The worried look on Tom’s face indicated that something was troubling him. Due to a government mandate regarding vaccination requirements, he was about to lose his job. For various reasons he had chosen not to receive the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.
As I sat quietly listening to his concerns, my heart was touched. Here was a young adult who was going to lose his job because of his “conscientious convictions.” The issue here was not my personal understanding of the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine or whether I had been vaccinated or not. The issue was compassion — an understanding of and concern for a brother in Christ.
The Scriptures are clear: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV). My friend was bearing a burden. He had a wife and family to support. I sensed the seriousness of the situation and wanted to be sure he was making an intelligent decision that was based on scientific evidence and not misinformation. Losing his job would be significant, and my desire was to bear his burden with him and provide any counsel that might be helpful.
A Crisis in Our Family
As we talked, my mind drifted back over 60 years to a crisis in my own family. My father had become a Seventh-day Adventist when he was 33 years old. I was only 13 at the time and was not yet a Seventh-day Adventist. Dad worked as a foreman on the night shift for a large manufacturing firm. This necessitated working on Friday nights. When he became an Adventist, to keep the Sabbath, he no longer worked on Friday nights. As a result, he lost his job.
I distinctly remember Dad’s strong confidence that God would provide. Two of his favorite texts were, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NKJV) and Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV). Dad believed, really believed, in a God who would supply his needs. He claimed God’s promise, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.”
Dad trusted the God that stands behind His promises. To Dad, the promises of God were not pious platitudes to be pontificated in church. They were promises to be trusted in everyday life in the work-a-day world.
It was not easy. Dad had to work three part-time jobs, but eventually the tide turned. My father got a job in a machine shop owned by a Jewish businessman and was able to easily arrange to have Sabbaths off. Eventually he started his own business, Finley Screw Machine products, and outgrew his previous employer.
Dad’s Faith: A Profound Influence
Dad’s faith had a profound impact on me in my teenage years. In the difficulties of life, in the challenges of life, in the dark valleys we each walk through, God can be trusted. As a family we discovered the reality of God’s promise that “in every difficulty He has His way prepared to bring relief. Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us, of which we know nothing. Those who accept the one principle of making the service and honor of God supreme will find perplexities vanish, and a plain path before their feet” (The Desire of Ages, p. 330).
It would be well to remember when we are going through the uncertainties and difficulties COVID-19 brings that “God has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing.”
A Profound Difference
Don’t misunderstand me. There is a profound difference in my mind between breaking the Sabbath, one of the Ten Commandments, and the choice not to take the mRNA vaccine. Breaking the Sabbath has to do with violating one of God’s commandments written with His own finger on tables of stone. Whether one takes the vaccine or not is a personal choice that should be made prayerfully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It should be made in the context of our own health condition, adequate medical counsel, and evidence-based research. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, and we have the responsibility to make the best decisions possible to keep them in good health, while we also consider others who may be affected by our health decisions.
My point is not to equate the two things (the Sabbath and vaccines) at all. But the result of losing one’s job over the Sabbath or losing it because one is not vaccinated has the same economic impact on the family.
Jesus was clear. In this world we will face difficulties. In every test we face in life, God is leading us to a deeper trust in Him. We know from Scripture that human laws, mandates, and directives will eventually come that will directly counter God’s commandments. This time is not yet, but it is coming.
Surely, in every test we face in life, God is leading us to a deeper relationship with Him. The tendency is to look to others to solve our problems. Some look to a friend, others to their pastor, and still others to the church at large. Although each one of these may give us counsel, encouragement, and support, the ultimate solution to our problems is faith in God.
A crisis is coming, relentless in its fury, where we will be compelled to place our absolute confidence in God. I am reminded of Ellen White’s clear statement, “In the last great conflict of the controversy with Satan those who are loyal to God will see every earthly support cut off” (The Desire of Ages, p. 122). God is preparing His people in the crisis we face in our personal lives today for the greater crisis we will face tomorrow, when “every earthly support” will be “cut off.” God is teaching us in life’s challenges to “trust in the Lord” with all our hearts, and, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Proverbs 3:5, Psalm 118:8, NKJV).
The truth is, “We are prone to look to our fellow men for sympathy and uplifting, instead of looking to Jesus. In His mercy and faithfulness God often permits those in whom we place confidence to fail us, in order that we may learn the folly of trusting in man and making flesh our arm. Let us trust fully, humbly, unselfishly in God” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 486). It is very easy to lose focus when we are facing a personal crisis. There will be times when others let us down. There was a time when those close to him let the apostle Paul down. They urged him to take some of his companions into the Jewish temple for ceremonial purification. This incited mob violence against Paul and his companions, yet Paul never became angry or critical. His confidence was in God. The devil wants us to focus on what others have not done and become discouraged, rather than what Christ will do and be encouraged. We serve a mighty God who can do “exceedingly, abundantly, above all we can ask or think according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV).
Before the coming of Jesus, every one of us will face some test where we are led to trust God and God alone. We will be led to a place in our life where there is no human solution to our problems. Our faith must be anchored in the Christ who is ministering for us in the Most Holy Place of heaven’s sanctuary, who said, “ ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What man can do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5, 6 NKJV).
Four Practical Suggestions
As I sat there listening to my friend’s genuine concerns, I made four suggestions.
First, we earnestly pray about his situation. God is a miracle-working God and can solve seemingly unsolvable problems.
Second, that we claim the promises of God’s Word, believing in faith that He will fulfill His Word and supply our needs.
Thirdly, we reaffirmed the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and reviewed the precious message of health God has providentially given to His end-time people.
Fourth, I counseled that we explore every possible option, including my assisting this individual in writing his own personal letter to his employer regarding his convictions. We also discussed other possible job opportunities if his employer enforced the mandate. There was also the possibility of short-term assistance provided by our congregation.
One of the ways that the Lord impressed our Living Hope Seventh-day Adventist church congregation to assist those in need during this critical time with short-term relief was to set aside a fund to support our members. Our congregation of approximately 200 members developed a “benevolent fund” to help our members who were in dire need. During the pandemic we assisted them with medical bills, groceries, mortgages, and rents. Although our help was short term, it enabled many of our congregants to get through those difficult times. This was not something our members demanded or depended on. It was the church’s response of love to meet practical needs. As our members trusted God, this was one way God intervened in the short term to assist them.
They sought Him in prayer, believed He had “a thousand ways” to solve their problems, and claimed His promises. Time after time we saw God come through. It wasn’t always easy, but He always provided. In my friend’s case, he was able to keep his job, and today we are rejoicing in the goodness of God.
There are two things that have come forcibly to my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, whether we have lost a loved one, lost a job, or are suffering long-term effects of the disease, God is there. He has not forsaken us. He is leading us to a deeper, fuller relationship with Him. And second, we need each other. If ever there was a time that God’s people are to unite in their support and encouragement of one another, it is now. This is no time to be pulling away from the church. It is a time to pray, encourage, and support one another.
For those who have lost their jobs and are facing extreme hardship, persevere in prayer, claim God’s promises, explore every option for other job possibilities. Possibly God is opening a new door of opportunity for you. God never shuts one door without opening another door. Cast “all your care upon Him,” for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).
In the trials of life, He is preparing us for the greater trials ahead, when no one can buy or sell. Let Him build your spiritual muscles of faith today, so you can withstand the trials of tomorrow. He will never let you down or forsake you, for He is greater than our trials, larger than our difficulties, and bigger than our challenges.
Mark Finley is a longtime evangelist and television presenter, and an editor-at-large for Adventist Review and Adventist World. He was formerly a vice-president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He is also currently a special assistant to the president of the General Conference.