BE A LIGHT IN THE WORLD
Several years ago my husband took me to look at a camp on Lake Superior. On our way there he had explained to me that it needed a lot work and he had this great idea that we or, I should say he would fix it up and it would one day become our dream home on Lake Superior. Translated he was saying it’s really all we can afford Hun. It sounded like such a great idea, something we had both dreamt of. But that day it felt more like a nightmare, the day we went to look at it, it was raining, cold, dark and dreary. The building itself had never been finished and it had been sitting empty for forty years, so it was full of cobwebs, and bats. The rain was coming down so hard the driveway was a river of mud. The fog was so thick you couldn’t even see the lake, and if that wasn’t enough our dog had gotten loose and was now covered in the mud!! I’m sure your getting the picture, So you might be surprised to hear that nine months later when we heard it was still for sale, my husband was able to convince me to go and take another look at it. This time it was different it was a beautiful spring day, not a cloud in the sky, it was warm and dry, and the sun shone bright!!! The view of the lake was incredible. The birds were singing the grass was green and it felt like hope, I could see the potential for this little place on the Lake. And the only difference that day was the weather the sun was shining I could see the good over the bad.
As Christians we are called to be the light that shines in this dark world, to bring hope to the hopeless, to love the unlovable, to serve the helpless to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Matthew 5:16 says 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
When Jesus said these words he was speaking to his disciples, those who had put their trust in him, surrendered their lives to him. Jesus knew one day soon he would no longer be with them, he would no longer physically be in the world and so he would have to be the light of the world through his followers, through us.
We are called to be like Jesus, and in order to do that we need to spend time learning about Jesus, who he is and how he lived, along with what is important to him, so that we can reflect his true light and lead others to him. We do this by walking in his light and depending on his power and growing in his grace. If we try to do it on our own, our light will eventually dim and burn out ---- we need to stay connected to the true source of light. To Jesus Himself. Think of it this way --- lighting up a room in your house is as easy as turning on a light switch but what happens when there is a power outage and there is no power source, no matter how hard we may try, the light will not turn on. We need a source of power we need Jesus.
There was a beautiful church that had been built with great care by the villages who lived near by. They built it in the highest mountains of Switzerland. But there was one thing this church did not have, it did not have any lights. You couldn’t just go into the church and switch on the lights like we do here. Yet every Sunday evening the people who lived on the mountain-side opposite the tiny church saw something magic happen. The church bell would ring and worshipers would wind their way up the mountainside towards the church. They would enter the church and then all of a sudden the church would light up brightly. You see the people had to bring light with them so they brought lanterns. When they arrived at church they would light their lanterns and hang them around the church on pegs set in the walls, so the light would spread all around. If only a few people came to church the light would be very dim because there would only be a few lanterns. But when lots of people came to church there would be plenty of light. After the service the villagers would take their lanterns home. At this time, to those who watched from a distance, it was as if a stream of light poured out of the church and over the mountainside. For many it was a sign that all was well. God’s light was with them and in them. The only time the little church lit up was when people were there. That’s when it truly became a church. That’s when the light shone most brightly.
Two things stood out for me in this story first the idea that when we as God’s people gather together in great numbers our light shines brighter , it shines farther,. secondly the vision of God’s people walking out of the church into the world shinning bright!
Jesus is the true light of the world and what an honour it is that he asks us to be a reflection of his light, a sort of prism through which his light shines into our darkened world. Everyday we have the opportunity to reflect the true love and attributes of God himself in our ever day lives, through our words and our actions, to serve others in the name of Jesus-------- not because we are anything great by ourselves but because we have the power Jesus in our lives.
What would cause Katie Davis an eighteen year old, senior class president and homecoming queen to disappoint her parents by turning her back on a promising college education, her plan was to move to Uganda where she knew only one person and didn’t speak the language? Not only did she crush her parent’s dreams for her future, but her move to Uganda caused her to lose all but a few of her dearest friends. Most people thought she had gone off the deep end. What would lead her to such a radical life alerting decision?
It was A PASSION TO BE THE LIGHT OF JESUS!
Yes, you see on a short mission trip to Uganda during her senior year of high school, Katie’s life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the plight of the people of Uganda and their overwhelming needs she knew her calling was to return and reveal the truth of God’s unconditional love through Jesus Christ. Katie’s passion to be Christ’s light in a dark place lead her to on her own adopt thirteen children in Uganda and she has gone on to establish a ministry that feeds, educates and encourages the orphaned, poor and vulnerable in the country of Uganda.
I can only imagine how much courage and faith it must have taken for Katie at the tender age of 18 to make that life changing decision. The outside world’s view of Katie’s life is that she has given up so much to follow her calling. But Katie sees it as living the perfect life, inspired and dependent on her heavenly Father.
