afraid
Scheduled to be studied Mar 25-31, 2019. Fear is the great distressor. It causes us to forsake that which would heal us or save us. The Savior offers us healing and salvation, but we may have to face that which is difficult or unknown to us in order to take advantage of what he offers us. This week his plea is that we “be not afraid.”

Day 1

Matthew 14-15; Mark 6-7; John 5-6 – How do these accounts relate to me?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

This day is a combination of the introduction to the week, and the suggestions for improving personal study at the end of the week’s lessons. The theme for both are basically the same.

A very important part of gospel living for every member of the Lord’s Church is to remember that every part of the gospel offers different lessons to each person at different times in their lives. We may be looking at “Doctrine A” in this day’s study, but the Spirit may need to you learn “Doctrine B.” Sometimes you can read Doctrine A and learn something that will help you with the doctrine the Spirit wants you to learn, even though that isn’t the focus of the outlined study for that day. And sometimes we will be reading Doctrine A and a thought or insight will take us us on a chase to seemingly unrelated places to help us find what we need in Doctrine B. It all depends on our personal state of mind, and how we learn.

The main idea here is to be open to ideas that come into your head when reading the scriptures or other words of the prophets. This is partly where the journaling helps. If a thought pops into your head, write it down before continuing. As an example, many years ago my wife and I were having some communications issues in our marriage. Our counselor taught us that not all discussions have to be started and concluded in the same day. Sometimes we need to think long and hard before answering someone’s question or accusation. We learned to have key phrases we used with each other to table a conversation wherever we were in it until that person was ready to continue. The agreement was that we would ALWAYS continue the conversation, but if we needed time, our spouse agreed to grant as much time as was needed to learn how they felt before continuing. Conversations went from a frustrating 1-2 hour bout to lasting sometimes over the course of several weeks. We found that granting time to each other to figure out how we felt about something and time to consider how we would respond really improved the quality and the quantity of real communication. It also improved our trust of each other.

This same principle applies to learning the gospel. Since everything in the gospel is interrelated, one never knows where a thought might come from or where it might lead. It is okay to write down a thought or question, a doubt or observation then move on with what you were doing before having that thought. But the assumption is that you will return to it at some point so you can pursue it. That is an important part of this process. Don’t write something down with the assumption you are throwing that thought away. Agree ahead of time that if you write it down you have to revisit that thought and see where it takes you. This also assumes you will write down enough information that you will be able to pick up that thought again and move forward with it. If you are too sketchy and skimpy when you write it down you might not be able to remember your train of thought later, and then it will be as if you just threw away that thought. So write as much as you need to in order to pick it up later and move forward.

An example of a thought

The manual’s introduction gives a great example of this process. In the first paragraph of black text it talks about Peter getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. The first sentence triggered some thoughts in my head. Here is the first sentence.

What could have inspired Peter to leave the safety of his boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during a boisterous storm?

Several thoughts flooded into my head, all fighting for the first chance to be considered. Could Peter swim? Most people back then either couldn’t swim or were not good swimmers. Why would he think he could get out of the boat and walk on water if he knew sinking meant certain death? What if the water had been as still as glass? Would this have given him more faith that he could walk on the water because it looked more like a solid substance? Isn’t it interesting that the water was churning and frothing when he chose to step out of the boat? How much did Peter’s love for the Savior or his yearning to be next to Jesus affect his belief that if Jesus said he could also walk on water that it was actually possible?

Wow! So many things to consider just from that one sentence! This is how we study the scriptures. There are lessons hidden all over the place, but we need to be asking questions and searching for answers for most of these hidden gems to be revealed. And many of the insights we gain will be just for our own personal growth. That is how the Spirit works. He is here to teach each one of us what we personally need to know to grow in Christ’s gospel. If we are seeking to be close to the Holy Ghost at all times then many of these questions will be prompted by him. And many that we think of on our own will be used by him to lead us to knowledge and insights about ourselves and the gospel we need for our own progression.

