(February 22, 2018) Stuart Reynolds challenges …
‘Flies-on-the-wall’ documentaries are not new – if our television broadcast schedules are anything to go by, we can’t get enough of them!
And with the rapid progress of camera technology, such broadcasts have become deeper, clearer, even truer, spawning a whole new breed for our watching – from The Secret Life of Pets to The Secret Life of 4 & 5 Year Olds,’ and, if you really want it, The Secret Life of Books and even of Buildings!
What about The Secret Life of Saints? What would ‘flies-on-the-wall’ learn and admire… or be unimpressed by?
Watchman Nee wrote: ‘This is the test. How much of my life is seen? When men look on the surface, have they seen the whole, or is there more? Have I, in the unseen, a secret history with God?’
‘Secret history with God’ lessons
What is there for Christians to be learned here? We understand this secret life isn’t a public performance – that would make it to be a show not a ‘secret’ – but time deliberately set apart in ‘a secret place’ to be alone with God, to be lost in him and that produces kingdom fruit in our lives!
Let’s recall that it was after witnessing Jesus praying the disciples asked, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’ (Luke 11:1). And he did, inspiring his followers to engage in a meaningful prayer life.
Later the same Sanhedrin that had signed Jesus’ death warrant were able to witness the invisible present influence of Christ in the lives of his Holy Spirit-emboldened disciples: ‘…they were astonished, and they took note that these men had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13).
Hmm!… what can ‘flies-on-the-wall’ onlookers say about us in respect of our prayer (and for that matter our Bible reading) secret place/secret life/secret history with God? Can they say that they recognise we have been with Jesus?
This is the challenge: What acknowledgements and conclusions does the watching world, and indeed our own loved ones, find themselves forced to arrive at over us – even in their own denial, disbelief and disagreement?
Regarding these two simple but so important matters of secret place prayer and Bible reading…
- Could our loved ones at home, let alone outsiders, ever catch us on our knees seeking God in prayer – and not because we’re staging it?
- The son of one of my mentors told of how he will never forget over-hearing his mum and dad praying for him from behind the closed doors of their bedroom every night. He knew they were on their knees and often weeping.
- What a profound impact that made on that ‘fly on the wall’ young man. And how others, especially unsaved folk, are impressed and touched when he shares it?
- The scandalous reality is that the only praying many professing Christians experience and participate in is at mealtimes and the prayers led and spoken by others!
- Could people ‘catch’ us reading our Bible either at home or in public? Another reality here too – so many Christians do not open their Bibles between their Sunday visits to church!
- Seems unlikely that people – flies -on-the-wall – will ever catch such Christians engaging in Bible reading or prayer at home… let alone catch us praying for people in need out there in the market place and sharing appropriate scriptures!
- We need to realise that Christianity is not some game for followers of Jesus… some ‘spiritual Walter Mitty’ pretence thing.
Committed Christians honour their God
Many of us will remember The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – built on pretence and a desire, not so much to maliciously deceive others, but to please others in what was thought they wanted and needed.
How many of us who would speak and sing for Jesus in public do not have any measure of a secret life with him – and are content to let others think we are closer to God than we know we truly are?
This is the very sin of Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5), giving only a part as if it were the whole – a spiritual Walter Mitty pretence but in reality lying to the Holy Spirit!
From what is evidenced today, few seem to know or even desire the ‘instinct’ of David’s expressed in Psalm 27:8: ‘My heart says of (God), “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.’
How familiar are we with that conversation with God, one of not just stopping at his outstretched hand of love and grace but reaching and knowing his heart?
Indeed, in the very same psalm, David takes up words earlier uttered by Moses: ‘Teach me your way, O Lord’ (Psalm 27:11; Exodus 33:13). Psalm 103:7 reveals: ‘(God) made known his ways to Moses, but his deeds to the people of Israel.’
- Deeds! Israel only knew God by what he did.
- Ways! Moses knew God by who he is.
- There is a vast distinction between ‘ways’ and ‘deeds’ and tragically many Christians fail to understand and appreciate this distinction – our God deserves better!
If there is one word I would use to describe this distinction, it is ‘relationship.’ Out of all he could have chosen to be to us, God chose to relate to us… and to do so as Father – sending his Son to be our Saviour, and by the spirit of adoption (Romans 8:15) to call us into his ‘family.’
