I shared this story once in a sundown worship to a group of young people who are experiencing the same struggle I had a year ago. I hope you will take time reading it and be blessed through it.
There is a cliche saying about sunsets that they remind us “that endings can also be beautiful.” This is indeed true for me, especially if it is the sunset on a Friday night. For a Seventh-day Adventist like me, I delight in the feeling that every time the sun sets on a Friday night, it means that a physical, emotional, and spiritual rest is on the way.
However, there was once a time in my life when I used to delight more in the sunset of a Saturday, than in the sunset of a Friday. There was a time in my life when I loved it more when the Sabbath day is about to end than when it is about to begin.
Before I go on telling my story, I want first to look at the life of Lot. Lot lived together with Abram (who was later called Abraham) after his father, Haran, died (Genesis 11:31). Now, as time passed by, Abram’s and Lot’s possessions became great up to the point that their herdsmen were now having disputes over their livestock. In order to prevent this from getting worse, Abram and Lot needed to separate. Abram gave Lot the freedom to choose which side to live on. “If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or if you go to the right, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:9, NKJV).
Now, Lot looked at both sides and saw that the plain of Jordan was well-watered. This side is where the city called Sodom is located. Lot knew Sodom is a wicked city yet he still chose this place to live in because of the thought that the land there is bountiful. Basically, Lot followed his own desires without considering the moral standards of the place he chose to live on. He chose for himself the place where he will satisfy his worldly desires, other than consulting and choosing the will of God for him and his family.
Going back to my story, I was in college back then when I experienced a great struggle in my spiritual life. It is normal for non-SDA universities to have classes that fall on a Saturday. My first three years and one semester in college went smoothly. I never had even a single problem with Saturday classes that time. But when the 2nd semester of my fourth year came, I had one subject that fell on a Saturday schedule. I asked a friend who have had the same experience with the same professor before, and he told me that I just need to write a letter to him, explaining that I am a Seventh-Day Adventist and that I cannot attend Saturday classes.
I took his advice and I wrote an e-mail to my professor, because I was really afraid to go and talk to him personally, explaining my belief as a Seventh-Day Adventist, and asked if he will allow me to not attend classes, but still comply with his requirements (homework, exams, projects) on a different day. To my surprise, he allowed me on one condition – I would have to do my projects ALONE. I cannot team up with my other classmates because for him, it would seem unfair. I wanted to keep my Sabbath, so I accepted the challenge.
Half-compromising the Sabbath
Week after week after week passed and suddenly everything changed. During the examination week, I asked him for my special exam but he told me that he will not allow me to take it because “it will seem unfair” to my classmates who are attending his classes. I begged him to give me a special exam and he said that he will talk to the chairperson about it. Later that day I got a response in my e-mail, and he told me that he will allow me to take a special exam only ONCE – meaning I would have to take the other exams (midterm and final) and the prototype checking on regular Saturday classes.
I no longer tried to talk to him about it because I was afraid of failing my subject and not graduating on time. To cut it short, I took the other exams and the project checking on our regular Saturday classes. That time I thought I was only “half-compromising” because I did not fully give up my Saturday to attend the regular classes. But later on I realized that the number of days or the number of hours you spent doing ungodly things on a Sabbath does not matter – a compromise is a compromise.
As I looked back to this moment, I realized how selfish I have become in choosing a side, just as Lot had been so selfish in choosing Sodom. I let my fear of failure get in the way of my obedience to the commandments of God. I was afraid to fail one subject and not graduate on time, so I chose the easier side which involved compromising and desanctifying the Sabbath.
I let my fear of failure get in the way of my obedience to the commandments of God.
Fully compromising the Sabbath
The story did not end there. Fifth year, 1st semester, I had two Saturday classes. Both classes take three hours each, so the schedule is from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. That simply means I can no longer attend the Sabbath School and the Divine worship. Before I enrolled these subjects, I asked the department secretary if, in any way, the schedule can be changed. But she told me that she cannot do anything about it in her power unless I talk to the chairperson about it. Once again, I was too afraid and too hesitant to talk to the chairperson so I consulted my parents about it.
