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Monday, December 19, 2011

Lighting the Candle

Do everything without grumbling or arguing,
so that you may become blameless and pure,
“children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”
Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you
hold firmly to the word of life.
Philippians 2:14-25

Methodist missionary to India, E. Stanley Jones, once remarked that the early Christians did not say in despair, “Look at what the world’s coming to”, but joyfully pointed to Jesus and said, “Look what has come to the world!” They could never get over the good news that God had come to the world in Christ. Christ’s coming changed everything for them. They knew there was never any reason for despair.

Yet if anyone might have had reason for despair over what the world was coming to, it was the Apostle Paul. He writes today’s text in a dark Roman prison, facing execution at the hands of the madman Nero. He addresses Christians in Philippi facing persecution, but bids them to do “everything” without any grumbling or arguing. He tells them in their darkness to shine “like stars in the sky”.

Just as the stars of the Milky Way shine brightest on the darkest night, so a Christian’s new hope and joy shine brightest in a dark world given to despair and unbelief. Paul’s words are reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount: “You are the light of the world… Let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:14-15). How we act and react should honor the Lord in our lives and make us as different from the world around us as bright stars on a dark night. God wants us to live in such a way that we give light to those around us.

We may not be well-known, or think ourselves influential. We may not make the newspapers or the evening news. But we need not be concerned about our seeming lack of influence, because Jesus says that we have light that a dark world needs.

At a time when many are fearful for what the world is coming to, we must let the light within us shine. I think here of the prayer of Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love… Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light…”

Just as a light is meant for dark places, so God puts us where His light is most needed. Perhaps you live or work in a dark place. Know that God has placed you there to be a shining life, a living light. That’s your purpose and special calling. It’s awesome, and humbling to shine in the night.

When Robert Louis Stevenson was a boy, he watched a lamp lighter igniting the lamps as he went down his street one evening. Stevenson said to his nurse: “I am watching a man put holes in the darkness.” Let us go forth and put holes in the darkness around us!




Lord, forgive us for the time we spend complaining about what the world is coming to, when you have called us to be lights in the world. Thank you for the dark places you assign us. So fill us with your light and joy today that others might see you in us. Amen.

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