Weekly Sabbath Survey
In Secret — 9-27-14
Most things about our faith are open, nothing hidden or kept from other people. No secrets. But in one area there is. Jesus taught His followers to pray in secret, fast in secret and give in secret. It is not an easy thing to do, the secret life in God. Most of us want to tell others about everything we do for the Lord. There are valid reasons for telling it: being a good example to others, for one. But there is even more accomplished by that secret thing Jesus talked about. Doing and not bragging or being recognized for it works a precious humility in us and brings great joy with the doing. Here’s a hint: not all rewards come after we die and go to heaven.
It is part of our American culture and probably human nature, to want recognition. We sting when we feel overlooked or under-appreciated. We enjoy the applause of men. We like to be thanked for the least little thing we do. (Would all who donated store-bought cookies to the bake sale please stand.) We desire awards, trophies, kudos, and VIP treatment any time we can get it. Really wealthy givers get their picture in the newspaper. Jesus put it this way: They have their reward.
We want to tell people we fasted for a day, even for one meal. We want to (humbly, of course) tell about helping the poor. And some of us love to pray in meetings so others can admire our eloquence (and back in the day, how skillfully and poetically we prayed in King James English.) When we give, once we have been thanked in front of other people, we have our reward. When we fast and impress others with that fact, take credit for the town drunk we prayed seven years for finally getting saved, we have our reward. When people compliment us on how we pray, we have our reward. We have the praise of others, their admiration and the really good feeling that goes with thinking we are appreciated and admired by others. This is not necessarily a BAD thing. But it isn’t the Fathers best either.
Godly (heavenly) rewards come for things we did that nobody noticed, things we didn’t tell anybody, or maybe didn’t realize how a simple gesture really mattered to that other person. “Lord, when did we see you naked and hungry, and gave you clothes and food?” When you gave those things to somebody who might not have said thanks, someone nobody knows or cares about, someone not news-worthy, a person who cannot do anything for you in return, there is that other reward besides recognition from people: the reward that comes from the Lord.
God hears the Mother alone under the prayer shawl, weeping for her children and other cares of her heart that she reveals to no one. He sees the devoted Bible teachers who have fasted before they speak His word (or hit send on an e-mail teaching). He sees the person with a heart of generosity who clips coupons, pinches pennies, and repairs old furnishings rather than buying new, in order to have extra money to give to others who are in greater need. God notices when we give our ‘household items and gently used clothing’ to a charity rather than holding another garage sale.
And, when we pray in secret, fast in secret, and give in secret, God sees and rewards us in ways that might not appear connected to what we did. People call us blessed and wonder why they don’t get the ‘breaks’ that we do. Sometimes, even we ourselves wonder what we have done to deserve all the Lord is doing for us. We have made our own blessed life by living the secret life in God.
We should look for creative ways to pray in secret, fast in secret and give in secret. It not only carries with it the best reward, but it is also some of the most satisfying ‘work’ in God’s Kingdom that anyone can do.
Let your giving be in secret; when you pray, go into the secret place and shut the door; when you fast do not appear to others to be fasting. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:1-18
Charlene Reams Manning
Believer in the Lord Jesus Messiah
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