I donʼt know about you but for me, no amount of classroom teaching can convey what an actual experience of the topic can do. As I consider the topic of the Sabbath, specifically of keeping the Sabbath, my mind goes back to my own experience of many years in the nursing profession. I know that working as a health care professional on the Sabbath is one of those “hot potato” topics in Adventism, but here goes!
I was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist shortly after graduating from nursing school and working on the Sabbath quickly became an issue for me. I was working in critical care in a Catholic hospital and for some time justified my choice to work on the Sabbath, citing Jesusʼ example of caring for the sick. But something just wasnʼt “sitting right”. Eventually I began to study the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy on the topic, and Iʼd like to share with you what I found!
1) The purpose of the Sabbath, and how to keep it are clearly seen in Isaiah 58:13. This passage, along with Exodus 20:8-11, Numbers 15:32-36, and Nehemiah 13:15-21, was my springboard for study.
2) Next I went to the SOP to look for instances where Sr. White counseled those “compelled” to care for the sick on the Sabbath. My findings were really surprising. I first discovered what “kind” of nurses and physicians Seventh-day Adventists were called to be, and what “our” health care facilities were intended by God to be. Boy was than an eye-opener, and though not my topic for now, bears much consideration.
3) I found in Medical Ministry 216 that: “It may be necessary to devote even the hours of the holy Sabbath to the relief of suffering humanity. But the fee for such labor should be put into the treasury of the Lord, to be used for the worthy poor, who need medical skill but cannot afford to pay for it.” Well and good, for Jesus even healed on the Sabbath, and the sick donʼt stop being sick just because it is the Sabbath! The wages earned on Sabbath are put to good use.
4) In Counsels on Health 422, I found that: “Those who, from whatever cause, are obliged to work on the Sabbath, are always in peril; they feel the loss, and from doing works of necessity they fall into the habit of doing things on the Sabbath that are not necessary. The sense of its sacredness is lost, and the holy commandment is of no effect. A special effort should be made to bring about a reform in regard to Sabbath observance. The workers in the sanitarium do not always do for themselves what is their privilege and duty...” So, there is a danger to those who work on the Sabbath of losing the sense of its sacredness.
5) I encourage all to read 7 Testimonies 103-9 on this topic. Here Sister White warns:
a) working on the Sabbath in our sanitariums is liable to bring about “A spirit of
irreverence and carelessness in the observance of the Sabbath”, and that “The nature of his (the physicianʼs) duties naturally leads him to feel justified in doing on the Sabbath many things that he should refrain from doing.”
b) that “unnecessary work, such as ordinary treatments and operations that can be postponed, should be deferred...” and that we should, “Let the patients understand that physicians and helpers should have one day for rest. Let them understand that the workers fear God and desire to keep holy the day that He has set apart for His followers to observe as a sign between Him and them....In keeping the Sabbath, which God declares shall be kept holy, they give the sign of their order, showing plainly that they are on the Lord's side.”
c) She goes on to state that, “we are to stand as a distinct and peculiar people, free from all worldly policy, unembarrassed by confederating with those who have not wisdom to discern God's claims so plainly set forth in His law.... our medical institutions are established as Seventh-day Adventist institutions to represent the various features of gospel medical missionary work and thus to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. We are to show that we are seeking to work in harmony with heaven.”
As I reflected on these and other statements, which for lack of space I cannot share, the following were and are my conclusions:
1) If Sister White had such strong cautions regarding working on the Sabbath for those working in OUR sanitariums, where the Sabbath is understood, what of those who have no regard for it? And even in our sanitarium the wages earned should go to the worthy poor for their healthcare.
2) Please tell me which hospital will permit an employee to practice laying aside “unnecessary work” and “ordinary treatments and operations”?
3) We are to be Gospel Medical Missionaries whose focus is “to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord.” We know that the Sabbath will be a major issue in the closing events of this earth. Can we afford to lessen the sense of itʼs obligation? What is the undergirding purpose of nurses and physicians working in worldly hospitals? And can one truly be a Gospel Medical Missionary in the popular health-care system?
After I realized the importance of the Sabbath and kindly spoke to my supervisors regarding my convictions, I never once, in my many years of subsequent practice, had to work on the Sabbath. God opened some amazing doors for me, and I believe He will do so for others when we stand for our convictions!!
