Sometimes I wonder if I am faithful and true to my Heavenly Father and Lord Jesus Christ. I love them; my greatest desire is to please Them and be like Them. During moments of weakness I ask myself if I am a faithful and true disciple of Jesus Christ or am I a hypocrite? Jesus had harsh words for hypocrites, when He said,
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
( Matthew 23:13-14 .)
I looked up hypocrite on Dictionary.com, which defines hypocrite: “A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” (Dictionary.com )
My heart wrenches at the thought of hypocrisy, because my deepest desire is to be faithful and true to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ every moment of every day of my life. When I feel I have not lived up to my desire I sometimes wonder if I am a hypocrite. I found hope when I looked at the original Greek hypokritḗs , which means: “A stage actor, hence one who pretends to be what he is not.” (Dictionary.com )
Do I Pretend?
The last thing I want to be is a hypocrite; I never want to only pretend to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. My heart seeks to know truth and to live it as best I can. I asked myself: Do I pretend or do I honestly believe in the grace of God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ? I honestly believe, even know. Absolutely and without any doubt, I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ applies to all of God’s children who earnestly seek Him. Recently, I saw a sign that said, “This church is not full of hypocrites. There’s always room for more.” Do my many imperfections make me a hypocrite? The short answer is, NO! Though, before I attempt to answer this question according to my understanding I need to share some personal background.
The Peace of God
Years ago, after a long and difficult trial I had a precious gift given to me from God. The gift included, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” ( Philippians 4:7 ). This aspect of the gift grew and seemed to fill my heart in remarkable ways I had never experienced before. The gift of peace allowed me an unusual freedom from the cares of this world. All day, every day nothing rattled or upset me. If someone was obnoxious, rude, unfair, or did anything in any manner of unkindness I was unaffected by their actions. This gift was worthy of guarding at all costs. However, I did not really understand the sacred value of this heaven-sent gift. This gift of peace was indeed a pearl of great price . The Prophet, Isaiah provides a glimpse into the great price paid for any who have received this gift when he prophesied:
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him ; and with his stripes we are healed. ( Isaiah 53:5 , emphasis added.)
Jesus paid the price of chastisement for all of my sins, that I might enjoy His peace. Sadly, due to choices I made later, His priceless gift of peace slowly and quietly slipped away. At the time, those small choices did not seem significant, but they partially shut out the light of Christ that had filled me. It all started with being critical or judgmental in seemingly justifiable situations. I allowed myself to be irritated by the actions of others. As a result, the constant peace that had once filled me gradually diminished until one day it was gone. I still enjoyed moments of God’s peace, but the constant sweet companionship I had enjoyed was lost.
Today, I hunger, thirst, and pray for this gift to be returned, so I might enjoy it always. Although, I have moments where I feel God’s tremendous peace, I still hunger and thirst for this gift to once again fill every moment of my life. I am certain the gift will one day again fill me to overflowing, but only when I am ready. I cannot expect God to bestow something so precious and sacred, when I let it go so easily. I now believe my Heavenly Father has lessons He wants me to learn before He returns it to me. He has allowed adversity to encircle me, because of His great love for me, so I might partake of His holiness (see Hebrews 12:10 ; see also 5-11 .)
Over the years I have found God’s peace during some very difficult times. When I have found His peace—like in my sons’ video games—it seems I am sent to the next level, which is always more challenging than the previous ones. Rarely am I allowed to rest in the comfort of a previous level. The new levels perpetually test and try my patience to new limits. Frequently, my patience is pushed in ways I had not anticipated and too often my temper flares in ways I am ashamed of. However, there is a driving force in me that continually reaches to God for help. Daily I seek God’s forgiveness and hold to the belief that one day peace will be my constant companion once again.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. ( Matthew 5:6 .)
One of My Battlegrounds
One of my greatest challenges is my health; these past few months have taken a tremendous toll on my body. If I push too hard it can take weeks or months to recover. Recently, events beyond my control have required me to do things that have often required me to stretch beyond my strength. Consequently, in the past several weeks I have literally collapsed several times, fortunately without serious injury. After this happens I have to spend a lot of time laying back in my recliner, because I don’t have the strength to do anything else.
Often, while in my recliner, my wife comes in to check on me to see how I am doing. Frequently, she informs me that my lips are a dark purple. Usually, when I am seated upright with my feet on the ground, my blood pressure and/or heart rate dramatically drops. Blood pools in my feet displaying eerie purple and pink spots. My lips turn bluish or purple with blood noticeably pooling around my mouth, nose, and jaw. As the blood supply to my brain is reduced, thinking, talking, and breathing are no longer effortless. Frequently I feel consciousness slipping and sometimes I pass out. My recliner helps by keeping my feet elevated and my body reclined to maintain blood pressure and keep me safe.
