Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Becoming a Soldier of Christ - June 29, 2009

Life is great. Practice for the Pirates of Penzance is becoming more and more engaging as we get closer to production time – we are supposed to have our lines memorized by July 7th and our first performance is July 31st. …not very far away!

Work/Volunteering at the MTC is going well; we just had the New Mission President Seminar, where 108 new mission presidents came to receive instruction from General Authorities and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Our projects in the Development Department are going great. My job is to take multiple documents (that have each been written by different people), align the writing to our style guide, make suggestions on clarity, change wording so they are all written in the same “literary voice,” shorten everything so it is concise (unlike this sentence) and then do copyediting. And then sometimes I get asked to work on design projects, though I’ve only been working here a little over a month! I love it.

These last few weeks I spent most of my free time (and all the rest of the time I could borrow) writing a talk that I gave in Church yesterday. The topic was 2 Timothy 2:3 – “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The counselor in the bishopric had told me my topic was “Soldier of Christ” when he gave me the assignment three weeks ago. I wondered if he wanted me to talk about optimism, enduring hardship, becoming a soldier of Christ, or give a doctrinal overview of the hardships of the New Testament. There were so many possible ways to interpret it. After writing pages and pages, I finally decided that I would just write a talk and pray about it. This is what came out. (I haven’t found the time to make it into a cohesive document since I gave the talk – these are just my notes from before.)

Once upon a time, there was a soldier. His people had been engaged in a fierce war that began long before his birth, and so he was trained and enlisted from his youth to be a leader at the front. As the years passed, he saw incredible victories where not a soul was lost… but he also witnessed unspeakable tragedies when friends and loved ones died in his arms. But he pressed forward, motivated by his obedience, determination, and, most of all, his faith.

This story was the story of the ancient Nephite prophets - Captain Moroni, Nephi, and Helaman. They lived in a time of physical warfare, where knowledge of the sword and armor were the difference between life and death. But it was also the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, the pioneers who crossed the plains, …and of each and every member of the Church today. We are each soldiers of Christ. We may not know how to handle a sword, but we are still fighting a battle, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Long before we came to this life, we chose sides in the war between good and evil.

And there was war in heaven: Michael and [we,] his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
That we are here today is proof that we won our first battle. Now, we are engaged in the second battle… and the stakes are just as high.

Our battle today is to overcome the Adversary and return to the presence of God. Right now, that means preparing for a career, repenting of our sins, and choosing an eternal companion. Each of those are somewhat difficult situations.

Maybe that’s why Paul, in a letter to Timothy, gave him advice that is just as relevant today as when it was written: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
What does it mean to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ?

  • Preparation: Constant training to know his weapon… Samurai example - years of sword training
    • Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God- How do you wield the sword of the Spirit?
    • Works daily to increase his faith
    • Prayer
    • Scripture Study
    • Church Attendance
These are not little things. They take tons of time and willpower. These are the big things

