Alfred Place Baptist Church

2:14-16 The Stars Of The Universe

Philippians 2:14-16 “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour for nothing.”

We are living in days of stars – film stars, sporting stars, pop stars, TV stars. Many young people long to become stars. This is their ambition, to have money, and travel, and become famous. Thousands will turn up for auditions and queue for hours, finally exposing their limited talents to the irony of judges and the prying eyes of cameras. What humiliation they will endure in their dream of becoming a star.

In these verses Paul gives us the formula to become a star, not just in Wales, or in the British Isles but one of the stars in the universe, and that is what I am going to share with you today. Isn’t that amazing? You went to church one Sunday night attending a small congregation in Aberystwyth, and the preacher gave you the guaranteed way, the only way that anyone could become a universal star. Shouldn’t you listen carefully to this? God wants us all to shine like stars, and in these words before us he tells us how.

1. TO BECOME A STAR YOU HAVE TO HAVE AN AGENT.

An agent is an experienced person who observes you, and gets to know you, makes judgments about you and your abilities and gives you the very best advice. The greatest agent anyone can have is the apostle Paul. He wrote these words. He was the authorised representative in the world of the Son of God. He saw the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was once caught up to the third heaven and had seen its glorious sights. He was an absolutely brilliant man, one of the great intellects of the world, and yet he was gentle, loveable and approachable, a man of utter integrity. You can trust what he says totally. He will never say anything to harm you or hinder you from becoming a great star in the world. He will run for you, and he will labour for you until he is utterly exhausted. He can only keep going as he does because the Holy Spirit of God is continually renewing him while he teaches and counsels and prays and writes. Every Sunday night this autumn we have been meeting here and listening to what he says and putting it into practice in our lives, and we urge you to join us.

But notice that in these verses Paul shares with us his one great fear, and that is that after expending all his energy in this calling of making you shine like a star he might still fail, and all his running around for you would have been for nothing. What then would he have to boast about in the great day when we must all appear before God? (v. 16) He would have failed to make you a star, and that was his fear. What a great concern to have, that he might let you down. So Paul is longing for you to be up there shining as a star for ever and ever. Isn’t he the best agent anyone could possibly have? In fact, he is the only agent everyone of us should have.

2. TO BECOME A STAR YOU MUST BECOME KNOWN BY THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

It is a familiar story. Some people ask how one star got his break, and they are told that a certain great person stumbled across this star when he was a nonentity, heard him singing, or saw him playing soccer in a mini-league, or read a certain manuscript he had written, or a work of art was noticed. Whatever it was the man was ‘discovered’ and his whole future was changed. That is the way many people get their break. They get spotted and drawn out of obscurity, and I am telling you today that there is one divine Person whose eyes spot insignificant people with tiny talents, in fact most of them feel they don’t have a talent at all. But this great and gracious Lord takes them on, and he makes them stars. We are saying to you today that this personal God is the very one into whose orbit you must come. Those he touches he elevates so that they shine like the stars above. He has far more power than the best PR man to raise you right up high. Your name will be in the lights of heaven. Don’t you see what he can do for you? He can deliver you from being a nobody, a rootless alien, a no-hoper, another statistic of failure. He can make you one of his own children. This is what our text promises (v.15). Think of it – God has children!

I want to tell you how to become a child of God. No one is that by nature. We are the very reverse of that. We break all his commandments. We serve other gods, and idolise men. We blaspheme his name and groan as his day comes around each week. We dishonour our parents by disdainful put-downs. We are violent, adulterous, deceitful, covetous thieves. Yes we are. Men and women are all like that, in their hearts, in their words and in their deeds; more like their father the devil than the children of God. That is what Jesus said, and he knows more than any of us. I would trust him before I would trust my own opinions. But though there is none righteous, no not one, God is willing to make us his own sons. He will give us a birth from above, making us new creations, giving us new identities.

How will we know if he has done this? We will have received Jesus Christ into our lives. All who receive him have been born of God. That is the mark of God’s regenerating work in your life. When you meet young Christians with new interest in the gospel, a desire to learn more about the teaching of the Bible, an anticipation about going to church, then you know that God has been at work in their lives by his Holy Spirit. He has been giving conviction of sin. He has been showing them the beauty of Jesus Christ. He has been overcoming their prejudices. He has been helping them to entrust themselves into the welcoming safety of his Son, so that they have received him into their lives. That is all the consequence of God’s new birth.

