"Kimberlee, why are you always smiling?"
The words stung because they were intended to bite; it was obvious by her tone of voice and the snarlish look on her face. We were probably 8 or 9 years old, but had known each other since kindergarten. That day as we waited in line on the ramp that led up to our music class (and a grouchy old music teacher none of us particularly looked forward to spending the hour with), she probably had no idea how her question would impact my countenance... Her words reverberated like a noisy gong through the winding passages of my female mind for the remainder of the day and many years to come, causing me to question the way I presented myself to the world.
Not until I reached high school and observed the unhappy journey of her own young life would I come to understand just how silly it was of me to take her question seriously. Unbeknownst to my third grade self, I realized, her inquisition had probably been born of pain and was girlishly communicated in a spirit of jealousy. In the meantime, sadly, I remembered that comment countless times, repressing my natural smile in favor of a more serious demeanor and fearful that I would appear "too happy."
As I watch my oldest son go about his life, I see that familiar natural smile reappear daily -- this time unhindered by the taunting insecurities of immature peers. Having been homeschooled since the beginning, he has gained a confidence in the security of our home for which I am grateful. I have the privilege of witnessing him listen with delight as he learns from others, drinking in instruction and wisdom with a relaxed demeanor and a positive outlook on life.
His easy smile is to me a picture of the sort of life intended for all of us. Having been called to be free (Galatians 5:13), we were made to bear the fruit of joy!
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
As we examine scripture, we see the godly bearing a countenance that defies the darkness of the culture around. Let me explain...
Remember when Moses came down from spending time with the Lord on Mount Sinai? He didn't realize it, but his face was radiant (Exodus 34:29). In fact, it was so radiant, Aaron and all the Israelites were afraid to go near him. It wasn't a one-time deal, either.
When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord. (Exodus 34:33-35)
Moses' face shined. Why? Because Moses had spoken with God.
As a pastor's wife, I love it when someone bounds into church on a Sunday morning or anxiously awaits conversation with me in the moments before or after Bible Study, all because they have a story to tell -- that the God of the universe spoke to them!
HEARING GOD'S VOICE HAS A WAY OF CHANGING PEOPLE
For Moses, it was a shining face. For us, it shouldn't be much different. Oh, it may not literally radiate photons (those are particles of light for those who haven't studied up on Einstein's discovery lately), but it ought to show on our faces!
You know the song...
"If you're happy and you know it then your face will surely show it."
I wonder how many people walk around claiming to know Christ while bearing a sullen appearance? Too many, I suspect.
Yes, I know hard times come and depression can be a very real thing -- please, no angry emails! -- but I would be remiss if I did not remind my dear readers to stand upon the treasured declaration of the psalmist:
"But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high." (Psalm 3:3)
I love the way Charles Spurgeon responds to this text in his Treasury of David, penning the following commentary:
"Though I hang my head in sorrow, I shall very soon lift it up in joy and thanksgiving. What a divine trio of mercies is contained in this verse! -- defence for the defenceless, glory for the despised, and joy for the comfortless. Verily we may well say, 'there is none like the God of Jeshurun.'"
Our hope rests in Sovereign God, the Ancient of Days written about by the prophet Daniel, who reigns over all in absolute purity, matchless power, and prehistoric wisdom. [See Daniel 7:9-10 for a vivid description.]
WHEN GOD SPEAKS, WISDOM SPRINGS FORTH
When God speaks, He speaks from on high -- above the fray and chaos of humanity. Though most of humanity rarely pauses in acknowledging admiration, divine wisdom fills every space, for by it the world was made.
"By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place." (Proverbs 3:19)
When God speaks, He speaks from a position of ultimate and unending control. There is nothing beyond His reach; therefore, there is nothing to tempt his mind to worry or fret and no confusion to disorder. He knows and knows all, so when He speaks, He speaks Absolute Truth. Because of who He is, when He speaks death becomes life, chaos becomes order, brokenness becomes healing, questions become answers, misery becomes joy, lost becomes found, and darkness becomes light.
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Nothing is more transformative than the words of the Almighty. How can we possibly remain the same when we've heard them? Just as Moses' face shone, we shine as He lights up our hearts with the knowledge of His glory!
Thankfully, God never withholds wisdom from those who ask. He never looks upon the seeker of wisdom and says, "Well..I'm not sure you'll use it correctly," or "This one doesn't deserve it this time." What wonderful reassurance! Perfect wisdom is available upon request! Perhaps not a day has gone by in the past 10 years in which I have not recalled this precious promise:
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5)
How I need wisdom! I have found the joy in seeking and finding the wisdom of God for the decisions of my day -- both the major and the mundane. God does not hold back when we ask for His guidance regarding our next major financial decision, parenting dilemma, relationship struggle, or health concern. Nor does he scoff when we ask how to plan for the day, which book to read next, how to spend spare time, or what to cook for dinner.
Furthermore, I am convinced that if such vast understanding is available to us, our faces ought to show it. What reason have we to look discouraged?
When we look to the writings of Solomon, we find what wisdom accomplishes.
"Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance." (Ecclesiastes 8:1)
The wisdom of God is revealed upon the very faces of the godly who walk in wisdom and the fear of the Lord (which is the beginning of all wisdom according to Proverbs 9:10).
How very like our God! He gives us every reason to smile.
The world is dark, but we do not walk in darkness. Indeed, when we have Christ we...
walk in His light (1 John 1:7)
like John the Baptist, testify to the light (John 1:7)
let our lights shine before others (Matthew 5:16)
and in doing so shine even like the stars of the universe (Philippians 2:15)
A SHINING EXAMPLE OF A GIANT
Full of God's grace and power, Stephen was an early servant of Christ who "performed great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8) As it was so often in those early days of the Church, there were those who hated the message Stephen preached and the Christ he represented...
"But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke." (Acts 6:10)
There it is again -- that wisdom.
I wish I could say wisdom kept Stephen out of trouble, but it didn't. For reasons not revealed in scripture, God chose for Stephen (whose name means "crown") to earn his reward that day as the first Christian martyr. Despite false allegations leveled against him by a murderous multitude, we are told:
"All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel." (Acts 6:15)
Yes, the glory of God shined in the face of this godly giant of the faith. Then he preached his final sermon and entered eternal rest to receive the victor's crown!
A PAUSE FOR REFLECTION
What does your face look like? What does the world see in you? Do you reflect the light of the knowledge of God's glory?
No challenging circumstance is capable of chasing away the Holy Spirit who dwells inside every true believer. No outside trouble need affect the health of the spiritual fruit grown by the Spirit from within. Indeed, the glory of God shines brighter than the sun and radiates from the faces of those who've heard from Him. Listen. He's waiting to speak to you. Then...Like a giant would...Let Him shine through!
To God be the glory!