He has since completely brought me out of that system of health care to practice His way (Counsels on Health 323), where I can both honor the Sabbath and follow His example in caring for the sick using His principles. Every act of healing that Jesus did exalted the Sabbath and was a fulfillment of His mission to be about His Fatherʼs business. As a Seventh-day Adventist, I too must be about my Fatherʼs business!
The human brain has become absolutely fascinating to me. And as I study the brain it becomes more and more apparent to me how infinite God is and how mortal, small and ignorant I am. I want to study the brain is because I believe that Jesus became one of us, with a brain just like us. Born of the Spirit, yet in flesh like us, Jesus had a brain that needed to be trained to victory! He did it!! How? And can I?
I want to understand the part Jesus, as a man, played in His victory. I want to understand how He thought, how He felt, and how He prepared Himself to fulfill His Fatherʼs calling on His life. I want to understand what went on in His mind, in His brain, when temptation came to Him. Why did He pray all night? Why the experience in the wilderness? How did He prepare Himself for Gethsemane? How did He keep from becoming afraid of the wily spies constantly on His track, or of the devilʼs constant hounding? How did He always “land on His feet” when faced with conflict?
Yes, we know that ultimately it was because of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, but He had a part to play in overcoming. So do we. I want to understand how He survived His time of trouble, for He is our Example in all things, and we have a time of trouble ahead of us as well. How did Jesus stay connected to the Power Source?
We are told in Desire of Ages, page 123, “The prince of this world cometh," said Jesus, "and hath nothing in Me." John 14:30. There was in Him nothing that responded to Satan's sophistry. He did not consent to sin. Not even by a thought did He yield to temptation. So it may be with us. Christ's humanity was united with divinity; He was fitted for the conflict by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And He came to make us partakers of the divine nature. So long as we are united to Him by faith, sin has no more dominion over us. God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ, that we may attain to perfection of character.”
I want to understand how to cooperate with God in this process!
In an average adult the brain weighs only 3-4 pounds, and is so soft one could easily slice through it with a butter knife. According to a computer scientist at Stanford University, a robot with a processor as smart as the human brain would require at least 10 megawatts to operate. That's the amount of energy produced by a small hydroelectric plant. While one is awake, the brain produces enough electricity to light a small light bulb! The brainʼs memory storage capacity is 2.5 petabytes (2,500 terabytes). To put that in perspective, the entire print collection of the U.S. Library of Congress is estimated at 10 terabytes. But even this might be understating the brainʼs processing and storage capacity. Why do we struggle so to memorize Scripture with all that “hardware”?
At birth humans have around a 100 billion brain cells, but only a small number of neurons, or brain cells, are actually connected. By age three a childʼs brain has formed about 1,000 trillion connections, about twice as many as adults have, but by around age 11, the brain begins to prune unused connections. Connections, known as synapses, that are used repeatedly in the early years become permanent; those that are not are eliminated. Amazingly, every time we have a new thought or a new experience, a new connection is made in the brain. The more an activity or thought is repeated, the stronger these connections become, forming habits. And if a habit is neglected for a long time, connections will eventually be “pruned away.”
Recent studies have shown that our brains add new neurons throughout life, so it is a myth that we are born with all the brain cells we will ever have. The process of producing new neurons is called neurogenesis, and can be enhanced by exercising, engaging in mentally stimulating activities and eating a healthy diet.
Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, have provided scientists with amazing insights into how different areas of the brain actually work. Most people know that the brain is not only divided into halves, but into lobes as well. Each lobe performs specific duties. Some of the parts of the brain important for us to consider in our study include the frontal lobe, which is responsible for morality and critical thinking, and the emotional center of the brain, which includes the cingulate gyri, hypothalamus, amygdala (emotional reactions) and hippocampus (memory).
As I considered these emotional centers, I learned that these are among the most powerful areas of the brain, often “hijacking” the brain altogether. This can leave an individual helpless in the grip of a variety of panic or anxiety disorders. It is particularly the amygdala that is responsible for this hijacking. How did Jesus avoid this emotional hijacking as He faced stressors day by day? How can I?
