Does being an Adventist make you happy? Does it give you assurance and confidence? Does it provide hope for the present and the future? How does it affect your view of the world? How does it impact your personal relationships?

And we could continue with such questions. Because what you truly believe affects who you are. You may say you hold to a particular system of beliefs, but only what you are really committed to will make a difference in the way you live.

Thomas Fuller, a 17th century clergyman, recorded in his book Gnomologia the saying, “Seeing is believing, but feeling’s the truth.” Probably most Adventists would want to argue both phrases. Seeing is not always believing. What we believe cannot be solely based on what our eyes can see. Nor are feelings the basis for truth!

But having said that, being an Adventist should make a difference in the way we see the world, and we cannot deny the role of feelings in how we approach beliefs and truths. For if we are unhappy or discontented with our beliefs, especially religious ones, then our lives will be negatively impacted. The fundamental question is what does being an Adventist mean in practice?

So, let’s consider a few “Adventist aspects” that are different to the way most people today view “truth.”

God. And, here, let’s be very careful not to accept one of the many distorted pictures of God that are out there. Jesus said very clearly, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9 NIV). Our relationship to a loving, saving, healing God is a major determinant of who we are.

Created by God as His Children. We are not some random products of an unthinking Universe, a mass of cells that have somehow developed into sentient beings. As beloved children, we experience our Father’s goodness and care and respond accordingly.

Heaven and Hell. For Adventists, there are no disembodied souls looking down from heaven on the trials and tragedies of those family members who are still alive. Nor do we believe in an eternal torment committed by a God who tortures his sinful children. A true perspective of what lies ahead is surely one to be thankful for.

A True Hope. Not some wishy-washing aspiration for something better or utopian, but a “sure and certain hope of the resurrection.” Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the world, and then to welcome us into eternity when he returns. Such a belief makes a difference in how we live and gives us a very different perspective on meaning and purpose.

God’s Special Day. The opportunity to rest on God’s Sabbath brings many benefits in terms of mental, physical, and spiritual health. What difference does this belief make in practice? Not only is it in contrast to the “rat race” experienced by so many in this consumerist world, but through prayer and worship we come closer to our saving God.

A Healthy Lifestyle. Meaning you can truly enjoy life to the fullest without being damaged by smoking, drinking alcohol, or a bad diet. In this case, the difference has been calculated—Adventists, on average, live ten years longer than most because of their better lifestyle.

A Supportive Community of Faith. Not that other religious organizations don’t have something similar, but in contrast to most secular people, Adventists enjoy the possibility of being supported by an integrated community that is not divided by race or other tensions.

So, let’s put it all together and ask the questions we began with, particularly what difference does it make being an Adventist Christian?

Our beliefs ground us in knowing who we are. This sense of identity and purpose is what many people struggle with today. While we are still affected by life’s problems, we can find help and comfort in our trust in God.

In Psalm 90, ascribed to “Moses, the man of God,” we have a summary of the kind of difference our beliefs should make in the way we live.

He begins by a firm acknowledgment of the eternal God: Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! (Psalm 90:1, NLT). You are God (Psalm 90:2, NLT). This is where we begin—just like the book of Genesis and the gospel of John. Everything else follows from this conviction of God and his role in our lives. We are not homeless and purposeless, because God is our home.

Moses admits that, in contrast to God, our lifespan is all-too-brief: Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10, NLT). We look for peace, security, and happiness, but these too are temporary. Even our best years are flawed, and they don’t last for long.

Here is the age-old question—how to live fulfilled lives. In this our Adventist beliefs really should make a difference. We can look for happiness in many things, but what is truly satisfying? Abd Er-Rahman III, a Moorish king who was ruling Spain in 960 A.D. wrote this:

“I have now reigned about 50 years in victory or peace, beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies, and respected by my allies. Riches and honors, power and pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this situation, I have diligently numbered the days of pure and genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot. They amount to fourteen.” 1

Fourteen happy days out of fifty years? What a tragic admission! For those who are committed to God and his ways, life brings a sense of contentment despite its many troubles and challenges. I hope to live a happy, rich, and meaningful life enjoying God’s good earth through creative arts and culture that may enhance and not take away from my love for God and for God’s creation. Jesus says, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). What we hold as being essential truth makes all the difference as an Adventist Christian.

Consequently, Moses asks God, Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12, NIV). This means that we should use our time wisely and well, not looking to indulge our selfish desires but to look for what is of eternal value.

So, what are the differences exactly? Well, our beliefs mold the way we treat others, how we deal with conflict in the family, how we relate to those who are hostile towards us. They influence our views about war and violence and criminality. They give us a perspective on the limit to human plans and legislation. Most of all we see the difference as we face the greatest leveler of all: death.

When my father died in the mid-1980s in the former Yugoslavia, many of my atheist schoolmates and friends came to the funeral and expressed a genuine sentiment how they envy my family and me for having a hope of reunion with our father at the second of Christ. This surprising expression from those who have no such hope and regard death as the absolute end have kept me many a time within a horizon of the blessed hope when faced with many more consequent deaths of family members and friends, or in moments of suffering, sickness, and pain. While we don’t look forward to the time when life ends, we know this is not the End.

Moses concludes this Psalm with the words: May the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful (Psalm 90:17, NLT). Only in our relationship with God can we say that this is what makes all the difference.

Zdravko (Zack) Plantak, PhD, is professor of religion and ethics at the School of Religion at Loma Linda University. Email him at: [email protected]