While biblical discernment is a necessary part of Christian discipleship, it is never a good thing when such focus supersedes the free and constant expression of praise and thanksgiving to our Lord Jesus Christ. In my past attempts to raise serious questions about the sad state of “American Christianity,” I fear I have often failed to bring more unfettered appreciation to God for His living Church, and to show proper thanks for the many faithful laborers who humbly serve Christ outside the public arena.
In the midst of this anxiety, I have been reminded of what God told Paul in his time of great fear: “I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). Indeed I know there are many dear brothers and sisters out there who are quietly sowing the seeds of the Gospel and showing forth the love of Jesus to those within the tiny parcel of the world allotted to them by our sovereign God. Truly, I thank the Lord for all of them.
These humble servants aren’t among the celebrity preachers, bestselling authors, or the popular gurus that the world props up. They toil in the darkness, bringing light as they go, but never see the media spotlight. They put hand to plow in the rocky soil of barren fields, but their meager harvest gains no market share. They portray Christlikeness in nursing homes, prisons, and orphanages, but they are never called to the stage to receive a golden statue for their outstanding performances.
This is not to suggest, of course, that men and women of God cannot find honorable prominence in the Church or even in the world, but such fame is not the true measure of their dedication and service to the Lord. Surely we are blessed by those strong Christian voices that have risen above the throng, but far more disciples go unnoticed as God leads them to toil in the outer, far-flung fields of service. In my estimation, these are the backbone of the body of Christ that often bare the brunt of “being hated by the world” (John 15:19).
I think of people like Pastor Bob of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, one of the most affectionate and caring shepherds I’ve ever met in my life, who wants so much to honor Jesus with the fruit of a large growing church, but has been charged by the Lord to tend to a small flock of mostly-older believers of meager means. They are few in number, but they are a people mighty in love, faith, and in their vibrant dependence upon the Lord. Truly God is working there, and Bob is as much in His service as any mega-church pastor with thousands of parishioners could ever be.
I think of John, Sheri, and the other dedicated folks at Camp Del-Haven. Since 1952, Del-Haven has steadfastly served the Lord with little fanfare, but every summer for over 65 years the ministry has offered a free week of Bible camp to underprivileged children who might never hear the Gospel otherwise. This ministry receives little funding and some years it can barely afford to maintain their land, buildings, and other basic amenities, and yet they have learned through the years to trust the Lord to give perfect provision as they need it. They may not have the external beauty of a big-budget facility, but this modest camp maintains an even greater beauty to behold in their humble proclamation of the glory of Jesus Christ to the forgotten children of our society.
These lowly, but passionate believers that come to mind are only a few examples of those who gladly serve in those inconspicuous places where the Lord has led them. They have taken to heart Christ’s simple instruction, “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1). They know their reward is in heaven, and not in the beguiling applause of the world.
They feel no need to proudly proclaim themselves as “sub-Creators” who use their “divine imaginations” to fashion a God of their own making or attempt to rewrite the Bible to fit their own personal narrative. They will never have a “book deal” to prove their spiritual mettle. They have rejected the world’s tempting notion that self-esteem and self-fulfillment are the only true avenues for success, and have instead denied self and followed Christ.
These Christians who labor in relative obscurity aren’t driven to “write their own story.” They know that the Lord is the true Author of their newfound life (Hebrews 12:2). The Bible teaches them that they are the “workmanship” of God (Ephesians 2:10). They are His “husbandry” and His “building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). It is God who “plants, grows, and uproots” them (Matthew 15:13), and the One who “directs their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). The true believer is no longer his “own man” of manifest destiny, but quite bluntly, he is the “slave of Christ” (Ephesians 6:6). God is The Creator, and He will write the story of their lives and perfect their unique service to Him. This is for His glory, and not theirs.
To my shame, I have sometimes forgotten about these unseen Christians who serve for the glory of God alone. I have become distracted by the worldlings and false teachers within the visible and popular Church and let my indignation control my focus. Perhaps by giving sustained attention to these falsehoods, I have presented myself as lacking faith and trust in the Lord to guide and protect His people. This is not true, but my actions may have spoken louder than my heart in these matters, and I am sorry for that. I have ignored the fact that the Lord’s Church is being built and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). His servants, even those who I cannot see, are serving Him well.
How important it is for us all to remember not to despise “the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). These faithful believers I’ve mentioned and thousands more have shown us the heart of a true servant who can be content with “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” for the sake of the Gospel (1 Timothy 2:2). Though the world may mock their lowly status, the Lord commends such humble service because “they have done what they could” (Mark 14:8).
As Matthew Henry so eloquently noted, “Though the instruments be weak and unlikely, yet God often chooses such, to bring about great things by them. Let not the dawning light be despised; it will shine more and more to the perfect day.”