I’ve pastored four churches in my life. None of them have been megachurches. None of them have had a regular attendance of more than 250 in worship each week. I’ve mostly pastored in small towns. The exception to that was a church outside of Savannah, but it was in a smaller community. In other words, I’ve served the Lord in relative obscurity.
It’s true that I did write a book. I just checked. I’m ranked #528,851 on Amazon right now. Now, there are well over a million books in that ranking, so I’m probably in the top half, but my little book didn’t set the world on fire! By the way, it’s still available if you want to help push me up into the 400,000s!
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sending out invitations to my pity party. I’ve learned from the examples of countless others that fame and fortune can come at a very high price. I’m good. I’m reasonably content. And I do believe that God has allowed me to make a difference in every place He has put me. Actually, as I consider it, I’m downright giddy at what He has put in my life… most of the time.
There are, of course, those times when I ask, “Why not me?” Spending a few minutes in the glow of the spotlight can sound appealing from time to time. Maybe I should refrain from such a revealing confession, but the reality is that I (like all of you) have an ego that sometimes jumps up and down and screams for attention. So, when I was reading this morning from Lance Witt’s book “Replenish,” I was comforted by these words. If you ever feel like you live in obscurity, maybe they will speak to you, as well.
Obscurity can be a bitter pill to swallow…
We love to talk about great people of faith who changed their world. Hebrews 11 talks about such people. These great men and women of faith conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, became powerful in battle, routed foreign armies, and even raised the dead to life.
It would be great if the chapter ended there, leaving us inspired by the exponential potential of faith. But there’s a ninety-degree turn in the middle of verse 35, a subtle transition in the word “others.”
Their names are not listed. They will remain historically anonymous. These “others” were still great men and women of faith. In fact, “the world was not worthy of them.” But unlike those who experienced miracles and victory, these “others” were tortured, flogged, imprisoned, stoned, and put to death by the sword. They were destitute, often homeless, and they lived in obscurity.
Interestingly, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” None of them received what had been promised. Not yet. Not in this world. Not all of God’s promises had been fulfilled in this life.
But this life is not all there is. For them, their faith hadn’t delivered them from death; their faith caused their death. Their faith didn’t bring them fame; it brought danger. And following Jesus did not bring notoriety; it brought obscurity.
One of the spiritual health questions every ministry leader must answer is, “Am I willing to serve in obscurity?”Lance Witt, Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul, pp. 87,88.
If you feel you’re living an obscure, unnoticed life? Then count yourself among the myriad of others both past and present whose devotion went unnoticed by all but God… But isn’t that what ultimately matters?