I am sure that all of us at one time or another played the game of shadow casting; placing our hands in different configurations to create shadows that represent something else. In our text this morning we find that the shadow in question has nothing to do with playing games. It is a reference to the tremendous influence of the Apostle Peter upon the lives of others.
I don't know about you, but I seldom give much thought to my shadow. Unless something draws my attention to it, I don't look at it, nor do I think about what it may touch. But whether I think about it or not, my shadow is still there and whether we think about it or not, we cannot separate ourselves from the influence we have in the lives of others. This influence can be negative or positive. For example, Germany will never be able to rid itself of the influence of one man. Although he has been dead for many years; Germany remains in the shadow of Adolf Hitler.
Consider also the shadow of the cross upon this world. No other event in history has had a greater impact than the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. For a world that prides itself on its humanity and tries to distance itself from God and His influence, the cross remains a reminder of God's love and sacrifice for all of mankind.
What kind of shadow are we casting? What kind of influence are we having on the lives of our children, grandchildren, and others around us? Casting a shadow of godly influence requires certain things from us.
Firstly: Being Willing to Sacrifice - the Sacrifice of Time.
Time is our most precious possession, and we must ensure we are making the best use of the time we have been given. Many people are willing to give up material things in order to avoid the giving of their time. Of course it is obvious that we will not sacrifice our time until we realise that it isn't ours. Like everything else we have, it is God given.
Next comes a hard one - the Sacrifice of Money. The shutters usually fall at this point.
(Acts 4:32) "And the multitude of believers were of one heart and of one mind: nobody said the things which he possessed were his alone; but they had all things common."
I realise that this is a touchy subject. Just as with our time, we need to realise that God has given us the material things in this life as well, and we are to be good stewards of them. If we have an attitude that says that ‘we earned it, so it is ours' we will struggle to give. This is a fundamental mistake that too many make, for just as we are accountable to God for how we use our time, we will also be required to give an account to God for how we used our money.
Remember the parable of the talents: When the landowner returned,he commanded the servants to be called to him, so that he might know how much each man had made with his talents. In this parable we like to hear the part where the Lord says, 'Well done thou good and faithful servant', but we must not lose sight of the fact that the Lord will hold us accountable. It isn't a question of how much money we have or give; it is how we use our money that matters.
Casting a godly shadow requires that we be willing to sacrifice both our time and our money and that we are Consistent. In Yellowstone National Park there is a geyser called 'Old Faithful'. Twice an hour this geyser shoots a spray of scalding water up into the air. This happens every hour of every day of every year. Whether there is a crowd watching, or just the bears;old faithful remains faithful!
Consistently Faithful and Consistently Obedient.
As we look at the Old Testament and we read the history of the nation of Israel we find that they went through cycles of obedience. Obedience and blessing; disobedience and chastisement; followed by a return to obedience, and then the cycle repeats itself over and over again. Casting a godly shadow means that we are willing to make sacrifices, and that we are consistently faithful and obedient.
Here comes another hard one - obedient in Sharing the Faith.
People need God. It has been said there is a God-shaped vacuum in each one of us. I am more convinced now than I have ever been that we must share our faith with our children, grandchildren, friends, co-workers and neighbours, if we believe that without Jesus Christ they will be lost for eternity. History has a nasty habit of repeating itself.
(Judges 2:10) "All that generation died and were buried with their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which did not know the LORD." This is exactly where we are in Great Britain. We have failed to pass the torch of faith, and know we have a generation, or two, who for the most part, do not know The Lord and have never been inside a church.
We can criticise them or the system all we like, but the bottom line is that it is up to us to turn the tide and begin casting godly shadows on those around us. He did not say much worth quoting, but the words of former president Ronald Reagan and true: "If not us, then who? If not now, when?"
So this morning the key question is - what kind of shadow are we casting? Is it one of godly influence on those around us? Are we determined this morning to be willing to make the sacrifices necessary, to determine to be consistently faithful and obedient in our walk with the Lord, and will we share our faith? If the answer is ‘Yes Lord, I will if you will guide and help me,’ we will continue here as a church and grow as a Christian community. If the answer is ‘no,’ this church will slowly die as there will be no-one to pick up the baton.
As the saying goes, 'the choice is ours.'