Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Consider the 7,000: Encouragement to Christians Laboring in Obscurity

Do you feel like you're being overlooked? That your God-given gifts are being wasted? When you envisioned your future, did you think that you might be more successful by now? I think most of us have been there. If that's you, I have some encouragement for you, though it may not be what you expect. A while back I discovered an extremely gifted Christian musician whose giftedness and artistic excellence far extended his reach/ success/ platform (I hate that word now)/ whatever you want to call it. Sensing that he may be discouraged, I sent him a note. I've included an edited version of it here to protect his identity. Though it's written specifically to a musician, I think it applies in other realms as well. I pray that this is an encouragement to you, Christian, as you seek to honor the Lord with your gifts.

Dear Friend,

I've been listening to {your album} for the past week or so and really enjoying it. It's a fantastic project. There are many things I could talk about on a purely musical level. I really think you are one of the best out there at what you do. It's so God-glorifying! As I've listened, there are a couple of themes that stood out to me- the struggle of believers in this world, hope in God through the tough times, the Lord's faithfulness and our eternal reward. I was talking to my wife about it. That convo got me thinking about some things and I felt led to hit you up.

I can imagine that you might be in a difficult position. You're obviously gifted. I'm sure people around you for years have been encouraging you in your giftedness. It may be easy to wonder why you're not experiencing as much success as you could be. I actually get mad for you! I'm like, "Man! {this artist} is better than a lot of dudes out there and he's doin' it for the Lord. Why doesn't he get the same notoriety as so and so?" When I listen to {particular songs} it makes me think that it ain't just a song. You're talking from experience and probably trying to encourage yourself as well when you sing about God's promises to provide. I can relate on all fronts. I have two things to encourage you with- one from nature and another from Scripture.

First, from nature. Have you ever considered that, as big as the universe is, it means that the vast majority of things that God has made, no human eye will ever see? Think of the millions of solar systems and galaxies outside of our own. Heaven and earth will pass away and those things will only be known to God. And yet He made them. And He is glorified in making them. "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). Even on this earth, there are many living creatures that are known only to God Himself. So the glory is not in humans being aware of them or noticing their beauty, but the fact that God takes notice and made them for His good pleasure.

We know that exaltation doesn't come from the east or west, but from the Lord (Ps. 75:6). For whatever reason, the Lord has determined to have you where you are despite your giftedness. Or it may be because of your giftedness. Perhaps the Lord is preserving you from something that might harm you should your "platform" be bigger. I'm not sure. The Lord knows. My point is that it's not accidental where you are. Our God is mindful of you. I know you're aware of this, but I say these things as a reminder in case you're tempted towards discouragement with what looks like a lack of success in the eyes of this world.

My second encouragement is from Scripture. I'm sure you're familiar with the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He's on the run from Jezebel after the showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. In Romans 11:3-4, Paul recounts this story, where Elijah says:

“Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God's reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Often, this story is told as an encouragement to Christians or ministers who may feel lonely or attacked. We tend to identify with Elijah. But I would want to encourage you to consider the 7,000. I see three things about them here:

1. They were unknown to Elijah ("I alone am left"). Those 7,000 didn't have big, well known ministries. They didn't have mad Twitter followers. They didn't win any Grammy's (or Stellars lol). The big-time prophet of the day had no idea they existed. They weren't featured on Elijah's mixtape. But the important thing wasn't whether or not Elijah knew them. God knew them.

2. They were chosen and preserved by God ("I have kept for myself"). Just like the distant galaxies, the 7,000 were specially selected to have heaven itself as their primary audience. It was God's decision to both save them and keep them. And "for myself" is another way of God saying "for my glory". So in a way we may not fully understand, the 7,000 glorified God more in their obscurity than they would have had they "blown up". Surely God's ways aren't our ways!

3. They were faithful ("have not bowed the knee to Baal"). This is huge because most people in Israel, including the kings, were being given over to Baal worship. To not worship Baal was to be in the minority, even among those who claimed Yahweh as their God. Crazy. And yet, the 7,000 were faithful. Perhaps they got mocked because they were singing songs to the God of Israel instead of Baal. They didn't care. They remained faithful. Maybe you could have made more money as a songwriter back then if you just took out the offensive Yahweh stuff and just added some things that Baal worshippers would appreciate. They didn't care. They remained faithful. You get the point.

I apologize for such a long email. I'll bring it to a close. Brother, remain faithful! Continue to do what you do for God's glory. I'm sure there are people being encouraged by your music that you won't meet until the Resurrection. Let faithfulness to the Lord be your measure of your success. By all means, continue to work hard at your craft and strive for excellence in both the creation and marketing of your music. But in all that, remain faithful to the Lord. He has preserved you for that purpose.

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
grace and peace,


Steve said...

Shai, your music has been in my ears every day for the last month, and more recently you have been weighing on my mind personally since you posted on FB about how streaming has hurt you financially. I wish I would have written this letter to you, but obviously and unsurprisingly you already have your head on straight and your heart steadfastly on the Lord. Keep fighting the good fight, you are a great encouragement to me and to many others who you will never hear from until we meet in glory.

ObjectiveTruth said...

Thank you. That was an really insightful perspective that I've never heard before. At the very least, that encouraged me.

On a somewhat related note, I think it'd be great if you did shout outs here about albums/artists that you're listening to. I have a good library of artists that I turn to for quality Holy Hip Hop, but I am always hoping to find more.

Grace & Peace