I wish the only symptoms were the ones mentioned above, but the worst of it is how the lack of blood affects my mind and sometimes my perception of the world around me. Frequently I am simply very tired needing quiet rest. Other times, especially, when quiet rest is not possible, my enemy lies in wait and I become irritable and irrational; I test and try the patience of those around me. When I am feeling better I usually remember how unreasonable I had been. I cannot adequately express the sorrow I feel knowing the sting my words inflict on my loved ones. I also remember the times I do things that put myself at risk and increase the burden on my family. How I wish I could free my family and myself from this burden.
Recently, in the Gospel of Luke chapter 24 I read how two disciples walked to Emmaus and Jesus walked with them without revealing who He was. In verse 21 Cleopas stated, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.” (Luke 24:21 ) Cleopas, like most of Israel, was looking for temporal salvation, not realizing the Lord had a much higher purpose in redeeming Israel. The Jews were looking for a Messiah, which in most of their minds meant a divinely anointed King to free them from Roman oppression; they didn’t realize that the Lord’s gift of redemption was a much higher gift, that it was to free them (and all of us) from death and hell. His redemption provides freedom from anything which keeps us separated from God.
As I pondered the iron-fist brutality the Jews endured while subject to Roman occupation I realized my desire for redemption is not that much different from the redemption they desired. They wanted freedom from Roman rule—now. I have wanted my health restored—now. In my mind I think of the many goals I want to accomplish in my life, and think they can only be done if I have the cognitive and physical strength to do them. At times, I am impatient, and I forget that the Lord sees a higher purpose in my struggles. Isaiah taught:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ( Isaiah 55:8-9 )
Pondering the above passage of scripture I realized something very important. Asking the Lord to heal me now goes against my true desires and goals of wanting to always be faithful and true , to learn all He wants me to learn, and to ultimately be perfected in Christ . It is as if I am asking the Lord to give me a diploma or degree without completing the “course work” this life requires. I am readjusting how I look at my challenges, disabilities, and trials. I’m asking the Lord to help me know, understand, and apply the lessons He wants me to learn. I don’t want to just talk-the-talk; rather I desire with all my heart to be faithful and true regardless of the conditions or situation I may find myself in . I want to learn the Lord’s way and align my actions, desires, and thoughts with His divine will. I realize this is a course correction I have made before and expect will need to make many more times before my life is finished.
I discovered through this introspection, that I am not a hypocrite, because I do not pretend to be something I am not. These course corrections amount to admitting I am a sinner who is daily seeking repentance. If I recognize I am doing something that is not according to the will of my Heavenly Father, then I do my best to change. Sometimes, I stumble and fall, but I keep getting up seeking God’s help. I am an imperfect man doing my very best with what I have to be faithful and true to my Heavenly Father. I cannot think of a better way to describe my desire to be faithful and true than the words of the hymn, I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go :
It may not be on the mountain’s height,
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front,
My Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls,
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I’ll go where You want me to go.
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.
Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now in the paths of sin,
Some wand’rer whom I should seek;
O Savior, if Thou wilt be my guide,
Though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo Thy message sweet,
I’ll say what You want me to say.
There’s surely somewhere a lowly place,
In earth’s harvest fields so white,
Where I may labor through life’s short day,
For Jesus the Crucified;
So trusting my all to Thy tender care,
And knowing Thou lovest me,
I’ll do Thy will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.
(Mary Brown, I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go , Hymns, 270 )
I know that to the degree of the sincerity of my heart, the grace of God, through Jesus Christ the Lord, will help me be faithful and true, and I will be given the strength and ability to be what He wants me to be.
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Theatrical masks of Tragedy and Comedy. Mosaic, Roman artwork, 2nd century CE. The piece can be found at the Capitoline Museum in Rome, Palazzo dei Conservatori, first floor, hall of the Horti of Mæcenas. From the Baths of Decius on the Aventine Hill, Rome. This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.
A 12 (twelve) lb (pound) howizter rifle cannon, American Civil War era, replica of one used in the 1863 Battle of Corydon. Photo taken at the 2009 Battle of Corydon reeactment. GNU usage license
Photo: My Recliner & Workstation, Copyright © 2012 by Stan Winchester
Painting: Road to Emmaus used with permission, Copyright © 2012 by Liz Lemon Swindle