Honoring Lord of Sabbath
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, September 24.
t all started in the fifth grade. For the first time, Felipe was required to attend a religion class at his private school in Brazil.
His parents explained to the principal that their family was Seventh-day Adventist and asked for Felipe to be excused.
The principal saw bigger future problems waiting for Felipe.
“How will he graduate without attending classes on Saturdays?” the principal asked. “In high school, a lot of classes are scheduled on Saturdays. And isn’t every day God’s?”
But he gave permission for the boy to leave the classroom and read his Bible and Sabbath School lesson in another room during the religion class.
Felipe felt uncomfortable being different from the other children, but he had no desire to conform. In his childish mind, he thought, “If God was faithful to Daniel and Joseph, He will be faithful to me.”
Felipe’s first Saturday classes began the next year in the sixth grade. At first there were only two or three classes. Felipe skipped them and studied from his friends’ notes. The school respected Felipe’s right to worship on Saturday and advanced him to the next grade.
Felipe finished elementary school, and his parents were summoned for another talk when he started high school.
“Many classes and exams are held on Saturdays,” the principal said. “Are you sure that you want to keep Felipe in this school?”
Felipe’s father was quite sure. He wanted the boy to stay in the school because it was the same one that he had attended many years earlier.
Felipe skipped all classes on Saturdays. Sometimes it was difficult. Half of the classes on some subjects were on Saturday, and there was no way that he could take them at another time. But God honored Felipe’s faithfulness, and he kept advancing to the next grade.
At first, the high school classes lasted from 1:30 p.m. to 8:40 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays, with occasional classes in the mornings. But then the number of Saturday classes intensified to three classes on Friday evenings, seven on Saturday mornings, and four more on Saturday afternoons. Felipe didn’t attend any of the classes on Sabbath. God blessed Felipe, and he graduated from high school.
Then it came time for Felipe to take entrance exams to study medicine at a state university. His dream was to become a physician. But his world seemed to fall apart when he failed to make the list of successful university applicants.
“I’ve always been faithful,” he prayed. “Why aren’t You blessing me?”
Although he felt sad, he also sensed the peace that comes from trusting the God who knows everything, hears everything, and sees everything.
He took the entrance exam for the private university where his father worked. To this day, he remembers the theme of the essay, “Science and Religion.” His name again did not make the list of successful applicants.
Felipe prayed and reflected for a week.
Then the university released a second list of successful applicants, and his name was at the top. His essay had scored top marks.
Saturday classes remained a problem at the university. In Felipe’s third year, he had a class that met four periods a week, including two on Saturday. He skipped the Saturday classes, and the teacher failed him. Felipe’s academic adviser couldn’t help. “How are you going to become a doctor?” he said. “This profession will demand a lot from you. We can’t do anything for you.”
But God provided in an incredible way. When Felipe registered for the next semester, he learned that an unusually large number of students had failed the same class in the previous semester. As a result, an extra class would be offered, and it did not meet on Saturdays. It was his opportunity to retake the class from the same teacher. Felipe passed the class.
During his time at the university, many teachers asked about his absence from Saturday classes, and they showed a great deal of respect for him and religious freedom when he explained his convictions about the seventh-day Sabbath.
Saturday exams continued after Felipe finished the university. The exams for medical residency and, later, for a medical license were scheduled on Saturdays. But Felipe was able to take them at other times. Only 30 percent of hundreds of candidates passed the medical license exam, and amazingly Felipe scored first place in all Brazil.
Today, Felipe is a professor at the private university where he once studied. Just a few days ago, a teacher mentioned during faculty meeting that an Adventist student was studying in one of his classes.
“How will she graduate if she misses my classes on Saturdays?” he asked.
In response, a long-time teacher gestured toward Felipe. “You have living proof of how someone can miss Saturday classes and still graduate right here in front of your eyes,” he said.
The Sabbath story is repeating itself. Just as God helped Felipe when he was faithful, God will help every faithful student — and will turn their experience into a mission story to His glory.
Part of today’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help establish four new churches in Felipe’s homeland of Brazil so more people can learn about the Lord of the Sabbath. Another four churches will be opened in Bolivia. Thank you for planning a generous offering to help spread the gospel in the South American Division.