On the mountains around Aberystwyth there are clusters of new windmills. They have been erected in order to generate electricity. We are familiar with them. If I should say to you, “Why do those sails go round?” You would reply, “Because of the wind.” If I should then ask you, “What makes the wind?” and you told me, “Um . . . the windmills,” then I would think you were an idiot. You have just said to me that it was the wind that made the great blades turn around, and then you went on to say that it was the blades that made the wind. One is cause – the mighty wind – and one is effect – the sails of the windmill turn. I am saying to you, “The children of God are those alone who have received Christ into their lives. How have they received him?” You say, “Because the wind of God has blown upon them.” Correct. So every time we see someone with Christ in his life we know that God in his grace has been at work in his life. God has enabled him to trust in Jesus. Receiving Christ is the mark that God has made me his child, not the means of becoming his child. The means is a birth from God above.

We become the children of God by a work of God’s grace. In spite of our parentage – children of a rebel, a sinner guilty of high treason – Adam was the father of us all. We were born into this world the natural heirs of one who sinned against his Maker, who defied his Lord. Yet, mark this, notwithstanding the evil of our parentage, born of a thief who stole the forbidden fruit from his Master’s garden – born of a proud traitor who dared to rebel against God, notwithstanding all our years lived in cool estrangement from Jesus Christ – despite all of that . . . the living God saw us, and he loved us, and he determined to make us his children who would one day shine like stars in the universe.

These are the people God makes his children, abandoned babies lying in a field, unwashed after being expelled from the womb, crying pitifully, growing weaker by the minute. These are the ones God sees, whom he is going to make stars. We had nothing. There was no sorrow in us for our lives until he placed repentance there. There were no tears in our eyes till he put them there himself. There was no talent until he gifted us. There was nothing attractive about us that caused him to adopt us, on the contrary there was everything that was repulsive. But he didn’t say, “You are cursed: be lost for ever.” The angels would have agreed with that. They had seen millions of their fellow spirits cast out of heaven for such wickedness. No! He found a rebellious child, a filthy, ugly, frightful child, and he took him to his bosom and he said, “Though you are abandoned I will have you. Though you are weak, I will make you strong. Though you are dirty, I will clean you. Though you are unwanted, I will adopt you into my family. I will make you shine like a star in the universe.” God took us and made us his children.

What would you think of a judge pronouncing a just sentence on an evil criminal, but then coming out of his chair, stepping down from his seat of judgment, paying the fine himself, inviting the criminal home to live with him, making him his adopted son, changing his will and making him his heir? God has done this to lying Abraham, and drunken Noah, and adulterous David, and swearing Peter, and hating Saul of Tarsus. If this is a fairy tale then let us nod our heads kindly at a sweet story and get back to watching television. Let us continue to live without God in our shadowlands existence heading for the day when our bodies start to rot in their coffins. If other people take Jesus seriously let’s treat them with sympathy if our own faith is saying that this Christianity is a load of hokum. But what if it’s true my friends? Isn’t this then the most life-transforming reality anyone can hear? If there is anything that draws me to the once disgraced member of parliament, Jonathan Aitken, who has come to profess faith in Jesus Christ, it is the mockery and disdain which reporters and columnists show towards him week after week. Charles Colson once endured it. Cliff Richard also had to go through it. You will also have to go through it if you show you have received Jesus Christ into your life. Every new child of God is held in suspicion by his old friends. “It is a fad,” they say. “He will come out of it,” they say, because they cannot accept that God is real, and that he makes sinners his children.

There is scarcely anything more wonderful in the world than the privilege we have as Christians to say to one another, “I must talk to Father about this.” To know that he cares for us so much, that he loves me in all my faults and selfishness, with the very same love as he loves Jesus Christ his first-born. It is simply wonderful to know that our Father knows what we need before we ask him, and is deeply involved in our lives day by day. Douglas MacMillan told a story of moving from Aberdeen to Glasgow, and when the removal van arrived at the manse Douglas began to unload the boxes of his books and to carry them indoors. One of his little boys was anxious to help and so Douglas gave him a couple of books to carry in. Then the minister went on going up and down the steps carrying his heavy boxes. He was coming down the stairs when he met his little boy sitting in the passage and crying in frustration. He had tried to carry in a set of books such as Spurgeon’s ‘Treasury of David’ and had failed, collapsing under the load. There he was weeping with the weight of the books holding him down. Douglas said, “I picked him and the books up in my arms and carried them all to the room.” That is what our Father does for us, lifts us up when we are downcast, and lifts our burdens too, and sustains us day by day. Underneath us are the everlasting arms.

