Trust and Obey: My Sabbath Experiences
Published on 03/01/2021 |
I attended Independence High School, a public school in San Jose, California. One of my teachers, Mr. Rice, who taught humanities, was a stanch atheist who constantly denigrated Christians. One day, out of exasperation, I decided to speak out in class. Prayerfully and earnestly, I tried to convince him and my classmates of the existence and reality of God. Many of my classmates ridiculed me as Mr. Rice dismissively responded “That’s all you’ve got?” Although awkward, I was pleased by the interaction. I felt God helping me and thought I made many good points.
Fast forward 23 years. I received an unexpected call from the superintendent of the San Jose School District. He said, “We want to induct you into our Thomas P. Ryan Hall of Fame. You will be inducted with Jerry Yang, a co-founder of Yahoo. It’s going to be on a Saturday.” He gave me the date and the time.
“I can’t make it on that day,” I said.
“What?” came the reply. “This is such an honor. You are going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame!”
“Yes, but Saturday is my Sabbath, from sundown Friday evening until sundown Saturday evening,” I said.
He replied, “But we only do this every few years, and it is always on Saturday.”
I replied, “I would rather keep my Sabbath and forgo the induction.”
There was silence as I hung up the phone. However, a couple days later I received another telephone call from the superintendent.
He said, “We will have a special ceremony just for you on Friday afternoon. It will be over before sundown.”
When I arrived on that particular Friday, I did not recognize anyone – except for one: Mr. Rice. To my surprise he came to support me. When I returned home, I had an email from Mr. Rice. He wrote, “Are you worried about my soul? You don’t need to. I have accepted Christ.”
I was shocked. I thought he would never accept Christ.
God has His own timing! We have a job to do. Our job is to share Christ with other people. We do our part; God does His part.
After finishing three years of dermatology residency, I applied for a Mohs Micrographic Skin Cancer Surgery Fellowship. I consulted with my Dermatology Program Director, Dr. Flowers, and he said I should apply to Scripps Clinic & Research Foundation, in La Jolla, California. He thought that was the best Fellowship program in the world. They had around 600 applicants from all over the world, including Australia, England, Israel, Canada, and the United States. They interview 50 candidates for one fellowship position. I applied, and after hearing nothing for weeks, I decided to telephone them. “Hello, this is John Chung.”
“Okay…? Why are you calling?”
“I sent my application and want to know if I may have an interview.”
“Well, we will look into it, but please don’t call us back.”
After the conversation I thought, “That’s the last time I will hear from them!”
Two days later they called me with an invitation for an interview.
It turned out to be a working interview. As soon as I walked in, the Program Director, Dr. Greenway, asked me to join him in the operating room. I worked with him for the entire day.
Dr. Greenway had already reviewed my medical school grades, board scores, and recommendation letters. At the end of the day he said, “I have to do one more interview. But I want to tell you right now that you have the position.”
I was ecstatic, but there was a major problem. You see, they have many conferences on weekends throughout the year that are held from Friday to Sunday. And as a fellow, I would be expected to prepare and lead out in these conferences. I said, “Dr. Greenway, you need to know something about me. I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. The Sabbath starts on Friday night and ends on Saturday night. I cannot be involved in the conferences during the Sabbath hours.”
I thought he was going to retract his offer of acceptance. But, after just a few seconds he said, “That’s okay, I will still accept you.” I never had any problem with the Sabbath during the entire fellowship.
After my fellowship, I asked God for His guidance on my future. I had multiple offers, but the most surprising offer came from Dr. Greenway, who had been promoted to CEO of all the Scripps Clinics. He said, “John, I want you to take over my position.”
La Jolla is a beautiful place. The clinic overlooks the famous Torrey Pines golf course and the Pacific Ocean. This was an unbelievable opportunity. “You’re going to become the Head of Dermatology, the Mohs Surgery Fellowship, and all the surgery departments.” And he kept enticing me with money.
But I had the Sabbath conflict. I told Dr. Greenway, “This is such an honor that you asked me, but I must decline.” He was astonished by my answer and said, “I want you to think about it. I’m going to give you two days. Talk to your wife.” But I did not need two days.
We often make decisions based on feelings or personal gain. We don’t always ask, “What is God’s will?” God was not calling me to work in La Jolla and be required to coordinate conferences on Sabbath. The next day I told Dr. Greenway, “I am sorry but I cannot take this position.”
God called me to a different place, where He could use me to become a witness for Him. So He sent us to Dalton, a small town in North Georgia.
Several years later, a pharmaceutical sales rep came to my office and said, “According to the number of prescriptions that you write, you have the busiest private practice in the United States.” I thought he was kidding. He said, “No, it’s true!” He showed me all the numbers. I was getting patients from seven different states. It is only by the grace of God that people come, and we are only as prosperous as we are faithful.
It was Wednesday afternoon many years ago. I was performing surgery on a patient under intravenous sedation, and he stopped breathing in the middle of the procedure. Even with intubation and 100 percent oxygen, he continued to decline. I thought he was going to die. As I prayed in earnest, he revived.
Three days later, I was sitting in church at the 11 o’clock service when his wife called and said, “Something is wrong with my husband.” I immediately went to their house to check on him, but everything was fine.
“I wish you had called me at noon and not 11 a.m.,” I said.
“What are you talking about?” she replied.
“I was in church and I wanted to hear the sermon!”
“But this is Saturday!”
“Well, I go to church on the Sabbath, which is Saturday.”
For the next two hours, I witnessed to them about my faith. They said, “Will you please come and share with our Thursday night Bible study group?”
