For Our Own Good- Mark 9:23-24, Ether 12:27

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

COMMENTARY

Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
The father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Yesterday we discussed how each of us is weak in our understanding of some commandments, but strong in our understanding of others. One commandment is that we should have faith, which apparently was an area where the father in this passage was weak. His reaction to this failing, however, is a wonderful example for how each of us can face our own realizations of weakness. He acknowledges what strength he does have, what strength he does not have, and then ask for help between the two.

I give unto men weakness that they may be humble, and if they humble themselves, and have faith, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
In a non-shaming way, we need to acknowledge that our inability to see the meaning in certain commandments is a weakness. But having these weaknesses is no mistake, in fact our weaknesses are given to us intentionally. Strange as it may sound, we are designed to be somewhat broken.
As we learn from this verse, though, the reason for this design is because when we heal from our brokenness we heal back stronger than if we had always been whole. If all of us had a perfect understanding and commitment to the commandments right from the get-go, we probably would live more obedient lives, but we would not develop our reliance on God and His grace, which is of even greater value.

For Our Own Good- 1 Corinthians 12:8-12

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

COMMENTARY

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge; To another faith; to another the gifts of healing; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.
We have thus far considered how we all have certain areas of weakness in the gospel. But let us consider the more positive side of that coin, which is that we all have certain areas of strength within the gospel as well. And even more encouragingly, those strengths tend to be designed to bolster and inspire our brothers’ and sisters’ weaknesses.
If we are going to fret about “why am I not strong in this aspect of the gospel,” we might as well also encourage ourselves with the question “why am I so capable in this other?”

But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
And I believe those two questions find their answer in each other. I am weak in this commandment, so that my sister may embolden me with her strength. And I am strong in this other, so that I may be a support to my brother that is weak.
Just a couple days ago, entirely outside the context of this study, I was thinking to myself how my wife and I are so much more capable as a couple than as separate individuals. I believe we are able to accomplish far more by not being equally capable in every sector. By both of us being fragmented, but then fitted together, we become something better than either of us.

For Our Own Good- Personal Example

I never had trouble understanding why I needed to say prayers. Talking with my Father was clearly going to be the best way to receive guidance, and to draw my mind into spiritual reflection. And studying scriptures made perfect sense as well. How could I live his word unless I knew it? When I was young I struggled with boredom attending church services, but later in life came to understand the more you put into community, the more you get out of it. Tithing has never bothered me either. Sacrifice feels cleansing, and it feels good to give something away for the things I truly value, just like giving gifts to my loved ones.

There was one practice of discipleship that I never really felt the purpose for, though. Fasting. I heard other people say how it helped them to master their appetites, how it helped their spirit have the upper hand over the flesh, and I didn’t doubt that that was their genuine experience…it just wasn’t how it felt for me.

I became very hit-or-miss about the practice, and would go months without remembering to do it. I frankly didn’t feel very guilty about it, either, because it didn’t feel like I was gaining anything meaningful when I did try to do it.

And then, just recently, that changed. I really cannot say why, either. I’d like to be able to point to some key piece of understanding, or meaningful life experience, which made the practice fall into place for me, but I can’t.

Just one time I started feeling it, and I have been feeling it ever since. Maybe this was always here and I just wasn’t picking up on it? Maybe I just had to mature a bit more? I don’t know.

Interestingly, though, it isn’t quite the same experience for me that I have heard others share about. In my experience, it’s about going through the crucible. Because lately, without fail, every time I fast everything falls apart. Relationships become strained, everyone gets on their worst behavior, stress mounts up, and powerful waves of depression wash over me. It frankly feels like being cursed, where everything I touch just turns out wrong. And then, without fail, everything turns right at the very end of the fast. In those last hours pride dissipates, problems work out, stings are soothed, and I feel at peace. During the crucible I start to lose faith that things will work out…but then they always do before the end.

And I guess…I still don’t really understand fasting. Why is this experience happening this way? What is going hungry essential for God to show me this? I don’t know. But at least I can attest that it’s doing good things in me.

Finding Our Purpose- Summary

Deciding to do this study topic was very easy. I felt like its message was already pervading so many of my other topics, and it was time to give it its due. This message means a great deal to me, I feel that life really begins only when one finds their calling and pursues it.

It’s easy to wish that I had begun my own calling earlier , but I know that I wasn’t ready before. Fulfilling your life purpose will never be a trivial thing. You need to be sorted out and on a firm foundation before you can do it, and getting to that place is always going to take some doing.

