|Recently, I was privileged to spend some time with an old friend whom I had not seen in more than 25 years. Both of us had been called into ministry during high school, and even though we attended different churches in our community, we have always had a unique kinship with each other.|
It was good to reflect upon the path that God had taken each of us. As I thought back to those days, I remembered how important his example was to me as I sought to flesh out my faith in those formative years of life. Jim has never been a loud or boisterous personality.Rather he has always been a person of quiet strength and integrity.
If it were not for classmates like him and a few others, I do not believe that I would have navigated those challenging years of life without some major damage. While my parents have always been an amazing example of Christ to me, there was a time in my life that I did not appreciate their godly example.
Throughout our lives God uses a variety of people to encourage us in our journey towards Christlikeness. Indeed, there are those who live out their faith with a boldness and candor that we all find refreshing. However, there are also those quiet heroes of the faith who encourage and uplift us in ways that are difficult to describe, but impossible to ignore.
As I was reading some A.W. Tozer the other day, I came across a quote that disturbed me, in a good way.
“They [the church] too have learned to equate popularity with excellence, in open defiance to the Sermon on the Mount they have given their approval not to the meek but to the self-assertive; not to the mourner but to the self-assured; not to the pure in heart who see God, but to the publicity hunter who seeks headlines.”
These words caused my heart and mind to pause. As I reflected upon these words, it was painfully obvious that I have sought man’s agenda rather than God’s in much of my life. In fact, the standard of meekness that is laid out so clearly in the Sermon on the Mount and even more so by the life of Jesus is often ignored in the western church of the 21st century.
Before you call me a heretic, take a look at what we value as believers. We have bought into the myth that bigger is better; that more money is obviously a sign of God’s blessing; and we have sought to lead as the culture around us leads, by flexing our muscles and asserting our wills.
Why would Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth …” if He didn’t want this principle to be applied to the lives of our leaders and to all of us who claim to be His followers? It is tragic that we have believed the lie that those who serve the Kingdom faithfully, quietly and without renown are of no value.
As I met with my friend, Jim, this past week I was reminded of how powerful this truth truly is. He was a young man who sought to serve the Lord and stand faithfully for Him in the midst of a culture that did not embrace His beliefs.
God has reminded me of the examples of many that I have seen in my years of life who have simply served their Lord out of obedience and love while not seeking recognition. Their desire was obviously not to draw attention to themselves or to make a name for themselves, but to bring glory to God and to further His Kingdom.
Perhaps the words of Tozer spoke so clearly to me because I know that it is easy for me to fall into the subtle trap of “grand-standing” my limited knowledge or mediocre accomplishments in a vain attempt to draw attention to myself rather than the One Who is deserving of all praise and glory for any good thing that results from my life.
While our culture does not often honor the meekness or humility, Jesus does. As we examine the Scriptures it is strikingly clear that those who serve the Father with humility are dear to His heart.
As James says, “… God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (4:6b). Of course, Jesus encouraged his disciples with these words, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
I am thankful for those quiet heroes who have helped me to see God at work. May each of us live in a manner that exalts His name rather than ours. n
MIKE COOPER / columnist