“Meanwhile, I’m preserving for Myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven’t bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven’t kissed his image.”
(1 Kings 19:18, The Message Translation)
There are things that God does that makes my head spin. For example, Jesus told a crowd of many thousands that the very hairs of their heads were all numbered, so they ought not to doubt that they had their Heavenly Father’s full attention. (Matthew 10:30, Luke 12:7) Whether the Lord meant that metaphorically or actually, the incredible intimacy of that claim is mind blowing. Not only does He calculate my hair count (a job that, for me, gets easier day by day), but He knows what I worry about. Even though I shouldn’t worry—that’s the point of Jesus’ illustration. But what makes my brain explode is that there are multitudes upon multitudes of people just like me who love Jesus and believe that He cares about them in an absolutely undistracted fashion.
I am not talking about the Christian “celebrities.” Sometimes it is easier to think, wrongly, that they are the Lord’s special favorites. The Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham . . . and the list goes on and on. Not only did these people appear to be fully devoted to the Lord but the fruitfulness of their lives for the Kingdom of God was obvious in global dimensions. There are even Christians here locally that everyone knows and their lives and ministries are rightfully respected and admired. Most of them certainly didn’t seek the limelight and embrace their “fame” with humility and even a degree of awkwardness.
The rest of us are the hidden ones. So many of us that will never write the best-selling book about the Bible or host a Christian television show or even appear on the Sunday-morning platform at church. We won’t write that song everyone is singing or launch an international relief ministry. Instead, we walk along in relative anonymity, serving and loving and trusting Jesus when no one seems to be watching. Let’s be honest, it can get lonely and feel thankless sometimes. We persevere on ordinary days, trying to pray, hoping to understand the Scripture, doing the best we can. No earthly acclaim or awards ceremony.
You know what I think? I think God has a special place in His heart for the hidden things, what He keeps secret. How do I know? Well, consider this:
The birth announcement of the son of God was observed only by shepherds. Angels then sent them to the birth place, not a palace but an out of the way animal trough. (Luke 2:8-18)
Jesus told His disciples to give, pray and fast in secret. (Matthew 6:3-4, 6, 18)
After healing a leper and performing a whole boat load of miracles, Jesus told the beneficiaries to say nothing to anyone about it. (Mark 1:44, 3:12)
Jesus told his followers that life is like a wedding feast. Always take the most inconspicuous seat. (Luke 14:8)
Jesus purposefully shared challenging messages with the masses of would-be disciples in order to thin the crowd, to find out who could trust Him when He spoke the puzzling, difficult teachings. (Luke 14:25-27 and John 6:41-66)
After being tried and sentenced in the most public fashion before thousands of people in Jerusalem, Jesus only appeared to 500 plus people in His resurrected body. Talk about missing the greatest opportunity to say “I told you so” ever! And the first witness to Jesus’ resurrection was a woman, the least renowned witness to openly broadcast such earthshaking news. (1 Corinthians 15:5-8 and John 20:11-18)
Why the divine preference for a low profile? In the all-important struggle between the Lord’s will and my own self-centeredness, it must be a clear and decisive victory for the former. If I settle for self-generated, human-manufactured, worldly-energized success, any transformation will be hollow and temporary. God’s unstoppable power is released when I die to myself in the secret places. Remember what John the Baptist said, “He must become greater and I must become less”—even hidden. (John 3:30)
Jesus loved to tell stories about seeds and planting. What always happens to the lowly seed destined to produce fruit? It gets shoved down into the darkness of the soil, solitary and alone—even hidden. But if that seed manages to avoid the well-worn path, thin top soil covering a rocky place, or a bunch of smothering weeds, it will multiply itself thirty, sixty, maybe even a hundred times. (Mark 4:4-8) If that’s God’s strategy for producing a bumper crop of fruitful disciples, then I guess I don’t mind the lack of visibility. And sometimes, when I least expect it, God might just shine His light on my life. The woman who tried to hide in the crowd while seeking healing through touching Jesus could tell us all about that. (Mark 5:25-34) I’m happy to let the Lord be my publicity agent in all circumstances so that He is always the focus of attention. Most Christian “celebrities” feel the same way.
The only trouble is that it just feels so lonely sometimes to be a hidden one. In the spiritual battle that swirls around us, we soldier on, trying to stay alive and faithful to the Lord’s ways. After his confrontation with the Baal prophets and the subsequent death threat issued to him by Queen Jezebel, Elijah felt this way. He complained to the Lord that he was the only one left who had been faithful to Him, a hunted man by enemies who wanted to kill him. (1 Kings 19:9-18) The Lord’s response? It is the opening verse of this reflection above. God told Elijah he wasn’t alone at all. There were 7000 other hidden ones, fighting the good fight and remaining loyal to the Lord.
So, my fellow hidden one, you are not alone! The unknown sacrifices you make for the Lord and the secret prayers that you utter do matter. Your anonymous obedience and your dogged commitment to keep following Jesus, no matter how many times you fail or fall down—your desperate perseverance and dependence on Him—all add up. Imagine all of the people around the world who are simply putting one foot in front of the other today while also putting Jesus first in their hearts—just like you. Consider the glory for God and the celebration in heaven these quiet lives are producing—that your life is producing. Our Father sees us—and that is more than enough! (Genesis 16:13)
Heavenly Father, sometimes the selfish part of me wants to be acknowledged or awarded for a life lived for You. But it doesn’t work that way. Help me to walk away from any desire to puff up myself at the expense of my relationship with You. I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are serving You today in obscurity. Encourage and strengthen them in their witness for You. Remind me that I am never alone in the company of the faithful—and that You are always with me for eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.