In the end it doesn’t matter so much when you arrive, it only matters that you do arrive. Now let’s examine the three core principles that I gleaned from this study.

Everyone Has a Purpose

I expect that my perspectives will evolve and refine over time, but this one I am sure that I will never stray from. I simply refuse to believe that there is anyone in this world who does not have a higher calling to fulfill. If you didn’t have a reason for being here then, simply, you wouldn’t be here. The fact of your existence is the proof of your purpose.
It is easy to be cynical and doubt that life has any higher meaning when we see so many people who do not live one. But just because people do not live a higher purpose does not mean that they do not have one, only that they are not living it. In the scriptures we hear of too many small and simple people becoming powerful emissaries of Christ for me to believe that anyone is too incapable to be an instrument for the Lord.
1 Corinthians 1:27- But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
Jeremiah 1:5- Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee

Our Purpose Gives Glory

Even those tyrants who commit unspeakable atrocities came to this earth for a divine reason. Many of them were extremely powerful and extremely motivated and they could have been great. It is a terrible tragedy that they lost their way and used their capabilities for evil instead.
We all live in the midst of a battle of shifting luminance. We either add a light to this world, or else we plunge it deeper into darkness. God knows that there is more than enough of the darkness. If you still have any lingering doubts about whether you have a purpose, just ask yourself “could this world use a little more light or not?”
There will never be a time that we don’t need you to add your spark. It will always be better to add your glimmer, no matter how small you think it is. And if we wish to illuminate the world, all we have to do is let the light God put into us shine out. When we live the purpose He planted in our heart, then we are doing our part to brighten all the world.
Matthew 5:16- Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
1 Corinthians 12:26- And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

We All Need Help to Fulfill Our Purpose

Now sometimes we do want to make the world a brighter place, but then we feel that we are blocked. As I suggested up above, living out one’s purpose first requires being straightened out inside. If one is living in guilt, one cannot live their purpose. If one is living in suffering, one cannot live their purpose. If one is living incomplete, one cannot live their purpose.
There is no shame in admitting that we need help to do the things we are supposed to do. I believe many of us get confused on this point. If our calling is ours to live, doesn’t that mean we should be able to handle it all on our own? The surprising answer is no.
Because God does not give us a life to live. He gives us a life to live with Him. Therefore it is impossible to live the life that God intended for us alone, no one ever has. God’s purposes are beyond us, and they can only be attained by His miracles.
So if you have the desire to live your fullest life, but the inability to act on that desire, then the only question is whether you will seek the deliverance that you need. You know what healing to pray for, what resources to ask for, what lifting to plead for. Let go of any pride and humbly accept God’s help. It’s time for the two of you to start doing things together.
Exodus 4:11-12- And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

John 15:16- Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Finding Our Purpose- Personal Example

I always knew that God must have a purpose for me, and I knew that it was my duty to find it. But for the longest while I held back. I never let myself get “too good” because then I figured He was going to ask me to sacrifice the things I loved the most.

By that I don’t mean that I was afraid about Him taking away my sins. I was all for having his help there! But no, I had a fear that He was going to take even the good things that I cherished: my stories, my writing, my creativity. I realize that might sound strange, but if I felt that way then I assume others have as well.

I think part of it comes down to my namesake. My parents named me Abraham after the biblical prophet, the guy who is most famous for being asked to kill his own son. That story has always landed very heavily with me.

Another reason was that those same things that excite me most: stories and writing and pretend, were all stifled in my home. It is only natural for children to believe that the things their parents dislike God also dislikes.

All of which is to say that I had a flawed perspective of God, one that made me fear Him. Our relationship is much better now, and I entirely give Him the credit for meeting me with all my misconceptions and lovingly setting me straight. Now I understand God’s calling for me, and it isn’t to take away the things that I love, it is to give them new life!

Finding Our Purpose- Acts 9:15, John 15:16

But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

COMMENTARY

For he is a chosen vessel unto me
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you
Saul set out for Damascus with the express purpose of imprisoning the Saints. Who could have believed that he would instead be called to carry the Lord’s gospel to the Gentiles? Clearly neither Ananias nor Saul did, to them that notion seemed ridiculous. Yet that was exactly the purpose for which Saul was chosen.
Who could have assumed that a lowly fisherman would become the head of Christ’s church? And yet that was who was chosen.
The key factor in both of these examples is who was doing the choosing. Not Saul, not Ananias, not Peter, and not any other man. Only God.
If you are concerned because you do not know what purpose God has for you, do not worry. It isn’t some puzzle that you have to solve, and it isn’t a revelation that you have to disclose to yourself. Our purposes are given to us, they are something that only God can reveal. All you have to do is make yourself a willing receptacle for that.