  • Preparation: Chooses and always wears well-fitting armor
    • What does it mean to always wear the armor of God?
    • The night is far spent… the day is at hand… let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. – 2 parts- cast off darkness; put on light
    • (If time – story about symbolism and the need to find personal symbols in life)
    • “This scripture changed my feelings on the whole warrior of God motif. I can’t envision myself wearing a coat of armor and wielding a sword… but the thought of seeing a righteous son of God clothed in light was suddenly compelling… and I realized that the metaphor simply didn’t work for me.”
    • Well-fitting – it’s not good enough to consume the Gospel from someone else’s perspective. You need to have your own spiritual experiences and develop your own relationship with God.
    • No one can fight your spiritual enemies for you… you are the only person who can defeat them.
    • Cast off darkness - Apply the Atonement in your life on a daily basis
  • In the Moment: Seeks direction
    • And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the devil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.
    • But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.
    • Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
    • What happens when no direction comes?
    • “If I ask him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.” – Brigham Young – p.46 Teachings
  • In the Moment: Is completely obedient
    • Helaman – Stripling Warriors
    • “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them”
    • “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
    • “Obedience is better than any alternative”
    • Bad Example: Saul and the Amalekites:
    • Thus saith the Lord of hosts… Now go and smite Amalek… and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
    • And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.
    • Saul, over this transgression, lost his right to the Kingdom.
    • When faced with difficult decisions, we can know that obedience to the laws of God will always bring more blessings and enable us to be happier than anything else. Why? Because God has a perfect vision of who we are and who we can become.
    • Examples of modern revelation that applies to us:
    • Dating - Elder Oaks: CES Fireside:
    • Cheap dates … can be frequent and nonthreatening, since they don’t seem to imply a continuing commitment.
    • Simple and more frequent dates allow both men and women to “shop around” in a way that allows extensive evaluation of the prospects. They encourage conversation and allow you to see how you treat others and how you are treated in a one-on-one situation. It gives opportunities to learn how to initiate and sustain a mature relationship.
    • My single brothers and sisters, follow the simple dating pattern.
    • Education – President Hinckley’s Be Smart – get as much education as you can.
    • Advice from President Eyring’s Father: “You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don’t have to think about anything, that’s what you think about.”
  • In the Moment: Incredible Optimism
    • No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life
    • What does that mean? I think it’s simply that we need to keep a sense of optimism – keep the faith – keep the morale of others and buoy them up.
    • In the face of life’s obstacles, the good soldier of Christ keeps a permanent sense of optimism… he looks to his commander for perspective.
    • God has gone before you to prepare the way for you… He beckons for you to follow
    • Everything the Lord gives us is to enable us to better help others come unto Christ. When we are striving to live the Gospel, everything we have is a blessing from the Lord to better accomplish His work in the lives of others. Everything.
    • Without the right perspective, it's easy to wonder at the equity in such an arrangement - if God loves all His children equally, why aren't they treated equally in talents and blessings and opportunities here on the earth? Why does one earn millions of dollars each year and the next struggles to survive on a dollar a day? Why do some struggle in school or family or testimony while others seem to have the perfect life? The answer is in the scriptures - “...that all may be profited thereby...” (D&C 46:12). The Lord has allowed us to be rich and poor so that we can learn to bless the lives of others. The rich have the opportunity to help lift the poor and to the poor can share the talents they have that aren't as prized by society. And, in so doing, they both learn humility and love, compassion and strength, faith and diligence and hope. By lifting and being lifted by others, we grow spiritually... learning the importance of helping others (and, just as important - accepting help from others) along the path to eternal life.
    • We are each called to be soldiers in the war against sin… and each of us has a unique responsibility.
    • Sometimes life may seem unfair. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “Whether things seem ‘fair’ relate to the limits of one’s perspective. [As Paul said], ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’” Those who have an eternal perspective understand that life is fair – that each individual’s life is full of the perfect mix of trials, blessings, and people to enable him or her to become perfect.
    • I think that this is what the Lord meant when He said that all men have a gift given to them. We each hold a unique place in the pattern of life - something that no one else can do. Your gift is not just being able to relate well with people or do math in your head; your gift is the sum of everything you have been given by the Lord. Your family, whether it is ideal or broken. The wisdom you gained by weathering difficult trials, the optimism you learned when days were dark, and the frugality given you in hard times, as well as your beautiful singing voice, your ability to relate to children, or your ability to work hard. When we look at our gifts as the sum of the Lord's blessings (talents and trials) to us, we realize that we are unique individuals, each running our own race yet endowed with the power to lift and inspire others no matter what our circumstances.
• Seek to train with our weapons of the Spirit
• Wear and patch our armor
• Seek for direction
• Be obedient
• Have faith – eternal optimism
• Then what does it ultimately mean to be a good soldier of Christ? As soldiers on the field, we cannot see the war that is occurring all around us. We can only see the battles that face us in our day-to-day lives. And when it seems that we are constantly fighting – struggling to survive, it may be hard to tell that we are going in the right direction. Are we winning the fight? Are we even winning the battle that faces us?

As a soldier goes down into battle, he can only see the enemies around him. And, when it seems that the enemies never cease… and he is only receiving more and more wounds… when they fight for days on end and don’t seem to gain ground, it can be hard to tell if you are a good soldier. What makes a good soldier? We are all engaged in an intense war…
Alma 53:20-21 – And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.

Alma 56: 43-47
43 Behold, we know not but they have halted for the purpose that we should come against them, that they might catch us in their snare;
44 Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?
45 And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites.
46 For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus.
47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Custom Search