Why We Need a Hidden Life with the Lord Jesus
Our Christian life needs two sides: the seen and the unseen. Living in a physical world, it’s easy to focus on the seen—our behavior, church activities, work for God, or our care for people. We work hard to be “good Christians.” But it’s possible that by focusing on what is seen, we may neglect the unseen—our hidden relationship with the Lord. We have to beware of this potential pitfall in our Christian life.
In Mark 4, the Lord spoke a parable about a sower who sowed seeds into four types of earth. Some seeds fell by the road, where birds quickly devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky places and immediately sprang up, only to wither under the sun’s heat. Others fell into thorns and were choked. And some fell into good earth, grew, and produced fruit.
In verses 16-17, the Lord explained to His disciples what the “rocky places” are:
“And likewise, these are the ones being sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. Yet they have no root in themselves, but last only for a time; then when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately they are stumbled.”
When we hear the Lord’s word through others or from our own reading of the Bible, we often receive it with joy. Perhaps we respond by immediately springing up to do something for the Lord, to share that word with someone, or to adjust our behavior according to it.
But it’s possible that this could be an immature sprouting, an outward attempt to be the good Christian we long to be. We must be careful. Our Christian life is not measured by the beautiful foliage of our activities, seen above ground. It’s measured by the health and depth of our spiritual roots, hidden, unseen.
A strong root system
Hidden beneath the surface, a plant’s roots serve to: 1) absorb water and nutrients from the soil; 2) anchor the plant in the ground to support its upward growth; 3) store long-term nutrients; and 4) aid vegetative reproduction.
Let’s look at how these four functions of a plant’s hidden root life vividly correlate to the Christian life.
First and foremost we need to be watered by and feed on the Lord in His Word. Without taking in Christ as our nourishment, we simply cannot spiritually survive or be healthy, let alone live a proper Christian life. We need to absorb spiritual nutrients every day for our moment-by-moment supply.
Second, without being rooted in Christ, we aren’t able to bear the difficulties and trials we experience in life. Our unseen roots in Christ are what anchor us so we can stand firm when the winds of trouble blow all around us. Being rooted in Christ enables us to even grow in His life in the midst of difficulties.
Third, the Lord Jesus plainly told us that we will be afflicted, that is, persecuted, because of the Word of God. This is a fact of Christian life. But no matter how difficult our Christian walk may be, if we have deep roots, we are guaranteed access to the abundant supply and long-term nutrients of our all-inclusive Christ.
Fourth, when we tend to the growth of our spiritual root system, we will spontaneously live the Christian life we so much want. Drawing from that supply, we’ll even bear fruit for the Lord as the result of our hidden life.
Three ways to develop a strong root system
Although we certainly enjoy and need fellowship with other believers, our Christian life should also be private and personal. Here are three things we can do every day to develop healthy roots in the Lord.
- Pray—The Lord Jesus warned us not to pray openly to impress people. In Matthew 6:6 He said, “But you, when you pray, enter into your private room, and shut your door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” If we want to have strong roots in Christ, we must develop a hidden, private, secret prayer life with our Lord.
- Read the Bible—In Matthew 4, the devil tested the Lord Jesus as He fasted for forty days in the wilderness. Satan tempted the Lord to turn stones into bread for food. Jesus responded, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out through the mouth of God.” We live by taking in the Word of God as our daily bread. Also, this Word we take in enables us to stand against the devil’s temptations.
- Spend time with the Lord in the morning—By combining these two, praying and reading the Bible, first thing in the morning, we can deepen our roots. Before we get too busy and before the heat of the day begins to wear on us, we can absorb the Lord as our nourishment by praying over the Word every morning. This will nourish us for the day.
The Lord Jesus is our pattern
We can and should do a lot of things for the Lord that can be seen. As believers, we must care for the church and minister Christ to people around us. But these activities must be based on a deep, hidden, unseen root system.
The Lord Jesus is our pattern. He did many wonderful things in the Father’s name. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, fed the hungry. But time and time again, He withdrew from the crowds and went away in private to pray to the Father. We can follow His pattern, not by imitating Him outwardly but by knowing Him inwardly in our personal, private time with Him.
This post is based on chapter 3 of Basic Elements of the Christian Life, vol. 2. Bibles for America gives this book away for free; order your free copy here. You can also download a PDF version from the publisher here.