Finding Our Purpose- Genesis 45:4-5

And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.
Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

COMMENTARY

God did send me before you to preserve life
I believe that most of us think of our calling and our trials separately. A calling is something beautiful and meaningful that we are meant to accomplish. A trial is something we have to endure to prove our faithfulness.
But it would seem that Joseph did not see them as so apart from one another. He was taken from his family, sold into slavery and imprisoned unjustly. And yet in all those monumental afflictions he had seen the hand God. Through his suffering he found purpose.
This isn’t to say that we should seek out suffering, or that we shouldn’t try to mitigate pain when it is in our power to do so. We are encouraged to avoid pain wherever possible.
But when we have been dealt a hard hand we should pause now and again to look for greater meaning in it. If we are being required to pass through something, then certainly there is a reason why. What is the bigger picture yet to be revealed?

Finding Our Purpose- 2 Chronicles 1:7-8, 10-12; Mark 10:49-52

In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee.
And Solomon said unto God, Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?
And God said to Solomon, Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee;

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.
And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.
And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.

COMMENTARY

Give me wisdom, for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?
And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.
Sometimes we want to follow the vocation God has for us, but we have some blocker in our way. Consider Solomon, called to lead the nation of Israel, but lacking the requisite wisdom to do so. Or Bartimaeus, who had the heart of a disciple, but lacked the ability to even see which way he walked. These men were transformed so that they could answer the call in their hearts.
It is the same for us. When Jesus comes to heal or strengthen us, it empowers us to answer our calling. I once felt blocked in my own discipleship by a misguided fear. I’ll explain more of that later, but that confusion was corrected in me so that I could fully commit to my discipleship.
If you feel like there is a purpose that you are meant to fill, but that you just can’t for some reason, you may not be wrong. Perhaps you truly are being blocked. But then ask God to deliver you from your constraint. Why wouldn’t He help you to perform the very task for which He made you?

Finding Our Purpose- Jeremiah 1:5, 1 Corinthians 1:27

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

COMMENTARY

Before thou camest forth out of the womb I ordained thee a prophet
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world…and God hath chosen the weak things of the world
As we saw yesterday, Moses did not feel ready for the calling that God issued to him. Well what about the infant Jeremiah in the womb? At that moment was he ready to be the prophet that God was already ordaining him to be? Certainly not. And what about the child Samuel hearing God’s voice in the middle of the night? And all these weak and foolish things that are supposed to topple the wise and mighty?
The overwhelming message of the scriptures here is that one doesn’t have to feel ready for their calling to receive it. In fact the calling is probably something that they can’t do, because it is a calling to become something more. God wouldn’t have much purpose in giving you a calling that you were already doing, and He does not prompt us into the actions we are already performing. No, when God intervenes in our lives, it is to change course and help us become greater things than we would have ever steered ourselves to.
So stop worrying about whether you are strong enough, you aren’t. Only ask if He is. Do not wonder if you can perform this miracle, you can’t. Only ask if He can. Do not wait for belief in our own capabilities before you accept a calling. Only believe in His!

Finding Our Purpose- Matthew 5:16, 1 Corinthians 12:26

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

And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

COMMENTARY

And whether one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
Can you imagine a world where all of the petty competition and comparison are gone? In today’s world we have insecurities that make us jealous of others’ accomplishments, when we should be rejoicing with them. Or if not that, we are repulsed by that idea of jealousy and over-correct into a false humility, not daring to appear “special” ourselves.
I’ve expressed this in previous sections, but it is alright for you to be special, and it is okay for others to be so as well. We do need to be humble, we do need to give God the praise for our talents, and we must never use our abilities to make another feel that they are somehow “worse” than us.
But, none of that means that we are supposed to dim the wonderful light that God has given us. Having a purpose to fill and a talent to show makes the world brighter and helps others to see more clearly. When one is vibrantly living out the purpose for which they were made it helps everyone.
Children are remarkable in how they are able to be both fearlessly proud of themselves, and fiercely proud of others. I am convinced that this is one of the aspects of children Jesus had in mind when he commanded us to be like them.