I am one of those church nerds that will study the Sunday school lesson in the week before class. We are in the New Testament (yes, as a faith, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints study and love the Bible) and this week’s lesson has been about being willing to give up our earthly goals and desires and to focus on receiving eternal rewards.
What Is Required
The more mature I become, the more I believe that exactly what will have to be sacrificed to gain eternal life will be different for each person. The basic “rules” are the same: learn about Christ, His Atonement, and His gospel; repent of the wrong you’ve done; be baptized to have your sins cleansed; receive the Holy Ghost through the proper ordinance; and keep the commandments.
The deeper learning that changes our nature, however, is uniquely individualized. Some people will be called to speak up for the gospel, because the thing they fear most is being ridiculed for their faith. Some will have to learn to live gospel standards more obviously, because they are uncomfortable at the thought of losing friends and social status because they no longer fit in. I have been called to move beyond my natural introversion and reach out to others, which has been a difficult process for me as I have repeatedly needed to move way beyond my comfort zone.
In the end, the things that will be required are the things that stand between us and our eternal goal. We will have to give away “pet sins” that we hang onto for comfort. We will have to walk away from anything that we trust more than we can rely on our Savior. I believe that if we truly want eternal life, we will, like the rich young ruler, have to be willing to give up anything and everything and rely solely on the love and grace of our Savior and His Atonement (see Luke 18:18-27).
When We Reach that Level of Faith
In contrast with the rich young ruler, Luke tells of a widow who barely has enough resources to keep herself alive (Luke 2:1-4). What she lacked in material goods was dwarfed by the size of her faith, because we are told that the two mites (I generally think in terms of pennies) she put into the temple treasury were her entire living.
I love the way the Savior states His lesson and makes it clear that heavenly measures are vastly different from mortal measures. As mortals, we are impressed by wealth and power, and give a lot of honor to persons who have deep pockets and vast resources. It is natural to think that there is something special about them. Heavenly measures sacrifice and offerings by the faith required. When someone who has a lot and only gives a small portion of what they possess to building God’s kingdom, they have used very little faith and the experience has done little to change their hearts and natures. The widow, on the other hand, gave everything she had, trusting that God is as good as He says He is, and that HE will take care of His faithful children.
To me, that’s the goal I want to learn to seek.
Even though I feel like the best attitude for service and sacrifice is to do it out of love and concern instead of considering what we will get out of it, the scriptures promise that blessings and rewards await anyone who will keep God’s commandments and serve others.
As the Savior was teaching after the rich young ruler left, His disciples wanted to be sure that they would get something for their time and effort, pointing out that they had given up everything to follow the Master (Luke 18:28-30). They felt that they had already done what was required of the young ruler.
The Savior taught them that whatever we give up in this life will be compensated in this life and in the world to come. I think my problem has been that my early understanding of this principle is that the things we receive in this life would be “in kind” blessings. If I give up money then I will be blessed with more money, if I give up friends then I will be blessed with more friends, and so on.
As I have grown in the gospel, I have come to understand that, because God knows so much more than I do, I am actually blessed by not being able to choose my rewards. My blessings are rarely “in kind.” Instead, I have the blessing of walking in faith, knowing that because I have done my best to give whatever is asked, I will be able to go through life knowing that whatever I truly need will be available to me in the moment I need it, for God has promised to provide.
That’s the power of heart-changing faith.