Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Ways To "Stay Awake" - The Battle For Our Souls - Part 4

(Please read Part 1-2 and Part 3 before reading this post)

As mentioned in Part 3, as the Savior was suffering in Gethsemane, He asked that His disciples "stay awake" so that they could be there to support Him through His ordeal. They did not stay awake and from them we must learn a valuable lesson. We do not condemn them, they were mortal as are we, but we can learn from them as I'm sure they would have us do.

What does it mean to "stay awake" in relation to being there for others. I believe there are many different ways to "stay awake"...

We return back to those fateful last hours of the Savior's life...

 From the ashes of His excruciating pain, came His understanding of...well, everything and everyone, but for our purposes today, we will explore how His complete comprehension of our mortal minds and hearts has lead to the commandments to love one another by fulfilling modern day assignments such as visiting teaching and home teaching and to fulfill our baptismal covenants to "bear one another's burdens" (Mosiah 18:8).

Keeping these covenants and going home teaching or visiting teaching is not just a bunch of busy work. It is real work; it is hard work and it is the work the disciples of Jesus Christ must be about every single day because it is the work of LOVE - and love, love, love has an amazing power to help us survive the battle in which we are all engaged.

Out on that battle field, we are each fighting our own individual battles. Each person and each family is dealing with the responsibility of building up the walls of defense around their homes. Satan will look for any weak spot in our fortifications, therefore a constant vigil must be kept to protect ourselves and our families. This isn't easy and if we are not careful, a weak spot will be found and then the battle will intensify significantly.

Here is the reality, if you think a person or a family is not struggling in the battle, then you don't know that person or family very well. NONE OF US IS EXEMPT! None of us. Thus, the Savior commands us, when we are baptized to "bear one another's burdens, mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort." (Mosiah 18:8)

He doesn't do this just to keep us out of trouble - although serving others can do that. He doesn't do this just to teach us valuable lessons - although serving others can do that. He doesn't do this just because He knows how it will help us with our own problems - although serving others definitely can do that. Remember, He has been to our darkest places - and He did it alone. He knows what it is like to fight the battle ALONE and He doesn't want any of us to have to endure the same loneliness. So He asks us to do more than just be nice. He gives us assignments at church in which we have stewardship over others and even more specifically, He simply asks us to visit two or three sisters or families each month to see how they are fairing in the battle.

So, in your mind's eye, envision yourself as a home teacher or a visiting teacher, dressed in full battle armor (because it is wise to never take it off), approaching a family's fortress once a month.

Now, you have your own fortress to take care of, but we're all in this together and sometimes it takes someone standing at a different perspective to help us fix things up. There is nothing wrong with that. It seems pretty clear, when you think of how extensive and intense this battle can be, we can't do it alone. We simply cannot do it alone.

And maybe the family or sister is doing okay that month and doesn't really need help, except for a quick pep talk and a prayer (we can all use that on a daily basis). 

But sometimes, there may be a need, a huge need and the family feels overwhelmed with the pain of wounds they are dealing with but there you are, someone in whom they have learned to trust because of your integrity and they feel safe with you and you are ready and willing to help with love and no judgment - just an understanding that we are all wounded from time to time and healing can take place, especially because it is the Master Healer who sent you. You are on His errand and He will be by your side to help you know how to help this family not feel alone and forgotten. He knows how that feels, remember?

This is the work of Relief Society and of the Priesthood. Is the work you are doing as part of the RELIEF Society bringing relief to others?

It isn't always easy work. It isn't always convenient or pretty or heroic. It isn't always heart warming and although dinners and humanitarian aid kits and quilts are a significant part of serving others, the battle is growing so fierce and the wounds are so great, it is requiring more spiritually minded, forgiving, loving and understanding disciples of Jesus Christ than ever before.

"It is not enough merely to speak of Jesus Christ or proclaim that we are His disciples. It is not enough to surround ourselves with symbols of our religion. Discipleship is not a spectator sport. We cannot expect to experience the blessings of faith by standing inactive on the sidelines any more than we can experience the benefits of health by sitting on a sofa watching sporting events on television and giving advice to the athletes. And yet for some, “spectator discipleship” is a preferred if not a primary way of worshiping." President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Way of the Disciple",Ensign, May 2009, pg 75.

And here is the clincher..."It does not require a calling more than being a member to nourish by reaching out in kindness." Henry B. Eyring, “Feeding His Lambs,” Liahona, Feb 2008, 2–7. Got that? We don't need to wait for an assignment to serve someone and there is no need for us to say something such as, "I am not her visiting teacher so I'll just leave that up to them." That is not what the Savior would do.

We must roll up our shirt sleeves and be willing to get in the thick of things. "Ours is not a secondhand religion. We cannot receive the blessings of the gospel merely by observing the good that others do. We need to get off the sidelines and practice what we preach." President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Way of the Disciple" (reference above.)

And as I wrote earlier, even if all you can do is pray for someone, then at least do that.

I wish I could say that I am the perfect example of what I'm preaching here. I'm not. News flash, I'm mortal - to my great dismay sometimes. We are all mortal and what did the Savior say about us, "...the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt 26:41)

"The first step on the path of discipleship begins, luckily enough, in the exact place where we stand!" President Uchtdorf, "The Way of the Disciple". I must start where I am - not worrying about the past but pushing forward with a daily renewal of a desire to serve the Lord by serving others. I must pray daily to "stay awake".
The Book of Mormon relates an amazing tale of 2000 young men who fought valiantly and had faith that God would deliver them. The miraculous survival of every single one of those young men is told over and over, as well it should be. But I've become increasingly more interested in the fact that although every single warrior survived, every single warrior also received "many wounds" (Alma 57:25)
I do not joy in their pain, quite the contrary, but I think it applicable to us in these latter-days fighting a spiritual war. We will all be wounded one way or another. All of us. But we can all survive and eons from now, it is not our wounds that will define us, just as the 2000 stripling warriors are not remembered for their many wounds. They are remembered because they survived and they survived together and so can we. Once again, it is no accident that we are all on this battle field at the same time. It is all for a wonderfully, supporting, surviving reason.

"Christ lived on earth and was subject to all manner of temptation, but He won every battle. He is the most successful warrior that ever walked the earth, and He wants to help us win every battle, be it personal or public. When we fall short, His atonement will compensate for us on condition of our repentance.

"Jesus knows His kingdom will triumph, and He wants us to triumph with it. He knows in advance every strategy the enemy will use against us and the kingdom. He knows our weaknesses and He knows our strengths." President Ezra Taft Benson, "In His Steps", Ensign, September 1988


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