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Craig Smith - The Power of Contrast


Craig Smith - The Power of Contrast
TOPICS: All Is Bright, Christmas

Welcome to Mission Hills on this first full weekend of December in the beginning of our Christmas series, “All Is Bright.” Here’s what we believe at Mission…that’s not right. Here’s what we know at Mission Hills. Christianity is a world-changing faith. It doesn’t just change us. It changes everything. It spills out of us into our relationships, our families, our communities, and our world or at least it’s supposed to, and that’s really what this series is about is what does it take to live out the Christian faith in the way that Jesus intended it?

Now, let me introduce you to two truths that are gonna guide us through this Christmas series. The first is something Jesus said about himself. It’s John chapter 8, verse 12. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.” How many of you have heard that before, right? It makes sense. Jesus is the light of the world. He said, “I’m the light of the world, and whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” That’s what he said about himself.

The second truth that’s gonna guide us through this series is something that Jesus said about us, something that he said to his followers about his followers. And so if you’re a follower of Jesus, this is something that Jesus said about you. This is Matthew chapter 5, verse 14. He said, “You are the light of the world.” It’s a little intimidating, right? He’s the light of the world, but he says to his followers that you are the light of the world. Of course, he doesn’t mean that we have a light in and of ourselves. It’s his light shining in us, but it is supposed to shine. He says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it up on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. Well, in the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

So we’ve been given a command that we are to shine. We’ve been given a command that we’re to make things brighter. We’ve been given a command that we’re to drive back the darkness. Now, the bad news is that we have an enemy in the world that is committed to keeping us from shining in the way that God calls us to. The good news is 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world,” right?

The devil cannot defeat us. The devil cannot keep us held down or our back and can’t keep us in the dark. Light always wins out against darkness every single time, and the devil knows this. And so his strategy is to feed us lies designed to keep us from shining. He can’t defeat the light, but if he can keep us from shining, he manages to hold on to his territory. And today, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna tackle one of the biggest lies I think that Christians struggle with when it comes to being the light that Jesus says that we are, and that’s the lie that I’m not enough. I think every one of us on one level and other struggles with some version of this lie.

We go, “I can’t drive back darkness. I can’t shine and make a difference because I’m not smart enough. I’m not wise enough. I’m not experienced enough. I don’t know enough about the Bible. I haven’t been walking with Jesus long enough. I’m not rich enough. I’m not old enough. I’m not bold enough. I’m not young enough,” any number of things that we struggle with. And my guess is that most of us could immediately go, “Yeah, here’s the struggle that I have. Here’s the I am not enough-ism that I struggle with.”

And honestly, if you can’t think of a single one, I’ll give you it. You’re not humble enough. Okay. Well, we all have one of these things that goes, “Well, I can’t do anything here. I can’t make a difference because I’m not enough.” Fill in the blank. And the most powerful truth that I can speak into that lie is what I call the law of contrasts. Let me show you what I mean. If you wanna grab a Bible, we’re gonna take a little bit of a trip down the rabbit hole today. We’re gonna start with that first verse that I shared. That first verse is guiding us throughout this month. It says this. John 8:12, “Now, 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.'”

What you need to understand is that Jesus didn’t come up with this on the spot. What Jesus said about himself here was actually something that was said about him about 700 years before Jesus showed up, something that was said about him by a prophet by the name of Isaiah. And what Jesus says here is actually an arrow pointing back to this prophecy in the Book of Isaiah Chapter 9. We’re gonna go down the rabbit hole a little bit and go on a search for the source, the ultimate source of what Jesus says about himself here, and so we’re gonna go back to Isaiah Chapter 9. Isaiah 9:2 says this, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” And there’s the key phrase, walking in darkness. Jesus says, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”

Well, Isaiah says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. On those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.” We’re gonna go a little farther down because what Isaiah says here is just scratching the surface of everything that he says about this coming Messiah. He’s predicting the coming of Jesus, and he says a lot more here than just that he’s gonna be light. He goes on to say this. He says, “You,” meaning God. “You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy. They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the days of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior’s boot used in battle, every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning and will be fuel for the fire. For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Sounds familiar?

