Seeking God’s Attention

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Mat. 6:1-4

What a joy it is to do things in the presence of God! What an incredible grace to have a relationship with the living God! We have no idea what we are missing when we seek to be seen by men rather than God. To be seen by men: that is the most desolate place to be.

Actually, Jesus talked of a few other things that we should do in secret, so that only God, and not men, would see. My favorite is the one about fasting.

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (Mat. 6:16-18)

“…when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face.”

Try and visualize that. There you are, fasting for one, two, three or even five days. And every day you wake up and wash your face, comb your hair and, if you are a woman, put on the best make-up possible – just to hide from men the fact that you are fasting!

I absolutely love that. Here you have someone who has a living relationship with God. He has no hypocrisy in his heart, and he does not seek for attention from men. Not that he despises men, no. On the contrary, he understands the ways of God.

Sometimes we are so carried away with what men think of us we forget that God is bigger than men – and that His ways are far removed from the ways of men.

Then there is the one about prayer:

“5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Mat. 6:5-7)

I have been in towns in our country where preachers wake up every morning to pray on big loudspeakers. The problem with such kinds of prayers is that, unless you are perfectly in the Spirit (which means you have been led by the Holy Spirit to do such a thing), you are more likely to pray to be heard by men rather than God. Yes, there is a place and a time for public prayer. But the way things are in our day, you would think the church is competing with the world!

But our Lord’s instructions are clear:

“… when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

But is it that God does not want us to be seen by men? Hardly. It is a small thing with God how we carry on on the outside. God looks upon the heart of man. What God is all about here is that He wants to pummel the flesh and to deny it that which it seeks most – self-glorification.

When you do anything to be seen or heard of by men, you are seeking to be glorified by men. But faith sees God and it looks up always, to the heavenly glory. A man of faith will absolutely despise the cheap glories that men would heap on him. He will seek the glory that can only be seen by faith. This is a man who understands that God does not do business with the flesh.

Our Lord Jesus was perfected in faith. Never once did He do something (“something” here talks of incredibly remarkable miracles) and seek to be seen by men. We read, for example, the story of Jesus and the blind man that He healed in Bethsaida. Below is the account.

“22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. 26 And he sent him away to his house, saying, Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town.” (Mk. 8:22-26)

The Swahili version of this scripture sheds more light on exactly what happened. Verse 26 reads: “He took him to his own house…” In other words, Jesus literally took the man by the hand and led him straight to his house.

Now, just try and imagine that. Jesus had something about Him which the flesh cannot understand nor comprehend: Jesus shunned human attention and, by extension, human glory.

But, today especially, men of God are used to the media. We are used to the public eye – men’s eyes. This is a big trap for the man who seeks to be spiritual. But the gospel of Jesus Christ does not come cheaply. On the contrary, it is the most demanding thing on earth. It demands total surrender, or death, to the flesh.

People have a saying, “East or west, home is best”. In the case of the true believer, east or west, north or south, he has no option: the cross is his home. He must bring his life to the cross. He must crucify the flesh. The flesh, the devil and the world are all in league against God. And they work together. As a corporate body, they are God’s enemy No. 1. We must put on the armor of righteousness and blast them off to Neverland.

Thank God that you are alive today. If you have not placed your life on the altar of sacrifice, this is your day. Do not bother with the flesh, nor what men think or do not think about you. Serve God in the Spirit and, the Bible says, God will reward you openly.

What does it mean that God will reward you openly, anyway? It means God will bless you, and men will see it. In the course of serving God in the Spirit, you are bound to be shamed, despised and treated as nothing. But God allows that for a time. One day, whether on this earth or in heaven, God will repay you, and men will see. Many, who had been waiting for you to sink, will be surprised to see you rejuvenated, exalted and blessed.