Let me quote something that Katie said “It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your back yard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone, to serve someone, to love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread his light, this is the dream and it is possible”
Telling people Jesus love them is important but showing them Jesus loves them changes the world, it replaces the darkness with light. Our good works light the path for others. Good works do not have to be a major event or cost a great deal of money. Little things mean a lot. Like what about a card or email, a telephone call or text message to encourage someone, a hug, a simple smile, or how about a listening ear for someone who is hurting or lonely, you could let someone know you are praying for them or what about a random act of kindness to a stranger.
Joel Osteen says “When God puts love and compassion in your heart toward someone; He’s offering you an opportunity to make a difference in that person’s life. You must learn to follow that love. Don’t ignore it. Act on it. Somebody needs what you have.”
As part of the St. Thomas family I am so inspired by what all the volunteers and supporters of our Family Giving Center are doing. What a great example of reflecting the light of Jesus! They are reaching out and giving hope and comfort to God’s people in a very practical way. Nothing points to God more clearly than doing good in the name of Jesus. And I can tell you from speaking to those involved they feel that volunteering has changed their lives and they feel the blessings they receive are greater then those they are giving. Reflecting the light of Jesus and being his hands and feet in this world what could be more rewarding, more fulfilling then that?
My friends the love of Christ and the light of his truth should shine through us and their rays penetrate out into the world.
A pastor warned a young man in his church that was moving away, that the company he was joining had a bad reputation of being very worldly and could be a bad influence on him and furthermore, they had been known for treating Christians very badly. Months later he heard just the opposite, that the young man’s experience had been nothing but pleasant. The pastor asked, you mean they haven’t persecuted you for being a Christian? He replied “Nope, matter of fact, they haven’t even found out! How sad to think that this young man is keeping his light hidden instead of out front where people can see it.
So I encourage all of us to ask this question of ourselves, do people see Jesus in me? Every one of us who is walking with God is living the new life, and we are to be different, we are to be lights for Christ in a dark world. We are to be living, breathing walking testimonies to the life changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So let us shine our lights before others, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father in Heaven.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Whether it is running, swimming, skiing, rowing, skating, bicycle, car, boat or horse racing, all races have a start and a finish, they have competitors and rules. What happens?
In between can be very different. Some races are short a matter of seconds like the 100 Yard dash or hours long like a marathon. Everyone has there own reasons for entering a race, often those who enter a marathon are not in it to win they have simply set a personal goal to finish. Some people have over come great physical and emotional challenges to enter and finish a race, inspiring those around them. Others train for endless hours to be the fastest in the world and nothing other then crossing the finish line first will do.
A race can tell a story of triumph or of defeat, of hope or disappointments, a story of failures or accomplishments. Regardless everyone who enters a race enters to do their very best.
I recently discover The Bible has several references that compare living the Christian life to running a race.
1 Timothy 6:12 says “run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself”
When I think of the Christian life compared to a race I think of the Tour de France. If your not familar with this incredible race, it is a bicycle race over 2,000.00 miles through the country of France, conducted in 20 stages over 3 weeks an average of over 100 miles a day. This race includes a little of everything -- all out sprints, long days traveling through the French country side, agonizing climbs over the Pyrenees mountains: and then of course the terrifying descents from these same mountains, in which the cyclists reach speeds of 70 miles an hour. In short it is one of the most gruelling athletic contests ever devised by man.
Training for such a race takes, years of dedication, hard work and perseverance.
A cyclist can never be fully prepared for the Tour De France there are two many unknown factors and varibles. The athletes have to contend with all kinds of hazards: narrow streets, blown tires, crashes, sickness, and of course the weather: cycling through wind, rain, even hail. At times our lives can feel like a sprint and at other times it can feel more like a long, slow, painful climb up a mountain. At various times, our lives can be exhausting or exhilarating, it can be tedious or full of surprises. They can be full of hope and joy, or discouragement and suffering. Like the tour de France we don’t often know what challenge we may face or what triumph we may accomplish,
One very important difference: Races have only one winner, only one person stands on the podium, gets the gold medal. But in life everyone of us has the potential to win the Christian race every one can receive the victors crown and hear the words of the Lord “well done, good and faithful servant”
Listen to what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-25
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes in strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last: but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
I learned at a very young age that I had a competitive personality, I loved playing in sports, and I could turn almost anything into some kind of competition. I really didn’t like losing. I had a poster hanging on the wall in my bedroom, that read “IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU WIN OR LOSE, UNTIL YOU LOSE” and that pretty much summed up how I felt.
So let me take you back a few years to 1988, I was asked to curl with a group of girls I didn’t know that well but I did know it was a great opportunity to get on a winning team. An opportunity I could not turn down, even though I was a very busy young mother. So we started out our first year with dreams and high hopes. We practiced alot and spent countless hours together. We knew building a winning team would take time and so we agreed that if for the first year together we could win our district and make it to the provincials we would be happy.
