Month: September 2021

Should we seek the spotlight?

We live in an attention-seeking age. That’s true not only in the wider culture, but even inside the Christian church, as we’re told that as Christians, we should make a giant visible impact for the Kingdom of God.

But what about someone who leads a quiet life, serving the Lord behind the scenes with actions that don’t get widely known or garner much attention and are quite outside the spotlight?

Today, I applaud out-of-the-spotlight people. I’m reminded of a memorial service at my old church. The honoree was a quiet and unassuming man who did not stand out in the public worship service. But at the memorial, person after person came up to testify about the loving deeds he had done in the name of Jesus that no one knew about.

Consider these words from the Apostle Paul:

 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders. (1 Thessalonians 4:9-12a)

Could it be that loving God’s family more and more is more important than flashiness? How far this is from a “whatever works” mentality —- the philosophy that given the right techniques and programs, your church will look successful and your attendance will skyrocket?

One more thought about this quiet life: so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.

Suppose as a Christian I am known for loud, angry outrage at all that’s wrong in society and show myself to be a nasty troll on social media. Instead of loving, I become a spewing volcano of invective. Someone says, ‘If that’s what Christians are, I want no part of it.”

That may be giving someone an excuse to reject the truth of the gospel.

On the contrary, I’d like to live in a way such that someone might say “I don’t believe what that guy is saying about Jesus, but at least the way he lives is consistent with what he is preaching.”

Why be an unnecessary obstacle? I’d rather have them wrestle with the real reasons they don’t want to believe…….than be able to use me as an excuse for not believing!

God Will Come Near

But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. (Exodus 23:29-30)

After Exodus, the book of Joshua begins by showing how God granted Israel major victories to defeat the main military powers in the promised land of Canaan. But next, each tribe was supposed to complete the mission by removing the remaining pockets of resistance in their territories. Unfortunately, they never finished that assignment.

When I first believed, God gave quick change to many deep rooted negative attitudes and habits. With so many weaknesses rapidly wiped away it felt like I would now have a life filled with unending joy.

Ha! I was unsuspecting of remaining pockets of resistance in my life, how much work still had to be done and how much I still needed to change! So when I encountered some serious major obstacles, I was stunned and then overwhelmed when they did not get quickly cleared away. I then backslid and made many stupid choices.

Did that make a shipwreck of my Christianity? No —-I never did lose sight of how I was a new creation in Christ.  But I had a poor understanding of what it takes to learn to grow in wisdom, making wise choices and growing in love.

Now it’s decades later. Am I free from all sin? Not quite! True, I have traded gross or obviously stupid sins for what Jerry Bridges called respectable sins [1]. As if a little bit of resentment, jealousy, envy, and secret anger is not a problem at all! That’s why I cannot say I have arrived. There are still pockets of resistance. I still have more land to possess. Yet there is good reason to keep pressing on.

Whether you have been at this for a long time or are more of a beginner, this remains great advice:

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7–8a)

There’s an amazing interplay here between what I need to do and what God promises to do.

I must submit, resist, and come near. And then: God will come near. Is this for one time only? A one and done deal? Nope, it’s daily. Seek such an encounter with the presence of God today. And tomorrow. Renew it each day for the rest of your time on earth!