Daniel Liew—Portsmouth, UK
“You’re a star!” is a phrase that we use in the United Kingdom to thank someone who has been particularly helpful. He or she has risen above others, putting in extra effort and shining like a light in the darkness of difficult times. As Christians, have we realized that this phrase holds more significance to us than the common usage?
THE STAR OF THE LORD
In Matthew 2:1–11, we learn about the wise men who came from the East to seek out the One born King of the Jews. The Bible does not explicitly explain how they knew of the King of the Jews or His importance, only that they saw His star in the East (Mt 2:2). Then, after they departed from Herod, the same star appeared to them again and went before them, guiding them to the Child (Mt 2:9). Seeing the star, they greatly rejoiced (Mt 2:10) and followed it to the abode of Jesus and His family. Then they entered the house, fell down, and worshiped Jesus, presenting their gifts to Him (Mt 2:11). The star was why they could find their way to Jesus and worship Him.
Today, the Lord Jesus has given us the mission to preach the gospel so that more people may come to know and worship Him. What qualities can we learn from this star so that we, too, can fulfill our role as a star of the Lord Jesus?
THE STAR SHONE BRIGHTLY
Matthew 2:2 records that the wise men saw the star in the East and then came searching for Jesus. When we look up into the night sky, what do we see? Numerous stars dot the darkness, twinkling in the sky. Since there are so many, what would draw our eye to one particular star over another? Perhaps the star was shining brighter than the others. Likewise, how can we shine brighter today?
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16)
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, and we shine before men through our good works. When others see these good deeds, they will rejoice and give glory to our Father in heaven. The pattern is the same when the wise men saw the star in the East: they saw it, were exceedingly glad, and then worshipped Jesus. Our daily conduct is integral to our being a star for the Lord Jesus. As believers, we are ambassadors for Christ, and the Scriptures exhort us to be exemplary in our conduct, speech, and attitude in life, in a way observable to those around us. But can we rely on our efforts alone to manifest this light for the Lord Jesus?
Exodus 34:29–35 describes a time when Moses ascended Mount Sinai to speak with God and receive the two stone tablets. A miraculous phenomenon occurred: Moses’ face started to shine (Ex 34:29–30). Why did this happen? Moses spoke face-to-face with God often, receiving His words and relaying them to the Israelites. In time, his face naturally started to shine, reflecting the glory of God. If we wish to shine brightly for the Lord Jesus today, we must spend time with Him and cultivate ourselves spiritually. First, this involves receiving God's word, whether by reading or listening, so we can know the difference between right and wrong in the sight of God. Next, prayer is an integral part of our spiritual cultivation. In prayer, we reflect upon God’s word and ask for strength and wisdom to apply His teachings in our life. Cultivating ourselves in this manner will lead to observable changes in our character, speech, and conduct. Our progress will be visible and evident to those around us (1 Tim 4:15).
People should see there is something different about us compared to others. Our speech will not be littered with swearing and foul language. Instead, it is seasoned with grace, without bitterness or complaining. Our behavior will not be self-centered or selfish but considerate of the needs of others. We will face difficulties with a positive attitude, knowing that the testing of our faith and character develops us and is for our good. Underlying our speech and actions are our fear of God and the knowledge that He is always watching us. We know we should glorify God in all we do and are held accountable for every word and deed.
With the Lord Jesus’ help, our good works will shine brightly before others, like the light shining from a star, and others will notice something different about us. As we shine brightly, our work as a star of the Lord Jesus will have begun.
THE STAR HAD NO NAME
This star was a unique phenomenon at that time. No one would have seen anything like this before, nor would anyone be likely to ever again. Despite being exceptional, this star was not named or explained except to describe its function—to lead the wise men to Jesus. The celestial bodies have long fascinated humans, becoming sources of folklore and the focus of study. Even stargazing through telescopes is a popular pastime. Usually, a star appearing and shining brightly like this would be an attraction in and of itself. However, here we see that the star is not the main attraction. As much as it outshone the other stars in the sky, its purpose was to bring the wise men to Jesus because He was the focus of their worship.
When it comes to preaching, while we are shining for the Lord Jesus, our hope is not that our friends and family will be drawn to us and build their faith on us. Instead, our earnest desire is that they come to know Jesus through us and focus their faith and worship on Him alone. Invariably, when we preach to someone and bring them to the church, we are expected to give them much of our time and attention. On the one hand, we feel responsible for them since we introduced them to Jesus, and we hope they will continue in the church. Other brothers and sisters may not care for them to the same level as we do. Not wanting them to feel neglected or uncared for, we put in extra efforts. Maybe we message them more or go out of our way to pick them up for church activities or drop them home after. Perhaps we even shower them with little gifts. As well-intentioned and innocuous as these seem, we may inadvertently create a dependency on ourselves that is difficult to sustain, especially when there are other truth-seekers or members for whom we should care. We may even become protective or possessive, saying, “These are the truth-seekers I brought to the church. I’ll take care of them, and no one else needs to do anything for them.”
