Second Thoughts: Satan’s Trap for the Insecure

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God

Dr. Douglas Winnail’s recent assembly addressed that Satan uses worldly persecution to lure away those who aren’t unshakably grounded in the truth.

Scripture confirms this, and we all need to constantly guard against the anti-Christian nature of Satan’s world. But those of us who struggle with occasional or even frequent feelings of insecurity—who are just as harsh to ourselves as anyone in the world could ever be to us—may need to guard against something else, too.

While such individuals generally don’t like to talk about them, there are moments when being in the Church can make us uncomfortable. We don’t regret our calling—we’re grateful for it, truly. We know this is the right way, but we feel unworthy of walking it.

For those with frequent insecurity, this state of mind is too often the norm—pervasive and crushing. They look at their fellow firstfruits, and because most of our sins are committed in the dark quiet of our own private lives, everyone around them looks better at being good than they “know” they are.

What Tempts Us

Then comes a shock. You get out there—into college, the workforce, wherever—and you discover that people don’t hate you. Your beliefs that you feared would come across as insane to everyone are viewed as interesting by some. What you thought would be seen as self-righteousness is taken as respectability. People don’t think you’re bigoted or foolish, they think you’re fascinating. Intriguing. Good.

That’s truly hard to resist. Satan knows each of us better than we know ourselves, and in the case of those who feel they’ll never be as good as God wants them to be, the devil knows that they don’t particularly like themselves—but that they long to. He knows that, because they’re used to persecuting themselves, persecution from others may not so easily tempt them into leaving the Church.

But praise might.

Eventually, those with such insecurities eating at them may be offered an opportunity for something that will compromise God’s Way—perhaps by the very people who were praising them before. Assured by their human nature that it will make them into someone they, themselves, will finally be able to accept, the immediate, fascinating option is to bite into that fruit, because it looks and—temporarily—is delicious.

The other option doesn’t look quite so promising: resist, struggle, and go back to a Church filled with people they feel unworthy to be among. Pass the fruit up, and walk back into the daunting, lonely garden.

Our Father’s Promise

But if we allow ourselves to think deeply about our calling, God can lead us to a conclusion that becomes incredibly freeing.

As Mr. Richard Ames has often reminded us, Christ points out that none of us are truly good: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). In this life, we never will be fully “good.” We are on this earth to learn what “good” really means, because frankly, we haven’t a clue. If we did, we’d never consider anyone in the Church “better” than we are.

Those of us who tend to be insecure are in training to become what we most long to be: Worthwhile. Valuable. That’s the point of all this—to do our best, which isn’t much, and be rewarded with His best, His perfection. In his world, Satan offers us something that isn’t one billionth as rewarding, but is, as Yoda might say, “quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Our Father and His Son are the only Beings in existence who actually know what it is to be truly good, because it started with Them. Incredibly, they want to share it with us. The praise and esteem we must refuse now “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). We simply have to finish the race without keeling over. As long as we do, no matter what we place, our Father will carry our gasping, aching remains to the reward. He’s promised to make us good, one day. Right now, we have to show Him that we trust Him to complete the good work He’s started in us.

Dr. Winnail’s assembly message was absolutely true. Being grounded in the truth can protect us from faltering under persecution—even when that persecution comes from ourselves.

Second Thoughts: Respect His Image

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God

We, a bunch of Freshman English majors, eyes already mostly glazed-over from forty minutes of syllabus reading, refocused ourselves as our professor firmly told us, “Every time we read a piece of literature in this class, you are not allowed to say it’s bad. You are allowed to say that you don’t like it, that you don’t understand it, even that you fundamentally disagree with it so much that you want to vomit. But you can’t say it’s bad, and you can’t say it’s stupid; respect the author enough to assume they knew what they were doing.”

In this week’s assembly on how politeness and protocol can—and should—be used to show love to our fellow human beings, Mr. Richard Ames touched on the fact that every single one of those human beings is valuable.

