By: Jenni Walker
“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.’” John 8:12
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
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Early in the morning, I can often be found curled up in the living room recliner with creamy coffee, a candle flickering next to a stack of books and devotional items, and a favorite blanket tucked around my legs (yes, even in the summer!) In the time before my preschool son wakes up, I greatly enjoy these small luxuries. There was a time when I tried to substitute tea for that delicious cup of hot Joe, but it is just not the same as the taste and aroma of my morning mug of coffee. Even when I am dressed warmly, I also enjoy a cozy blanket because it makes me feel at-home. And I absolutely refuse to allow any battery-operated “candles” in my home because I so relish the life, cheer, fragrance, and comfort provided by the burning flame of a simple, real candle.
I enjoy experiencing these little personal items on an almost-daily basis because they fill me up; they are a small part of what make me ME. Of course, they are no substitute for depth of relationships with God and others, but they definitely add pleasure and beauty to my daily life. Some people may relish different personal luxuries such as laying on the beach with a good book, or hiking a remote trail with nothing but the wind, trees, and chirping of birds around them, while yet other individuals anticipate slipping their feet into a comfy pair of flip-flops when the weather gets warm. These things are not frivolous to these individuals; they are enjoyed and, like my coffee creamer, they can add even a little more delight to the experience of daily life.
Yet for us as women, we also may do, or prioritize, certain things because we feel the need to present ourselves in just the right light. We may lay for agonizing hours on the beach to get tan on vacation even though we may not truly enjoy those hours. Or we might grab a cup of coffee at the church coffee shop each week and carry it into service with us more as a security blanket than because we actually want the steaming liquid inside of that cup. Maybe we decorate our houses in a particular style that we saw at a friend’s home or on a television show only to discover that our motivation was actually based on the desire to keep up with a trend rather than personal preference.
I say all of this not to get you to over-analyze your personal preferences and motivations. However, I do want us as wholehearted women of God to consider what things in our lives are contributing to what is REAL. We may do things to be seen in a “certain light,” but does the value of those things remain when the light of God’s Word shines on them? What are the motives of your heart? Are there things in your life that produce distraction from what God wants you to focus on right now? Are you so preoccupied with presenting yourself in a certain way that you have come to despise the way God made you? Has discontentment burrowed its way into your heart because you are constantly comparing yourself to others? Why are you drinking that trendy weight-loss smoothie each morning? Why are you posting that particular photo on Facebook? Why are you trying that recipe you saw on Pinterest?
There are so many attractive ads, such a barrage of perfect-looking photos on social media, so many “self-improvement” publications, and even entire television networks devoted to showing the most attractive homes, the most scrumptious foods, and the most stunning personal makeovers. It can be easy to almost unconsciously find ourselves swept up in the pursuit of something that, deep down, is not even of value to us. It is not real to us. Like the battery-operated candles that are (somewhat humorously) not allowed in my home, we can find ourselves appearing to be full of life, light, and purpose on the outside and, yet, filling ourselves with things that are not of lasting value or that leave us feeling empty on the inside.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells the story about ten women who were preparing to attend a wedding. He describes it saying, “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom…Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps…And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’” (Matthew 25:1, 3-4, 6-8)
What are you filling your life with? God has called us to shine for Him, yet so often in our contemporary culture, we can unwisely, and sometimes even unwittingly, fill ourselves with things that are empty or are not motivated by a pure heart. It is like starting a fire in the fireplace only with kindling – there may be an instant flame, but it will burn out quickly. Yet neither are we supposed to have lives that are like unlit fireplaces, full of thick logs waiting to be burned. Our light should always be burning. Exodus 27:20 says, “And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” When we do things out of a pure heart for the Lord, our light shines for Him and can be seen by those who are lost in darkness, sin, and pain.
As women called by God, we are to live intentionally, to live fully for the Lord, to fill ourselves with things that produce REAL light, love, and delight. A few years ago, the Holy Spirit put it on my heart to fast one of my daily delights for a few weeks – my morning cup of coffee. God was leading me in this practical way to practice delighting myself in Him alone. As I described earlier, I love certain little luxuries because I personally enjoy them and they add a simple beauty. And yet, the only things that are truly and wholeheartedly real for me are my ever-deepening relationship with God through the work of Jesus Christ, my relationships with others such as my husband, son, family, and friends, and the call on my life to be a witness to others, and with others, for my Lord.
Wholehearted women of God, it is time to strip ourselves of things that are not contributing to real life lived for our Lord. (Check out Hebrews 12:1-2!) This is not about perfection of presentation. Rather, it is about being a LIGHT to a dark world. Our world right now needs what is REAL. They can tell the difference between a Christian who is really filled with the light, life, truth, and love of Jesus and one who is distracted by the temporary fillers that look good but, when pursued, can so quickly dim our light and deplete our lives of the deep meaning and purpose found in serving Christ.
No matter what our current seasons of life are, we can be bright, vibrant, alive women of God if we will live this Christian life with single-mindedness, intentionality, and joy. God desires all that we have and all that we are. He does not desire perfection, or striving to present ourselves in a certain light, but He calls us to live sold-out, wholehearted, REAL lives for HIM! In Matthew 13:45-46, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven being “like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Ladies, God loves beauty. It is not wrong to participate in things we enjoy. But we must consider that ONE pearl of great price and give all that we have to it.
You may be in a place where you have already given God your whole heart and said, “Heavenly Father, take all of me; use me as You will.” But you may also feel that you are not in a place to truly make a large impact for His kingdom purposes. May I just encourage you that no matter where you are at, God will cause your light to shine brightly? Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” When you orient every part of your life toward Him, others notice! Why? Because it is not our own light but ultimately the light of Jesus that others are drawn to (John 8:12). God will help to fan the flame in your heart and use you to bear fruit to His glory!
In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer writes, “Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done. But [even] if my fire is not large, it is yet real, and there may be others who can light their candle at its flame.” Is your life filled with what is real? Do you feed each day on the Word of God, which “endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25)? Are you striving for outward perfection, or are you living your life in such a way as to show others that you love who God made you? Is your heart drawn in thankfulness to Him when you enjoy that cup of coffee, or when your heart is stirred by a beautiful sunset, or when you post a picture of a precious moment with a loved one on social media?
Is the course of your life one that is consumed by one purpose and one purpose alone: to courageously give all that you have for the kingdom of God and to glorify Him? To live and grow in loving fellowship with Jesus who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”? To be comforted and led by the Helper, the Holy Spirit of God, knowing that your body is His temple? Choose today – choose each day! – to delight to live for the Lord, to be responsive to Him, and to let the light of Christ shine in and through you! You cannot get more real than that.
TIME TO REFLECT
1. Take some time right now to reflect honestly with the Lord about today’s devotion topic. What is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?
2. Revisit today’s Scripture passages. What do these verses teach us? How do they change things? (i.e. The way that we live? What we live for? Our experience of God?)
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(This devotion contains excerpts from The Wholehearted Woman: Who She is and Why She Matters by Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker.)