Yeah. It’s a classic Christmas passage. In fact, if you spend any time at all in a church around Christmas, chances are at some point, you’ve heard somebody read that verse, and so those are very familiar words. Isaiah is saying, “Hey, when the Messiah comes, it’s gonna be like this.” And when Jesus arrives, he says, “I am the light that Isaiah was talking about. I am the great light that has dawned on those that are walking in deep darkest. That’s me.”

But everything that Isaiah says here is not necessarily familiar. We’re familiar with that last part, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, but in the middle of that, Isaiah said something really important about the coming of Jesus that most of us kind of skim over. And that is, in verse 4, he said this, “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, as in the day of Midian’s defeat.” And if you’re right now sitting here kind of looking around going, “Wait a minute. Am I supposed to know what that means?” It’s okay. Probably, a lot of us don’t. Even though we read those words often every Christmas, we don’t actually understand what he’s talking about.

What Isaiah is saying though is when the Messiah comes, when Jesus arrives, it’s gonna be just like the day of Midian’s defeat. Well, what was that day was he talking about? We gotta go further down the rabbit hole. We gotta go all the way back to the Book of Judges. Judges chapter 7 is where that comes from. Here’s what we learned about the day of Midian’s defeat.

Judges 7:1 says this, “Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal,” (that is Gideon,) “and all of his men camped at the spring of Harod. Now, the camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh.” There’s the Midian we’re talking about. Midian is one of the enemies of God’s people, and they’re about to do war against Israel. Now, we’re gonna find out a little bit later on in the story that the Midians and their allies numbered about 135,000 soldiers. Israel, on the other hand, had about 32,000, which is not good odds, right? I mean, that’s basically four to one odds. That means for them to win this battle, they were gonna have to…every one of their soldiers were gonna have to defeat four of their enemy soldiers. Those are not great odds.

And I don’t know about you, but when I’m facing a situation that I feel like the odds are not in my favor, that’s a really good impulse to go pray, right? Right. When you feel an overwhelming like, “I can’t handle this. I don’t have what it takes. I’m gonna go to God,” right? And I imagine Gideon went to God, and he said, “God, I don’t know if you’re watching, but it doesn’t look good, right? There’s four of them for every one of us. There’s four to one odds. You’re gonna have to do something.”

Now, the way I would naturally pray and the way I suspect Gideon probably prayed was, “God, I need you to send me some more men. I need you to give me more resource. I need you to give me more of what I need so that I can win this. I need you to do that. At the very least, God, I need you to reduce their resources, right? A plague would be great right about now. I’d be okay with an earthquake. I don’t really care what it is, but if you could even the odds out just a little bit, that would be fantastic.” And I don’t know about you, but, you know, sometimes I pray…I’m gonna be honest with you. Sometimes I pray, and I wonder if God’s really listening. It happens. Sometimes I know. Sometimes I don’t. Gideon has a really unique experience. He goes to God with his prayer, and there’s no question that God listens because God speaks. And here’s what God says.

And the Lord said to Gideon in response to his prayer, “You have too many men.” Wait a minute. What? Now, I think maybe we have a bad connection. No, I think you mean they have too many men. That was the whole point, right? They have too many men. What do you mean? And God says, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands or Israel would boast against me saying, ‘My own strength has saved me.”‘ In other words, what God knows at some point I think we understand is that our strength can be our weakness because it blinds us to our need for God. Do you hear me, Church?

See, when we face the difficult circumstance with resources and especially when we face the difficult circumstance with enough resources that we think we’re gonna be able to handle the circumstance, God kind of disappears from our view, right? We go, “Yeah. I got these resources. I’m strong enough to them. I’m smart enough. I have enough experience. You know, I have some wisdom. I got some people around me. I’ve got enough money. I can deal with the problem,” whatever it is. When we face a circumstance with sufficient resources, God tends to disappear from our radar. And so God says, “No, you have too many men. I’m not gonna leave you blind to the real source of your strength.”

