We are in a contest of time and space and circumstance which creates a very real need for a strong, true, vibrant faith. You may think you have heard enough about faith, so let me try a different approach to get past your guard and plant some thoughts as seeds in your mind about faith. Our study will be divided up into three sections, each one about a garden.
Section One: Our Father Meets an Enemy in a Garden
"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had
formed." "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Genesis 2:8, 15. That was a pretty nice garden. They are not making gardens like that now. We think about compost and vegetation, and things that die to make other things live. But, they were not working on that basis in this garden. Nothing had to die in order to make something live. The soil was so perfectly rich and balanced in all the nutrients, that you did not have to add anything. It was all there, perfectly created by the Master Gardener Himself. All you had to do was cooperate with the laws of nature, and the results were wonderful. That is what our father, Adam, was doing.
The soil, of course, did not have rocks like New England. When I went to Atlantic Union College, I bought a little piece of land in order to build a home in the country. I noticed rocks sticking up here and there all over the land. I noticed fences made out of rocks. I thought, "Well, Iíll get a bulldozer in here and weíll smooth this all out and Iíll plant grass." Then a friend told me, "Donít bring any bulldozer in here. It will turn up ten rocks for every rock you scrape off. Thereís no end to the rocks here. Itíll just stir up the soil and you will have a big, big harvest of rocks; thatís all youíll have." So I left it the way it was and let nature take care of it.
You can see, we have handicaps here that they never thought of in our fatherís garden in Eden. Another example is the adobe soil in California. This is strange soilóalmost hard as concrete when it is dry, and soft like slush when it is wet. But the garden of Eden had the right texture all the time. There is a statement that it was watered from underneath. Have you been to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and wondered about those miles and miles of underground tunnels there, and the tunnels back in Kentucky which they tell me are larger still? The water in Eden was probably flowing underneath and came up to the soil. That is the ideal arrangement. I have no use for rain. I have lived in some very rainy places, both here and in the tropics, and I can get along fine with no rain at all if we could water things without it. So, I see the ideal as a land where the water seeps up from underneath and waters everything, but the top of the soil is always dry. You could lie down on it and not get wet.
The temperature must have been something like Hawaii, an average of about 70 degrees. The fruit was magnificent. The vegetables were marvelous. The flowers were beautiful beyond compare. Our fatheróyour father and my father, loved that garden. He loved to work it. It was his to dress and tend. I suspect that he had pathways prepared with little colonies of this kind of a plant, and little plantings of that. It was a place of marvelous beauty.
But Adam was being closely watched, because our father had an enemy. He was not fully aware of why this enemy should have it in for him, but he did. Lucifer was studying our father, watching his every movement and wondering: "How can I get to this created human being in such a way that I can influence him and cause his heart to rebel against the Heavenly Father who created him?" As Satan watched, he observed something. The most precious thing to our father upon this earth, was his wife, Eve. That gave Satan an idea. "If I can work through her, and cause her to be damaged or destroyed, I could get to Adam." So he studied Eve. He watched carefully to see what her mind considered beautiful and what her thoughts were. It did not take him long to see that Eve was a lover of beautiful things. Just about the most beautiful thing around the garden, was the serpent that had wings. Practically in all mankind, there is, in their tradition, a story of the winged serpent. In the discoveries of stonework down in Central and South America they find carved pictures of a serpent with wings. This tradition goes way back into the memory of man, the serpent with wings, the flying serpent. The devil arranged things so that every time Eve enjoyed admiring the beauty of that serpent with wings, the serpent was a little closer to that forbidden tree. Finally his purpose was accomplished. You know what happened, she was deceived. She took of the fruit and ate it. When this became known to Adam our father, it blew his mind. This is what the devil planned.
Adam was confronted with a problem that he thought was too much for God to handle. You see the point? That is still a problem today. Every one of us have had that sort of situation, at least temporarilyóa problem that looked like it was too much for God to handle. "God can do a lot of things, Iím sure, but He canít handle this. Thereís no hope. Thereís nothing even God can do about this." That is typical of the human family. We see so many examples of it. When Abraham got into the country ruled by Abimelech, he decided that his beautiful wife, Sarah, was going to be at risk. He said, "You tell them that youíre not my wife. Tell them that youíre my sister." He seemingly thought God could not handle this problem. He was in the foreignerís territory, and was at the mercy of the king. He could not defend himself against the power that was in control. He figured, "God canít do anything about this. Iíll have to seek another solution."
