“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wroth among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women). Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.”(Acts 5:12-15 KJV)
Shadows are used as imagery throughout the Bible in many different ways. We read about our lives being but a “fleeting shadow.” In Psalm 23, the psalmist writes about going through the “shadow of death.” In Isaiah, God says,” I have put my words in your mouth and have covered you with the shadow of my hand…” Several times throughout the Psalms, it refers to being in the “shadow of your wings,” a place where we are safe with our Lord.
But in the book of Acts, the reference to a shadow is different. The book of Acts takes place not long after Jesus ascends into heaven, and then Pentecost happens – when the Holy Spirit comes down and fills the Christians. This passage talks about the many signs and wonders that were done during that time. Incredible miracles were taking place, people respected and marveled at the Christians, and more and more believers were added to the church at this point.
There was so much power coming out of ‘the church’ at that time that people were actually bringing the sick into the streets, laying them there and hoping that the shadow of Peter might pass by, fall on them, and bring healing.
The power of God was manifested in Peter’s life in such a powerful way that people merely hoped to be touched by his shadow. And like Peter, we all have a shadow that falls on the people we pass by in life. Is your shadow leading people to Jesus?
We All Have a Shadow
What is a shadow? Webster’s Dictionary defines a shadow as “the dark figure cast upon a surface by a body intercepting the rays from a source of light.” In our case, as Christians, our shadow is that figure cast upon other people as we stand between them and the source of light – Jesus.
Every time you interact with someone, they’re coming in contact with your shadow. For better or for worse, your shadow is falling across each person that you meet. You’re leaving an imprint on the people that we touch – even briefly – in life, and we can either reveal God to them or turn them away from God.
This is what makes every day so special as Christians. We are God’s instruments for reaching other people and bringing blessings to the earth. It’s what Christians are created to do – influence others. Bring them in contact with Jesus. Show them love, healing, and encouragement. God desperately wants people he can work through to touch the world.
We have the ability to reveal the love and mercy of God without even talking to other people. Our very aura should immediately bring the presence of God into the room we enter. And even in situations where we don’t have a lot of time to spend talking or sharing verbally, our shadow should be passing over people, bringing blessings, and bringing them in contact with Jesus.
But most of us rarely ever think about the influence we have in our life. You have a circle of influence that no one else does. You go to work, and you touch the lives of people you work with or clients that you meet. When you’re traveling on the subway, you’re touching people. If you head to the gym before or after work, your shadow is touching people.
You touch people at the grocery store. The way you act when someone runs into you with their grocery cart at the store – that touches those watching you. Your shadow touches the people that you go to church with. Do you sit in your pew and stay to yourself or do you reach out to your brothers and sisters, lifting them up with a word of encouragement or simply showing that you care by listening to what they might have to say? Are you greeting the new people that walk into the church doors so they instantly feel welcome and like someone cares?
No matter where God has placed you, your shadow is falling on people every day. Some people, they’re shadow, will automatically encourage and comfort you when they come around. In fact, that’s the very reason that people flocked to see Jesus. He loved people, and they knew it. Jesus mingled with the people, even with the sinners. And instead of judging everyone, he loved them. In fact, the legalistic Pharisees of the day didn’t like that at all.
Jesus taught us a critical lesson about dealing with people. You can’t change people by judging them. But you can change people by loving them.
People Today are Struggling… We MUST Touch Them
People today are struggling. Look at the rising suicide rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in America. In 2021 alone, more than 48,000 Americans died by suicide, and it’s estimated that more than 1.4 million people attempted suicide.
Those are staggering numbers and a sure sign that people today are hurting – they need help. People are losing hope, and they’re desperately looking for someone who cares. They need someone to bring them the hope of Jesus.
As the suicide rate continues to increase across the United States, it’s a sure sign that we’re failing people as a church. We’re not making a positive influence when we touch people with our shadow. Too many of us are wrapped up in our own lives, in our own little world, that we never even see the people who so desperately need a little hope in their lives. Our shadow, our spirit, the way we look at people, the way we talk and our very attitude should be touching people with the love of Jesus.
How Does Your Shadow Affect the People You Meet?
In Peter’s case, his shadow brought healing to the people it fell upon. But how is your shadow affecting the people that you meet? There are three possible ways your shadow could be affecting people.
Is Your Shadow Neutral – All About You?
For some, they have a neutral shadow. They really never touch anyone at all because everything is all about them. Some people are so full of themselves that there’s never room for anything else; there’s never room for Jesus to shine through. It’s me, me, me all the time. When they talk to people, all they talk about is themselves, where they’ve been, what they’re doing, and what’s going on in their own lives. They don’t take the time to listen to other people or care enough to know what others are going through. They don’t even ask how others are doing. It’s just always about them.
If you’re going to influence other people, you can’t become self-centered. You have to leave room for Jesus to shine through. You’ve got to show that you care about other people, not just yourself.
Is Your Shadow Negative?
