by David Sisler
Earl Anthony was one of the greatest bowlers of all time, the first professional to earn one million dollars. I once watched him bowl a perfect game, shook his hand and got his autograph.
Walking up the backstairs of a church one evening, I was following a tall man who was wearing a great suit and expensive cowboy boots. One landing ahead, he stopped, turned around, stuck out a large hand and said, "Hello, I'm Cliff Barrows." And that is how I met the man who has always shared the platform with Billy Graham.
I once flew from State College, PA to Pittsburgh on a fourteen passenger puddle jumper. I chatted with the man sitting across the aisle from me — Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State football team.
Flying the "red eye" to Los Angeles one night, I sat in the first class cabin with actor Tim Conway. Before we boarded the plane I spent twenty minutes talking with Richard Keil, the actor who played "Jaws" in two James Bond movies.
Impressed? My how we like to drop names. Name dropping gives the impression of intimacy when there is usually only the most casual acquaintance (Hey, my old college room mate, Bob Norris, met President Lyndon Johnson and shook LBJ's hand!).
It is not only from the world of sports or entertainment or politics that we drop names. We do it spiritually. The future record reveals that many will say, "Lord, Lord, did we not in your name work great miracles, cast out devils, and do many wonderful things?" The Lord Jesus Christ will then say, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord.' will enter the kingdom of heaven. I do not care if you did it in my name. I do not dispute that. But you did not mean it in my name."
A woman gave a scenario to Ben Haden, radio and television minister for Changed Lives, proposing an outreach she had in mind. "Ben," she asked, "are my motives pure or impure?" Without the slightest hesitation, Ben said, "They are probably impure, but do it anyway, and do it in Jesus' name and for his glory, not your own."
To act in Jesus' name is not to pray on a street corner, in a loud voice, attracting attention to yourself. To act in Jesus' name is not to deprive yourself of food for several days and then draw attention to your hunger. To act in Jesus' name is not to attempt to convey that our motives are divine, when our motives are, in fact, only human.
Jesus said, "Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding.
"When you do something for someone else don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure — ‘play actors' I call them — treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it — quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out" (Matthew 6:1-4, from The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson).
A tragedy occurs in a city a thousand miles away and a special meeting is called the next day to reassure folks at home, and to memorialize those lost in the catastrophe. A noble idea to gather and pray for the needs of strangers it is, but does it become play-acting, when a newspaper reporter and three television camera crews are called to witness the gesture?
Check out the people whose faith and worship Jesus honored — the leader who came under cover of darkness; the woman who crawled through the crowd to touch the hem of his robe; the man who climbed a tree to watch the parade; the woman who begged for table scraps; the soldier who told Jesus a word was sufficient, he did not need a personal visit. These were men and women who acted merely as a matter of course, and did not thereafter take to the streets to let the whole world know they were doing good.
Do you ever wonder about the motives of God? When we are examining motives, ours are not nearly as important as his. And his motivation is love. "Herein is love," the Bible says, "not that you and I loved God (because we did not), but that he loved us, and sent his only begotten Son to be the suitable sacrifice for our sins."
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 5/1/99
Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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