The Call of Obscurity

They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute,
persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
-HEBREWS 11:37-38 (NIV)
WHEN I ENTERED THE COMPETITION my hopes and dreams were big.  I thought that maybe—just maybe—God was opening the door for me to pursue a concert ministry that would lead to recording contracts and—if I’m really going to be honest—a degree of recognition or notoriety.
It was 1986 when I first entered the vocal competition at the
Christian Artists Seminar of the Rockies held annually at the YMCA of Estes Park, Colorado. 

I had no idea what to expect,  but knew that many who did well at this competition went on to highly successful careers in Christian music.  If I could do well in,  or possibly win, this competition my dreams just might come true.  I had a number of fantastic friends who encouraged me every step of the way.


I did well, but did not win the competition.  However, God graciously allowed me to pursue a concert/worship ministry for several years.  I formed Burning Bush Ministries and during that time of my life sang at churches, led worship at revivals, conducted worship seminars and even traveled overseas to Ukraine, where I was erroneously billed as  “World Famous Jim Bush.”  I was flattered, but in reality, I was embarrassed by what I knew was not true.  It was certainly false advertising.  God blessed me in many ways, but what I had originally envisioned was just not to be.  Maybe—just maybe I was chasing the wrong thing.


In an age where everyone wants to be a star, where everyone wants to be the next great American Idol, NBA, NFL or Tour De France superstar, it is easy to get discouraged when things don’t turn out the way you had dreamed.  Climbing the ladder of success can be an intoxicating pursuit and one that you may find leaves you empty, discouraged and disillusioned.  Maybe—just maybe you are chasing the wrong thing, especially if you are  Christian.


Christians who pursue a full-time, ministry related career path, as have I, are not immune to this lure.  It seems like most of the students coming out of our Bible Colleges have aspirations of landing their dream ministry in a thriving mega church.  Maybe I can be the next Francis Chan or Bob Russell or Billy Graham or Steven Furtick or Matt Chandler or . . . (whoever your favorite ministry personality may be).


If it is career, position or notoriety that you are pursuing and not God, you are bound to find yourself disappointed and disillusioned—even if you succeed in reaching your goal.   If God alone is not your goal, whatever you think you achieve or accomplish is simply, in the words of Solomon, “vanity—a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).


For certain, there are those who accomplish incredible things for the Kingdom of God and gain significant recognition along the way.  Hebrews 11 gives us an impressive list of such faithful servants:  Abraham, Enoch, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon and others; people who quenched fires and conquered kingdoms.  We would add New Testament heroes to that list like the Apostles, Timothy, Luke, Silas, Aquilla and Priscilla, Lydia, Dorcas and Mary Magdalene.  Throw in Charles Spurgeon, John & Charles Wesley, Martin Luther, Augustine and Alexander Campbell, a host of others, along with the contemporaries already mentioned, and you have a rather impressive list of famous and faithful men and women of faith.


But what if your call is not to fame and notoriety?  What if your call is to slug it out unknown in the trenches of life, serving in obscurity on the assembly line, driving truck, mining coal, serving people from behind a counter, preaching in a small country church or serving your family as a faithful and loving homemaker?  What if you don’t make enough  money in your lifetime to even retire?  What if nobody notices you or ever remembers your name?  What if you are just an average Christian?


If you have been faithful to God, He will see, and His recognition of your service and faithfulness will cause all other accolades to be blown away like dust.  Did you notice in the Scripture at the head of this article what the writer of Hebrews says of the vast throngs of unknown, unheralded, invisible, obscure, but faithful servants—some of them facing the brutal demise of martyrdom?  “The world was not worthy of them.” 


The application line for obscurity, hardship and intense risk is a whole lot shorter than the line for fame, kudos, recording contracts and book publishing deals.   What if that is the line God wants you to be in?  What if that is the line He wants me to be in?


My thoughts in preparing this article were prompted by an article, The Call No One Wants to Get, January 23, 2017 by Lance Witt.