Light In A Dark Place—A Reprise

Particularly memorable for me is a scene in C. S. Lewis’s The Last Battle. A group of dwarfs have followed the band of Aslan-followers into a rundown shed.

Inside Lucy, Peter, and the other Aslan-followers find sunlight and growing things. It’s like Narnia of old. The dwarfs, however, huddle in a corner, afraid and wary.

The children try to coax the dwarfs out of the huddle they’re in with some fresh fruit. However, the dwarfs grouse and complain about the dark, about the smelly hay Lucy is trying to force on them. In the end, they remain blind to the beauty around them while the children who follow Aslan move further up and further in. The walls of the cottage are simply gone. All of Narnia, newer and better, is before them.

Whatever C. S. Lewis intended with that scene, I think it accurately portrays the difference between those of us whose spiritual eyes have been opened and those still blinded—by sin, and doubt, the world, riches, worries, the idol of self-effort, what have you.

The thing is, none of us can do a single thing to restore sight. We can plead with God to restore sight, but we can’t do it. Not for ourselves and not for anyone else.

So, do we pray for the blind and walk away?

Not if we take seriously what Jesus said.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16).

It seems to me our job is to shine our light—not in a closet, but out in the open where people are looking.

I think that makes some of us uncomfortable. Maybe we mix up what Jesus said about praying in secret and giving in secret with doing good works. Our prayers and our alms-giving are not supposed to be done in a way that has people noticing what we’re doing.

But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you (Matt. 6:3-6).

So prayer and giving—in secret. Good works—out in the open.

But there’s another key. When our good works get attention, they ought not earn us applause. Our good works should spur others to give God glory.

That’s the other part that makes us uncomfortable, I think. How do we get people to credit God, not us, for something we do for His kingdom?

The “ah, shucks, it wasn’t much” approach comes across as false humility and in the end belittles the good work and consequently the one receiving it and God who should receive the glory.

The Apostle Paul didn’t seem to have this problem. When he healed a lame man in Lystra, the people started calling him and Barnabas gods. Their response?

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God (Acts 14:14-15a, emphasis added).

Perhaps we get confused about who’s light we’re shining, and that’s why it feels uncomfortable to us to deflect praise to God.

If someone handed me the keys to someone else’s car, should I stand around hemming and hawing as if somehow to refuse to take the keys that don’t belong to me is an embarrassment? Why would it be embarrassing? They don’t belong to me. It’s just a straight, matter of fact. “Oh, perhaps you misunderstood,” I’d say. “Those keys aren’t mine. They belong to someone else.”

So with praise that belongs to God.

The source of the light in this dark world is God Himself which is why the praise should be His.

This article is a revised version of one that first appeared here in May, 2011.

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “That’s the other part that makes us uncomfortable, I think. How do we get people to credit God, not us, for something we do for His kingdom?”

    Becky, Your God appears to get credit for everything that is good and done by a human, a life is saved in hospital, it is either a miracle from God or he guided the surgeons hand. The storm that devastated a town kills many but saves the church or a single child, God again diverted the storm, he is a hero, a saviour, a superman.

    During this time Christians are being murdered by Muslim extremists, every day 7,000 children under 5 years old die in agony from starvation, children are forced to become sex slaves and natural disasters claim many thousands every year, but you simply claim God has a plan, or Satan is responsible for bad things as the only answers you have.

    Would you have someone such as the highest ranking General receive accolades for every victory in a war, however blame the lower ranks for being out manoeuvred and defeated even though the General was responsible for designing the strategy?

    This is most illogical and ludicrous to think this is acceptable, but unfortunately Becky your indoctrination will always blind you until you do something about it.

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    • Steve, I suppose this is simply another piece of the puzzle that someone without Christ can’t understand. In one sense, yes, God should get all glory for the good people do. After all, He made us in His image. Some Christians use the term “common grace,” meaning that everyone has the capacity to do good because of God’s grace upon us. The good parts are from Him. But sin marred what He made, so the evil is from us.

      But in this article, the good and the glory are a reflection of God’s work through His Holy Spirit who strengthens and helps Christians. So Paul and Barnabas were not able to perform the miracle that had all those people calling them gods. That was the power of the Holy Spirit.

      Steve, your analogy with God and a military commander falls far, far short. The military commander doesn’t “empower” his troops. Sure, he can see they are properly equipped, he can develop a great strategy to engage the enemy. He can encourage, inspire, discipline. But he can’t give his men his knowledge or strength. God can. And more. It’s unreasonable for you to make assumptions about what God is like when you won’t even read the smallest portion of the text that explains Him.

