Friday, April 20, 2012

Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven

          We make many promises as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We covenant to consecrate our lives to Jesus Christ.  We are asked to pay tithes and offerings, attend church every week, serve in the temple, devote time to daily prayer and scripture study, go home teaching and visiting teaching, refrain from gossip, keep the Word of Wisdom, write in our journals, serve missions if we can, and more.  Above all, the Savior has asked us to offer Him “a broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20). It may seem extreme to some to sacrifice so much. It would be too much to ask if the church was not true, but the church is true. And for each commandment Heavenly Father gives us, more blessings are poured out upon us as we keep it. “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven, before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130: 21,22).     UAdd a Note 
Our loving Father has a purpose behind everything he asks of us, and everything he requires of us is for our good, now and into eternity. “For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). We pay our tithing, yet there is still sufficient money for our needs.  We read our scriptures and the Spirit stays close to us, making it easier to handle the challenges of the day.  We avoid drugs and alcohol and our bodies stay healthy.  We attend the temple and our eternal perspective is broadened and families are bound together forever.  I labor every day as a wife and mother serving my husband and my children, but my joy in doing so is too great to be measured.  If the blessings that come from sacrificing our time and talents are so great that we are blessed by them, is anything really a sacrifice at all?
My husband and I gave up watching a television show that we both found humorous.  We realized that the values it portrayed did not align with the values we live.  I thought it would be a sacrifice, but it was not.  Now there is more room for the Spirit to dwell in our home.  The early members of the church were persecuted and driven from their homes by mobs. They crossed the plains, lost limbs to frostbite, buried their loved ones, and even gave their lives to build up Zion.  A television show is nothing.
In the Old Testament we learn about Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.  The land was cursed with famine and Elijah was hiding for his life from wicked King Ahab.  The Lord directed him to the destitute widow to ask for a loaf of bread.  The bread was her and her son’s last meal before they died.  Elijah promised her that if she fed him, her barrel of meal and cruse of oil would never run out until the famine ended. What a difficult sacrifice to make! Did she know he was a prophet? In an act of great faith, she gave the bread to Elijah and witnessed the fulfillment of his blessing.  Later, her son died of a sickness and Elijah brought him back to life (1 Kings 17: 8-24). None of these blessings would have been given had she not sacrificed that loaf of bread.
Some sacrifices are more difficult than others. When I was seventeen years old, my fifteen year old brother died.  His loss has been the hardest sacrifice I have yet to endure. I believe that in the pre-existence I agreed to sacrifice my earthly time with him because I trusted in a loving Heavenly Father’s plan for our lives. I ache every day to hear my brother’s laugh and feel his warm bear hugs. As difficult as it was and is for me, it has been much harder for my parents.  They have felt some of what Heavenly Father must have felt when he sacrificed His Son. Yet, even as Heavenly Father took my brother home eight years ago, He has given him back many times since.  He guided our family to adopt my youngest sister after his death.  My siblings have felt his presence protect them in accidents.  His spirit has been with me at times too sacred to share. One day, our family will be together again never to be separated.
Joseph Smith taught, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; …When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain” (Lectures of Faith, [1985], 69).  To sacrifice is to know God.  
All that we have is a gift from God.  He has given us everything, even His only Begotten son, whose grace we are sustained by from day to day. Is it a sacrifice to give up or give back that which we never earned in the first place? No. Even when he does ask everything of us, as he did of Job, he gives it all back and more into the eternities.  “And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him” (D&C 84:38).  Elder Ballard has taught, “Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love.  The degree of our love for the Lord, for the gospel, and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them” ("The Blessings of Sacrifice", Ensign, May 1992, 75). The less living the gospel seems like a sacrifice, the nearer we are to becoming like our Savior Jesus Christ.  Nothing is truly a sacrifice if it brings us closer to eternal life.

1 comment:

Cheltz said...

I've been thinking of this exact phrase the last few weeks, but for me it was in relation to my calling. Really, it isn't hard, and everything always works out, but often I really drag my feet wondering why I have to do it.

Last week (with a little help from the Lord), I had an attitude change -- much better week! :)