After the resurrection of Christ, the Twelve Apostles preached the gospel in the city of Jerusalem. Their message touched the hearts of many people, and, upon testifying of the truthfulness of the Resurrection, they were asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37.)
Ever since, this very question has been asked by people all over the world, by people like you and me. Daily we are confronted with decisions concerning our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of those around us. Our decisions are based upon our understanding of what is good and right for us, and we try to avoid pitfalls and mistakes. We hope for happiness, and we wish for comfort.
In my own life, this hope and wish for a happier and more meaningful life causes me to evaluate my daily decisions more carefully. And never do I feel the need for some guiding principle more than when I come to a crossroad, for without some direction I feel incapable of pursuing my course consistently.
But it is one thing to know the way, and another to take it. Some of us probably struggle to find guiding principles, some sort of foundation on which to build, and others have designed the perfect plan but never find the motivation, time, or courage to use it. In one way or another, we are paralyzed by the lack of understanding that true happiness comes from realizing our plans, beliefs, and hopes.
I believe that the foundation and guiding light for all our decisions is the gospel of Jesus Christ and His message to the world. The teachings of Christ must be embedded in our desire to choose the right and in our wish to find happiness. His righteous life must be reflected in our own actions. The Lord not only teaches love, He is love. He not only preached the importance of faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, He lived accordingly. His life reflected the gospel that He preached. There was and is total harmony between His thoughts and His actions.
I believe that if we want to be true Christians, our lives must be founded on true principles and our actions must reflect that. But I do not believe that we can pick and choose which principles are the most convenient ones. Today, however, I would like to mention those that are true to my heart and that have helped me in my quest to take the Christian course.
When a man asked Christ what he should do to inherit eternal life, He answered, “Love the Lord thy God … and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27.) Love is the essence of the gospel and the guiding light for a Christlike life. It not only teaches us to look upward but also to look around us. Our heart, might, and mind must be dedicated to the Lord and to our fellow men, women, and children. But what does that really mean? It means that we follow the admonition of the scripture, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15.) It means that we live the example of the good Samaritan, who was free of prejudice and excuses and therefore truly loved his neighbor. He went the second mile and gave of what he had despite all the odds. His life was one of single-minded service.
By contrast, the Apostle James observed that “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8.) An old Swiss saying describes such indecision in the following words:
The Christian course knows no compromise.
We are promised by the Lord if we choose His way, we will be blessed beyond our comprehension and in ways that are not measurable.
A Christian life demands decision and dedication. It is a dedication that is free of fanaticism but full of understanding and love. It is a dedication that knows no selfishness but yet knows of our personal needs. It is a dedication that embraces all mankind and yet keeps an eye single to the Lord. And it is a dedication that brings joy but is seldom free of hardship, disappointment, and discomfort.
It is not always easy to make the right decision, and some of us struggle a life long to find the right course. Remember, it is not for us to judge those who might be confused or who have not the strength to change. What they need is our understanding and support.
When Jesus came to the coast of Judea, a young man said to him, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20.) The answer Christ gave was simple but powerful: “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21.)
Christ speaks to all of us, not only to the young rich man who went away sorrowful. He commands us to give of our wealth, whatever it might be. For some it is material possessions, for others time or a talent. For those of us who have worldly riches, it does not mean that we cannot enjoy the commodities of life for which we work. But it means that we use them to do good and that we share them with those in need. Our hearts should be set upon helping those in need.
But money alone does not lift the burdens of our fellowmen, and many of us live in a time and place where there is little to spare. The world is in need of time, and if we have but one hour to spare, we are wealthy. It takes time to listen and to comfort, it takes time to teach and to encourage, and it takes time to feed and to clothe. We all have the gift to lift each other’s burdens and to make a difference in somebody’s life.
The needy are all around us. Too often, however, we are blind to those needs or fear those people whose company makes us feel uncomfortable. Yes, we admire people and organizations for the numerous services they render; and yes, we rejoice in the tremendous social changes many countries experienced during the last few months. But our admiration and interest are not enough. People at home and abroad need our help. Let us decide to serve now, even if that means leaving the comfort of our homes temporarily.
Most of the time we do not even have to go too far; within our own communities there are people of all ages who are homeless, terminally ill, and lonely. We cannot hope for a better world, for more perfect governments and societies, if we are not willing to do our share.
We need to look around us, and if we cannot see poverty, illness, and despair in our own neighborhood or ward, then we have to look harder. And remember, we cannot be afraid to go beyond our own social and cultural circles. We have to rid ourselves of religious, racial, or social prejudices and expand the boundaries of our service. Service should never discriminate and is hardly ever easy. Did not Jesus Himself mingle with those who were branded unfit by the self-righteous Pharisees? And were not those people the ones who needed Him the most?
I understand that the needs of this world can overwhelm us and that injustices of life and the ills of society can paralyze us. But I believe that no good cause is in vain, and if we can only touch one life, the world is a better place. Choose your service today, and choose it wisely. Prepare yourself to be of help to others. There are many good causes inside and outside the Church. There is a need for volunteers who share their time and talents with those who are less fortunate.
To love and care for others is a decision. It is the answer to the Lord’s exhortation, “Come follow me.” It is the answer the Apostles gave to those who asked, “What shall we do?” To say “I cannot” is a decision for no. It is a decision that will rob us of the very happiness we are seeking. And most of all, it is a decision against a Christlike life.
I testify to you that we can only be in the service of our God if we are in the service of our fellowmen. (See Mosiah 2:17.) I hope that we all have the wisdom and determination to decide today whom we want to serve. And I pray that we will decide together with the prophet Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15.) In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.