Do you ever feel like you’ll never measure up to the men and women of faith you read or hear about? Jesus warned Peter not to compare his Christian walk with John’s (John 21:21-22), but we often do the same thing, and comparisons can feel a bit depressing. What we tend to forget is that even the great saints had to progress like we do – not in giant leaps, but in what the missionary Amy Carmichael called, “little hidden steps.”
When we read the words of those who have been more than conquerors, we feel almost despondent. I feel that I shall never be like that. But they won through step by step, by little bits of wills, little denials of self, little inward victories, by faithfulness in very little things. They became what they are. No one sees these little hidden steps.Amy Carmichael
The stuff no one sees
The real work of Christianity takes place in private. It’s only when we’re alone with the Holy Spirit and we invite Him to fully explore our motives, mindsets, and hidden desires that we move toward what Amy called, “little inward victories.” It’s so much easier to run from God or occupy ourselves with silly distractions than it is to let the Spirit of Truth into the stuff of our lives that no one else sees.
Scholars give various reasons why David was called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). David put God first, he was a great worshipper, and was almost always quick to repent. But there’s something else that defined him as a man approved by God – David gave the Lord access to the darkest corners of his heart.
Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart.
You have put my heart to the test; You have visited me by night; You have sifted me and You find nothing; My intent is that my mouth will not offend.
Quiet enough to listen
It’s when we’re alone at night or in the early morning hours; it’s when we’re isolated with no access to family or friends; it’s when we choose to let go of our connected devices and social media that the Holy Spirit does His searching work. In the silence, He reveals our wooden hearts, pinpoints our bad attitudes, and uncovers our poisonous thoughts. He waits to show us His perspective, but to know His mind we must get quiet enough to listen. It’s in these soul-stilled moments that we see who we really are and get glimpses of who He wants us to be.
Spiritual nakedness isn’t easy. Baring ourselves makes us squeamish because we half expect God to scold, reject, or punish us. The thing is, He’s knows all about our dark corners. Nothing surprises Him. No action, thought, or intent, no matter how heinous or vile it is, can make Him reject us. One of the most comforting verses in the Bible is Psalm 103:14 which tells us that God remembers we’re only dust. This doesn’t diminish us; instead, it tells us that He’s fully aware of our weakness and inner ugliness, and nevertheless He tenderly urges us to come closer and to be bold about it (Heb. 4:16).
The path to victory
Our victory begins when we let Him in. He’s the proud Father who reveals what’s in us then gives us the strength to change. And He beams each time we trust Him enough to move away from what we want toward what He wills. Great saints aren’t made in public through preaching, missionary work, soul-winning, or service. They’re made in private, alone with God, as they give Him absolute access, accept His unfathomable love and grace, and take one hidden step at a time.
We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the church, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us.J.I. Packer
*New American Standard Bible Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved.