This is the end of my semester studying the second half of the New Testament. My understanding of the principles I studied these past few months has boiled down to one word: joy. As I applied each of the principles, I found greater joy in living them. Here are some examples:
If I practice faith as a principle of action, I will have joy. (week 9)
Through faith…the worlds were framed. (Hebrews 11:3)
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Hebrew Saints clarified faith as more than mere belief, but as a principle of action. The power of faith as a tool, like a hammer, is inspiring. It asks to be used to build something wonderful.
I worked this semester at using my faith to build a new life for my family. Not an entirely new life, but one that transitions from life as a family of young children that necessarily has an inward focus and a stay-at-home lifestyle, to one with older youths that desires to be out sharing the light of the gospel with the world (or at least with our small community). I used faith to support my daughter in volunteering 40+ hours per week at a local horse stables, knowing that even outside my care the Lord is watching over her. I used it to support my son in taking on a missionary responsibility as president of his Deacon’s Quorum in reaching out to the many names on his roles. I used it to help my younger son join a learning program where he’ll be able to widen his social circle and thereby have more opportunities to share gospel truths with new friends.
And, most significantly, I used it to unify my husband and me on an issue we have struggled to be united on for a long time. It took faith to let go of the issue and trust that the best outcome will happen, with the Lord’s help. Interestingly, the moment I let go of what I wanted to see happen, the more opportunities presented themselves and things started to move instead of being stuck.
Faith is the foundation upon which all our spiritual lives rest. It should be the most important resource of our lives. (Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin)
The other day, I took a bike ride with my family. The trail was set along a gorgeous lake but was narrow, rocky, and root-strewn. The faster I went to keep up with my energetic boys, the more important it became for me to ride loosely and not try to control the bike’s every movement. If I gripped the handlebars too tightly and leaned forward, every bump hurt, and I nearly flew over the front when there was a big dip in the track. The same is true in life. You just have to ride through the bumps by keeping a light touch. As life gets more swift and complicated, if I keep trying to control everything, run it all myself, I am just going to biff it. Faith helps me let go a bit and float through the frantic bumps of life. God will keep me right as I ride along.
If I walk in truth, I will have joy. (week 11)
My favorite scripture of the semester came from John:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3 John 1:4)
At first, this principle rang true for me as a mother. When I see my children be kind to one another, when I see their compassion for a friend or grandparent, when I see them studying and memorizing scripture verses, I feel great joy. How much greater, though, is my Father in Heaven’s joy when I also walk in truth daily? My commitment to truth pleases God, and that in turn gives me great joy. Relationships are like that — the best kind, the considerate kind — where one gives joy to the other and it is returned. This semester I increased my commitment to live true, and I have felt an increase of joy as I have clarified and simplified my focus in this area.
After all, to try to live according to both truth and lies is confusing. It saps your energy to create stories about why something is okay to think, do or say, when it really isn’t. The more I responded to the Spirit’s nudge about how I should act or think, the more I felt my choices simplify. It became clear what priorities mattered and therefore my behavior flowed from those truths. The behavior that I sought from my children – genuine, authentic kindness and goodness – I found flowing from me, effortlessly. And, by the way, this increased my children’s ability to respond in the same way and life more truthfully, too.
Therefore, I learned that our commitment to live true increases the ability of everyone around us to do the same.
If I endure trials patiently to fulfill God’s will for me, I will have joy. (wk 6)
Even following the other two principles, I found that life is not perfect. Trials still come. They are a condition of mortality. As I have studied Paul’s life and writings this semester, I am amazed at Paul’s unfailing commitment to do God’s will, especially as he marched toward the end of his life and stayed true through persecution and imprisonment. What courage. When he was called to serve the Lord, the God said:
For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. (Acts 9:16)
Ouch! Paul did suffer, but he never wavered. He kept diligently, joyfully proclaiming the good news, even to mobs that sought him harm.
It makes me ask:
What am I willing to endure in order to fulfill the Lord’s will concerning me?
I will probably not be asked to die to accomplish God’s will. But I can show my commitment by my willingness to do the things that please Him.
Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ…Their will is swallowed up in His will. They do always those things that please the Lord. Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him. (President Ezra Taft Benson)
May I, like Paul, allow my will to be swallowed up by God’s will, to live for him. If I do, I believe my joy will increase no matter the circumstance, even in hard times, because I am aligning myself with the source of all joy.