fear and faith are opposites
Week 14 is scheduled for study March 27-April 2, 2023. Too often the fears of our life come from too much thinking and not enough acting. Faith requires action. Too much focus on life can detract from our faith.

Day 1

As you read Matthew 14; Mark 6; and John 5-6, look for truths that are meaningful to you. You might ask yourself questions such as “How do the accounts in these chapters relate to me?” “What messages do I find for my life?” or “What would I like to share with my family or with others?”

John 5:16-47 – Jesus Christ honors His Father.

Let’s take a stroll through these verses. The first verse I would like to comment on is verse 19.

19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

Many take this verse so literally that they believe that Christ did not do anything in mortality unless God did it first during His own mortal life. Whether that is true in the strictest sense I can’t know. What I can say is that if it is true then that cuts us out from emulating our Father’s behavior or Christ’s behavior. We haven’t ever personally witnessed God or Christ’s behavior, so we can’t do likewise.

My personal opinion is that Jesus was modeling his behavior after the behavior he witnessed from his Father. His Father was good, so Jesus was good. Our Father loved purely and completely, so the Son did as well. These are behaviors we can also model, and are also within our reach. To me, this makes both God and Christ more accessible and duplicatable. Like I said, just my opinion.

There is a principle that God honors in all generations of time. That principle is the chain of command He, Himself has set up for the salvation of His children. Whatever God says for the welfare of His children we will be held accountable to obey. If He personally sends His Son to tell us the same thing, we are held just as accountable as if God, Himself has told us. If the Son sends his prophet to tell us the same information, we are held just as accountable for the information as if the Father, Himself had said it. Even if the prophet sends an Apostle, Stake President, Bishop, or a missionary to testify of the same information, we are still going to be held just as accountable for our acceptance of that teaching. This is where Christ teaches this principle himself (John 5:22-23).

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.

Note here in Doctrine and Covenants 43:25 how the Lord doesn’t differentiate between his own voice and that of any of his servants. We will be held just as accountable for the information, no matter who delivers the message. I have shortened the verse to just the list of humans involved in the messages God sends to us.

25 How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, … and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!

Jesus teaches us that anyone who believes what any of his servants teach them are saved from eternal death (John 5:24). Notice that his only qualification is that whomever hears the message believe. He doesn’t qualify that his message has to come directly from God or from himself. The important thing here is that we believe the gospel, the good news Jesus brings us from our Father. Where it comes from or who it comes from, is not important.

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.

In verse 30 Jesus teaches us that even though God has given him the right to judge us when it comes time to send us on to whatever eternal glory (or non-glory) we have earned, he is able to do so only because he has sought to do as his Father does. This is the ultimate emulation of God’s character and disposition.

30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

He judges only as our Father in Heaven would judge, so there will be no difference in the final judgment we receive from Christ, because he is only doing what God, Himself would have done also. There is no power play here, no setting himself up to be better than any of us. All he is doing is letting us know that all he (Jesus) does and accomplishes in life is because he is doing what God would do in the same situation. This is the example we are to follow, and it makes no difference whether we follow God or Jesus, for their behavior is the same. Their love is the same, and their judgment is the same.

Finally, starting in verse 31, Jesus reviews the law of witnesses. He set the law with Adam, and it is a law that exists as long as the earth and mortality bears sway. No one can bear testimony of themself. Someone else must do the witnessing for it to be believable, which means we can be judged on that witness, but not the witness of the person being testified of. So Jesus can’t bear witness of himself, but he can bear witness of John the Baptist who bore witness of Jesus’s divinity. They bear witness of each other, which God will uphold in the eternal courts. In the following verses Jesus lists the various witnesses of himself and the work he was sent to do. He also acknowledges that the people won’t accept those witnesses, and as a result will pay the price for their rejection.

Final Thoughts

We were asked by the manual to consider the ways in which Jesus honors his Father in these verses. As you read and reread these verses do you see any holes, any cracks in their relationship that might cause us to doubt the Father giving all judgment to the Son? I don’t see anything that would cause me to second guess God in this issue. Jesus shows us how perfectly he honors our Father. We see that there is no discrepancy in anything Jesus does between God’s will and Jesus’s behavior. This assures me that all that Jesus says can be trusted and lived by.

Day 2

As you read Matthew 14; Mark 6; and John 5-6, look for truths that are meaningful to you. You might ask yourself questions such as “How do the accounts in these chapters relate to me?” “What messages do I find for my life?” or “What would I like to share with my family or with others?”

Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:33-44; John 6:5-14 – The Savior can magnify my humble offerings to accomplish His purposes.

I have only one point to make here. Did you notice, between the verses for today’s lesson and the manual’s comments, that Jesus never asked his disciples directly to do the feeding of the 5,000? At no time did he say, “Go make sure they are full and well fed.” No, instead Jesus said ‘They are hungry and need to be fed. What resources do we have at hand that will do the job?’ The disciples took stock of what they had and reported back to Jesus.

After Jesus knew what they had available, he told them what they needed to do. First the disciples were to have the crowd sit down in predefined groups. After they were all organized and seated the disciples were to gather baskets so they could feed the crowd. Jesus called for the food that was currently available, and it was he who blessed it and put it in the baskets. The disciples just delivered what was given to them by the Savior to the people. When all were fed, the Lord required that they gather the leftovers so nothing would go to waste. This served as a testimony of the might and scope of the miracle Jesus performed that day.

The disciples weren’t required to perform a miracle, only to participate with the Savior in administering that miracle to the people. When we do the will of God, no matter how simple (think of gathering the baskets) we are often participating in a miracle in someone’s life. We may not even see ahead to know what that miracle might be, but because we had the faith of a mustard seed and provided what service we were able to provide, God was able to do what was actually needed for those whom we served.

My wife is part of a chain of what I consider to be miracles. The prophet was commanded to find ways to save the dead by using the efforts of those now living in mortality. He found programmers who were inspired to write code that finds information for us on those who have passed on. The members of the church have been asked to do what they can to index and merge records, to record and submit information to enlarge the database for those who have already lived their lives.

This information is then cleaned up, used by, and provided to even more people through the little efforts of countless selfless acts of service on the part of those who index, attach sources, and take names to the temple. Because of the little efforts of all these millions of people, even more millions of people are having their families added to the worldwide family tree. The work is being done for their salvation, and those on the other side of the veil are able to accept that work and move forward with their salvation. All of this is done by God through the tiny efforts of faith provided by the individuals who listen to the prophet. In my mind she is, in effect, helping to feed the five thousand. This is a modern day version of the same miracle.

Just as Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes, so too does God make His own work move forward in miraculous ways. We are God’s disciples who are gathering the baskets and doing the deliveries by following the orders given to us by God. We do the grunt work, and He gets the glory, but we all share in the joy of the miracles He performs in our behalf, and in behalf of those whom we love.

Day 3

As you read Matthew 14; Mark 6; and John 5-6, look for truths that are meaningful to you. You might ask yourself questions such as “How do the accounts in these chapters relate to me?” “What messages do I find for my life?” or “What would I like to share with my family or with others?”

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.

I love the character of Peter, the chief apostle. I think, especially at the beginning of his ministry, that Peter was impetuous and somewhat rash. In other words, he acted at times without really thinking things through. He let his heart do the leading. In his center he was in love with what God was doing. He was so happy to be a part of what he was witnessing.

When they were struggling against the wind, and not making much progress, they were all discouraged. In that moment of discouragement they encountered Jesus just walking across that very water they were having such a hard time getting through. Jesus didn’t seem to be having any trouble at all crossing the water as he had already walked most of the distance from where they set out to where they were going. Peter was thrilled when Jesus told him to get out of the boat and come to him.

