Choosing the Best

Luke 10:38-41

You remember the story. The sisters, Mary and Martha are hosting Jesus and his disciples at their home. And as with having guests there is always work to be done making sure everybody’s needs are being met. The problem is that Martha seems to be the only one who is concerned about taking care of their guests. Mary is sitting on the floor at Jesus’ feet listening to him and hanging on every word. Martha takes one look at the scene and complains to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Instead, Jesus says to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

When you really listen to what Jesus was saying, there is a whole lot more going on there than simply an attitude adjustment for Martha. He focuses our attention on two choices. One is a pragmatic view of life that says I’ve got things to do, places to be – I’m busy and I don’t have time for sitting around listening to Jesus. The other view realizes that there are some things in life, that while they don’t seem to serve any practical purpose eclipse the importance of those things that do. In fact, Luke tells us that Martha was the one who “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

From a practical point of view, Martha is the one who seems to be on task. She’s getting things done, while Mary has lost track of what she should be doing. But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He says that Mary had “chosen what is better.”

Martha was so distracted with all of the work that needed to be done, she didn’t stop to focus on Jesus. And so Jesus reminds her, “only one thing is needed.” What is that one thing? It is what Mary has chosen – to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.
· The Pharisees will complain that Jesus’ disciples don’t fast like they do. And Jesus will tell them, the wedding guests don’t mourn while the bridegroom is with them – they celebrate.
· In a few months – in this very house – Mary will break a jar of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus feet, and Judas will complain about what a waste it is – how it should have been sold to feed the poor. And Jesus will reply, “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.”
· Is fasting wrong? Is benevolence wrong? Is serving wrong? Not at all – but when Jesus is with you, there is one thing that is needed – to be with him. It is a reminder that the “good” things often compete with the “best” thing for our time and attention.

What an incredible moment – to have Jesus with you – to spend time at his feet listening and learning. Martha was so busy she couldn’t see it. And so Jesus calms her down and brings her back.

I’m a lot like Martha. I get busy – and the truth is, a lot of the stuff I get busy with is in the name of serving Jesus. I get so busy with the “many things” that I lose track of the “one thing that is needed” – spending time with Jesus.
· Personal devotion gets sidetracked by preparing sermons.
· Prayer gets postponed by visiting the sick.
· Time with Jesus gets trampled under by the busy-ness of Jesus’ church.

Are sermons and visiting and church-work important? Absolutely. Are they most important? Absolutely not. Time with Jesus is the “one thing that is needed.” If you are shortchanging that for anything else, you have been distracted by the “many things” that captured Martha’s attention and heart.

It takes a radical readjustment of the way we think to make time to spend at the feet of Jesus. Because there is always going to be something that seems more pressing, more urgent, more important. But until you and I are convinced that “one thing” is needed, we’re always going to struggle with it.

I’ve spent 4 of the last 5 Sundays laying out the importance of and the groundwork for setting at the feet of Jesus on a daily basis. I hope you’re settling in to a daily routine of taking out your Bible and your Life Journal and spending some time in God’s Word letting God speak to you as you listen intently to his voice, and then journaling what you’re learning and how you’re applying it, and praying those verses into your life.

And I want you to know that when you establish that kind of routine and discipline in your life you are going to experience some incredible blessings. Your time in God’s Word is going to:

Mature You in Christ
Have you ever watched a professional athlete or musician, and thought how amazing they were? How far advanced their skills were to those of a normal person? I like to play golf, and I’ll hit about 4 or 5 good shots in a round, the rest are pretty mediocre. I’m usually not the worst player out there, but I’m far from the best.

But a few years ago, when I lived in Memphis, the person who coordinated the caddies for the pro-am of the PGA FedEx St. Jude classic got me hooked up as a caddie a couple of years. And that’s where one pro plays with four amateurs who have enough money to pay the entry fee. And so I got to carry the bag for one of the corporate execs who played in a group with a professional. So I got to watch these professionals up close and personal for 18 holes. And it’s not just that they’re better golfers than us weekend duffers – they play golf on a level that we can’t even begin to imagine.

And how did they become so much better? Well, a certain amount of natural skill is involved, but a whole lot more of that is practice – going to the driving range every day and hitting thousands of balls – going to the putting green and putting thousands of balls. Going through the discipline of mastering the basics, so that when they hit a ball, they know where it’s going to go and what it’s going to do when it gets there.

And I like to play the guitar. I know a couple dozen chords and can play a few songs, but my skills are barely above the beginners level. But I’ve known some gifted guitar players who play with such skill and beauty that it’s an entirely different instrument in their hands. They can make the guitar do things I never imagined possible.

And how did they become so much better? Again, a certain amount of natural skill is involved, but a whole lot more of it is practice. They play scales and arpeggios, they study music theory and composition, they practice hours and hours every day until the instrument is so much a part of them that it is their best friend. They make it look easy, but their skill comes from hard work and discipline.

There is a passage in Hebrews 5 that speaks to immature Christians who have never grown up in Christ. Listen to what he writes: “…by this time you ought to be teachers, but you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:12-14).

“…who by constant use have trained themselves”
That’s the discipline of spending time with God’s Word. Just as an athlete or musician grows in their skills by constant practice, the man or woman who wants to be God’s man or God’s woman is going spend time growing in the word, training themselves in godliness.

Keep You Prepared
Something is going to happen to you. I don’t know what and I don’t know when. It may be an illness that threatens your life, it may be a temptation that threatens your marriage, it may be a decision that could change your life.

How are you going to know what to do when that comes? Are you just going to wait until it happens and hope you choose right? Hope that you have the spiritual strength to hold up under it? If you wait until then it will be too late.

The time to prepare for that “something” is now. To spend time in God’s Word, time at his feet, letting him prepare you for whatever will come. Preparation gives us the confidence to know that God is with us, and that his will is guiding us, because we’ve been walking with him all along.

Enable You to Recognize His Voice
In John 10, Jesus told his disciples that he is the good shepherd, and that “the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (Jn 10:3-5)

It is so easy to get distracted, like Martha, by the “many things” that we fail to see the “one thing.” It’s also easy to listen to the many voices, to the point that the one voice gets lost in the mass of voices all vying for our attention, all having a demand on our time, all claiming to have the answers we need. How do you know which one to listen to?

I’ve read that the Department of the Treasury trains its agents to recognize counterfeit $100 bills, not by showing them all the possible variety of counterfeits, but by drilling them in the characteristics of the genuine bills. They become so familiar with the real thing that the counterfeit leaps out at them.

And that is the key to recognizing Jesus’ voice – to become so familiar with his words, his heart, his will that when a competing voice calls out, we know which one is genuine. (Warning from Solomon’s life – 1 Kings 11:4-5)

We need that one voice that is going to guide us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Mt 6:24). Only one voice can guide us.

Make You Fruitful
Have you ever felt like you were just spinning your wheels? Always busy, never accomplishing anything; always moving, but never getting anywhere? Our spiritual lives can be like that. We go through the motions, but we’re not growing; we want to serve God, but we never seem to make a difference.

Peter wrote to Christians who were struggling with that very feeling: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8)

Do you want to be fruitful in your life in Christ? Get back to the basics: faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control… It’s when you get back into the word and start putting it into practice that you see your life start filling with fruit.

Ultimately, we come back to what Jesus said in John’s Gospel: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:5-8)

If you want to bear fruit for Christ, you need to be connected to the vine, plugged in to the source of life. His words need to “remain in you.”

I can’t emphasize strongly enough, or often enough how vital your daily time in God’s Word and in prayer are. If you haven’t started, start today. God is waiting for you there.