VICTORY, victory in Christ, is what the Christian life is all about. Victory over any and every sin, every weakness, every failing, that is in the life.
But many Seventh-day Adventists are conscious that they are not having complete victory in their lives. An informal survey recently conducted in one large Adventist church revealed that a sizable majority of the members were unsure of their relationship with Christ. This is not an indication of victory.
I have known defeat in my Christian life. Long years of defeat. By defeat I do not mean temporary setbacks. I mean defeat, time and time again, in my struggle with sin.
Briefly, my story is this: Baptized at 18, sincere in my desire to be a Christian, nevertheless I soon discovered my pre baptism weaknesses were still plaguing me. In spite of myself, I was weak in moral power, plagued by doubts, and under the control of inherited and cultivated leanings to sin. Not sins as the world would count them, perhaps, but sins as God and I knew them to be.
My spiritual life in academy was a teeter-totter one. Fall and spring Weeks of Prayer frequently inspired me to holier living. But soon I would slip back to my old life of doubt and defeat.
During World War II I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and spent some two years in England attached to a Canadian bomber squadron as a medic.
Following the war I went back to college; my goal, the ministry. In college I led a fairly active life as a theology student. I preached sermons at the college and nearby churches. I participated in public evangelistic meetings. I gave Bible studies.
But there still was something lacking in my religious life.
Outwardly I was probably what a ministerial student was expected to be. Inwardly there was an unlovely harem of feelings and attitudes-envy, jealousy, self-seeking, pride, un-Christlike ambition-that did not diminish with time, and that I could no more get rid of than I could change the shape of my ears or the color of my eyes.
In time I graduated and was called into the ministry. I served in several pastorates. I gave many Bible studies on the doctrines taught by Seventh-day Adventists. But I could not lead a person to Christ. I could not because I did not really know Him myself. Only a person who truly knows Jesus can lead others to Him.
Meanwhile I married. In my opinion there is nothing more calculated to expose a person's character than marriage. And especially does true character emerge when children come into the home.
With children, problems began to develop in our house. For example, my wife and I would have differences of opinion regarding how the children ought to be handled on various occasions. Sometimes there would 'be arguments. Afterward, I would go to my knees and ask for forgiveness and victory. And in a few days my wife and I would repeat our past performance. It was a merry-go-round we couldn't get off.
The Turning Point
The turning point came the year we returned home after spending ten years in the mission field. My wife went to visit her parents and some of her brothers and sisters. She returned with a vision. She had seen in one of her sisters a spiritual glow, love, faith, an openness, hopefulness, and Christian victory that she felt she had to have.
She began to search for a deeper life in Christ and to try to share her findings with me. The story of my resistings, and of my finally admitting to myself that pride and self-importance was the reason for my attitude, cannot be told here. What is important is that I finally began to follow some formulas and claim some promises. When I did, I began to discover something about how a person may have real victories in his Christian life.
Which brings us to the objective of this book.
As the title tells us, this volume is intended to be a "how-to" book. It is intended, hopefully, to fulfill to some degree Ellen White's words, "What the people want is instruction. What shall I do that I may save my soul?" Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 25. I hasten to add, it is not a "do-it-yourself" book, for Christianity is not a "do-it-yourself" religion.
While this is emphatically so, it is just as emphatically not a "do-nothing" religion. "The work of gaining salvation is one of co-partnership, a joint operation. There is to be co-operation between God and the repentant sinner." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 482.
Cooperation suggests a plan accepted by the parties involved. Ellen White puts cooperation on a high level when she suggests there is a science to the plan of salvation. "The Bible contains the science of salvation for all those who will hear and do the words of Christ." -Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 187.
In context, the term science suggests there are established principles in Christianity that may be discovered and understood, and that, being faithfully adhered to, will result in freedom from sin, and finally the reality of eternal life. This is further suggested in the familiar words of the Bible:
"All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17, R.S.V.).
Not by Spiritual Osmosis
Salvation, then, is not obtained by some sort of spiritual osmosis, or because God is very gracious and reluctant to destroy sinners-which is, of course, true-but because the sinner cooperates with certain spiritual principles.
This joint cooperation is not a haphazard, hit-or-miss, accidentally accomplished enterprise. The road to heaven is not discovered, or continued upon, by luck. We do not step into it by some mysterious providence guiding our feet in spite of our rebelliousness, carelessness, neglect, or indifference. We shall not walk at last through the gates of the city beyond the stars because we happened to drift at random into the company of those who shall walk there. Blind chance has absolutely no part to play in salvation. 1
On the contrary, those who walk in triumph through heaven's wide-swinging gates will do so because they will have gained the victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil. And to do so will take everything they have.
