In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
The Old Testament is full of examples of men and women whose lives had a significant impact on others. Many books could be written of their faith and trust in God. Hollywood has even immortalised some in celluloid such as Noah, Moses and Daniel. Here are a few more.
One memorable night, God drew Abraham out of the confines of his tent. Perhaps he had been relaxing at the end of a hard day when he felt that gentle, but definite tug from God to get up and go outside. As he stepped out into the dark of a Middle Eastern night, where the was no light pollution to dim the brightness of the sky above, God spoke to Him and said,
"Now look to the heavens and count the stars, if you are able.” Then He told him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5,6)
That’s some impact!
Jacob’s son Joseph, through his steadfast faithfulness to God in times of adversity, became the unwitting saviour of hundreds of thousands of lives when he interpreted Pharoah’s dreams that warned of an impending famine of seven years. The impact that his life had on a population that would have starved to death without his intervention, just can’t be imagined.
God placed a young woman called Esther in the royal palace of Susa, Persia, for a purpose—to save her fellow Jews from annihilation. However, it required her to put her own life in jeopardy. Esther courageously agreed to intercede with the King for her people, knowing that the death penalty awaited anyone who entered his presence uninvited. Her famous words “If I perish, I perish,” (Esther 4:16) was Esther’s statement of faith and trust in God. Queen Esther’s impact is still celebrated all over the Jewish the world each year in the festival of Purim.
Sadly, not all were as faithful as those already mentioned. One man, whose life had potential to impact others was Lot. That was never realised for him.
Like his Uncle Abraham, Lot also lived his life by faith and we read that he was
“a righteous man distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless.” (2 Peter 2:7)
However, even though he knew the work of God, he chose a very different path that led to his downfall. “Lot's association with the world wore down his spirituality and resistance... He did not know what he wanted and lingered in the city just before it was to be destroyed. There is no surer way to go backward in one's spirituality, to blunt one's feelings and knowledge of sin, to dull spiritual discernment, than by mingling with the world.” John W Ritenbaugh
Sadly, after escaping Sodom fleeing to the hills and fathering two children with his daughters, Lot’s life falls silent and his light never shone before men. There was no discernible lasting impact from his life. He was ‘the man of no impact’.
Therefore, holy brothers, partners in a heavenly calling, keep your focus on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. (Hebrews 3:1)
As an assessor in education, one of my jobs is to look for evidence of knowledge, but more importantly, understanding of the areas being assessed. For me to be convinced that the candidate understands the concepts there must be sufficient, reliable evidence.
I found myself meditating on what it means for our lives to be focussed on God. I asked myself, from the point of view of an assessor, what would constitute reliable evidence that a Christian was living the focussed life. How could I judge that he or she understood the principles and didn’t just have a head knowledge of them?
As I pondered over this, some of the renouned men of old in The Bible came to mind. Lives such as Abraham, Jacob’s son Joseph, Moses, the prophets Elijah and Daniel, and, of course, the apostle Paul. These men lived the focussed life. And there was one piece of evidence that I saw in each of their lives that was the out working of the focussed life; quite simply, obedience. Let’s have a look at a few of these men.
Of Abraham we read, "Some time later God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!”. “Here I am,” he answered. “Take your son,” God said, “your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. Offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will show you (Genesis 22:1-3). Abraham obeyed.
Although initially reluctant to be God’s mouthpiece in Egypt, Moses finally obeyed Him.
Now the Lord had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all those who wanted to kill you are dead.” So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand. (Exodus 4:19, 20)
Apart from one memorable occasion when he disobeyed God, Moses kept his life focussed on his call and obediently did what God asked of him.
Towards the end of his life, the apostle Paul wrote these, now famous words,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)
If anyone can be cited as a person whose life’s focus was Christ, it was Paul. From the moment of his meeting with Christ on the Damascus Rd, Paul’s life was characterised by obedience.
Finally, I also thought about the fruit of the focused life. One word sprang to mind.. “Victory”. The focussed life is a life of victory over temptation and sin. As Max Lucado puts it:
“Focus on giants - you stumble
Focus on God - giants tumble."
One day, the Great Assessor will look for evidence that demonstrates how focused we have been on Him. God grant that He finds an abundance of evidence of obedience and tumbled giants!
Teach us to realise the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
Recently, I attended the funeral service of a friend of nine years. She went home to be with the Lord five days after her 62nd birthday. She had been a Christian for many years and spoke openly about her faith in all situations.
Shortly before she died, I visited her in the hospice. She was in a lot of pain yet took time to speak about her faith to the nurses and doctors who were looking after her.
Before her funeral service, I found myself wondering what she would say, if she was able to come back to earth for two minutes to address the congregation.
Firstly, and most importantly, I think she would speak about Christ. She would try to describe the indescribable to us. She would use superlatives as she spoke of his beauty and loveliness. I can picture her ending by encouraging us to follow Him unreservedly and saying to those gathered;
Your eyes will see the King in His beauty. (Isaiah 33:17)
I picture her then going on to give us a glimpse into Heaven. What would she tell us about Heaven? Well, I’m reminded of a part in C S Lewis’s book ‘The Magician’s Nephew’. As the creation of Narnia was unfolding before the eyes of a London cabbie who had been dragged from his world into a newly emerging Narnia, the cabbie said 'Glory be!…. 'I'd ha' been a better man all my life if I'd known there were things like this.’ She would describe to us the ‘things like this’ and would quote to us 1 Cor 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him”. She would spur us on to walk more closely to Christ and be obedient to Him at all cost.
And finally, she would remind us of 2 Cor 4:17,
Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Cor 4:17)
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36 )
At its longest, life is short for all of us. Let us always carry with the sense of glory that we will one day enter into, and live our lives in such a way, making the most of the time that we have, to bring others closer to Him and bring glory to His name.
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. (Isaiah 33:6)
On the 6th of February 1952, the United Kingdom found itself with a new monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. All over the UK, and indeed the world this week, many celebrations are being held to commemorate 70 years of our Queen’s service to the nation.
For her, like all people, the last 70 years have been characterised by both happy and sad events, one of the most recent being the death of her husband, Prince Philip. However, one thing that has remained constant during her time as Queen has been her Christian faith. Over the decades, Queen Elizabeth II has made numerous references to God, acknowledging Jesus Christ as One from whom she has “drawn great comfort in difficult times”. (The Queens’ Christmas Message 2000).
In 1947, on her 21st Birthday while in South Africa on a three-month tour of the country with her parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, while addressing the people of the Commonwealth, she said: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. God help me to make good my vow.”
In her first televised Christmas message in 1957, she read some paragraphs from Pilgrim’s Progress.
In four of her Christmas broadcasts, The Queen has talked about the parable Jesus told of a ‘Good Samaritan’. In 1985 she said the story ‘reminds us of our duty to our neighbour. We should try to follow Christ's clear instruction at the end of that story: "Go and do thou likewise".’
The Millennium Christmas message included the words: “To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me, the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” (2000)
One of my personal favourite references to Christ by The Queen is the following from her Christmas message of 2012:‘This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son “to serve, not to be served”. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others. The carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter” ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service:
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part…
‘The carol gives the answer, 'Yet what can I give him? – give my heart'.”
Not only has The Queen been faithful to God over the last 70 years, but we know that He has been exceedingly faithful to her. In her first Christmas broadcast as Queen in 1952, months before her Coronation, she stated: “Pray for me… that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life”. He has most surely honoured that prayer and has been a
sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge. (Isaiah 33:6)
We thank God today for His great faithfulness and rejoice that His name has been honoured and lifted high through Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
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