That’s so easy to say, isn’t it? “Every human being is valuable.” Short, simple, definitive—should be easy to remember. And we all probably forget it every single day, as if we fail to respect the Author enough to assume He knew what He was doing.

No One is Fair Game

We can probably all think of ways we dismiss people as being without value, even if we only do it in our minds. “Whatever. I don’t care what *name* thinks,” we might tell ourselves, forgetting that we really only stop caring about anything when it ceases to have value to us. “I consider you worthless,” may sound a lot more devastating than “I don’t care what you think,” but if we’re honest, don’t both essentially mean the same thing? In many ways, people are their thoughts and opinions—if we devalue those, we devalue the person.

Knowing that every human being is made in God’s image, we can sometimes be tempted to think that image is wasted on certain people whose value we really have a hard time seeing, especially those we don’t know personally. Satan sometimes uses people neck-deep in terrible lifestyles to trick us into thinking that it’s right to devalue those people. Is there anyone we subconsciously consider “fair game” for name-calling, insults, mockery, indifference—even if we don’t “say it to their face”? If so, that consideration definitely isn’t coming from God.

The Image of God

We know God made all of us, and we know He doesn’t make mistakes—but if we view anyone as being without value, we’re not really internalizing those facts. Now, in the familiar phrase (oft-repeated by Mr. Wallace Smith), “don’t get me wrong”—there’s only one right way to live, and the vast majority of people in the world don’t live it.  Ungodly actions, beliefs, or lifestyles are, obviously, never to be valued. But even the people who completely stray from His path are still worth more than we can imagine—just as much as are those who have stayed on His path but just really, really bug us.

Before an artist starts creating anything, there’s often an image in their head of what they want the finished product to look like.

Our being made “in the image of God” means that we have the shape that He has, yes—but it could also mean that we’re each made according to a specific image He had in His perfect mind.

“Look,” He might say, “This person doesn’t have to be your favorite. You don’t have to agree with everything they do and say—you can even wholeheartedly disagree with a lot of it. But they’re not worthless. I made them. Respect Me, the Author of all, enough to assume I knew what I was doing when I did.”

Second Thoughts: He’s God Because He’s Right!

by Thomas White | Editorial Staff, Living Church of God

Assembly by Gerald Weston

Here’s a weird little question:

If you believe that I, Thomas White, exist, but you also think that I’m a 47-year-old albino pirate who lives in Saskatoon, do you really believe in me? Not really, no. You might believe someone named Thomas White exists, but that someone’s description is emphatically not of me. Honestly, I would probably rather you didn’t believe in my existence at all than believe I’m completely different from who I actually am. I’d venture to guess that God feels similarly.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

– Hebrews 11:6, New King James Version

When you define Truth

During this week’s assembly, one of the many topics Mr. Gerald Weston touched on was that of moral relativism—the increasingly widespread belief that what is morally right and true depends on what situation you’re in, how you feel about what you’re doing, how you’re feeling today overall, how your ancestors felt, etc. What strikes me as terrifying about this philosophy is that certain atheists aren’t the only ones who embrace it; many people who claim to believe in God also find it possible to believe that “My truth is my truth, yours is yours, theirs is theirs, and it’s all good.”

They may believe in God’s existence, but it’s not a belief that He’s perfect, or that He represents universal Truth… so is it really a belief in Him?

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

– Revelation 21:8, New King James Version

Dangerous Unbelief

I’ve wondered about the “unbelieving” included among those who earn the second death. By that point, the Millennium will have come and gone—you would think not believing in God’s existence would be as impossible as not believing in the existence of fingernails! That’s what makes moral relativism so scary, though. The “unbelieving” probably won’t be denying that God exists, but they may well go down refusing to believe that He’s right. “Your truth is different from my truth, Mr. LORD, and if I have to die in a fire for my truth, so be it. You’re not right just because you’re God.”