As an example, what do you think happened to Peter after he called out to Christ for help? The paintings always show Jesus reaching down and grabbing Peter by the hand, but then what? Did Jesus just walk to the boat towing Peter through the water then hauled him into the boat? Did he pull Peter up and put his arm around him to help him feel safe and together they walked to the nearest boat? The story doesn’t tell us these things, but one has to think, “What do I know about the personality of Christ?” “What do I think Jesus would do for Peter to show him how much he loved Peter and wanted to strengthen his faith?” Even thoughts like these can help strengthen our faith in Christ and teach us lessons about ourselves, especially if we put ourselves in Peter’s place. After all, how many times have we started “into the water” and then floundered in our faith and had to be rescued by the Lord or by one of his servants? How were we escorted back to safety? What lessons can we learn from these experiences?

As we think about things in this way, we fulfill the commandment to ponder things in our hearts. This is how we grow personally in the gospel. The Spirit can put thoughts and feelings in our way to help us see things in new ways and in a new light. Pondering can teach us that we are able to learn some amazing things about the gospel of Christ if we are just willing to spend some quiet time thinking about the possibilities and how they fit with the doctrine we already know. Pondering is powerful. If you read the first few verses of Doctrine and Covenants 138 you will see that President Smith was studying the scriptures and began to ponder them as he tried to understand them better. It was in his pondering that the Spirit opened the eyes of his understanding and he saw the vision of the redemption of the dead. He had already studied and learned the material, but now he was able to be shown a completely different point of view of the process, and many of his questions were answered through this spiritual experience.

Can you think of a time when thoughts have come into your head, seemingly from nowhere that led you to new understanding in the end?

If this has happened to you, can you remember what you were doing before those thoughts came into your head?

What part do you think being prepared for those thoughts to come plays in our lives?

How do you think we can prepare ourselves for receiving personal guidance from the Holy Ghost as we try to study and understand the scriptures better?

Can you write down some patterns in your life that would help you be prepared for such guidance? Can you write down habits that will help you get and stay ready for further guidance?

Day 2

John 5:17–47 – Jesus Christ honors His Father

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

I would like to state upfront here that if you read and study these verses in John then read and study all of John 17, the Savior’s great intercessory prayer, and finally listen to Elder Holland’s talk The Grandeur of God you should be profoundly moved. By the time I got to the middle of his talk I was deeply moved. The relationship between Jesus and the Father became more real to me than I have ever experienced or comprehended it before.

I sat and puzzled about this section for hours. How can my relationship with my Father in Heaven be the same as His relationship with Christ? I can’t compare myself to Christ, surely. Or can I? Let’s go back to John and take a look at some of what Jesus teaches.

John 5:17

17 ¶ But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

Jesus teaches us that his time spent in mortality was an imitation of the works his Father showed him. What are the commandments for, if not to teach us specific ways for us to do as the Savior did? And if we do as the Savior did then aren’t we duplicating the righteous behavior of our Father in Heaven? Isn’t that the whole point of mortality, to change our lives, our attitudes, and our behaviors to more closely reflect the lifestyle of God, our Father? Just saying that makes me cringe. Surely I can’t directly imitate God, Himself. But Jesus did every day of his life. And his instructions to us are to do as he did (which is what he saw his Father do). So I am not only able to behave like God, but I am commanded to do so.

John 5:20

20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth:

Our Father showed Jesus the things that He would do if He were personally here to show us His love as our Father. This is the behavior Jesus was emulating. And this is the very behavior he wants us to emulate or copy.

John 5:22–24

22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

I have mentioned in an earlier lesson that the role of Jesus changes from period to period. During his mortal ministry his role was to be the perfect example of the love of our Father. The atoning sacrifice itself is what our Father would have done for us Himself, if He could have been here to do it. But He has already been through mortality, so it had to be done by someone other than Himself. The reason our Father has committed the judgement of all His children to Jesus is because he was the one who came to pay for all our sins. He made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, demonstrating God’s own love for us in his suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross. And this was after having lived a life of perfect obedience, always seeking to do the will of his Father in all things (verse 17).

So how does this apply to us? Does Jesus ever tell us to pray to him (Jesus), to worship him, or to honor him directly? The scriptures are replete with instructions from Christ for us to pray to the Father, to worship the Father, and to honor the Father. The Spirit teaches us that Jesus is the perfect representation of our Father. His role (Jesus) is to bring us to God that we might be saved.

