Christmas is a time for rejoicing in …
The Grace of the Lord03473_000_003
A young man who is a friend of mine came to an interview confessing some minor difficulties he was having with sin. He believed them to be major. He had concocted a tremendous guilt trip about what he had done. He had allowed Satan to cause him to believe he was not a good person, that he did not have the power to overcome his weaknesses. He was overwhelmed with the challenges and struggles of life, and had lost the peace that normally accompanies a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
“I know Christ’s role is to save us from our sins,” my friend said. “But what about all the other troubles in my life?”
As I tried to console him, I told him that Christ was sent not only to help us heal the wounds of transgression and iniquity, but also to bear our grief and sorrow and guilt (see Mosiah 14:4–5, 11; Alma 24:10); that in addition to “suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” he also took upon himself the “sicknesses of his people,” “death, that he may loose the bands … which bind his people,” and “infirmities, that … he may know … how to [strengthen] his people” (see Alma 7:11–12; italics added).
As this young man and I read the scriptures together, he was thrilled to realize that somehow Christ is able to take upon himself, not only sin in a general sense, but also grief, sorrow, death, sickness, lack of peace, guilt, and pain. What a glorious thought that, in truth, Jesus Christ is capable of bearing the problems and challenges that we each face in our daily lives. He will not only help us to be saved at the Judgment Day, but he and his Father will be involved with us on a regular basis if we will find access to them.
A scriptural word used to define this ability to overcome the trials of the world through the love of God is grace. The word grace is not an easy term to define. Perhaps the best definition I know is “enabling power,” the power the Lord has given us to accomplish all things (see Bible Dictionary). We know that the Lord is willing not only to have us involved in his grace, but that he has commanded us to grow from grace to grace (see D&C 93:1–20).
I am impressed with a passage of scripture that talks about “the loving kindness of [the] Lord, and all that he has bestowed upon us according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.
“In all their afflictions he was afflicted. And the angel of his presence saved them, and in his love, and in his pity, he redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old” (D&C 133:52–53).
It seems evident that the Lord is afflicted each time we are afflicted, that he will send angels to help us, and that in his love he helps us daily, whether we know it or not. How our hearts ought to be drawn out in gratitude for the grace of the Father and the Son!
Perhaps some of us, as was initially the case with my young friend, do not appreciate what a powerful blessing it can be to have this enabling power (grace) in our lives. But we can understand it more and more as we live according to the principles that help us gain access to it. May I share four of those principles with you?
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
How clear Christ’s statement after Peter had walked on the water and then sank: “O, thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:31).
The moment Peter doubted, he severed himself from the power that had sustained him as he walked on the water. How many times as we pray for assistance do we cut ourselves off from the power of God because of doubt or fear?
On the other hand, the Lord is clear about the positive results of faith: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1–2; italics added).
2. Humility with a repentant heart.
We are told that “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6; italics added).
The Lord teaches the same principle in another scripture: “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27; italics added).
By effectively humbling ourselves and repenting of our sins, we invite Christ to enter our lives, to buoy us up and help us with life’s difficulties.
Yet at the same time, we must learn to happily submit to the will of the Lord in all things. The problems my young friend faced are common to all of us. Sometimes Latter-day Saints think they will escape those kinds of challenges by being members of the Church. But my experience has been that they have as many, if not more, than most people. Why? Because the Lord loves them.
How powerful are these words from Doctrine and Covenants 95:1–2: “Whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened.” [D&C 95:1–2]
The reason, so divine, that the Lord chastens us, is so that we may obtain forgiveness. I’m pleased to know that he always prepares a way for my deliverance, and reaffirms to me that, “Even though you may not have realized it in the midst of some of your trials, I have loved you.”
The Lord also stresses what a key role repentance plays in obtaining grace:
“And may God grant, in his great fullness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works” (Hel. 12:24; italics added).
We must repent to have the enabling power of grace, and there can be no question that all of us must repent on a continual basis.
In order to do so, “Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit …
“Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive … ; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved” (3 Ne. 9:20, 22).
3. Sacrifice, doing all in our power.
A person must do all in his own power. Then the grace of God can come into play in his life.
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23, italics added).
What a glorious principle to understand, that the Lord’s assistance to us—whether man, woman, or child, of strong or weak faith—is not so much based on what we know, nor even on what we can offer the Lord, but more clearly upon our giving all that we can give in our present circumstances.
4. Obedience to the commandments.
There are many scriptures that say we must keep the commandments. A man does not have to be perfect right now to receive an answer to his prayers, but he has to be humble in his heart and trying his best to fulfill the commandments. Then the Lord will assist him.
“For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fullness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace. …
“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:20, 28; italics added).
May the Lord bless us as we contemplate the true meaning of Christmas, and may we in turn more thoroughly recognize the great good he has bestowed on us through his Son. There could be no more glorious desire at Christmastime than to center our hope more fully upon Jesus Christ, who truly says to us, “I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).