So, verse 3 says, “Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead. So twenty-two thousand men left while ten thousand remained.”‘ Like, I can’t even imagine how that played out, right? Like God said, “Here’s what I want you to do. Just go tell the army, “If anyone of you is trembling with fear,” which is really kind of putting it on thick, right? I mean, he’s basically supposed to go up there and announce, “Hey, if any of you are about to pee your pants because you’re so scared, feel free to go home.”

And I’m sure Gideon’s like, “Oh, okay, I know what God’s doing. God wants to stir them up,” right? He’s gonna go, “We’re not that of kind of fear. No, not a chance.” And so he goes…then he goes, “Hey, if you guys are just quaking in your boots, if you’re so scared, feel free to go home.” And I’m sure for a while everybody just sort of stood there, but there’s one guy, right? Only one sorts of one guy. There’s one guy going, “Nope, nobody. Yeah, I’m going home. Yeah, I don’t mind. I mean, I’m really scared. It’s four to one odds. Do you understand that, right? Yeah, I’m gone. See ya.” And he takes off, and everyone else is like, “You’re gonna let him go?” “Yeah, I’m going to.”

And one by one, twenty-two thousand men leave. So they go from 4 to 1 odds to basically 14 to 1 odds. They lost two-thirds of their strength. Now it’s 1 man for every 14. 1 man of Israel has to defeat 14 of the enemy. And so I’m sure Gideon goes, “God, did you see that coming because I did not see that coming? I did not think that’s how that was gonna play out. You got a back-up plan?” So he goes back to God, and he prays. Verse 4, the Lord spoke again. “But the Lord said to Gideon, ‘There are still too many men.”‘ What? What are you talking about? He says, “There’s still too many men. He says, “Take them down to the water, and I’ll thin them out for you.” “Oh, will you? Really? That’d be great.”

“If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go, but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go. So Gideon took the men down to the water, and there the Lord told him, ‘Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink. Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink. And the Lord said to Gideon, ‘With the three hundred men that lapped, I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.’ So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home, but he kept the three hundred who took over the provisions and the trumpets of the others, and the camp of Midian lay below him in the valley.”‘

There’s a little bit of confusion among scholars here. Nobody’s exactly sure what’s going on. I mean, the picture is pretty clear. They go down to the river and some men, they basically go all the way down kind of hands and knees, and they drink directly from the stream. Others don’t. Others stay kind of upright a little bit, and they put their hands in, and they bring it up. That’s what he means by lapping because that’s how a dog drinks. Did you know that? If you watch a slow-motion of a dog, its tongue actually makes a little cup, and it kind of flings the water up into its mouth, which is an incredibly messy way to drink. It’s why – I have dogs, there’s always wet around their dish, right? That’s basically what they’re doing.

Now, what I’ve been told…when I was growing up, what I was told was, Well, see here’s what happened. The guys who went down on the hands and knees, they’re not maintaining situational awareness, right? They’re totally blind. Everything is going on around them, and so we don’t want those guys fighting. Whereas the guys who did this, you know, they’re maintaining situational awareness, right? And that might be true. It’s possible.

But interesting enough, you could make the argument that those who went down to drink were the bravest, right? They weren’t worried about what was going on around. They had enough courage. Whereas those who did this, they were still kind of shaking in their boots. They’re like, “I don’t know what’s going on. I gotta be ready to run.” So he might have kept the more scared ones. I don’t really know. And it doesn’t really matter because the point isn’t exactly why this group versus that group. The point is he’s down to how many? Three hundred. God’s shedding their strength, right? I mean, they’ve gone from 4 to 1 to 14 to 1. Now, check the math on this. It’s 450 to 1, which I think we can all agree is not great odds, right? If you’re gonna bet on something, those are good odds, but if you’re gonna win something, they’re not. Now, during the night…I think that’s important actually.