Someone needed to remind us of this as we stood on the podium, at the world curling championship 8 months later accepting the silver metal. After winning the provincials, then the Canadian championship we found our selves representing Canada at the world curling championship and loosing the finals. We felt like we had not only let ourselves down but also our country, and this was only magnified when at a layover in Toronto on our way home from Scotland looking like we had just lost the worlds, complete strangers would come up to us perhaps having watched the final on TV -----and with all good intentions I’m sure ---- they expressed their condolences for our loss by Saying things like oh so close too bad you lost, ------ or I thought you had it----- if only…
It was then that Heather our skip and leader, finally said ok girls shake it off we need to start looking like the winners we are. We just won the silver metal at the world curling championship. We did our very best. And best thing of all we have each other and we have next year. We needed that pep talk and when we changed our attitude, the attitude of others changed as well.
As Christians we are part of a team, our fellow Christians are our team mates. We need our teammates to encourage us, lift us up when we fall, get us back in the race. We are not in competition with each other, our job isn’t to out run each other, and our job is to run for God the race that he has planned for us to the best of our ability. From God’s perspective, winning is not based upon being number one, we win when we do our best to please God. We will never become a champion until we see ourselves as a champion. As Christians, we are champions and winners in the Lord, after all we are children of God we are worth a lot to him we are the apple of his eye. Run with confidence for your strength is in the Lord.
During the Athens Olympics one of the most bizarre things happened during the marathon. Vander lei de Lima of Brazil was leading the race at the 22 mile marker when he was attacked and forced off the road by a lunatic in a red kilt - a former clergyman to boot.
To me this is what can happen to us sometimes in our race. We are running along just fine when were suddenly surprised or attacked by something that threatens to slow us down or knock us off course, something that is keeping us from running our race. Some times these are things of our own doing, bad choices we make or sins we commit.
Sometimes these can be things we really have no control over like death, illness, job losses or broken relationships. These things can be devastating so difficult that we just don’t feel like running anymore. And in these dark times we are tempted to look at other people’s lives at how blessed they are, and wonder, why isn’t that my race? But as you know we all have baggage. The race we run has been marked out especially for us. God does not ask us to run our race alone he is with us every step of the way. He promises he will never give us more then we can handle. He promises all things will work to the good of those who love the Lord. We can run with faith.
Vander lei de Lima didn’t give up. Instead of letting his attacker ruin his race, he got back up and kept running. Although now in third place instead of first, he entered the stadium with his fists in the air, running with both arms extended up. When asked why he was filled with such joy considering he had been robbed of the gold medal he said, “Most athletes never have this moment. I was able to medal for myself and my country. I’m happy with my medal. It may be bronze, but it means gold.”
There is a fable about a dog who loved to chase other animals. He bragged about his great running skill and said he could catch anything. Well, it wasn’t long until his boastful claims were put to the test by a certain rabbit. With ease the little creature outran his barking pursuer. The other animals, watching with glee, began to laugh. The dog excused himself, however, by saying, “you forget - I was only running for fun. He was running for his life!” This does make a difference; Motivation can be an important factor in everything we do. Our motivation to run the Christian race: We should live our lives for God because he loved us so much that he sent his Son to die on the cross to save us from our sins! The grace the undeserved love that he shows us should motivate us to run the Christian race with all of our hearts!
I don’t know about you but I often feel over whelmed at times with the busy-nests of life. I feel like I’m in a race called the race of live a rat race of sorts. Often running in circles hardly being able to catch my breath. Busy with work, cooking, cleaning, the children, camp, shopping, my church commitments, friends, exercise, parents, entertainment, and then of coarse there is my favourite TV shows. But nothing absolutely nothing is more important then our relationship with Jesus.
When there is a race to be run the wise runner must make careful preparations. The same is true in a spiritual race as well. We will never reach our fullest potential for the Lord until we are willing to make the preparations and sacrifices that are necessary for running the race. God has provided us with a coach ----- the Holy Spirit --- and a training manual, the Bible. Let’s take our training seriously.
And look up and a head to Jesus the author and finisher of faith. Jesus himself ran the race. And no matter if we finish with a flourish or merely limp across the line, it means gold, because we are following the steps of Jesus. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we are created by God to win the Christian race to one day stand in eternity robed in righteousness, wearing a crown of glory and blessed with eternal honours and rewards.
Mathew 5: 12 says “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven”.
As the New Year begins and so many of us have set goals, and New Year resolutions Let us commit our lives today to running in a way that pleases the Lord. So that we like Paul can one day say I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Let us pray
Dear Heavenly Father
We realize that you made us for a purpose and that you have a race for us to run.
Forgive us for the times we have gotten distracted.
Help us to resist discouragement.
Help us to renew ourselves daily by spending time with you.
And thank you for loving us and giving us the strength we need.
In Jesus Name