That’s a horrifying attitude, but it’s still possible for us to be affected by it—maybe in ways we don’t even realize.

God is Right

Discussing His way of life, we can say things like, “God makes the rules” and “Because God says so,” and neither of those statements are incorrect, but they also apply a certain arbitrary, “might makes right” nature to God’s decrees, and that misses a fundamental point. He didn’t decide, “You know what, there are gonna be commandments, and there are gonna be ten, because ten’s a nice number, I like that number,” and then make a universe where ten commandments would fit. The Father and the Word knew, before making a single thing, that there would have to be ten specific commandments, that there would have to be a Bible, that every just decree in it would have to be there. Because all of that was right.

He’s not just right because He’s God—He’s God because He’s right. If we believe He’s ever anything besides right, we’d probably be better off not believing He exists at all.

“He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the Lord fills the earth.”

– Psalm 33:5, New Living Translation

Second Thoughts: Joy Takes Generosity

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Dept., Living Church of God

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand.”

– 1 Chronicles 29:14, Holman Christian Standard Bible

Assembly by Dexter Wakefield

Sometimes I wonder how Christ and the Father can always be happy.

We read throughout Scripture of Their various emotions—anger, sorrow, hatred for sin, even jealousy over those who give their lives to idols. I can sometimes forget that all of these emotions are secondary at best for members of the God Family, because joy, being a fruit of the Spirit, is always first and foremost. Why? What makes God consistently, wholeheartedly happy?

A lot of things, probably, but Mr. Dexter Wakefield wrapped up this week’s assembly by reminding me of one. Spending only a few minutes on it, he offered the quick, powerful analogy that God is running a family business we in His Church are training to inherit, and His business revolves around giving.

It’s God’s Pleasure

Some say you don’t need to enjoy your job, but apparently, God does. His job is giving, He’s never off the clock, and He loves it. Every millisecond of every day, He’s giving us something. He is not obligated to give anything, but He gives everything, and like the ultimate Chick-Fil-A employee, it’s His pleasure.

So, is it ours?

“Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”

– 2 Corinthians 8:12, New Living Translation

Non-stop Giving?

As Mr. Wakefield pointed out, if we don’t enjoy giving, we’d better, because as Kings and Priests in God’s Kingdom, we’ll be giving on a pretty much everlasting basis. And sure, you think, “But in the Kingdom it’ll be easy. We’ll be God—if we want to give something, we can just poof it into existence like a magician at a soup kitchen.”

And maybe that’s true, but we’ll be spending all of our time giving of ourselves—giving of our wisdom, energy, encouragement, help, and peace. As humans, we can’t give 24/7—we physically need our own sleep, food, mental rest, etc. But if we’re supposed to one day give non-stop for eternity, shouldn’t we be taking every feasible opportunity to give now?

I have to admit that too often, I don’t. A major weakness of mine is time-hoarding. I’ll give twenty bucks to a stranger with a sad face, but I get fidgety listening for twenty minutes to a sad story. That’s something I need to work on, because God endlessly gives time—all of the time we have. We need patience to truly give, and we need to truly give to have real joy.

“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”

– Proverbs 11:25, New Living Translation

God’s Business is Giving

God promises that we’ll have abundance if we give to others, but I don’t think that means He’ll make us find replacement cash in our jean pockets after we give someone on the street ten dollars, or that He’ll find a way to give us two hours of free time after we spend an hour unexpectedly helping someone out. No, those who refresh others are refreshed just by having done so. Knowing you’ve been a good part of someone’s life, even for just a few minutes, can fill your entire day with a sense of prosperity.

If we’re having trouble with joy, we may need to grow in generosity—God is never unhappy, and in part, that’s because He’s never not giving.

He has a business to run, after all.

Second Thoughts: Editing in Love

Author: Thomas White | Editorial Dept., Living Church of God

At the start of Living Education’s second academic year, Mr. Wallace Smith, the Living Church of God’s Executive Editor, spoke about… well, editing…

…and he probably could have spoken for far longer, because there’s a lot more to editing than most people think.

