Monday, January 16, 2006
What lack I yet?
At the beginning of a new year I like to read in Matthew the encounter between Jesus and the rich young man. "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." [Matthew 19:16-22] [Emphasis added]
I think the rich young man's question: what lack I yet is a question for the ages. From the text it appears that this young man was a very good person but the Savior knew something about his heart. This young man's "great possessions" were standing in the way of his perfecting himself and ultimately receiving the gift of "eternal life". We may think that perhaps it was unfair for Jesus to make such a request of this young man, but in reality he was teaching him and all of us a great lesson about life. Apparently, however good we may be or think we are, there is always something in our lives that we perhaps need to give up or perhaps begin doing to continue to progress toward perfection. The question "what lack I yet" is a question we probably should ask ourselves and the Lord frequently. Most of us, without even asking, are painfully aware of what we lack in our quest for "eternal life". If we are not aware, and prayerfully ask the Lord that important question and then listen, the answer, though difficult perhaps to accept, will come to us. The answer to what we lack will undoubtedly be different for each one of us.
My experience in life has taught me the importance of selecting just one thing we are lacking and then concentrate all our efforts on that one thing. I have made the mistake many times of trying to do too much which has diffused my efforts in such a way as to hinder me from achieving any of my goals. Choosing just one thing is like taking a magnifying glass and directing the rays of the sun in such a manner as to create fire. If we pray daily about that one thing I have found that during the day what we are trying to accomplish will continually come into our minds.
I believe it is also important not to become discouraged with ourselves. I will admit to you that one thing I have been working on for years I have not yet accomplished. I think I am making progress and then something will come up and inadvertently I do that one thing that I never ever wanted to do again. It's discouraging but we must never give up because by giving up we inevitably lose some precious self-esteem. Sister Hinckley said that one January she made the commitment to read out of each of the standard works each day. At the end of two weeks she was already one week behind. However, she said that if she had not made that commitment she wouldn't have accomplished her goal for even one week and that there were many months stretching out before her to benefit from her commitment. She was refusing to give up even though she was not perfect in mastering that one thing.
It takes character, determination, and commitment to change our behavior. I am so impressed with the Lamanites Ammon and his brothers converted to Christ. The great spirit manifested by the King of the Lamanites and father of Lamoni -- Ammon's first convert -- is representative of so many of those people who totally changed their behavior and way of life. After Aaron, Ammon's brother, had taught the great King of the Lamanites about the creation, fall, and atonement of Christ, the following ensued: "And it came to pass that when Aaron had said these words, the king did bow down before the Lord, upon his knees; yea, even he did prostrate himself upon the earth, and cried mightily, saying: "O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day...." [Alma 22:16-17]
I think it takes that kind of humility and faith to make any significant behavioral change. How badly do we want to add something good or to be able to eliminate something undesirable from our lives? It may take prostrating ourselves upon the earth as this proud King did and acknowledging to God that we are willing to give away all our sins to come to know him. Our sins may not be black or heinous but as the rich young man learned, as good as he was, he was still lacking and was a ways away from obtaining eternal life.
We are all lacking in some aspect of our lives -- only Christ was perfect. We must seriously count the cost however, before we commit to that one thing we want to change. We must not be guilty of making willy-nilly commitments that are never kept and thus weaken us and assault our integrity and self-esteem. I am confident that as we prayerfully ask the Lord what we lack yet it will be revealed to us and He will help us to improve in that area of concern. Through pondering, prayer, and the kind of commitment possessed by the great King of the Lamanites we can bring to bear on our lives the necessary power to kindle a significant behavioral change for the good.