During the night, the Lord said to Gideon, “Get up, and go down against the camp, because I’m giving it into your hands. If you’re afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to what they’re saying. Afterwards, you will be encouraged to attack the camp. So he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp.” That’s interesting, isn’t it? God says, “If you’re scared, feel free to go down to the camp and listen in on their conversations.” Well, Gideon and his servant go down to the camp, which means Gideon and his servant are what?

They’re afraid. I think this is really important. Sometimes we have this idea that the opposite of fear is courage. You can’t really have both. That’s just not true. We’re gonna talk about that a little bit next week to understand biblically what courage really is and what fear really is. They’ve got both right here. They’re clearly afraid or they wouldn’t have gone down, but there’s enough courage to at least take God up on his word and to step into the camp. It’s such a massive camp, and it’s just the two of them. And so they’re able to kind of sneak in and to listen in on conversations. And they hear a very interesting conversation.

He says, verse 12, “The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore,” which I think we can all agree is a lot of camels. Gideon arrived just as a man was telling his friend his dream. ‘I had a dream, he was saying. ‘A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”‘ Can we all agree that that’s a weird dream? It’s weird. You know, in the evening of a battle, you’re like, “I had a really weird dream. I wanna tell you about it. There was this big round loaf of bread, and it came rolling.” Really? That’s weird, but not as weird as what his friend says.

Verse 14, “His friend responded, ‘This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”‘ Really? There’s no other options. Like, that’s the first place you go like, “We’re all gonna die. You saw bread? We’re done for.” Like, really? I mean, best guess is what’s happening here is that a lot of the Israelites were not actually professional soldiers. They were farmers, and a lot of them were barley farmers.

So what might have been happening is that the Amalekites and the Midianites and all that group there, they’ve been kind of trash-talking the enemy. They’re going, “Hey, yeah, we’re going to war tomorrow against the barley boys,” right? It’s gonna be simple. It’s not a big deal because they’re farmers. They’re not soldiers. And so that may be the connection there. But in any event, Gideon hears this dream and its interpretation.

Verse 15 says, “When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel, and he called out, ‘Get up. The Lord has given the Midianite camp into your hands.’ Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them with torches inside.”‘ That’s important. You need to pay attention to that. What happens is they lit torches, but then they hid them inside jars, which is kind of funny because see, I grew up in church, I grew up in a Christian home, and I’m grateful for that. And grew up in Sunday school, and in Sunday school, we had these weird little songs that we sang. And one of them burned into my brain for all of eternity was, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

And there was another verse of it. I don’t know if anybody knows it. We’d go, “Hide it under a bushel.” Thank you. I appreciate that. It makes me feel at home. And I never got that. I was like, “Hide under…” What is a bushel, and why would you hide a light under? Well, bushel’s basically it’s a bowl. It was a certain unit of measurement. It was a jar, and literally, what they’re doing now is they’ve lit their torches, they’ve lit their light, and they’ve hid it in a bushel. They’ve hid it in a bowl. They’ve hid it in a jar.

“Watch me,” Gideon told them. ‘Follow my lead. When I get to the edge of the camp, do exactly as I do. When I and all who are with me blow our trumpets, then from all around the camp,’ because they were gonna kind of align themselves around the camp, ‘shout for the Lord and for Gideon.’ Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch.”‘ The important thing there is it’s the darkest part of the night. It’s as dark as it’s ever gonna get. It’s also as quiet as it’s ever gonna get.

“Just after they had changed the guard. They blew their trumpets and they broke the jars that were in their hands.” And so suddenly, the light bursts out of these jars. “The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon,”’ which is so interesting to me because they yell a sword, but in their hands, they actually have a torch and a trumpet. Instead of weapons of war, they’re actually fighting with light and with sound in the darkest and the quietest part of the night.

“While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled,” right? Because, you know, when everything’s dark, and suddenly lights begin to spring into view, especially when they’re springing into view all around you with a whole lot of noise. And human beings aren’t good at estimating anything over 20 actually. When you get into hundreds, honestly, most human beings can’t tell if you’re talking thousands or what. And so suddenly around the camp, there’s this noise, and they’re shouting, there’s trumpets going off, there’s lights, and they’re waving back and forth. They just panic. They freak out, so they begin to run.