What Jesus was trying to teach his apostles and disciples was that our Father in Heaven is who taught Jesus what it means to have mercy, to love without bounds, and to be obedient. It was our Father in Heaven who taught Jesus how to minister to others, to bind up their wounds and lift up those with feeble knees. This is what our relationship is supposed to be with our Father in Heaven. Jesus has shown us the way.

When we pray to our Father are we asking Him to show us the way to do the works Jesus showed us?

Are we trying to emulate the behavior of God’s only Begotten Son in how we treat our family members and those around us each day?

As much as we venerate the Son for all he has done for us, it is our relationship with our Father that will save us. For it is Him, and Him alone whom we worship and to whom we pray. How can you use the Savior’s example in John 5 and John 17 to improve your relationship with your Father in Heaven, just as Jesus did?

The Grandeur of God by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Day 3

Matthew 14:16–21; Mark 6:33–44; John 6:5–14 – The Savior can magnify my humble offerings to accomplish His purposes.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

One of the principles I have talked about before in other articles is the ripple effect of good and evil. Our original act of good is like the spot where the stone is dropped into the pond. But what happens after that stone hits the water is what the Lord is able to do with the good we just did. Like water ripples that move away from the point of origin to reach to the far shores of the pond then bounce back and continue to travel, so does the effect of good in the lives of people we meet.

Here is a YouTube video about the effect we have on one another when we do good. This is an ad for a group that does good for others, and is all contrived, but the principle is sound. Doing good has a magnifying effect, just like that rock hitting the pond. We never know how far the effects of our single act will go or how many people it may affect. In fact, we don’t know when it will take effect either. Something you do for another today may manifest itself in a good way years down the road when the person you served remembers your love.

PayItForward

The Lord takes all credit for the good in the universe, for all good comes and emanates from Him. How many times have most of us “heard” the voice of our mother or father reminding us to do and be better when faced with a choice? I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my mother tell me in my mind, “Now Kelly, I’ve raised you better than that.” The commandments and scriptures can do the same thing for us. When we are faced with a decision to make or are in a tough situation, how many times have you had the words of a hymn, a scripture, or of a prophet come into your head giving you counsel? We do what we can then the Lord steps in and helps us take the next step to accomplish the most good that we can.

Can you think of a time when someone has done something good for you or to you that has positively affected your life?

Has an act of kindness toward you ever manifested itself in your behavior toward someone else or in other situations?

Day 4

Matthew 14:22–33; Mark 6:45–52; John 6:15–21 – Jesus Christ invites me to set aside my fears and doubts and exercise faith in Him.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

We have a choice when it comes to exercising faith. Our outlook determines whether or not we can demonstrate our faith in something. Let’s look at an extreme case, like Peter’s invitation from the Lord to walk on water as an example.

Peter and those in his boat had been rowing hard for more than six hours to try to get across just the top tip of the lake called the Sea of Galilee. They started the crossing in the early evening, probably before 9:00 p.m., while Jesus stayed behind and prayed. In the fourth watch, which is between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., in the darkest part of the night, they were still fighting the wind trying to get their little boats to shore without being blown into the middle of the lake. I’m sure they were all tired to the point of exhaustion by then.

In the meantime, Jesus had finished his alone time with his Father and had set out to cross the lake on his own. We don’t have any written record that explains why he didn’t even try to get a boat to carry him across the lake. It is a large lake, but you can see the far side from the shore looking east to west or vice versa. For whatever reason, Jesus decided to walk the distance – across the water. Who even thinks of using water as a sidewalk? But then his ways are not our ways.

So here it is, in the darkest part of the night, the wind is howling, the waves surging and spraying, and the men in the boat are still struggling to gain ground in their efforts to cross the top of the lake. John tells us they had rowed three to three and a half miles (25-30 furlongs) on the open water already, and were near their destination. Out of the darkness they make out the figure of a man moving across the water. They are terrified beyond measure, thinking a spirit is abroad on the water. After all, people are not able to walk on the water, so what else could it be?

