Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hope in a Challenging World- My talk for Church

Today is Sunday and we're off to church in a little while. I'm giving the second talk in Sacrament Meeting which is the main meeting where you listen to a sermon and have sacrament (bread and water) sort of like communion. I was told I could speak about anything I liked so the topic I chose was Hope and having a positive attitude. I used the scriptures, excerpts from a talk given in October 2008 conference by Deiter F. Uchtdorf and from a talk by Rebecca Gwynn Stradling about Hope. The opinions expressed are my own.

Here's my talk:

Faith, Hope and Charity.

How Hope and a Positive attitude make our lives and the lives of those around us more happy, productive and peaceful.

In his beautiful discourse on charity in 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, Paul makes rather cryptic reference to three eternal principles: “and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three.” (1 Cor. 13:13.) He goes on to describe charity as “the greatest of these,” with no explanation of why faith and hope are mentioned in that context, or if there is any special relationship between these virtues.
Interestingly, Mormon makes the same connection between faith, hope and charity in Moroni chapter 10. He goes much further, however, in developing their interrelationship:
“Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
“And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.” (Moro. 10: 20–21.)
Mormon makes it clear that faith, hope, and charity are not associated by chance. They are not only interrelated; they are, indeed, interdependent. Faith is a necessary foundation for hope, which in turn is prerequisite to the development of charity.
Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a subject that receives frequent attention in sacrament meeting talks and Church classrooms. We also hear a good deal about charity, defined by Mormon as the pure love of Christ. But the central virtue, hope, gets little direct attention despite its pivotal position between the other two—a position identifying it as an outgrowth of faith and a prelude to charity.

I like what Pres Uchtdorf said in conference in October 2008..
Hope is one leg of a three-legged stool, together with faith and charity. These three stabilize our lives regardless of the rough or uneven surfaces we might encounter at the time. The scriptures are clear and certain about the importance of hope. The Apostle Paul taught that the scriptures were written to the end that we “might have hope.” 1
Hope has the power to fill our lives with happiness. 2 Its absence—when this desire of our heart is delayed—can make “the heart sick.” 3
We commonly use the word hope this way... “I hope” (I hope I pass that exam; I hope it doesn’t rain) usually expresses a wish overshadowed by a strongly implied doubt. What does a word like “hope” have to do with faith, or charity—or anything at all but wishful thinking?
If you go to the dictionary you'll find that the problem is partially one of misuse or misunderstanding. In spite of the way we are accustomed to using it, a primary definition of the word connotes, not a wish, but an expectation of things to come. This emphasis on expectation harks back through centuries of English usage to New Testament Greek. And it is this sense of expectation, as opposed to wishing, that makes all the difference when “hope” appears in a scriptural context. In a spiritual context is should imply trust and confidence in our Saviour and in his Atonement.
Believers in Jesus Christ in all ages have had good cause to hope. “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord,” says David. (Ps. 31:24.) Courage to attempt any undertaking comes from the belief and expectation that it can be done. Hope generated by the promises of the Lord to the righteous has been the motivator for many mighty works by servants of God. And power to do anything with the help of the Lord quite literally depends upon the degree to which we are willing to hope for, and to expect, that help. “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us according as we hope in thee.” (Ps. 33:22, italics added.)
Faith in Jesus Christ and the power of his atonement to save all who follow him is the central element of Christian hope. Paul spoke of having “hope toward God, … that there shall be a resurrection of the dead.” (Acts 24:15.) To the Thessalonians he wrote; “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?” (1 Thes. 2:19.) When Mormon writes, “Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal” (Moro. 7:41), he is telling us that we can expect to be resurrected, and that we can so live as to merit eternal life.
Having faith in the Lord, we must then have hope that through him we can enjoy the blessings of eternal life with our Father in Heaven. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said:
“There is no equivocation, no doubt, no uncertainty in our minds. Those who have been true and faithful in this life will not fall by the wayside in the life to come. If they keep their covenants here and now and depart this life firm and true in the testimony of our blessed Lord, they shall come forth with an inheritance of eternal life.
“We do not mean to say that those who die in the Lord, and who are true and faithful in this life, must be perfect in all things when they go into the next sphere of existence. There was only one perfect man—the Lord Jesus whose Father was God. …
“But what we are saying is that when the saints of God chart a course of righteousness, when they gain sure testimonies of the truth and divinity of the Lord’s work, when they keep the commandments, when they overcome the world, when they put first in their lives the things of God’s kingdom: when they do all these things, and then depart this life—though they have not yet become perfect—they shall nonetheless gain eternal life in our Father’s kingdom; and eventually they shall be perfect as God their Father and Christ His Son are perfect.” (Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 107.)
It should be pointed out here that this hope, or expectation, of salvation is firmly based on principles of righteousness, as is every aspect of the gospel. We believe falsely if we do not follow our expressions of faith with good works. And our hope is false if it is not based on active, living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “When ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” the Lord tells us. (D&C 82:10.) As Mormon writes, “If ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.” (Moro. 10:22.)
This leads us to another aspect of hope.
Sometimes we allow our sins to drag us down into the “despair of iniquity.” Some, weighted down by a serious transgression, may give up the search for personal perfection in a frenzy of self-depreciation. This despair is very different from constructive self-criticism, which Alma describes as the “trouble which shall bring you down unto repentance.” (Alma 42:29.) Despair is potentially one of the most destructive aspects of human experience. If you truly believed the Lord can save you, you'd would believe that you have the capacity to take advantage of his atonement. You must have faith both in the Lord and in yourself.
Faith in ourselves? Hope in ourselves? Yes! In reaching for the promises we have been given we must look beyond weaknesses, sins, and fears, believing that all is possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and that our honest efforts will bear fruit. It is necessary to separate the sin from the self. We must hope even as we fail, and repent—and then strive not to fail again.
Failure to have hope is a serious block to spiritual progress. Because of the veil it is impossible to fully know, and hence appreciate, oneself. We enjoyed a timeless span of experiences before this life which we cannot now remember. However, the fact that we are here at all indicates that we were good. We must believe in, and act on, the fact that we are literally the children of our Father in Heaven. Consider again the words of John:
Hope grows out of our faith that we are the sons and daughters of God and that we can be like him. What great expectations that hope will build in us! What motivation and power it will give us to do the things we know are right. As Paul said, “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12.) Hope gives us the ability to expect that, when we see as we are seen and know as we are known, what we are will be good. Hope of this eventual perfection gives us strength to repent of small and serious weaknesses alike.
This increased ability to appreciate our own possibilities—improved spiritual eyesight, as it were—carries over to our relationships with other people. It does not require great intellectual insight to recognize that what holds true for us also holds true for every other human being. Nothing prompts charity as rapidly as the realization that our neighbors, our friends, our family, and even people we don’t know (or don’t like) are the children of our Father in Heaven, and are perfectly capable of becoming like him. Understanding this is just one lesson on our journey back to our Heavenly Father.