Only the good garbage

As he emphatically said, it’s more than fixing typos, just as getting ready for a formal event is more than slapping on deodorant. There’s copyediting, line editing, layout editing, editing for consistency, editing for style, editing for technical correctness—and all of this is done for written works that are already good. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be getting published in the first place.

Working in the Editorial department I’ve noticed an encouraging thing—all the good stuff, even the great stuff, needed changes before it could be published. Quite a few changes, actually. Any experienced writer will tell you something along the lines of “The first draft of anything is garbage,” and while that’s not literally true, it’s certainly true in comparison to the final draft.

And spiritually speaking, that’s us, when you think about it.

God’s people are being edited

As God’s people, we’re all—hopefully—undergoing some seriously extensive edits, because we are not even close to publishable at this point. Carrying the analogy perhaps a bit too far, our spiritual commas are everywhere they shouldn’t be, we can’t keep our moral tenses straight, we’re capitalizing priorities that should never be capitalized, and we keep using passive voice where God demands active voice. God’s Holy Spirit is our editor, and it has a lot of work to do, because by Editorial standards, every one of us is a hot mess.

But that doesn’t mean we’re worthless.

Mr. Smith brought out that it’s the editors’ job to serve the writers, because the content of a publishable article is going to be, at its core, good. The goal is to help the articles be the best versions of themselves, not make them completely different. In essence, if an article is good, it gets edited. Sort of like how “whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). If we’re genuinely trying to follow Him, God’s not trying to completely erase our every semblance of individuality or uniqueness; He’s just trying to revise us, because He knows that with some rewrites, with some tweaking and fact-checking and improved consistency, we’re going to eventually be publishable into His Family. He knows that the content is solid, the potential is there.

…there’s no shame in being edited, since every created work needs editing

Taking correction like an edit

Personally, I need to remember this in moments of both taking and giving correction. When someone points out something about me that should probably be altered—of which there are so many—do I take it as a personal attack, or as an edit?

“I think this could be worded more effectively.”

This sort of mindset removes pride from the equation; there’s no shame in being edited, since every created work needs editing. And when I give correction, do I give it in the form of an edit, or an insult? “This writing is bad and you should feel bad,” comes from a completely different source than “I think this could be worded more effectively,” and all too often, the correction we give one another can sound more like the former.

God thinks we’re publishable

In the end, God thinks you and I are publishable, and He thinks the people we really struggle to appreciate are publishable, too.  He’s editing us in love, not to remove all we currently are, but to improve it. Who are we to try to edit each other, or ourselves, in any other way?

Image credit: unsplash-logo

Second Thoughts: The Chair Legs of Our Lives

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Things will happen that can shock you to your foundation, and depending on what your foundation is, [that] is going to determine how you come through that particular trial.”

Mr. Gerald Weston, Presiding Evangelist | Student Assembly: May 9, 2019

I never planned to be in the Living Church of God. I never planned to sever ties with the organization I was previously involved with, and never planned to be set adrift in a new Church culture, knowing just few enough people to feel lost at the beginning. I did plan to dance with my mom at my—planned—future wedding, and definitely planned to go to her for advice while raising my—planned—future children.

But as Mr. Weston reminded us in the final assembly of Living Education’s inaugural year, life doesn’t go as planned. Not for me, and not for anyone. We all lose things we thought or desperately hoped we would always have, and we are all, at every moment, just one loss away from what we perceive as the ultimate test of our faith.

“Those who are founded on Christ’s teachings are going to be as one who is on a rock foundation. Yes, the waves will come, the wind will blow, even the rock beneath your feet may shake, but if you are solidly attached to it, you’ll come through.”

Our lives are built on a lot more than we might realize, unless we’ve really stopped to think about it. They’re built on the relationships we have with the people with whom we are the closest, on what we do every day to earn an income, on how our bodies continue to function, even on what we spend our leisure time doing.

