Recently I was reminded again about the fact that God’s ways of seeing and rewarding people is a lot different than we might imagine. It happened when someone commented on the big reward a prominent radio minister would probably receive some day. It struck me that we’re inclined to think that what God values is the big event, the big church, or the big ministry. As a result we naturally aspire to that image of success.
And that certainly is one way to describe success. After all, one of the most important innate desires of our lives is “to be fruitful and multiply,” just as God intended for all of us from the very beginning. And John’s vision of heaven’s glory includes a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). So there is good reason to measure greatness and glory in terms of large numbers.
But as we live and walk out our lives by faith, there are many indications that God values the happenings and ministries of our lives that are little and hidden. In fact, it is one of the ironies of life that small ministries done for God and in His name will ultimately receive the biggest reward of all. This is most encouraging because it doesn’t mean you have to be a “super-star” here in this life to inherit God’s biggest reward some day.
No, it certainly is evident that people don’t see things like God does. Even Samuel, while looking for Israel’s next king, was fooled into thinking that God made choices based on what saw. So God had to remind Samuel that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). Evidently, God values pure motive more than visible abundance, and the former is often (though not always) more peculiar to ministry that is less public and humanly spectacular. That is why Jesus commented so positively about the poor widow’s offering in contrast to the gifts of the rich at the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-3).
I must confess that I too, often fall into the temptation of thinking that ‘big is beautiful.’ And admitedly, there are times when that certainly is so. But in recent months God has been talking to me a lot about the large ways that He is at work in the very small and rather hidden things that He calls us to do in His Name. Someday we will see all of this from the advantage of the pure and holy heavenly perspective. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see more of that through the eyes of faith today and live out that perspective accordingly. Then we might be more inclined to value and look for the ways in which God can use our lives in relation to individuals that He brings across our daily path instead of rushing about for the big win! We might be more like the Good Samaritan than the priest or the Levite in that convicting story Jesus told to the expert in Jewish law (Luke 10:23 – 37).
Sometimes, it seems, God allows circumstances to come into our lives that force us to take a second look at what we consider important in life. Quite accidentally, and ironically, we discover that when we give attention to the small and hidden things/people in our lives, God gives us a whole new (and even, larger) ministry that we ever thought possible. But the latter is more incidental than intentional; it is secondary, not primary. Though hard to accept at first, finding meaning in the small and hidden ministries of our lives truly is an awesome discovery of God’s amazing grace.