To a fisherman, a cobbler and a boxer, this would be true! It matters to a child but not to God. Does it matter to you? Most people’s desire is for more and more, bigger and bigger, faster and faster, stronger and stronger. Entering the world with nothing, many forget that we will take nothing material with us. It was the foolish man who tore down his barns to build bigger ones so he could enjoy life, for that very night was his last! The house, the car, the savings pot and every precious item collected over a lifetime will be left behind. Is it not then ironic that so much effort goes into gathering when all of it stays earth-bound until it also rots and decays? The mantra for the modern self is, ‘I must increase, you must decrease’! Yet John the Baptist who lived on the very minimum said to Jesus, ‘I must decrease, you must increase’! Each candle casts its light no matter its size.
- ‘Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness’ – Anne Frank
- ‘A candle loses nothing of its light by lighting another candle’ – James Keller
- ‘You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire’ – Peter Gabriel
- ‘He who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me’ – Thomas Jefferson
Every day, you will see examples of behaviour from those who want to grow at the expense of others. It can be seen in the belittling of others with ‘put-down’ comments, disinterest in what others are saying, the proportion of conversations given over to self-promotion and negative body language. Whether it is through subtle or blatant indications, you can soon get a measure of someone’s heart motivation by observing words and actions. Clearly the same is true when someone observes you! God also knows the thoughts that precede the words and actions – he is under no illusion about our pride.
- ‘In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God’ – Psalm 10:4
- ‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall’ – Proverbs 16:18
- ‘For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world’ – 1 John 2:16
- ‘Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full’ – Psalm 31:23
Whatever its size, a candle or beacon functions only once it is lit – it needs a source. Although fire has been around for time immemorial, it was in 1826 that pharmacist John Walker noticed a dried lump on the end of a stick while he was stirring a mix of chemicals in County Durham. While scraping it off, there were sparks and a flame! Walker marketed the first matches as ‘Friction Lights’ and sold them at his pharmacy. However, three years earlier, a German chemist named Johann Dobereiner had already invented a basic lighter! Lighted beacons were vital for navigation, signalling in early defences but also have a role in celebrations. How appropriate then that Jesus takes this image for himself as the Light of the world and applies it to his followers whom he calls to be lights.
- ‘Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”’ – John 8:12
- ‘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
Where is your light positioned? Paul picks up the illustration in Philippians where he says we are to ‘shine like stars’ in a ‘crooked and depraved generation’. Mother Teresa and Billy Graham shone in their generation but now it is our turn. Our attitude is to be like that of Christ Jesus who ‘took the very nature of a servant’. This is not something we can do in our own strength but we can and must live this way if we are disciples of Jesus. What did John the Baptist say? ‘You must increase, I must decrease’. Let’s start living that way as we interact with others, putting their interests before ours, so that they ‘increase and we decrease’. This way, your light shines brightly even if it is a small candle ... and God gets the glory.
TAGS – humility, grace, weakness, honour, majesty, transcendent, brightest