Like An Athlete, We Need To Train So We Can Finish The Race, Fight The Good Fight.
Like an athlete, we need to train. Spiritual disciplines are exercises to develop spiritual muscles needed to be an active warrior for Christ. Sadly, our culture has become a spectator society. People today would rather watch others play the game while they hoot and holler and get all excited. Then they go to work and say “How about those _________. “like they had anything to do with the outcome. I suppose that is like going to church for many people. “Yea God, Go Pastor Jim.” Then we go home and wait for the next Game. That is not what the spirit filled life is supposed to be like.
Have you ever practiced the discipline of secrecy? Intentionally hiding your prayers or good deeds to please only your Father in heaven? There is also a time to deny ourselves the attention and admiration from others that we like and instead to keep our righteousness quiet (Matthew 5:15, 6:1).Repeatedly Jesus went away by himself to “lonely places” to pray to the Father in secret (Luke 5:16). When Jesus healed people he often told them to keep it a secret (Mark 1:44).
When Jesus entered towns he often tried to keep it a secret that he
He called himself “the Son of Man,” which although it was a Messianic term was a lot more humble then trumpeting that he was “the Son of God.” Peter was the first to confess that Jesus was indeed the Son of God but then Jesus told him not to tell anyone yet. And also after his transfiguration he told the disciples not to tell anyone about seeing his glory.
Jesus showed people his divinity in personal, transformational ways and let them come to their own realization that he was God incarnate, come to be their Lord and Savior.
Jesus’ way of secrecy was a startling contrast to the way of most of the religious leaders of his day: they wore flowing garish garments; had trumpets blown to announce their coming; boasted of their pedigree and achievements; insisted on being called “Rabbi” prayed long, loud, flowery prayers before admiring crowds; gave their tithes and offerings publicly to be recognized; and took the seats of honor at events.
Similarly, for us today our culture’s way of self-promotion is so inbred in us that we normally don’t even notice it or think of it as taking the focus off of Jesus when we advertise ourselves. Today it is Dr.., Rev., Bishop, Profit and the like. Our society promotes this behavior by its own foolishness to promote people to high esteem.
But Jesus taught us to follow his example of humility: to pray to their Father in secret, to do our good works quietly, to seek God’s praise and not people’s, and to put aside all selfish ambition (Matthew 6:1-18).
This is not to say that he wanted us to hide the glory he bestowed on us any more than he hid his own. He also told us that we were “the light of the world.” We need to remember though the light he gives us is meant to shine on Jesus and it shines best from our broken hearts (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Secrecy is a discipline of abstinence or self-denial. Denying ourselves attention and praise is a powerful practice for soul transformation. It’s way to help us get free of people-pleasing and managing of what people think of us. It make space for a deeper engagement of love and dependence upon God.
In The Spirit of the Disciplines We need to practice dwelling in “the secret place of the Most High” (Psalm 91:1, NKJV), to be “secretly in a pavilion” of God’s presence that is “free from the strife of tongues” (Psalm 31:20, NKJV).
In the discipline of secrecy… we abstain from causing our good deeds and qualities to be known. We may even take steps to prevent them from being known… We learn to love to be unknown and even to accept misunderstanding without the loss of our peace, joy, or purpose… We allow [God] to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed… And that love and humility encourages us to see our associates in the best possible light, even to the point of our hoping they will do better and appear better than us (p. 172-3).
Henri Nouwen in his book In the Name of Jesus provides an unforgettable example of implementing Jesus’ way of secrecy.
Nouwen left behind 20 years of teaching seminary at Nortre Dame, Yale, and Harvard to live with mentally handicapped people at Daybreak, a L’Arche community. They cared nothing about his religious achievements his intellect. For over a decade he become a part of their community and cared for these societal cast offs by listening, giving hugs, telling stories, and just being with them.
Jesus gave up heaven, oneness with his father and other things that we cannot fathom. Its About time we can start to follow his example.
“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. ”