If We Choose to Be Thankful We Will Shine Like Stars
‘Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.’
As we look out on the unfolding expanse of 2018 election cycle, as far as the eye can see, the culture war rages – a hard-pitched battle between a culture of life and a culture of death.
Our opposition in this world is visceral and cunning. If we dare to stand for Biblical principles, our opponents stoop to ridicule and tweet or stream a noxious spew of profanities.
When we turn on the nightly news, we are assaulted with reports of gang violence, school shootings, package bombs and other terrorist attacks. Even nature batters us on all sides with one natural disaster after another.
Taking into account all of these pressures, it is understandable that our passion flags and we grow weary of fighting an unending cascade of immorality, evil, and death. And yet, as believers, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are called to live joyful, light-filled lives in our ever-darkening world.
How can we live a victorious life in the midst of this struggle? In Philippians 2:14-16, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
As the culture in which we live grows further away from God and His principles, the world grows darker, becoming more chaotic, unkind, and tyrannical. Yet in spite of this downward spiral, we are instructed to proceed in our lives without mumbling and grumbling in this warped and crooked generation! Paul tells us if we have a thankful attitude, rather than being dissatisfied cranks, we will shine like stars!
A thankful attitude flies in the face of a culture that finds reasons to complain about everything. But, as Christ followers, we have received God’s unmerited favor instead of the well-deserved consequence of our sin. How can we be anything but grateful? When our lives are marked by thankfulness and gratitude, rather than moaning and groaning, we shine like stars!
Additionally, in Philippians 4:4 Paul tells us to “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” Not only does Paul ask us to go about our lives without grumbling, but we are also instructed to rejoice! Unlike the off-putting persona of a cranky complainer, someone who displays gratitude and joy in all circumstances is like a cup of cold water to a thirsty, dying world.
So, how can we live with joy and thanksgiving in this dark world? First, we must intentionally make deposits in eternity! When we pray, read God’s Word, and share the good news of Jesus, we are showing love to a lost world. We are effectively holding “firmly to the word of life” and making priceless deposits into God’s kingdom.
The Gospel of Matthew reminds us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Once we re-order our priorities in life and choose to focus on the long view, to become eternity-minded, the petty stuff of this world that tempts us to grumble and complain will become unimportant.
Second, we must determine, with our hearts firmly anchored in eternity, to NOT look back, but press forward. Paul sets the example for this behavior in Philippians 3:13b-14 as he declares, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
This is the mindset of a believer – one who knows with certainty that their treasure is in heaven, therefore their heart yearns for heaven. With our sights set on eternity, we are able to forget the baggage of the world we have chosen to put behind us and press on to “win the prize” – eternity with the Savior.
Third, we must remember we are not alone! In the 6th chapter of 2 Kings, we read how the Lord protected the city where the prophet Elisha was staying. The army of the King of Aram had surrounded the city and when Elisha’s servant saw the forces that were massed against them, he was terrified. But the prophet told him, “Do not be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” The Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw that the hills surrounding the city were filled with horses and chariots of fire! An army of God’s angels, bright and shining like fire, had surrounded the enemy’s army.
Now, it is not likely that we will see or need – or be allowed to see – a heavenly host of angles standing by to do battle. But it is tremendously encouraging to know that we are not alone, and that God the Father has given all followers of Jesus the Holy Spirit — the Helper. And He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world! (1 John 4:4)
This is vitally importantly. We are not alone because God has given all followers of Jesus the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John we read:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16)
Thanks be to God, we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us always!
Looking ahead, the trajectory of 2018 is uncertain. Will Planned Parenthood be eviscerated and Roe v. Wade overturned? Will the cultural bullying of Christians become outright persecution? Will activist judges continue to push a radical agenda via the judicial system?
Yes, uncertainty abounds, but despite the darkening culture and fear of the unknown, we above all people have every reason to live victorious, joy-filled lives. When we are tempted to be fearful or worry, we need to remember these four points:
- We are the unworthy recipients of God’s grace and mercy and, as such, ought to live lives of exuberant gratitude, devoid of grumbling, and overflowing with joy.
- With great joy and as a sign of our deep gratitude, we must make deposits in eternity to advance the kingdom of God.
- If our heart and affections are anchored in eternity, our eyes will be focused forward, fixed on the prize of Christ Jesus that awaits us in heaven.
- We are never alone. We are surrounded by God’s heavenly host, mighty warriors who are ready to do battle for us and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Will you join me in striving to make a difference in the new year? I challenge you to be salt and light in your families and communities, to be that vital cup of cold water that brings refreshment and life to our thirsty, dying culture.
Each one of us can make a tremendous difference. We can be used by God to impact the eternal destination of our fellow human beings – what an amazing privilege!
Finally, I challenge you to “do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
In 2018, I pray we will all shine like stars in the sky to the glory of God!
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