The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 (NLT)
In 1907, Wesleyan preacher William Watkinson published a sermon, “The Invincible Strategy.” He made the point that “evil is not overcome by denunciation.” He said that although it is easier to speak against evil than to engage in good works, it is not the best strategy. At this point, Watkinson said, “yet it is far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.”
We may be dismayed and troubled by the present darkness in the world today. But it is essential, even critical, that we see the excellent opportunity for the people of God. Obviously, a candle lit in the darkness has a greater impact than one lit in bright sunlight. Lighting a candle in broad daylight doesn’t take much courage, but a light shining in the darkness will be noticed.
Consider for a moment what light is and what it can do. It can illuminate our pathway (Psalm 119:105). It gives us understanding (Psalm 119:130). Light represents security and refuge (Psalm 27:1). God is light (1 John 1:5). Light exposes evil (Ephesians 5:11-13). Conversely, the absence of light is a breeding ground for ill intentions and sin (Job 24:14-17, Ezekiel 8:12, Matthew 6:23).
Let Your Light Shine
You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14–16 (NET)
Suppose that you are walking in the dark. You have a flashlight (or a mobile phone). However, you refuse to turn it on because you reason that it is so dark where you are that the light would be of no use. Or, you are afraid that somebody will notice that you have turned your light on, and it will bring embarrassment.
When Jesus said, “people do not light a lamp and put it under a basket,” he must’ve been referring to what rational, clear-thinking people would do with a light. Jesus said, “you are the light of the world.” He did not say that we are the light of the church, our small group, or other places that are well lit, but the light of the world.
Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). In this world, we are like Jesus (1 John 4:17). We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
Light up the Night
“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. Isaiah 60:1–3 (NIV)
We should refuse any doctrine or teaching that says darkness is inevitable and insurmountable. It sometimes appears as though Christ-followers are so discouraged by this present darkness that they live in resignation and despair. The Amplified Bible gives us this interpretation of Isaiah 60:1: “ARISE [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to a new life]!”
The experts tell us that light is good for us. In places where the sun does not shine much, we find much higher rates of depression. Darkness is not a good place. Cursing the darkness will gain very little. The antidote to fear and depression is the light. Reject the idea that it is too late to let your light shine. Whether the world recognizes it or not, it desperately needs light.
Even if many reject the light and run from it, it will be a source of salvation to others. When we receive and accept the light, God declares: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” It is a lie to believe that things have gotten so dark that it is too late for the light.
Shining like Bright Lights
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Philippians 2:14–15 (NLT)
How do we let our light shine? Scripture would indicate that it is more about what we do rather than what we say. What? No complaining or arguing? Live clean, innocent lives? Are you serious? Do we view our lives as a stewardship?
In Isaiah 58, God takes his people to task to display religious piety. They engage in pious exercises of fasting, but it is shallow and empty. God goes on to describe the kind of fast that he wants:
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. Isaiah 58:6 (The Message)
Really? That sounds like a liberal, progressive social justice agenda. Is that what God wants from us? Wait, there is more:
Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Isaiah 58:7 (NLT)
Okay, but what does this have to do with letting our light shine? I’m glad you asked because the next verse is very illuminating:
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:8 (NIV)
Not only will this world benefit from this glorious light, but God’s glorious light will transform us as well. The words of this song resonate with me this Christmas season:
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine…
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine…
Let it shine ‘til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine…