Leading up to Easter, I want to look at some of the hidden character traits that Jesus had. Jesus had some characteristics that we would expect in someone called to be the savior of the world. He was loving. He was gracious. He was awe-inspiring. He healed every manner of disease. He raised dead people back to life. There was a time when God himself proclaimed in an audible voice, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” There were plenty of fireworks around the person of Jesus. He was amazing and caring and gracious and kind and profound.
But he had other characteristics that were confusing, perplexing, frustrating, even maddening. There are times when Jesus would hide from his friends, other times when he went completely silent, still other moments when he seemed to have anger-management issues. Turns out these less celebrated characteristics of Jesus can give us insight into the hidden areas of our character. But it’s going to take some looking to discover what I’m talking about.
There are times in our lives when it feels like Jesus is HUGE. That he’s right here. Maybe even a bit too close.
- I felt that way the first time I met Jesus. I was at a Keith Green concert and he asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus. Jesus felt this big that day.
- I felt that way the day I married my wife. I still remember the moment I saw her in her wedding dress for the first time. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
- It felt like Jesus was that close to me when my son was born. I couldn’t stop crying. Do any of you know what I’m talking about. Child birth feels like such an obvious act of God. Jesus was just right there.
- I felt like that a couple of years ago when I needed back surgery. It just felt like God was right there every step of the way.
What is that moment when you felt like God was that close? Have you had one? It’s amazing, right? So let me ask you one more question: Have you ever felt like Jesus has turned his back on you? Have you even been hurt and in pain and cried out for an answer but got nothing? Have you ever had a moment like that?
- You’re battling depression and God is not there.
- You’re fighting for your marriage and feel like you are losing.
- Your struggling with finances or sickness or an injury or a child and you’ve prayed and yelled and screamed and no one was there.
Christians have spent so much time looking and not finding Jesus that they have created a nickname for God. Thomas Aquinas called him Deus Absconditus or “hidden god” and that name became so common it even has it’s own wikipedia page.
I want to start off today by pointing to some verses that confirm what you always thought was true of God in your darkest, most lonely times. You felt like God was distant and withdrawn and, according to these verses, it seems like you were right. Let me take you to a moment early on in Jesus ministry:
12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Leprosy in Jesus day meant a long,slow death in isolation. This man was forced to remove himself from family and friends and live in isolation. Leprosy would steal his pain sensing nerves from his body so that when he hurt himself he wouldn’t know. Those wounds would fester and kill off parts of the body some of which would ultimately fall off. That was this man’s life until Jesus healed him. How could you keep that a secret? He couldn’t:
15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. When friends and neighbors and townspeople saw this man who had leprosy walking around totally healed they ran to Jesus. It was a mob scene.
Now check out what Jesus did (this is the important part):
16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:12-16
The word “withdrew” literally means to walk out the back door to avoid detection. To keep out of sight. Jesus was surrounded by the sick and injured and demon possessed and he snuck out the back door. And not just once. He did it often. It was his pattern. Can you imagine. You’re blind since birth and you hear about this Jesus so a friend leads you to him. But he’s not there. He withdrew. He snuck away. Jesus did this all the time. Every since Jesus showed up on earth there have been people seeking a hidden God.
This moment reminds me of playing hide-and-seek as a kid. There are several ways to play hide and seek. There is the traditional way. One person is the seeker and all the other people are the hiders. The seeker seeks until everyone is found.
There are some alternate versions of this game as well. Here’s one version: send someone to hide and then never look for them. Any of you have older brothers or sisters? You probably got suckered into that game. I have three older sisters so clearly my answer is “yes.” Some of you parents have played that game with your kids. Your intention wasn’t to never look for your hidden child but to get a few minutes of peace and quiet, so you put off the searching just a little bit.
There is another alternate version of hide-and-seek. That’s where you promise to go and hide and while the person is counting to 50 you don’t hide but you go over to a friend’s house. That’s what these verses feel like. Some of you have lived through moments where you are seeking God but he’s stepped out. He can’t be found.
Viewing these verses as God hiding from the weak and infirmed is one way to look at these verses, but there is another way:
What if I told you that these verses not only have confirmation of what you thought was true about God being hidden, but that they also have the answer to the question of what to do when it seems like God is hidden?
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
It’s a fact; Jesus did withdraw from people who were in need when he was on Earth. Check out these verses to see what I mean:
When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Matthew 4:12
After his friend John was killed we read this:
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Matthew 14:13
In Matthew 15 we find another reason why he withdrew. He was sick of the incompetence of the people he worked with:
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. Matthew 15:15,16
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Matthew 15:21
Jesus had many moments like this. Before he started his ministry he withdrew for 40 days. Before he was arrested he withdrew and prayed.
Not that healing and helping people wasn’t important to Jesus. It’s just that there was another thing that was more important to Jesus:
Jesus Wasn’t Hiding; He Was seeking
Jesus was constantly seeking his father. Just like us, most of those times he withdrew to seek God were difficult times. He was seeking to be close to his father. He was seeking wisdom in his life. He was seeking direction. He wasn’t hiding; He was seeking.
When we look at Jesus’ life, we learn one principle that’s hard for us to grasp: It doesn’t matter what is on your to-do list, God is the most important and he needs to be sought first and sought the hardest.
Jesus had a lot of very important items on his to-do list.
- There were sick people clamoring to be well
- Parents desperate for their children to be healed
- Men and women blind from birth who wanted to see.
Still Jesus withdrew to pray and spend time with his father. He wasn’t hiding, he was seeking.