We could also think of the people of Israel coming to the border of the promised land at the edge of the Jordan River and pausing there to send the spies into the land. When the spies came back with their ten spies giving a terribly dismal report, what was the reaction? "Itís hopeless, itís hopeless, itís hopeless. God has not the ability, or the strength, to handle this problem. He canít deal with this."
Let us bring it up to our modern times. This is something that everybody goes through when they
decide to start keeping the Sabbath. Those of us who came in from the world, had to struggle with that problem. I was working in a plywood factory in the state of Washington on Friday nights. I was warned by some that if I tried to keep the Sabbath they would fire me, because it had happened to others before. I had to struggle with that problem. Is the Lord able to handle this, or is He not? I finally decided I would rather lose my job than lose my soul. But, I will never forget the struggle. I have done some hard things in my life, but I do not believe anything was harder than for me to go into the office where that rough old lumber man stood who owned the mill. He was chewing tobacco, chewing on a cigar, and spitting his tobacco juice into a spittoon on the floorójust as rough a character as you will ever find. How do I talk to this man about spiritual things? But I didóby the grace of God I did it.
As an evangelist, I have seen so many men and women come up to this awesome situation, and they have the question, like Adam hadó"Can God handle this problem? Can I keep the Sabbath on this job? If I lose this job, can God help me get another job?" It is a powerfully big problem. They either take the advanced step and say, "I will begin keeping the Sabbath," and discover somethingóthat God is watching, and that He has a plan all the way from there to the kingdom for each one. Or if they do not take that step of faith, they never know anything about that plan.
What can we learn about all of this from Adam? He saw a problem, and in his view, it was beyond any solution. He decided he would rather be lost with Eve than live without her. Those two choices were not the only choices, because God had already solved the problem before it started. Take a look at the scriptures. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace." Now look at this carefully: "which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:9. [All emphasis supplied.] "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, [that is the anti-Christ,] whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8. God was not taken by surprise by the sin of Eve. It was certainly a sad situation, but to think of it as something that God could not handle, that was the big mistake. It was not by any means something that God could not handle. We find a statement like this: "The plan for our redemption was not an afterthought, a plan formulated after the fall of Adam." Desire of Ages, 22. It was made long before the fall of Adam. "It was a revelation of Ďthe mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal.í" Romans. 16:25, R.V. "From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but he foresaw its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency." Ibid.
The point is that God has no problems in the sense that we humans think of themóas being something that He cannot handle. No problem is any harder for God than any other problem. No problem is any easier for God than any other problem. To Him, they are all just a matter of His will, that is all. We want to think about that when we consider the principle involved here. This statement makes it personal. "If we surrender our lives to His service, we can never be placed in a position for which God has not made provision." Christís Object Lessons, 173. Notice the
past tense. No matter what kind of a situation you get into, God was there ahead of you. God sized the whole situation up ahead of us. He decided just what avenue of escape He would have ready for us. It is no problem to Him. God makes decisions, but He has no problems at all. Adamís great mistake was to feel that this problem was too much for the Lord.
In our modern times, we find people struggling with believing that God can solve their problems. We should remember to look back across the years. It is clearly stated that God foresaw the problem of Israel wanting a king. Patriarchs and Prophets, 603. He foresaw the problems that would lead to the captivity of Israel. Prophets and Kings, 408. Jesus foresaw the treachery of Judas. Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1102. But look especially at this thought: God foresaw the delusive doctrines of the last days. Testimonies, vol. 8, 201.
If I would ask you what our biggest problem is now, many would say: "The horrible false doctrines that are assailing the church, the apostasy in the church." God foresaw it. God foresaw that you would be living in these last days seeking a place of refuge on Sabbath mornings, not wanting to listen to error from the pulpit, but wanting to hear the pure Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy expounded. God knew exactly what He was going to do about this problem of apostasy, and these last day delusions. In Review and Herald, September 6, 1898, is a similar statement about how God foresaw the last day arts and devices of Satan. So God has no problems! We have a most horrible problem if we ever suspect that anything has happened to us that God cannot handle. God can handle it! He can handle the problems of the church. He can handle the problems of our individual lives. He can handle anything and everything that comes along, because He was there first. He is watching the whole thing from above, where He sees ahead.
