Around the same time as the Challenger Shuttle disaster (January 1986), I was assigned the task of setting up a “Chaplain’s Corner” in a small building on Fort Gordon, GA. A Chaplain’s Corner, my Commander told me, should be a place where the battalion chaplain could counsel Soldiers in privacy. I had just finished AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for a radio-teletype course. My first assignment was being delayed until after the results of a local OCS (Officer Candidate School) board were released. While waiting for those results, I embarked on the task of setting up the Chaplain’s Corner.
Unclear of the concept, I opted to paint religious pictures on the walls, pictures with biblical messages. The attached photo is one of those paintings. In case you cannot see the photo, let me describe it. The painting depicts two Soldiers on a break, both leaning backwards on a tree stump. One of the two, a physically big guy is smoking a cigarette. The other, a “Holy Joe,” is reading his Bible. He’s just a little man.
But behind the physical scene is a picture of the true nature of each Soldier. The little “Holy Joe” is a spiritual giant, a true warrior in the great spiritual conflict. In sharp contrast, the outwardly tough-looking Soldier is a spiritual midget – a frail, old, zombie-like man. Posted beside the painting was the scripture from 1 Samuel 16:7, “For the LORD sees not as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.”
I always try to remind myself that things are not as they appear. That’s what Paul the apostle stated when he wrote to the Corinthian church. He explained that, “though the outer man is decaying, yet the inner man is being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory that is infinitely greater than our trials. So we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Outwardly, the Christian believer might seem small and insignificant. But to God they appear as valorous warriors who faithfully fight in the desperate struggle against the spiritual forces of wickedness (Ephesians 6:10-12).
I often wonder if things are not as they appear when surveying the many popular preachers of today, especially those on television. Though their names are in lights and they enjoy a reputation as spiritual giants and fearless preachers, I suspect that God might see things differently. Could it be that it is the elderly prayer warriors – the widows, grandmothers, and grandfathers whom God views as the true spiritual giants? They labor and pray faithfully for the supposed “real soldiers” on the spiritual battlefield – the ones with the big ministries.
Yet aren’t the gray-haired and uncelebrated prayer warriors fighting the real battle. Jesus always spent His evenings praying for the challenges of the next day. So when he faced the lepers, demoniacs, and incurables on the morrow, He had already achieved the victory in His prayers the night before (See Luke 3:21; 4:42; 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29; 11:1).
And don’t those unknown prayer warriors exercise far more faith in their service to the Lord? For they never receive the accolades and recognition which the popular preachers bask in constantly. I wonder if, in heaven, those unsung heroes of the faith will tower over the once popular preachers. For the unsung heroes will have served with far purer motives. Meanwhile, greed and a desire for notoriety drive many of those “professional preachers.” Even Paul acknowledged that some of the preachers in his day were so motivated (Philippians 1:15-17).
We should take heart from the story of Jesus watching the donors give their large gifts into the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Jesus saw through the gifts to the motives of the givers. He also saw the level of sacrifice each donor was making. According to Jesus, it was a poor widow – who only donated two tiny copper coins – who gave the greatest gift. She would stand tall in heaven, while the others’ gifts would hardly be worth mentioning. Certainly, things are not as they appear.
Therefore, let our motives be pure and our service for the Lord performed faithfully. Don’t worry about earthly promotion, recognition, and rewards.
Therefore, let our motives be pure and our service for the Lord performed faithfully. Don’t worry about earthly promotion, recognition, and rewards. They will all pass away and be meaningless in the world to come. Let us follow our Lord Jesus who humbled Himself, made Himself nothing, and chose to do the most menial of tasks – which the disciples themselves were unwilling to perform (Philippians 2:3-11; John 13:4-17). God sees things as they really are. He knows that the slave of all is the greatest in His Kingdom and will be recognized as such in Heaven (Mark 10:42-45).
Dear Father in heaven, please purify my motives and my desires for serving You. Help me to walk by faith and to make pleasing You my premier ambition. For I must appear before Your judgment seat and be rewarded for my service, whether it’s been sincere and good, or, corrupted and worthless. Amen.