Richard first began doubting God while he was studying computer mathematics at a public university in North Africa. Ever since his conversion to Adventism in Zambia, he had learned to be faithful to keep the Lord’s Sabbath. So when the university exams were scheduled on the Sabbath, he simply didn’t show up to take them. But he was shocked by the impact of his decision; he failed the class and lost the whole year of education. Being faithful to God seemed to have a very high cost; the questions and doubts pressed in on him.
As he was facing his final year of civil engineering, he began worrying that history could repeat itself. What if he went through the whole course, exams were set on Sabbath, and the same thing happened? What if he would never be able to finish his education?
Of course he hadn’t lost his faith completely; he still prayed for others and even believed God could do mighty things. But with the doubts that gripped him, he did not have the faith God would answer his own requests.
With the conviction that reaching out to others might grow his own faith, Richard joined a literature team selling religious books in a closed country in MENA. As they worked together, his spiritual life revived. He felt God working. He heard others bringing their requests to God and he saw God’s answers. He began wondering if he could bring God his personal needs too.
One morning before going out to sell books, the canvassing team’s morning devotion inspired Richard with the message of Matthew 24. For days Richard thought about Jesus’ counsel to His disciples to pray that their flight wouldn’t be on the Sabbath or in winter. “Would God really help me protect His Sabbath if I ask?” he wondered. “What if I prayed that my exams would not be scheduled on the Sabbath? What if the whole group joined me?”
He shared with the canvassing team how he had lost a year of classwork, how he had been burdened with many doubts. He even confessed that just before they had begun working together he had written an exam on Sabbath out of fear of losing more of his education. The experience had not gone well; he realized he could never do that again.
In a moving testimony he shared his desire to be faithful to the Lord of the Sabbath and to follow Jesus’ advice in Matthew 24. He invited the team to pray with him that his exams would not be on the Sabbath. Their response encouraged him; they agreed to join him in his prayer. That was in August. Final exams would be in February. The team prayed for six months.
When classes began in the fall, Richard got to know his two class representatives–one a Christian, the other a non-Christian. When online classes met on Sabbath, the professor gave him permission to have a class representative record it. Richard’s Christian representative asked many questions and seemed to be trying to understand why the Sabbath was so important to him. After that, anytime there was discussion about changing class time, the representative would stand up for him, “Richard won’t be in class on Saturday. Could we possibly have it another day?”
When Richard’s non-Christian representative invited him to a social gathering on the Sabbath, he explained he couldn’t attend because he kept Saturday holy. She didn’t respond. Later the incident came up in conversation and she blurted out, “Why can’t you do anything on the Sabbath?” He explained that the Sabbath time is very important to him and it is his personal conviction to be faithful to the Lord.
Through the months that the canvassing team prayed with him, his convictions grew stronger. The day the exam schedule came out was a day of rejoicing; none of the exams were scheduled on the Sabbath! When a group of students requested a later exam date, Richard was relieved when the professor rescheduled exactly a week later. He still had no Sabbath exams! But during an online discussion where he wasn’t present, another professor objected; he couldn’t make it that day and wanted the exam on the following Sabbath. Students were asked to choose between the two days. When the majority voted in favor of Saturday, Richard wasn’t even in the discussion to defend himself.
His non-Christian class representative, though, noticed he wasn’t online with the group. She stopped the conversation, “Do you know one of our friends keeps the Saturday as a holy day and he can’t take it then?” That didn’t mean anything to some; a small group of students kept arguing for a Saturday exam. She persisted. “Look,” she said, “it is very important to him that he keep the Sabbath holy. Let us switch from Saturday to Friday.” With her persistence, the professor agreed.
Richard wasn’t there to speak; his decisions had already been expressed. As he explains the experience, “Six months of united prayer had settled in my own heart the convictions I held. It had helped protect God’s Sabbath in my own thinking. I had responded to my classmates from that growing strength simply by trying to explain my faith to them. When the real challenge came, my witness had already been given. God was free to do the rest, and He used my classmates!”