Section Two: Our Brother Meets an Enemy in the Garden
"When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where there was a garden, which he entered, and His disciples." John 18:1. "They came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and He said to His disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him." Mark 14:32Ė35.
Compare this problem with Adamís problem. Adamís problem was that he might lose his companion. The comparison is one sided, because Christ is facing the problem of being cast into non-existence, (which will be the equivalent of the sinnerís death) a much greater problem. If anybody would have a temptation to think "This is too much for the Lord," it would be Jesus. He struggled. Yes, we have to admit, He struggled. The struggle is easy to understand when we consider what He was giving upóthe dominions of all the universe, the glory and the adoration from all.
But if you look at these two garden scenes there were differences. Our Brother in the garden of Gethsemane appeared much smaller than our father in the garden of Eden. He did not look a lot like him. The garden itself, instead of being the beautiful scene that we talked about in Eden, was a rough and rocky hillside. The best thing they could grow there was olive trees.
The Man Himself, our Savior, our Brother, was weaker than Adam. Notice this comment,"When Adam was assailed by the tempter, none of the effects of sin were upon him. He stood in the strength of perfect manhood, possessing the full vigor of mind and body. He was surrounded with the glories of Eden, and was in daily communion with heavenly beings. It was not thus with Jesus when He entered the wilderness to cope with Satan. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in physical strength, in mental power, and in moral worth; and Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. Only thus could He rescue man from the lowest depths of his degradation." Desire of Ages, 117.
To study this for yourself, read the chapter "Gethsemane" in Desire of Ages. There you will have a look into the heart of Jesus, a look right into His soul, to see what he was fighting with. It describes what being numbered with the transgressors meant. The guilt of fallen humanity He must bear. Upon Him who knew no sin must be laid the iniquity of us all. He is tempted to fear that it will shut Him out forever from His Fatherís love. He is staring annihilation in the faceónon-existence. He falls prostrate to the ground. The thought of being separated from His father was so broad, so black, so deep, that His spirit shuddered before it. This agony, He must not exert His divine power to escape. He could have. He could have backed out even then.
He stretched out on the ground and tried to cling to the soil with His hands, as if He were going to be shaken loose from it. Three times He went back to the disciples to see if He might get some comfort and encouragement from them, some realization that what He was doing had value in their sight. But they were asleep, all the while. He did not get any help there at all. Finally, when He made that supreme decision, "He fell dying to the ground." He would have died right there except for miraculous intervention. He would not have gotten to the cross at all. Jesus had an enormously stronger reason to judge the immensity of His problem than Adam had. But, He said, "My Father has no problems. My Father is in control. All that my Father gives shall come to me." This time it was victory, instead of failure!
To make this personalódo you ever feel a sense of panic? Events among the nations, events in our church, events in our own livesóthat is where it comes close to us. Remember our fatherís experience? He decided that God could not handle his problem, so he gave in. But God had it all solved. Christ would have died for Eve if nobody else had ever sinned. There was a problem but, there was a solution available. So remember our father, and remember our Elder Brother, and never doubt Godís power.
The Spirit of Prophecy focuses on this particular problemófeeling that God can not handle it, and
that things are out of control. Do you think anything ever happens to you when God is not looking, that He just does not care about? There is nothing about you that He does not care about. There is nothing that He is not interested in. Every aspect of our entire life experience is important to Him, but He is taking a long view.
Sometimes we take the short view. We will look at a few lines to remind us of what is said to us about this particular question: "Can God handle this? Or is God off somewhere paying attention to other things and not watching?" "Many who sincerely consecrate their lives to Godís service are surprised and disappointed to find themselves, as never before, confronted by obstacles and beset by trials and perplexities. Like Israel of old they question, ĎIf God is leading us, why do these things come upon us?í [Here is the answer.] It is because God is leading them that these things come upon them. Trials and obstacles are the Lordís chosen methods of discipline and His appointed conditions of success." Ministry of Healing, 470, 471. "Godís care for His heritage is unceasing. He suffers no affliction to come upon His children but such as is essential for their present and eternal good. [No affliction, from the largest, to the smallest.] All that He brings upon His people in test and trial comes that they may gain deeper piety and greater strength to carry forward the triumphs of the cross." Acts of the Apostles, 425.
