In Mark chapter 10:17-22, we read about a rich young man who came to Jesus with a very pertinent question: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” His question seems to indicate that he had been doing everything he knew to inherit eternal life.
Jesus replied, “Thou knowest the commandments, do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor thy father and mother.”
The young man proudly said, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth.”
Jesus, knowing that his response was true, added, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”
In verse 22, we read the young man’s response: “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
Many of us have reached a similar climax in our faith journey following Christ, a journey that requires total obedience in everything. In other words, not your way but Christ’s way. Sadly though, most of us end our journey like the rich young man, challenged to sacrifice something very dear and take up the cross. For this man, selling everything he owned meant giving up his dreams, getting out of his comfort zone, divesting himself of his position of honor and fame, and embarking on a new life of suffering and self-sacrifice.
The cross here can be a special challenge you are facing in your faith journey with Christ. We each have a cross to carry, and none of us can do it alone. In Luke 23 we read that even Jesus on His way to Calvary accepted help with bearing His cross. I believe He did this as an object lesson to show us that we should help each other carry our crosses.
In Romans 15:1 Paul wrote, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Sister White commented that, “No soul who believes in Christ, though his faith may be weak, and his steps wavering as those of a little child, is to be lightly esteemed. . . . Angels of glory, that do always behold the face of the Father in heaven, joy in ministering to His little ones. . . . Angels are ever present where they are most needed, with those who have the hardest battle with self to fight, and whose surroundings are the most discouraging. And in this ministry Christ’s true followers will cooperate” (DA 440).
As we minister to God’s children, especially the young people, we have to be there for them and help them carry their crosses. For a Muslim coming to know Christ, the weight of their crosses are sometimes unimaginably huge. When they break out of the cocoon of Islam into the Christian world, they face the cross of loneliness, the cross of rejection, the cross of death threats and many other crosses. No one can carry these types of crosses alone.
During our 16 years of ministering to the Susu in Guinea, West Africa, we have seen young people collapse under the weight of the different crosses they must carry in following Christ. Some bear the cross of family pressure for following Christ, others bear the cross of being disowned.
For still others, their cross is Sabbath observance in an education system with Saturday classes. In Guinea, like anywhere else, education is the ultimate way out of poverty. As we introduce the people of this country to the gospel of obedience to Christ, their first cross is often education. How can they obey Christ and have an education that requires Sabbath classes? As we minister to their new faith, we need tangible answers to this question.
In 2006, Christ inspired Pastor Marc Coleman with a way of helping these young people carry the Sabbath cross of education. In Guinea, and in most French West African countries, national exams, especially college entrance exams, are conducted on the Sabbath. A young lady, one of our first converts, was held back for three years because of her faithfulness to the gospel of obedience to Christ. Because of this, Pastor Coleman developed the BDAS exams, an accredited alternative to the national exams, as a means of helping our Susu Muslim brothers and sisters carry the cross of education. These exams have crossed borders into other West African countries to bless Adventist students there as well. Two years ago, six young people took the exams in Guinea, and two of them passed from junior high to high school and three from high school to university.
This year, we had a total of 12 young Adventists from across the country take the BDAS exam in Fria. There were five young people for the junior high school exams and seven for the university entrance exams. Among these 12, only three did not pass.
The Sabbath is becoming an issue for most of our young Adventists across the globe, especially in developing countries. In my country of Sierra Leone for example, national exams are now conducted on Sabbaths. For some students, God has performed miracles. For others, we have to do something as a church to help them. As we present the gospel of obedience to them, we should pray for remedies to alleviate backsliding. BDAS is one of these remedies.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church greatly values education. We are among the best Christian educators, and we have some of the best institutions in the world. Yet, we are slow in responding to the Sabbath issue that is mounting for our young people worldwide. Our goal and prayer is for the BDAS to become a global Seventh-day Adventist alternative for young students who are facing the Sabbath challenge for college entrance exams.