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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Knowing God

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
The Real Cause of Troubles
Arcadi Mangul

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Can you imagine a life without any troubles? Well, to imagine something like this is difficult for us, born as we are into a world of sin. But for me, since the moment I first began to know the God of love more closely, I have been fascinated to discover that a world without troubles isn’t a fairy tale, but rather is a project which is indeed being realized by God.

The root of the problem

When speaking about troubles, we mean bitterness, sorrow, suffering, offense, displeasure, pain, etc. These troubles are often caused by the sinful actions of people, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Their actions, due to sin being a controlling power in their lives, bring about much of the unhappiness in our world. An inspired passage in the book Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing explains it well:

“By venturing to disregard the will of God upon one point, our first parents opened the floodgates of woe upon the world. And every individual who follows their example will reap a similar result. The love of God underlies every precept of His law, and he who departs from the commandment is working his own unhappiness and ruin.”1

So, sin is not just a juridical term which means law-breaking. It is also the beginning of a complex process which causes numerous troubles not only for the person who has jump-started it, but also for those who are linked with the action.

Sin is not God’s invention

Most people seem to think that God is responsible for the appearance of sin in the universe. The following false ideas are given as arguments in this case:

Sin is law-breaking. God is the Author of the law. So, if the law did not exist, neither would sin.

God created Lucifer, who was the first one to sin. If Lucifer did not exist, neither would sin.

Such ideas are false. Inspiration clearly reveals:

“God did not create evil. He only made the good, which was like Himself. . . . Evil, sin, and death . . . are the result of disobedience, which originated in Satan.”2

Understanding it correctly, we can comprehend the real purpose of God’s law and its value for us because the law has been given to us that we may be able to detect or recognize sin and address it. As mentioned above, God’s law defines sin as a term, but its process may also exist beyond the law. Let’s just give an example. The 6th commandment says: “You shall not kill.” and the 7th commandment says: “You shall not commit adultery.” If these two commandments were not included in the law, it would not mean that it is good to kill and commit adultery—so people would still not be happier if they did those things.

Thus we understand why God, wanting to keep us from troubles, proposes for us to live in accordance with His holy law. We can see why the Holy Scriptures give us this guidance in order to break the chain of sin and avoid it. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

But the culmination of our human foolishness is that we avoid troubles at any cost and complain about the unpleasant situation we have—while at the same time we continue to love sin and jump-start the very processes which cause troubles for ourselves and those around us.


God is love. This totally defines our Creator. God isn’t selfish. Man was created in God’s image, after God’s likeness. But the very first change that occurred when sin entered was the replacement of love with selfishness:

“Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind. He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy. But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love.”3

The basis of most troubles is selfishness. It causes a man to feel as if he is everything and everything is just for him. As a result, this attitude turns him into a consumer and an oppressor. Carefully studying the Bible record, we discover this course of action. After the transgression, Adam and Eve were disposed to accuse anyone else in order to try to escape their sure condemnation. Cain killed Abel also for this reason. Judas made mischief among the disciples and even betrayed the Saviour for selfish motives. Nowadays, selfishness is still the problem in the world at large—and it is not limited only to there. Even the church is paralyzed because of selfishness. Whatever the position, background, belief, or age, so much revolves around the gratification and desire of depraved hearts. Wherever selfishness dwells, love, peace, forgiveness, understanding, humility, and meekness disappear—and as a result, love of pleasure, desire for gain, greediness, hate, misunderstanding, anxiety, and dissatisfaction appear. Such a selfish course of action is predestinated to self-destruction.

But in clear contrast, we can understand how altruistic God is, and what a wonderful example He has given to us through the personality of the Lord Jesus Christ! The paragraph below describes it:

“ ‘Christ pleased not Himself.’ He did nothing for Himself; His work was in behalf of fallen man. Selfishness stood abashed in His presence. He assumed our nature that He might suffer in our stead. Selfishness, the sin of the world, has become the prevailing sin of the church. In sacrificing Himself for the good of men, Christ strikes at the root of all selfishness. He withheld nothing, not even His own honor and heavenly glory. He expects corresponding self-denial and sacrifice on the part of those whom He came to bless and save.”4

Evil imposes itself

Another noticeable problem with sin is how it manages to multiply and spread without providing us with any advance notice. Having read the paragraphs above, we have seen that God is love, and this love is replaced with selfishness through sin. So, knowing that God is also life, we can see that life is replaced with death in this case. Life is a conscious choice, but the first sin that was committed on earth included death in it.