Every Christian has this sense of destiny, that we are going home, to live with our Father and all our brothers and sisters in the home Jesus has prepared for us for ever. There we are going to shine like the stars for ever. When we see him then all the differences between himself and us will have gone. It is not that he is so human and has come down to our level, but that he will have elevated and glorified us so that we become like him, as holy and free from sin as he is, as loving as he is! Imagine it. One day the pure love of God will fill every part of me. There will not be one cell in my brain unaffected by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. What stardom!

As that is the case, how are the children of God to live in this present world?

3. HOW WE SHINE AS STARS TODAY.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault” (v.14). This is the character of the children of God. Listen to it. This is absolutely devastating: no complaining whatsoever: no arguing whatsoever: blameless lives: pure living: without a fault. Can you bear with the fact that this is normative Christianity. These are the demands God makes on his children. This is how God’s stars shine. Can you think of a greater contrast with the behaviour of the stars of the soccer pitch and the media, today’s prickly, preening prima donnas? Plenty of them are still strutting their stuff in the caverns of hell. What sort of star do you want to be? Let’s break this down into its two constituent parts:

i] We have to remove all those elements that prevent us from shining. There comes a time when a light shade gets so dirty that the level of illumination has dropped dramatically, and you need to remove the shade brushing out all the dead flies and dust, cleaning away any the grease and washing the shade in warm water. Then the light can shine through it again. So if we are going to shine like stars all that hinders the light has to be removed. So Paul begins with this fact, that a grumbling critical spirit extinguishes the light. He exhorts: “Do everything without complaining or arguing”. Then that kind of life would be extraordinary, a burning and a shining light, wouldn’t it?

The first word, ‘complaining’ or ‘grumbling’ refers to outward activity, while the second word, ‘arguing’ or ‘questionings’ is inward in its main significance. Often that second word is translated by ‘reasonings’ or ‘thoughts’ in the Bible. It may never show itself in a word, or in an expression, but if a critical contemptuous is tolerated at all in our hearts then it is sin. Paul is talking about the light of Christ shining in a person and it comes from the indwelling Saviour permeating our attitudes and expressing itself in our actions. It is significant that both these words ‘complaining’ and ‘grumbling’ are in the plural in the original, and so the force of them is to insist that in our relationships with others no carping selfish criticisms of any sort, spoken or silent, are to be encouraged.

There is the divine dimension to this, complaining against God and his dealings with us. “Why are you dealing with me in this way?” This is a protest against God’s wisdom and love. You remember the anguish Job went through at the grief God brought into his life. Then there is more familiar grumbling at our fellow men. “GOD’S CHILDREN DO EVERYTHING WITHOUT COMPLAINING.’ That’s a text for you to put on the wall of your kitchen, or office, or room today. Are you a grumbler? It is one of the patterns of many an unregenerate man that he starts the day grumbling. He grumbles about the weather, and about the news he hears on the radio, and about his breakfast, and about his work, and about the people he works with, and about his family, and about his neighbours. The last words on his lips before he sleeps are grumbles. You know the devastating effect this has on his wife and children. They can never please him. Whatever they do is imperfect and he lets them know. He is a wet blanket of discouragement over their lives. Think of complaining children; they whinge because they have ‘nothing’ to wear, and nothing to do, and nowhere to go. They don’t like their meals, and their schools, and the chores they are asked to do, and their lack of pocket money. What a burden on a house is a grumbling child.

This Greek word for complaining is ‘gongusmon’. It is a marvellous, onomatopoeic word, ‘gong-goose-moan’. There are people in some congregations and when was the last time anyone heard them say anything positive or appreciative about their church. They are ‘gong-goose-moaning’ Christians. What a fearful testimony. That is how they will be remembered. That will be their epitaph. “It’s not as it should be. It’s not as it used to be.” How quickly some Christians can erect the machinery of complaining. It’s up in a flash, and they know to whom they can go with their grumbles. Men and women, we are being called upon to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and part of that daily activity is to mortify a complaining and grumbling spirit. “Can you see that star up there? No. You can barely discern it, but if you take a very powerful telescope and search the heavens you may find a faint glimmer. The star’s name is ‘gong-goose-moan.’ The complaining has extinguished the illumination, and it will never shine brightly until the grumbling has been mortified.

