Psalm 91 says this,
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
On the 15th March I was at a Church in High Wycombe, the Vicar had asked me to come and meet with his newly employed youth worker. That Sunday morning I remember thinking, this could be the last trip I make before we are in lock-down.
So it proved to be.
As we were stood at the front of church in a group, praying before the service, the sun was streaming through the stained glass and our shadows were sharp and crisp on the floor – immediately that verse from Psalm 91 popped in to my mind and then, almost straight afterwards, someone prayed a prayer using those very words – thank you Lord, that we dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.
Paul says this to the church in Colossae,
“set your mind on things above, not on earthly things, for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
“Hidden” there is literally “kept”, like something laid up and waiting for us.
It is such a precious thing what is not in plain view, what cannot be seen by others – but is treasured and loved by God.
Jesus loves it, he talks of three things in Matthew chapter 6 that should be done in secret – giving, praying, fasting. He says of each, “your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
We live in challenging times and there could be a tendency to compare our response – as both the church, and as individuals – with what we see others doing. Living out our faith being hyper aware of the public space we occupy – more people looking perhaps to the church, more people exploring online worship and prayer activities.
Do we craft our public image with others in mind – or, do we think only of the audience of one? Are we seeking to be and do all we can to the glory of God or for the attention and praise of others?
There is a glorious section in the book of Ephesians (the whole of Ephesians is glorious, but chapter 3 has particular resonance for me at this time) . . . and these verses in particular,
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wise and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.” [Ephesians 3 : 14-19]
“For this reason . . . ” but what was the reason? What drove Paul to his knees?
Simply this : Paul longs for the Ephesians to know the unsearchable riches of Christ, to make it plain to them the mystery that has been kept hidden through the ages – to know that is God’s intent, now, through the Church – yes, through you and me – To make known his eternal purpose which he accomplished and completed in Christ Jesus! It is because of what Jesus has done, Paul says, that we can approach God with freedom and confidence . . .
These unsearchable riches in our passage are made glorious as Paul prays for us to be strengthened in “our inner being” That Christ may “dwell in our hearts” That we may be “rooted and established” in love.
Our inner being, dwelling in our hearts, and rooted – all about what is being done in the hidden place.
Our inner life with God.
Our hearts filled with His love.
Our roots- like the roots of trees – unseen, yet so essential for growth.
So a question – who are you when nobody is looking?
Someone once said that personality and appearance is a bit like wallpaper, while character and integrity is like the wall. The Pharisees of Jesus day seemed more bothered about outward appearance than their inner life with God.
If we want to live transformed lives for God, it is an inside out work of the Spirit that brings that about. Are you a chameleon with your faith and relationship with God? One thing in front of others – another when out of public view?
The word integrity literally means “wholeness” or “completeness”. We need to live a whole, “all that I am is for Jesus” kind of life. We aren’t to have a public and private persona – we are – in all circumstances, to be friends of God.
Disciples of The Way.
Quiet transformation goes on within us – in the secret place. Those personal habits we aren’t to shout about, but just get on with – prayer, fasting and giving. Our life can be LIVED LARGE in front of others – even more so now – with the right bookcase behind us, the pot plant positioned just so, the lighting just right as we dial in to a zoom . . . or, we can delight in the fact that our Father in Heaven knows us, delights in us and is making us more like Christ.