No one will be borne upward without stern, persevering effort in his own behalf. All must engage in this warfare for themselves. Individually we are responsible for the issue of the struggle; though Noah, Job, and Daniel were in the land, they could deliver neither son nor daughter by their righteousness. -Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 313, 314.
We have great victories to gain, and a heaven to lose if we do not gain them. -Ibid., vol. 5, p. 267.
In pondering my approach to this book I recognized a problem-indeed, a danger-inherent in writing a manuscript of this nature: the problem of balance and the danger involved in imbalance.
A certain emphasis will be found in this book because of the very nature of my subject. This emphasis could lead to misunderstanding on the part of some. The apostle James, in his accentuation of works in his theme of working faith, caused Martin Luther to belittle his letter as "an epistle of straw." Others have had similar problems with James. And there are those who have problems with other parts of the Holy Scriptures for similar reasons.
Moreover, I remember Ellen White's caution to "Brother K," as found in Selected Messages, book 1, pages 176, 177. Her admonitions there regarding the expressing of ideas in such a way as to be misunderstood and to cause problems must be taken very seriously.
In writing, I recalled words by Konrad Adenauer, former Chancellor of West Germany: "We are all under the same sky, but we don't all have the same horizon."
This book is written from the particular point where I see the horizon. It is penned as growing from my study, my observations, my experience. In doing this, I have tried to keep my eyes as much as possible away from the horizon, and toward the sky that covers us all. I have also tried to look beyond the sky we see, to Him who knows and respects us all as individuals, remembering at the same time that His conditions and standards are immovable, eternal.
The Terminal Cancer of Sin
Having said this, let me add to this chapter this thought: Early in his final book, Stay of Execution, the late eminent journalist Stewart Alsop tells of being a patient at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, suffering from leukemia. Wandering around one day on his floor, he entered a staff room where he saw a sign not meant to be seen by patients: ALL PATIENTS MUST HAVE INCURABLE CANCER. ALL PATIENTS MUST BE FRANKLY INFORMED OF THEIR CASE.
Reading the sign, Mr. Alsop felt "a dark pit of fear" inside.
Stewart Alsop died of cancer.
Can we face this fact for a moment? We are all suffering from the terminal cancer of sin. We are all sinners, and "the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
We can be treated with soft, reassuring, don't-get-excited, don't-be-concerned words-and die in our sins. Or we can be told, without deception, clearly, what our problem is." 2
In physical cancer it will be recognized that the physician may tell his patient ever so gently and compassionately of his disease. But the news is still going to be traumatic. But in spiritual cancer we can be told of the tremendous remedy that is found in the Lord Jesus, and how that remedy works 100 per cent for us if we will faithfully place ourselves into the hands of the Great Physician.
So I decided to describe plainly, depending upon the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, what seems to be the difficulty of many of us who are church members. I do this so that, like the patients in the cancer ward of the National Institutes of Health, we might understand the gravity of our situation. When we do this it is possible for us to see the importance of availing ourselves of the glorious remedy provided.
In a book of this nature, besides the problems already referred to, there is the problem of what to include. Some readers may feel I have written too much on one phase of my subject; others, that I have written too little. Some may think I have left out material that should be included; others, that I have included matter that should be left out. In any case, I have written from my own perspective with the objective, hopefully, of helping some reader find a meaningful, victorious relationship with Jesus.
Victory connotes struggle. The word has no meaning apart from struggle. So this book is about the Christian's struggle that leads to final victory.
The Christian warfare is not lightly, and must not be ignorantly, entered into. "What king," asked Jesus, "going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel?" (Luke 14:31, R.S.V.).
In this book we shall be taking a candid look at our assets and liabilities, with liabilities examined first. They may look large and discouraging. We shall also consider what is required of us before we can really begin to gain victories. We may consider this rather big, also.
Then we shall consider our allies, and shall discover that with them we cannot possibly lose the war.
Following this, looking at methods and means by which victory is gained, we shall discover great demands, but greater possibilities, and still greater potential conquests that climax in the glorious and triumphant event described by the revelator:
And after this I beheld, and, 10, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb .... And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes (Rev. 7:9-17).
1 See Appendix (p. 157) for Spirit of Prophecy statements indicated by superior figures.