City Lights

As a young family heading home on the highway from trips away, we’d often pass by the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia. It literally sits on top of a huge hill, hundreds of feet high. At night, you could see its lights sparkling in the distance, often looking like a crown on top a regal head. It reminded us that we were getting close to home.

In Bible times, you can imagine how a city would look at night on top a hill. No electric lights invaded the darkness, but the oil lamps and cooking fires of a community would easily mark its location. Jesus said our lives as disciples need to be like that. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

When Jesus taught these principles in his Sermon on the Mount, he had the sterile, cold lives of the Pharisees in mind. Instead of following their unsympathetic lives, he challenged the people to genuinely care for others and become lights in the world.

Kind, helpful good works are always appreciated. People are drawn to the thoughtfulness of others. They are remembered for a long time. When Jesus did kind things for people, they were recorded in the New Testament and studied by followers for centuries.

Good works aren’t to be deliberately shown off, like medals on a uniform. It’s just that they can’t really be hidden. When we’re busy doing them, people naturally notice what you’re doing. And if you’re doing them with humility and care, you will be like city lights on a hill. God will be glorified.

What a great challenge from the Lord of good works.

– Tim Johnson


A discouraged church secretary once said, “I’ve had enough of this; nobody notices all my hard work!” What one of us can’t sympathize with her? Hard work often goes unappreciated, and people are convinced they should stop doing it.

In one of the apostle Paul’s great passages about the judgment, he said we must be patient in the way we serve God. “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” (Rom.2:7) While we are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, no man can enter heaven without a life of service, seeking to please God by his way of life. And that service must be “persistent” (NIV), done with “perseverance” (NASV), also described as “patient continuance in doing good” (NKJV).

We are easily discouraged. Some think their efforts should be praised by all, but are often ignored by all. Others encounter criticism for a job done well, or callous suggestions it could be done better another way. Many simply grow weary, feeling unacknowledged. Most congregations have children’s teachers who do their work every Sunday without notice; elders who grapple patiently with difficult situations with little praise; and maintenance people who selflessly pick up after everyone goes home. Few notice them.

Who are we trying to impress? Are we seeking honour from those around us? Are we being “selfishly ambitious” (v8) in what we do? Is human glory the thing we seek? Must we plaster our good works on Facebook? The apostle tells us God is pleased with people who seek the glory and honour from HIM, when He judges us on the last day. To be motivated by this allows us to work patiently, not expecting attention or praise, for we know that will come later.

When nobody seems to notice your patient good works, God notices. When no one seems to care for your sacrifices, God cares. When you’re worn out by service and everyone else seems to have a good night’s sleep, God sees your persistence. Serve to please Him, and the glory He will give you later.

And thank somebody today for the thankless things they do.

– Tim Johnson