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Flashlights in the Sun

Updated: Feb 2, 2018

I have been serving in full-time ministry for over 10 years now. In that time I have become more and more aware that many Christians struggle with feelings that they aren’t useful for the kingdom. They feel second rate, and in many cases have concluded that this must be their lot in life. They often compare themselves to other believers who seem to be giants in the faith, and think to themselves that they could never be that close to Jesus. They hear amazing missionary stories and salvation stories, and while they love those things and get excited sense that this will never be true of them. Many of these folks are faithful to worship on Sundays with the church, serve the church, go to small groups, bible studies conferences, mission trips, etc., but it all seems in vain to them because they still don’t have those amazing stories and feelings that they actually matter in the kingdom. There are probably many reasons for these feelings, but I want to focus on one that I believe is a large reason.

If you were to go outside during a sunny, summer day and shine a flashlight into the sun, do you think you would be able to see the flashlight? The answer is a huge NO. The light of the sun swallows the light of your flashlight, and it seems insignificant and useless. If someone were to write off the flashlight at that point and call it worthless, that would be a foolish mistake. The flashlight was not designed to light up bright spaces, rather to light up the darkness. My point is this, the many Christians who feel worthless in the kingdom need to stop shining their light in bright places and go to the darkness. So many of us focus all our energies on Christianizing our lives. Everything we do is with Christians. We go to bible study after bible study. We go to conference after conference. We go to church every Sunday. We have only Christians over for dinner. We join the Christian sports program. We go to the Christian coffee shop. We wear only Christian clothing. We only listen to Christian music. Then at the end of the day we still feel insignificant and useless for the kingdom. You are a flashlight in the sun. Take your light to the darkness and you will see just how bright your light really is.

Now the temptation at this point will be to swing the pendulum the other way and get rid of all the Christian stuff. That would be a bad mistake. Sticking with the flashlight analogy, you are not a battery-powered flashlight, rather you are a solar powered flashlight. You need light to give light. The only reason the moon shines is because of the sun. If the sun ceased to shine the moon would cease to glow. In the same way, you need to be around light (both the light of Christ and His body, the church) to continue to give light. So what I am NOT saying is abandon the Church and time with Christ to go in the darkness. What I am saying is in the context of pursuing Jesus through bible study, prayer, worship with the Church, serving don’t forget that you are to be a city on a hill giving light in the darkness. Don’t forget that we are commanded by Jesus to let our lights shine before all men, so they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father who is heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

Those Christians who spend all or most of their time in the light soon suffer from bystander apathy. Bystander apathy is best understood from a real life case study. In 1964, Kitty Genovese was walking up to her apartment when a man attacked her and stabbed her a couple of times. A neighbor yelled at the attacker to leave her alone. The attacker drove off, and Kitty crawled toward her door. About ten minutes later, the attacker drove back by and noticed Kitty crawling along slowly trying to get home. So the attacker got out and stabbed her multiple times more, then violated her and stole her money. When the cops investigated the crime, 38 neighbors said they witnessed the whole thing, and all 38 neighbors did nothing to help the suffering victim. A couple of psychologists studied this case and performed an experiment with some college students and discovered that the more people there are around an event, the less likely it is for anyone to help. They called this bystander apathy. So many Christians today are suffering from bystander apathy as we watch our city, country and world suffer along without Christ. Many of us look around and see the “all-star” Christians out there and subtly tell ourselves that one of them will care. One of them will act. One of them will give and go. After all, our light just doesn’t shine as bright as theirs, right?

If you know and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and have a testimony of how He has saved and changed you, then the light you possess would be enough to light up the darkest of places. John Piper says in Don’t Waste Your Life, “You don’t have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, perhaps just one, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by one great thing.”

I was challenged years ago with this question, “Do you love Christianity more than Jesus?” Seemed like an odd question, but as I pondered it I realized it was a really powerful question. I have often times found myself soaking in the light and complaining about my impact in the world. What I hadn’t realized was that I actually loved Christianity more than Jesus. Jesus is loving, compassionate, gracious, merciful and kind. He’s also dangerous. He sends us out as sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16). He calls us to die daily and take up our cross (Matt. 16:24; Luke 9:23). He warns that we will be hated on account of Him (Matt. 10:22; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17). He calls us to love our enemies, bless them, do good to them and pray for them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-28). As Mr. Beaver from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe said to Susan when asked if Aslan was safe, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” When my love for Christ is kindled I find myself more eager to engage the darkness around me. Where love for Christianity is stronger I find myself more inclined to retreat from the world and surround myself with Christians only.

As a pastor once said, “Jesus has saved you on His way to saving someone else.” You are not dead yet because the Lord has plans for you. For some it will send you half way around the world. Others will never leave Lubbock. No matter your location or vocation, shine your light in the darkness that is all around you. Don’t suffer from bystander apathy, and hope someone else will go to your neighbor or co-worker or an unreached people group. Christian, step forward in obedience to the One who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light and proclaim His excellencies to a lost and dying world (1 Peter 2:9). So let’s shine, and push one another in Christ to shine stronger and brighter and farther so that all may hear and know this life-giving, life-saving good news of Jesus Christ!

Bryan Padgett

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