It is almost like we’re each standing on a chair, occasionally jumping up and down, and all the while hoping that the many, many legs of the chair won’t break. But a lot of them will. As we lose jobs, friends, family members, self-perceptions, our health, places where we felt safe, the chair legs of our lives break.

So we can thank God for the fact that, as Mr. Weston reminded us, we only need three.

“You need to build that strong foundation on a personal basis: Does God exist, is the Bible His word, and where is He working? And if you know the answers to those three questions, and you can prove them to yourself… when the storms come, you will be able to stand.”

As it turns out, our chairs are more like three-leg stools. Even as we lose more, and more, and more parts of ourselves—pieces of our foundation—if as there are three specific legs that always remain in place, the chair won’t fall, and we will remain upright. If we know beyond doubt that God exists, know that the Bible is His inspired and infallible word, and know where He is working through His Church, we can put all of life’s weight on those three legs, and know that we won’t fall.

Our adversary will try to break those three legs, and he’ll usually do so by breaking other legs near them. As Mr. Weston said, we have to constantly guard them with our lives, because they are the true support for our lives. We may be only one loss away from the ultimate test of our faith, but if those three pillars remain strong, it’s not a test we have to fear. It’s just another one we will pass.

Second Thoughts: Be Creative, Not Original

By Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“How small is your life? How narrow is your experience? How far have you exercised your creativity?”

Mr. Jonathan McNair | Student Assembly May 2, 2019
Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

Some of the most creative people I know don’t think they’re creative at all, and this has always baffled me. “How can you think you’re not creative?” I say. “You just drew a gorgeous beach scene on this white pair of shoes.” As Mr. McNair brought out in his assembly this week, we as human beings, having been made in God’s image, are naturally creative. Creating is literally the first thing we read about God doing, right there in Genesis 1.

There are different levels and types of creativity, sure, but to call any human being – including yourself – “uncreative” is to utter a total falsehood, because if you’re made in God’s image, you’re creative. As far as I can see, the main reason why some people consider themselves “uncreative” is that they confuse creativity with originality, and these are two hugely different things.

“God is a God of Creativity … He used man, and built man, to have within us the passion and the desire to create, just like God.”

Mistaking originality for creativity, my friend who drew the beach scene on the pair of shoes can think she’s uncreative because, “Well, beaches weren’t my idea. Shoes weren’t my idea. I just took a thing that existed and put it on another thing that existed.” I’m affected by this, too, and I’m sure an immense number of creative people are. Every time I sit down to write creatively, I’m almost paralyzed by the selfish desire to write something totally new, something like nothing anyone has ever read.  It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Even King Solomon, who wrote something like one bazillion songs and sayings, also wrote, “what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). No one could ever accuse Solomon of being uncreative, but even he admitted that originality was out of his reach. That didn’t stop him from writing those songs and sayings though. He didn’t let the elusiveness of originality keep him from pursuing a passion to create, a passion that, as Mr. McNair said, comes directly from God, the Master Creator.

“If you’re willing to put out the effort to learn the rules, to learn the principles, to gain the experience, you’ll be able to exercise creativity in your life.”

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The problem with wanting to be “original” is that, as Solomon said, it’s practically impossible, and this fact discourages us from pursuing our creative passions to the extent that we could. If we can, we should forget all that, and just create. Don’t worry about being original, because as Mr. McNair concluded, the best way to be creative is to use previously established patterns to achieve success. We should start small and allow ourselves to be empowered and inspired by others, whether they are on our team, or are those that came before us.

Creativity can be exercised in any area in which we may have skillsets—music, writing, artwork, scientific inquiry, structural design, culinary arts, interior design, clothing design—you name it. Whatever our roles, whatever we like doing, chances are, we can use the opportunities we are given to fuel our imaginations and get creative. We might not create something totally unlike anything that’s been created before, but lest we forget, the creation in Genesis was actually a recreation. It had already been done, and God did it again with a new spin. And He saw that it was good.