I envisioned a small group, but when I arrived on that particular night, there were at least 50 people, from many denominations. I knew most of them – they were almost all my patients! The couple had distributed a flyer stating that I was giving my testimony.
I shared the cross of Christ. I believe, our SDA Church is the true church because we have the clearest understanding of the Cross. So, I shared the beautiful message of the Gospel.
“How would you feel if you experienced the guilt of everyone’s sin, from Adam until the last person ever to live?” I asked. “That’s what Christ encountered. Isaiah 53:6 says, ‘the Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.’ ALL. And Hebrews 2:9 states that Jesus tasted death for every man. That’s why Jesus said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ as the sins of all humanity fell upon Him. At this point Jesus experienced the ultimate agony – complete separation from the Father.”
“Satan with his fierce temptations wrung the heart of Jesus. The Savior could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him his coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice.”
– Desire of Ages p. 753
I said, “You know, many of the things that I’m telling you came from an inspired book called Desire of Ages. Who would like to have a copy?”
Every person raised their hand.
I needed at least 100 books. When I called the ABC, the manager said it would take a few weeks to get that many hard-bound copies. In the meantime, they all wanted me to come back for more Bible studies. So I kept returning to the Bible study every week.
When the books finally arrived, each person began reading the Desire of Ages. One lady said, “I take this book everywhere with me. I take it to the bank; I take it to the store. I even read it when I’m stopped at a red light. I have a husband and two sons; would you please get copies for them?”
For the last 25 years, we’ve been having weekly Bible studies at our home, and many have been baptized as a result.
Years ago, a Baptist man was attending our Wednesday evening Bible study. He would sit to my left, listening but saying little. After covering gospel basics in previous weeks, I decided to cover the Sabbath. I had prepared a presentation drawing from the Bible and history and thought I had made a compelling argument for the Sabbath being Saturday. The normally taciturn Baptist man came out of his shell with a bang, cursing me out using four-letter words. I was stunned. He said repeatedly, “You are a deceiver!”
I said, “I’ve just been teaching straight from the Bible! Did I say anything contrary to the Bible?”
“I know what you are trying to do!” he said.
“What am I trying to do?”
He said, “Look everybody! Look! You know what he is trying to do? He’s trying to make all of us Seventh-day Adventists! His whole objective from the beginning was to make us Seventh-day Adventists!” In actuality, what he said was true.
I froze, inwardly praying, “God, what do you want me to do?” I tried to counter any implication of legalism, saying, “We are not saved by keeping the Sabbath. We are saved only by grace and through faith. But Sabbath is a result of our salvation, not in order to be saved. There will be a lot of Baptists in Heaven who never knew to keep the Sabbath.” I don’t remember what else I said, but everyone soon left.
It was a depressing week. “God, maybe these people are not ready. Do you want me to stop the Bible studies? I’ll do whatever you want.”
I thought the following week’s attendance would be sparse. But to my surprise everyone came back. I decided not to talk about the Sabbath that night and let things calm down. After our study, the man who had cursed me said, “Dr. Chung, I would like to apologize for what I said last week.”
I said, “It’s okay. You were being honest, and expressed your opinion. In this country there is freedom of choice and religion. You don’t have to apologize. It’s okay!”
He said, “No, I need to apologize in front of all these people. Dr. Chung, I must tell you something. I went home and found some studies online.” He handed me a large stack of papers that he had printed from a website. He said, “I’ve been studying this whole week because I was shocked by what you said. I didn’t know anything about this. But when I studied all this, I realized that everything you said was true.”
I said, “Praise the Lord!” Then I looked at the top page of the stack that he was clutching, and there was printed the familiar name, “Amazing Facts.” In my heart I said, “Lord, this guy could have downloaded from any source, but he downloaded from Amazing Facts!”
“There’s a guy named Doug Bachelor,” he said, “He comes on TV Sundays at 11 a.m. on Channel 12.”
“I don’t watch much TV,” I replied.
He said, “You can come over to my house and watch him. He’s my favorite preacher. And preaches on Sundays. Every Sunday.” I didn’t say a thing. That night, as I was driving home, I was laughing so hard that if anybody saw me, driving all alone and laughing uncontrollably, they would have thought that I was crazy. I guess that’s holy laughter. The week before was depressing. But this particular day turned out to be one of the best days of my life.
Sometimes we who grew up with the Sabbath are embarrassed or reluctant to share the Sabbath truth. But through each of these experiences, I have been reminded of the importance of sharing the Sabbath with others.
My prayer for us is that we will be so blessed by the Sabbath that we would be willing to give up everything this world offers – prestigious jobs, fame, fortune, and anything else that lures us away from precious time with our Savior.
May you and I have a burning desire to share Christ, the blessings of keeping the Sabbath, and most importantly, His saving grace with those around us.
Ecclesiastes 11:1 says, “Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days.” This is full of meaning. Water symbolizes the people. The Bread represents Jesus and His Word. If we cast Jesus and His Word upon people, we shall “find it after many days.”
We might not learn the result of our efforts until the life to come. In Heaven, someone may tap you on the shoulder and say, “Remember that time you shared Christ with me? You talked about Jesus, and I went home and began digging and searching. I found Christ.”
And they will be grateful for all eternity! Every time they see another beautiful planet, eat from the Tree of Life, talk to Moses, and experience the awe and wonder of God’s universe, they will be praising God for your witness!
Ellen White says that each day in Heaven will be happier than the previous day! After a trillion years you will say, “I’m so happy!” But the next day you are even happier! Your joy will be infinite. I want to share this infinite gift with others. Will you join me?
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