      Becky

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      • I know you love telling me I have never read the Bible, however because I have not read it from cover to cover does not mean I have read none of it. In fact, I have read more of it or know what’s in it than many Christians I have spoken with. I have as a child been to Sunday school where I would have read some of it. Since then I have read so much of it on line and been quoted many passages from people like yourself I cannot believe that I have no idea what is in it.

        It is a fact that many people who have read the Bible from cover to cover have left the faith. I have heard people say I am an atheist because I read the Bible. Face facts Becky, the Bible is not just love and beauty it is ingrained with the morals and violence of the ancient people who wrote it and stories that take a hell of a lot of imagination to believe, so who can blame them? God?

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        • Steve, reading the Bible is no magic bullet leading to faith. But it is a bit humorous that someone who hasn’t read it feels competent to explain it to someone who believes it.

          I’ve even challenged you to read one book. Just one, from “cover to cover.” Because the isolated verses you read on line and the bit you remember from childhood hardly gives you an understanding of who God is or what He purposed.

          And believe me, Steve, scroll through the archives here—you will never read from me that the Bible is “just love and beauty.” Such a notion completely ignores the point and purpose of the Bible.

          Becky

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          • “Steve, reading the Bible is no magic bullet leading to faith. But it is a bit humorous that someone who hasn’t read it feels competent to explain it to someone who believes it.”

            This is a false assumption and huge amount of pride on your part. This highlights your reluctance to adapt into a world of scientific progress that encroaches on your faith. I doubt you would have bothered with a computer or a mobile phone unless progress had dragged you along. We also have the internet that answers every question you may have in case you have not noticed.

            For example, I spent many years in a military facility involved with naval weaponry and explosives. Much of what I was officially taught can be found on line in detail.

            Do not believe for a minute that atheists like myself do not understand or cannot find out the information we need because we never sat down with a Bible on our laps for many hours of sleep induced reading.

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          • Steve, you can’t see the humor here? Imagine if someone who thinks evolution is bunk felt the need to explain to you how evolution actually works, though they’d never read up on the subject at all, only heard the various arguments creationist had made. Would you consider such a person capable of an accurate analysis of your position? Very unlikely.

            But more than that. You continually miss the fact that the Bible itself answers a lot of the questions you might have. Reading a verse here or there just doesn’t give you the whole picture. Reading a book here or there is some better but still incomplete. Still, it’s an improvement from reading atheist proof-texts isolated to put God in the worst possible light. You simply are missing the whole point about reading the Bible. I mean, really, comparing it to facts and information you’re looking up on the internet? OK, if you want to know the name of the Hebrew exile thrown to the lions or some other such piece of trivia, then OK. But you are not going to know what the Bible is all about by taking that approach.

            So, Steve, I’m sure you can process the information, but I doubt very much that you would bring any analytic tools to a text of Scripture. You likely wouldn’t even know the questions to ask.

            And this is not a prideful statement, Steve. It’s simply fact—not even isolated to Bible reading. I was an English major. I was certainly expected to read complete novels, not the abbreviated notes put out by someone else. I was expected to ask my own questions and to reach my own conclusions. That’s the nature of reading and study. I would never say, oh, yes I’ve read Shakespeare’s Henry plays because I’ve seen summaries of them. I’ve read an opinion or two about them. I can look up facts about them any time I want to know the plot lines or the names of the various characters. That is simply NOT the same as reading the plays. You should understand this.

            Becky

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          • “So, Steve, I’m sure you can process the information, but I doubt very much that you would bring any analytic tools to a text of Scripture. You likely wouldn’t even know the questions to ask.”

            Analytic tools are something I understand. I used to analyse explosive ordnance for the government and obviously when you see the size of these documents it is impossible to read every page; therefore, you would look up what you needed to know and do. I would be careful Becky to not judge my abilities because I have analysed far more technical stuff than your Bible.

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          • Steve, if that’s the way you’re approaching Christianity and the Bible, then I see why you are missing the point and purpose, why you parrot incorrectly the passages that the famous atheists say show God in a bad light. That’s NOT the way you analyze a text for meaning. You DO NOT skim it looking for what you want. You need to read it asking, what does this actually say, what does it mean? To suss that out requires IN DEPTH reading, not skimming.

            Becky

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