How to Serve God When Nobody Notices

Sometimes it’s tough to serve God in the shadows. You show up faithfully. You contribute your part, but no one seems to notice. Matthias may have felt that way.

How to Serve God When Nobody Notices

(Photo: The Jordan River. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Ever since John the Baptist had prepared the way for the Messiah, Matthias had followed.

  • He had walked in Jesus’ footsteps from the Jordan River to the rugged hills of Galilee.
  • He had followed the Savior with passion and persuasion.

But without recognition. Matthias was a willing unknown.

In those moments we beg God to rescue us from our insignificant lives, believing nothing important is happening with us, Matthias reminds us that just the opposite is true.

When God’s List Seems to Leave You Out

Early on, Jesus had chosen His twelve apostles from among the many disciples who shadowed Him. Even though Matthias qualified as much as any of the twelve who made the list, he wasn’t selected.

Matthias followed anyway.

One week later, Matthias witnessed his world turn upside down—as the One he had faithfully followed died on a Roman cross in Jerusalem. Three days later, however, Matthias’ hopes resurrected as Jesus showed Himself alive from the grave.

Jerusalem see from the east

(Photo: Jerusalem see from the east. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For more than three years, Matthias had witnessed it all—in absolute obscurity.

The Gospels never mention his name, yet he was there on every page.

Matthias was Being Prepared Unaware

Now, Matthias had gathered with the apostles and many other followers of Christ in an upstairs room large enough to seat the whole group of one hundred twenty.

The Upper Room also held dozens of memories.

  • Only a few weeks earlier, the Lord Jesus had reclined here at the table with His twelve disciples.
  • But then the evening fell dark and their sorrow deepened as Jesus made grave predictions of their imminent failures.
  • Peter denied the Lord, all others deserted Him, and Judas betrayed his master. The guilt-ridden traitor then tried to strangle his sorrow by hanging himself—ironically, in the same valley Jesus had used as an illustration of hell.

Jesus’ glorious resurrection had given the disillusioned group of disciples a new hope and a new purpose. As He ascended to heaven, Jesus told His many followers standing on the Mount of Olives, “You shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

Matthias heard it himself. He, too, had seen Jesus ascend.

The Upper Room

(Photo: The Upper Room. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

The Empty Chair in the Upper Room

There in the same room where Jesus had predicted Judas’s betrayal, Peter explained, through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Scripture’s prediction that Judas would need to be replaced (Acts 1:20).

  • The need to fill the hole he left suggested Judas had never placed his faith in Jesus (1:25)—a point that would soon be affirmed when James surrendered his head to the sword and no one saw the need to replace him.
  • James will rise again to sit on a throne in Israel. Judas’s resurrection will have a very different destiny (Revelation 20:14–15).

Peter described with precision the qualifications for serving as one of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:21–22). Following a discussion, only two qualified men became clear: one named Joseph . . . and Matthias.

The group prayed, and God revealed that He had chosen Matthias to serve in Judas’s place as an apostle and as a witness of Jesus’s resurrection.

God’s Surprise Witness

Most likely, no one was more surprised than Matthias.

Matthias never followed Jesus in order to serve as an apostle. He didn’t stick around to fill the first vacancy; he never hoped to unseat the first slacker. He didn’t even climb the steps to the Upper Room that day to fish for votes. Matthias simply followed Jesus from the very beginning—with no motive but faithfulness.

Repeatedly in Scripture we see individuals who began with obscure faithfulness—people like Joseph, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther, and even Jesus—and then God expanded their influence for His glory. In each case, God alone gave the promotion.

It’s the same with us.

Your Opportunity of Obscurity

When we beg God to rescue us from our insignificant lives, believing nothing important is happening with us, Matthias reminds us that just the opposite is true.

We need to see our obscurity as our significant opportunity (Matthew 25:21).

Faithfulness in obscurity today positions us in a place of greater influence for God tomorrow. (Tweet that.)

Matthias never appears again in the book of Acts or anywhere else in Scripture. He emerges for a moment and then vanishes again into obscurity—a willing unknown who followed God with only the motive of faithfulness.

Question: Do you see obscurity as your opportunity to honor an audience of one—God alone? To leave a comment, just click here.

Adapted from Wayne Stiles, “Matthias: God’s Surprise Witness,” in Shaping the Modern Disciple: Lessons from Jesus’s Apostles (IFL Publishing House: Plano, TX, 2013), 74-77.

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  • Jane Franks

    Absolutely! In fact, sometimes being “obscure” has real advantages!! I find when I am most “hidden” (as is often the case with us — Gene is a professional artist, and we walk very much to the beat of a different drum); I can get my best work done (creative writing) because I am able to really focus on God, worship him. Others are not vying for my attention. My concentration on the Lord is not broken but constant activity. I have had to LEARN to let a lot of things go. Constant social media, being with “groups” a lot; and learn to trust God alone; also, how to resist the accusation of the enemy that I am not “doing” enough! We haven’t arrived. We still have our “lonely” or “left out” moments, but our times alone with God have been rich beyond words; a trade off well worth what we may have “given up”! And difficult to explain! I am grateful for books and God’s Word and the talents He has given us to do our work, and just be faithful to Him! It is very humbling and an honor to think of God as an audience of One. Thank you for stirring this reminder!!

    • I know what you mean, Jane. But sometimes God pulls us from the shadows and shoves us up front to learn dependence on Him in a whole new way! Either way, as you say, we serve before “an audience of One.” I like that.

  • RodriguezRaquel

    A very timely post (they are all timely!). As a self proclaimed Martha, I have stepped down from my visible roles at church. By far a command difficult for me to comprehend but none the less the step of faith was taken. A week after taking this step of obedience, I found myself serving in an “obscure” way. Afterwards I felt the sweet whisper of the Lord say, “I have not removed you from these visible roles to toy with you, but to take you to secret places of service. It’s just you and Me.”

    This post has reassured me with great peace that I am in the center of God’s will for my life. Thanks!

    • I’m really glad to hear this, Raquel. I’ve been where you are, and it’s an odd feeling. But hindsight will reveal how God is using this as time of preparation as well as an opportunity to be even more fruitful in the future. I’m so glad you’re listening to the right voices! Good for you.

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