“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”—Matthew 19:30
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.—1 Corinthians 1:26,27
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”—Matthew 5:5
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.—Isaiah 55:8
A couple of weeks ago in a sermon, I mentioned my ongoing frustration with the fact that God just doesn’t seem to think like I do. I often have really good ideas that He completely ignores. I have my opinions about the way things should go, and He doesn’t see it that way. I can have a plan all laid out that makes perfect sense to me, but God decides to go in another direction. It’s like He sees things from a completely different point of view, and makes decisions based on a whole different set of values.
An example of this came up recently in a conversation with another pastor. He was talking about how the Christians who end up in the spotlight are often poor examples of our faith. He has a burden for the younger generations in our country, so many of whom are growing up without any personal experience of Christianity, and he was bemoaning the fact that too many times those who represent Christ in the public eye are a less-than-impressive witness. He went so far as to say, “if you were one of these young people, and all you knew about Jesus was what you saw from the media, would you want to follow Him? I wouldn’t!”
I had to admit that I saw his point. Our celebrity-obsessed culture only seems to care about what famous people think. So even though our churches may be full of sincere, mature, level-headed Christ-followers, the media prefers to hand the microphone to some actor or rapper or politician, who has usually been a Christian for about two weeks and has no idea what the Bible says or what it means to live like Jesus did. Every time this happens, I shake my head and think “I know dozens of regular church people who would represent us better than that. Why don’t they ever end up in the spotlight?”
But here is the amazing part: what bothers me and my pastor friend so much doesn’t seem to bother God at all. God doesn’t seem to be all that concerned with who ends up with the microphone in their hand. It’s like he doesn’t subscribe to our culture’s values at all. Fame doesn’t impress Him. The spotlight isn’t His goal. He is content to work quietly in the background, in the unseen daily lives of humble people, accomplishing His purposes regardless of whether or not the media takes notice.
The story of Mary is a good reminder of this. If there had been celebrities in 1st-century Palestine, Mary would not have been one of them. For a long time, she was unknown and unseen, and her faithfulness was known only to God. As we talked about on a recent Sunday, she is one of the clearest examples of the fact that God judges based on invisible, spiritual things rather than on external qualities.
And then there’s Jesus. Isaiah 53:2 says about the messiah: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Jesus would not have been a superstar in our culture, because he wasn’t good-looking enough. He was physically unimpressive. And he was not the hero Israel was looking for; He didn’t fit their preconceptions of what a Messiah would be like. In his teaching he claimed that the world’s values were off-base: the first shall be last. The meek shall inherit the earth. His followers were uneducated, unpopular, and generally unimpressive, completely lacking in influence and status.
So why would we expect it to be different today? 2000 years ago, Jesus was content to be misunderstood by the world around Him. Is it a surprise that He isn’t represented well in our popular media? He didn’t obsess about his public image when He walked the earth, so why would He start now? Jesus seemed to think He could accomplish God’s purposes for Him by focusing on the real-life relationships that were right in front of Him, and letting people think whatever they wanted. He didn’t need good press, he just needed to be faithful.
Today, Jesus is looking for followers who care more about loving Him and others than they do about time in the spotlight. When you and I feel like our lives are insignificant, that’s perfect, because Jesus needs people who are impressed with Him, not themselves. Remember, He is preparing to turn the values of this world on their head. One day the meek will inherit the earth. The celebrities in heaven will be people we never heard about in this life, and today’s big names will fade into the background in the light of eternity. In the meantime, we are accomplishing more than we realize for the cause of Christ through daily, unseen faithfulness. So hang in there. Doing the things that matter most in this life won’t make you famous, but they will make God smile, and He will reward them in His own perfect time.