Second Thoughts: It’s for the Kids

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“…the Father’s throne is ultimately going to be here on this earth. We look that far out in the future…but for that to be possible, we know that billions of human beings must come up and be taught His way of life, and for them to have the opportunity to become our younger brothers and sisters.” ~ Mr. Ron Poole

Student Assembly | April 11, 2019

Why do teachers work so hard? Almost all of them will be honest about the fact that they generally don’t get paid much. Whatever level of education they may be involved in, ask any of your best teachers why they put forth so much effort, and I’m willing to bet that most of them would answer with something like, “It’s for the kids. It’s all for the kids.”

This week, Mr. Ron Poole’s assembly reminded me that the future Kingdom we’re striving to reach as unborn children of God, that’s also “for the kids.” It’s our reward, but it’s not only our reward, and I can often undersell it by thinking of it as such. We’re not just running to finish a race, we’re also educating ourselves to try to get a job, the job of a teacher. And one of the bests reasons to be a teacher is to do it for the kids.

“We can see that God has work for us to do. God has a job that He wants us to be able to take care of. He is going to put us to work…but only if we’re ready. It’s only if we’re ready that He will be able to use us.”

As fully born members of the God Family, we’re going to be responsible for the education of untold billions of people, as Mr. Poole poignantly illustrated. How do we make that real to us? How do we motivate ourselves to strive toward that job? “Billions of people” sounds like something out of a statistics class, and I have a very complicated relationship with math, so when I think of being a teacher in the Millennium and Great White Throne Judgment, I focus on three people. One of them is a close family member outside God’s Church, a member I love deeply. Another is someone I knew in college, whose life had been irrevocably damaged by a terrible upbringing. The third is my best childhood friend, a principled and noble individual, who nevertheless was always missing the Truth that would bring his life to a new level.  When I think of those people, I am exceedingly motivated to become a teacher, the kind of teacher who heals and enriches his students. Those are my “kids” I want to do it for. Who are yours?  

“Would our resumes, starting in chronological order, show that we are growing in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?”

Whoever your “kids” are, keep them in mind as this life gets hard, because as Mr. Poole said, we’re building our applications for the ultimate teaching position with every decision we make, every opportunity from God that we take advantage of. When we desire something with every ounce of our being, we make sacrifices for it, sometimes painful ones, but the result is always worth the striving. Applying to become one of God’s Teachers is long and arduous, but in our most paralyzing moments of weakness, it might be most helpful to remember that we’re doing it for the kids.

Second Thoughts: Blaming Gravity for the Ground

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Gravity operates the same way, all the time. … Sometimes, when we’re falling, we wish it didn’t work that way, but we pay the consequence when we hit the ground. …and there are others laws that are absolutely just as sure as gravity. …and those laws are found right here, in the Bible.” ~ Mr. Sheldon Monson

April 4, 2019 | Student Assembly: LivingEd-Charlotte

I’m pretty sure that at some point or another, we’ve all wished that we, personally, could fly. It’s a natural, human thing to fantasize over. Even King David envied the birds at least once (Psalm 55:6). That fantasy, though, always seems to include the ability to stop flying when you’re so inclined, because otherwise the flight becomes a lot less awesome, and also a lot more terrifying. As Mr. Sheldon Monson made the point in this week’s assembly, gravity is a great thing to have around, and we all recognize that. Even after a particularly nasty fall, no one is all that tempted to sincerely say, “Ugh, gravity. I wish it would go away.” We know that would be ridiculous…but when we, in our heart of hearts, wish that certain parts of God’s law weren’t there, aren’t we being just as foolish?

“The world around us is filled with strife, it’s filled with poverty, ignorance, suffering, pain…those are all results of living a way of life that’s opposite to what God says we ought to live.”

