Dealing With Failure- Mosiah 4:27, Isaiah 28:10

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

COMMENTARY

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order
It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength
Line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
I greatly appreciate the pragmatism in these verses. There is sincerely committing to improving ourselves one step at a time, and there is overextending ourselves with unrealistic promises.
When we start to feel the reality of God manifesting in us it is a very exciting experience, and we can easily get carried away with all the good things we intend to do. In a moment of rapture we might very well promise God everything. We will be His perfect, faithful child now, never to stray again. And in that moment we fully believe we can deliver on such a promise. To be fair, if we were to maintain that same state of rapture forever, we probably really could keep that promise, too!
But we don’t…and we don’t.
No, after each spiritual awakening there follows an awakening back to the old us. And it is that old us that needs to be changed. And that change is not accomplished by demanding perfection at once, but by line upon line. Yes, demand change of yourself, but also be practical about it!

Dealing With Failure- Personal Example #3

I am sure Satan is pleased when I do not commit to improve myself and instead accept complacency. But I also believe that he is pleased when I do make promises, but they are ones I cannot keep.

So many times I have tried to commit myself to perfection–“I will never do this thing again”–and so many times I have failed. Then I have said to myself “okay, so apparently last time wasn’t the last time…but this one has to be! So this time I’ll just have to screw up more moral resolve than before. I just have to grit my teeth and draw up more spiritual energy than last time to make this the most excellent commitment I can, one that would carry through forever!”

But then…I have slipped again. And what did I think then? Well, clearly I had to somehow find another great well of spiritual resolve within me, one even greater than the “even greater” last on…or else I obviously wouldn’t have a chance of succeeding this time either.

Over and over this pattern continued until I was all dried up. I simply could not find any more “even greater” wells of spiritual resolve. I couldn’t keep outperforming myself endlessly. So I became disheartened. I didn’t believe myself and the promises I made. It seemed that the best pledge I could come up with was meaningless, and I began to believe that I simply couldn’t improve. Other people could, but I couldn’t. I was stuck.

And I remained stuck until I was until I realized there was a better way. God interrupted my spiral to show me there was an “even greatest” well that I could be making use of. One that wouldn’t ever fail me.

The Virtue of Remembering- Luke 11:9, John 14:14, 1 John 1:9

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 shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

COMMENTARY

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us

We have considered how God asks to remember the good things that He has done for others, and also the good things that He has done for us. By reflecting on these we find the hope to do new good works. But this is not all. God does not only invite us to remember what has been done, but also to reflect on what will be done.
God makes promises for our future, blessings to be delivered “then,” if we will prove faithful “now.” And they are very rich promises as well. He assures that we will gain understanding, that we will receive what we seek, and that we will be forgiven of our sins. By remembering just the promise of these things we are encouraged to live in such a way that one day we are remembering the fulfillment of them instead.

Personal Promises- Moroni 10:4-5

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

COMMENTARY

Ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true
I was raised in a Christian household, and as such I took the reality of God’s existence and the truth of the gospel for granted. My parents and church leaders told me that all of these things were true, and I had no reason to doubt them.
When I read through this passage at the age of seven it gave me pause. Would God convince me of the truthfulness of His word when I already believed it? I reread the passage and figured “well, why not?” It wasn’t like the scripture said God would only manifest Himself to one sort of person or another. It simply said to ask and receive an answer.
And so I knelt down, prayed, and asked God if all these things I believed were really true. He answered me. Beautiful thoughts and feelings came into my heart and they were undeniable. It was the first time I really felt spoken to by God.
Of course in later years I would learn all too well how to be cynical and skeptical, and how to question the faith of my youth. This experience always grounded me, though. I felt that if God would speak to me when I already believed, surely He would speak to me again when I needed His reassurance…. And He did.

Personal Promises- Galatians 3:26-27, 29; Mark 10:39, Matthew 3:16-17

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

COMMENTARY

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise
We have spent some time examining the covenant blessings, which we noted were given through Abraham to all his generations. To inherit eternal life we must come through that same covenant lineage, which is made possible to all of us by being adopted through Jesus Christ.

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ
Being adopted through Jesus Christ requires being baptized into him. Thus all that have this baptism will, by default, inherit the blessings of Abraham.

And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:
Note that this is not just any baptism, though. Language like “baptized into Christ” and “the baptism that I am baptized with” seem to suggest that we are supposed to have the same experience with our baptism that he did. And what exactly was that baptism experience?

And the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Jesus, it turns out, was a direct descendant of Abraham. Therefore he already had all of the same covenant promises by default. But God is not a God of “by default.” When Jesus was baptized it was accompanied by a personal declaration of divine approval.
This is the baptism experience Jesus intends for us. Not some impersonal wetting and an assumption of blessings received, but rather a direct and personal affirmation from God Himself.
If you have already been baptized and it lacked this sort of grandeur, don’t feel bad. That was my situation as well, but I learned that this moment of affirmation will still come. It will come, but only when you are ready and the time is right.

Personal Promises- Genesis 22:15-18; 26:2-4; 28:1, 3-4

And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
And said, That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

And the Lord appeared unto Isaac, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him,
God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people;
And give thee the blessing of Abraham, to thee, and to thy seed with thee; that thou mayest inherit the land wherein thou art a stranger, which God gave unto Abraham.