Studies done on Navy Seals afford some interesting insight into this issue. We all know that the inability to breathe can cause panic like nothing else! As candidates advance through their training, they come to a part that includes underwater exercises. In these exercises, the trainees go underwater with SCUBA gear, and face the challenge of having an “enemy” repeatedly fouling the gear, shutting off the oxygen valve, kinking the lines, jerking the breathing apparatus from their mouths, etc. Due to the inability to remain calm and repeatedly solve the problems with their gear while suffering a lack of oxygen, this exercise eliminated more candidates than any other portion of the training. The Navy wanted to know why. What goes on in the brain that seems to “take over” and cause this panic? And is there a way this can be circumvented? What they discovered is fascinating to me.
The Navy study used the fMRI, and showed that the amygdala was responsible for the troubles. During the intense stress of the training activity, the amydgala responds by flooding the brain w/stress hormones, so that neurons, instead of working by electricity, work by hormones, which is much faster. This causes the amygdala to essentially over ride the frontal lobes and conscious reasoning, kicking in the “fight or flight” reaction, which results in panic as opposed to calm, controlled thinking. In order to combat this panic the Navy developed a preparatory training that included the following purposeful thought disciplines: Goal Setting, Mental Rehearsal, Self Talk, and Arousal Control.
In these steps, the candidates trained their minds to focus on a goal. For example, “the next minute”, or “the next breath”, etc. Next, as they anticipated facing a stressful situation or task they mentally rehearsed that task, going through each step of the process over and over. Next, they talked encouragingly to themselves of success. “You can do it.” “One more step.”, etc. Finally, they learned to subdue emotional triggers that would arouse fears, forcing the amygdala to yield to the frontal lobe activity. Once candidates underwent this training, the success rate for the underwater training improved dramatically.
The human will is amazing. But will that be enough? Will human will power and discipline suffice when “there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was...?” Daniel 12:1. And what does this have to do with Jesus? After all, He overcame by the power of the Holy Spirit, right? Yes, but He had to cooperate, and so must we!
Did Jesus train His brain to victory? Consider the Psalms, Isaiah 58, and similar passages. Jesus knew what was coming! Psalm 22 contains actual phrases made by Jesus in His passion, evidence that He had given considerable thought to His mission and its cost. What “professionals” of our day might call “self talk”, was actually prayer. He encourages His hope of victory in verse 22, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.” I believe that the Psalms are rich with evidence of Jesusʼ cooperation with the Father for what He would face. Remember, neuronal connections have to be established in the brain to enable the frontal lobe to over ride the flooding effects of a stimulated amygdala!
“The time of trouble such as never was, is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess, and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal.” Great Controversy, page 622
There are both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in the brain. The excitatory ones decide if a message will continue to fire off other neurons, and inhibitory ones decide it shall be carried no further. When a tempting thought comes to mind, our choice to yield or resist determines which neurotransmitter will be released. Reading the book, “Healing the Broken Brain”, by Dr. Elden Chalmers, I discovered something that absolutely fascinates me!
When temptation comes, it produces a certain level of electricity. Letʼs say we are tempted to eat something we know we should not. That temptation may produce 30 millivolts of electricity. It takes at least 10 millivolts of electricity to cause a neuron to fire. If we half-heartedly say, “I really shouldnʼt eat this...”, we may fire 40 millivolts of electricity, causing the inhibitory neurotransmitter to “win.” We know that the devil cannot read our minds, but can surely read our actions (Gospel Workers, page 417; 1 Mind, Character, and Personality, page 31). He sees our half-hearted resistance, and knows he must only “turn up the volume” on the next temptation in order to win. The more decidedly we say “NO!” to temptation, pleading with the Lord for strength, the more millivolts of electricity will be fired, and the devil will get the message! Further, the more decidedly we resist temptation, the quicker the neuronal pathways to victory will be developed in our brains.
“Resistance is success. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Resistance must be firm and steadfast. We lose all we gain if we resist today only to yield tomorrow.” Our High Calling, page 95.
What about Jesus? Watch Him in the wilderness! What did He say, and how? “Get thee HENCE, Satan!!”, was His command! I wonder how many millivolts Jesus fired with when He said that!?
The brain also contains “mirror neurons.” Mirror neurons respond when our minds picture something such as the actions or experiences of another individual. What we think about causes our bodies to respond. With mirror neurons, when we know the intention of anotherʼs action, we can empathize and/or imitate behavior--we “feel” what they feel, and vicariously participate. Just watch people at a ball game or a movie and youʼll get the picture. This is part of our ability to “enter in” to the sufferings or experiences of others.
