gives is to distress us when we are slothful. It may not feel like love to be made so agitated, but if He did not stir our hearts then we would live in a world without any heroes.
This isn’t to suggest that we must all become generals of armies or leaders of congregations. Not all of us are called to revolutionize the entire world. But we are all called to live a life that is meaningful, a life that blesses the world around us, a life that unveils the worth within us. Not every life calling that God gives is famous, but all of them are epic in their own way.
Romans 2:15- Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
John 14:12- Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

We Only Have Peace in Doing

Hard as it may seem to live the life of active discipleship, it is actually far harder to live that of idle discontent. Just as it is hard to bear one’s cross and live worthy of heaven, but far harder to spend an eternity in damnation. So God does not trouble us without cause. He does not ask us to do things that are not for our own good.
There is only one true peace, and that is from pushing further and further into the good. Any other philosophy is a lie, meant to seduce us into sleeping away our great potential. There is a reason why slothfulness is considered one of the deadly sins. It is not some silly misdemeanor that we can wink at. Yes, Satan tempts us to sin, but he also tempts us to just not do good. If he catches us on either point he has won.
Christ’s promise is that his burden is light, that his cross is easy to bear. It seems unfathomable , but that is the promise even so. We will never know the truth of it until we try it, and find the warmth of heart that makes all our burdens melt into joys.
Malachi 3:14- Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
John 14:27- Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Active Discipleship- Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

COMMENTARY

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee
I spoke yesterday about how we will never be able to live in peace until we live with a clean conscience. And we will never live with a clean conscience so long as we are not actively pursuing a deeper relationship with God.
The fact is that most of us get lost in complacency, when what we really need to find is contentment. Satan is very skilled at using his counterfeits to distract us from what truly matters. He gives us lust when what we’re really looking for love, he gives us idle distractions when what we’re really looking for a Godly calling. Complacency in place of contentment is just another of his deceits.

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you
Contentment is the peace that Christ offers to us, which peace cannot be found anywhere in the world. Contentment is what we feel when we genuinely try our best and are proud with the person we are becoming. Contentment is always worthy of pursuit.
Complacency, on the other hand, is the so-called peace that the world offers. It is a cheap knock-off, one that tries to convince us that we are satisfied. Satisfied without self-improvement and satisfied without a connection to God. It appeals to our fleshy desire for idle laziness, and is most pernicious in how subtly it lulls us into inaction.
There is quiet contentment and there is muted complacency. One is the peaceful rest of the soul, the other is the disquieted tossing of a stupor.

Active Discipleship- Romans 2:15, John 8:9, 1 Timothy 4:2

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

COMMENTARY

Their conscience also bearing witness, their thoughts accusing or else excusing one another
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron

Yesterday I mentioned that all of us need to feel a motivation to follow God. We need something to convince us that life is better with Him as our companion than remaining on our own.
Well, it turns out that God has a way to accomplish this, and it is ingenious. He simply puts a little voice in us that urges us to do what is right, and “sears” us when we do wrong. We might try and say “I don’t need God, I can just live how I want.” We might try…but our conscience will not let us rest with that decision for long. We might settle into worldly comfort, but we will feel “convicted” in our soul.
The argument for complacency is that it is peaceful, but there can never be true peace when the conscience is distressed. If there is peace in the heart, though, then all is peace, no matter what tumult rages without. Thus no matter how we try to reason away our complacency, our conscience will always trouble us back to active discipleship.

Active Discipleship- Question

My default state is to live as a passive disciple. This means to not do anything that might stretch or improve myself. It means to not live by faith, rather to only take steps that I feel I am totally capable of fulfilling without any outside help. It means knowing that God is important and all, but to not wanting to need Him. It means wanting to reach heaven by checking items off a list, with no messy life-altering transformations along the way.

Until recently I did nothing to challenge this default state of mine, but then, about three years ago, I took some steps to push against it and began to live with intentionality. Things have been much improved since then…but it would be dishonest if I said that I’ve never looked back since.

Even now I still find complacency to be a very comfortable robe, one that is all too easy to slip back into. I have to continually agitate myself to continually live as a more active follower of Christ. While some days are more successful than others, I have noticed some abiding changes in me that are invaluable. One of them is that I sharply recognize when I am falling back into my old cadence, and I remain restless until I get up and start moving again.

Living the life of an active disciple is hard by its very nature. Thus I am certain that I am not the only one entangled in this never-ending dance with my old ways, and not the only one that would benefit from a study on this topic. In my following research, I will be exploring how the scriptures advocate for a more active discipleship, and what wisdom they offer for how to maintain it.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you how you have kept yourself on task. Does it always have to feel like a grind, or is there a point where it becomes a joy? How do you tell when you’ve slipped back to complacency? How do you rouse yourself once you realize that you have?