A Faithful Light

photo of two lamps shining on a snowy night
Photo by Hide Obara

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

The Parable of the Widow and the Judge

painting depicting saint lucy pleading before a judge

Prayer and faith are tied closely together, and that is at the heart of a parable we have in Luke 18 and starting in verse 1:

He also spoke a parable to them that they must always pray, and not give up, saying, “A certain judge was in a city, who didn’t fear God, and didn’t respect man. A widow was in that city, and she came often to him, saying, ‘Defend me from my adversary!’

“He wouldn’t for a while, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I don’t fear God, nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will defend her, or else she will wear me out by her continual coming.'”

The Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says. Won’t God avenge his elect, who are crying out to him day and night, and yet he exercises patience with them?”

Matthew 6 records Jesus telling us to not be anxious about the future but to rather be prayerful. We also find prayers of thanksgiving in the New Testament as well as prayers of supplication and forgiveness. This prayer in Luke, however, is little different. Here, the widow is directly calling for intervention. Jesus uses this plea to teach that God’s intervention sometimes take time, and God’s time should not discourage our prayer.

The Patient Prayer

Psalm 130:5 – 7:

I wait for Yahweh. My soul waits. I hope in his word. My soul longs for the Lord more than watchmen long for the morning; More than watchmen for the morning. Israel, hope in Yahweh, For with Yahweh there is lovingkindness. With him is abundant redemption.

God’s people often wait on the Lord. Take Hannah in I Samuel chapters 1 and 2 for example. She prayed over and again for a child, but it did not happen right away. Instead, it happened when God was ready, and her child would be one of the great leaders of God’s people. Take Daniel as well, who continued in prayer, even when it was prohibited by law. Despite all circumstances, he continued to pray — even when it looked like it might cost him his life.

The Accepting Prayer

The other side of this is that our prayers for intervention sometimes don’t get the answer we want. In II Corinthians 12:7 – 9, Paul asks for a “thorn of the flesh” to be removed. Paul prayed three times over this, but God says His grace is sufficient. Paul’s prayer did not go unanswered, but the answer was not what he wanted.

So why do we continue in prayer if we know we might have to wait or that we might not get the answer we want? It’s because our prayer life is not transactional; rather it’s relational. We grow closer to God every time we pray. Accepting God’s answers teaches us humility and grace. An active prayer life, especially we have to be patient in prayer, makes us more like Christ, whom we are supposed to imitate.

lesson by Herb Smelser

Removing the High Places


We are wrapping up our series about the high places we might have in our hearts. We’ve studied about a number of things that might take God’s place in our lives — our finances, our success, our earthly relationships, our own happiness and our opinions, our culture, even religious leaders who might mislead us. These things can be very pressing and immediate. People and relationships can have great meaning to us, but none of these should ever overwhelm God in our lives.

Coming Between Us and God

John 14:25 – 30 records Jesus telling His apostles that He would ensure they had all knowledge to guide God’s people. His word, His love, and His covenant are all we need. Nothing should be replacing its place in my heart. He is the truth that should always guide us, regardless of what’s going on around us and what may seem momentarily important during our brief lives. He is the foundation upon which our lives should be built.

When anything stands between us and our work for God’s kingdom, then it has become a high place to us. We might not think of it as an idol. I doubt we think of much as idols. After all, I doubt anyone here has a statue on a shelf to which we offer prayers. We may testify God as first in our lives, and we might even believe that. We have to be self aware, however, and be honest with ourselves when the immediacy of our physical lives overtakes our spiritual relationship with God.

A Question of Importance

Matthew 10:34 – 39 speaks specifically about family and our spiritual priorities. But the overarching principle speaks to anything in our lives. It’s a question of importance. What is more immediate to our hearts? What informs our decisions, our conduct, and our attitudes? These are the things that demonstrate what is most important to us.

I Timothy 4:1 – 5 and II Timothy 4:1 – 5 both speak about making other things more important than God’s word. When we allow idols to grow in our hearts, we might be willing to alter God’s word to put those things where we want them. God has given us so much, and He wants a relationship with us. But it’s a relationship that takes true commitment. He and His will have to come first, and that requires us to tear down every high place we keep in our hearts.

Lesson by Herb Smelser