We live in an age that is startlingly public. So much is done and spoken for all the world to see that previously was kept quiet. The concept of the personal self, known only to God, has diminished. Ironically, without that private relationship with God, we are not equipped to engage with others in public.
Take an observation from scripture: only a small sliver of Jesus’ life is covered in the Bible. We learn a bit about Jesus’ birth, then a good bit about his public ministry from age thirty to thirty-three. There is very little from his childhood and young adulthood. We do see one event when he was twelve (Luke 2:41-52) where Jesus was at the temple. At the end of that time, we get this statement: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus’ childhood and early adulthood is summarized in one sentence.
I find it stunning that Jesus, the God-man, needed thirty years of preparation for his public ministry. Though we would love to learn from everything he did during that time, this silence is instructive as well.
- Real and lasting impact begins with quiet and disciplined faithfulness when no one is watching.
Our present-day world has such a self-conscious quality about it. A hidden downside exists when we think of life as content to be filmed and posted on YouTube or Tik-Tok. That downside is the loss of the internal and personal life lived before God and no one else. We can end up not knowing who we are.
In contrast to that, we get a glimpse at the early life of Jesus. He grew as a faithful son to his parents (Luke 2:51), and as a faithful brother and carpenter. We know Jesus was faithful during those years because of his family. Jesus’ reputed sinlessness in those formative years would have been challenged if it had not been true. It might be one thing for a mother to believe her son could do no wrong, but his own half-brother, James, also believed in Jesus and followed him, even to a faithful martyr’s death. James was willing to die for his belief in Jesus as the sinless Son of God. Even if we could imagine him cashing in on his brother’s fame, certainly he would have chosen to “cash out” before dying for Jesus. James’ faith at the end of his life is evidence that Jesus was faithful in his youth.
- Life is about the journey of faithfulness that only God sees.
During the sermon on the mount, Jesus explains that the kind of giving, praying and fasting that God values is the kind which is done when only He sees:
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:3-4).
The repeated refrain in this section (Matthew 6:1-18) is, “then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” This quote calls for faith, and a choice. Do we care more about the approval of the people who we know will see us when we do good things, or the approval of God, whom we can only see by faith? A question like that helps you find out what you really believe.
This assessing of motives makes the interior life so important. God allows our character to grow according to our private habits – what we do which He alone sees. Frequently during the gospels, we read that Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places to pray” (Luke 5:16) or fast (Matthew 4:2). These habits were developed in the faithful years of preparation which were hidden from our view.
I see at least two ways Jesus’ example is immediately applicable:
- Pursue private communion with God; you will learn how to follow Him whether someone is watching or not. Then you will know if your character and faith are real.
- If your life has not been public at all, or if time seems to be passing you by, remember that God sees all of our secret hours and efforts. If you live for Him, whether anyone notices or not, “your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.”
Let’s encourage each other to pursue unseen faithfulness. We need time and patience to prepare to love and serve others well. God knows the moment He will let our light shine forth. Let’s commit to being ready