They cry out in fear at the specter, but the specter replies to their cries with an assurance that it is someone they know. It is Jesus. In Matthew 14:27–28 Matthew describes the story like this:

27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

This is where one of two attitudes kicked in. It appears everyone else in the boat had the second attitude, but Peter had the first. His desire, above all else, was to be with his master. He wasn’t thinking with his head, but with his heart. His whole focus was on Jesus, and his desire to be where Jesus was and to be doing what Jesus was doing. So Jesus bids him to come to him. Peter, still completely focused on who he was going to, steps out on the water, unmindful of precisely what he was doing, and confidently strode toward Jesus.

That is when he made his mistake and began to think like everyone else who stayed in the boat. Notice none of the men in the boat volunteered to jump out of the boat and come running to Jesus. Only Peter was focused just on the commandment of Jesus to come. But when Peter was closing the distance between the boat and Jesus, the billowing waves, the blowing wind, and the distance between him and the boat caught his attention. No longer was Peter focusing on Jesus and his commandment to come. Now he was looking at the physical reality around him and the oddity of the situation crowded into his mind, and doubts reared their ugly heads. Immediately he began to sink into the water, and crying out to Jesus he said, “Lord, save me!” Jesus walk the remaining distance to him and took him by the hand and pulled him up out of the water, with a mild rebuke for having so little faith.

I personally understand the second attitude more than the first. The first attitude, that of Peter, keeps the focus on Christ and his love for, and his desire to be with him. The realities of this world don’t mean anything with this focus. They are overridden by the desire to obey and be with Christ. Obviously, Christ knew there were laws or abilities that could be used to walk on the water, and his understanding and knowledge made it possible for him to do it with ease. Peter didn’t have to understand that those laws or abilities even existed. All that really mattered was how much trust he was placing in the one calling him to come.

The second attitude cannot permit something like walking on water. When Peter saw the “ridiculousness” of what he was doing, walking on water, which was impossible, it became real, and he began to sink. All his senses convinced him that what was being asked of him was not possible. The funny part though is that there was Jesus, right in front of him, still standing on top of the water. But Peter at this point chose to believe his senses, his fears, and possibly the gasps and exclamations from those in the boat over what had caused him to climb out of the boat in the first place.

Suppose we are asked to defend the prophet because someone has dug up some apparent “dirt” on him that we can’t explain, which attitude do we adopt? Do we focus on our faith, our desire to believe what the Spirit has already taught us in the past, and are we focusing on our goal of reaching eternal life with God, or do we immediately buckle under what look like facts, discarding all the evidences we have already been given by the Spirit, and stop believing?

When someone presents us with “scientific” evidence that Joseph Smith couldn’t have translated papyrus to get the book of Abraham, because he obviously didn’t have any knowledge of ancient Egyptian, and there are no papyrus records to prove the Church right anyway, do we cave and crumple? Do we remember that the point of this life is to learn to exercise faith, and do we remember all the times the Spirit has told us that the Pearl of Great Price is the word of God? If we can remember such evidences, it helps us keep our focus where it belongs, on the Spirit, on Christ, and on eternity. There are a lot of things in this life we won’t have answers for that will please the skeptics. This life is all about developing faith in God and living accordingly. We have great things awaiting us after this life. The faith we learn to develop in this life is going to be what is needed to accomplish the kinds of challenges we will need to control the elements one day.

In Jacob 4:4–7 Jacob explains why he talks about the things he does in the scriptural record. Note that as you read these verses he explains what keeping our focus on Christ and his commandments can do for us in our daily lives.

For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.

Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son.

Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.

It is important to recognize that Jacob is not saying that humans have the ability to control the elements of the earth. All things are done in the name of Jesus. Verse seven tells us that it is by our weakness that we can recognize that it is the grace of God that makes all these things possible. Again, our focus has to remain on Christ at all times. It must be an all consuming focus. If it is not then the “realities” of the world will chisel away at our faith, and will weaken what we can accomplish in his name. Focus on Christ brings confidence and courage. Taking our focus off Christ introduces fear that destroys faith.

Can you think of something that acts in your life as a distraction, that prevents you from keeping Jesus and his commandments from being your main focus in life?

Day 5

John 6:22–71 – As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I must be willing to believe and accept the truth, even when it is hard to do.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of this week’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

In John 6:26 Jesus tells the people that seeing his miracles wasn’t why they were following him, but because he had fed them.

