My lovely friend Marie Nadsady gave this talk in Sacrament meeting last Sunday.
On those days when we have special need of heaven’s help, we would do well to remember one of the titles given to the Savior in the epistle to the Hebrews. Speaking of Jesus’”more excellent ministry” and why He is “the mediator of a better covenant” filled with “better promises,” this author—presumably the Apostle Paul—tells us that through His mediation and Atonement, Christ became “an high priest of good things to come.”
Every one of us has times when we need to know things will get better. Moroni spoke of it in the Book of Mormon as “hope for a better world.” For emotional health and spiritual stamina, everyone needs to be able to look forward to some respit, to something pleasant and renewing and hopeful, whether that blessing be near at hand or still some distance ahead. It is enough just to know we can get there, that however measured or far away, there is the promise of “good things to come.”
My testimony and talk today is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There ishappiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the “light that is endless, that can never be darkened.” It is the very Son of God Himself. In loving praise far beyond Romeo’s reach, we say, “What light through yonder window breaks?” It is the return of hope, and Jesus is the Sun. To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His “more excellent ministry” with a future of “better promises.” He is your “high priest of good things to come.”
I remember a time on my mission when my companion and I had no one to teach. We were serving in a part Wales which was very beautiful but inconveniently had more sheep than people. We decided to fast and pray until we found a family. I had been out on the mission long enough to learn that all miracles come through fasting and prayer. So that’s what we did and with a week we found a wonderful family to teach! A mother and four children. We began teaching them and they were what missionaries would call “golden”.
But one day after dinner Sharon, the mother, told us she thought it would be better if they didn’t learn about the gospel anymore. That they loved having us round to visit them but that they didn’t think the gospel was for them. My companion and I were utterly devastated. How could this be? Had we not prayed and fasted repeatedly to find them? Why would God lead us to them? Why would they not want the countless blessings the gospel? I thought If I had only taught them better they wouldn’t be saying this. Was I not teaching by the spirit? What was wrong with me? All these thoughts and many more overwhelmed me. I felt like a complete failure and had let everyone down: My companion, this beautiful family and my Heavenly Father. When we got home I was compelled to go straight into a quiet room, knelt down and pray. After I had gotten all my feelings out, the one thought that was able to console me was the sweet knowledge and assurance that God still loves me. That knowledge overcame me for a moment. It was a peaceful and profound moment of realisation.
The great plan of agency can be difficult and frustrating doctrine at times, but is critical that we understand it. We would not want it any other way.
The family did not get baptised but we had planted a seed and that, maybe is all that was needed at the time. Sometimes we, as mortals do not see the grand picture our Heavenly Father sees. Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. I love knowing that In the gospel of Christ there really are no endings. As elder Uchtdorf once said,
How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.
I believe they call the atonement ‘infinite and eternal’ for that same reason. Just because someone rejects the gospel now, does not mean they always will.
It is because of life’s tempests that can I testify of God’s love and the Saviour’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” 8Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” 9 Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!
No one’s eyes were more penetrating than His, and much of what He saw pierced His heart. Surely His ears heard every cry of distress, every sound of want and despair. To a degree far more than we will ever understand, He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” 10 Indeed, to the layman in the streets of Judea, Christ’s career must have seemed a complete failure, a tragedy, a good man totally overwhelmed by the evils surrounding Him and the misdeeds of others. He was misunderstood or misrepresented, even hated from the beginning. No matter what He said or did, His statements were twisted, His actions suspected, His motives impugned. In the entire history of the world no one has ever loved so purely or served so selflessly—and been treated so diabolically for His effort. Yet nothing could break His faith in His Father’s plan or His Father’s promises. Even in those darkest hours at Gethsemane and Calvary, He pressed on, continuing to trust in the very God whom He momentarily feared had forsaken Him.
Because Christ’s eyes were unfailingly fixed on the future, He could endure all that was required of Him, suffer as no man can suffer except it be “unto death,” 11 as King Benjamin so put it. We are to follow Christ’s example and do the same. We must fix our eyes on the future, and keep going until we have done that God has asked us to do.
Perhaps, for most of us life is pretty good at the moment and we don’t have any major trials. If this is true for you, then I invite you to take this time to prepare for storms ahead, because they will come. Commit to making the times of greatest struggle also the times of greatest learning. I believe we can only truly come to know our saviour when we suffer.
Elder maxwell said,
“The very act of choosing to be a disciple can bring to us a certain special suffering. Such suffering and chastening is the dimension that comes with deep discipleship. It’s appears to be important that all who will can come to know the fellowship of his sufferings. At times, we are taken to the very edge of our faith; we teeter at the edge of our trust in a form of learning as it is administered at the hands of a loving father.”
Take the relatively calmer times in your life to study the Saviour and his attributes. I wanted to finish with just a few of Christ’s attributes that I have been studying lately, starting with empathy.
One of the greatest indicators of righteous character is the capacity to recognise and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. Character is revealed for example, in the power to discern the suffering of other people when we ourselves are suffering; in the ability to detect the hunger of others when we are hungry; and in the power to reach out and extend compassion for the spiritual agony of others when we are in the midst of our own spiritual distress. (Bednar)
I’m often so amazed at my friends who comfort others when their own needs are greater than those being comforted. That quality is like the generosity of Jesus on the cross. Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity.
Christ was Patient.
There is a dimension of patience which links it to a special reverence for life. Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising. So it is with us. If we are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be. (Maxwell)
Christ is our example of learning.
Christ grew from grace to grace D&C 93.12
And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;
Only our Savior lived a perfect life, and even He learned and grew in mortal experience. We are not to become perfect in this life, as the saviour became. When in the Sermon on the Mount, the Saviour commands us: “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for perfect can be translated as “complete, finished, fully developed” (in Matthew 5:48, footnote b). Our Saviour asks us to become complete, finished, fully developed. We can become more fully developed and learn how to more fully love when we chose to come closer to the saviour through our trails.
I believe every trial should teach us more fully how to love as the saviour loves. Love is really the answer.
In conclusion I want to restate the title given to the saviour in Hebrews as a “high priest of good things to come”.
Elder Holland said,
“Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. ”
I know God allows trials in our life not because they are desired, but because they help us love. They allow us to see our brothers and sisters. Coming to know a man of sorrow and one who is acquainted with grief as I have come to understand, is really why we were sent here. All our trials can end with an assurance and hope that we will see him as he is and I marvel in the possibility that one day we are to be like Him.