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Light, darkness & faith

We all know what it’s like when the lights go off inside our home, and we are left in the pitch black. Can we imagine what it was like before electricity, when a home was lit solely with candles? There was no staying up watching TV. There was no working late on the computer. Imagine, you were handwriting a manuscript, and you make a mistake – rewrite the entire page, there is no delete button on the computer to go back 3 spaces.

But life without electricity was very different: streets were much darker, homes were much darker. There was no “night shift” with flood lighting like a stadium. There were no street lights at intersections, or even much for street lights on any city streets. Darkness was dark. The kind of dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The kind of dark that you weren’t sure where the furniture was or what the terrain outside was like. Was there a hole in front of you?

So, when we read in 1 John this morning that God is light and that in God there is no darkness at all, what image does this conjure in your minds eye? A light like that of the candle? A light like a street light? Maybe the flood-lighting of a stadium? How about the light of the sun? Or perhaps the sun itself – pure, intense light, with no darkness at all in it?

In Matthew 5, verse 14 we read “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden“. That is, each one of us is expected to also be light in this world. We are to be the town on a hill, fully lit, that everyone can see from miles away. But 1st John cautions us:

If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.

The gospel of John, chapter 1 starts with this explanation of the light:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Through the Word all things were made; without the Word nothing was made that has been made.In the Word was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
(emphasis added)

And so, when we now read in 1st John that we are to walk in the light, what do we understand this to mean? That we are to walk in Divine light!

In John 8, verse 12 we go on to read:

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

And further on in the gospel of John we read (John 12: 35-36a):

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.  36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” 

We have all been invited to become children of light, so that we can be the light in the darkness. So that we can be the fully lit town on a hill, that cannot be hidden.  But how often are we living, waiting for the light to shine forth for us, rather than from us?

I want to look, for a moment, at the example read of Thomas in the gospel of John. Thomas is told by the other disciples that Jesus had appeared to them, and we all know of Thomas’ response:

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

I can understand that Thomas was confused and hurt, after his master’s death on the cross.  He may have even thought that the others were hallucinating and clinging to some vain hope. But Thomas was standing in darkness. He had not seen the light that the other disciples had seen! And so, like the watchman waiting for the first light of dawn, he was diligently standing guard waiting for that first crack of the light of dawn. They had seen it, but he had not yet.

And yet, as soon as he sees Jesus, his response is “My Lord and my God.” The passage in John doesn’t tell us whether Thomas actually did need to touch to believe, or whether simply seeing was enough to confirm what the others had told him to be true.

But, I know that in my life, there are often moments when I have heard, from others, their experience of faith, but I haven’t had it! Other Christians give us words of encouragement, like Isaiah 40:31

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Or Isaiah 41: 10

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Or 1 Peter 5:7

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

How often has a well-meaning Christian said to you in a challenging time: “just have faith, it will work out”? Many use this to encourage and comfort someone facing serious problems or stressful situations.

But, what is faith? Hebrews 11: 1 defines faith as

the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The assurance of what we have not yet received: it is believing in sunrise in our darkest hours. Let me give you an example of faith from the legal world. Faith is like legal title to a property that you’ve never actually visited. Say, for example, that you have a rich uncle, who owns many properties all over the world. And when he passes away, you are told by the estate lawyer, your uncle left you a property in Australia, on the Gold Coast! A few months pass, and you receive a courier package with the title to a property in Australia. Now, you’ve never been there. You’ve never seen it. But you know that you now are the proud owner of a beach property in Australia. So, you organise a family holiday, you purchase plane tickets, and you take the entire family to Australia for a fabulous holiday at this new beach home that you own.

That’s faith. You have chosen to enjoy something emotionally and in word and deed, long before you have actually seen it materialise.  I want you to think for a moment –

  • How many people have you told about this holiday?
  • How much has you envisioned yourself doing with this property?
  • What plans have you already made in your own mind regarding this property?

And you haven’t even seen it yet!  But you have already seen it in your mind’s eye.  You are already grateful for it. You are already celebrating that you have it.

So, the Bible tells us that “the light shines in the darkness“.  Are you grateful for this light? Are you celebrating that you have this light? Are you taking title of this light, and becoming the light of the world yourself, allowing this light to shine out of you?

It also tells us, in 1st John:

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

But how often do we ask for forgiveness from our sins, and then afterwards continue to beat ourselves up for what we did? We say we were forgiven – but we fail to release and let it go! And so we ask for forgiveness, over and over again! Imagine how annoying it would be for you if someone showed up every day, asking you to forgive them for something that they did. At some stage, you would start to get annoyed with them – what do I have to say or do to get you to believe that I already forgave you?

And so God has already forgiven us! And expects us to live in the light, as God is the light. God expects us to release and let go of what is forgiven and allow God to occupy that space in our lives that the guilt and shame we were carrying held. So that each time we release one more piece of our guilt and shame, we receive more light in our lives.

I started this sermon with 1st John 1, verse 6. And I want to finish this sermon with this verse.

If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.

We have all been invited to claim our places as children of Light. But it is for us to choose whether we want to continue stumbling around in the dark, or whether we want to allow ourselves to be filled with the Light that casts out all fears.