Note that Peter didn’t think about his surrounding physical conditions. All he experienced in that moment was his desire to be with the man he loved. I really don’t think Peter actively thought about what it meant to get out of the boat and walk on the water. All he knew was that he was being beckoned to by Jesus, and he wanted so badly to be with him, so he just acted on that love and desire. It wasn’t until he was part way to Jesus that the world muscled its way into his consciousness and he began to doubt what he was doing and then began to sink.

To me, the lesson here is that when we don’t think about the world, but keep our focus on Christ, that is when we are able to do things that the world believes is impossible. Notice that, like yesterday’s lesson about the loaves and fishes, Jesus doesn’t ask us to do the miracle. We are only to exercise our faith in him and he will work the miracles in our life. It doesn’t really matter if it is us walking on water or being able to pay our tithing when everything around us says we will fail if we do. When we keep our focus on Christ we are able to do things that would otherwise cause us to sink.

Day 4

As you read Matthew 14; Mark 6; and John 5-6, look for truths that are meaningful to you. You might ask yourself questions such as “How do the accounts in these chapters relate to me?” “What messages do I find for my life?” or “What would I like to share with my family or with others?”

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.

I hope you have just read the manual, because my words are based on what the manual says. They will make more sense if you have read the manual.

When I was told by my priesthood leaders I would have to leave town and be homeless for months (long story, but I have written about it in an article entitled How Far Will You Go? There are actually two articles in this series. My wife’s experience is the other story.), I was faced with the decision of either leaving the church for the betrayal I was then feeling or doing what my priesthood leaders told me to do, even though I was offended by their suggestion that I was not a good father and that I wasn’t doing right by my children.

As I considered what it would mean to leave the church that I then thought had so terribly betrayed me in every way, I thought about what it would mean to not be in the church any longer. Where could I go in the world and find the peace and joy I found in the gospel of Christ? What other church option might I consider to be better than the Savior’s restored church? No matter what options I thought up, all of them were inferior, by a longshot, to what I currently had, no matter how I felt about it at the moment.

This experience gave me a new sense of appreciation for Peter’s expression “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” Life in that moment felt very hard indeed, but life anywhere else seemed even harder. So I determined to do whatever I had to do to forgive and move forward in faithfulness. It was one of most difficult decisions of my life, but also one of the most defining decisions I ever made. I believe it changed the trajectory of my life from that day forward.

FHE/Personal Study

John 5:1-16 – Being made whole

Consider for a moment the difference between life today and life in Jesus’ day. Think of all those around you in your neighborhood, ward, or in your life. Who has problems with their back? What about with their kidneys, cancer, lung problems, eczema, depression, migraines, those who need glasses or hearing aids, or those who suffer from dementia, physical deformities, etc.? We have so many ways to treat common ailments today. Back in Christ’s day there was so little that could be done for what we consider now to be the little things. They just had to live with their condition.

Think about the excitement that his coming caused in a town when everyone knew that just his mere presence could heal you of everything that made your life more difficult to live. He could help you see clearly, hear what your family was saying, take away the pain from that back injury, or straighten that crooked ankle that had kept you from working all these years. Small wonder people lined the city streets just to touch the hem of his garments so they could be healed. They didn’t have to understand how he did it. All they knew was that wherever this man went people were healed, and they wanted some of that for themselves.

The people were only looking at being physically healed of their infirmities. These were things they could see with their eyes. What they weren’t seeing were the healings where Christ healed the broken hearted, brought peace to the lonely or bereaved. They didn’t see those who learned patience, tolerance, greater faith, those things they had been lacking that he provided a way to learn.

Christ is the universal healer. Whatever it is that we lack or what we have wrong with us, he can find a way to help us be better because we came to him about it. Even if our physical distresses or our mental distresses aren’t changed, Christ can show us how to deal with them and find peace in our life despite them. This is what it is to become whole. The definition of becoming perfect is to be made complete or whole. Christ helps us find the ways we need to fill in the gaps in our life and to change those things which are currently not working for us. All these changes bring us closer to the wholeness or perfection God wants for us.

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NT14-2023 – Be Not Afraid

Week 14