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Please read Matthew 6:1-8 before continuing with this article.

Someone has said that the true measure of a person's character is not in what they say, or even in what they do; but in what they would do if they knew for sure that they could get away with it.

We have, for some time, prided ourselves on the fact that we have gone beyond the empty talk of churchianity, on to the practical realities of action. But, unfortunately, we are still babes in the world of secret discipline... the kind of discipline that no one knows about except you and God.

One of the great advantages of communal living is that there are always others around to pull us into line when we are getting out of the spirit. But this advantage turns into a liability when it comes to learning secret discipline... because we hardly do anything in a group such as ours without someone else knowing about it.

Added to that has been our tendency to use the media to get out the message that we are preaching. Often the media is more interested in knowing about the kind of information that Jesus has asked us to keep secret, and far too often we have compromised in that area.

Jesus said that when we pray, fast, or help the poor, we should do so secretly. If anyone discovers us, we lose our reward. If our good actions grow from group pressure or from public opinion, they are less than perfect. What we do for recognition by others cannot rightfully be said to be done for recognition by God.

God won't punish us for doing good under pressure or even for being discovered doing good by others. In fact, conforming to group standards (i.e. submitting to godly leadership) seems to be a necessary step in the transformation from godlessness to godliness. But neither will he reward us for good that we do which is either only done under pressure or done to win the praise of others. Only to the extent that we are undetected in our devotion to God and assistance to others are we truly building God's kingdom.

Jesus said that no one can see God's kingdom. (Luke 17:20) Yet people consistently make the mistake of telling themselves that they are building the kingdom of heaven when they are only promoting their visible group or their visible leader.

Here is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity: If we go to church at all, it should be for the express purpose of being reminded that we don't need to go to church to be Christians (Acts 7:48); Christian teachers should be teaching us that when we are tuned in to God's Spirit, we won't need Christian teachers (1 John 2:27); and Christian organisations should be working themselves out of existence, by teaching people to graduate from dependence on the organisation to dependence upon God. There are tiny threads of this happening in many different organisations, and in no organisations at all. All these threads together make up the kingdom of God. Nothing more, and nothing less can be included in God's kingdom.

History is full of unsung heroes, who will be surprised to find themselves the true leaders of God's kingdom when Jesus returns. How surprised we might be if we were to find a crippled beggar or an elderly widow sitting on Christ's right hand, rather than Peter, James, or John! (Mark 10:35-40)

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists many of the great heroes of the Old Testament, who won great victories through faith (e.g. Hebrews 11:32-35a). Then it goes on to mention others who did not go down in history as "winners". It says these people have achieved a better resurrection; and it says the world is not worthy of such people (Hebrews 11:35b-38)!

If you feel like a loser, and if your suffering has come from a genuine attempt to do good, you could pray for God to vindicate you. Or, better still, you could offer it up to God as a secret suffering, to be turned into an eternal triumph only after Jesus returns!

And if you, like this writer, cannot think of many virtuous things you have done which have only been detected by God, then it could be time to take a serious look at where we both are heading spiritually.

(See also Prayer Meetings.)

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