Lesson 6 -- first quarter 2006
April 9, 2006
I remember a night some eleven years ago when I was a courageous thirty-five years old. I had long tried to cultivate at least the image of glacial calm and unruffled composure. (I tell you that to put the rest of this paragraph in perspective.) The night in question I experienced such a horrendous nightmare and was so shaken by it that I awoke my wife so she could pray for me (that was a first in 14 years of marriage). Then came a mysterious noise. It took a terrific amount of willpower to get up and investigate. Oh, how dark it seemed, and I so unnerved! But what a blessing to have two little nightlights burning "brightly"!
In broad daylight, I have no use for nightlights. I have to look right at them to know they are even lit. On or off, I forget about them because there is no darkness (or unhinged nerves)! They are night lights, you know. However, if I want them to be useful to me at night, I must make sure they are functional at all times. That seems too logical to state, yet it seems we often fail to see that in a spiritual sense.
Those in the desperate darkness of despair most appreciate the encouraging light of hope. Furthermore, they can perceive the light more readily than those who are already in light (or who think they are enlightened). It is those who walk in darkness that best see the light. That means that in those dark moments in your life, your spirit is especially perceptive of the light which you need. You will be most disposed to readily and eagerly embrace it and walk faithfully in its illumination. But I warn you -- when the darkness passes, it is dangerously natural to disregard the light and the lessons it taught you in the dark. So, my friend, don't forget or despise in the day what you have seen in the dark! That obedience to God which made so much sense in the night makes just as much sense in the day.
Don't deny light to others just because you are already enlightened. At times I have caught myself selfishly using the flashlight on a dark trail. Since I am walking confidently, I forget those following me who also need illumination. Strong, mature Christians may bask in their "spirituality" and neglect those who could benefit from it. What are we doing to spread light and hope to those who are yet in darkness and despair? What are we doing to help those who are struggling to get along with a penlight when we have a floodlight from which they could benefit?
Don't mock those who live by light you think you don't need. I can almost imagine the grin tugging your mouth toward your ears when you read the first paragraph. Just remember my physical and emotional balance were affected by those little lights . . . and remember the times you yourself have had similar experiences. By the same token, as we consider the areas of obedience in the lives of others, let's not be guilty of mocking their "props." As an example I cite a brother who refuses to go to the beach because he knows the weakness of his lustful eyes. I haven't chosen that particular route, but God forbid I should make fun of his "extremism"! Mockery is born in the hearts of those who mistakenly perceive themselves as stronger than their brother.
Maintain your light in the day if you would have it see you through the dark. My friendly nightlights would have done me no good had I not made sure (during the day) that the bulbs were in working order. If my faith and obedience are not kept up when things go well and I am full of hope, what makes me think they will sustain me and keep me going when darkness looms and hopelessness suffocates?!
Job declared, "For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant" (Job 14:7-9).
Just yesterday I noticed two different trees which prove this. One had been hacked back to a mere trunk. The other must have been cast down by a strong wind. Though they both still show the results of their bad experiences, they have put forth new branches.
After that lead in, though, Job asks, "But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?" (Job 14:10). When adversity overwhelms you and hopelessness shrivels you, are you finished?
"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" (Psalm 1:3).
I have noticed people who prove this. Though cut down, they have gone on to flourish and be fruitful. Out of despair they have blossomed forth into hope. How do such miracles of renewal come to be?!
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2).
"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance" (Psalm 42:5).