An Audience of One

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On Sunday mornings, I regularly pray, “Father, help me to preach to an audience of one.” Though, in more normal times, I am preaching to several hundred people, my focus must remain on pleasing the Lord. If he is pleased with how I handled his word, if he is pleased with my heart attitude, and if he is pleased with my attempts at feeding his flock, that’s enough. But keeping that perspective is easier said than done. Too often, I am content with a compliment here and a commendation there rather than seeking the applause of heaven. In other words, my “best” day may prove to be my worst day.

In recent weeks, it’s been a bit easier to remember this as I have preached to four people and a camera. Though many watch via livestream, I struggle to imagine an audience. Since faces are unseen, I can’t observe expressions conveying approval, disapproval, interest, or disinterest—or even if the audience is awake! In fact, the entire congregation could be asleep and I wouldn’t even notice. But please, don’t try that at home!

More seriously, standing before a camera and speaking into the air has helped me to focus more meaningfully on serving an audience of one.

I was recently saying to someone that, for all he knew, I was preaching in my pyjama bottoms on Sundays. I might look appropriately dressed from the podium up, but—? Jeans, if you must know.

All kidding aside, I doubt that God cares about that. But when it comes to my behaviour and my attitudes and my responses and my motives, well, that matters very much, indeed. Because God sees everything, including my heart (1 Samuel 16:7). And though my family serves as an important audience to my life, nevertheless, ultimately, I need to live before an audience of one. I need to live, coram Deo, if you will (“before the face of God”). And so, of course, do you. What has our audience of one seen?

One of the lessons we should take away from our lockdown is that we can’t hide from God. We are told, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3) and that he sees all that is taking place (Psalms 1:4; 34:14; 66:7; etc.). Jesus tells us that the eye of the Father is upon the sparrow (Matthew 10:29). And, lest you think that he is only a bird watcher, remember that he also knows the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He is constantly our audience. What is he beholding?

It would be a shame to waste this crisis. We should come out of lockdown with a greater awareness that we live before the all-seeing eyes of our holy, gracious, righteous, and, yes, forgiving God. Brothers and sisters, long after lockdown is behind us, let’s live and love and labour before the audience of one.

Aiming for this with you,

Doug