What Chance Do I Have?- Proverbs 13:20, Matthew 5:16

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

COMMENTARY

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed
That in which we prolong our association tends to rub off on us. I began this study with the question of “if so many valiant souls fell from the gospel, then what chance do I have?” This question, though, chooses to restrict its consideration to only the tragedies that are found in the scriptures. If we limit our view in this way, then of course we will start to grow cynical and doubt ourselves. If we become obsessed with observing Judas, we run the risk of forgetting that there was also a Peter.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
I believe this is part of the reason why Jesus commanded his faithful disciples to shine forth. There will always be depressing examples that discourage us, and that pessimism needs to be actively beat back with a light of hope. Yes, there are those that tried and failed, but let us not forget that the scriptures also overflow with positive examples: men and women that came from humble beginnings, became spiritual giants, and held their faith to the end. There is sufficient reason to be an optimist, if we will just allow ourselves to focus on it.
If the paths of doubt and hope can each be well justified, then why not choose the better part?

Individual Trials- Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

COMMENTARY

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden
Life is difficult, even without trials. For trials are moments given by divinity to test us, but even in their absence there still remains a world that is unfair and consequences for our wrongs. As Jesus put it, there yet remains “labour” and being “heavy laden.”
People speak of how they are hesitant to give themselves to Christ, because then all manner of trouble will come to them. But I’ve seen the shambles that we make from a life without Christ, the trouble is already here.

Take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light
The only question, then, is which hardship would you rather endure? Consequences or trials? Consequences that are the retribution for your failings, or trials that are the crucible for your success? Hardship comes either way, so would you rather face it alone, or with a companion? Would you rather suffer your brokenness, or suffer the purification that makes you whole? Trials are never easy, but they are always better.

Individual Trials- Uniquely Tested

Thus far we have defined trials only by a few categories that are very broad, because any attempt to limit the definition of trials to a few, specific situations is quickly refuted by the examples of the scriptures. Just consider how many different ways mankind has been tested in those records.

Noah was commanded to build a ship, Moses to lead a nation, Zerubbabel to rebuild a temple. Aaron contended with idolatry, Elijah with Baalism, Jesus with overzealous extensions to the law. Adam was commanded not to eat the fruit, Samson to never cut his hair, Lot to not look back at the destruction of a city. Abraham was required to sacrifice his son, Saul (later Paul) his misconception of theology, Joseph his country of origin. Esau chose between pottage and birthright, Solomon between two women that claimed to be a child’s mother, the Israelite mob between Jesus and Barabbas. David stood against a mighty giant, Gideon against a massive army, Jacob literally wrestled with God. Naaman obeyed the instruction to bathe in the river Jordan, the widow at Zarephath to feed the prophet her least meal, Ruth to lay at Boaz’s feet. Esther accepted the role of queen, Peter the leading of the church, Elisha the mantle of the prophet.

These are stories of people being put to the test. And not just any test, in each example the trial would become one of the defining moments in that person’s life, a critical junction that helped them decide who they would ultimately become. God knew just what circumstance they needed to bring out their true identity.

That each of these tests was so unique is a reflection on how unique we all are as well. The trial that is custom-designed to divide me right down the middle might have little effect on you. Or it might overwhelm you.

A friend of mine once said “no one else has had my trials. You weren’t overshadowed as a child by two ‘perfect’ sisters. And if you were, then you didn’t have that trial and lose your father while young. And if you did, then you didn’t have those trials and struggle with an addiction. And if you did have all of those trials, then you still didn’t have them the way that I did.”

Your trials are yours and yours alone, so take ownership of them. No one else has tasted them except for your Savior. You two are the experts here, the only ones that can find in them the person you were born to be.

Individual Trials- Hebrews 5:8-9, 1 Peter 1:7

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

COMMENTARY

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered
If our own Savior required trials to be educated in the ways of righteousness, how could we claim to not need them ourselves? But why did he require them, and why do we? What is the value that makes them essential to our mortal experience?

And being made perfect
The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold, though it be tried with fire
The passage from Hebrews continues to say that Jesus not only learned obedience by his trials, he even attained his perfection through them. Elsewhere, Peter calls to mind the oft-repeated analogy of our trials being like a refiner’s fire, whose purpose is to burn away all of the corrupted dross until only the pure metal remains.
We are all basically good, but that does not mean we are all perfectly good. Each of us is fundamentally flawed in one way or another. Or to put it in other words, our core is Godly, but it is encased in corruption. Each trial we endure, whether one of pain, pleasure, or nature, is an opportunity for us to scorch off a part of the corruption and bring forth the Godly. Each of these test will require a difficult denial of self, each will be a humbling process. But this is the way that the God or Goddess within us rises.

