For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove.
Then shall ye call upon me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
Yesterday I considered how God plays the long game, patiently waiting for us to return to Him by our own volition. And frankly, this is a very hard thing that he expects us to do. Arguably the work of returning to God is the most difficult we do in this life.
The way back is through repentance, sometimes-painful self-examination, the mourning of wounds both inflicted and received, the overcoming of our powerful vices, and the healing of doubts and fears.
And again, He expects us to enroll ourselves in this process. He still adamantly refuses to make that choice for us.
And…we do it. Nowhere is the nobility of God’s children more clear in how we commit ourselves to this most grand endeavor. As this verse suggests, we search for Him with all our heart. We call, we seek, we put in what it takes to come back home.
If thou wilt return, return unto me: then shalt thou not remove.
And the genius of this plan is that it means when we come back to God, we come back firmly! Satan’s methods might procure more immediate results, but God’s procure lasting ones. We all leave God once, but once we return with our whole heart, it is very few that ever leave Him again.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen they brethren.
When thou art converted
Yesterday I shared an example from the life of Peter where he was commended for having a testimony of Jesus’s status as the Christ. And yet, while he had this knowledge directly from God, he would later deny the Savior three times in a moment of fear. Though he had a testimony, Jesus still stressed Peter’s need to be more fully converted.
And so it is with each of us. Even after we obtain our first witness from God we still need to become more fully converted.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face
Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known
And perhaps we don’t attain a perfect knowledge for every matter of the gospel in this life. Perhaps some testimonies must wait until we see God face-to-face on the other side of the veil.
And perhaps we only attain moments of pure knowledge, brief experiences where we know the reality of God and His love for us, but then, like holding water in our hands, the experience fades and we have to ask Him to remind us again.
Perfect knowledge is an ever-evasive goal, yet still we strive for it, because just by making the effort we better ourselves every day.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
The above passages represent Jesus addressing Simon Peter at two different points in time: one in the middle of his ministry, and the other immediately before Jesus’s atoning sacrifice and crucifixion.
The significance of these two scriptures laid side-by-side I cannot claim to have discovered myself. Rather I will present two excerpts from Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ October 2000 address entitled The Challenge to Become:
…And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven
Peter had a testimony. He knew that Jesus was the Christ, the promised Messiah, and he declared it. To testify is to know and to declare.
I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
In order to strengthen his brethren—to nourish and lead the flock of God—this man who had followed Jesus for three years, who had been given the authority of the holy apostleship, who had been a valiant teacher and testifier of the Christian gospel, and whose testimony had caused the Master to declare him blessed still had to be “converted.”
Jesus’ challenge shows that the conversion He required for those who would enter the kingdom of heaven was far more than just being converted to testify to the truthfulness of the gospel. To testify is to know and to declare. The gospel challenges us to be “converted,” which requires us to do and to become. If any of us relies solely upon our knowledge and testimony of the gospel, we are in the same position as the blessed but still unfinished Apostles whom Jesus challenged to be “converted.”