In our “Come Follow Me” lesson for the week, we read about Paul talking about how the world views God’s wisdom. He says the Jews were looking for a sign of some sort – a sign of their deliverer from Roman oppression. The Greeks and Romans, on the other hand, were looking for new knowledge – some new idea that would excite them. What they received was the story of a man put to death on a cross.
For Jews, it would be nearly impossible to accept such a meek being as deliverer. For the Greeks, a member of a subjugated people being put to death was certainly not worthy of consideration. Paul tells us a crucified Christ is a stumbling block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks.
“But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
To do the work of the lord in our lives, we need the help of the lord.
Nephi struggled as he tried to follow the instruction of the lord in his life. He had been told to retrieve brass plates. He started his journey by expressing his faith to his father when he said “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” I imagine him setting out with his heart full, and confidence that he would succeed.
Instead of success, he saw their first plan fail, then the backup plan fail, then saw his family’s treasures stolen, was chased through the streets by thugs who intended to kill them, and was attacked by his own brothers.
For somebody certain the work would be accomplished, he was experiencing a LOT of failures. It would have been easy to say something like “maybe this is a sign it isn’t meant to happen.”
The time he was led by the spirit, he finally found success.
While we may not be given tasks which threaten our physical wellbeing, we all experience adversity and struggle in our efforts to do the work in our lives, in our families, in our callings, and in our community. And it’s always easier to give up.
But Paul promised us that even the weakness of God is stronger than men; and Nephi showed us through his actions that being led by the spirit can lead to successes that may not be intuitive.
How do we gain that kind of guidance for ourselves?
In the days before the church was restored, Hyrum Smith wondered this as well. How could he know what he should do? How could he recognize that guidance from the spirit? The answer to his question was recorded in the Doctrine and covenants, where God said:
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. [D&C 11:12–13]
Think about those words for a moment: “humility, just, enlightenment, joy.” Surely those were things that Hyrum had felt before.
In other words, what would make this time any different? Why would the joy or humility he felt now be from the Lord and not just from himself?
Like the Greeks and Romans of old, the world around us looks at promises like these and scoffs. “Joy? Enlightenment? Humility?” There’s nothing special about that. I feel those things all the time. Why not give us a fiery pillar or a voice from heaven?
But what they see as foolishness is wiser than them. The promise made to Hyrum is the same promise made to you: You can trust that the good feelings you have while serving in your callings are from God. That sensation of enlightenment, peace, and joy will come again and again as you serve, and this time they will change your very nature.
Alma asks us a simple question about this kind of repeated contact with the spirit found through faith and service. His words seem to be a direct rebuke to those who would say there’s nothing special about those feelings we have when we have encounters with the spirit.
“O then, is this not real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good;
And behold as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us.”
that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
The help of the Lord is real. You can trust that those good feelings you have while serving the Lord are from God, and like human consciousness emerging from mundane physical elements, your perfectly mundane thoughts and feelings will be transformed into revelation as you serve the Lord.
In his talk, “Gifts of the Spirit for Hard Times,” President Eyring gives us 4 keys to receiving God’s wisdom and help:
- First, go forward with Faith, as Nephi did. Vibrant faith in God comes best from serving Him regularly.
- Second, Be clean. He says, “If you have difficulty in feeling the Holy Ghost, you might wisely ponder whether there is anything for which you need to repent and receive forgiveness.”
- Third, seek pure motives. I may have the desire to impress or entertain when I speak in church or teach a lesson. But the Spirit comes only as I align what I want with what the Lord wants. I may have the desire to receive answers about a question from church history, but the Lord may want me to receive answers about the families to whom I Minister.
- Fourth, seek the pure love of Christ. As we seek that charity that never faileth, we are transformed to be more Like Christ, and to love as he loved, and to do the things he would do.
A friend of mine wrote:
If we think of the Church as a system of beliefs and ask, “Are these true?”, we may or may not get an answer. When we ask “What is true?”, we can often get hung up on that question and never move past it.
But if we think of God as a Person, and start with that assumption, and ask, “How can I serve you better today? How can I keep my covenants with you? What lack I yet, that I can change right now, to be a better disciple? What neighbors can I minister to? How can I be a better parent or spouse?”, we WILL get an answer. We will get answers upon answers.
And as we do, our testimonies will resolve past the epistemological hangups of the prior questions. Because as we feel God’s hand and voice in our lives leading us to be better disciples, better fathers, better mothers, better ministers, there ceases to be any doubt of His existence, or of the divine power of this work.
The world would say “If God really wanted me to know something, he should just give it to me. God should operate like Google.” But God doesn’t want us to just know things, he wants us to be changed in the process of learning. He wants our search to be a blessing to the lives around us, not just to ourselves.
May we have the faith and humility to embrace God’s foolishness – the sometimes unintuitive ways God wants us to be transformed by his miraculous help.