There are preachers too who are complainers. You hope never to travel in a car to a conference with them and hear their incessant tales of woe. They complain about their stipend and about their manses and about their officers and about members of their congregations. Little wonder their pastorates have been rocky and ended in tears. “Do everything without complaining.”

Now of course we have a right to speak out. This passage may not be pleaded as the grounds for saying nothing when there is error tolerated or ungodliness in the congregation, especially in the leadership. Paul is not saying that we should keep our mouths shut when the Judaizers or other false prophets start influencing the church. But the apostle is conscious of realities like this, that there was a woman in the church named Euodia who complained about another church member called Syntyche and Syntyche in turn complained about Euodia. The Christian faith should make people encouragers and forgivers and burden-bearers. The Lord Jesus encouraged his young disciples, and Paul encouraged the young churches. “I’m always thanking God for you,” he says, as he rehearses their graces to them.

But the Bible is full of examples of religious people complaining and arguing. The people of God were brought out of Egypt, delivered from slavery, and then there were trials they had to endure in the desert, and soon, a mere six weeks out of bondage, they complained at their leaders and about their provision – which was a daily gift from God. They didn’t plough and sow and water and harvest to get it. When they were in Egypt they grumbled because they were in Egypt, and when they were out of Egypt they grumbled because they were out of Egypt. No leeks, no garlic, no onions, no fish in the desert. Plenty of them back in Egypt’s slavery. They complained because they had nothing to eat, and when God gave them manna and quails they grumbled at that food. They drove Moses to desperation as they grumbled on and on for forty years. Finally God refused to let them enter the promised land. That generation all died and were buried in the desert. That is the judgment God brought upon murmurers and complainers.

But in the New Testament there is also complaining and arguing. The Christian Grecian Jews in the Jerusalem congregation complained about the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Again, Peter has to warn Christians to offer hospitality to people “without grumbling” (I Pet. 4:9), as though there was a reluctance to give hospitality, or a criticism of others for not doing it.

Complaining is so unacceptable because it manifests resentment against the love of God, and his continual care for us. “A complaining or arguing spirit is an expression of ingratitude to God’s providence, and of lovelessness and pride towards others. It is a denial of grace; it is working against salvation rather than working salvation into every aspect of our lives” (Sinclair Ferguson, “Let’s Study Philippians'” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1997, p.57). You cannot live a healthy spiritual life with spiralling negative attitudes to others.

Dr Lloyd-Jones says, “There is nothing that leads to such havoc in the Christian life, there is nothing that so ruins life, as this spirit of murmuring and disputing. It ruined the whole story of the ancient people, it has ruined the Christian life and experience of many a Christian in this world. It makes you ill at ease; you feel your lot is the only difficult one in the world. It leads not only to that, but to a poor testimony; it brings disgrace and disrepute upon the Christian name. That is why the Apostle urges the Philippians to avoid it at all costs” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “The Life of Joy”, Hodder, London, 1989, p. 193).

How can we be delivered from it? Firstly in reminding ourselves of the character of God. We are to be like God aren’t we? He is absolutely righteous. He doesn’t tempt us with evil. He is incapable of doing anything unkind or unfair. Can you imagine the Father grumbling to the Son about the way a certain Christian is behaving? Would you ever hear the Spirit talking to the Father and saying to him, “Look at her. Isn’t she pathetic?” Can you imagine when the Father sends the Spirit to give life and strength to a certain sinner that the Spirit replies to the Father, “Do I have to go now? Why are you always sending me all over the world? It isn’t fair. Why are you picking on me? You are taking advantage of me.” Can you imagine the Son of God looking at Golgotha and realising what was looming up before him and beginning to complain and argue with his Father about dying there in that shame? Men and women, there is no grumbling amongst the members of the Trinity. But we Christians do argue when God leads us along some path and into some valley. When God tells us to stop doing something then we may say, “Does he really mean I mustn’t do it now? Can’t I do it next week?” So we argue.

