Let Your Light Shine – Bible Study of the Week

matthew 5 16 let your light shine

Have you ever considering volunteering? The words, “Here I am, Send me!” from Isaiah 6:8 are the volunteers’ motto.  Is this true for you? The book of Nehemiah just might be the best example of a volunteers’ handbook.  In rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah demonstrated several principles of divinely inspired and highly effective volunteering manual:

  • Recognize a project and make it your own (Nehemiah 1:3-4)
  • Pray about the project (Nehemiah 1:4-11)
  • Determine how you are uniquely positioned to participate in the project (Nehemiah 1:11)
  • Bring the project to the attention of those in authority and gain their permission to pursue it (Nehemiah 2:1-10)
  • Gather the information about the project (Nehemiah 2:11-16)
  • Report your findings to maintain accountability and arouse interest (Nehemiah 2: 17-20)
  • Inspire others to join your cause (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
  • Organize others to help you do the work (Nehemiah 3:1-32)
  • Confront opposition directly and turn to God when discouraged (Nehemiah 4:1-23)
  • Celebrate what is accomplished and give God the glory (Nehemiah 12:27-47)

Many would like to volunteer but feel unsure where to start?  You may share the desire but hesitate; feeling like you probably won’t make a difference anyway.  The opportunity to impact the work of the Kingdom provides great joy and needful service.

Excerpted with permission from The Woman’s Study Bible (available in NIV, NKJV, and KJV translations)

Let’s look at how volunteering can change the world: one heart… one service… one person at a time.

How Our Willing Service Can Change the World

What will win the world to the worship of God? Matthew 5:16 makes it clear: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” These words are fascinating and unexpected. The Lord here insists that the world will be brought to its knees before God through the “good deeds” of his people…

Humanly speaking, no one would have thought it possible to bring the nations to the worship of God through simple good deeds. How on earth could “good deeds” change a realm as mighty as the Roman Empire, let alone the whole world? As unlikely as it may have sounded at the time, Jesus’ call to be the light of the world was taken seriously by his disciples. They devoted themselves to quite heroic acts of godliness. They loved their enemies, prayed for their persecutors and cared for the poor wherever they found them…

We know, for instance, that by AD 250 the Christian community in Rome was supporting 1,500 destitute people every day. All around the Mediterranean churches were setting up food programs, hospitals and orphanages. These were available to believers and unbelievers alike. This was an innovation. Historians often point to ancient Israel as the first society to introduce a comprehensive welfare system that cared for the poor and marginalized within the community. Christians inherited this tradition but opened it up to Jew and Gentile, believer and unbeliever, alike.

And the result of all this? Well, within two and a half centuries Christians had gone from being a small band of several hundred Palestinian Jews to the greatest social force in world history. In fact, the influence of Christian good works was so great in the fourth century that Emperor Julian (AD 331 – 363) became fearful that Christianity might take over the world forever by the stealth of good works…

When denominations, congregations or home groups ask: “How can we better care for the sick? How can we meet the needs of the poor? What more can we do for the elderly? How can we foster peace?” and so on, [they are] searching for fresh ways to be, and to convey, the light of God’s glory to an unbelieving world.

Excerpted with permission from The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission by John Dickson (Zondervan).

Bible Study Questions

  1. Think of a time when someone performed a small act of service that made a big difference in your life. What made that act of service important to you?
  2. Reflect on the past week: Did you encounter any chances to use your time, knowledge, skills, money, or other resources?
  3. When you saw those needs, did you take action? Why or why not?
  4. Multiple Choice: When people ask me for help, I usually see this as (A) a burden, (B) an opportunity to use my skills, (C) a joy, (D) it depends. Discuss your answers.
  5. Have you ever thought of serving as letting “your light shine before others”? (Matt. 5:16) How does this affect your view of volunteering?
  6. Do you believe that serving others will bring you joy? Why or why not?
  7. What hurdles are hindering you from pursuing new service opportunities? Example: feel too busy, afraid to go out on a limb, don’t know how to get started, etc.
  8. Look over the principles above in the excerpt on Nehemiah. Which of those principles is especially surprising or counterintuitive to you?
  9. If you’re uncomfortable starting a new project of your own, here is an idea: This week, spend 30 minutes looking for opportunities to serve that already exist. Look for notices at your church, or on the church website. Pray that God would introduce you to a place where you can serve.

Leave a Comment

Have you used your volunteer efforts to witness to others? Are you afraid of stepping out in service for God? Why or why not? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

Thomas Nelson

Thomas Nelson, Inc., part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, has been providing readers with quality inspirational product for more than 200 years. The publishing group provides multiple formats of award-winning Bibles, books, gift books, cookbooks, curriculum and digital content, with distribution of its products in more than 100 countries.

John Dickson

John Dickson (PhD, Macquarie University, Sydney) is a senior research fellow of the Department of Ancient History, Macquarie University; co-director of the Centre for Public Christianity; and senior minister at St. Andrew’s Roseville. The author of more than a dozen books, he is the host of two major historical documentaries for Australian television and is a busy public speaker in corporations, universities, churches, and conferences.

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