Lights in dark places

I’ve just been visiting family in Hampshire – a lot of driving on busy roads, but worth it.  The weather on Christmas Day was lovely – crisp and frosty with cloudless blue skies from dawn to dusk, just right for a walk in the New Forest.  What a change on Boxing Day!  Heavy rain fell relentlessly from a sullen grey sky, adding more water to the already sodden fields and swollen rivers, the results of a very wet December.  Yet here and there among the trees there were gleaming ‘pools’  of golden brightness – the russet of beech leaves and the tawny orange of bracken – glowing with a kind of inner radiance, far brighter than they had looked under sunnier skies.

Christians are not exempt from the pressures and trials of life in a fallen world, and there are the added pressures and difficulties of living in a culture which is increasingly strident and open in its opposition to God and to His people. 

Isaiah was facing perilous, faith-testing times when the Lord spoke to him ‘with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying: Do not say. ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.  The Lord of hosts, Him you shall fear, and let Him be your dread.  He will be as a sanctuary…   (Isaiah 8:11-14a) 

Commenting on this passage in her book, ‘Turn back the Battle’, Elizabeth Kendal writes: And is not this the mark of true believers – that God is with us?  The promise is that faithful believers, who trust God enough to walk in His light, will find God with them in the midst of their troubles.  Furthermore, God will be working in and through them according to His sovereign plan and purpose.  This sanctuary, this place of intimate communion with God in the midst of earthly troubles, is a place of supernatural peace and strength.  It is a spiritual refuge where the faithful, regardless of how physically weak or inherently powerless they may appear, receive divine strength to soar as if on eagles’ wings.

She goes on to summarise ‘God’s paradigm for threatened believers’ in these words:

  • Don’t walk the way the world walks (as if God were irrelevant) (v11)

  • Don’t think the way the world thinks (only politically and materially) (v12a)

  • Don’t fear what the world fears (pain, poverty, persecution etc) (v12b)

  • Think differently (spiritually, honouring the Lord as holy) (v13a)

  • Fear differently (fear only the Lord) (v13b,c)

  • Walk differently (by faith not by sight) knowing the Lord is with you (v14a)

Challenging words, I find.  The Apostle Peter has the same thought:  And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, or be troubled.”  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts…    (1 Peter 3:13-15a)

Doubtless he also had in mind the words of the Lord Jesus: And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7                                                                                        

May the Lord enable us, by His grace, to shine as lights in the world in the place and the circumstances which He has appointed for us. Psalm 34 

Through all the changing scenes of life,

In trouble and in joy,

The praises of my God shall still

My heart and tongue employ.


Of His deliverance I will boast,

Till all that are distressed

From my example comfort take,

And charm their griefs to rest.


O magnify the Lord with me,

With me exalt His Name;

When in distress to Him I called,

He to my rescue came.


The hosts of God encamp around

The dwellings of the just;

Deliverance He affords to all

Who on His succour trust.


O make but trial of His love,

Experience will decide

How blessed are they, and only they,

Who in His truth confide.


Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then

Have nothing else to fear;

Make you His service your delight,

Your wants shall be His care.


Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady