Let Your Light Shine!

By Evan Bartholomew.

“Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. ‘If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.’” Isaiah 58:7-10 (NIV).

As disciples, one of the most amazing demonstrations of God’s overwhelming grace and unlimited power in our own lives is found by looking at how He pulled each and every one of us “out of the darkness and into His wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9). We remember the emptiness and loneliness of the darkness, and our cries for help when we were the most desperate. Then, just like “a burning stick snatched from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2), God reached down, grabbed hold of us, and brought us into a new and incredible life. With certainty, we are no longer found buried in the deepest pits of darkness, but have been rescued and made into light for a wicked and darkened world. We are now a “light to shine before men” (Matthew 5:16). Yet, not all lights shine brightly. There are some who barely flicker like a candle caught by a gust of wind. Then there are those whose brilliance shines through the night like distant stars across the expanse of the universe. How brightly does your light shine?

In the book of Isaiah, the prophet equates being a light with taking care of the poor and oppressed. Though this is not the only way we shine as disciples, it is perhaps the most neglected. In the United States, where comfort and security have become a standard, we know very little about what it truly means to be poor and oppressed. In many of our minds, being poor is not being able to afford gas for our oversized SUV’s, and we feel a sense of oppression from the oil companies because they keep raising the prices on fuel. Can you imagine if we weren’t complaining about gas, but about food? If the McDonalds dollar menu became the $20 menu? Or about clothes? What if Nike charged $1000 for running shorts? Maybe then we would understand what many people go through around the world.

Two months ago, I was reminded of the need to take care of the poor when I was approached by someone while I was standing in line to get a quick bite to eat at a fast food joint. It was an ex-disciple who had fallen away and returned to the darkness just a couple years back. He came up behind me and tapped me on my shoulder. As I turned around, I could barely recognize the face. He was about fifty pounds lighter from when I had last seen him. He had a look of desperation in his eyes and plenty of dirt under his fingernails. I remembered asking myself whether this was a complete stranger, or if he was in fact the young campus student that I once knew? Sensing the confusion in my mind, he introduced himself. It was him!

I treated him to some food and then we sat down to talk. I asked him how he was doing, and where he had been for the past two years. Without hesitation, as if every ounce of pride he had was already stripped away, he began to tell me his story. He told me that he was kicked out of his house by his family because he tried to steal $20 from them. He bounced from small job to small job and from place to place until he had nowhere else to go. Eventually, he explained, as he shoveled down the food on his plate like he hadn’t eaten in a week, that he had tried to apply for welfare but was unable to receive help even from the government. Before long, he was hanging out at the mall every day with an empty cup that he would use to steal soft drinks from the soda fountains inside of fast food restaurants. At night he slept in an old car outside of his ex-girl friend’s house which was owned by her “new” boyfriend. They wouldn’t even let him stay in the house. Worst of all, he shared how he had given up on God because he felt that God had given up on him.

Deeply convicted by the lifestyle he was forced to live, I offered him a ride as well as a place to stay. Sadly, because of the consistent and brutal beatings that life without God had given him, he seemed as if he had lost all hope of a “better life”, and rejected my offer. I left him with a piece of paper with my phone number on it and a little extra money for a couple more meals. Though, I have yet to hear back from this individual, I am thankful for him helping me to see the need for our light to “break forth like the dawn”, and to bring light to a dark world full of darkened souls.

[Author’s note: As God would have it, this individual contacted me as I was finishing up the last paragraph on this article. He is currently in the process of receiving help from our church. To God be the glory.]

Over and over in Jesus ministry, he was constantly challenging those who are rich to “sell everything you have and give to the poor” (Luke 18:22). In our society, we truly are rich. Our standard is “comfort” and not “survival” like many others. Ironically, we normally don’t tend to see ourselves that way. We’ve been conditioned to think that we don’t have enough, and that we “need” more. Thus the saying, “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.” As disciples, we’ve been given the challenge of taking care of those that don’t have what we do; both spiritually and physically.

In the past year as a church, we have sacrificed greatly for the mission of making disciples of all nations. In fact, at our Special Missions Contribution of three weeks ago, we collected $11,179.00 which was far above the expected $10,000.00. We have already sent $4,000, and are extremely excited, as I am going to deliver the rest of it to the Honolulu International Christian Church, personally, on June 8 at their Inaugural Service. I believe this type of sacrifice demonstrates all of our hearts to give. Let us now extend our generosity to the poor. With faith, I believe that we can accomplish this by doing the following:

I) Giving benevolence more focus in our services

II) Having a collection specifically for benevolence (Midweek Services – Sunday Service)

III) Identifying specific benevolence projects both locally and internationally

We have been, up until this point, collecting benevolence money during our Sunday Services when we also collect our weekly contribution. The money was distinguished by writing on your checks “Benevolence”, or to put cash in an envelope that said the same thing. Unfortunately, it has not been very effective as a means to collect our benevolence. Instead, we will begin collecting it at every Midweek Service starting June 4 at Women’s Night Out. Every disciple should bring something to give to the needy. Secondly, more consistent challenges to remember the poor will be included in our preaching, teaching and discipling as it is equally as important to God that we remember the lost. Lastly we are currently looking for worthy causes to give to locally, as well as putting money aside so that we may give the future to the new “Hope”-like organization that is being put together at our sister church, the City of Angels International Christian Church.

Prayerfully, I know that through God using us, the hearts and lives of many lost souls will be touched, both in spiritual needs as well as physical needs. But we must let our good deeds peer out from behind the shadows, and only then “your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become the dawn.