COMMENTARY

I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven
I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven
God Almighty bless thee…and multiply thee…and give thee the blessing of Abraham

When God promised Abraham that his descendants would become as numerous as the stars in heaven, it was already implied that the same promise would apply to his son Isaac. How could Abraham’s descendants increase unless Isaac’s did as well?
And again, it was implicit that Jacob would have the same blessing as well by the same logic. In short, Isaac and Jacob might have thought to themselves “well, that was the promise of my fathers…so I guess by default it is also my promise.”
But that’s not how God works. He does want us to infer His involvement in our lives, or just assume that He is blessing us. He does not want us to receive anything by default. The pattern we see from these patriarchs is that He instead comes to each one of His covenant children and makes His promises to them directly. “Never mind that I made similar promises to others, this is a new promise and I am making it with you.”

Personal Promises- Question

In a previous study I explored how God has the capacity to see each of us individually. Though there are billions of us here on Earth, He hears our pleas directly and answers us personally. It is a remarkable feat, one that is a physical impossibility to all of us who are constrained by time.

Perhaps more important than God’s being able to, however, is that He wants to. I’ve seen my young son pray about the most inconsequential of things, such as his new toys and knee-scrapes, yet I am convinced that God listens to his heart with rapt attention. I am sure from His perspective that my prayers about work and finances seem just as inconsequential, but He cares about these things because we care about them.

In spite of all this, I know a lot of people that don’t expect God to ever make direct, personal covenants with them like He did for Abraham, David, or Moses. I myself have been doubtful of it at times. I’ve had this idea that I’ll just be grandfathered-in to the promises that he made to His covenant people millennia ago.

That simply is not the way God works, and I’d like to use this study to examine that fact. In the meantime I would love to hear about what ways you have seen God show up for you personally? What sort of legendary promises has He made to you? How did that change your life moving forward?

That They Might Have Joy- Psalm 34:18, 94:18-19; John 14:18

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

COMMENTARY

The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart
Previously we observed that those whose hope is based in heaven are less likely to feel distressed by the setbacks of the world. But that isn’t meant to suggest that the faithful must never experience sorrow. Indeed, even Jesus wept when he heard of the death of his friend Lazarus.
Even with the hope of heaven, there are still some moments that will make us sad down to the soul. To express sorrow in these moments does not show a lack of faith, and there is no shame in mourning life’s tragedies.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you

The gospel is a message of gladness, but it does not promise that we will never feel sorrow again. What it does promise is that we never have to be alone in that sorrow. We can be sad, but we can also be comforted.
Many have noted, and I would agree, that that promised comfort feels comes as a companionship. It feels like some invisible friend is sitting with me in my hardest moments. And through those moments I have discovered that one may feel sorrow and joy at the same time.

Knit Our Hearts- Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 6:7

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

COMMENTARY

For where two are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
And began to send them forth by two and two
Yesterday we observed that God believes in the power of individuals united together as one. In these verses we see that Jesus shares fully in that sentiment! He didn’t send the disciples out alone, he sent them together, and further he promised them that whenever they bonded together, he would join that union.
There’s something about coming together with our fellowman that unlocks the spirit of Christ among us. Living life as a “lone wolf” doesn’t only deny us the companionship of another mortal, it denies us the full presence of our Lord.

If two of you shall agree on earth and shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father in heaven
I have always been familiar with the promise Christ gave of being in the midst of two or three gathered in his name, but I did not remember the additional promise mentioned here as well. When two of us agree in what we feel is right, we can ask it of God and He will grant it.
When I read this it gave me quite some pause, it seems a remarkably potent promise! I’ve frankly wondered why we would be trusted with such power. One thought that occurs to me is that people have a lot of differences in perspective and desire, but the parts of their beliefs that overlap tend to be the holy parts. For example we may disagree on specific political and ethical matters, but we each share a desire for the wellbeing of society. Whenever two people can find something that they don’t differ in, it is because they have found a part of God inside of them. That agreement can give them confidence, then, to pray in faith, knowing God will bless their petition.

Trial Before Blessing, Pleasure Before Anguish- Galatians 6:7, 9; Hosea 10:12

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

COMMENTARY

Let us not be weary in well doing: in due season we shall reap
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy
There are many, many scripture passages that make reference to growing one’s crops. We read about sowing and reaping, about a “time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted”, periods of rain and periods of drought.
Indeed a farmer knows firsthand about the long, hard work that happens before any benefit is received. They know that the reaping only comes after an entire season of putting in effort every day.
Honestly I sometimes wonder if our faith hasn’t lost something by no longer being such an agricultural society. But if these scriptures make anything clear it is that we are all farmers whether we grow crops or not, farmers of the soul. We are all have a spirit to cultivate, a goodness to grow, a divine identity to bring to blossom.
It isn’t easy, these crops aren’t going to make it if we only care for them on “good days” or “when we feel like it.” They are needy and require constant attention. And even after all we do to nurture our field we still depend on God bring the rain and keep back the locusts. No, it certainly is not easy, but the promise still remains to the faithful: “we shall reap.”