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A Test Of Faith - Part 5

A Test Of Faith - Part 5

by Richard F. Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
September, 2003

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Last updated:
October 14, 2003.

WE HAVE LEARNED from our previous studies (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) that there are provisions made by the courts of the U.S. to protect the faith of a religious person who is found in violation of the law as long as that faith is determined by the court to be a "Conviction." They have said that all religious beliefs fall into two classes-they are either "Convictions or Preferences."

We also learned from our study last month that the Court likes to cite the faith of certain Bible characters as examples of "Conviction." One such case is the trial of the three Hebrew Children in Daniel 3 who were cast into the furnace of fire. We concluded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were successful in serving God, not because he brought them out of the fire, but because their faith caused them to go in.

Likewise, Daniel's faith was not proved by God bringing him out of the den of lions, but his faith was proved by his going in. The three Hebrew children told the furious ruler, King Nebuchadnezzar, that they would not bow to the graven image (which act was against their faith), and that God would deliver them out of the fire, but even if He wouldn't deliver them, they still wouldn't violate their faith and bow.

The Court says (paraphrasing), "If you have to be assured of success before you will stand, your beliefs are preferences." Some people going to trial will ask their lawyer, "Do you think I'm going to win?" Listen, your lawyer can't guarantee you'll win, but if you take a stand for what God requires no matter what men do to you, God will count you faithful and that is enough. The Lord says, "But be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2: 10).

Remember, the apostle Paul was not a success because God gave him a miraculous recovery after being stoned and left for dead at Lystra. No, Paul was a success because in the face of persecutors he said, "Woe is me, if I preach not the gospel!" His faith was proven to be what the Court today would call "Conviction" time and again, because he could say, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (I Corinthians 9:16; Acts 20:24).


The Court says, "We still have a problem... We have determined to protect Convictions... You are telling us that your faith is Conviction... You say there's a book where your Convictions are all written down... We know that somehow on the witness stand you're going to be able to tell us what you believe out of that book... BUT HOW DO WE KNOW THAT IT'S REALLY CONVICTION?"

The Court knows that you are going to find out what the tests are and you may have a lawyer to instruct you to use the word "conviction" on the witness stand as many times as you can. He may tell you, "Work it into your speech as often as you can... Make it your middle name; make it your last name... You know, 'My name is John Conviction Doe.' It doesn't matter how you get it in there... I'll wave my tie at you or something... Just keep it coming."

The Court said, "Unfortunately, these lawyers are going to prepare these people coming up to the witness stand because they know what the tests are in advance (and there is nothing wrong with that), but we don't really know whether a person up on that witness stand is telling us the truth or not - HOW DO WE REALLY KNOW THAT HE DOESN'T REALLY HAVE PREFERENCES THAT HE IS TELLING US ARE CONVICTIONS?" AND...


Attorney Gibbs said, "Now, I don't know if I have ever seen any ministers lie on the witness stand... I have seen a few who were a little casual with the truth as they stood up there." The Court said, "We need a test. There has to be some way of establishing whether this is right or wrong." And they said, "We think we have one."

Now the test the Court came up with, amazingly enough, is not at odds w1th the Scriptures at all. As a matter of fact, it is just what the word of God teaches. The Court said, "THE TEST IS THIS - CAN WE SEE THE CONVICTION IN THEIR LIVES, IN THE WAY THEY LIVE, AND CAN WE SEE IT CONSISTENTLY?"

Remember Jesus asked, "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" And then He said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7). Later, the New Testament says, "Even so faith...if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, ana I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works" (James 2:17,18).

The Court said, "If we can't see it, it isn't there. So, NOT ONLY DO WE WANT YOU TO STAND UP AND TELL US WHAT YOU BELIEVE, BUT WE WANT TO EXAMINE YOUR LIFE SO THAT WE CAN SEE IF YOUR LIFE ADEQUATELY REFLECTS WHAT YOU ARE TELLING US YOU BELIEVE." Who has a quarrel with that? Jesus tells disciples. "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works..."


The Court said. "That will be the final test - we need to see it - not just see it, but see it consistently - not perfectly but consistently." One judge told a preacher, "I don't want your people to be perfect, but it seems to me that they are sort-of perfectly imperfect."


In a landmark case referred to simply as Wisconsin vs Yoder the U.S. Supreme Court was asked on December 8, 1971 to decide whether the responsibility of a state to ensure the adequate education of children should override the religious conviction of the Amish that eight years' schooling is enough. This case which pits the state of Wisconsin against Jonas Yoder and two others was the most critical religious freedom question to come before the high court in many years.

To boil down the situation as it developed you need to know a little about the Amish people. They are a unique people that generally live a very primitive type of lifestyle. They are largery rural and farming people. They dress very plainly, and in many parts of the country, they ride in horse-drawn buggies. They are charming but are known for one overwhelming quality - "they are mule-headedly stubborn" as one man put it. When one makes up his mind about something, to try to talk him out of it is like arguing with a stump. He's not going to change his mind. They pride themselves on that.