Other people have a negative shadow. When they touch other people, they always bring negativity, cynicism, and judgment. The glass is always half empty. People who meet them aren’t encouraged; instead, they’re brought down. Sometimes, these people are downright mean to other people, making judgmental comments, pointing out the faults of others, gossiping, or being hateful.
In a world where people are desperate for hope, we cannot have a negative shadow. We don’t want to be so negative that those we come in contact with actually lose hope. This type of influence can be devastating to the people around us, and the Bible lets us know that we’ll give account for the words we say – for every word that we say. God will judge us for our shadow and how it affects other people.
Is Your Shadow a Positive Blessing?
What our shadow – our influence – should be is a positive blessing in the lives of others. When people meet us, they should be lifted up. They should see and feel Jesus when they come in contact with us, even if it’s only for a brief moment. The Christian’s shadow should be glorifying Jesus, drawing lost people to Christ, and encouraging fellow Christians who are struggling.
3 Biblical Things We Can Do to Improve Our Shadow
So, what can we do to make sure our shadow is drawing people to Jesus instead of leading them in the wrong direction? How can we make sure our shadow is healing people instead of pulling them down? Here are three biblical things we can do:
Ask God to Fill You with His Spirit Daily
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is> And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;”(Ephesians 5:17-18)
How can we influence other people when our shadow passes over them? One of the keys is to make sure that we’re being filled with the Holy Spirit daily. When it talks about being “filled with the Spirit,” it’s not just talking about a one-time thing – it’s talking about a continual filling.
Every day, we need to be down on our knees asking God to fill us with himself so that people see Jesus when they come into contact with us. We must ask God to control us, to work through us to accomplish his plan, not only in our lives but also in the lives of those we touch. Remember, we are hands and feet, carrying out his plan and spreading his message of love to the world.
Why is it so important to be filled daily with the Spirit and controlled by the Holy Spirit? Because without that constant filling, we can become ‘bipolar’ Christians. One day, we’re on top of the world shouting “glory, hallelujah,” and the next day, we’re down in the dumps, discouraged, and casting a black cloud on everyone we meet.
When the Spirit continually fills us, it doesn’t matter whether we’re having a good day or a bad day, the Spirit of God is going to shine through us, helping us to be that influence that touches lives. Enabling us to cast a shadow of love and encouragement on people we meet, even though things may be difficult in our own lives.
Fill Yourself with the Word of God Daily
If we’re going to draw people to Christ with our shadow, it’s also essential to make sure we fill ourselves with the Word of God daily. Not only do we need the Word of God in our own lives, but we need it to be able to influence other people. As we come across people who need encouragement and lift up, we shouldn’t be telling them what we feel – instead, we need to be telling them what God’s Word says. And how can we do that if we’re not constantly in the Word, learning it and living it ourselves?
When you meet an individual who has lost a loved one or a person who feels like they have no hope, when you’ve been in the Word, you can ask God for something to say. Something that will lift their spirits and touch their heart. Don’t tell them you know how they feel or you feel your pain – you don’t! But God does, and he can use His Word to speak to people when we continually immerse ourselves in it each day. If you’ve been constantly digging into the Bible, it’s going to come out in your influence – and that’s exactly what God wants from us.
Become One Spirit with God and Let Him Break You
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Know yet not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”(I Corinthians 6:15-17)
Last, if we’re going to have a shadow that draws people to Jesus, we have to become one spirit with Jesus. In I Corinthians, it talks about how the church becomes a part of Christ, and when we are truly joined to the Lord, we become one spirit. It’s critical to continually be joining ourselves to the Lord, becoming one spirit with him so that we can live out of our spirit.
And when we become one spirit with Jesus, then we can talk from the spirit and live from the spirit. Instead of speaking from our head, where we’ve often built layers and walls to keep people away, Jesus wants us to minister to people through our spirit. This means being vulnerable.
We must let God break us, like the alabaster box, pouring us out so we can be used of him. God can’t use our shadow to draw people to himself if we’re constantly building walls to keep people out. No, he wants to break us open and get us into our heart and soul until we’re vulnerable and real. That’s the point where we’re truly able to make a difference and profoundly touch other people.
In so many cases, it’s when life has broken our hearts that God is able to use us in incredible ways to reach other people. You won’t touch many people if you’re hiding behind your walls and layers. But when you’re completely broken and showing people your vulnerability, they feel your heart and your spirit, and that’s when God can do amazing things through you.
We all have a shadow. And whether it’s drawing people towards Jesus or pushing them away is up to you. It’s my prayer that Jesus would use my shadow to touch people. As my shadow passes by those I come in contact with each day, may healing, mercy, comfort, and blessing affect the people around me. Whether we speak at length or we simply cross paths for a moment, I pray that somehow Jesus uses my shadow to bring people to him.
God’s plan is to use his people to spread his message. He wants us to spread his love and mercy to those we meet each day. And if we keep ourselves filled with the Spirit, dig deep into God’s Word, and become one with Christ, letting him break us and make us vulnerable, then he can use our shadow to touch people as we pass by, just like Peter was powerfully used by God.