It is right to put effort into preaching and pastoral work, and showing love is an essential part of that, demonstrating that we are the disciples of Jesus (Jn 13:35). However, if our friends and family only come to church because of us, there is a great danger. Those who go on to believe may become dependent on us in their life of faith. If we do not attend services for a time, move to another area, or stumble in our faith, this may cause those dependent members to lose their faith and depart. How can we counteract this?
Firstly, we must remain humble in our work for the Lord.
So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Cor 3:7)
Our role in the work is to preach the gospel to others. We are not the main character of the gospel, and we will never be. At best, we are the supporting actors who lead the “audience” to the main character: Jesus Christ. We are just unprofitable servants, doing what our Master instructed us to do (Lk 17:10). Armed with this mindset, we would not think anything more of ourselves than we ought to. We would continue to do the work of preaching the gospel and bringing people to Jesus faithfully, knowing we will be rewarded.
Secondly, we need to ensure that we always direct the focus to the Lord Jesus, helping our truth-seeking friends and family have the right mindset from the start. Jesus is the One they need to know and worship. His words are more important than my words. Refer them to the Bible and what God teaches. That way, we help them to see more of Jesus and less of ourselves. While our opinion may be valued, so long as we ground everything we share and explain in the Scriptures, God’s word will become the foundation of that person’s faith.
Thirdly, we should do our utmost to connect other brothers and sisters from the church to our friends and family. When the circle of friends expands, there is less dependency on one or two people. Instead, more relationships can be built among the brethren, and, ultimately, they will develop a strong connection with God and His church.
THE STAR HAD DIRECTION
The star first appeared in the East to alert the wise men to Jesus’ birth (Mt 2:2). Then it reappeared to lead them out of Jerusalem, into the countryside, along various roads and paths, until it stopped above the very house where the young Child Jesus and His family were staying (Mt 2:9). Only then had the star fulfilled its purpose. The star only led them until they could come before Jesus and worship Him. Thus, we can see that this star had a strong sense of direction. It moved with purpose and did not detour from its final goal. It followed its path not only to bring itself before Jesus but also to guide the wise men there. The question is, do we know our direction and goal in life? Where is the end of our journey?
Peter tells us that the end of our faith and our life in this world is the salvation of our souls (1 Pet 1:9). We strive towards that ultimate goal. Peter knew the believers were grieved by various trials and encouraged them that this was a necessary part of the journey—for their faith to become refined like gold (1 Pet 1:6–8). He was concerned that they would lose sight of the reason for their suffering, so he pointed out the prize waiting at the end of the road. We, too, face similar trials, tribulations, and tests of our resolve and faith. Life is filled with so many distractions that we may lose our sense of direction and forget why we strive for our faith. We must keep this heavenly goal in sight to be driven to maintain our faith. This will affect the way that we behave in our daily lives.
The author of Hebrews similarly states that the hope God has given us is an anchor of the soul (Heb 6:19). An anchor’s purpose is to enable a ship or boat to hold its position. It prevents the wind and the waves, though boisterous, from moving the vessel away from where it wants to be. Challenges may come and threaten to push us off course, but we will maintain our position by God's grace, anchored in this hope. Practically speaking, how can we ensure that we remain faithful to the course?
Our attitude to worshiping God, especially on the Sabbath day, is one good indicator. God blessed the seventh day of the week and made it holy, setting it apart as a reminder of the eternal Sabbath that we will enjoy in our heavenly future. If we choose to enjoy the blessings of the Sabbath every week, we will eagerly attend Sabbath services and allow God to strengthen our faith and trust in Him. We know that with each Sabbath that passes, we are one Sabbath closer to receiving the fulfillment of our hope. Naturally, when our school friends and work colleagues inquire about our weekend plans, it is time to show our direction:
“I go to church to attend Sabbath services and other church activities.”
“Really? Every week?”
“Yes, every week.”
While it may seem strange to others, our resolve and faithfulness to observe the Sabbath and spiritually cultivate ourselves show that we strive towards a goal. It is a goal that we believe is precious. If it were not so, we would not invest our time and effort in such a manner. Our friends and colleagues may further ask, “Why do you do it?” This is when we must fulfill the role of being a star of the Lord Jesus.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. (1 Pet 3:15)
We hope we will be able to appear before the Lord, and we hope the same for our friends and family. We can introduce Jesus to those around us and share our faith with them. Then, God willing, we will be able to guide them to follow us to the presence of the Lord Jesus.
“Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan 12:3)
We have already been made wise for salvation through the word and mercy of God (2 Tim 3:15). Now, we have a responsibility to fulfill. We are to be like stars who turn many to righteousness by leading them to the Lord Jesus.
May the Lord Jesus help us become good and faithful stars for Him so that many more can be made exceedingly glad and worship the one true God.