When we were kids, for some reason, most of us liked to play the “Invisible Game.” The goal was to get as many adults in your general vicinity as possible to walk around looking right through you as you stood in plain sight, all the while asking inane questions like, “Now, where is Little So-And-So? She was just right here a second ago!”
There was something fun about being invisible back then, some power to be gained from it, even if it was only in our own heads. However, that passes as we get older. As we age, most of us want to be noticed for the things we do—as early and as often as possible. If you do a spectacular job on a particularly difficult task at work, you’d like a little recognition, right? Even if it is just a pat on the back or the occasional “Atta girl.” Granted, a raise would be even better, but in this economy, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that score.
How about all the work you do at home? Wouldn’t it be nice if, once in awhile, folks noticed what you’d cooked, how tidy you kept the place, or what you’d sacrificed so someone else in the house could have what he or she needed? Yeah, it’s pretty fair to say we all like being praised for the many things we do well over the course of a day.
However, is wanting a little credit wrong for believers, especially when it comes to kingdom work? After all, our goal is to “die daily” to ourselves. That’s why the apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).
We each have a spiritual gift or three, and we are meant to put them to good use serving the brethren. Those gifted with teaching should teach. Those who are gifted with mercy should show it to others. Giving, exhortation, service, leadership, discernment—we all have at least one talent we should use to the best of our ability. We should never work halfheartedly for God.
But this is where the struggle between flesh and spirit comes in. If you’re using your gift skillfully and doing great things in the right spiritual frame of mind, you should never want to receive recognition for it. You heard me–a believer should do everything with excellence and not get a scrap of praise for it! Why? Two reasons:
1. The talent wasn’t yours to begin with. You didn’t earn it, and while you may have practiced and gotten more skilled at it, it is a gift from God you could never have acquired on your own.
2. As a Christian, “you have been bought with a price” and should “glorify God with your body” because it is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Every ounce of praise given for the works you perform belongs to Christ, not to you. His Spirit living within you is what makes you want to perform good works in the first place, and we should always want to give Him the glory for all good things.
As a writer and editor for a Christian ministry, I am privileged to be able to use my spiritual gifts to witness to and exhort those who read what I pen each month. I love what I do, and I know that all the credit goes to my heavenly Father. After all, it was He who gave me my talent and who perfectly placed me in the right position at the best possible moment to serve Him.
People who read my work tell me how wonderful and talented I am or how beautifully I write. And it’s hard for a person who puts a great deal of time and energy into a piece of writing to not say, “Yeah, buddy. Don’t I know it!” Because writing is John Brown hard! Anyone who does it will tell you the same thing. It’s lonely work sometimes, frustrating work. Wrestling with the best way to say something that’s in your heart—doing it clearly and using just the right words can be exhausting! But, oh! When it’s done correctly and people read and instantaneously get what you meant, there is nothing better than that. However, not an ounce of that credit should go to me, and I have to remind myself that, in a real sense, I’m just the “transcriptionist.” God only uses me as His scribe to tell the world what He wants them to know. I just type and try to keep up, and I don’t deserve an ounce of credit for taking notes. I should instead be, you guessed it, invisible.
Sometimes, I even want to praise myself when I hit on just the right phrase or finally unlock the puzzle that is a concluding paragraph or perfect first sentence. If the task at hand is difficult, I often wish I had longer arms just so I could pat myself more forcefully on the back. But God doesn’t just get the credit for the end result. The Holy Spirit is always there, providing illumination and inspiration while I work. My best words and phrases are His; my best ideas came from within His mind. That’s why I can’t even accept praise from my own lips or heart; even it should be credited directly to the Father.
I was romping through John the other day, and I noticed something interesting. One little word makes all the difference sometimes when it comes to understanding Scripture. For instance, check out the three passages below:
John 3:14—“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
John 8:28—“So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.'”
John 12:32—“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”
What difference do you notice among these three relatively similar verses? It’s a tiny variation to be sure. It’s a small word in John 12 that makes all the difference. It’s not “when” you lift up the Son of Man, but “if.”
Christ knew for certain that He would die and that His death would take place on the rough and ignominious arms of the cross. That’s what the first two passages say–“even so” and “when.” However, not all translations use “when” in the passage from John 12. All the translations I prefer (KJV, NKJV, and NASB) use “if” instead, and I find that interesting because of the marked difference between the two words. “If” implies choice or uncertainty, but in Jesus’ mind, there was no “if.” It was why He said, “Now My soul has become troubled, and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:26-28).
That’s why I read John 12:32 as “If my people lift me up all around the earth, I will draw people to the foot of the cross and unto salvation.” In short, our methods of presentation hardly matter when the Person we are sharing is so preeminent. That’s why I say we need to be invisible when we serve Christ and witness to others about Him. We have to make sure we consciously remember that it’s not about us, our talents, the attention we can get, or gaining the love of man. It’s about “lifting Him up,” not on the cross necessarily, but because of what He accomplished on it.
And now for something completely different….”The Art of Not Being Seen.” (I couldn’t help myself!)