The common thing about all the people I’ve mentioned in the last several posts, whether they were Biblical characters or contemporary ones, is that they all faced times of relative obscurity. But they didn’t run from it. They faced it. They braved it. They endured it. They let it reprove them and perfect them. They then went on to build truly significant works — works not only of prominence but more importantly of permanence!
Permanence is more important than prominence.
Foundations of lasting work are usually constructed in obscurity. And foundations are usually not visible for long. But if you build without a proper foundation, the building will not have permanence.
Furthermore, it’s usually easier to build once the hard work of foundation laying is done. Our generation is one that knows little of foundation building. We so often fail to appreciate and understand the great burden and sacrifice that others shouldered so that we could enjoy what we have today. We have little or no appreciation for the obscure!
I immediately think of the sacrifice of pioneering missionaries and church planters. Today in the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there are some very large and influential churches being raised up. These churches are impacting not only their cities and nations but now also the entire world! But we must not make the mistake of assuming that the current senior pastors are fully responsible for these great works!
While there is no doubt that God is raising up incredible national leaders all over the world, and this is critical to His ongoing plans, one must never forget the great price that was paid several generations back to bring the gospel to those areas. Somewhere in obscure cemetaries you will find the graves of forgotten missionaries and their children.
A One Hundred Year-Old Prophecy
I remember hearing Rheinhard Bonnke reflect on this truth once. Bonnke was telling about how the Lord called him to a great crusade ministry in Africa. Early in his ministry he came across a one hundred year old prophecy. The prophecy had been written by a missionary in Africa. It went something like this:
“Today we labor to see one person saved here and one person there. The work is hard and it is slow. But we are laying the foundation for a great revival that will one day sweep this continent. One hundred years from now someone will stand where I now stand and preach. But he will see thousands coming to the Lord in a single meeting.”
When Bonnke came across this old prophecy, he realized that he was building on the foundation laid by nameless, faceless people several generations before. Now millions of Africans were being converted in his ministry – a ministry being built upon the blood, sweat, and tears of previous generations. It had a humbling effect on Bonnke – and for good reason.
Today’s great works of prominence and permanence were born and undergirded in yesterday’s costly labors of obscurity.
May we never forget it. God certainly hasn’t. This should encourage us that our labor is not in vain in the Lord – even if in obscurity!