In Pentecostal churches today, there is much talk of being “uplifted” by God. Unfortunately, many want to be uplifted to the level of the world – to prosper materially, etc. But true uplifting can only be in the Spirit and it will only come if we humble ourselves and crucify the flesh. You can uplift yourself, but God will never be involved in the uplifting of the flesh.

Today is a day for us to choose. May we choose wisely. May we choose to crucify the flesh and serve God in the Spirit.

[Below: Today is a time to praise the Lord]

 

Grace For The Humble

And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly… And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house. 1Ki 21:27-29

It stumps me to imagine that God could forgive a man as evil as Ahab was. This Israelite king had just okayed the wanton execution of an innocent man just so he could take possession of his plot of land. Prior to this, King Ahab had done many other evil things and brought untold suffering upon his subjects. The Bible states about this Ahab: “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up…” (verse 25).

I wonder what kind of judgment many of us would have passed on such an evil man. No doubt, the same that God Himself passed on Ahab, as we read in verses 21 to 24 of this sad account: “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”

We would have executed that sentence swiftly and surely.

But apparently God was not going to carry out that sentence. Something occurred that stayed God’s hand. Something about this man, Ahab, moved God to change His mind. What was it? The Bible says that Ahab humbled himself before God. This action by an evil man made God to re-consider Ahab!

Hot-headed as we might be, we may want to consider the fact that probably God knew Ahab’s heart more than we do. This is one of the most significant things that set God so far apart from us. God knows the hearts of men. That is something none of us can lay a claim to. God can see into the innermost parts where none of us can see. That is why the Bible warns men to desist from judging others – man is hardly capable of judging another man’s heart! We might think a man proud but God knows he is humble enough, thank you.

That Ahab could go from one such extreme of committing evil, to another, of completely humbling his heart before God, tells volumes about his character. I am of the opinion that Ahab was simply a weak man who was controlled by a totally evil woman, his Canaanite wife Jezebel.

The point is that God saw the humility in Ahab’s heart and His fierce anger was stayed. There is something about God and a man with a humble heart. From reading through the Bible, it appears to me that God will move heaven and earth to reach out to a man who has decided to humble himself before Him, regardless of what that man may or may not have done. You see, God knows us perfectly well and the first thing He knows about us is that we are evil through and through. He does not need to waste His time muckraking through our hearts looking for some good in them. It is we who think that we have any good in us; but God knows otherwise. For that reason God is not looking for us to be good. And He is certainly not interested in those nice-looking facades which we are so expert at in putting up. God is looking for us to walk before Him with a humble heart, period. God will consider a humble man a thousand times over while he thoroughly ignores a man who imagines he is good – for there is no such thing as a ‘good man’ with God.

It is God alone who can work any good in a man’s heart; and this Godly dealing is only possible in a humble heart. But many people confuse the gifts and calling of God with humility. (We will look into that topic another day.)

God is gracious and merciful. He can easily forgive in circumstances where it is very difficult for us to forgive. God is capable of easily letting go of situations, and He does. And He can do inexpressibly far much more along that line! BUT… He needs to find a heart which is humble so He can show mercy to it. The Bible in James 4:6 says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

In many times of crisis in my life, I have found that the only thing I could really do was to simply fall face down before my God with a bowed heart. Unfortunately, that is not always my first option but when at last I find myself there, what a sweet relief…! I can attest to the fact that God has never let me down in such situations.

Tonight I want to address anyone going through a moment of crisis in their lives. You may wish to take the beautiful option of humbling yourself before God. Humbling yourself means making up your mind to fall into the hands of God and cry out to Him for mercy. The best thing is not to mourn, which we normally do when in crisis. The best thing is to happily humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and await His grace there. The point about fasting in this regard is that forgoing the things of the flesh will help you to focus on the things of the Spirit, especially your heart.

I guarantee you from God’s Word that He will not fail you. If God was able to look and see into Ahab’s heart, I assure you He will do the same with you. You will experience His mercy – and find victory in the issues that you are facing.