Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Gift of Faith

What is the greatest gift that I can give 

to myself and to my children?

The greatest gift that I can give is my faith in Jesus Christ. Why is this such a great gift?

Jesus Christ gave us life, and when we believe in Him, He gives us life even more abundantly. It is through Him that we all have life, the ability to think, and move, and do. And it is because of Him that we have the right to choose to believe or to not believe in His gracious gift and His never-ending love.

He is The Light of the World, and His light is manifest in all of His creations. Through Him we have life and without Him we do not. Even when we deny Him, He causes His sun to shine and his rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous, the believers and the non-believers, because He is good and He loves us all.

To reap the blessings of His goodness while refusing to recognize His gifts shows lack of knowledge and absence of faith. To lay claim on the goodness within ourselves while denying Him shows an attitude of arrogance with misdirected praise.

The world teaches that people can be good in and of themselves whether they believe in God or not. But this reasoning is faulty. While people may believe that they are good on their own, they cannot even exist on their own. We all need God. The goodness that is inside us is from God even if we don't recognize it or Him.

Why is my faith in Jesus Christ important to me and why do I think that it is important to you? Jesus Christ wants our success. He loves us. He created this beautiful world in which we live, and He allows us experiences that build our character and bring us joy. More than that! He has our backs. He has paid the ultimate price, so that each time we fall, He is personally there to catch us and lift us back up. My faith in Jesus Christ is important, because I know He loves me and that He has redeemed me and that He will continue to redeem me; and He has and will do the same for you. His love knows no limits, even when ours is shaky at best. His power, His mercy, His love, and His glory are everlasting.

The hope that I have for happiness in my life stems from the faith I have in Jesus Christ and His promises. The hope that I have in my family and our happiness now and in our relationships in eternity are founded in His glorious gospel and the covenants and ordinances that He has provided to me for my safety and eternal progression.

We may think that we don’t need God and that we don’t need God’s Son. But do we need the air that we breathe? Because if we do, then we need Him. King Benjamin’s words are words of pleading, because He too knew that the greatest gift that He could give His people was His faith in Jesus Christ:

“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

“And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:9-10).

Our good works are nothing without the goodness that He has poured into us through His creation and His sustaining power. Our haughty and our sincere efforts pale in comparison to the work of His atoning sacrifice for us, which gives us the power to be able to be good.

“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—

"I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

“And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

“And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you” (Mosiah 2:20-26).

I love Jesus, and the best gift that I can give myself and others is my faith in Him. King Benjamin was not emphasizing the unimportance of men, but the importance of Jesus Christ in our daily lives. Even though He makes His sun to rise and His rain to fall to bless us, we cannot count on Him giving us the gift of peace in this life and eternal life with Him and with our families in the next life if we do not love Him and keep His commandments. And that takes faith. Holding on to my faith and living my belief in Jesus Christ is the most important thing I can do and the very best gift that I have to give.

I am thankful for the many gifts God has given me: life, agency, family, friends, peace, faith, resurrection, and the prospect of eternal happiness and joy. 
I love my family; I love my friends; I love my Heavenly Father; and I love His Son, my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.It is because of Him that I am able to enjoy everything else. 

When we are sad and feel alone, we just need to listen for our Father's voice. He loves us, and it will be all right.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Live with Gratitude: Both Giving and Taking

Live with Gratitude: Both Giving and Taking

Sometimes you can dish it out, but you just can't take it.

How are you at receiving compliments, at accepting praise? Does it cause you undo discomfort when the spotlight is turned to you? Do you soak it in with gratitude? Do you absorb it with pride? Or do you dismiss it in dismay?

Since I am one that is easily overwhelmed, positive attention is sometimes unwelcome, even though it might be very needed. I think that is true for many of us. We want recognition; but, at the same time, we don't want a fuss, nor do we want to feel overwhelmed by compliments that we feel we do not deserve.

Then there is the question of pride in the face of our religious beliefs or core values. If we accept praise, do we equate that with ownership for the good that we have done or the good that unfolds as a result of our actions? Do we question the motives behind the compliment, judging that the giver is insincere or looking for something in return? Do we acknowledge a compliment, understanding that we have been placed in a position to do something good, knowing that we are a small vehicle within a much greater movement of good?

I think that we need to understand that both giving praise and accepting praise are healthy actions and attitudes. Offering praise helps us develop hearts of gratitude, and that's always important. The first part of offering praise, for me, is acknowledging God's hand in all things. All our blessings, relationships, talents, and goodness spring from our Father who gave us life.

