By Mike Treneer
Over this last few months, I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking to Navigators in many parts of the world. As we interact, I wonder with joy about the potential of their lives, and about what is going on below the surface.
I know from my own life experience that what is visible about me is often not what is most important! And while we need to stress the importance of community in serving the Lord, we know that life direction and fruitfulness are the result of what’s hidden below the surface.
The secret of a tree is its roots, and roots are hidden. They belong underground! When we see a beautiful, strong, fruitful tree, our attention is not drawn to the roots. But if we stop to think, we know it is the roots that make its strength, health and fruitfulness possible.
As a young Christian, I was deeply impacted by Elizabeth Elliot’s book The Shadow of the Almighty, which is the biography of her missionary husband who was killed taking the Gospel to unreached people in Ecuador. In a chapter titled “Behold Obscurity,” she describes the importance of “hiddenness” in Jim Elliot’s life. This is how Isaiah describes the unseen work of God in Isaiah 49:2-4.
He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’ But I said, ‘I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.’
It is in hidden times of quiet intimacy that we hear God say, “You are my servant,” and it’s where we can utter our frustration, “I have labored to no purpose” as we battle alone to determine which voice to believe.
It is in the secret place, alone with God, that we are sharpened and polished like David was as he cared for his sheep in the wilderness. He was hidden from the public eye as he meditated on the greatness of God and forged his character in unobserved battles with lions and bears!
Have you ever noticed the brief mention in Luke 24:34 of a very important meeting of which we know nothing, except that it happened? "The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."
Luke mentions it, almost as an aside, as he more fully reports the encounter Jesus had with the two disciples on the Emmaus road. Paul refers to the same little-known meeting with Simon in 1 Corinthians 15:5, using Simon’s better known nickname: “ . . . he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve . . .”
Of course, in John 21, we are given a full account of a later meeting in Galilee between Peter and the risen Jesus; but of that first meeting, just a few hours after the resurrection, we know nothing except that it happened. I find this deeply meaningful!
We can guess at the significance of that meeting for Peter—the heartache and tears as he poured out the agony of his failure, the words of Jesus as he ministered grace to His broken disciple—but we can only speculate. The truth about this meeting is a secret between Peter and his Lord. And so it should be! I doubt that, even when all is known in heaven, we will ever know what was said. I take heart from this.
I, too, have the incredible privilege of an intimate, personal fellowship with the One who alone knows me utterly and completely.
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:6).
Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6, “Your Father sees” and “Your Father knows,” invites us into an intimacy with the Lord of the universe who alone holds our fate and the fate of the world in His unimaginably powerful and unfathomably loving hands. We can pour out our heart to him in absolute confidence, expressing all our longings, all our fears, all our failures, hopes and dreams. We need hold nothing back, for He knows and He sees. This dialogue is only between Jesus and me. There is no other audience to worry about!
Mike Treneer served as International President of The Navigators from 2005 to 2015. He and his wife, Chris, lived in Kenya for 16 years where Mike helped develop our Africa ministries and became our Africa Director. Mike served on the International Executive Team before becoming International President.