Then turning to the disciples he said privately,“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see!” – Luke 10:23, bold added
In the secret place God speaks things that only you and he knows and understands. Sometimes it’s the obvious, other times it’s only a hunch. Precious are the times when the Spirit of God awakens us, slightly shaking us to arouse our attention.
How else could Abraham explain all that came to him after the death of his father? Much of the time it’s during the extreme moments of sadness or gladness that we hear the still small voice surface, speaking life altering words.
Abraham didn’t hear these unsettling words through a sermon. This was no third-party message. God told him in private, Abraham the audience, God the preacher. And the message was as frightening as it was thrilling. “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house” (Gen. 12:1) is hardly what most middle-aged husbands and fathers want to hear. The motivation followed. “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 122). The measure of blessing at the end would be quantified by the degree of obedience at the beginning.
One can become addicted to people noise. I can’t count the times I’ve visited with a family and lost focus on our conversation because of a television playing in the background. They were so use to the chatter of people that they didn’t notice them, and further, they couldn’t fully hear me. But I noticed, and frequently I’d cut my visit short because of it. It makes me wonder if God may not do the same thing when he can’t get our private, undivided attention.
Luke explains that Jesus came to harvest people into his Kingdom. He brings together a few disciples then sends them out into communities to labor among masses, healing and delivering them from the bondage of the devil. They were dispersed to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, cities with large populations for that day.
But it was what “he said privately” that kept them focused upon their purpose. This gave them their motivation.
You will never walk with God very far, certainly with any depth if you only move with him in the crowd. Later, when things became “too hot in the kitchen” so to speak, the seventy-two disciples that Luke mentions in verse 17, John says leave him for safety among the crowds (John 6:66).
And so it is that those who only sit among the throng generally don’t hear the private words of endearment or his sweet nudges of encouragement. It’s the crowd sitters who are more apt to no longer walk with him when they have to go it alone. And sooner or later there will be a time when the disciple will be forced to walk with Jesus alone.
The nature of my ministry has been one that speaks and teaches to groups, small and large. But I’m not so sure my children would remember one sermon I’ve preached to the crowds. Hopefully there’s something they remember I’ve said to them privately. Whether it was words of correction or endearment, what I said to them alone is what will stick with them most.
Not long after my conversion to Christ, he spoke to me privately, maybe “communicated” is the better word, and I shall never forget his message. Though I have to reach back and pull it into the present, the impact remains. You may pass off my little miracle as a coincidence, but to me it was a sign and wonder, nonetheless.
It was my first Christmas Eve knowing Jesus. Simply knowing him made me most grateful that for the first time I was truly celebrating his birth. After doing the family thing with dinner and gifts, everyone retired to bed and I took my guitar outside in the cold night air to sing my gratitude to Jesus.
The night sky was so full of stars I thought it had to be a similar scene as when God visited Abraham. The heavens were filled with what seemed to be billions of stars, so full they were clustered like clouds.
As I played and sang an unexpected request rolled up out of me and before I knew it I had made an unusual appeal to God. I know it may appear odd if not altogether selfish, I promise it was not premeditated and I even surprised myself at asking such a thing of God.
“God,” I said, “If you hear my song tonight and you’re really here with me, let a star streak across the sky.”
A second couldn’t have passed before a bright white light zinged from right to left.
My hand froze on the guitar strings and I stopped.
“Was that for real?”
I played on, as you could imagine, with a little more enthusiasm.
Though at the time I was unfamiliar with the story of Gideon, the second request I made was much like his, premeditated and intentional. Gideon put out a fleece and God answered his first request to the “T”. And like Gideon, I laid out a second prayer before the Lord asking him to do the same thing in a different way.
“God,” I looked up, “If that was really you, would you do that again, except this time fling the star from top to bottom?”
It was a sheepish prayer, not nearly as bold as the first one. Later, I discovered these childlike prayers are packed full of faith because they arise out of a heart uncluttered by learned religious jargon that chocks us full of doubt and robs faith of its fervor. The church world has done more to teach us what God will not do rather than release us in simple faith to believe him for the impossible, even the unusual!
I didn’t know whether to duck for fear that if a light did come from heaven it might not be a star but a lightning bolt aimed at me for asking such a thing.
This time, however, the answer came in what seemed like a nanosecond. I no more got the word “bottom” out of my mouth than a star fell from top to bottom at my request.
“I’m impressed,” I thought. “Shaken, but impressed!”
I’ve never asked for that again. As a matter of fact, I know I shouldn’t, though I’d never discourage anyone else from doing it. (I know some of you will try this tonight!)
I also know while God is so big that he will send us to bring people to himself, it’s what he says and shows us privately that we remember most. And that’s why if you only know him among the masses, his voice through the voice of another, you don’t know how warm this God of ours can be. He’s an intimate Father. You will miss his most personal ways of communicating with you if you only hear what he has to say through a preacher while you sit among an assembly of others.
He spoke to Abraham through billions of stars in the sky. And for me, he took two of those stars and flung one of them east to west, the other, north to south.
He made a cross just for me.
He made it just for you, too
And it’s through the cross that he comes to us so personally and intimately, especially in private.