When I talk to others – and myself – about deepening and developing our prayer life with God, I contend that what should be uppermost in our minds is that this is not a chore, the ticking of a box, nor the time it takes, but a glorious relationship in which we get to know God. And this is an ongoing personal relationship – a ‘secret life of the saints’ intimacy.
There are things shared, given and received in this relationship of intimacy which can never be, and would even be inappropriate, in company. In the secret place with God…
1) Courage is renewed!
‘He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in him I will trust’’’ (Psalm 91:1-2).
I have these words in the flyleaf of my Bible: ‘The one who is intimate with God will never be intimidated by man!’ Where did Daniel get his strength to hold on to God even in the face – fate – of a den of lions?
‘Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before’ (Daniel 6:10).
Personally I really want to get to that place, but it can never fully happen when I’m on the run; in just weekly, or less, visits to church; always and only in the company others; without self ever being in solitude with God.
No-one else can go there for us. Fly-on-the-wall onlookers will note our determination… and will observe results as we courageously share and act openly empowered by what we learned and received.
2) Confidence is bestowed!
‘…the Lord detests a perverse man but takes the upright into his confidence’ (Proverbs 3:32).
The ungodly person, along with the ‘carnal Christian,’ has no appetite for such closeness of trust and so little, or no awareness at all, of the ‘ways’ of God – they do not know what, more accurately who, they are missing.
Personally I don’t want to be left behind in what God is doing today. I don’t want to be left out of his plans. I want to get beyond his hand to his heart. I want to hear what he is saying. What about you?
We need to give God time in seeking him and waiting before him, becoming accustomed to his voice and his ways. None other can get that for us. Spending time in the secret the place of prayer and Bible reading enriches that intimacy with God… we really get to know his heart. And, in becoming stronger Christians, we’re prepared for confidently sharing and witnessing to seekers outside the church.
3) Conflict is settled!
We would do well to consider the example of Jacob. At the place he would later call ‘Peniel,’ the Bible tells us: ‘So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak’ (Genesis 32:24).
In that God-encounter, self was defeated, and Jacob forever marked by a limp (Genesis 32:31), as an abiding testimony to a settled commitment. Jacob would never be the same again, even in the new name he would now bear, ‘Israel’ (Genesis 32:28).
Others cannot do this and go through this for us, no matter their number, no matter their character. We have to go there ourselves… in solitude with God and ‘wrestle’ it out until the conflict of self is defeated and decided in favour of God.
And we must not forget Hebrews 2:10: ‘In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.’
What an astounding verse! Next month we celebrate Good Friday… I remind us here that Jesus came in the flesh of humanity, not only to win for us but to walk with us.
On the cross, he won the battle over sin, but it was in Gethsemane – his secret place – that Jesus prayed most deeply, most earnestly, seeking the Father’s face and winning the battle over self: ‘May this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’ (Matthew 26:39).
What a Saviour, what an example! Many times victories are only won in the secret place!
Losing oneself in God
About this important decision to be lost in God, American Methodist hymnwriter Lelia Naylor Morris’ 1900AD Sweet Will of God comes to mind:
‘My stubborn will at last hath yielded;
I would be thine, and thine alone,
And this the prayer my lips are bringing,
“Lord, let in me thy will be done.”
Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,
Till I am wholly lost in thee.’
As we move ahead in 2018 my prayer is that we would all be open to being truly lost, fully committed in Jesus. This means not only knowing what he has accomplished (deeds) but knowing him intimately as Saviour and friend (ways) and following him in full commitment… lost in him!
May any fly-on-the-wall observing our ‘secret place secret life’ – our secret history with God – be impressed by our commitment and able to speak well of us! More importantly, may God be delighted.
Stuart Reynolds, Ears 2 Hear Ministries, is an itinerant preacher, teacher in evangelism and revivalism in the UK and USA. UK links: email@example.com / mobile +44 (0) 7816 853 551 / http://sdhareynolds.wixsite.com/earstohearministries. His book The Broken Pastor speaks candidly to the church regarding the reality that many pastors are hurting, even on the edge of quitting.
Stuart’s latest book Getting Ready for Revival seeks to stimulate our minds out of our ignorance of God’s Word and stir hearts over our forgetfulness of God, returning us to the ‘wells we did not dig’ (Deut. 6:10–12) of God’s provision, carrying an insistence that we may not die in the graves our own wells are. Available direct from the author firstname.lastname@example.org for £8.50 including postage.