~ Exodus 14:13-15 ~
And Moses said unto the people, fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today … The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward
As we contemplate the many challenges all of us faced in the past year – there appears to be a call upon the hearts of men to go forward without fear, to stand still, to allow the Lord to fight for us, and hold our peace so that we are able to see the salvation of God unfold. For us, we faced a pandemic, economic shut down. People have lost loved ones, lost employment, experienced natural disasters worldwide. We have also seen an increase in human despondence and desperation.
Even among those who claim to be faithful Christians – we have seen murmurings, complaints, and a movement of deconstructing faith. Challenging religious pious traditions into a more palatable gospel and teaching. And many appear to proclaim the end may be ever progressing nearer to Christ’s return. And because of this, there appears to be a continual call of a spiritual awakening and revival that brings people back to the principle truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our present condition seems bleak, dreary, and unfortunate. Behind us is an army of chaos, violence, and increase in disharmony, injustice, and deconstruction of our values and truths. Before us stretches a sea of uncertainty, fear, doubt, and a fathom of despair. A pandemic that has yet to see an end to where we are able to get back to a place of normal living. Continued increase in political, religious, and social divisiveness.
The condition of the Israelites appeared to be unfortunate. The armies of Pharaoh coming after them and the sea was before them. The command of God was for Moses to call the children of Israel to press forward into the sea. However, what we learn is that God’s commands give us assurance, protection, and faith in that he will guide us through any challenge or obstacle.
Nephi commented to his father the following observation:
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.1 Nephi 3:7
Today, we have faced the challenge of a pandemic that impacted our world. A pandemic that seems to have changed the course and fabric of the way we live our lives. This came on the heels of the end of chaos, violence, and protests that had occupied our society and culture the previous year. To say the least, we are ever living in times of increasing uneasiness, of uncertainty, and times of groanings and increase in vain imaginations of a man’s heart (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 2:1-3, 140:2; Proverbs 6:18, 12:20; Jeremiah 11:8, 13:10; Zechariah 8:17; Acts 4:25; Romans 1:21).
Yet, we are still called to go forward with steadfastness of faith in God. This calls us to be faithfully obedient to the will of God – no matter the obstacles and challenges we may face in this life. Moses obeyed God, raised his rod, and the sea parted for the Children of Israel to cross over. Our willingness to walk in faithful obedience to the will of God is done with humility and without murmuring or dispute (Philippians 2:14).
Murmuring is an act of rebellion and sin
In the October 2001 General Conference Address – H. Ross Workman gave a message on the parable of the Nobleman and the Servants (Beware of Murmuring). In this message, he relates his desire to persuade us to listen to the prophets and leaders of the faith. He also warns us of the deceptive tactics of the adversary. This deception comes through our murmuring and disputes.
Workman outlined how murmuring leads to disobedience and potentially apostasy from the truth and light of God.
The first observation is how the servants began to question those instructions given. Workman observes:
They felt to exercise their own judgment upon the instruction given by their master: “What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?” they said (D&C 101:48). They questioned first in their own minds and then planted questions in the minds of others. Questioning came first.
The next stage observed is how those servants began to rationalize and excuse themselves from doing what they had been instructed to do. Quoting D&C 101:49, we read: “Thus, they made an excuse for disobedience.
And the third step, accord to Workman’s observation, is slothfulness in following the commandment of the Master. Quoting D&C 101:50, we observe: They became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their Lord.
The end resulted in disaster.
Workman also observes:
God has blessed His children with prophets to instruct them in His ways and prepare them for eternal life. The ways of God are not easily understood by man. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). Obedience is essential to realize the blessings of the Lord, even if the purpose of the commandment is not understood.Ibid
And then shares this insight:
The adversary whispers the deceptive invitation to murmur to thus destroy the power that comes from obedience.Ibid
It is quite unfortunate that within the membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and in Christianity general – many have given themselves over to murmuring and disputing of what God has declared, taught, revealed, and commanded. This is evident with the rise in the progressive and deconstructing faith movement.
From what one gathers, the idea behind this deconstruction of faith movement ascribes to the idea that one examines their faith to the point of tearing down any old beliefs, identifying any views that may be outdated or intolerant within acceptable social norms, and then reconstruct such faith based on world standards and ideas.
While it is true, we are to examine our faith and scrutinize it – it is done in the sense to examine our thoughts and motivations to see if they are in line with God’s will and desire. Unlike the scripture call to examine our faith, the movement calls us to do so outside the guidelines of scripture. Much of this, unfortunately, has gained prominence among many people who have felt abused, neglected, or isolated within their respective faith community. Others do so under the guise of adopting the ideas and beliefs of the social justice movement wherein they change the nature, character, attributes, and understanding of who Christ is. To a person who has undergone deconstruction of their faith – Christ is fashioned as a social justice warrior sent to overthrow what is perceived to be tyrannical oppression of a society that marginalized certain people. They misinterpret passages reflecting Christ’s statements concerning the poor and less fortunate.
In one such conversation – I mentioned that Christ never challenged Roman authority, nor Caesar, or even said anything in opposition or judgment concerning Rome. What we do find is Christ constantly focusing on the false and hypocrisy of the religious leaders in how they have corrupted and change the ordinances, laws, and teachings of God.