Will the Real Hider Please Stand Up?
That brings me to an important question. Are you having a difficult finding Jesus because he is hiding, or are you having a difficult time finding Jesus because you are hiding?
It is in our nature to hide. Always has been. Let me show you. We all know the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. They ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil and when they did, this is what happened:
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10
They made a mistake and they hid and we have been hiding our mistakes ever since. John Ortberg put it like this:
“This is my story. I hide because I don’t want to be exposed in my fallenness, my darkness. I hide because I’m afraid if the truth about me is known, I will never be loved. I hide from other people. I hide from God. I hide from truth – in a sense, I hide even from myself”
We hide. We are good at hiding:
- The couple whose marriage has gone cold learns to hide. They haven’t been emotionally connected for years and have not laughed together or made love for longer than they can remember. They learn to hide.
- The person who feels like work is a boring and draining and unfulfilling is hiding. He’s hiding in work conversations. Maybe even hiding in a bottle to dull the pain.
- The parents whose kid is struggling is hiding. In a world of people whose kids are off to this college or graduating with honors, their child is still trying to find her way. So they hide.
- We use language to hide: I don’t have an anger issue; I’m just frustrated. I don’t gossip; I just want to pray more accurately. I’m not a workaholic; I’m just supporting my family
We are chronic hiders. Maybe the reason when it seems like God is hiding from you, you are actually the one who is hiding. You’re hiding your mistakes and your fears and your depression.
Turns out you’re not seeking, your hiding. God makes it clear that hiders stay hidden, but seekers find:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7
It it’s really important to you, you will find it. I experienced the truth of this last week:
I was sitting in my office, working on another dynamic message, when I got a call from my daughter. I have a different ring tone for each of my kids. My youngest daughter’s ringtone is “Help” from the Beatles because if she’s calling dear-old dad it’s because she needs help with something. Sure enough, the phone rings and my daughter says, “Dad, I lost my key to the car. I was out in the park with my art class and I must have put it down somewhere and now I can’t find it.” Here’s the problem with my daughter losing that key: it was our only key because she had already lost the spare a few months ago. And this wasn’t just a key; it was a Prius key fob. Okay, who thinks I lost it with my daughter at this point? I didn’t. I wasn’t angry; I was “frustrated.” I really didn’t lay into my daughter because we all make mistakes.
But I was about to get frustrated. Very frustrated. I called Toyota to see what I had to do to get a new Prius key fob. Here’s the strategy. You have to have your Prius towed to the dealership. Then for $250 they will reprogram your computer to a new key fob. Each key fob costs $175 plus an $80 service fee. We would need two new keys. To get a new key for our Prius would cost $760 plus $66 tax for a grand total of $826!
At that point I came up with a new plan. We are going to find that key! This was a full court family press. I sent my daughter with a security guard from the school to look for the key. Then I pulled my wife out of Bible study and sent her home to see if she could find the old key we lost months ago. When my daughter told me she couldn’t find it, I went up to her school myself and we looked together. We looked in the park. We went to every office near the park to see if someone turned it in. We retraced her steps to and from school. I asked some homeless guys in the park if they had seen it. I told them if they found it I would buy them lunch. Then it was me and Sterling and a homeless guy searching the park. After an hour and a half, I sent her back to school and I kept looking after I bought lunch for my homeless buddy. Finally, after 6 hours of looking I ran into two security guards and asked them if they found a lost key. They said “no,” but suggested I check the office of the civic theater. I wandered in and asked the receptionist if anyone had turned in lost keys. She said “no,” but instructed me to write down my name and number so she could call me if they found them. As I bent down to write my name, something caught my eye: sitting right behind her on a desk was the key!
Seekers find. Especially when you seek with all of your heart. Why did I seek so hard for those keys? Because they were valuable. That key saved me $826. Is it possible that the reason why God seems hidden from you is because you aren’t seeking with all of your heart? That your relationship with him doesn’t have enough value to you? Maybe the reason you aren’t seeking God that hard is because you don’t want him that close. You want him when you are in church and when you’re in trouble, but you don’t really want him watching over your business. You don’t want him there when you’re watching TV.
Maybe we’re having a hard time finding God is because we don’t continually seek Him in everything. We don’t want him in every aspect of our lives. We just want Jesus on retainer. We want him close enough so that when we have a need we can call on him and he’ll respond. God is like a friend who’s a plumber. We want to keep that relationship close enough so that our busted water heater goes straight to the top of his priority list, but we don’t necessarily want to spend every weekend with the guy.
Are You A Hider or A Seeker?
If you feel like God is not as close as you want him to be you need to figure out the answer to this simple question: Are you seeking or are you hiding? Which of these types of people do you identify with the most?
Characteristics of hiders:
- Hiders have areas of their life that they keep from God
- Hiders give God full access to some areas but keep him out of others.
- Hiders keep their stuff hidden down deep
But seekers are different:
- Seekers seek God with all of their heart.
- Seekers put God first in all areas of their lives
- Seekers are honest not just when it’s convenient but all the time
- Seekers pursue God on good days and when life gets rough
- Seekers ask God what they should do instead of asking God to bless what they are already doing.
- Seekers open God’s word to try and stay close
- Seekers ask God’s wisdom when seeking a life partner, they don’t just ask God to bless the partner they chose without him.
- Seekers come clean with their issues. They don’t hide them away. They are real with them. They confess them to God. They get accountability from others.
Let me tell you another thing about seekers. Seekers find. Hiders stay hidden but seekers find. Which are you? A Hider or a Seeker? Which do you want to be?
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