The Applause of an Audience

Today’s Reading: Matthew 8:1-4, 9:1-8; Mark 1:40-2:12; Luke 5:12-26

A few years ago, I had the privilege of sitting and visiting with Pam Tebow, mother of former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow. As we waited for her turn to speak at our LIFE Banquet in Champaign, we got to know each other and I enjoyed her sweet spirit and genuine heart. We spoke of some of the big public moments in Tim’s life on the football field but she also shared some of their private moments as a family. By the time Pam rose to go to the stage, I no longer saw her as a public figure about to speak to a room of 800 people about pro-life issues – I now saw her as another mom who loves her family and daily allows God to use her however He desires.

I had considered how BIG the life of the Tebow family must be but I had not considered what it would feel like to have your son call and express his hurt over the way the media had twisted his words. The cameras often show us the big moments of Tim’s life but we do not hear about the private moments, like when he talked to a little girl on the phone who was dying of cancer and explained to her how she could accept Jesus into her heart like he has, just thirty minutes before she would meet her Savior face to face. There is so much more to this family than what is made public. They are a healthy, loving and committed family, WITH OR WITHOUT AN AUDIENCE.

As we read through the gospels, we see that Jesus’ ministry had both its public and private moments. In many of those private moments, Jesus instructs the person he healed not to reveal his identity to others. There was a bigger plan at work and there was wisdom in what Jesus was asking his followers to do, even though they did not always listen to him. Let’s look at the difference between these two kinds of moments in the ministry of the Messiah.

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you.” – Mark 1:40-44a

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

But some of the teachers of the religious law who were sitting their thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” – Mark 2:1-12

First there is a private moment where a man in need of healing falls on his knees before Jesus and is healed. There were probably very few people listening in on their conversation. Jesus specifically tells the man not to tell anyone that Jesus has healed him. Then, just days later, there is a moment where Jesus displays his ability to heal and his authority to forgive sins in front of a large group of people. The result in both situations – God is praised!

There may be moments in our lives when many people are aware of something we have accomplished or a way in which we have served God. We may get a pat on the back or the applause of an audience and in all of that we hope and pray that God is glorified. But there may also be moments in our lives when God asks us to do something for Him, something we will never get earthly recognition for. We obediently follow Jesus REGARDLESS OF THE PRESENCE OF AN AUDIENCE. There is no need for public fanfare or media attention, we are simply daily responding to God’s lead.

That night at the banquet, I was introduced and the crowd of pregnancy center supporters welcomed me warmly. In that moment, everyone in the room knew who I was and the position in the ministry I hold. In the same room there was a retired couple sitting at their assigned table. Every week she comes in and volunteers, working with the young mothers who are learning how to parent. Her husband comes in each week and volunteers by cleaning the pregnancy center. Neither of them got specific public recognition that night but I was given the honor of privately thanking them for all they do for Living Alternatives.

My obedience to what God has asked me to do with my time is no greater than the faithful service of this couple. I guarantee you they were not concerned that they did not get a standing ovation. That is not why they do what they do. They are humble servants of their Savior and King and it is His approval that they are living for.

May our testimony today be the same – willing hearts, WITH OR WITHOUT AN AUDIENCE, whether or not our reward is on earth or in Heaven. May our testimony be as strong in today’s private moments as it is in the public moments when others are watching.