We are told in Desire of Ages, page 83 that we should “spend a thoughtful hour” reflecting on the life of Jesus. The emphasis is given to “especially the closing scenes.” Are we really doing this? Are we setting goals? Encouraging ourselves in the promises of God? Subduing feelings, bringing them to the test of “it is written?” Are we daily training the mind to victory? Are we developing those neuronal pathways? If we think that we will be prepared for what lies ahead by any normal, nominal, casual, occasional mental and spiritual exercises, we must think again. God has “wired” us with the mirror neurons so that we can empathize with Jesus!
Is your goal to survive and represent Jesus in the coming scenes? According to Dr. Chalmers, the brain does not like a conflict between convictions and actions. In other words, if we donʼt live what we believe, in order to solve the dilemma, the brain will re- wire in order to match the actions. Hence, conviction dies away. Can we ever be victorious this way? It is risky business to delay cooperation with the Lord in the development of brain pathways of victory. We have a part to play!
“The only security for any soul is right thinking. As a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7. The power of self-restraint strengthens by exercise. That which at first seems difficult, by constant repetition grows easy, until right thoughts and actions become habitual. If we will we may turn away from all that is cheap and inferior, and rise to a high standard...” Ministry of Healing, page 491
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...” Philippians 2:5.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...” Philippians 2:5. “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their live unto the death” Revelation 12:11
Sin. Websterʼs 1828 dictionary defines it as follows: “To depart voluntarily from the path of duty prescribed by God man; to violate the divine law in any particular, by actual transgression or by the neglect or non-observance of its injunctions; to violate any known rule of duty.”
That definition became very interesting to me as I considered the topic of sin. I appreciate the fact that Mr. Webster included the word “neglect” in his definition--you will see why later. Of course, most of us, when asked to define sin, would turn to 1 John 3:4, “...sin is the transgression of the law.” And this is good, but I wonder, do we really grasp all that this means?
In Luke 10:27, Jesus narrowed the law down into two principles: love God with all the heart, mind and soul, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourself. Why did He use those words? Heart, mind, soul, and strength? Hereʼs what I believe after study and reflection:
Loving God with my mind means that my thoughts are centered, not in this world and the things of this world, but on heavenly things.
Loving God with my heart means that, as Colossians 3:2 says, my affections--the things I love and look forward to--are those that pertain to serving God.
Loving God with my strength means that, as Sister White says: “Had the disciples rightly appreciated the exalted character of their Master, they would have considered no sacrifice too costly to offer to the Son of God.” ST, October 9, 1879 par. 13. In other words, all of my talents and abilities are consecrated to His service--nothing is held too dear to give to my Lord.
Loving God with my soul means: Since my body and the breath of God make me a living soul, this is all that I am--and all that I am is focused on loving and serving God. I believe this sums up all the other terms. It is an entire consecration to God and to His will for my life--nothing held back!
What about loving my neighbor as myself? Jesus goes on in the passage in Luke to illustrate just what this means in the parable of the good Samaritan. Jesus described a man who had been beaten and robbed and left to die. A priest and a Levite passed by without helping, but the Samaritan stopped to invest himself--at great personal risk and cost--in this man from a foreign land. And I believe in doing so, he kept the WHOLE law, for he certainly loved his neighbor as himself, AND he glorified and lifted up the character of God is his treatment of this man.
So what does this have to do with sin? I looked up the phrase “it is sin” in the EG White index. Hereʼs a sample of what I found:
“It is sin”: to indulge appetite, to indulge passion, to read all the books and papers of the day, that separates us from God, that prevents us from loving and glorifying God, that scourged the Lord of Glory, to remain calm and unimpassioned when considering the sufferings of Christ....
Did you catch that last phrase? Here is is in black and white from 2 Testimonies 212: “Many who profess to be Christians become excited over worldly enterprises, and their interest is awakened for new and exciting amusements, while they are coldhearted, and appear as if frozen, in the cause of God. Here is a theme, poor formalist, which is of sufficient importance to excite you. Eternal interests are here involved. Upon this theme it is sin to be calm and unimpassioned. (WOW!) The scenes of Calvary call for the deepest emotion. Upon this subject you will be excusable if you manifest enthusiasm. That Christ, so excellent, so innocent, should suffer such a painful death, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, our thoughts and imaginations can never fully comprehend. The length, the breadth, the height, the depth, of such amazing love we cannot fathom. The contemplation of the matchless depths of a Saviour's love should fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character...”