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

This happens with any sin. Evil multiplies against our will, without our desire. From the moment we have been infected with the illness of sin, we have become its bearers and transmitters at the same time. It is quite discouraging. But thanks be to God that He hasn’t left us without hope! In God’s plan of salvation there is the possibility to wake up from death’s lethargy.

Two categories

All people are sinful, but not everyone wants to continue pursuing a course of sin. There is a difference here. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 presents the expression “man of sin” in reference to one who chooses to pursue a course of sin and make certain demands—and one of the demands is to force everyone to do what the “man of sin” considers to be a good thing to do. Whom does the “man of sin” want to force? Certainly those who have been awakened by the Holy Spirit, who have realized the cost the innocent Creator paid for the consequences of sin. In this case, the activity of the “man of sin” has been and will continue to be a source of troubles throughout the ages. Here is what Inspiration tells us:

“The Roman Catholic Church, uniting the forms of paganism and Christianity, and, like paganism, misrepresenting the character of God, has resorted to practices no less cruel and revolting. In the days of Rome’s supremacy there were instruments of torture to compel assent to her doctrines. There was the stake for those who would not concede to her claims. There were massacres on a scale that will never be known until revealed in the judgment.”5

The history is repeated. The “great tribulation” through which God’s people must pass, will be of the same nature because it will be conducted by the “man of sin.”

“The dignitaries of church and state will unite to bribe, persuade, or compel all classes to honor the Sunday. The lack of divine authority will be supplied by oppressive enactments. Political corruption is destroying love of justice and regard for truth; and even in free America, rulers and legislators, in order to secure public favor, will yield to the popular demand for a law enforcing Sunday observance. Liberty of conscience, which has cost so great a sacrifice, will no longer be respected. In the soon-coming conflict we shall see exemplified the prophet’s words: ‘The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ ”6

The paragraphs above answer the question many people ask, “If I want nothing more to do with sin, won’t I have troubles? Sure, I will.” As long as sin exists, troubles will exist, too. That’s why many people are discouraged. But I prefer to be among those few people mentioned above, and I choose not to be a source of troubles for anyone else anymore. Neither for God, nor for people.

Troublers of Zion, repent!

Let’s study an inspired passage written in the book Evangelism:

“There are in our churches those who profess the truth who are only hindrances to the work of reform. They are clogs to the wheels of the car of salvation. This class are frequently in trial. Doubts, jealousies, and suspicion are the fruits of selfishness, and seem to be interwoven with their very natures. I shall name this class chronic church grumblers. They do more harm in a church than two ministers can undo. They are a tax to the church and a great weight to the ministers of Christ. They live in an atmosphere of doubts, jealousies, and surmisings. Much time and labor of the ambassadors of Christ are required to undo their work of evil, and restore harmony and union in the church. This takes from the courage and strength of God’s servants and unfits them for the work He has for them to do in saving perishing souls from ruin. God will reward these troublers of Zion according to their works.”7

Here is a description of a category of people, to which any of us, even I, the author of the article, could belong. These are people who have known God, devoted their life to Him, left the ranks of the evil one and joined those who want nothing to do with sin. But envy and suspicions nonetheless exist in their life. Actually, these things might not typically be classified as sins against God’s law on a major scale, but they are still Satan’s weapons to discourage and destroy His church and hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. The Testimonies tell us the following:

“Envy, jealousy, evil surmising, and evilspeaking are of Satan, and they effectually bar the way against the Holy Spirit’s working. Nothing else in this world is so dear to God as His church. Nothing is guarded by Him with such jealous care. Nothing so offends God as an act that injures the influence of those who are doing His service. He will call to account all who aid Satan in his work of criticizing and discouraging.”8

I can claim that it is a sin. Maybe it is not under directly expressed jurisdiction of the Ten Commandments but, as we have said before, even if there is no exact commandment about it, it leads to discouragement and sin inevitably. Neither God nor we gain anything from such action.