One of my absolute favorite non-biblical quotes comes from Cecil B. DeMille, who said, “We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them…” We all recognize that sin will always have consequences, but if we’re not careful, we can start thinking that God put those consequences there. In reality, He created His law to keep us from sin’s consequences, not consequences to keep us out of sin. If I hop the fence at the edge of the Grand Canyon and perform a swan dive, the inevitable splat isn’t the fence’s fault, or the Grand Canyon’s fault, or gravity’s fault, rather it is every bit my own fault. And as Mr. Monson brought out, the vast majority of our world is taking Satan’s advice and swan-diving off the edge of the Grand Canyon, deceived into believing that God’s Church is foolish for not doing the same.

“The main thing is to remember to keep ‘The Main Thing’ the main thing.”

So I have to make sure that I don’t do the same, because Satan whispers in my ear, too, telling me that there is no splat at the end of the dive into sin, that I can level out and levitate away right before I hit the ground. That fits right into my flying fantasy, so how do I keep from believing him? As Mr. Monson reminded us, “The Main Thing”, what keeps us safe from our own gullibility, is to “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). To cut through life’s distractions and maintain that primary focus, we need to remind ourselves that those commandments are a shield, not a cage.

Second Thoughts: The Setup, Not the Game

Author: Thomas White | Student at LivingEd-Charlotte

“Life is tough, and as life gets tough, with bills, and health problems, and problems with children, and neighbors, and bosses, [some] get distracted.” ~ Mr. Kenneth Frank

LivingEd-Charlotte: Student Assembly | March 28, 2019

Mr. Ken Frank packed a lot into his assembly, this week. We heard of how we’ll be leading God’s Church before we know it (no pressure or anything), how crucial it is that we don’t divide our lives into the sacred and the secular, how we might retain a biblical worldview in an era fundamentally opposed to it, and each of those points had something like a half-dozen equally profound sub-points. All of that insight is available in the assembly recording (no cost, no obligation), but one sub-point in particular struck me harder than the others. Mr. Frank alluded to the fact that it can be really tempting to give up sometimes, because living a godly life is hard. It’s hard for everyone, and knowing that suffering is a prerequisite for righteous character can feel like a mean joke. When we know we’ll never be perfect as humans, and that this physical life is never going to get any easier, but is in fact probably only going to get worse as the Great Tribulation creeps closer…yeah, it’s tempting to just go, “You know what, all is vanity,” and stay in bed indefinitely.

“People who start off with a biblical worldview can lose it if they get their eyes off Christ. They’ve got to stay focused on Him.”

As Mr. Frank implied, it’s the temporary nature of this physical life that we need to focus on, and that’s pretty difficult, because this life is all we know. Of course, for those with God’s Spirit, this life is only a womb as we wait to be born into His eternal family. But that metaphor can be a tough sell when you think about how a baby in a womb is warm, comfortable, and completely peaceful, and this life is…not those things. So though it sounds childish, I like to think of this life as the setup process to an incredibly amazing board game. No one likes setting up a board game. You have to find the pieces, you have to shuffle the cards, you have to root around in the box for all the fake money you have to organize… It’s not fun, and it feels like it takes forever. But you need to do it, and you need to do it right, in order to actually play the game. Once you start playing, you’re glad you put in the time and effort to set everything up, because the game is great, and a lot longer than the set up.

“We have to think of the bigger question: Where are we going eternally?”

That’s what I tend to forget, and what Mr. Frank reminded me – that this physical life is the setup, not the game. Suffering might very well feel endless, but the amazing reward for it will literally be endless. Even eternal life can sound like an iffy reward when you’re used to life being something you wouldn’t actually want going on eternally, but what about eternal peace? Eternal joy? Eternally giving others peace and joy? Those are in the reward, too. God promises everlasting happiness and fulfillment at the end of this ever-so-tiny period of setup. If we can keep our focus on what we’re setting up for, nothing will be able to keep us from it.