Personal Online Journal

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Believing Christ

One of the most powerful books I have read is Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson.

In January I was feeling very over-whelmed. I felt similar to Stephen's wife. I felt like I couldn't do the gospel I know to be true. It is not the first time I have felt this way. The parable of the bicycle was very useful to me in understanding how the atonement works:
I was sitting in a chair reading. My daughter, Sarah, who was seven years old at the time, came in and said, “Dad, can I have a bike? I’m the only kid on the block who doesn’t have one.”

Well, I didn’t have the money then for a bike, so I stalled her. I said, “Sure, Sarah.”

She said, “How? When?”

I said, “You save all your pennies, and soon you’ll have enough for a bike.” And she went away.

A couple of weeks later I was sitting in the same chair when I heard a “clink, clink” in Sarah’s bedroom. I asked, “Sarah, what are you doing?”

She came to me with a little jar, a slit cut in the lid, and a bunch of pennies in the bottom. She said, “You promised me that if I saved all my pennies, pretty soon I’d have enough for a bike. And, Daddy, I’ve saved every single one of them.”

My heart melted. My daughter was doing everything in her power to follow my instructions. I hadn’t actually lied to her. If she saved all of her pennies, she would eventually have enough for a bike, but by then she would want a car. I said, “Let’s go look at bikes.”

We went to every store in town. Finally we found it—the perfect bicycle. She was thrilled. Then she saw the price tag, and her face fell. She started to cry. “Oh, Dad, I’ll never have enough for a bicycle!”

So I said, “Sarah, how much do you have?”

She answered, “Sixty-one cents.”

“I’ll tell you what. You give me everything you’ve got and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.” Then I drove home very slowly because she insisted on riding the bike home.

As I drove beside her, I thought of the atonement of Christ. We all desperately want the celestial kingdom. We want to be with our Father in Heaven. But no matter how hard we try, we come up short. At some point all of us must realize, “I can’t do this by myself. I need help.” Then it is that the Savior says, in effect, All right, you’re not perfect. But what can you do? Give me all you have, and I’ll do the rest.

He still requires our best effort. We must keep trying. But the good news is that having done all we can, it is enough. We may not be personally perfect yet, but because of our covenant with the Savior, we can rely on his perfection, and his perfection will get us through.
(Stephen E. Robinson, “Believing Christ,” Ensign, Apr 1992, 5)

In January, I allowed my personal despair to turn against my wife badly. She was patient and kind to me. I learned something very valuable from her. When I am feeling overwhelmed, when my list of things to do and the list of stuff I have not done overcomes me, remember just a few things. Trust God, be happy and work hard.

"This too shall pass" is a phrase my wife has used. When I trust God, I remember that the difficulty I am currently feeling will not last forever. Trusting God to do His part is believing Christ.

Being happy is a choice. Regardless of the circumstances, I can choose it. And even if I don't feel it, I can be polite and kind. My wife has an amazing gift to show kindness even if she is not feeling well. Holding an unkind tongue can save me much grief.

Putting my effort into worthwhile tasks is a balm to my soul that comes from nowhere else. Yesterday was one of those days where I got a lot done. It feels so good to lay down to sleep and know you put in an honest day's work.

The story of brother Robinson's son touches me. There are times that I am not sure that Heavenly Father and I can "be friends". That is just a lack of faith on my part. Sincere, regular prayer builds my faith. As I do those things that build my faith in Jesus Christ, I feel confidence in Him. He is mighty to save. His grace sustains me. As I do my part, my confidence strengthens.

When all else fails, I will remember to Trust God, Be Happy and Work Hard.

Here is Stephen Robinson's May 29, 1990 BYU devotional address on the same topic.

See also parable of the piano

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Achieving Your Full Potential

This morning, I listened to a great talk by Donald L. Staheli that he gave a few years ago in a CES fireside, "Achieving Your Full Potential". I have paraphrased and quoted some parts of it below. It inspired me.

A favorite two-word statement
Joseph B. Wirthlin used frequently to motivate us: “Always improving.”

Spencer W. Kimball encouraged us to “lengthen our stride” and to “enlarge our vision”

Neal A. Maxwell said it this way, 'The Lord loves each of us too much to merely let us go on being what we now are, for he knows what we have the possibility to become!'

Faith - Quoting Gordon B. Hinckley, "the kind of faith that moves one to get on his knees and plead with the Lord and then get on his feet and go to work"

Prayer - "Nothing you will do during any day of your life will be more important to your temporal success or your eternal progress than consistent, humble, sincere prayers offered at least morning and night of every day."

Scripture Study
One of my fellow quorum members confided to me that he had not missed a day in reading or pondering the scriptures since he entered the Missionary Training Center in preparation for his mission. That was approximately 40 years ago. What a commitment! What dedication to the Lord! What a great example for each of us to follow!
Those who demonstrate the greatest consistency in their scripture study do so because they follow daily a set time to read. They do not speed-read so many pages a day. Rather, they read and then ponder about the application in their lives of what they have read. But they do it daily, and they do it as a serious part of their personal plan for spiritual growth.
My challenge to you tonight is to reflect carefully on how you evaluate your personal progress in the practice of your faith, prayers, and scripture study daily. Are you providing daily spiritual sustenance to your testimony? Are your actions in these areas providing the willpower against all that the adversary is showing you every day? If not, please think carefully about the changes you will make.
Obedience to the Commandments - "President Ezra Taft Benson simplified the principle of obedience for me when he said: 'When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power' "