“DISPELLING THE DARKNESS”
March 14, 2009
As soon as I turned the car onto my home street my heart sank. The entire neighborhood was dark. No houselights, no porch lights, no streetlamps; only the faint flicker of a candle emanating from a few windows gave any indication that the community was inhabited. Oh no! I thought to myself. There go my evening’s plans down the drain. I had rushed home from giving my last piano lesson in order to catch my favorite show on television. A two-hour, double-header episode was scheduled which I had looked forward to watching for days. In the show the fate of the entire nation had been hanging in the balance for the last week. Now I would likely never find out what happened. My mood was hovering somewhere between anger and depression. Not even any moonlight was visible to cheer my gloom.
An eerie, thick blackness had descended upon our small community as though every house had been draped in a death shroud. The power had obviously gone out. But why was it only affecting our small neighborhood? The rest of the city was ablaze in light. Just beyond our backyard fence everyone seemed to be enjoying all the power they desired. The same was true one block to the east and one block to the west. Only a few dozen homes, including my own, were suffering from the outage. What have we done to be cursed like this? I wondered.
As I pulled into our driveway I noticed that our house, at least our living room anyway, seemed to be filled with light. Once inside I discovered why. My wife, Babs, had used the darkness as an excuse to light nearly every candle we owned. I lost count at sixty. She has always had a fondness for candles but this was a bit overwhelming.
“Why don’t we light our gas fireplace and extinguish a few of these candles,” I suggested. “I think it might be a little safer.”
“There’s nothing to do but read,” she replied. “We need all this light to see the print. But we can go ahead and light a fire in addition to all the candles and that will brighten up the room even more.”
I gave up trying to convince her of the impending danger with so many flames burning all at once and soon settled onto our couch with a good book. It was difficult for me to concentrate on reading, however. I kept wondering what had happened to knock out our power. Why were only a few houses involved in the outage? And why was it taking so long to restore our electricity? Every clock in our home was stuck on 4:45 pm. I finally gave up and went to bed around 11:30 with still no power available. Finally, at 3:15 am, the lights came on again startling us both out of our slumber. After adjusting our bedroom clocks and resetting our alarms to make certain we would wake up at the proper time in the morning, we turned the lights off and once again climbed into bed. But I found it difficult to go back to sleep.
I was curious if God might be trying to tell me something. The circumstances surrounding the power outage and a house filled with candles were unique enough to cause my spiritual ears to perk up. During the remainder of that evening and the next day I sensed that God was indeed attempting to communicate. I don’t think He caused the electrical outage, although as yet I haven’t discovered the reason behind it nor why it took over ten hours to restore. But I do believe the Lord was using the events of that evening to pass along some hints at what might be in store for us in the near term and how the body of Christ should respond. In turn, I am passing these along to you as well.
I am afraid that this region (perhaps the entire country) is in for a prolonged period of intense darkness. Indeed it has already begun and will likely last far longer than most are predicting. The darkness includes our present economic crisis but is probably not limited to financial matters. Just as our power outage only affected our small neighborhood, this darkness will affect some segments of our society far worse than others. It will even threaten the demise of many churches. However, this is not a time for the church to cower in fear or limit its ministries. Neither is it a time for hording our resources while others nearby are suffering in the darkness. It is a time, rather, for us to prepare to take advantage of every opportunity to reach out to those who are being swept away in the gathering storm. Against the black backdrop of intensifying darkness the church has a unique opportunity to shine ever more brightly.
During our blackout Babs had ingeniously placed a dozen small candles on each of two cooking sheets and set them out on TV trays in our living room. Together they added a great deal of light to the room. As I was extinguishing the blazing inferno before retiring that evening I noticed that several candles from each tray had burned completely down while others had barely lost half an inch off their height. There seemed to be no reason for the disparity. Was this the result of some obscure law of thermodynamics or was there another message hidden here?
In meditating upon this oddity I was reminded of how brightly lit one room of our house was with all sixty candles burning at once. Yet the rest of the house was in total darkness. When I needed to use the bathroom, however, I could take one candle with me and have plenty of light. Likewise, Babs was able to take two candles with her into the kitchen and have enough light to grill a couple of cheese sandwiches for our dinner. Were we wasting some of the candles by placing them all together in one room? Were we exhibiting poor stewardship of our existing light?
“You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16.
During times of adversity it is the nature of Christians to huddle together for mutual warmth and fellowship. It is essential for us to gather regularly in order to practice all the “one another” ministries we read about in Scripture. But at this present time of impending crisis God is also calling us out of our comfortable, well-lit church gatherings in order to penetrate the darkness, to take the light of Jesus into the surrounding communities and dispel the stormy night of economic hardships, despair, faithlessness, lawlessness, hopelessness, and sin which blacken the world outside the walls of the kingdom. It’s not that we Christians are hiding our lights under a bowl, but rather that we are corralling all the lights in one room.
I believe many churches will not survive the coming darkness. They will likely be the ones which expend all or the vast majority of their resources in the process of illuminating that which is already well lit. They will simply succumb to their own poor stewardship of the light and burn themselves up shining on each other. I also believe there are many pastors, as well as other gifted Christ followers, who have been called to penetrate the darkness with their light but are instead being held captive behind the stained glass of their churches. It is high time we release these “called out ones” into the sin-stained, spiritually dark world which surrounds us before they burn themselves up in a ministry where they don’t belong.
Every church community and every believer needs to reassess their stewardship and ask the Head of the church where He would have them distribute their resources. I’m not advocating that we close the doors to our houses of worship. We just need to follow the Lord of the harvest into the darkness and shine the light of Jesus upon those who are truly in need. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light…” – 1John 2:9-10. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” – 1John 3:17-18. There are many people in various segments of our society right now who are hurting terribly. Their plight will only become more desperate as the darkness intensifies. As we shine the light of Jesus upon them their hearts will be opened to the Gospel and the kingdom of God will increase.
“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” – Isaiah 49:6. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” – Isaiah 9:2. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…” – Ephesians 5:8. “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” – Romans 13:11-12.
Open your eyes and look around you. The world is growing increasingly darker, suffering from a spiritual power outage. God has given you the light of Christ. What will you do with it? Will you place your candle next to scores of others who are shining brightly and burn yourself up giving light to that which is already well lit, all the while cursing the darkness outside? Or will you use your light to penetrate the darkness and dispel it?
Bill, a child of God penetrating the darkness