Many Amish have a belief that education ruins people. We're not so sure they're wrong. One Texas preacher said, "Giving a preacher a degree is something like pulling whipped cream on an onion... It just goes down funny." We think he might be about right; we've never known of a preacher who could preach better after he went and got a degree.

Many Amish believe that too much education can be a very negative thing and so they take their kids out of school when they finish about the 6th or 8th grade. They just won't send them. Although there were others involved in the case, we will focus on what happened to Mr. Jonas Yoder from the state of Wisconsin.


The dialog went something like this. Mr. Yoder told the officials, "I'm not going to send my kids to your schools." They asked, "How come?" He said something like, "Well, first of all, I think the schools ruin them." They asked, "Ah, What makes you say that?" Mr. Yoder replied, "Go look at you graduating class." They conceded, "Yes, they are wrecked aren't they... But it really doesn't matter whether you want to send them or not... You've got to." Mr. Yoder said, "Well, I don't think you understand something." They guestioned, "What's that?" He responded, "I said, I'm not going to."

So the state of Wisconsin said to him, "Now, Mr. Yoder, this is a real problem... We may have to sue you." His response was, "Boy, I wouldn't 1ike that." "Have you ever been sued before?" they asked. "No, sir, I sure haven't." "Well, get those kids in school so we don't have to do this to you." Mr. Yoder calmly answered, "I don't think you heard me... They're not going. My faith precludes them from going." The officials said, "We don't care whether your faith says they're going or not going." So they sued him!

Mr. Jonas Yoder didn't fare so well in court - he lost! And the other people came back like everybody does and said, "Now look, the Court said you're wrong." Dear reader, be careful here! The Court doesn't determine whether a Christian is right or wrong...God does! If you, brother, sister, go all the way to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court says you're wrong and the Word of God says you're right - you're right!

This is precisely what happened to Peter and the others when they were brought before the High Court of the land in Acts 6. The Council commanded them that they should not teach in the name of Jesus any more, and Peter replied, "We ought to obey God rather than men."

Next, the Wisconsin officials threatened, "Look, Mr. Yoder, if you don't send those kids to school, we may have to send you to jail." He replied, "Boy, I'd hate that." "Then put those kids in school," they demanded. Well, same old story - he told them, "I don't think you heard me, they're not going to go."

He went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and the Court greeted him - "Mr. Jonas Yoder, we're glad to see you. Mr. Yoder, you do not have to send your children to that school. As a matter of fact, Mr. Yoder, you don't have to send your kids to any school, because it violates your religious beliefs." They continued, "You know, Mr. Yoder, we looked at your life and we have seen a strange thing - The state officials threatened you with a law suit, and that didn't make you change. They got the whole community down on your back, and that didn't make you change. They took you to court and that didn't make you change. They won in court and that didn't make you change. They threatened to send you to prison, and that didn't make you change." The Supreme Court said, "Mr. Yoder, we don't think you're going to change... And Mr. Yoder, that is Conviction!"

They said, "We can look at your life and see it...You don't have to tell us it's there, we can see it...We just look at what happened and we can see it...And Mr. Yoder, Conviction is going to be honored by the First Amendment to the Constitution."


Dear reader, what about your faith? Do you have Conviction or Preference? We have talked about what the Court says is necessary to have Conviction. Is it any different from what the Lord demands of you?

Question - Would you be willing to give up your freedom, and possibly your life, for your faith? What if the law begins to prohibit public assembling because of communicable diseases? Would you remain faithful? What if it became illegal to drink from a common cup in communion because of the threat of AIDS or some other disease? Would you still assemble and commune or would you change it because these things are merely Preferences with you? What if a woman demands to speak in your public assembly and the ACLU or some other group backs her up and threatens to take you to court, would you still stand for the Bible way? What about your faith then?

Now days many have gotten in trouble for disciplining their children. Are you willing to continue to spank your children as the Bible demands? Have you thought about going to prison over this matter? What about rendering evil for evil? If you retaliate toward others verbally or physically already, how can you resist the demands the government and the court might place on you to fight and kill? It might be a good idea to look at all spiritual issues and ask yourself - "Are these matters of Conviction or Preference?" On the things you find are demanded by God the question then really is: "Do you have saving faith?"

[This series of articles has appeared in The Christian Informer due to several requests to print the material which we have preached in various places. We express our appreciation to Attorney David Gibbs for the use of his summarization of events referred to and points of law. (Permission to use this material was submitted by written request). We feel that this simplification has helped our listeners' and readers' understanding the points involved. Thanks to brother George Battey for sending material on the subject. If you would like to study further the Supreme Court case, the decision of which was summarized here, you might want to read "High Court Hears Amish School Case" and other material found on the Internet by searching for Wisconsin vs Yoder. - R.N.]