Descending down the paved path, our kids skipped beside us, giddy with anticipation. We were on vacation with two other families and the fourteen of us had decided to explore a cave we’d seen advertised on a roadside sign. As we neared the entrance, a park ranger stationed at a booth nearby called out to us, “Do you folks have some flashlights? The cave is a mile long and it gets mighty dark and cold in there.”
We held up a few puny flashlights we’d planned to share among the group. He smiled in a way that let us know how pathetic we were. “It’s up to you, but I’d suggest renting a few lanterns. You’re going to want to keep close tabs on those little ones.” He gestured to the gaggle of kids surrounding us. Pooling together all the cash we had, we rented three lanterns and walked toward the adventure awaiting us at the mouth of the cave.
Within minutes, our previously boisterous kids sidled close to the adults carrying the lanterns. We left the last rays of sunlight that had been shining into the opening as we moved into the depths of the darkness . Between the forty-two degree air and the utter blackness all around us, no one wanted to stray far from the group or the light. Without the lanterns to guide our way, it would have been a frightening (and probably very short) trek into the cave.
Although this adventure happened many years ago, I remembered it vividly as I read the final verse printed at the end of the Why Do You Believe That? workbook:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV)
Mary Jo Sharp emphasizes the reason for knowing apologetics: “You are needed in the battle for truth…It is the work of the body of Christ: to bring truth, which is light, to mankind. We cannot afford to view this work as a luxury; lives are at stake.” (Why Do You Believe That? p. 135)
Put simply, Jesus calls us to be lights that lead people towards Him in a world of spiritual darkness. When we call ourselves Christians, this should be a given. Jesus says that our lights shine when we do good deeds, which in turn brings glory to God. While non-believers may not always affirm or recognize the light Christians bring into the world, they would definitely notice if it were absent.
It is important to keep in mind that our actions often speak more loudly than our words. Even a person who is a convincing apologist loses credibility if she is all talk and no action. Consistency of character speaks more loudly than our words over the long haul.
If you’re feeling discouraged because someone has stopped listening when you share your faith, try to focus on loving the person with your actions and praying for him or her instead. This may be the light that shines God’s truth in a way they can’t deny. Be patient, this can be a slow process.
Six weeks ago we began studying apologetics with this verse: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)
The instructions are pretty clear and consistent with the earlier verse we reviewed. Bringing light to the world involves some personal preparation. We learn to revere Christ as Lord by spending time with Him daily. We prepare ourselves to give answers for the hope we have by studying His Word.
Notice that the passage focuses not only on our words but also on how we conduct ourselves. We are to speak to others gently and respectfully. Many people forget the words others say to them but few forget how another person made them feel. The impression we leave on others through the way we treat them opens or closes doors for future opportunities to share our faith. It can take people a lot longer to recognize they are in spiritual darkness than physical darkness. Our world is full of distractions that comfort or anesthetize people into believing they don’t need God. But, there will come a day when they will recognize their need. If you’ve been there for them all along, they may finally realize the value of the light you have to offer.
So how can you be a light today? Maybe it’s as simple as smiling at someone. Maybe it’s offering a word of encouragement or sharing an inspiring song. Maybe it’s helping with a task or meeting a need. Maybe it’s telling them that God loves them. Each interaction we have with another person provides a chance to make their world a little better and to shine our lights a little brighter.
Let’s apply my story about the cave to our spiritual lives. Imagine that upon accepting Christ, each new believer receives a lantern to carry out into the world where spiritual darkness prevails. When we love people with our actions and then have opportunities to share the truth of God’s Word, we are like the people in the cave holding the lantern. Those fumbling in the dark are drawn to the light and find comfort in its presence. Our world is drowning in spiritual darkness. We have the privilege of holding the lantern and leading them into the light one step at a time.
Click on the link to hear “Marvelous Light” by Ellie Holcomb. It’s an inspiring reminder of how God changes us and then gives us the opportunity to lead others towards His marvelous light.
Sharp, Mary Jo; Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation; Lifeway Press; 2012, 2014.