BEFORE AN AUDIENCE OF ONE - The Warrior's Journey®


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There’s an old Gary Cooper movie entitled The Westerner. This 1940 film is loosely based on the real-life story of Judge Roy Bean, the notorious hanging judge of Langtry, Texas. The movie stars Walter Brennan and Doris Davenport, as well as Gary Cooper. It was directed by Academy Award winner William Wyler. It’s a really great western.

There’s a scene in the movie that brought a spiritual lesson to mind. Let me explain. In the film, Judge Roy Bean is infatuated with an English stage actress named Lillie Langtry. Judge Bean idolizes her so much that he renames his town, Vinagaroon after her. Pictures of the actress hang everywhere in his tavern and private room. So, when Miss Langtry visits the nearby town of Fort Davis, Judge Bean – who’s never actually seen her in person, is ecstatic.

But the Judge wants Lillie all to himself. So, he purchases all 400 seats in the theater for her one-night performance.

Then, when the blessed day arrives, Judge Roy Bean sits on a front row seat and awaits Lillie to perform exclusively for him. Unfortunately for the judge, when the curtain rises the only one on stage is Bean’s friend-turned-adversary, Cole Harden. Harden’s got a warrant for the murderous judge’s arrest. And he’s one of the few men in Texas who can beat him at the draw. Harden kills Judge Bean, but in his last minutes before dying, the judge finally meets Lillie Langtry face to face.

Now, I strongly suspect that the theater manager had no qualms about Lillie playing before an audience of one – if all 400 seats were paid for. But for the actress, performing for just one person is hardly inspiring. She’s used to a whole theater of admirers. If Miss Langtry is like most people, she wants her work to be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Having the largest audience possible makes all the memorizing of lines and all the practices worth the effort. But if her performance benefits only on person, it’s hardly worth the effort, right?

That’s how most of us would reason. But what if our “audience of one” is the Almighty? What if the Creator of this Universe, who became our Redeemer, who died upon the cross and rose from the dead – what if He constitutes that “audience of one”? Doesn’t that one Person outweigh a million trillion human admirers? In sheer immensity, importance, love, and power, doesn’t Jesus Christ alone constitute an audience worth living and slaving for? Of course, He does. God is the biggest audience any of us could ever have.

Paul the apostle told God’s people that they are constantly performing before such an audience of one. For even when people don’t notice or reward our labors, God does. When the great apostle addressed those who were slaves in the congregation, he told them to do their work not to be seen by people and only to win their favor. Instead, they were to look beyond their earthly masters and perform their chores as if only God were watching. And if they executed their duties to please Christ rather than people, their work would become sacred and God would reward them in heaven (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25).

For, God can tell what’s in our hearts. His X-ray vision can vividly see our motives. He sees when we give it our best to impress others. And He also sees if we slack off and become unfaithful when only He is watching. Because of this it is not what we do that determines if our work is sacred or secular, but why we do it. The work of a housewife – who seeks to please God through caring for her children – is far more sacred than that of preachers who only serve because it pays to do so and because they get the recognition they crave after.

So, if we are engaged in the work of the Lord, let’s not sully it by laboring for all the wrong reasons. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, such work will never survive God’s burning scrutiny. It will be “burned up like stubble” before Christ’s judgment seat. But if we serve Christ out of pure desires – out of love for Him and love for others – our works will survive the fire as would any precious metal (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

So be content with whatever work the Lord has given you to do – no matter how humble or obscure. If no one is watching, just remember that you still have an audience that outnumbers a million trillion spectators. You have an audience of one with the Almighty.


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, you have searched me and known me. You know the silly and selfish cravings I have in my heart – for recognition, praise, and material reward. Please, dear Father, purify my motives. May Your love be the motivating force in my life. Help me to dedicate all that I do to You. If my labors are seen by many or few, help me to look beyond them all and only seek to please You by doing the very best I can. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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