— from Dallas Willard:
“One of the greatest fallacies of our faith, and actually one of the greatest acts of unbelief, is the thought that our spiritual acts and virtues need to be advertised to be known….
“Secrecy rightly practiced enables us to place our public relations department entirely in the hands of God, who lit our candles so we could be the light of the world, not so we could hide under a bushel (Matthew 5:14-16) We allow him to decide when our deeds will be known and when our light will be noticed.
Secrecy at its best teaches love and humility before God and others. And that love and humility encourages us to see our associates in the best possible light, even to the point of our hoping they will do better and appear better than us. It actually becomes possible for us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than ourselves.” as Philippians 2:3 advises. And what a relief that can be!
"If you want to experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation, pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice for their successes. If Christians were universally to do this for each other, the earth would soon be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory. The discipline of secrecy can lead us into this sort of wonderful experience." — Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 173-74
Many kindnesses go unnoticed. They are still kind. They can still have the desired effect, if the desired effect is to benefit the receiver.
A child sleeps and shivers because her blanket is askew. Will you wake her to tell her you’ve tucked her in again? You’ve fueled up your spouse’s car. Will you follow her to work, park next to her, and announce: You may go now; you are empowered”?
God does not announce, “The sun is risen! I have done this for you,” at each sunrise. It is true, though, that some sunsets are accompanied by more than a little fanfare. They are often spectacular — and yet you have to turn your head or go out of your way to see them. They are kindnesses from our Creator who loves to offer beauty freely.
I know a guy who enjoys fixing little things around the church building. Sometimes he asks what needs to be done around the church, sometimes he just sees something he can make better and he does it. I know a woman who loves to cook and give away a meal. Neither of these two are entirely anonymous, but they are certainly within the spirit of our Lord’s command: Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. (Matthew 6:1) I know they both enjoy what they do for others.
You do too. You already know the pleasure of giving a hidden kindness, the fun of doing something good for another anonymously. Why not look for an opportunity today?
Lord, open my eyes to see an opportunity. Open my heart to make the effort and take the chance to make someone’s day brighter. Thank you for your hidden kindnesses to me. Amen.
Why is it so hard to be generous and anonymous?
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Generosity is a wonderful thing; it blesses both giver and receiver. Generosity — whether in giving money, time, service, or a listening ear — is the natural outflow of grace we have received. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
But we often feel the need to be recognized for being generous, especially for our gifts of time and service. Why is that? Do we need the affirmation of our peers? Certainly we want to be appreciated for our efforts! (We just want you to know how much work that was.) And who wants to be taken for granted?!
Perhaps the thought steals in, "What I did for you just now cost me, so now you owe me. Be nice to me. Be grateful.” And so our generosity is undone by our desire for it to be known.
No wonder Jesus commands, But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…. (Matthew 6:3) A kindness done anonymously remains a kindness, and cannot be undone by self-centeredness. Jesus’ command blesses all involved.
Lord, help us to give spontaneously and frequently. Help us to keep our mouths shut about it in order to honor you, to protect our good impulses, and to protect those we intend to bless. Amen.
...from John Ortberg:
I find it helpful to think about solitude in two categories. We need brief periods of solitude on a regular basis— preferably each day, even at intervals during the day. But we also need, at great intervals, extended periods of solitude — half a day, a day, or a few days.
We may want to begin a particular day by praying over the day’s schedule — meetings to attend, tasks to perform, people we will be with— and placing it in God’s hands. Through the day we could take five-minute breaks if that is possible, close the door to the office, and remind ourselves that one day the office and the building will be gone — but we will still belong to God.
Ortberg, John. The Life You've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People (p. 87). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. (Psalms 23:1–3)
Do you remember Psalm 23? God’s care for his people is first and foremost his presence with his people. That presence refreshes and restores the deepest part of us — our soul. We are better able to experience his presence lying down in green pastures, or beside still waters. Work and relationships drain us; we need time with God. We need rest.
“Most of us are more tired than we know at the soul level. We are teetering on the brink of dangerous exhaustion, and we cannot do anything else until we have gotten some rest.” ― Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
It’s not just work that drains us, and it’s not just the pace of our lives. Relationships can drain us, too. You are almost certainly related to or involved with some “high maintenance” people. Solitude and silence are the green pastures and still waters that restore us.
You’re tired. Your Shepherd is waiting to lead you to a quiet spot.
Lord, I’m ready for rest but feel too busy. Lead me where I need to go. Amen.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)
Jesus is concerned that the disciples might get so caught up in doing good that they would collapse under the weight of responsibility and opportunity. We live in a culture of unparalleled responsibility and opportunity. It seems counterintuitive to slow down or take a break.
Solitude and silence are ways to take a break to restore our soul. The restored soul makes good choices, and connects well with others.
What quiet place can you find or make today? Let Jesus settle you, and if necessary, redirect you.
Lord Jesus, there is so much to do! I cannot slow down. Yet not my will, but yours. Lead me to a quiet place today. Amen.
Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
Among the practices that can help us attend to soul care at a basic level are solitude and silence. We practice these by finding ways to be alone and away from talk and noise. We rest, we observe, we “smell the roses”—dare we say it?—we do nothing. This discipline can be used of God as a means of grace. In it we may even find another reminder of grace—that we are saved, justified by His redeeming power—not by our strivings and achievements. — Dallas Willard in “Personal Soul Care"
You are back to work today after the Independence Day holiday, or at least back to your routine. Our routines can consume us if we run through them in our own strength alone. Practicing solitude and silence can keep us sane even in the craziest schedule. This is true because of who God is. God is love. Solitude is a way to settle into the presence of God.
When today can you take a break for a few moments do nothing? Doing nothing in God’s presence even for a few moments can re-center us and restore us.
When this week will you stop your work and do nothing in a time of gratitude to the God of everything?
Pastor Mark loves his wife and grown children, the Word of God, and words. And coffee, chocolate chip cookies, Apple products, small video projects, and the New England Patriots.