Now, who among us would really consider it sin - a transgression of the law of God -- to be calm and unimpassioned in the consideration of the cost of our salvation to Jesus? Really? And, as Mr. Webster pointed out, even neglect of what we ought to do is sin. But, arenʼt we told that we should “spend a thoughtful hour” considering the life of Christ? (Desire of Ages 83).
Consider this passage from Education 263: “Those who think of the result of hastening or hindering the gospel think of it in relation to themselves and to the world. Few think of its relation to God. Few give thought (neglect) to the suffering that sin has caused our Creator. All heaven suffered in Christ's agony; but that suffering did not begin or end with His manifestation in humanity. The cross is a revelation to our dull senses of the pain that, from its very inception, sin has brought to the heart of God. Every departure from the right, every deed of cruelty, every failure of humanity to reach His ideal, brings grief to Him.”
I believe, if we really think it through, that Jesus is the wounded man in the story of the Samaritan. Which am I? Which are you? The priest? The Levite?...or the one who really loved God and his neighbor? Do we just pause to casually observe the sufferings of Christ, then go about our day? Or do we let it grip our hearts enough to move us to action? Isnʼt Jesus crucified afresh by our sin? Hebrews 6:6. What are we doing to alleviate the pain of sin to our Lord? Are we loving Him with all our mind, strength, soul, heart?
Do you see what I see?
MB 9,10 And as one is drawn to behold Jesus uplifted on the cross, he discerns the sinfulness of humanity. He sees that it is sin ( even a neglect to appreciate and strive to alleviate the sufferings of Christ) which scourged and crucified the Lord of glory. He sees that, while he has been loved with unspeakable tenderness, his life has been a continual scene of ingratitude and rebellion. He has forsaken his best Friend and abused heaven's most precious gift. He has crucified to himself the Son of God afresh and pierced anew that bleeding and stricken heart. He is separated from God by a gulf of sin that is broad and black and deep, and he mourns in brokenness of heart.”
It is sin, friends, to allow Jesus to continue to suffer on in the Most Holy Place without loving Him with heart, mind, strength, and soul and seeking to alleviate His pain. Oh, that we would fully realize the promise in Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.”
Truly, “The mourning here brought to view is true heart sorrow for sin.” And, “they shall be comforted...” Mount of Blessings 9; Matthew 5:4. Let us give thought...
I am willing to venture a guess that most Seventh-day Adventists are at least familiar with the following passage from the book “Early Writings”, page 270:
“I asked the meaning of the shaking I had seen and was shown that it would be caused by the straight testimony called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the Laodiceans. This will have its effect upon the heart of the receiver, and will lead him to exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth. Some will not bear this straight testimony. They will rise up against it, and this is what will cause a shaking among God's people.”
I like to analyze things--to take machines, gadgets and even sentences apart and “see how it works”. Letʼs take that passage apart a little:
1)The shaking is CAUSED by the straight testimony.
2) The “straight testimony” is called forth by the counsel of the True Witness to the
Laodiceans. (Rev 3:14-21) (Did you know that this straight testimony includes the
health message? See: Counsels for the Church 235)
3) When received, the receiver will exalt the standard and pour forth the straight truth.
4) This will result in some people rising up against this truth.
5) And, back full circle, this is what will CAUSE the shaking. Of course the counsel of the True Witness is found in Revelation 3:14-21, and is what we know as the Laodicean message. This counsel essentially says, “You think youʼre this, but youʼre really that, and hereʼs what you need to fix it.” What Iʼd like to analyze now is what I believe was Peterʼs experience with “the Laodicean message”.
Jesus knew what was coming--His own personal great tribulation! The disciples were blind to this reality, though Jesus had been trying to teach them about it for some time. Mark 14:29-31. Jesus had also warned them to watch and pray, but we know the results! The disciples had been given a “straight testimony” back in John 6:53-58, when the Lord presented the true standard of Christianity. They had apparently accepted it fully. But when Jesus put the finger directly on them in Matthew 26:31, “...all ye shall be offended because of Me this night...”, “In their self-confidence they denied the repeated statement of Him who knew”, especially Peter! Desire of Ages 673.