What this leads us to is to understand that modern deconstruction of faith is the stage and act of murmuring and disputing our faith until it is molded and fashioned after the cares and desires of this world. One questions the commandments and teachings of God. One begins to whisper and converse with others to where they begin to question and challenge the teachings and commandments of our Heavenly Father. Such individuals then begin to rationalize and excuse their behavior, beliefs, and thoughts. Finally, they are led to act out in open rebellion, falling away, and challenge the established truths and principles that now confront their deconstructed faith in God.
God is calling us to have confidence in Him
The command for us to go forward in faith is a call for each one of us to have a firm and resolved assurance and confidence in obeying all that our Heavenly Father has revealed and taught through his son Jesus Christ. Whether it is through scripture or those whom he has called to lead His Church – we are to believe on such authority all declarations and commands. All warnings, and instructions. When those things appear to be at variance with our views, we are to remember what the Psalmist says: All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies (Psalm 25:10).
Our call, therefore, to go forward. Not to step back. Not to remain stationary. We are to go forward fighting the good fight of the faith (2 Timothy 4:7); where we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). To do so means we are willing, ready, and committed to do all that the Lord has commanded for he has given no commandment whereby he has prepared a way for us to accomplish it (1 Nephi 3:7).
Go forward with a humble mindset
Humility is not one of many Christian virtues. It is the root of all Christian virtues. Therefore, as we go forward, we do so with a humbleness of mind. Stripping away any pride or vanity. Not acting arrogant in thinking we are wise, worthy, or showing any merit of compassion and mercy in the past year. No, we go forward with contrition of spirit, humble and meekness of repentance and forgiveness. As the Lord taught, we seek forgiveness for our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us (Matthew 6:12-14).
We go forward with humility in remembering that it is not merely our opportune to worship our Heavenly Father on the Sabbath. We are called to worship and serve God throughout the week as well. While the sabbath is a day of rest for us – we are called to minister, to teach, to call all men and women unto repentance through grace, love and compassion, and to serve in whatever capacity where we show love and kindness daily.
Go forward with a grateful heart
The Apostle Paul calls each one of us to not only serve God and others. To minister and show charity. We are called to rejoice and to pray – giving thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) always. And what type of thanks are we to show gratitude for? Gratitude toward his mercies upon us and the salvation through Jesus Christ (Psalm 97:12).
Through Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father has shown us the grace and mercy of the infinite atonement. Through Christ, we find an eternal purpose and destiny. Through Christ, we are given peace – not the peace of the world (John 14:27). We are also blessed with an abundant life (John 10:10) through Christ and the infinite atonement.
Go forward knowing God provides and fulfills his promises
Those who have humbled themselves and sought God through deep prayer and meditation, walked in humility and faced the challenges of the past year – have done so with the assurance and confidence that God will make way and provide for each of us. This is the promise for those who choose to willingly follow Christ. Those who were willing to walk in faithful obedience to the will and desire of our Heavenly Father, adhering to the teachings and commandments he has given.
Having established our confidence and assurance of faith. Going forward in humility and with contrition and a repentant heart, worshiping God and serving him, and praising and giving thanks – we are firm in our conviction that our Heavenly Father will fulfill his promises. He has declared, I will never leave thee nor forsake the (Hebrews 13:5).
Go forward with steadfastness in prayer, meditation, and fasting
How are we able to go forward if we neglect the power of prayer, meditation, and fasting? Our souls will be exposed to temptations, to murmurings, and disputing. Instead, when we give over to earnest and constant prayer, we shall experience a deep and enriching love and relationship with our Heavenly Father. We bring every need to His throne of Grace. We make our petitions known (Philippians 4:6).
Go forward with confidence of our divine destiny of immortality and eternal life
Finally, we shall go forward knowing that God’s purpose and plan is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). We endure, overcome, and do all that which is in our power, through the grace and will of our Heavenly Father, to lay hold upon the crown of righteousness that awaits us (2 Timothy 4:8).
We are on the cusp of a new year. Make it a year of going forward with steadfast and bold faith in Christ. Go forward with a steadfast humble mindset. Go forward into the new year with a resolve to seek forgiveness as you are forgiving others through grace, love, and compassion. Show kindness and love toward one another. Go forward with a grateful heart, worshipping, serving God, and doing all that he has taught and commanded us. Go forward with the spiritual discipline of prayer, meditation, and fasting to seek God’s will continually. Finally, go forward with assurance and confidence in knowing you have a divine destiny of an immortal and eternal life through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.
As we go forward, let us also remain still, seek the salvation for which the Lord our God shall shew forth unto us. That as we endure, overcome, and seek to do the will of the Father that we shall lay ahold upon the crown of righteousness for having fought the good fight.
When we put away all the foolish doubts, the questionings, the murmurings, the complaining, and the disputes – we shall open our eyes, hearts, minds, and spirit to the Grace, Truth, Life, and Light that is Jesus Christ. Let us, therefore, go forward with a mindset of being more Christ-like so that our light shines forth unto the darkness whereby men come to know the love and mercy and grace of God.