I’m in the sixth day of using Prof. Grant Horner’s Bible reading plan and thoroughly enjoying it. It involves reading from 10 different sections of the Bible each day, using bookmarks to keep your place. Each time I read I come away with a greater appreciation for God’s sovereignty over history and am already starting to see the benefits of Scripture commenting on Scripture.
This morning one of my readings was Matthew 6. Three times these words caught my attention:
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mt. 6:4, 5, 18)
Jesus used that phrase when he was speaking about giving, praying, and fasting. It made me think more carefully about leading others in worshiping God.
I tend to think that the most important parts of my life are what everyone sees. Sunday mornings, conferences, public events. I spend a lot of time preparing for times when I’m in front of people. I have a tendency to think that those times must have greater significance than what I’m doing when no one’s looking. Certainly God is watching more closely and more is accomplished for the kingdom when I’m leading huge crowds than when I’m by myself. Right?
As usual, Jesus cuts across the grain of my assumptions. What he said can revolutionize how I think about public ministry.
1. God thinks what I do when no one else is watching is pretty important.
Time alone can seem so inconsequential. That’s why we can fill it so easily with seemingly harmless activities with Facebook, Twitter, video games, TV, movies, web surfing; or more overtly sinful activities like viewing pornography, nursing bitterness, or lusting after what we don’t have. But God sees it all. Our heavenly Father sees what we do in secret. Meditating on that consistently is bound to lead to the fear of the Lord.
2. The rewards of eternity are better than the rewards of this life.
Countless millions spend their lives pursuing goals, possessions, and achievements that will vanish when they die. Jesus lets us in on a secret. The rewards to live for are the ones the Father will hand out on the last day. At that moment, the number of my blog readers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or fans will have zero effect on my status before God. So why are those things so important to me now?
3. Being rewarded by the Father is infinitely more important than being rewarded by people.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with honoring others or being honored. In fact, God tells us to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom. 13:7). The problem comes when we live for and seek the praise of men rather than the praise of God (Jn. 5:41-44). When we act spiritually simply to impress others, we have all the reward we’ll ever get. When, by God’s grace in Christ, we hear “well done” on the last day, we’ll realize in a moment the only evaluation that mattered.
Bottom line: if I gauge my maturity only by what I do when others can see me, I may be terribly deceived about my true state before God.
May we be faithful to help the people in our churches remember that our heavenly Father both sees and rewards – what we do in secret.