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Goals, Resolutions, and What Lack I Yet

This is the first year that I can honestly say that one of my New Year’s resolutions is not to dunk a basketball again. I have finally let go of that wishful dream. At least I hope that I have. I would never use the excuse that I am too old but I am old enough to know that I have other priorities that take precedence over how high I might be able to jump. I still have the goal to get into better shape but my definition of what that means has certainly changed.

I love making goals and recommitments. I say recommitments because the goals I made in my youth are primarily still the main goals I hold today. I also may not always be the best at following through to the end as sometimes my goals can really become unrealistic or maybe even unattainable in this life, but that does not take away from what I have been able to accomplish as I work towards my ideals.

As a people we tend to want the ability to measure our progression. We want to know how we are perceived and judged. Sometimes we even worry about what others may think of us or more importantly we want to know where we stand before the Lord. I have heard many times the phrase that “what get’s measured get’s improved.” But can we really measure spiritual progression?

A funny experience happened to me one time that seemed to encapsulate this need to simplify the way we measure things. One day I was helping my dad put together an audio system in his house. We were coordinating a TV with multiple types of inputs all going through a single set of speakers. After spending some time making sure that everything was working and that it was easy enough to control, I sat down to review the process with my dad. I really thought that I had made it as simple as possible. However, after a few minutes of trying to explain things, in frustration my dad made the simple statement, “Just tell me what button I need to press.” Unfortunately there was no way for my father to have a single button to press to make everything work. Likewise, the process of answering the question of where do we stand with the Lord often requires a little more effort that we would typically like.

Now, before I continue, I really do believe that there are simple means whereby we can determine if we are standing on the Lord’s side or if we are on the right path. What I am referring to here is more where do we stand in our progression to become something better. Let me try and clarify by sharing something that I realized a few years ago as I read of the experience of the young rich man found in Matthew 19:16-22 KJV.

In that scriptural experience a young man came to the Savior and asked, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” The Savior’s response was simply that “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” This answer did not satisfy the young man. Maybe he thought the answer given was not simple enough or maybe he thought that he had already obtained a sufficient knowledge of the commandments that the answer was beneath him. Maybe he wanted a simpler measuring stick. Either way, the young man followed up with another question when he asked, “What lack I yet?”

In many ways, we are like this young rich man. We want direction. We want assurance. We also want to measure our growth. As we seek to answer those questions we tend to ask ourselves this very question; “What lack I yet?” All too often the answer to this question is obvious to us and we begin the process of sorrowing because our list of imperfections is too great. However, if we go back to the original answer, that if we want to enter into life we simply need to keep the commandments, there seems to be a protective power radiating from that promise.

Let me explain. I believe that when we focus on all those things that we lack, we tend to get bogged down by what we see. Sure, we need to be aware of our imperfections and weaknesses, but they really shouldn’t be our focus. As the Savior said, our focus at first should be keeping the commandments.

Consider the commandment that we “shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” I was still in my teens when I realized that this really wasn’t referring to just our language. I realized then that with every commitment I made I was taking upon me the name of the Lord. As I pondered over that responsibility I realized that it was my actions that determined if I was taking His name in vain. And so I committed to more fully keep that commandment.

Then, later I read about the two great commandments. First, that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” And second that “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” I love that as I strive to measure up to these two great commandments that my focus has been more on the Lord and on others rather than on my own weaknesses and the things that I am lacking. I find that a relief and a protection.

At this time of year when we make goals and seek to recommit to becoming better than what we have been, I have found peace in the process that if I really want to remove items from my “what lack I yet” list, I need to quit focusing on me and I need to go to work in the service of others. I need to simply do those things that I have been asked to do. I need to keep the commandments.

Then, as I focus on others and keep the commandments, what I have found is that my weaknesses and imperfections become less intrusive in my life and sometimes certain limitations in my personal character disappear altogether. Unfortunately I keep finding new ones but that is okay. I have learned that finding new weaknesses I want to overcome is actually one of my measuring sticks in telling me that I am on the right path.

If you really want to change and become perfected in Christ, it will not come by focusing on your weaknesses and limitations. Yes, we need to be aware of those things we lack, but they should not be our focus. Instead, as we do the things we can and serve the people that are before us, we will find that Christ will make up the difference and we will begin to change. We may never really remove everything from our list of imperfections but we will find that it will shrink much more if we focus more on keeping the commandments.