Have you ever felt invisible in a crowd? Have you ever felt like no one notices you, or maybe you don’t matter? You are not unusual if that’s happened to you.
Meet Brian in the children’s book, The Invisible Boy. Brian is a little boy at elementary school. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their groups or their games on the playground or invite him to their birthday parties. He just sits alone at his desk, unnoticed. He’s invisible.
Skyler, a young lady who wrote a song that was on the radio a few years ago, described herself as being invisible.
“I take these pills to make me thin.
I dye my hair and cut my skin.
I try everything to make them see me
but all they see is someone that’s not me.
Even when I’m walking on a wire;
Even when I set myself on fire.
Why do I always feel invisible?
Even when I try to look my best,
even though inside I’m such a mess.
Why do I always feel invisible?”
Meet Natalie Brown, a blogger, who describes feeling invisible. “Feeling invisible – it’s that pain when no one understands you. When you need to talk to someone, or you need a giant hug, but you feel left alone. Invisible – it’s when you ask for help, but no one listens. Invisible – it’s feeling totally alone, even when surrounded by people.”
Tamra, a therapist, writes, “I first heard about this a few years ago at a cocktail party. A friend in her late 60s was lamenting about not being taken seriously at her workplace. She humorously remarked, ‘No one in the world sees me anymore because I’m an older woman!’ I then began to hear more of my older patients describe this experience of feeling invisible. And then it happened to me! I realized that when I walk down the street, younger people simply don’t see me. It was as if I actually disappeared from the sight of people in my neighborhood who are much younger than me.”
No one – no one – likes to feel invisible, like they don’t matter and are insignificant. Yet, the world sometimes has a way of making us feel this way, as we feel ignored, overlooked, unnoticed, or forgotten. When it happens, we experience the fear that perhaps our life doesn’t count. Maybe I am insignificant.
Over the ages, people have tried a variety of ways to overcome this feeling. Some use name dropping. If I just drop a few well-known names of people that I claim to know, people might look up to me.
The fashion world takes advantage of our need to be noticed. Just wear a particular set of jeans with their name on the back pocket, and people will notice you.
Some people try to hook their wagon onto someone else’s rising star. Hang tight with the “in” group at school, for instance – the people whom everybody seems to notice.
We can become driven for success in our work so others will recognize the value in us. I’ve heard teachers talk of kids who act destructively in the classroom. It’s like they don’t get enough attention so they seek even negative attention. They put others down and gossip about others, thus making them feel better about themselves.
We pretend to be busier than we really are. We want other people to notice and say, “Oh my! You are so busy! You must really be important!”
A lot of us are using social media today. I believe a lot of the blogs, Facebook postings – even twittering – are happening because people want to be noticed. They’re not getting face-to-face attention, so they use the Internet. As people respond to them, pay attention to them, become their “friend,” and communicate with them, they feel validated that they do matter and their life counts.
What an awful way to live your one and only life – being fearful that you don’t matter. Struggling with all your power and might to get people to notice you a little more.
Well, Jesus has a word for us today as He offers some insights to His disciples in Luke’s Gospel. He had been confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, telling them, You don’t care about people. All you care about is looking good, appearing religious, getting the best seats in the synagogue, the best places in public, and having people look up to you. You are playing for the applause of the crowds by trying to look important.
And so, when Jesus begins this text, He says, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.” The ancient Jews used the word “yeast” to mean evil. “Beware of the evil of the Pharisees . . .” They were playing a role in order to get people to look up to them and treat them as important. Jesus is telling us not to be like them. The day is coming when their hypocrisy will be exposed. “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.”
Jesus tells us, Don’t fear people. Don’t play for the crowd. Instead, fear the One who can take your life and cast your soul into hell. Jesus is talking about God, our heavenly Father. He is the One who matters the most, for He holds your eternal destiny in His hands.
Perhaps you’ve heard of this verse from the Old Testament, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). What does it mean to live in the fear the Lord? I thought a couple snapshots might help us understand its meaning.
A young fellow in my Bible study group said something that was helpful to me. He said, “I think of my relationship with my earthly father. I knew he loved me. I knew he cared for me, and I trusted him. But I also feared him in a very healthy way. He was the authority in my life, and I obeyed him. I submitted to his wishes.”
