Faith: The limiting reagent
The lesson asks, "In what ways, even subtly, as we await the Second Coming (which seems to be taking so long), could we be in danger of displaying the same attitudes we find so repugnant as manifested by the Hebrews here?" To answer this question let us read the following illustration.
Let us say that you want a certain amount of a chemical substance. To do this you have to mix a certain amount of the chemical substance that make it up. Simply put you follow a recipe. If you do the right thing you will produce the right amount of the right substance. But, let's say that after a few hours you end up short. The chemical reaction stopped working. It could be that you did not have enough of the limiting reagent. What is this? In a chemical reaction, it is the reagent that controls the quantity of product which can be formed. Put differently, it is the chemical that determines how far the reaction will go before the chemical in question gets "used up", causing the reaction to stop. There are ways to calculate this even before the reaction is working. It is called limiting regent because it limits the amount you can produce.
If our relationship with God was a chemical reaction what would be the limiting reagent. If Christ's soon return was dependent on this chemical reaction what would be the limiting reagent? When we looked at what happened to the Israelites in Numbers 13 and 14, we realized that they could have reached the Promised Land at that very moment if their relationship with God was one of Faith. But, as Paul said in Hebrews 3: 13 - 19, their unbelief kept them away. Now, instead of possessing the land they would wander 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 14: 28-35; Hebrews 3:17). Their "limiting reagent" was Faith. The lack of this ingredient – Faith - caused the 'reaction' to stop. So, it delayed the 'production" of God fulfilling His promise to the Israelites of giving them the promise land.
The original question was: could we be doing the same thing the Israelites did? But first we have to ask ourselves: is there a delay? Sister White answers both questions. She says clearly that there is a delay because we are in a same position of the Israelites. Because of our own unbelief the Father has delayed His Son's return. In page 694 of Evangelism the Editor's quote her saying says that it is an act of mercy,
The long night of gloom is trying, but the morning is deferred in mercy, because if the Master should come, so many would be found unready. God's unwillingness to have His people perish, has been the reason of so long delay.
The editors of Evangelism quote -also in page 694 -what she said about what would have happened if the work might have been done,
Had the purpose of God been carried out by His people in giving to the world the message of mercy, Christ would, ere this, have come to the earth, and the saints would have received their welcome into the city of God.
I know that if the people of God had preserved a living connection with Him, if they had obeyed His Word, they would today be in the heavenly Canaan. -
The editors of Evangelism then quote Sister White in page 695 saying that there is No Failure of God's Promises, it is our fault,
The angels of God in their messages to men represent time as very short. Thus it has always been presented to me. It is true that time has continued longer than we expected in the early days of this message. Our Saviour did not appear as soon as we hoped. But has the Word of the Lord failed? Never! It should be remembered that the promises and the threatenings of God are alike conditional.
God had committed to His people a work to be accomplished on earth. The third angel's message was to be given, the minds of believers were to be directed to the heavenly sanctuary, where Christ had entered to make atonement for His people. The Sabbath reform was to be carried forward. The breach in the law of God must be made up. The message must be proclaimed with a loud voice, that all the inhabitants of earth might receive the warning. The people of God must purify their souls through obedience to the truth, and be prepared to stand without fault before Him at His coming.
Had Adventists, after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, receiving the message of the third angel and in the power of the Holy Spirit proclaiming it to the world, they would have seen the salvation of God, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts, the work would have been completed, and Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward. But in the period of doubt and uncertainty that followed the disappointment, many of the advent believers yielded their faith. . . . Thus the work was hindered, and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history!
It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be thus delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in "because of unbelief." Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.
For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.
"Ye have not, because ye ask not" (Matthew 7: 7, 8; James 4:2). An unlimited supply of faith is at our disposal if we want it. With faith all things are possible (Mark 9:23). Without it nothing but Sin is (Romans 14:23).