Now when the three hundred trumpets sounded the Lord, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. So the strength of the enemy actually was turned on the enemy. “The army fled to Beth Shittah towards Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath.” They won. 450 to 1, they won.

Let’s go back up the rabbit hole, shall we? Isaiah 9:4. When the Messiah comes, it will be as in the days of Midian’s defeat. “For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.” When the Messiah comes, he says, it’s gonna be like the days of Midian’s defeat. So that’s Christmas, right?

God didn’t rescue us with a show of power, right? God didn’t rescue us by suddenly demonstrating how mighty he was, right? That’s not Christmas. God left heaven, right? I mean, the King of the Universe left heaven. He left the palace of heaven to be born in a barn. That’s not a show of strength. That’s a shedding of strength, isn’t it? He left the moment-by-moment worshiped by Archangels, beings with such incredible power that you and I can’t even begin to imagine. Like, if we saw Archangels, our natural temptation would be to worship them as gods.

And Jesus enjoyed moment by moment the worship with the adoration of Archangels themselves falling down before him and declaring his might and his power and his glory, and he left all of that to be greeted first by shepherds, the lowliest of those in society. He left all of that to live a life of humility. Instead of being served, he served. That’s one of his favorite statements. He said, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” That’s not a show of strength. That’s a shedding of strength. It’s laying aside.

He laid aside all the glory and the honor to live a life of humility and service and ultimately to die on purpose, right? That was the plan from the very beginning. He lived a perfect life with no sin that he had to pay for with his death. And so they beat him, and they battered him. They nailed him on the cross, but when the cross was raised up with him hanging on it, it wasn’t just him. He was bearing upon his shoulders all of our sin. Every wrong we’d ever done and the consequences, he paid for through a demonstration of weakness. That’s Christmas, right? Do you hear me, Church?

God has defeated our Enemy, not with a show of strength, but with a shedding of strength. As in the day of Midian’s defeat, a great light has dawned. That’s the Christmas story. It’s also the Gospel, right? It’s the truth that we forget so easily, right? We see this in Christmas, we see this in the Gospel truth, and yet what we find ourselves doing when we look at darkness is “I can’t do anything there. I’m not strong enough. I’m not bold enough or old enough or young enough or smart enough or experienced enough or educated enough. I don’t have enough answers. I don’t have enough money.”

It’s always, “And I’m not enough because look how deep that darkness is. I’m not enough.” And what we have to do is we have to…we have to combat that lie with the truth of what I call the Law of Contrast. And this is the Law of Contrast that I think God teaches us here. Here’s the Law of Contrast. When everything is dark, a little light makes a big difference, right? When everything is dark, a little light makes a big difference. That’s the Law of Contrast. So God’s teaching us.

I learned the power of that in really kind of vivid way when I was in college. I was in Tennessee with a friend of mine, and we decided to go for a hike. And so we started a hike through the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains. I don’t think they’re that great. That’s what they call them. Compared to our mountains, not so great. But we’d heard there was this beautiful waterfall. They called it Rainbow Falls, and so we began to hike through the woods. Now, I’ll be honest with you, we started a little bit later in the day than we probably should have. The sun was already getting kind of low on the horizon, but we’d heard it was a pretty short hike. So we thought it was gonna be fine.

Now, the trail did not go straight. It was actually a much longer trail than we expected because the trail was winding. It was like somebody who was having seizures had drawn the plan for this trail and kept looping around and back. And we finally got to the edge of a cliff. We realized we had to climb down some rocks. We climbed down some rocks into the streambed, and we walked up this little canyon. We came to a place where the water was falling from the lip of the canyon. As it fell, it just kept hitting a little outcropping of rock, and so there was just constant splattering of water everywhere, which meant that there were just rainbows everywhere. It was amazing.