Someone else writes about the fear of the Lord. “I used to think that living in the fear the Lord was like driving down the street while watching the policeman in your rearview mirror. Actually a better picture of the fear of the Lord is a teenage driver who suddenly spots her father’s car in her rearview mirror. Seeing him back there puts her on notice to be on her best behavior – use the blinkers, stop at the red light, and keep both hands on the wheel.
“But it also tells her that her father cares enough to follow her. It tells her that she’s safe. Her father is not trying to trap her or trick her. He’s trying to help her develop good habits – to not just be careful on this trip but to obey all the laws and stay safe until she gets home. She is driving on her own but not completely on her own.”
And so it is for the people of God. The fear of the Lord means we live life with our heavenly Father always in our rearview mirror. We glance up and not only see His brilliant holiness, but also His love and His care. Our response – the fear the Lord – is a mixture of reverence, trust, and love. To live fearing God, then, means to live with Him, as Martin Luther says, “. . . with love, trust, and obedience above all things.” It means to submit to Him.
God doesn’t want to be a partner in your life; He wants to take over. His good pleasure (living in the fear of the Lord) is your bottom line. Jesus tells us to play for an audience of one – the One who matters most, the One who holds your eternal destiny in His hands.
Then Jesus tells us what this One thinks about you. He uses his “how-much-more argument” with His disciples. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies . . .” In other words, they are not worth much. “. . . yet not one of them is forgotten by your heavenly Father. Even the hairs on your head are numbered.” If God cares so much about these things that seem so insignificant to us, and not one of them is forgotten, how much more does He care for you?
Then Jesus finishes by saying, “Fear not! You are of more value than many sparrows!” In God’s eyes, my dear friends, YOU MATTER. You are valued.
When I was teaching confirmation years ago, I had the kids memorize this statement: “I am an important and precious individual in the eyes of God.” Jesus makes a statement something like that when He says, “Fear not, you are of more value than many sparrows.”
It is because Jesus knew His Scripture, didn’t He? Look at Genesis 1:26 where we read we are created in the image of God. You are created in the image of God, my dear friend. You have a mind with which to think, a will to make decisions, and a soul with which you will spend eternity with Him in heaven. No other part of God’s creation can make that claim. You are valuable and important in His sight. You are the crown of His creation. He knows you. Psalm 139 says you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Second, Jesus knew He was going to die on the cross for you. In Romans 5:8, Paul looks back on the cross and says God loves us so much, He gave His Son to die for us while we were still sinners. He made a costly payment to make us His own. Jesus did not die on the cross for a sparrow, or for a whale, or for anything else in all creation. He died on the cross for you that you might be His own.
Finally, the Apostle Paul, looking at his life now as a follower of Jesus, writes in Ephesians 2:10 to other believers in Christ, “You are God’s masterpiece, his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared for you to do beforehand.” In other words, you are on call. You have been made a member of the team. You have a calling to stand up for Jesus Christ, serve Him and His cause in this world. You are a masterpiece in His sight.
Dear friend, isn’t that something! Say it with me –
I am an important and precious individual in the eyes of God.
Glory in that!
So, what will I do with this? Jesus calls us to claim it, trust it, and build your life upon it. You matter to the One – our heavenly Father – who matters most. He knows you; He notices you; He sees you. He knows your every thought. He cares about you. He gave His Son to die for you. He has a plan for your life. You are His masterpiece.
One Sunday I had my congregation take a card home. It said “Fear not! You are of more value than many sparrows.” Then it listed the Bible verses I just shared with you. I told the congregation to tape the card on their mirror so it is the first thing they see every morning.
Finally, the context of this passage tells us to live our life for an audience of one – for His good pleasure.
A young violinist was known to be an excellent, musician but wouldn’t hold public concerts because of stage fright. Finally the critics talked him into performing, and he put on one whale of a concert. However, as the crowd stood and applauded, it was like he didn’t hear them. Instead he simply looked out into the audience. Finally his eyes rested on someone or something, and he acknowledged the audience.
When he was asked backstage why it took him so long to respond, the violinist said, “I had heard that my master teacher attended this concert. I was looking for him. I wanted to see what he thought. When I saw him standing and smiling and applauding, then I knew he was pleased and everything was okay.”
That is how Jesus calls us to live the rest of our lives: knowing the Master is the only One who really matters. We play for an audience of One.
My friend, you are not insignificant but valuable in your heavenly Father’s sight. Play out your life for Him. Amen.