“Is there hope for purity?”
“We can learn, ‘the secret of a holy life, from the water lily, that, on the bosom of some slimy pool, surrounded by weeds and rubbish, strikes down its channeled stem to the pure sands beneath, and, drawing thence its life, lifts up its fragrant blossoms to the light in spotless purity”
“Like Christ, we must have an aim for everything we do, for everything we wear and for everywhere we go”
Called to Stand Apart
by: Shanele Beckford
Is there hope for purity, modesty, and truth, while living in the city? Yes. Like a water lily budding from a dirty pond, we too can shine for Jesus in the city. But should city living be the norm? Definitely not. “Life in the cities is false and artificial. The intense passion for money getting, the whirl of excitement and pleasure seeking, the thirst for display, the luxury and extravagance—all are forces that, with the great masses of mankind, are turning the mind from life’s true purpose. They are opening the door to a thousand evils. Upon the youth they have almost irresistible power.” (1)
Nevertheless, “..many cannot have their surrounding what they would, but we should not voluntarily expose ourselves to influences that are unfavorable to the formation of Christian character. When duty calls us to do this, we should be doubly watchful and prayerful, that, through the grace of Christ, we may stand uncorrupted.”(2)
If we are temporally called for city living, how can we stand uncorrupted in the midst of corrupt surroundings? We can learn, “the secret of a holy life, from the water lily, that, on the bosom of some slimy pool, surrounded by weeds and rubbish, strikes down its channeled stem to the pure sands beneath, and, drawing thence its life, lifts up its fragrant blossoms to the light in spotless purity.”(3)
One day I went to a flower park in Japan that was filled with a plethora of lovely colors and arrangements. I walked over to the murky pond and was disappointed when I didn’t see the water lily, beautiful and white in the midst of the pond. According to Deuteronomy 29:29 not all secrets are revealed, but we can praise God that the secret of a holy life is! Let us learn from that channeled stem that is rooted and grounded. Not only does it draw properties from the pure sand beneath but it also refuses all the debris and every unsightly thing.(4) In like manner, we must prove all things and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This entails resisting the devil and drawing nigh to God (James 4:7,8).
Practically this could mean resisting the entrancement of the entertainment world. Like the Psalmist, we too can say, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…” (Psalm 101:3). This could mean avoiding going to certain places, like the movie theater. The counsel is solemn. “The blessing of God would not be invoked upon the hour spent at the theater or in the dance. No Christian would wish to meet death in such a place. No one would wish to be found there when Christ shall come.” (5) It’s interesting that the quote mentions death; recently the theaters seem to be a popular spot for murder and vice. You may have heard about the man who was shot while on a date with his wife; he had just been texting his daughter to see if she was ok. Or maybe you heard about the shooting at the theaters in Colorado at the newest Batman movie. According to Fox News, this was “the deadliest U.S. shooting since the Fort Hood massacre in 2009.”(6) Now, that’s serious! Lilies, we must abstain from appearing at these places.
It is true that tragic happenings are not limited to movie theaters. However, what would be the purpose for going to the movies in the first place? Would the content played be uplifting and Christ-centered? Sad to say, but even with “Christian” movies, we have to be careful. And one of the major deceptions is spiritualism. The belief that when you die you go to heaven. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” If the dead are already in heaven how can they rise when Jesus comes?
Another enticement we should take caution of is social media. Not always, but much of it is used to consume time, as a means to gossip, or a tool to foster vanity and pride. Where “#selfies” are primarily used to attract attention to self. The motive for pictures and dress should not be, “Look at me; admire me.” All glory belongs to God and yet, “Jesus purposed that no attraction of an earthly nature should call men to His side. Only the beauty of heavenly truth must draw those who would follow Him.”(7)
We must seriously consider what we are posting, looking at, and who we are following. Nick Bilton wrote an article entitled “Reclaiming Our (Real) Lives From Social Media” in the NY Times which said, “like a virus slowly invading its victim, social media has methodically started to consume every hour of my day. Morning coffees, lunchtime breaks, time before bed…”(8) Can you relate? When living in the city, it is easy to fall into this trap. Why? Because “Life in the cities is false and artificial”
“Our social entertainments should not be governed by the dictates of worldly custom, but by the Spirit of Christ and the teaching of His word.”(9) Even with our social entertainments, God is calling us to stand apart. The Bibles cautions, “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) This principle can be applied to many things, whether on the Internet or exploring around town. Excessive time on our gadgets can be overcome by spending time with people and even more time with God. Like the big green pads on the lily we too need to collect energy from the Son.