There’s been six or seven rainbows in different little places where the mist was. And I remember standing there with my friend, and we were just kind of commenting on the beauty of it. I remember saying things like, “Yeah. Isn’t it amazing how many rainbows there are? Yeah. It’s just amazing. Isn’t it amazing how you can see the leaves from the forest up there reflected in certain still pools of water around here? Yeah. It’s amazing. Isn’t it amazing how fast the sun is going down? Yeah. It is going now fast.” And so we raced up the creek bed, and we climbed up the rocks, and just about the time that we got to the top of that trail, and we thought the beginning of the trail would take us back to our car, night fell. Guys, it was about the darkest I’ve ever been in.

I remember my grandfather who’s from Tennessee used to tell me stories about when he was a kid, and he would say things like, “You know, we’d be out in the hollers at night.” I have no idea what a holler is to this day. He says, “We’ve been in the hollers, and it gets so dark. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.” And I was like, “It doesn’t ever get that dark, Granddaddy.” He lied a lot when he told stories. So, I thought that was one of those. But I remember standing there that night when it was as dark as I’ve ever seen it and putting my hand in front of my face going, “Huh, he was telling the truth about that one.”

And I had no idea what we’re gonna do. It was a long trail that meandered, and we had no idea which direction the car was, and it was dark. We were scared. I looked around and eventually, I saw a little spot. At least I thought I saw a spot. I wouldn’t call it a spot of light. Actually, we’d call it a spot of less dark. And I sort of moved over to it, and by the time I got there, honestly, it kind of felt like it disappeared. But when I got to where I thought it was, I felt like the ground was different, and I leaned down, and I touched the ground. I realized that I was standing on sand rather than dirt.

And I looked up and I looked around, and maybe another four or five feet away, I saw another little spot of less dark. And I went over there, and sure enough, there was sand there too. And we remembered as we walked in, it looked like somebody at some point had covered the trail in sand to mark it. And over the years, a lot of the sand was gone, and it sunk into the dust in the dirt in the mud, and there were leaves, but there were little spots that marked the trail. And so I thought, “Well, the sand is only where the trail is. So maybe if I work my way from patch of less dark to patch of less dark, we’ll get out of here.” And that’s what we did. It took hours.

But I learned something really important that night. I learned the power of the Law of Contrast, right? And what is the Law of Contrast? When everything is dark, a little bit of light makes a big difference, right? Jesus said, “I’m the light of the world,” but he also said, “You are the light of the world.” And we look at the darkness around and we go, “I can’t do anything about that. I don’t have enough resources. I’m not enough.” It’s not a question of how bright you’re able to shine. It’s a question of whether or not you will step into a place where the light that is in you will be so much brighter than the darkness around you, that it will have an impact that’s greater than you can even begin to imagine. When everything is dark, a little light makes a big difference. That’s the Law of Contrast.

You know, so many Christians don’t take steps of faith. They’re not willing to step into dark corners of the world and be light partly because they’re afraid that they’re not bright enough to make a difference. And I think one of the reasons honestly that a lot of Christians are afraid that they’re not bright enough to make a difference is because they spend all their time hanging out with people of the light.

The thing is when you’re hanging out only with light, your light doesn’t seem that bright. It doesn’t seem bright enough to make much of a difference, right? That’s the power of the Law of Contrast. We have to be willing to step into those places that are dark, and it’s in that moment that we really understand the power of God flowing through us. It’s in those cracks of our weakness where the light of God begins to shine through, and it shines through, honestly, in a way that is blinding for those who are living in darkness. But it’s not blinding in a bad way. It’s blinding in a way that it blinds them to the despair and to the heartache and to the pain, and it begins to give them a sense that there is a hope. That’s the power of the Law of Contrast. Just say it with me. Say the last part with me. When everything is dark, a little light makes a what?

