By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, Baptist and Reflector
Beneath Godwin’s Mountain, I own a cave that the state of Tennessee refers to as a significant cave. When I was a church’s interim pastor, listeners heard me tell about the cave’s darkness, depths, and dangers — along with its magnificence. A deacon and a high school boy persisted in wanting me to take them on a cave expedition. Finally, I happily agreed to do that with strong caveats: namely, two powerful lights each, water, snacks, proper clothing, etc.
An expedition lacking in light. On a Saturday morning, the three of us drove to the cave. Before we entered the first room of the cave, I checked equipment. To my dismay, I found the deacon had only his grandson’s toy flashlight with no backup. The senior high boy had a flashlight with weak batteries and a backup birthday candle. I knew the cave well and had two powerful sources of light with fresh batteries so I decided to lead them an hour or so.
I led past cave breakdown, around perilous pits, through small rooms, and to a point I had decided would be far enough. We rested a moment before turning around. The boy, third back, let me know his flashlight had gone out but he had lit the single birthday candle. Shortly, the boy notified me the burnt wax melted down to his finger; the candle was out. I told him to stay close to the deacon. In a few minutes, the deacon told me his toy flashlight had gone out. We were still deep in the cave. Peeved but prepared, I told them to stay close behind me; and I led us from that point on to the second room. Without my preparedness and light, we would have been in total darkness — no visibility at all. My cave is not like Mammoth Cave or Carlsbad Caverns: no ranger, no stairs, no lights, and injury or even death a real possibility. Absolute darkness! My one light was enough — darkness could not overcome it! As I rounded the curve to the first room, all three of us were able to see the sunlight seeping in.
Living prepared with enough light. I’m not sure, but my biblical text the next Sunday could have been Matthew 25:1-10. It’s the parable Jesus used to compare the kingdom of heaven to 10 foolish virgins who took their lamps out to wait and meet the bridegroom. Half were foolish and took only the oil in their lamps; the other half were wise and took their lamps with spare oil in vessels. All of them had enough light to start; but when the sound of the bridegroom came, half the virgins’ lamps had no light; they had gone out — no extra oil. They begged oil from the wise virgins who had come prepared. However, the wise virgins refused to share their oil lest their own lamps go dark and endanger them (that’s why I didn’t share one of my two powerful lights with the newbies in caving). Kingdom living on this earth and until the Kingdom comes requires preparation and readiness all the time. In other words, when Jesus returns as the Light of the world for all eternity, it’ll be too late to light your lamp or get saved. Now is the time of salvation!
Living with enough light for now and eternity. Another significant truth is that even Christians who are the light of the world may not be enough to light your way (Matthew 5:14-16). We Christians are the light of the world only because we reflect the light of the Son — as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Though our salvation is eternal, our light may become obscured by the clouds of our sins or by failures to shine in a way that others see Jesus. And when a Christian dies, his earthly light is snuffed out — though his witness may continue. The point is that we Christians are stewards of the light of the world. Our stewardship calls for us to shine our light on Jesus’ atoning life — sinless, obedient, dying on the cross for the world, God-raised from death, ascended, and the promise of return for us.
Only one essential light overcomes darkness. The Bible is clear about each of us individually being a sinner and living in spiritual darkness as we face a sundown without another sunrise (Romans 1-3; John 3: I, II, & III John). But the Bible is equally clear that while we live in the gloaming that grows darker, we can receive the Light of the World in Jesus Christ and never again face spiritual death or wander in darkness. Jesus will light our way on this earth every day we look to Him; and when we take the next uncertain step in faith, He will light that step too — like a modern room whose lights turn on one by one as needed. When Jesus returns, it will be like a majestic sunrise, but one that never ends. Revelation 22:5 says, “There shall be no night; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign forever and ever.”
— Copyright 2017 by Johnnie C. Godwin Write him: firstname.lastname@example.org.