One Christmas our youngest grandson was visiting at our son’s house, and he was fascinated with the extensive Christmas lights that his uncle had strung around the outside of his house. I should tell you that one of our grandson’s first words was “light,” and lights were one of the first thing he would point out in any room. He was almost obsessed with them! As night fell and our son’s Christmas lights came on, our grandson surprisingly wasn’t very happy. We thought he’d be amazed by all those lights, but instead he just kept pointing out this one short stretch of lights that wasn’t working and repeating, “Lights off. Lights off.” Forget the hundreds of lights that were on!
I’m Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A Word With You today about “Seeing What Isn’t Working.”
Our grandson basically ignored the lights that were working. All he could see were the ones that weren’t. Sadly, there are grownup people who live most of their lives that way. They look right past the things that are working and they choose to focus on the things that aren’t. So they’re often frustrated, discontent, mean spirited, unhappy, edgy, critical, negative; all those good things. When we’re like that, I guess we become what I would call “negatologists” – people who major on the negative, which robs us of what the Bible identifies as a major source of strength for everyday living.
Nehemiah actually announced it in Nehemiah 8:10, our word for today from the Word of God. He simply said, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” That joy is a stubborn positiveness about life, and it’s rooted in the Lord you belong to, not the circumstances you’re experiencing.
Earlier in the Book of Nehemiah, we see a somewhat inverted example of how he must have lived this out in everyday life. Nehemiah is a Jewish captive who works as a trusted servant of the King of Persia. For some time now, Nehemiah has been grieving over the reports of the condition of his people and of his city back in Israel.
One morning he comes in to serve the king, and the king asks, “Why is your face so sad today when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” Nehemiah uses this as an opportunity to share the burden of his heart. And God uses that as an opportunity to enlist the king in the rebuilding of Jerusalem, His Holy City.
Notice this little detail. It was a big deal that Nehemiah looked sad at work. For some of us, it would be a big deal if we looked happy at work! “Why are you so happy?” For this “joy of the Lord” man, being down seemed to be a major exception to the way he was most of the time. Nehemiah must have been a man with heaven’s perspective, who could see what lights were on any given day, rather than the lights that weren’t working.
How about you? Could it be that you’ve allowed yourself to start dwelling most of the time on what’s wrong: what’s wrong with your situation, what’s wrong with your church, what’s wrong with the people around you, what’s wrong with your family members? Without realizing it, you’ve actually allowed yourself to become what the world already has more than enough of – a negatologist – a role really that is just totally unfitting for a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When you belong to Him, there are always so many more lights on than off. But it all has to do with what you choose to dwell on. You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose what you dwell on. Don’t let the things that aren’t working make you miss the beauty of the lights that are on all around you.