So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
– 1 Corinthians 10:31-33
“In the Scriptures, the great miracle of the incarnation slips into the ordinary life of a child; the great miracle of the transfiguration fades into the demon-possessed valley below; the glory of the resurrection descends into a breakfast on the seashore. This is not an anticlimax, but a great revelation of God.
“We have a tendency to look for wonder in our experience, and we mistake heroic actions for real heroes. It’s one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us. If we are not looking for halos, we at least want something that will make people say, ‘What a wonderful man of prayer he is!’ or, ‘What a great woman of devotion she is!’ If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time.
“We want to be able to say, ‘Oh, I have had a wonderful call from God!’ But to do even the most humbling tasks to the glory of God takes the Almighty God Incarnate working in us. To be utterly unnoticeable requires God’s Spirit in us making us absolutely humanly His. The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life ‘hidden with Christ in God’ in our everyday human conditions (Colossians 3:3). Our human relationships are the very conditions in which the ideal life of God should be exhibited.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
We think of valleys as being bad times. Psalm 23 is the perfect example. It is a wonderful psalm about God being with us, but the fearful picture is of the Valley of Death or Darkness. God provides the meadow and the still waters, but it is the valley where we do most of our living. It is the valley that requires us to trust God and take him at His word.
But there is a different valley; there is a peaceful valley. To illustrate, I would like to paint the picture of part of our first big vacation trip, our second honeymoon, only a few months after we were married. I have mentioned the trip before. We went from Port Neches, Texas to Capulin Mountain in NE New Mexico. Capulin Mountain, a volcano, is a National Monument. There is a gravel road from the base of the volcano to the summit, spiraling around the mountain. Of course, in the US, drivers drive to the right. So, as we climbed the mountain, we had to go toward the edge each time we met a traveler coming down the mountain. My wife would scream that we were too close to the edge. I am sure that the passengers in the cars coming down the mountain were screaming that the driver was too close to the side of the mountain. Either that or they enjoyed driving down the middle of the road, making our trip up that much more treacherous. Coming down the mountain – we met no one.
We drove from Capulin, NM to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in about two days. In the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, I would point out some beautiful scenery. My wife would exclaim vociferously for me to keep my eyes on the road. Again, we were on the outside edge, next to the drop into oblivion. (When my wife reviewed this post, she said I used ‘scream’ too often, making her seem like a wimp.)
After spending the night at a remote Montana resort with golf for me and a spa for my wife, we next went to Glacier National Park in Montana, just south of the US/Canada border. We were going from the west to the east through the park on a road called “Going to the Sun”. That should have been a warning. My wife was pleased. As we passed Lake McDonald, we were next to the mountain, away from the edge, but when we reached the switchback around the tree line, we were on the outside edge, again inches from oblivion. The park was crowded. We were climbing at a snail’s pace. Then we reached the glacier melts. The westbound traffic got a car wash, as the glaciers above us melted, forming waterfalls onto the road itself. This formed a river, of sorts, washing across the pavement, right through our lane. There were few areas that had guardrails. We had to drive through these rivers of icy water. My wife voiced he opinion, yet again.
We spent that night in Calgary, Alberta and the next day we drove through Banff National Park. While the US builds their park roads on the edge of the mountains so that you get a good view of the valleys, Canada builds their roads in the valleys so that you can see the mountains. Instead of screams of terror, my wife was exclaiming with joy. “Oh, look at that!” We watched the moose graze. We saw mountain goats climb over the rocks. We saw countless other wildlife. We were relaxed for the first time in a few days.
Each of the parks had their charm. Each had their vistas. But we found peace in the Banff park valleys.
It is all a matter of perception, isn’t it? I had been thinking about the middle of Chambers’ three examples for some time. The Mount of Transfiguration seems to be described as the ultimate in ‘mountain top’ experiences, and the following ‘I believe, but forgive me for my unbelief’ story seems a great example of the depth that we can fall in the valley.
Yet, it is the valleys where most of us are called. It is the valley where God has promised to be with us. Sure, He is everywhere, but He promises through the psalmist to be with us in the valleys, because that’s where He wants us to go. It is in the valley where we, with God’s strength inside us, can lift up our brother.
What do we do in the valleys? As the Scripture says, whatever we do, we do it to the glory of God. We set as good of an example as possible, so that others may not stumble. As Chambers says, true heroism is in the performance of the small things. We do not need witnesses. We do not need the limelight. We have God as our witness, and there are streets of gold awaiting us.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.