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav'nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Word: Thomas Ken; Music: Louis

Here is a scripture that came to mind in relationship to giving, which certainly can be applied to giving compliments and praise:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of neccesity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

I believe that we are encouraged to offer sincere praise, both to God and to our fellowmen. If God loves a cheerful giver, certainly He also loves a cheerful receiver.

Sometimes great people doing great things do not want recognition. But at some point, maybe even their humility might appear to be prideful. We are not all capable of doing the same things. The Lord gives us talents severally according to his will (See Gifts of the Spirit). Gifts are given at His discretion for the benefit of the Giver and the recipient. The recipient of God's gifts can then become a giver himself; in turn, the good that we do becomes a blessing to ourselves and to others. In our humility, we might not think that we are anything great or that the things that we do are noteworthy. Be we, as messengers of God, are involved in His goodness; and, when others are witnesses, it may be careless for us to consider their praise as folly and deny the greatness of the actions performed.

Selfless service, in today's world, is out of the norm. But for those who truly love God and neighbor, it is the ideal that we both seek and cherish. While I can understand someone being tired of receiving attention for the good that he does, we all must realize how wonderful it is to be a witness of selfless service. Since we have all been given different blessing and different capacities, the Spirit can guide us all in how we can serve and what our current missions are, if we are willing to ask our Father and listen for His voice.

There are so many opportunities for all of us to be Christ-like. When someone admires our Christ-like actions, maybe we need to step back and look at our own situation through an outsider's eyes. We might also be in awe; not of ourselves, but of what has been accomplished through the grace of God and the gifts He has given us. When we do so, we will be able to accept sincere compliments without arrogance, but joyfully. We will know that the glory goes to God who has given us the will and the moment-by-moment strength to keep going, even when we feel exhausted and inadequate.

When we can both separate ourselves from the glory and involve ourselves in the gratitude, we are in a good position to be a cheerful receiver. Sometimes this might be hard to do, because we are receiving praise when we are intimately aware of our own inadequacies and failures. Maybe we need more support from friends and family to help ease our burdens, and so the compliments we receive just come across as trite phrases. Maybe we resent the compliment because we desire the gift of time and service to help buoy us up in a current challenge. Maybe we even feel that we are a victim, doing much work that we believe others should also be doing. Sometimes, when we do not see our own growth and goodness, we find it difficult to accept what someone else is telling us, because we currently cannot see it. Then we need to develop some trust in the person who is offering praise, trust to accept the compliments with gratitude and trust to ask for help we may need. We really might not want praise because facing our own fears and inadequacies leaves us feeling exposed.

I am certainly glad that praise is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that even Jesus asked, "Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God" (Luke 18:19).

Not only was Jesus announcing His Messiahship, saying that since He is good, He is the Son of God; in this instance, as always, Jesus, as the King of Creation, deferred the glory to His Father. And yet, can you imagine how crumpled we would be if we didn't feel to praise Him and to offer Him our undying gratitude daily, minute-by-minute for His everlasting sacrifice for us?

I think we can all comprehend the importance of being amazed with God and His Son and in offering praise to Them. I think that we all can understand the importance of expressing gratitude to others, and we can acknowledge that there are times that we are in awe of the work that is being done. But can we understand and accept that it is also not just okay but appropriate to accept the praise of others? Instead of being less amazed, I think we should all be more amazed, not only with God, but with what we can and do accomplish as His children. 

With open eyes and hearts, it would be wonderful if we could all give and accept positive words of encouragement and praise. We should really all be more amazed with each other, all the time. We all have tasks that are not easy and challenges that are invisible to others. So it becomes us to accept words of encouragement and praise more graciously, letting those words boost us in the seemingly endless, thankless tasks that we all must perform on a daily basis. We need to become more like little children, who are humble and sincere. In them we witness perfect praise (See Matthew 21:16).

Let us all practice both giving and receiving praise sincerely and graciously. We can learn to accept words of encouragement for what they are, returning the glory to God, and helping others learn to do the same. He has called us to perform special missions. And He is amazing. The work which we do in His name and through His love is also amazing. His grace and His glory and His goodness endures forever! Even when we might feel weary of compliments, I believe that sincere praise from others is only a mere reflection of the love and gratitude they feel for the goodness and glory of God, in which they cannot yet recognize or find full expression. So we can feel gratitude for the goodness that others see in us, and in that goodness, find hope that we are helping others to see God's grace and seek His face.

Life is a wonderful blessing. Praise is a wonderful gift. We are involved in a marvelous work and a wonder! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.