I can remember many years ago arranging a surprise treat for my wife Julia, to London’s West End to watch Phantom of the Opera. It was before the days of internet and so, in order to keep it a secret, I had to drive home from work to intercept the postman each day for several days, to stop the theatre tickets being delivered! It was really hard being so secretive and then having to keep it a secret for months until New Years Eve when the surprise was revealed….
I was recently on a retreat and God really spoke to me as I read Matt. 6 where Jesus speaks about some of the things we should do in secret…
“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. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-18)
Something Caught My Eye…
On each habit Jesus teaches about, He promises:
‘and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’
It’s What We Do In Secret That Matters!
Clearly there are some basic fundamental things that we can and should practice as believers that God loves and God rewards when they are done in secret!
Intriguing that Jesus mentioned these three: Righteous acts, prayer and fasting. We should never imagine they were random thoughts! Jesus was never random!
Jesus Was Teaching Them Some Basic Faith Habits
He was teaching them about the importance of righteous acts, prayer and also fasting. The fact that Jesus said ‘when you…‘ suggest that this was presumed rather than suggested.
We should all take note and be encouraged that when we do these things – there are rewards from Father and especially when we do these things in secret!
Jesus was encouraging the disciples to do righteous acts. Secret Santa has been practiced in many different contexts, work places, churches, groups, clubs etc for some time. For those of you who aren’t aware – it’s where people agree to give each other gifts to a certain value at Christmas but it’s done in secret.
God loves it when we are secret Santa although we can do good things to other people all the year around. Why wait for Christmas?! I believe he loves it when we pay it forward or bless others. There are lots of things we can do in secret, random acts of kindness etc. that make God smile. Sometimes we can’t always keep it a secret but we should always look out for opportunities to randomly be kind to other people.
What can you do this week to change someone’s world?
Who, in your world, needs encouraging or blessing?
What can you do this week that will make God smile and say: ‘That’s my boy! That’s my girl!’
You can be assured that God will reward you for what is done in secret. Naturally we don’t do it to receive a reward. God always notices!
‘God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.’ (Heb. 5:10)
David Y Cho taught that ‘nothing will benefit us more than prayer.’ This is so true – my congregation knows that quote off by heart!
Jesus encouraged his listeners to pray saying:
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
That’s the key, it’s what Jesus did….he went to a solitary place and simply prayed. No song and dance – He just did it. The rewards are inestimable! As Leonard Ravenhill once said:
‘The secret of praying is praying in secret.’
Sometimes it’s tough and hard going but other times – wow….we really connect with God and experience the precious presence of the Holy Spirit.
Nothing will benefit you more than prayer…
‘Prayer creates a personal change in your life. Nothing you can do will benefit you more than prayer! Through prayer you create an account balance in your favour is God’s spiritual bank. Through prayer you will benefit spiritually, mentally & physically!’
(David Y Cho)
God rewards your prayer done in secret in all kinds of ways. When was the last time you grabbed a mug of coffee, found a quite place and had a good old catch up with God? He’s your Father – talk to Him and don’t forget to allow time to listen!
The Pharisees were renowned for going overboard and letting everyone know they were doing it! They say every face tells a story and those guys knew how to let you know. Sadly they’d received their rewards in full.
Fasting is a Christian discipline that involves abstaining (mainly) from food. Fasting is an expected Christian discipline from Moses, David to the disciples and John Wesley encouraged his people to fast from dawn until dusk (not too difficult in winter but not so easy in June!)
Fasting allows us to:
- Humble ourselves
- Examine ourselves before God
- Seek His face
- Commune closely with God
- Seek God for a real breakthrough (we show God we’re really serious!)
- Is really good for our bodies!
God Always Rewards!
I’ve discovered that much of the reward is that God often speaks with clarity and He renews my mind and restores my spiritual passion – it’s great and I recommend it.
I’ve lost count of the times that God has brought insight, revelation, and breakthrough when I’ve fasted.
Maybe it’s time to re-discover the power of fasting!!
What Can We Learn From These Three Habits?
These were actually Kingdom priorities! They are three secrets to Kingdom living at its best and most effective. We don’t need to let anyone know (even though it’s tempting!) and we should expect some kind of reward although that must never be the motive!
TWIST IN THE TAIL….
You see there are the secret things that bring great reward….but aren’t there also secret things that do us harm…
If you were to read on through the rest of the chapter and into the next you would realise that there are some secret things that, rather than bring reward, causes harm to us and to those around us. Jesus warns about secretly hoarding wealth, wrong thoughts, worry, anxiety, judgements, sin, hatred.
You See – God Sees Everything And He Knows Everything!
‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.’(Hebrews 4:13)
We can’t hide anything from Him. God sees everything we do in secret.
‘For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
These guys are proof of that: Achan (Josh. 7); David & Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11 & 12); Elisha’ servant Gehazi (2 Kings 5:26-27) & Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5)
God Sees The Secret Things And The Secret Sins
‘You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.’ (Psalm 90:8)
What about our secret sins…..aren’t they seen AND also rewarded in a sense? We believe that they don’t effect anyone else but actually….they affect our relationship with God….and indirectly those closest to us.
The Simple Choice – Reward Or Damage?!
I don’t know about you but my desire is to live in such a way that God is pleased with me and rewards me and not in a way that offends him.
You may be tempted to stop reading at this point – yes it’s challenging – however God’s desire is that you switch from secret sins that cause damage to secret things that bring great reward. Sounds like a great deal to me! So keep reading….
Do You Have A Secret Indulgence?
I love mince pies, chocolate and American Hard Gums but seriously is there a sinful secret indulgence in your life? The Greek word used in the passage for secrets is, “that which is hidden, concealed, covered up.” Is there something that you excuses or make allowances for? Even Solomon, one of the wisest men to have ever lived allowed some small exceptions:
‘Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.’ (1 Kings 3:3)
Can I encourage you to do what David did? He recognised that God saw everything and that there was no hiding place for him, and out of the security he had in God, prayed this:
‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.’ (Psalms 139:1-15, 23-24 NLT)
Renounce And Be Renewed!
Maybe it’s time to turn from our secret sins and renounce them with God’s help and ask Him to renew us through the power of His Holy Spirit.
‘Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.’ (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)
The reward for cleaning up the secret place is that God can inhabit it more!
If we give over the secret place to God (rather than sinful activities) then He will show us secret, hidden things!):
‘You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it. Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past. So you cannot say, ‘We knew that all the time!’ “Yes, I will tell you of things that are entirely new, things you never heard of before.’
(Isaiah 48:6-8 NLT)
Isn’t God amazing?! What we do in secret really makes a difference to our lives. What is your secret world like? Can I encourage you to spend some time investing in the secret place….
I hope this helps and encourages you. If it has then any not use one of the social media buttons and share it so that someone else can be encouraged in their darkest hour. God bless!