We must remember that God’s ultimate goal is that we “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault” (v.15). So when he deals with us and puts us in a certain place, and gives us certain responsibilities and trials it is all to the end that we become blameless and pure. We dare not grumble at how God in his providence is dealing with us. Dr Lloyd-Jones again says, “If we allow these things to come between us and God’s purpose, then we must not be surprised and disappointed if we find God dealing with us. My dear friends, put this first and never lose your hold of it: if you are a child of God, other things will have to go. He is holding on to you, and he will go on working in you, until you have arrived at that state for which he has destined you. If you are convinced of that, you will not murmur and complain, but in the midst of your loss and heartbreak you will rather turn to God and say, ‘God forgive me, I thank you for even this, because I now see your purpose” (ibid. pp, 195&196).

So next time you are tempted to complain or grumble, stop and say, “Thank you Lord, for all you’ve done.’ And if you think you have the right to grumble at a certain Christian then first of all just say ‘thank you’ for all those graces for which you can say thank you. Maybe then the complaining will die. So we have to mortify grumbling and arguing, and then secondly this:

ii] We have to encourage all the light to shine forth: “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation” (v.15). Here are three devastating adjectives describing how a Christian is to live:

‘Blameless.’ This is how we have to appear before the watching world. This has been a fascinating week for British jurisprudence. The former butler of the late Lady Diana, the Princess of Wales, was on trial in the Old Bailey for stealing her possessions. Then on Friday, in a unique intervention, the Queen herself sent a message to the court saying that the butler had informed her years ago that he was temporarily keeping those objects. The whole case was immediately dropped and the man was found blameless of the charges brought against him, and he walked free, his character exonerated. What a vindication to be acknowledged as a blameless man.

You will remember that in Babylon the Old Testament Christian Daniel lived in the king’s palace working for the Emperor, and there were times when he was accused of wrong doing, and the only issue that his jealous enemies could bring before the Emperor was his love for his God Jehovah. His enemies, talking amongst themselves, had to acknowledge this fact: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel, unless it has something to do with the law of his God” (Dan. 6:5). He was a blameless man in all his relations with others. The Christian is to be deemed innocent of wrongdoing in the eyes of men and women. “‘Blameless’ is a term that, in a sense, explains itself . . . Perhaps the best way of putting it is to say that ‘blameless’ is a description of – or has reference to – moral integrity manifesting itself externally. In other words, this term is one which calls us so to live that those who are around us, looking at us and observing us, will never be able to see or find anything in us which is worthy of blame, or of criticism, or of reprimand. The emphasis here is not so much on what I should be in myself, in my inward nature, as on my appearance among others who are observing me” (D. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, op cit, p.198). Then we come to the next adjective:

‘Pure.’ If Dr Lloyd-Jones is correct in defining blameless as moral integrity manifesting itself externally, then ‘pure’ is moral integrity manifesting itself inwardly or internally. So he says, “With this word, we are considering not so much what I am as I appear to others in my conduct and behaviour, but what I really am in and of myself, in those hidden recesses of my being, which are not visible to anyone outside” (ibid). The adjective ‘pure’ is used to describe gold, or any metal with no impurities. How do we use it today? A pure drug, or pure water, or pure air to breathe. You will remember the evangelical Christians of the 17th century in England and in America took God seriously and sought to live as consistent holy people. Soon they were nicknamed the ‘Puritans’; it was because they sought to be Christ-like from their hearts. You will remember how the Lord Jesus was concerned about the inwardness of sin, warning his disciples that the commandment not to kill also condemned murderous thoughts in our hearts. There may never be the least expression on our faces that indicate a repulsion existing in our minds towards that person, but if that spirit is in us at all then it is sin. My thoughts, the well-springs of my actions, the motivation for my life must be clean.

