Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This little light of mine

"Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth

and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,

and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Isa. 60:1-3).

In the past, when I have read this passage, I have envisioned a time of especially great grace for the church, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which will cause believers to be filled with the glory of the Lord. I still believe that. However, the political and economic circumstances have caused me to see this phenomenon in a new light. I am noticing that in the above prophecy, a glorious light rises on God’s people at a time when thick darkness envelopes the (rest of) the earth.

Could it be that one factor in this brightening of believers is that light appears much brighter in darkness? Automobile headlights which barely show up at high noon are practically blinding once night falls. And, in the dark, even a small light is visible from a distance. I am aware of this because of an object lesson I observed a number of years ago. Our pastor instructed the ushers to turn off all of the lights in the sanctuary. Then he lit a match. In the dark, that pinpoint of light flared up brightly—to the farthest row of pews. Even a small amount of light is conspicuous in the dark.

So what is it about a believer that shows up as light? This verse contains a clue:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe (Phil. 2:14-15).

A cheerful, willing attitude in the midst of low morale. Honesty instead of corruption. Peace rather than anxiety. Helpfulness in place of self-centeredness. None of these spring up automatically in those of us who follow Christ. We become more and more like him by seeking and praying, by trusting and obeying.

It may seem that our small daily choices, our trust and our loyalty to the Lord are unseen, private matters. We may forget how different these attitudes are from those of people around us. But to those watching us, the bright contrast is unmistakable.

Then . . . let disaster strike. Let the moral climate spiral to all-time lows. How do simple displays of goodness appear then? They blaze up gloriously. Those who observe this distinctively godly behavior no longer simply say, “How commendable.” In their dark uncertainty and fear, they are irresistibly drawn to the brightness of this light. It stirs up hope. It challenges them to better things. They begin to crave the glory of God in their own lives.

In these unnerving times, following close to the Lord is much more than a matter of survival. It is a prime way for each of us to arise and shine. In the dark, even small amounts of light in us will brilliantly show forth the glory of the Lord. Let's be ready to introduce to the Lord those who come to the brightness of our rising.

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