An Inexhaustible Source of Strength, Power, and Grace
There is a passage in the book Education which deserves contemplation. It reads, “The most valuable teaching of the Bible is not to be gained by occasional or disconnected study. Its great system of truth is not so presented as to be discerned by the hasty or careless reader. Many of its treasures lie far beneath the surface, and can be obtained only by diligent research and continuous effort. The truths that go to make up the great whole must be searched out and gathered up, ‘here a little, and there a little’ (Isaiah 28:10).” Education, 123.
Scripture and inspired writings often present critical points of faith and sources of strength that are not readily apparent to the surface reader—“the hasty or careless reader.” These hidden gems need to be ferreted out by diligent searching and critical reasoning. Inspiration equates this effort with mining. By this diligent effort, “the intellect will find themes of the most elevated character to call out its powers. There is nothing that will so endow with vigor all our faculties as bringing them in contact with the stupendous truths of revelation. The effort to grasp and measure these great thoughts expands the mind. We may dig down deep into the mine of truth, and gather precious treasures with which to enrich the soul. Here we may learn the true way to live, the safe way to die.” The Review and Herald, January 4, 1881.
Note that our study of Scripture and inspired writings not only teach us “the true way to live,” but also “the safe way to die,” the latter being perhaps a seldom considered blessing.
An example of a hidden gem in Scripture—and there are many—occurs in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews. In chapter 3, Paul spends a good bit of time explaining to them that Jesus is greater than Moses. To ensure that his readers understand why this is true and to help them understand the importance of faith in Christ as their Redeemer—and to comprehend that which makes Him greater than Moses, he provides some strong words of caution: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).
It should be recognized that here Paul equates unbelief with having an evil heart. We can conclude therefore that if we believe in and accept Christ Jesus as “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1), we have a good heart, which, according to Jesus, is essential to achieving behavioral compliance with His word.
A Good Heart
When Christ was explaining the meaning of the Parable of the Sower to His disciples, He said, “But the ones [seeds] that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
The importance of having a good heart cannot be underestimated. Those with a good heart readily accept the word of God, “keep it and bear fruit.” God expects nothing more—and nothing less—of His followers.
When we possess a good heart, we naturally possess a good character. The result is an assurance of victory.
“Young men and women should regard a good character as a capital of more value than gold or silver or stocks. It will be unaffected by panics and failures, and will bring rich returns when earthly possessions shall be swept away. … Integrity, firmness, and perseverance are qualities which all should seek earnestly to cultivate; for they clothe the possessor with a power which is irresistible, a power which makes him strong to do good, strong to resist evil, strong to bear adversity.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 656.
Inspired writings as well as Scripture contain these hidden gems. An interesting example occurs in a passage from a manuscript Sister White wrote in 1912, just a few years before her death.
“God’s children are always being tested in the furnace of affliction. If they endure the first trial, it is not necessary for them to pass through a similar ordeal the second time; but if they fail, the trial is brought to them again and again, each time being still more trying and severe. Thus opportunity after opportunity is placed before them of gaining the victory and proving themselves true to God. But if they continue to manifest rebellion, God is compelled at last to remove His Spirit and light from them.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1146.
A careful analysis of this passage reveals that failure to successfully endure our trials is a manifestation of rebellion. While some might consider that a rather bold and severe conclusion, its truth can be confirmed with some further “mining” of scripture and Inspiration.
There are unnumbered promises in God’s word in which divine assistance is assured to enable us to persevere when we are engaged in our daily battle with the enemy. One of the strongest is given in the first few verses of Peter’s second epistle.
“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:1–4).
If Jesus Christ “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,” there remains nothing more that we could require to successfully overcome every encounter with the temptations that Satan daily throws across our path. The problem, therefore, lies with “an evil heart of unbelief,” which causes us to fail to grasp the grace freely provided that enables us to overcome every effort of the enemy of souls to lead us astray. Failure to accept as absolute truth the promise of divine aid, and therefore fail to act on that promise, is indeed an act of rebellion.
It should be recognized that in all cases, when we fail to resist Satan’s efforts to lead us astray, we are committing a transgression of the divine will and are reckoned as a rebel in the books of heaven.
It should also be recognized that the power to resist temptation is provided in all its fullness in the grace so freely dispensed at our command and reception. Confirmation of the liberal dispensation of the power to overcome is provided in the following passage.
“ ‘Grace and peace’ will be multiplied ‘through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.’ Here is the Source of all spiritual power, and faith must be in constant exercise, for all spiritual life is from Christ. Knowledge of God inspires faith in Him as the only channel to convey heaven’s blessing to the soul, elevating, ennobling, refining the soul, as—through the knowledge of God—it is brought up to the high attainment of glory and virtue. ‘According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.’ ” Our High Calling, 67.
That “high attainment of glory and virtue” is—or should be—the objective of every Christian. By taking advantage of the grace and power so freely provided by Christ’s sacrifice, that attainment is indeed possible. Failure to take that advantage, failure to grasp that Mighty Arm in times of temptation and successfully overcome, according to the previously cited passage from the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, is indeed rebellion.
Acknowledgment that we need divine assistance in our daily battle with the powers of evil is an essential step in overcoming self, in the crucifixion of the old man and becoming a new man in Christ Jesus.
Paul addresses this issue fairly directly in the third chapter of Colossians, a chapter that is loaded with hidden gems, and a chapter that repeats a concept that Paul expresses in different words in his second letter to the Corinthians.
In Colossians 3:2, Paul says to “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” In 2 Corinthians 10:5, he pleads that his readers should be “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” The consistency of these two passages should be evident, and the fact that Paul provides this counsel twice to two different churches should give us some indication of its importance.
It should also be evident why, very early in holy writ, we are advised, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). This is the technique that reveals those hidden gems that, once discovered, increase our faith, smooth the rough places, and straighten the crooked paths.
John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.