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One of the characteristics of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth was the priority He gave to prayer. Jesus had a secret place, and His prayer life was a driving force in His life. Below is an excerpt from Living From the Secret Place that describes how the private devotion of Jesus is how He fled from the praise of man.
Fleeing the Praise of Man
Moving away from Luke’s gospel for a moment, we see in Mark 6 another example of Jesus withdrawing to pray. In this case, it was directly following the miracle of feeding the five thousand.
Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46)
Jesus sent the disciples to their boat and dismissed the multitude, and then He went to a mountain to pray. This follows with His usual pattern of spending time with the Father, but John’s account of this incident adds an interesting detail.
Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. (John 6:14-15, emphasis added)
The people were astonished at His miracle of multiplying the five loaves and two fish. But they quickly turned their astonishment into something more—they intended to make Jesus an earthly king. They were beginning to see that He was the expected Messiah, but they had a misguided view of what this meant. While Jesus is the King of kings, He had come to earth to serve. He had humbled Himself to be obedient to death, even the death of the cross (see Philippians 2:5-8). He couldn’t allow the people’s mistaken intentions to get in the way of His mission, so He fled to the secret place.
There is a great lesson here for us. When God is working through a person’s life, there is a tendency for others to put him or her on a pedestal. How do we respond to the praise of man? It is a blessing to receive words of encouragement and compliments from others, but we must never allow these to be the source of our identity or to feed our ego. The secret place is a safeguard against being puffed up by applause. In the secret place, it is just you and God. There is no place for haughtiness or elevating self in the presence of the King. When we see Him rightly, we recognize that all we have is from Him and anything He is doing through us is by His grace. (It is worth noting here that increased favor and influence also often comes with increased criticism.)
A few years ago, I was interviewed on a popular nationally-aired TV program. We discussed the reality of deliverance, and my book Setting Captives Free was featured. The week that the interview was released my website traffic increased dramatically, book sales surged, and people were reaching out in droves to ask for prayer or share testimonies of what God had done when they watched the program. All of the sudden I had been catapulted in front of a national audience and put in the spotlight.
The following weekend I was scheduled to minister out of town for a deliverance weekend. It didn’t take long to see that there was a noticeable difference in the way people were treating me. They were rushing to meet me as if I were some sort of celebrity, wanting to talk to me, and have me sign their copy of my book. While things of this nature had happened to a degree previously, there was a different feel about it as if people were starstruck.
I was quite taken aback and disturbed by all of this. I was the same person before my TV interview came out just a week prior, but now I was being treated like a superstar. When the meeting started with a time of worship, I began to pray about this and process with the Lord. While it is good to honor God’s ministers, I was grieved by what seemed to be borderline idolatry. I sensed the Lord impressing on my heart that while I cannot control if people view and treat me with excessive praise, I can control how I respond. This was a defining moment: would I allow the adulation of man to infect my heart with pride, or would I give glory to God and point people to Jesus?
I determined that if the Lord decided to bring increased platform and influence, I must respond by giving glory to Him and never allowing myself to receive worship. And I have found that one of the keys for maintaining this posture as a lifestyle is to continue to prioritize the secret place above all else. As we consistently get alone with God with the right heart and motives, self is crucified and Jesus is elevated.
You may or may not be serving in a public ministry role. But regardless of your calling, vocation, or place of influence, the praise of people can be a temptation. Let the secret place be your safeguard. When you receive a compliment, thank the person for their kindness but remember to give thanks to God in the secret place. When God works through you, make sure that you point people to Jesus and not to yourself. Follow the example of Jesus and flee from the praise of man into the presence of the Father.
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Time alone with God was never intended to be a boring duty or empty ritual. It was meant to be a passionate pursuit of God that leads to encountering His presence and knowing Him more.
Living from the Secret Place is a call to personal devotion. With rich scriptural truths, personal examples, and practical teaching, this book will equip you to grow in the most important thing you can do—spend time alone with God!