Click on the quote below to read the article...

The Apostle Paul begins many of his epistles with expressions of thanks to friends for their help, and for their steadfast faith. He tries to encourage them in their faith and in their various ministries. (e.g. Philippians 1:1-8)

With our emphasis on honesty and plain speech, it would be easy to assume that Paul was using flattery to help him achieve some hidden agenda. After all, he often goes on to criticise the same people that he has just complimented!

So, was Paul being honest? I think he was, and that is the subject of this article.

Paul was looking at both sides of the coin. He was trying to polish up the Light that existed in each believer that he ministered to, at the same time that he would attack the darkness that he saw in them. What Paul was doing is a good example for each of us to follow... not only with the people that we minister to, but also with ourselves.

Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) If we understand that the "light" he is talking about is God himself, then we can "shine" that light without feeling that we are showing off or being proud.

Our old self was (and is) full of sin, and we often have to work at dealing with that part of us... the darkness. We should seek to "crucify" all that it represents. But the "new person" is Jesus himself, and we can rightly rejoice in him, taking great delight in how terrific his work is in us. If we keep both halves of the picture in perspective, then we will be able to grow in confidence at the same time that we can avoid becoming proud.

Our confidence is not in our own goodness, because we've seen just how bad we can be; but our confidence is in the "light" that is in us, for it is God himself who is dwelling in us and transforming us into super people!

As Christians, we are strangers and pilgrims - aliens in this world. (1 Peter 2:11) Society will ostracise us and try to shame us into conforming to the values and lifestyles that it declares we must live. If our faith is going to survive, we must not listen to society. We must not accept its negative picture of us. We must get our inspiration, hope, and our self-image from God himself, from the Bible, and from fellow Christians. We need to build each other up, and to encourage one another to attain the Christ-like attributes that are part of our inheritance.

We cannot become the light of the world unless we are willing to nurture and cherish and protect the light that is within us. God's light is our inner beauty, from which we get spiritual energy and hope for ourselves and for those whom we meet. We must not let some perverted idea of humility stop us from revelling in the light, and shining the light through everything that we do... through our facial expressions, through our body language, through our words, and through our thoughts.

Below are some practical tips and thoughts on what we can do to encourage and protect the light that is within us.

1. View difficulties and sufferings as the refining process that they are. (1 Peter 1:7) You can choose to let them make you bitter and depressed, or you can choose to let them make you stronger and more full of God's light. Use your imagination to visualise what the trials are doing and how they are making you more beautiful for God; and then relish in your difficulties in the same way that an athlete looks forward to training.

2. Don't run yourself down. Humility is a mystery, because at the same time that it is based on honesty about our shortcomings, it is also a product of confidence in God's righteousness... righteousness that resides in us through the grace of Christ. Condemnation and berating yourself do not achieve humility. Accept that you are a sinner, but quickly move on from there to become the saint that you have been destined to be through the love of God. Rather than running yourself down, what you should be doing is spending a few moments each day (especially when you go to bed at night and when you wake up in the morning) reflecting on all the good things that God is doing in your life, and thanking him for them. (Philippians 4:13)

3. Stay focused on the purpose that God has for your life. You need specific goals, some short-term and some long-term; some personal and some shared with your family or community. Of course, these goals need to be prayerfully determined, and they need to be obtainable. (See also Empowerment Sessions.) It is purpose that gives you enthusiasm when you wake up each morning (so don't neglect your schedules). That enthusiasm creates an energy that is visible to those you meet, and it is a major ingredient in the beauty that is shining out from within you.

4. Look for good in others, and compliment them for it. By complimenting others you will win twice. Those that you have complimented will get a lift in their spirits (and think well of you as a result), and you yourself will get a "feel good" payment from it too... because you'll sense that it is the "light" which is coming out of you that burst forth in the compliment. Complimenting someone else will reinforce all the good thoughts you have been having about God's light being in you, and you will see that the thoughts were not lies or exaggerations; but they really are true.

So, in conclusion, Paul was not a flatterer. He did not have a hidden agenda. He spoke the truth as he saw it. He saw it because he consciously focused on it, and he gave praise where it was due. God's Spirit really was in the people he led, even if they did make a lot of mistakes. And the same is true about you. Polish up (or "shine") the light that is in you and the light that is in others "...that they may glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

(See also Positive Thinking.)

Register or log in to take the quiz for this article

Pin It
Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account