A big difference. So here’s the questions for you as we begin this Christmas season. Question number one is just this. Where can I shine the brightest? I want you to ask yourself that question, Church. Where can you shine the brightest? And please remember, where you can shine the brightest is not the place where you have the most resources. It’s not the place where you feel like, “I know what to do here. I’ve got what it takes to make a difference here.” No, no. Honestly, sometimes when that happens, we experience what Gideon did, which is God reduces our strength so that he has a greater opportunity to shine through us, right?

So where you shine the brightest is not necessarily that place where you feel like, “I’ve got what it takes.” Where you’re gonna shine the brightest is the place where it’s darkest, and your light will provide the most contrast. I think every one of us has unique places of darkness that we have access to. Every one of us does. It might be our family. It might be our marriage. It might be our house. It may be our extended family.

It might be a home across the street. It might be where we work or where we work out. It might be some other part of the world that God’s calling you to. But there’s someplace of darkness that I believe that God has given you access to and is calling you into to be light, to let your light shine. So where can you shine the brightest? Not because you’re strongest but because you will have the most contrast. Then question number two is just this. What spark of light can I shine in that darkness? You don’t have to be a spotlight. You don’t have to be a searchlight. When everything’s dark, a little light makes a what?

A big difference. Well, it’s just a spark. Maybe it’s just a conversation. Maybe your marriage is dark right now, and you just need to take that step of faith to say, “You know what? I know things are hard, but I love you, and I’m glad I married you.” Well, that can be powerful when things are dark. Maybe it’s inviting the neighbor across the street to come to dinner with you or somebody in your life that you know is going through a really hard time and just saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. I care about you. Let’s grab a meal together.” Maybe that’s all it takes.

Maybe you grab one of the cards on the way out today or you use the Facebook invites, and you invite somebody to come to one of the Christmas Eve services with you. Maybe it’s that. That means it’s all it is. Maybe there’s an opportunity to speak the truth of the Gospel into the life of somebody who looks at you and goes, “Why do you like Christmas so much?” It doesn’t have to necessarily be a big deal because when everything’s dark, a little light makes a what? A big difference. It’s just a spark. So, what spark of light can you shine in that particular darkness? This week, let’s pray about that.

God, I’m really grateful to you for this opportunity to hear from your Word, a truth that’s really hard for us to get a hold of. Lord, we see so much darkness around us. We see much pain and suffering. We see so much evil around us. We see so much hatred and so many things that just make us go, “This is a deep and a heavy darkness, and I don’t possibly have anything to offer. I don’t have enough of whatever it is.” Lord, we thank you for this truth from your Word that we don’t need to be enough because we know the One who is, and we recognize that your light will shine through us if we’re only willing to embrace the Law of Contrast and recognize that when everything’s dark, a little light makes a big difference. Lord, we wanna be a big difference. We wanna be bright light shining in the darkness. So, Lord, would you give us the courage to do that? Would you speak to us? Show us where you would have us give a little spark and in that way to begin to drive back darkness and draw people into the light that is your love for them. Lord, we pray for so many we have contact with who don’t know the love of God that we do. They’re living in darkness. And, Lord, I believe there are people in this place right now, there are people listening to this message right now who are living in darkness.


And if that’s you, I want you to understand the light that is available to you. We talked about it a little bit already. God loves you so much. He left heaven to come looking for you. He lived a life of humility. He died on the cross willingly because of his love for you. He died on the cross to pay for every wrong that you’ve ever done, for every dark deed that weighs you down with guilt and shame. He paid all of them off. Three days later, he rose from the dead, and he’s offering you a new life in the light, the light of his love, the warmth of his compassion, his mercy and his grace for you. And if you’re listening to this right now and you don’t know God in that way, you can. And here’s what you do. Wherever you are, you just say this conversation with God:

God, my life is dark, and I know a lot of it’s because I’ve done dark things. I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me. Jesus, thank you for dying for me on the cross. I believe that you rose from the dead and only in that moment did you finally demonstrate your power and your strength because you had defeated death and sin. I believe that. I need you in my life, Jesus. So please come in. I’m putting my trust in you, my faith in you. I’m saying yes to a relationship with you, Jesus. I’m yours for now, forever. Amen.

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