Being Light

It was an unusual place to be in complete darkness.  My husband and I had planned a little Valentine’s Day getaway last weekend just for the night at a nice hotel only thirty minutes from our home.  We had checked in that afternoon, gone out for a wonderful dinner, made a stop at TCBY for dessert, and then headed back to our hotel.  It was quite a shock to look up as we exited off the highway and realize that it was hard to even see the building.  It was because there was no light!  There were strong winds that night due to an incoming front and something had happened that had caused there to be no electricity in the area.

After the maintenance man opened the door to the stairs, I went to our room.  There were emergency lights in the stairwell and in the hall but nothing in the room but the occasional blink of the red light on the smoke alarm.  Thankfully, I had a flashlight app on my phone, but when I called my husband to see what he wanted to do, the flashlight went off and I was in total darkness.

Nothing will make you appreciate light like being in darkness.

Jesus said of us in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Once again, a statement of our purpose – a great purpose.

Recently I heard a message by Andy Stanley about being salt and light.  The main thing that stood out to me as he talked about this passage was the definition of the word “set” in the phrase “a city set on a hill”.  He said that the word means “strategically placed”.

Do you see yourself that way – as a “strategically placed light”?  Maybe you are in a job that isn’t the career path you want.  Maybe you are in one with a difficult boss or co-workers.  Maybe you wonder how you even got to where you are – moving to the Triangle held such promise but it hasn’t turned out at all like you thought it would.  Maybe the Lord will move you on in the future from these circumstances, but wherever you are – no matter how much you question why you are there – you are a “strategically placed light”.  In His sovereignty and goodness, God has you where you are for a reason – to walk with Him in such a way that your good deeds bring glory to Him in a dark place.  And there is plenty of darkness around us that needs some light!

When you think about it, it gives great purpose to your day and to your interactions with others.  No matter what your job or what you are doing, you are light.  Thanks to the grace of God and the Holy Spirit, you have the power to respond to situations in ways that glorify God, to make decisions all day that glorify God, to relate to your co-workers in ways that glorify God.  (Galatians 5:22-23)  It may be tempting to hide your light, but Jesus exhorts His disciples to not “put it under a basket” but to let it shine for His kingdom.

It’s amazing the difference just a little light makes in complete darkness.  Since we had electricity and therefore light and heat at home, we decided to pack up, leave the hotel, and hope for a refund (which, thankfully, we got).  All I had to see to pack up our stuff was the light from my iPhone.  But it was enough.  The greater the darkness, the brighter a little light is.

Shine on!

To watch Andy Stanley’s message on salt and light (called “Showing Up”) click here.

Being Salt

Whatever it was that they had, I wanted it.

They had peace and didn’t worry all the time.
They had a healthy self-esteem and felt good about themselves.
They had a special joy about them.

These things did not describe my 16-year-old self.

I had never met anyone like them before.  They made me thirsty for whatever they had that made them different.

They were salt.

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says to His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”  It is a great statement of purpose for us.

saltSalt has many uses.  Actually, if you Google “uses for salt” you can find articles like “Over 60 Ways to use Salt”.  In Biblical times, it was used frequently as a preservative.  Without refrigeration and other modern ways to keep meat fresh, they used salt to keep it from rotting and smelling.  Salt also gives flavor, one of the main reasons we use it now.  I think those definitions of “salt” were included when Jesus described us as “the salt of the earth”.  We are to preserve the culture we live in and bring flavor to it.

But salt also makes a person thirsty.  And part of our purpose as Christians is to make people thirst for the gospel.

How do we do it?  Partly by how we live.  Being around someone who is joyful, peaceful, humble, kind, secure, patient, and loving is an attractive thing.  And an unusual thing.  That is a life that is rooted in the gospel and character that is produced by the Holy Spirit.  And it is what people yearn for deep inside.  Everyone wants joy and peace.  Everyone wants security.  Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally.  Seeing those things in us will make others thirst for it, a thirst that can only be satisfied in the gospel.

But we also do it with what we say.  Paul says in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”  This command comes soon after a request for prayer that Paul would have open doors to share the gospel and an exhortation to the Colossians to act wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  As we interact with people, we need to use words of grace and truth, words that let people know why we are different, words that include the gospel.  It’s not that we are just unusually nice people.  It’s all because of Christ.

I’m thankful that my friends didn’t just live a different, appealing life.  They also included me in it and explained it to me.  I remember standing in the band room one day (we were in marching band together) and my friend, Chuck, asking me, “Have you ever heard of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”  “No,” I replied.  “I haven’t.”  I started attending a Christian club at the school with them and going to Bible studies, and that Fall, I got it.  By the grace of God, I understood the gospel and received Christ, and my life changed forever.

When I look back at that time, I know that deep down I was thirsting for Christ before I met my friends.  I not only was lost – I felt lost.  But being around my friends brought it close to the surface and, more importantly, also led me to the answer for my deepest thirsts.  When I pray for people who don’t know Christ, one thing I pray is that God will bring people into their lives who will be salt and who will make them thirst to know Him.

All of this reminds me that I need to be sure about my own “saltiness”.  Who knows – maybe I am the answer to someone else’s prayer for their friend or family member!  Do people see a difference in me?  Does my life make others thirst for what I have – the gospel?  What about your co-workers?  Do you seem different or just like everyone else in the office?  What would it look like to be salt there?  Being patient in the midst of a stressful situation?  Being kind to others when they make a mistake?  Sobering questions but important ones.  How I pray I will make others thirst for Jesus!