We all enjoy being recognized and receiving admiration from others. The good old "pat on the back." There's nothing wrong with being encouraged by others and certainly Paul in his epistles puts emphasis on the importance of building up one another. What is interesting is that God's so-called "pat on the back" is not so much physical as it is spiritual. Furthermore the things that God delights in come from the spiritual disciplines that draw us deeper into relationship with Him. I was struck by Jesus' words in Matthew 6 when He spoke about the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and giving. At the end of His discussion on each of these disciplines Jesus calls His disciples to do all these things in secret (italics mine) "Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:4b; 6:6b; 6:18b) Isn't it interesting that the God who is unseen wants these disciplines not seen or flaunted in front of others. That is the opposite of what the world system admires and encourages. The more our deeds point to what we've done and our own greatness, the more "brownie points" we earn. But God is more interested in what goes on in the "secret place" or in other words our hearts. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel had it in his head as to who looked like "kingly material" as he considered the outward appearance of each of David's brothers. But the Lord goes on to tell Samuel that his thinking is wrong, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."(1 Samuel 16:7) Prayer, fasting and giving come from that secret place where the eyes of the Lord capture our true intentions. A heart that desires to be in tune with the heart of God. It is not about being out front with all the lights and the cameras, but God rewards the things done "behind the scenes." It is all about pleasing Him. I think about the individuals and organizations who have been laboring for the kingdom and the "least of these" for years. Yet these individuals and/or organizations (i.e. Compassion International, Kiva) will rarely if ever be spotlighted on television. However, when an actor like George Clooney takes an interest in the Sudan, it gets reported. I have nothing against George Clooney and I applaud his hard work to help the forgotten people of the Sudan. However, God's people have been in these places for years, not motivated by television air time but rather their desire to be faithful to the compassion that flows from that "secret place." And I am confident God has been faithful to reward their efforts as evidenced through lives that have been changed and transformed not only through having their physical needs met but also their spiritual needs as they enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship that has eternal value. As a result, I believe that because of their faithfulness, many of the organizations such as World Vision have continued to provide needed services in spite of the difficult economic times. This stands in contrast to self-centered corporations who in some cases have buckled under the weight of financial pressures. Yes, I have an ego just like every other person on planet earth and those strokes sure feel good. But I am encouraged by the rewards yet to come from the hand of my Father when we meet in that secret place.
Peace in Christ,