26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

In the following few verses Jesus tells them that they should not be pursuing just bread alone, for bread perishes or spoils. They should be pursuing and trying to find that bread or nourishment that will let them live forever, without ever spoiling. Jesus was referring to himself, as the bread of life, but all they could think of was the physical food. That is all they were interested in.

When Jesus told them they needed to believe in him whom the Father had sent to feed them, they wanted to know what sign he was going to give them to prove he was sent from God. They were completely ignoring all the miracles he had already done for everyone. It didn’t seem to matter that Jesus had raised the dead, caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, or the deaf to hear. They wanted a sign, and what were they looking for? They wanted free food, like their forefathers had at the hands of Moses when he gave them manna in the wilderness.

John 6:32–34

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

Jesus corrects them and reminds them that Moses did not send down bread from heaven, it was God. But God is now sending to them the bread that gives life to the whole world. Again, thinking with their stomachs, they asked for this bread to be given to them forever more. Jesus tries to teach them that he is that bread they seek (or at least should be seeking). Those who consume him, eat of his flesh and drink of his blood will live forever. At first this may sound like an odd sort of cannibalism, but isn’t that the symbolism of the sacrament, to eat and drink of his flesh and blood?

Jesus had mentioned before that the Father has already promised Jesus an inheritance of souls to be his to enjoy for the rest of eternity. These are they who believe in him. Those who believe in Christ and obey his commandments are promised to Christ as his personal inheritance, one he will never lose. The sacrament is the symbol of our first and most basic covenant with God, our Father. Those who worthily partake of Christ’s sacrament will never be lost. Christ has been promised that those who worthily partake of the renewing of their covenants, his flesh and blood, will be saved with Jesus in eternity.

John 6:47–51 reminds the people that the food God gave their forefathers was a temporal, and temporary food. They are all dead, meaning they did not live forever after having eaten that food which God gave them. But if they eat the food Jesus will give them, the sacrament, they will live forever. In verse 51 he talks about his flesh being the bread, because he is going to give his flesh for the everlasting life of the world. At least all those who believe.

47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

48 I am that bread of life.

49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Jesus teaches another important lesson in John 6:56–57. When Jesus says that he lives by the Father, think about their relationship. He is the only begotten son in the flesh. He has the capacity to die and the capacity to give and take life at will from his Father. Because of his atoning sacrifice he is able to offer resurrection and eternal life to those who “shall live by me.” So those who take the sacrament worthily, and believe in Christ will have life eternal through Christ. This is the Father’s promise to His son.

56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

Those who followed Jesus for the food he might provide them found this doctrine to be unacceptable, and went away.

Do we ever struggle with a doctrine and find it “hard?”

What do we do when we don’t understand or comprehend a doctrine? Do we walk away?

What do you do when you find a doctrine to be hard to live or hard to understand?

What do you think the Savior was hoping the people would do when they didn’t understand his doctrine?

Can you find any evidence in the scriptures of this chapter that indicate that the people asked for clarification or understanding?

John 6:67–68

67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

What makes Peter’s reply to Jesus different from his conversation with the multitude?

Family Scripture Study and Home Evening

John 5:1–16

I would like to turn this passage into a parable of sorts. The following verses are just the meat of the story. Reread them then meet up with me on the other side and we’ll talk about the lessons to be learned.

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

17 ¶ But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

I would like to submit that we are all that man with an infirmity of 38 years. Spiritually, we are all crippled, with no way to be healed. We all sit at the edge of the pool, gazing longingly at our opportunity to be cleansed of our infirmity, but with no way to take advantage of it, because there is no one to help us into the pool.

Jesus sees us lying by the pool with no way to take advantage of its healing powers, and understanding us asks, “Wilt thou be made whole?” All he asks is an affirmative answer, a show of a tiny bit of faith, and he tells us, “Rise, take up they bed, and walk.” But each of us is also given the injunction from the master, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”

The Savior’s atoning sacrifice is our own personal pool of Bethesda. But Jesus is the only one who can help us down into the pool. It is important to realize that our infirmity is not physical in nature, it is self inflicted through sin. He can heal us, but it is up to us to go and “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 13