The Son of righteousness can empower us and help us to overcome pleasure seeking. Evil things can be overcome with wholesome activities, such as going to a botanical garden, the aquarium, out on a boat, or even taking part in a pottery class, just to name a few. Another example of replacing the bad with the good is with music. For instance, when a wicked song is heard on a subway or in a store we can seek to overcome it by singing a heavenly song.
We shouldn’t set ourselves up. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished” (Proverbs 27:12). Sometimes we have to “hide” or keep ourselves away from going to certain places or being apart of certain networks altogether. Other times we may have to flee like Joseph when the wiles of the devil approach us. And then there are times when our focus needs to be redirected. Just like the mind, when the vision wanders, bring it back.
I remember a time when I was sitting in a food court at a mall and was sadden to see an ad stuck to a table for some awful movie. But, the Lord helped me to redirect my focus. He had me fix my eyes upward. Can you guess what I saw? A lily in the city! It was an artistic light fixture shaped like a water lily. It was as if God was bidding me to strive to be like the water lily in the midst of my surroundings, a light in the midst of darkness. This is God’s calling for all of us. The Bible says, “Let your light so shine…” (Matthew 5:16).
This is what Jesus did. “Christ, the only sinless one who ever dwelt on earth, for nearly thirty years lived among the wicked inhabitants of Nazareth. This fact is a rebuke to those who think themselves dependent upon place, fortune, or prosperity, to live a blameless life.”(10)
How did He do it? He knew His mission, He had an aim, and He was industrious. “No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Neither gain nor pleasure, applause nor censure, could induce Him to consent to a wrong act.” (11) Like Christ, we must have an aim, for everything we do, for everything we wear and for everywhere we go, especially, when we are in the cities.
We must be faithful where we are, and prepare for where God would have us to be next. In the meantime, let us remember:
- To Be Doubly Watchful
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8) The enemy is out to deceive the very elect, we must constantly be on guard and alert. In addition, we must watch for indications of God’s providence when He would have us leave to go elsewhere.
- To Be Doubly Prayerful
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) The amount we would pray if we were out in the country should be doubled when in the city. May God help us dedicate golden moments throughout the day for sweet fellowship with Him. Also, let’s lift up our hearts to Him during our daily toil. And let us pray that when we are in the cities that God will help us to be like those water lilies!
- To Have No Aimless Hours
“An aimless life is a living death”(12) If we have no purpose, we can easily get caught in the midst of the maddening rush and have little or no time for God.
“Success in any line demands a definite aim.”(13) Do you know the definite aim of Christ? “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” John 4:34. The mission or definite aim of Christ was to finish the work. Our definite aim should be one in the same. Finishing the work encompasses getting ready and preparing others for His soon coming. A people must be prepared to stand true to God during the investigative judgment. With this objective in mind, we can be more focused when we are shopping, working, and gathering with friends.
Another life lesson from the water lily is their ability to quickly reproduce. From one water lily a single pond can be highly populated in a short amount of time! In like manner, God wants to use our influence to help “cut the work short.” “For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.” (Romans 9:28) The secret is out. Is it your desire to be like a water lily and lift up your blossoms to the light? God’s word is the “light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). We must be rooted and grounded in the Scriptures in order to not be defiled by the weeds and rubbish. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Only with God is this possible. Let us individually stop and pray and consecrate our lives to Him, just now.
Closing thought: Beauty and fragrance are expected of the rose, planted in the dry and well-cultivated soil, and tenderly reared under the watchful eye of the lover of the beautiful. But we pass over the expected glory of the rose to admire the living green, the pure white, and the delicate tint of the water-lily whose root reaches way down into the cold filth of the bottom of the obscure lake. And we revere that Power which causes this queen of flowers, uncultivated and obscure, to appropriate to itself all valuable qualities from its chilling surroundings, and to reject the evil.(14)
1. Ellen G White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905) p. 346
2. Ellen G White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952) p. 131
3. Ellen G White, Education (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903) p. 119
4. Ellen G White, Child Guidance (Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1954) p 58
5. Ellen G White, Messages to Young People (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1930) p. 398
7. Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898) p. 43
9. Ellen G White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905) p. 352
10. Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898) p. 72
12. Ellen G White, Healthful Living (Battle Creek, Michigan: Medical Missionary Board 1897) p. 31
13. Ellen G White, Education (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903) p. 263
14. Joseph Bates. The Early Life and Later Experience and Labors of Elder Joseph Bates (Battle Creek, Michigan: Steam Press. 1878) p. 15