Darkness and Light. Darkness and Light. It’s the cycle of every day -- sunset, sunrise. When we go to sleep tonight, it’ll be dark. But we know – we know, don’t we? – that when we awaken tomorrow morning to start our day, the sun will have risen and totally scattered the darkness. It will have entirely beaten back the night. We won’t see even a trace of it as we walk outside in the sunlight.
Such is and has been the cycle of every twenty-four hours since the beginning of Creation. As Genesis ever and always will remind us: “There was evening and there was morning, one day; There was evening and there was morning, a second day. There was evening and there was morning, a third day . . . and so on.
Think another moment about that daily pattern. And isn’t that cycle also a picture of the cycle of life? Ever since the Garden when sin entered the human race, darkness was – and is – its ever-present companion, manifesting itself by spiritual darkness. By evil. By loneliness and pain and illness and death and loss – and on and on.
But, oh! We must hear this promise from God's lips and recorded for us in the pages of His love letters called the Bible! As happens every 24 hours when the sun extinguishes the darkness, so too the Light of Christ now – at least, in part – and will one day finally and forever – scatter our own darkness.
We get only glimpses of that promise now, don’t we? Are there not times when the sun gently warms our skin, times when we walk in fragrant fields of flowers, the grass soft beneath our bare feet?
Those times don’t last very long, do they? The cycle of life since the Garden too often brings back shadows and darkness. But every Christian has this binding promise from our heavenly Father: (Isaiah 9:2) “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”
And this familiar promise from the psalms: (Psalm 23) “Even though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me.”
Christian – and those of you who might not yet be followers of the Christ – please hear this: We are in a war. All humanity – Christian and those who are not Christians. Children and adults – we are in a war. No one is exempt.
I’ve spoken of this harsh reality many times in the past, both in my Sunday sermons and Friday Bible studies. Many of you will remember I’ve preached a couple of times a series of messages related to our spiritual armor. And I did so because I am obligated to our God and Savior Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to win that battle for us.
This war, of course, is not a war of bullets and bombs, but it is a war just as deadly. It’s a war fought in the darkness of subterfuge, of spiritual deception, of lies and half-truths. It’s a war of chronic illness and chronic pain. It’s a war of loneliness. Of despair. It’s a war with many, many battles over our lifetime – each and all satanically designed to get us to give up. To shrink back into a corner. To walk away from the Savior. Even to go back into our old life.
And THAT is why I am bringing you – and me – this message to encourage each one of us with absolute and unchangeable truths – truths to which I beg you to listen and, by God's grace alone, permit Him to implant again in our hearts.
Are you tired of the fight? As I get older, I certainly get tired of it. I remember my mom, in her late 80s and early 90s before she went to be with the Lord – I remember her sitting in her recliner in her apartment upstairs telling me she just wants to be left alone from the affairs of life. She was tired of the fight. She wanted a greater measure of quiet in what she knew were her declining years.
Do you sometimes feel like that? Failing strength and health. Dwindling financial resources. Disappointments over family who are generally unconcerned about you. Still mourning over family who have already gone on to their proverbial reward. Reliving again and again memories of days when things seemed so much brighter.
So much brighter.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my message, God set the pattern of each 24 hours to start in darkness and turn to light, day after day. Remember the passage from Genesis? “There was evening and there was morning, one day.” And then, “There was evening and there was morning, a second day.” And so one.
Why do you think God set it up in that order? Well, for emphasis, let me repeat what I said earlier. I think God set it up that way as means of reminding us day after day that light WILL overcome darkness. He set it up that way to remind those with eyes to see that although all is dark now, just wait a while. Light is coming.
Here again is what God tells us through Isaiah: (Isaiah 9:2) “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.”
Are you walking in the darkness of the spiritual war? Are you tired of that darkness? Wait just another few minutes – anyway, as God counts minutes. Wait, because day IS coming to scatter that darkness.
Listen now to what the Holy Spirit tells us through the apostle John: (John 1:1-5, NIV) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
And here is what Jesus said of Himself: (John 8:12, NIV) I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Oh! And then there is this one from the Psalmist: (Psalm 30:5b) “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.”
Christian, listen! Please. These are not just platitudes to get us through yet another spiritual night. These are immutable and timeless promises given us by God – God who set the pattern of darkness and light even before He created Adam and Eve.
Horatio Spafford knew darkness, didn’t he? Some of you know his story. In 1871, his 4-year-old son died of scarlet fever. Two years later, business demands kept Spafford from joining his wife and four daughters on a family vacation in England where their friend Dwight L. Moody would be preaching. While enroute on November 22, 1873, their steamship collided with another, and sank within minutes to the bottom of the ocean, killing 226 people. Among the dead were all four of Spafford's daughters.
