David B Smith enjoyed a colourful childhood as a missionary kid in Thailand, which provided inspiration for many of his recent writing projects. He wrote scripts for “Voice of Prophecy” for many years and now works as a maths professor in southern California. David talks about faith, doubt and storytelling.
What prompted you to write a book on doubt and faith?
We always talk about Gideon “putting out a fleece,” and on the surface that sounds like a great moment of faith. Actually, the Bible paints people as champions for the Lord when they don’t demand a sign, when they are willing to trust the Lord even in the dark valleys. All of us disciples here in the 21st century need to be willing for the past miracles experienced by others to bolster our own confidence.
Why do you think so many Christians struggle with doubt?
One reason is because our faith is buffeted by emotions and fragile feelings; during times of depression, we lose sight of our former convictions. My favourite writer C S Lewis writes about how our attitudes are buffeted by this or that problem, but we need to simply hold on to the firm decisions we’ve already made. “We must train the habit of faith,” he suggests, meaning we daily spend time absorbing God’s promises and simply reflecting on the pillars we’ve chosen to believe are eternally true.
What did you learn from the story of Gideon that has most influenced your own faith?
What’s great is how even a modest effort—a guy whose entire battalion is only 300 soldiers—can achieve special victories when God adds His blessing. Some days I’m standing in a classroom with just 30 or so young college students. Not a large “congregation”! But if even one quiet comment by Professor Smith is flavoured by grace and the generous care of God, and a student takes that thought-nugget home to their own community, well, maybe the mustard seed will grow! It’s the same with writing books. I spend some Sunday afternoons scratching out these stories and Bible lessons; others (hopefully!) read them and share the blessing with their own loved ones.
You’ve also retold Jesus’ parables in modern form. What struck you most as you worked on that book?
For me, no parable is so vibrant with hope as the story of the Prodigal Son. To think that despite this kid’s rebellion, his profligate years away with “babes, booze, blackjack, and bubbly burgundy beaujolais”—as I put it—he is immediately welcomed back by the generous and forgiving dad. I think Adventists are anxious sometimes about what levels of sin cause a struggling Christian to be expelled from the family. It’s encouraging that in this Luke 15 adventure, as far as the dad was concerned, the wayward boy’s “sonship” continued intact, even during his confused time away from home. I didn’t initially realise that “prodigal” refers to reckless and generous overspending; it’s actually the dad who is prodigal in his showering of grace on his child.
Why are books—and stories, in particular—so important to you?
Every time I hear a great sermon, I think later: OK, what hit me with the most impact? Always the stories! Jesus won His audiences over with sweet, simple stories unfolding God’s love. The Smith brothers—my three siblings are all preachers!—are all good storytellers, and every time I speed through a new book on my Kindle, I have that highlighter feature activated, on the lookout for good illustrations. C S Lewis again once commented that the Christian world doesn’t really need a ton of doctrinal books— although those are helpful too – but just classic stories where a hero’s faith is quietly evident beneath the surface.
What do you hope your writing contributes to God’s work?
That one’s easy! Just to lift up Jesus as our Saviour and best Friend, to use storytelling to point to discipleship and being part of the Body of Christ as an appealing—and fun!—life option.
Of Fleeces and Faith, Pictures of Jesus and other books by David Smith are available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand, or online at <https://adventistbookcentre.com.au/catalogsearch/result/?cat=0&q=David+B+Smith>.