We’ve been looking at what it means to be a light in this world, shining God’s light to others around us. In this, we don’t draw attention to ourselves or look for any kind of earthy praise or rewards. Rather, we direct attention and glory to God. The purpose of our shining is not simply for the sake of bringing God’s light to the world, but we shine so we can bring others to God.
Let’s look again at Matthew 5:14 – 16:
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
This is how our lights should be characterized, but a light is of little use if it’s unreliable or if it is not true. We have to be faithful lights for God, and I want us to consider faithfulness from two perspectives. First, we are faithful because we are pointing to God. Second, we are faithful because God can rely on us in all circumstances.
Lighting the Way True
If you are following a light for direction, it only does you good if it’s guiding you true. If you look up in the sky and search for Polaris, the North Star, it guides you north — but only if you identify it correctly. If you simply look for the brightest star, you’re going to spot Sirius, which is not usually in the northern sky. If you follow that, you’ll lose your way, and you’ll have to rely on your phone to save you. To reliably find Polaris, look for the constellation to which it belongs. Then you’re going the right way.
We’re only useful as lights for God if we are actually pointing people to God. John 14:5 – 7 records this conversation between Thomas and Jesus:
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Also, John 8:12:
Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Jesus is saying that we have to point people to Him in order to point them to the Father and the life found in Him, and we do that through the truth of His word. Staying in the book of John, let’s turn to chapter 3 and start in verse 16. It’s a very well-known verse, but we’re going to read what comes after it as well.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn’t send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn’t believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only born Son of God.
This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, for fear that his works would be reproved. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done with God.”
We are only children of light when we love the truth and do it. That truth is God’s word. It’s upon that truth that we shine. Our actions have to be based on the truth of His word. Our words should speak His truth. If we’re not walking and speaking in truth, then we’re guiding others away from the light. This is a big responsibility, but we are all up to it. We are all called to be this light, and it is for this purpose that God chose us to be His people.
I Peter 2:9 – 10:
But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
As lights in the world, we have to be concerned with lighting the way with truth. This means we handle God’s word with respect. We light up the world with kindness, generosity, and love, but we don’t compromise God’s truth when doing so. And we always make sharing that truth a goal when we’re making connections with those around us.
A Reliable Light
Of course, it doesn’t matter how true a light is or how bright it might be if it’s unreliable. A flashlight does you no good if it keeps going out. Stars are no good if a cloud covers them. Your headlights are useless if they are burnt out. And we are no good as lights for God if we’re unreliable, burnt out, or hiding our lights. We should make it a goal to be lights at all times and in all circumstances.
That doesn’t mean we’re always going to be cheery and bright. At times our light can be seen in our calmness and serenity in the storms of this life. It can be seen in how we choose to respond or not respond to provocation. It can be seen in how we maintain a faith in God even when nothing seems to be going our way. We don’t want to be like Jonah, who only shone when it suited him and who even found room to complain when a group of people he didn’t like repented and turned to God. Rather, we should be more like Daniel.
To me, Daniel is one of the best examples of shining under all circumstances. Think about it, as a young man, he’s taken from his home and stripped of his heritage. Still, in Daniel 1, he finds a way to be faithful to God’s law while showing respect and deference toward those ruling over him. In the next several chapters, Daniel makes a life of sharing God’s messages with kings who might not want to hear those messages, but he never makes enemies of those rulers. Finally, Daniel is even forbidden to pray to God in chapter 6. He does so anyway, but he remains peaceful and even gracious in the face of punishment for civil disobedience.
We see this same peace in Jesus and His apostles throughout their ministries. This is what it really looks like to practice the words of Philippians 4:4 – 9:
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice! Let your mildness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
We should be spending our time filling our minds and hearts with things that encourage us to shine our lights. We should allow God’s light to fill us with a peace that transcends any of the unsettling things that can happen in this world. We should first be crowding out the darkness within ourselves with His light, and then we should be reliable bearers of that light — always burning steady and always pointing the way to God.
That is who we are: lights unto the world, a city on a hill, a chosen priesthood. We are not lights for our own sakes. Rather, we shine for our God, shining the light He has given us reliably and faithfully so that we can bring others to Him, so that they too can share in the safety of His salvation and so we can all go home with Him when all of this has passed away and darkness is no more.
Longing for God’s Light
Let’s finish with Revelation 22:1 – 5:
He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of its street. On this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruits, yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
There will be no curse any more. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night, and they need no lamp light, neither sunlight; for the Lord God will give them light. They will reign forever and ever.
This is the light for which we are striving. This is the hope that brings us joy and peace beyond all understanding. This is the light we should be sharing with others. All other concerns are pure triviality when compared to this. All those things that seem so pressing now, those wordily concerns that seem so urgent, the sorrows that can seem so crushing — they all melt away under the radiance of this light.
Let’s resolve to be faithful lights for our God, reliable and true. Let’s remember to let our speech and our conduct guide others to Christ, for it’s His light that fills us and shines through us. Each of us can do our part to better use our words and actions to point others to Christ, and, when we do so, we are pointing them to the light in Heaven, where pain, sorrow, sin, and darkness cease to exist. How could we do anything else but share such a wonderful gift with everyone we can?
lesson by Robert Smelser