Free Will vs God’s Control- Hezekiah 20:1-5, Luke 22:41-42

In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, saying,
I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying,
Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord.

And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

COMMENTARY

Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die
Thus saith the Lord, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee
Yesterday we examined how God is able to effect his purposes over an array of possible outcomes. Our future will be one thing, but we get to choose that one from a plethora of different options. Hezekiah’s life could have ended after the pronouncement of the prophet, but he asked if there was another option and was told yes. God was willing to heal Hezekiah, because to do so did not frustrate the greater arc He intended for humanity.

If thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done
When Jesus sought to know if there was another path available, though, the answer was no. It was essential to God’s plans that this moment play out in one very specific way. The atonement had to happen for mankind’s redemption to occur. This does not deny Jesus’s ability to choose, mind you, but one would assume that if Jesus had been unwilling to fulfill this one essential path, then God would have had foreknowledge of such and would never have even created humanity, as it would have been destined to damnation.
God has set bounds on each of our lives. There are things that we can do and there are things that we cannot. There are alternate paths available if we ask for them, and there are other alternate paths which can never be. We do not know exactly what bounds God has set for us, but He does, and we are free to inquire. He may not show us the entire chessboard, but He might show us a part.

The Way That Things Are- John 18:37-38, Doctrine and Covenants 93:24, 30

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.

COMMENTARY

For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth
Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

During the trial of Jesus he had philosophical discussions with Pilate, in which he testified of his role as the bearer of truth. Pilate’s response shows a cynical mindset, one that questions what truth even is. Thus we see that a “meh” attitude towards the eternal verities is not a modern invention at all, it has been around for millennia!
For as far back as philosophy extends, the question of absolute truth has been debated. Are there things that are eternal and constant, or is everything shifting and impermanent? And if everything on earth is shifting and impermanent, can there still exist a higher realm where things are eternal and constant?

Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it
I once heard a brother compare truth to a tool lost in the yard. If a family cannot find the tool, they might have all manner of opinions as to what became of it. The father doesn’t recall that the tool was ever actually owned. The mother knows that the tool was owned, she was the one who bought it for a specific project. The son who used the tool last knows that he must have been the one to lose it, and claims total ignorance of anything to do with the tool whatsoever! The sister hears all of these conflicting opinions and decides that there is just no definitive truth related to the tool.
But there is a truth. It is still sitting under the bush in the backyard, whether anyone knows that it is there or not. Because truth is not based upon opinion. It is simply “things as they are.” And so truth is independent, it does not have to be known or even accepted to exist. It just is.
Pilate didn’t know what the truth was. Not because the truth didn’t exist, but because he did not receive it. He delivered it up to the crucifixion instead. But even though he was ignorant, Jesus still was who he was, and the truth is what it is.

Active Discipleship- Matthew 4:2-4

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

COMMENTARY

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone
Yesterday I spoke of how the heroes in the scriptures are meant to be role models for us. We are supposed to push our discipleship forward with the same fervor that they did. When we do, their stories become our stories. As it turns out, there is an example of exactly this in the life of the Savior.
First, let us consider the context of the passage I have quoted. Jesus had just completed fasting for forty days and forty nights. This is quite the feat, one not often repeated in the scriptures. There is does exist another account of it, though, that of Moses in Exodus 34:28. Moses had this experience while receiving the law of the Old Testament. Similarly, Jesus had his own private fast immediately preceding his ministry, in which he delivered the law of the New Testament.
So Jesus was following the same pattern as Moses. He was stepping in the footprints of those that had gone before. Then, when he was tempted by Satan, he fittingly rebuked him with the very words spoken by Moses. The passage that Jesus quotes is what we now know as Deuteronomy 8:3. And then he does it again, two more times! When Satan tempts him a second time he rebuffs it with Deuteronomy 6:16, and after the third temptation he recalls one of the ten commandments that Moses famously delivered (Exodus 20:2-5).
Jesus was living the scriptures he was quoting. They were made new in him. This wasn’t just ancient Moses’s story anymore, it was his. But he was only able to take this ownership because we was living the life of active Christianity. He was going and doing. He was in the heat of battle. He was pushing into his great calling. Just as Moses had. Just as Abraham had. Just as all the heroes of the scriptures had.
The scriptures were not written to entertain us, or to give us wise sayings. They were given as the field guide for adventure and warfare. I have never been able to relate the scriptures to myself except for when I am chasing my personal calling as well. There are words in them that echo in my life, but only when I am pushing against the storm.