Pres Uchtdorf said...
Hope is a gift of the Spirit. It is a hope that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection, we shall be raised unto life eternal and this because of our faith in the Savior. This kind of hope is both a principle of promise as well as a commandment, and, as with all commandments, we have the responsibility to make it an active part of our lives and overcome the temptation to lose hope. Hope in our Heavenly Father’s merciful plan of happiness leads to peace, mercy, rejoicing, and gladness. and an anchor to our souls.

But Why Then Is There Despair?
The scriptures say that there must be “an opposition in all things.” So it is with faith, hope, and charity. Doubt, despair, and failure to care for our fellowmen lead us into temptation, which can cause us to forfeit choice and precious blessings.
The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear.

We cannot always control circumstances in our lives, but we can control our attitude toward them. It is possible to develop a more cheerful, optimistic attitude that will lead to better health, more beauty within and without, closer friendships, and greater opportunities to serve the Lord and our fellowmen. When we have a positive attitude we can more easily feel the Spirit. We are a better example to others, and we uplift those around us. Making a decision to be positive is absolutely possible! On days when your body aches or things aren't going well financially or any other reasons that get you down you can do some simple things to raise your spirits:

Count your blessings.
Learn the power of laughter.
Enjoy beautiful music and literature. They can lift your spirits.
Look for beauty everywhere you go. Look for it in nature, in art, and in the faces of loved ones.
Strive to improve yourself each day.
Look for the good in everything.
Try to see the possibilities for spiritual growth in new experiences.

This last one is of course very relevant to our family right now. In 2 weeks we'll be moving to the Annapolis Valley. What the Lord has in store for us there we don't know, we only know that He's told us to go, and so we shall.
Nephi 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 hope that in our case his 'preparing a way' includes watching over our motorhome on it's 7100 km journey but I'm not sure that's what Nephi meant at the time.
In the movie Dune there's a line that I love where a father is giving advice to his son. . He says “ A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside allowing them to grow. Without change something sleeps inside us and seldom awakens.
I'm very grateful for this opportunity to have new experiences and to learn to see things from a different perspective. I know that when I look back on all I learn I'll be able to see the Lord's hand guiding my life.
I'm grateful for the trials and successes that I've had in my life because they've made me the person I am today, and while I'm far from perfect I'm getting there slowly. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and try to keep a positive attitude. It's not always easy. Some blessings come right away and others we have to wait for. But Heavenly Father blesses us at the time and in the ways that will benefit us the most.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Ok, so I did deviate a little from my talk and I added a lot of personal stuff too, but the general jist is that things can get better for us everyday. Our attitude is up to us, and that we just have to keep trying.