Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016-09-18 President's Message

Dear Sisters and Elders,

Thank you for your selflessness. Thank you for giving everything you have to serve others and to serve the Lord. The last few weeks have been a wonderful time of harvest as you have baptized and blessed many people.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul teaches us some wonderful doctrine. He compares our lives (and our missionary service) to a race. I think Paul was a runner. I will share Paul's teaching in chapter 12, verses 1 and 2. After each quote I will share some insights:


We are surrounded by so many witnesses that God lives and that He is a God of miracles. Look at the people you are teaching. You can feel the changes that are coming to their lives as they develop faith in Christ and His Atonement, and as they learn about the restored gospel. Look at the miracles in your own life. We are literally surrounded (compassed about) by witnesses!


When you run a race, every gram or ounce of weight will slow you down, will make you tire more quickly, will use up the energy you need to move forward. Now is the time to "lay aside" worries about your family back home, worries about your future, worries about whether or not you are good enough to do this work and worries about everything else. Now is the time to also lay aside the weight of immaturity--wasting time, being late, doing things to get the praise of others, being selfish.  Now is the time to lay aside the weight of worrying what other people think about you--which prevents you from having the courage to talk openly with your companion, or to have the courage to talk to people on the street. Now is the time to lay aside EVERY WEIGHT.


The biggest weight, the biggest drag on us as we run, is the heavy weight of sin. Sin is anything that separates us from God. The sin can be as small as coveting the good characteristics of another person, or it can be as large as a serious transgression from your past. It can be the sin of evil thoughts. It can be the sin of saying things or reporting things that are not quite true, but which make you look good. It can be the sin of telling people about the faults of others. Repentance--turning to God for forgiveness and strength to change, confessing if necessary, and truly making the change--is what is needed to Lay Aside the weight of sin. Some people wait until late in the race, or late in their life, when the weight of sin has exhausted them, before they repent. The best time to repent is always Now.

"...AND LET US RUN..."

He doesn't say to "walk the race." He says RUN. This means to give everything we have--all of our strength, endurance, skill and love--to RUN the race. We are not looking for excuses to sit down or lie down. We are looking for every chance we have to RUN. To run as long and as far as we can. We want to honestly say, as Paul did to Timothy: "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished by course. I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:6-7) He also says: "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? SO RUN, that ye may obtain (the prize)...I therefore so run, not as uncertainly...But I keep under my body and bring it into subjection..." 1 Corinthians 9:24,26,27)


This is the "P word." Whenever I ask missionaries what they are learning on their missions, 9 out of 10 will give me a smile and say: "Patience." Some will then say: "I'm tired of learning patience!" It is one thing to sprint for 20 meters. It is quite another thing to run for 10 kilometers. The apostle Peter was evidently running out of patience with some of his acquaintances. He asked Christ: "Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?" You can hear the frustration in his voice. You can hear the hope that he can finally get angry or punish or give up on his brother. But the Lord basically tells him that it is Patience (and forgiveness) that he needs to learn, that he should forgive him until 70 times 7. (Matthew 8) "The trying of faith worketh patience, but let patience have her perfect work..." (James 1:3-4)


We do not get to choose our personal race in life. The Lord designs the race for each person. The Lord decides the mission we will serve. He gives us companions, experiences, physical weakness and emotional challenges. Our Father in Heaven loves us more than we can possibly imagine. God is love. He gave His Son. He gave us life. He gave us everything. "The Race" that He gives us here is designed to give us the chance to inherit eternal life. It is custom-designed to help us grow by giving us challenges. David needed Goliath. Why? Because he needed to find the courage within him. Daniel needed the lion's den. Why? Because he needed to grow the faith to spend the night in a dark pit with man-eating lions and come out alive. You and I need the race that is set before us, even if it is uncomfortable, even if we ask for God to take it away from us, because this is our chance to become the woman of God or man of God that He lovingly invites us to become.


In everything we do, we will only succeed if we are focused on the love, sacrifice and atonement of our Savior. We have no hope, no help and no future without Him. Looking to Him and exercising faith in Him makes all things possible. All things.

May the Lord bless you, my co-runners in this great race. May He bless you to set aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.


Mahal ko po kayo,

President Creg Ostler