Tragically as a result, when Jesus most needed them they not only fell asleep, they abandoned Him. Peter denied even knowing Him--with swearing! Poor Jesus! How would you have felt? What will it be like to be abandoned by all your friends, and perhaps even have your best friend deny knowing you? And this, just when you most needed support!
Watch how Peter set himself up for this fall: “When Peter said he would follow his Lord to prison and to death, he meant it, every word of it; but he did not know himself. Hidden in his heart were elements of evil that circumstances would fan into life. Unless he was made conscious of his danger, these would prove his eternal ruin.
The Saviour saw in him a self-love and assurance that would overbear even his love for Christ. Much of infirmity, of unmortified sin, carelessness of spirit, unsanctified temper, heedlessness in entering into temptation, had been revealed in his experience. Christ's solemn warning was a call to heart searching. Peter needed to distrust himself, and to have a deeper faith in Christ. Had he in humility received the warning, he would have appealed to the Shepherd of the flock to keep His sheep. When on the Sea of Galilee he was about to sink, he cried, "Lord, save me." Matthew 14:30. Then the hand of Christ was outstretched to grasp his hand. So now if he had cried to Jesus, Save me from myself, he would have been kept. But Peter felt that he was distrusted, and he thought it cruel. He was already offended, and he became more persistent in his self-confidence.” Desire of Ages 673
And so, Peter-the stone-was shaken out. He was shaken out because he rose up against the straight testimony! Peter, one of Jesusʼ closest friends, who had been used by God to cast out demons, heal the sick, preach “present truth”. Are we stronger than Peter? Thank God there was time for him to be let back in by repentance. We may not have that luxury should we choose to follow his example.
He didnʼt know himself, ”faithful” as he was! Sound familiar? “Thou knowest not...” Can we not learn from Peter about what will come next in this parade if we keep marching? We must learn from his mistake to listen to the counsel of the True Witness and cry to Jesus to save us from ourselves. May we learn to plead for Jesus to search us! Psalm 139:23,24
I encourage a careful study of John 6, along with the chapter “The Crisis at Galilee” in the book Desire of Ages This will reveal, as mentioned earlier, that Jesus caused a shaking among his disciples well before Calvary. He did this, we are told, to strengthen His disciples for the crisis of Calvary. Consider: “When Jesus presented the testing truth that caused so many of His disciples to turn back, He knew what would be the result of His words; but He had a purpose of mercy to fulfill. He foresaw that in the hour of temptation every one of His beloved disciples would be severely tested. His agony in Gethsemane, His betrayal and crucifixion, would be to them a most trying ordeal. Had no previous test been given, many who were actuated by merely selfish motives would have been connected with them. When their Lord was condemned in the judgment hall; when the multitude who had hailed Him as their king hissed at Him and reviled Him; when the jeering crowd cried, "Crucify Him!"--when their worldly ambitions were disappointed, these self-seeking ones would, by renouncing their allegiance to Jesus, have brought upon the disciples a bitter, heart-burdening sorrow, in addition to their grief and disappointment in the ruin of their fondest hopes. In that hour of darkness, the example of those who turned from Him might have carried others with them. But Jesus brought about this crisis while by His personal presence He could still strengthen the faith of His true followers.” Desire of Ages 394
The purpose of the present shaking is the same as what Jesus did in John 6! And really, the straight testimony back then is the same as now. We must take the standard and life of Christ as our own. He is the essential ingredient to successful navigation through the experience of the shaking.
I believe we need to learn to pray like this: “Lord, I am blind and I donʼt know it--open my eyes. Lord, Iʼm wretched and I donʼt know it! Help me understand my wretchedness! Lord, I am poor. Please give me Your riches. Jesus, I am naked. Please clothe me!”
You know what will happen if we will learn to pray this way? Iʼll tell you what will happen! We will switch places in this story! We will no longer be identified with Peter, but with Jesus. We can then be among those who fill up the measure of His sufferings! (Colossians 1:24) And while to all appearances JESUS was shaken out, He was the only one whose faith survived that great tribulation, a type of that faithful remnant who will learn from the True Witness how to survive what lies ahead.
