Shine like stars

Shine like stars

Thursday, 21 August 2014  | Jacqui - Director of Teaching and Learning
Last week I had the opportunity to spend two days with over fifty young leaders from Victorian Christian schools at the annual CEN/CSA Student Leadership Conference. These students came from far and (very) near to meet together at the Oasis Christian Camp in Mount Evelyn. MECS was admirably represented by five of our Year 10 students - Nick, Alex, Khosie, Tammy and Katie.

The theme of the conference was ‘Shine’. I had the honour of leading the students in devotions on the first morning. We were looking at a section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, including the following verses:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.

As I reflected on these verses I was reminded of an odd experience that happened to me when I was about 20 years old. I was waiting on a platform at Spencer Street Station for a train to Geelong. It was raining heavily and our train was well over an hour late. An elderly man tapped me on the shoulder and said in a way that was more of a statement than a question, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you”. I stood there doing my best impersonation of a stunned mullet but managed to respond, “I am. How can you tell?” He was beaming at me. “You’re glowing” he replied excitedly, “I can see the light of Jesus shining through you”. I was very surprised by his words, and the only response I could give to him was “Okay”. He then went on to explain that he had been standing on the opposite platform (across the tracks) and noticed that most of the waiting passengers were grumbling and angry, but I seemed to have a God-given glow of contentment.

This memory seems to beautifully illustrate what Paul is getting at in these verses. Simply by holding back on our complaining and arguing, we can allow the Spirit of God to shine through us. That moment on the train station platform is not indicative of my usual response to situations that I find annoying. I can complain as well as the next person. If you take time to listen to what we typically complain about, you may find a list which includes such things as: not having enough time for this and that, the weather (too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet), wireless internet being too slow, getting up on Monday mornings, the toilet seat being left up, having to wait in queues, grammatical and typing errors, other people’s Facebook statuses, and we are really good at complaining about other people complaining. To be honest, I am a fan of the concept of ‘first world problems’. This idea pokes fun at the inane problems that we choose to complain about in wealthy areas of the world. A meme I saw had this ‘tweet’ someone had written: “I just had soy milk in my tea. It was one of the worst decisions of my life.”

I recently heard a pastor categorise complainers into four types. There is the whiner who cries “it’s not fair, why me?”, the martyr laments “no one appreciates me, welcome to my pity party”, the cynic bitterly notes that “nothing ever changes, why bother?”, and the perfectionist asks “is this the best you can do?” At this point you may just catch yourself thinking of people you know who fit into one or more of these categories. But it might be best to have a look in the mirror first. I think I tend to have a mix of ‘martyr’ and ‘perfectionist’ in my complaining habits. We have a tendency to justify our complaining. When we complain - well we’re just trying to get something off our chest, or we may say we have “the gift of discernment”. But when others complain, well they’re just being unhelpful.

Throughout the Bible we get the message that the root of complaining is the heart of unbelief. The complainer has lost sight of the power of God in their lives. We see this demonstrated in the story of the Israelites and their forty year walk through the desert. God was not happy with the unbelief of his people, and the generation that began the journey never made it to the Promised Land. It raises the question as to why we complain at all. I imagine it is because we think we deserve better. However, because of who Jesus is and what he did on the cross, we get so much more than we deserve. We receive forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and we are adopted as sons and daughters of the God of the universe. Through the Spirit of Jesus who lives in all who believe, we have the power to conquer complaining and shine like stars.

It was a privilege to spend time listening to and working alongside the many young leaders I met last week. It is probably no surprise that I didn’t hear any complaining during the camp! These students participated enthusiastically in the various activities, and prayed sincerely for their new friends. They learnt about the ‘upside-down Kingdom’ where a leader has humility and values others above themselves, and where we have the example of Christ as the ultimate leader. Please join with me in praying for our younger leaders as they seek to be shining examples of Jesus’ love in what can be a challenging culture. 

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