Long story short, I ended up enrolling these two subjects that fell on a Saturday. I told myself that I will only attend the first meetings and then I will try to talk to whoever the professors will be if I can have the same privilege I had last semester. However, I ended up simply attending every Saturday class because I was then again afraid that if I talk to them about it, they would fail me in that subject and my Graduation day will get delayed.
For the second time, I let my faith down because of my worldly desire to Graduate on time and prove to the world that I can finish Engineering in exactly five years. I once again saw Lot in my decisions – prioritizing my worldly desires instead of taking the will of God.
That semester was like hell for me. For five months I was tormented by the guilt and my conscience that I am attending Saturday classes instead of spending my time with God. Added to the guilt is that I was the youth leader and a Juniors teacher that time. What kind of an Adventist Youth leader am I if I was the one compromising the Sabbath? I was teaching kids to “keep the Sabbath holy” yet I was the one leading in desanctifying it.
That was the time when I no longer enjoyed Friday sunsets because that means I had another day to compromise, and rooting more for the Saturday sunset because that means I am now free of doing what I want because Sabbath has already ended.
No more compromise
After that semester ended, I promised myself that I will no longer compromise. God gave me the power of choice and I chose to turn away from Him. I thought that it would give me happiness but it never did. Those five months caused me to have distraught opinions and views on life. It caused me to have corrupted thoughts, worst decision-making skills, and an unexplainable tiredness even though I did not do anything tedious. During those months, God showed me the danger of compromise.
In my last semester in my university, I still had that same Saturday-class-problem but this time I did not run away from it. I talked to the chairperson about how I want the Saturday schedule to be transferred on a Tuesday because that is the only day that we have no scheduled classes (My classes besides the Saturday schedule were scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). She told me she cannot move it, because the instructor is only available on Saturdays. I asked her if there is really nothing she can do about it, and she told me to check the same subject on the other branch of the same school (I was enrolled in the Quezon City branch, the other was in Manila). If the schedule there does not have any conflict with my schedule in Quezon City, she will allow me to cross-enroll.
I immediately looked for an internet connection to check their schedule in the Manila branch and I trembled when I saw that the subject which I want to cross-enroll there was scheduled on a TUESDAY, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. I felt my legs grow weak and my body shivering. That moment on, I realized how amazing God truly is. A verse which I have kept so long hidden in my mind suddenly flashed to me. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given unto you,” (Matthew 6:33).
I told the chairperson about the schedule, and she told me to create a formal letter which she will sign so that the school registrar will be able to endorse me to the other branch. I did all of that despite my friends questioning me why I had to do it.
There are indeed a lot of sacrifices to be made that time. Among them are:
- That time (6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) is a dangerous time especially in the location of the school.
- I had to pay the miscellaneous fees again, so 3 units still took about Php11,000.
- I had to re-adjust myself to a quite new environment with new classmates.
- I have to travel farther distances just to get to my new school
But despite all those sacrifices, I knew that what I was doing is right. Choosing God was the best thing that ever happened to my life. Everything fell into place only when I chose the path which God had laid for me.
Up to this day, I look back to those times when I chose my worldly desires instead of choosing the will of God and I admit that those days of compromise were days I am not truly proud of. I thought that Graduating on time would make me proud of myself but as I remembered how much I compromised just to achieve this, I become downhearted.
“Lot chose Sodom for his home because he saw that there were advantages to be gained there from a worldly point of view. But after he had established himself, and grown rich in earthly treasure, he was convinced that he had made a mistake in not taking into consideration the moral standing of the community in which he was to make his home.”
– Conflict and Courage p. 48
Human beings were naturally drawn towards worldly pleasure rather than the will of God. Just like Lot, we often choose the things that we thought would give us temporal and earthly happiness only to find out sooner or later that we made a mistake. But God is always reminding us to choose the path which he had laid for us, and “all these things will be given to you.” Do not, at any point, think that there is greater joy in choosing the world because I have seen it myself that there isn’t any. Because clearly Jesus Christ said “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NKJV).
Let us choose God daily. No matter how big or small the choices may be, always choose the one that God has prepared for you. Yes, it may be difficult and tiresome. Yes, there may be sacrifices along the way. But what are those sacrifices compared to the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross just to secure our eternal salvation?
Choose to obey God. Keep his commandments. Keep the Sabbath holy, so you may always feel the rush of excitement every time the sun sets on a Friday night.