‘Without fault.’ Again we are so familiar with such a phrase. We want a machine without a fault, a plane, a personal computer, a car, television reception. We are thinking of the results of our examinations, that the examiners are without fault, the judicial system, police investigations, that our X-rays or our medical tests are without fault. We are thinking of something utterly reliable, dependable, sure and certain. Two of us had to write testimonials to a church in America which was calling a mutual friend to become its pastor. The other man who wrote his reference said of my friend something which I will never forget and which was completely true. He said, “I would trust him with any congregation.” That is what the words ‘without fault’ are referring to. There is no blemish at all, nothing that could mar this Christian, no shadow, no suspicion of any growth, no spot, no speck, nothing at all to prevent the light of God shining through us to a dark world. There is a great conclusion to the end of the first of the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount. In the last verse of Matthew 5 after the Lord Jesus has opened up the life and activity of the righteous man he comes to this extraordinary climax, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The standard for our living is set by God. There is the whole range of the perfection of God as it is brought to bear upon us, and our goal is to be conformed to that. Nothing less than that is implicit in the words of Jesus. Such a standard will be eternally relevant to every life. This is the norm and this is the goal for our whole existence, a perfection conformable to God’s own perfection – ‘without fault.’

So, negatively, we shine as stars in the universe when all that is negative is continually removed from our lives, all the complaining and all the arguing. Then, positively, we shine as we live blameless, pure lives, without fault.

4. WHERE WE ARE TO SHINE AS STARS TODAY.

So where are we to shine? Behind high walls topped by broken bottles and electrified wires? Are we Christians to live like many stars live, protected by high security devices, a man at the gate, the cameras, personal bodyguards, and Doberman dogs? No. Is our only chance of seeing these stars always from afar, when they attend a premier, and we are kept standing behind a police line? Yes. Then how can God’s children become the light of the world? God’s shining stars are called to live in the midst of “a crooked and depraved generation.” (v.15). What a description of our age. People are not straight. Crooks abound. It is a crooked generation, and it is depraved. Look at your daily papers! Who can deny that we are living in a crooked and depraved generation?

Yet here, in the midst of this generation, where men treat women and children and animals in this horrible manner, Christians are to live blamelessly, and purely without fault when they are surrounded by crooked and depraved people. This is where Christ, the light of the world, comes: “the light shines in darkness” (Jn. 1:5). God’s Messiah did not live in a palace protected by soldiers. When he was born shepherds wandered into the maternity room not long after his birth and looked at him. He lived in a large family sharing a bedroom with his siblings. Throughout his public ministry the crowds followed him everywhere. If they couldn’t get at him through a door or window they would remove the roof to get at him. He came into a world where men dragged a woman caught in adultery into his presence and asked him why they shouldn’t stone her to death. He came where they whipped men with 39 lashes, and crucified young men, and gambled, and blasphemed. That is where Christ lived a blameless, pure and faultless life, and that is where we are called to live the same life. He gives us strength to do this. You can do all things by him. There is no temptation you cannot overcome, no command you cannot obey, no duty you cannot perform, no burden you cannot bear, because you have received this Christ into your life. Your strength cannot be measured by your own physique, or personality, or education, or upbringing, or natural resources, or family support system alone. You have to bring in all these resources of the indwelling God. By him you can banish murmuring and complaining from your life and clothe yourself in purity and perfection.

I heard Alistair Begg in a recent conference speaking of the first American cheer-leaders he heard encouraging their team at an football game. They were being whipped by a far better team, but their cheer-leaders were prancing and chanting, “You can do it. You can do it. Yes, you can. Yes, you can,” over and over again, when it was patently obvious they couldn’t. That is called whistling in the dark. But you are not in the dark. You are light in Christ, and you are to shine where Christ shone in the darkness and the darkness did not extinguish it. We are not here to rehearse before you unattainable ideals, but great realities of Christian living. The God who made us his children resides within us to transform us so that we live sanctified, pure, shining lives – though we may be the last to recognise them as such.

While we live those lives we are holding on to the word of life, as the great means of our strength, and holding out to men and women in the darkness all around us that word of life.

These people are my stars. My home is full of books about them. I know them today all over Wales, but much further afield too, in Kenya, and in Austria, and in the south of France, and in the Philippines, and in Ireland, and in Latvia. They are everywhere where there is ignorance of Jesus Christ, and they keep a light burning. In this world of darkness so we must shine, you in your small corner and I in mine. Such people are the happiest and most blessed people in the world. Shine for Jesus Christ! Live illuminated lives like this. “You are the light of the world,” he told his disciples, and through their lives, and by the word of life that they held on to and held out many others escaped from the outer darkness of life with God and the inner darkness of despair.

3 November 2002 GEOFF THOMAS