His wife, Anna, survived the tragedy. When she finally arrived in England, she sent a telegram to Spafford. It read "Saved alone. What shall I do?"
Spafford immediately followed on the next ship sailing for England. As his ship crossed the spot where his four daughters drowned, Spafford wrote these words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way/When sorrows like sea billows roll/Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. . . Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul. . . . And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, the clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, even so, it is well with my soul.
Spafford knew darkness. But he ALSO knew light – the light of Christ whose light overpowered that darkness – the SAME light of Christ that will, Will, WILL overcome your darkness and mine.
Tired of the fight? Sure, you might be. And you are not alone in your weariness. Scripture talks often about those who also were tired of the fight, wearied by their darkness. People like Job, who complained: (10:1, 18-19) “I loathe my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul . . . ‘Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me! ‘I should have been as though I had not been, carried from womb to tomb.’
People like King David who wrote: (Psalm 13:1-2) “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day?”
People like Asaph, one of King David’s worship leaders (Psalm 79:5) “How long, O Lord? Will You be angry forever?” Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
People like another Psalmist, Ethan the Ezrahite: (Psalm 89:4-6) How long, O Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?
Of course, we must not forget the great servant of God, the apostle Paul. You think he didn’t get tired of the fight? Surely, he did. Here is what he wrote to the Christians at Corinth: (2 Corinthians 1:8-9) “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”
And writing about his chronic ‘thorn in the flesh’- whatever that was -- Paul wrote: (2 Corinthians 12:8-9) “Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
And WHOSE power is perfected in weakness? Certainly not God's. His power is, has always been, and always will be the definition of ‘perfect.’ No, it was Paul’s power that was ‘perfected.” How was it perfected? In his KNOWING, in his recognizing, in his admitting to himself and to God his own weakness.
In the same way, OUR power, OUR strength is perfected in us when WE recognize just how weak, how inadequate for the battle, are our strengths and resources and abilities.
Consider what God said to Gideon as he cowered in his hiding place as the Midianites ravaged their way across Israel. The Hebrews had little water, little food, and little shelter. It was in this darkness that the angel of the Lord stood before Gideon and said: (Judges 6:12-14) “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about . . . But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”
“Go in this your strength”(?)
I hope you caught what the angel said to a cringing Gideon: “Go in this YOUR STRENGTH.” What strength was that? It was in Gideon’s KNOWING that he had no strength. And it was therein that his strength was perfected for the ensuing battle in the next chapter of Judges.
Are you tired of the fight? Do you know you have no strength for the ongoing supernatural battles? Do you know you’re walking in darkness? Then that is a GOOD thing, because THEREIN lies your strength by which you do battle. It is your knowledge – yes, it is your acceptance of that knowledge – that your strength is made perfect.
So, give your weariness to Christ. Give Him your inadequacies. Tell Him again and again that you need HIS strength and HIS light to keep on keeping on. And then get up, and get dressed every day in your spiritual armor (see Ephesians 6). Remember, sin is always trying to seduce you to give up the fight. But you must master it.
How do we master it? Peter tells us, speaking from his own experience of giving in to the darkness of fear at the arrest of Jesus: (1 Peter 5:8-9a) “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith.”
Don’t you think it grieved him beyond words to remember how he stumbled in the battle of Gethsemane? You know the story. Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John – His three closest friends, and told them: (Matthew 26:36-35) “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
What happened next? He got up and went back to them – and found them sleeping. Even after He’d told them of His deep grief, He found them sleeping. Not once – but this occurred three times.
Surely the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
My brothers and sisters, “Stay alert.” Even when you’re tired of the fight. Even when the darkness seems to be smothering your hope and your joy. Even through the chronic pain and the loneliness and the dwindling finances and rapidly vanishing strength . . . Stay alert.
Remember: It is in those diminishing resources, it is in that vanishing strength that, as you give them all to Christ, that your SPIRITUAL power is made perfect.
Give what you have to Jesus. Remember what He did with the few fish and loaves?
Listen, please. If all you have left to give is nothing more than prayer from time to time throughout the day – then pray. If all you can do is read and reflect on only a few passages of scripture – then do that. If all you can do is invite people to church or Bible study – then invite them. If all you can do is send a few dollars to some missionary work – then send a few dollars.
Offer God what little you have. That’s really all He asks – just what we have. And then see what He does with it.
This ongoing daily war is not going to stop just because we’re tired of the battle. So, how will YOU fight it? I hope my words here have encouraged you.
So, First, admit to God how severely limited is your strength and your resources for this supernatural battle. Second, confess to Him how weak and weary you are. Third, DAILY ask His help to do each day what you can do for Him and His kingdom. And then, fourth, DO what you can do.
And finally: Hang in there. It’s almost sunrise.