And why did Jesus make it? Because He was God? NO! He laid that aside. Why did He stand His ground when the crowd came after him? Why did He remain faithful when His friends abandoned Him? Why did His faith hold when God hid His face from Him? Go back to Gethsemane and watch Him agonize. “The humanity of the Son of God trembled in that trying hour. He prayed not now for His disciples that their faith might not fail, but for His own tempted, agonized soul.” Desire of Ages 690. Jesus understood the weakness of humanity, which He had taken. Jesus understood the need to watch and pray. Jesus understood His own weakness and He riveted Himself by faith through prayer and surrender to the Source of His strength. It was because of this that He was Himself not shaken out!!
“...Lord, teach us to pray...!” (Luke 11:1).
I can hear the crowds coming, friends. Indeed, I can see the whites of their eyes! The crowd of false doctrine. The crowd of worldliness. The crowd of ease. The crowd of the cares of this life. The crowd of self, rising against reproof. The crowd of self- deception. Everyone who is not riveted to Christ will be shaken out--like the stone! I believe Peter would echo the words of Jesus: “Watch and pray!”
What is the opposite of courage? Discourage! So, if I am discouraged, I have no courage. I looked these words up in the 1828 dictionary (back when words meant what they were supposed to!). Here’s what I found for courage: Bravery; intrepidity; that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits; valor; boldness; resolution. It is a constituent part of fortitude; but fortitude implies patience to bear continued suffering. And for discourage: To extinguish the courage of; to dishearten; to depress the spirits; to deject; to deprive of confidence.
As I considered these definitions, the story of Caleb, Joshua and the other 10 spies who were sent to Canaan ahead of the children of Israel came to mind. In Numbers 13:20, Moses tells them all,”And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.” But what happened to the majority? Numbers 13:31-33 “We be not able to go up against the people; for they [are] stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, [is] a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it [are] men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, [which come] of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” The years of doubt and murmuring had become habitual, hadn’t they?
Let’s analyze this passage just a little. All of the spies apparently made a good start. However, the crisis revealed that there was a difference in these men. Ten of these men did some interesting things: they saw that the goal (Canaan) was good and to be desired and that the fruit there was awesome, but they said; 1) the people are huge, 2) we are grasshoppers, 3) they are stronger than we are. Where is God in their calculations? God is strangely absent, and so they were “deprived of confidence”—they were discouraged. Interesting, isn’t it?
But what about the other two spies? What report did they bring? Numbers 13: 30 “Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” We are well able? What!!!? Didn’t they see the giants? Didn’t they realize that they were grasshoppers? Immediately the other ten proceeded to persecute these two men who had “that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits.”
This is very fascinating to me, and I found the reason for Caleb’s courage here: “It was Caleb's faith that gave him courage, that kept him from the fear of man, and enabled him to stand boldly and unflinchingly in the defense of the right.” Review and Herald, May 30, 1912. According to this passage, it is faith that brings true courage. Caleb and Joshua remembered Who they served and served Who they remembered!
Why, then, did the other ten fail? Consider this: “Hope and courage gave place to cowardly despair, as the spies uttered the sentiments of their unbelieving hearts, which were filled with discouragement prompted by Satan. Their unbelief cast a gloomy shadow over the congregation, and the mighty power of God, so often manifested in behalf of the chosen nation, was forgotten. The people did not wait to reflect; they did not reason that He who had brought them thus far would certainly give them the land; they did not call to mind how wonderfully God had delivered them from their oppressors, cutting a path through the sea and destroying the pursuing hosts of Pharaoh. They left God out of the question, and acted as though they must depend solely on the power of arms. PP 388
That last sentence is so powerful, friends, and according to this, discouragement is “leaving God out of the question.” This illustration is basically a summary of the experiences of the children of Israel. Sometimes they remembered God but more often, they forgot Him. And these same choices, with their respective outcomes—are before us. What about you? Are you a grasshopper? Are your circumstances or failures giants? Is your God able to bring you into the heavenly Canaan? Are you magnifying something above God? If you are, you must realize the cause of your discouragement. We must remember the downward spiral (revealed in a time of crisis) of the ten spies in contrast with the steadfast faith of Caleb and Joshua, “for whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. “ Romans 15:4.
We also have a choice: murmur or remember.