We call God our Father. “Will those whose names are upon the church books, who claim to be the sons and daughters of God, consider their relation to God and their fellowmen? We must depend entirely upon the mercy of a sin-pardoning Saviour and shall we allow our hearts remain hard and unsympathizing? Can any provocation authorize us to charish unkind feelings, or cause us to harbor ill feelings or seek revenge? Can we cast the first stone in condemnation of a brother, when God is extending His mercy toward us, and forgiving our trespasses against Him? Should God enter into judgment with us, our debt would be found to be immense, yet our heavenly Father is willing to forgive. Men will be dealt with by God, not according to their opinion of themselves, not according to their self-confidence, but according to the spirit which they reveal toward their erring brethren.

“A spirit of harshness and severity is the spirit of Satan. Pride of heart, if cherished, creates envy, evil surmising, and leads to revenge. There is danger of our exaggerating casual words or actions into intentional offenses, and of thinking that some one has done us an injustice that merits our coldness, indifference, or contempt. Yet the Lord has charge of these very persons whom we accuse; angels of God minister unto them. He who reads the heart may see more genuine goodness in them than in him who harbors ill feelings against them for a supposed wrong. ‘If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; if he repent, forgive him. ’ Treat him and his errors as you wish God to treat you when you offend Him. Charity does not rejoice in evil; revenge does. Be careful to manifest zeal for yourselves that you may show out of a good conversation your meekness of wisdom. Avoid every bitter word, every unkind action. Love as brethren; be kind; be courteous. Do not scandalize the truth by bitter envying and contention; for such is the spirit of the world. Let not these unholy traits once be named among you.”9

Aiming the axe at the root

In preparation for the kingdom of God, John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, explains a distinct reality: “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

The apostle Paul further warns of the importance of targeting a deadly, formidable root: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:14, 15). [Emphasis added.]

The church will never as a whole receive the latter rain unless they shall put away all envy, evil surmising, and evil speaking. Those who have cherished hatred in the heart until it has strengthened and become part of their character, must have a different experience if they would share in the latter rain.”10

“The Lord bids us empty our hearts of the selfishness which is the root of alienation. He longs to pour upon us His Holy Spirit in rich measure, and He bids us clear the way by self-renunciation. When self is surrendered to God, our eyes will be opened to see the stumbling stones which our un-Christlikeness has placed in the way of others. All these God bids us remove. He says: ‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.’ James 5:16. Then we may have the assurance that David had when, after confession of his sin, he prayed: ‘Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.’ Psalm 51:12, 13.

“When the grace of God reigns within, the soul will be surrounded with an atmosphere of faith and courage and Christlike love, an atmosphere invigorating to the spiritual life of all who inhale it.”11

“Christ says: All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.’ (Matthew 28:18–20).

“Here is your commission. How will you account to Christ for your course, if instead of laboring to save your fellowmen, you have poured into their ears your troubles, and perplexities, and even complaints against your brethren? You may often find relief from your troubles if you will speak to others of Christ and talk to them about the precious truth. But do not speak words that are prompted by jealousy and evil surmising and suspicion. Do not circulate evil reports concerning your brethren. Because of such things the Lord cannot come into the church as He desires. Will you not clear the King’s highway? Not all have had a part in this evil work, but let those who have now come into line.”12


God wants us to be happy, and He is still working for the restoration of happiness in us. While people may be an agent of our troubles, the root cause is the power of sin within people’s hearts. However, no one is compelled to yield to this power. The pen of inspiration clarifies the real problem. “The strongest temptation is no excuse for sin. No matter how severe the pressure brought to bear upon you, sin is your own act. The seat of the difficulty is the unrenewed heart.” 13 God has done all He can do to make this matter clear, and through Jesus He has made salvation from slavery to sin possible. He wants us to take hold of this opportunity. Let’s choose God’s side because very soon, after the great tribulation, the initiator of sin and sin itself will be eliminated, and those who have decided to remain sinners will be destroyed together with sin. Very soon the time will come when troubles are ended forever. We are looking forward to the day as written in the book The Great Controversy:

“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.”14


1 Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 52.
2 The Review and Herald, August 4, 1910.
3 Steps to Christ, p. 17.
4 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 204.
5 The Great Controversy, p. 569.
6 Ibid., p. 592.
7 Evangelism, p. 370.
8 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 42.
9 The Signs of the Times, February 14, 1895.
10 The Home Missionary, August 1, 1896.
11 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 43.
12 Letters and Manuscripts, vol. 22, Ms 71, 1907.
13 The Adventist Home, p. 331.
14 The Great Controversy, p. 678.