One of the things that I’ve been watching on Youtube is the old Bob Ross shows called The Joy of Painting. It always amazes me how he takes a blank canvas and thirty minutes later it’s filled with mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and “happy trees.” Everything works. Ross’s paintings have a depth and a kind of reality to them because he knows how to play lighter tones against darker tones. A smudge of Cadmium White gives shape to a tree trunk or creates a shoreline. Even in a painting that is heavy with dark hues it’s the lighter tones that give it shape and texture. It may seem that in a world heavy with dark tones that our little light of faith in Jesus is not very effective, think again.
It’s easy to grumble and complain about the state of the world, the government, the media, and culture. We see the darkness, the deepening colors of sin and evil in our world. We may even see it closer to home as family and friends adopt an “anything goes” kind of attitude that leaves God tucked away in the attic like Christmas ornaments. But consider this encouragement from Paul, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” (Philippians 2:14–15, NLT) I love it that Paul shifts our thinking from words to deeds. It’s easy to grumble, murmur, complain, argue, and fight about the darkness but all that does is make the colors muddy like mixed up play-doh. We are instead to be the visible show to God’s tell; what we do as followers of Jesus should demonstrate God’s Word in real time.
What we easily forget about basic humanness is that our eyes are drawn towards light. Think about the paintings of Terry Redlin and Thomas Kincaid. It’s the light that draws us into the painting. Satan, who disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) knows this too. Or think about a dark cloudless night. No one stares into the darkness, they stare at the moon, the stars, and the constellations. Our eyes are drawn to the light. Remember what Jesus taught His followers, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:14–16, NLT) Notice again that our light shines through what we do.
It may seem that the painting of our world has grown darker. That we as followers of Jesus aren’t having an effect. That the darkness is so overwhelming, so encompassing, that our little candle flame of faith and love is invisible – it’s not. It’s our light in Jesus that gives shape to the painting, that pulls it and defines it. Have you ever noticed that the darkness loves to define our faith? “Well, Jesus wouldn’t do that!” “A good Christian would…” If what we believe is so powerless and ineffective why would they do that? My encouragement for you and I is to just take a moment to examine how we may have muddied our color, our brightness, with complaining and arguing instead of seeking to be the real time demonstration of God’s Word and love. Oh, let me add one more thing, murmuring, complaining, and arguing in secret is the same as doing it face to face. Instead, let’s be the Cadmium White that reflects Jesus into the darkness and pulls folks to His light.