Does God really take personal interest in you? "He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. Whatever comes to Him comes from the Saviour." Ministry of Healing, 489. Look at that carefully. That is a bold statement. "Whatever comes to him comes from the Saviour." You mean all of this hard luck, all of these disappointments? Yes, everything. There are no exceptions. "Nothing can touch him except by the Lordís permission. All our sufferings and sorrows, all our temptations and trials, all our sadness and griefs, all our persecutions and privations, in short, all things work together for our good. All experiences and circumstances are Godís workmen whereby good is brought to us." Ibid., 488. "God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him." Ibid., 479.
Faith is like a diamondóit has many facets. We are studying a couple of those facets in this article. We have looked at your trials and your faith. Let us look at another aspect of faithóyour words and your faith. We are told, "It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance. While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words." Ministry of Healing, 251, 252. You can talk yourself into a lot of discouragement and doubt. You can talk yourself into total doubt, total unbelief, total abandonment of the truth, just by talking about how bad things are. "Talk of faith, of light, and of heaven, and you will have faith, light and love, and peace and joy, in the Holy Ghost." Testimonies, vol. 1, 168. If you love darkness, talk about itóit will come. Ibid., 699. "Those who talk faith and cultivate faith will have faith, but those who cherish and express doubts will have doubts." Testimonies, vol. 5, 302.
In Ministry of Healing, 250 we are told, "When temptations assail you, when care, perplexity, and darkness seem to surround your soul, look to the place where you last saw the light" and talk about that. Our words have a reaction upon ourselves. If we express our gloomy thoughts, "Oh, how terrible this is, how terrible that is," we will talk ourselves into a bad condition, because thoughts follow words. But we can train ourselves to say, "That is bad, but it is no problem to the Lord."
We live in a time when some terrible things are happening. It will get us down if we are not careful. It will depress us and discourage us. We must fight that depression and discouragement. We must fight that awful feeling of goneness when we see horrible things happening. "God calls upon His faithful ones, who believe in Him, to talk courage to those who are unbelieving and hopeless." Christian Service, 234. "If we will restrain the expression of unbelief, and by hopeful words and prompt movements strengthen our own faith and the faith of others, our vision will grow clearer. The pure atmosphere of heaven will surround our souls. Be strong and talk hope." Testimonies, vol. 6, 462. "Never allow yourself to talk in a hopeless, discouraged way. If you do you will lose much. By looking at appearances and complaining when difficulties and pressure come, you give evidence of a sickly, feeble faith." Now look at this line, "Talk and act as if your faith was invincible." Christís Object Lessons, 147.
Section Three: Our Father Meets Our Brother in a Garden.
This is a beautiful scene talking about the redeemed coming to the gates of the Holy City. "As the ransomed ones are welcomed to the City of God, there rings out upon the air an exultant cry of adoration. The two Adams are about to meet. [Christ and Adam] The Son of God is standing with outstretched arms to receive the father of our raceóthe being whom He created, who sinned against his Maker, and for whose sin the marks of the crucifixion are borne upon the Saviourís form. As Adam discerns the prints of the cruel nails, he does not fall upon the bosom of his Lord, but in humiliation casts himself at His feet, crying, ĎWorthy, worthy is the Lamb that was slain!í Tenderly the Saviour lifts him up, and bids him look once more upon the Eden home from which he has so long been exiled." Great Controversy, 647. Did you know that the garden of Eden is in heaven? Pretty nice. I want to be there. Donít you? Faith is the victory. We have got to have faith that will never look at any problem of any dimension and say, "This is too much for the Lord." Nothing is too much for the Lord! He has it all figured out. He knows exactly what his response isgoing to be to every trial that comes along. All we have to do is hang on to Him for dear life, and never let ourselves doubt in any way.
December 1996 Table of Contents