What the heck kind of question is that?
Well, let’s see: what do a candle and a flashlight have in common? Right- they both put out light. And aren’t we told that we should be a light unto the world? (Matthew 5:14-16)
“Yes, Steve, that’s right, so if both are a light, why worry about the difference? Whether I am a flashlight or a candle, aren’t I still being “a light” to people?”
Yes, you’re still a light. But which is more effective?
That’s the point- if I shine a flashlight on something that is in the sunlight, how effective is the light I add? Obviously, it won’t make a very big difference, if any.
But a candle in the dark of evening can be seen by the unaided human eye from over a mile away! And the closer the candle, the more effective the candle light becomes.
Here’s what I want to say….many of us are doing our best at being good representatives of God, trying to be separated (i.e., holy) from the world while living in it (John 17:16), but we aren’t really going where we are needed to be a more effective light. It’s easy to talk with other Believers, and it’s easy (and safe) to hang out with all the people we know are righteous and trustworthy. But when we do that we are no better than a flashlight in the bright midday sun.
We need (and I am preaching to myself here) to get out into the darkness- to talk with people who do not believe as we do, to demonstrate the way the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) affects us and helps us be more like God, and to go where we are needed most.
Now, don’t get me wrong- I am not saying to go to the nearest biker bar and preach the Word, or to walk the streets at night in the worst parts of town and hand out tracts. That’s not being a light, that’s being suicidal!
What I do mean is that we need to have the courage to talk about God and our beliefs to people we meet everyday. Don’t become one of those “Bible Thumpers” who can’t hold a normal conversation, but do try to fit something God-related into the discussion every now and then.
For instance, when I know I can relate a biblical saying or story to the conversation, I just say something to the effect of, “You know, there was this book I read that said this…” or “I once heard a story about ….” and not even imply it’s from the bible. Then, when I am done, if I see so much as a spark of interest, I will ask if they know where that came from. Now they are leading me into the discussion, and I have their permission to talk about God, even though they didn’t necessarily mean to let me.
And when that happens, go slow. Don’t jump down their throats about God and Hell and all that stuff, just follow their lead and ask, “Have you ever heard that story? Where did you hear it? Oh, you heard it when you were a kid in Sunday School? Why did you stop going? Do you still go to church/synagogue? ” Again, don’t non-stop grill them, just let them take the lead, and dance them around to what you want to get to, which is how much God has helped you in your everyday life.
Missionary work is hard, selling is hard, and if you don’t like the idea that as a missionary you are selling, then you need to have an attitude adjustment. Read Og Mandino’s book, “The Greatest Salesman In the World” and it will make your missionary work much more effective.
Today’s message is really a simple message, it’s not too hard to understand, and it takes guts to act on it. We need to make sure that every moment of every day we are candles in the darkness, because being a flashlight in the sunshine is easy, but useless.
Here is a wonderful paradox: in the real world fruit can’t grow without sunshine, but spiritually you can only produce fruit in the darkness.
Think about it.