Recently my wife and the Lord have told me that it’s time to start saying no to things. When life gets so busy that you’re double booking, forgetting things you’ve agreed to and are living exhausted all the time, you’re doing too much. Life has lots of demands by itself, then we start complicating it by adding things to it. If we’re not careful, we can get so caught up in doing things for our families, our friends, our churches and others that we forget to stop and rest. Worse yet, we can miss our quiet time with God.
Busyness is not necessarily a sign of Godliness. In our minds, it’s easy to equate the two, but there is a point where we just need to stop, sit down and feed ourselves mentally, spiritually and emotionally. When Jesus went to the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Martha was busy preparing food and serving her guests. She was doing what was necessary because she had guests, but she was stressing herself out too. That’s when she noticed her sister wasn’t even helping her. Instead, she was just sitting there listening to Jesus.
When Martha complained to Jesus, His reply to her was also to us. In Luke 10:41 He said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered and anxious about so many things” (AMP). Each one of us should substitute our name for hers right there and know that God is ok with you slowing down, clearing your calendar and removing the things from your life that distract you from Him. Life isn’t about being busy all the time. It’s preparation for eternity. When you get to Heaven, you’re not going to be asked how busy you were or how much you accomplished. You’re going to be asked how well you knew Jesus and how well He knew you.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
In Luke 10 we meet Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Jesus was their friend and in their home teaching. Verse 39 says, “She (Martha) had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was continually listening to His teaching” (AMP). Mary seated herself at the Lord’s feet to learn. In those days, only disciples would sit at their rabbi’s feet to learn. Today, as His disciples, we still need to be sitting at His feet to learn from Him. We need to take time away from the distractions of serving and being busy about His work to be poured into. The more you pour out, the more you need to sit at His feet to learn.
In John 11, we run into these siblings again. Only this time, Lazarus has been dead four days. Martha ran outside the village to Jesus to confess, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give to You.” She went and got Mary. Verse 32 says, “When Mary came [to the place] where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” They had the same confession, but different positions. Mary submitted to God’s will by falling at Jesus’ feet. We can speak in faith, and even believe in faith, but we must also submit at the feet of Jesus to His will.
Finally, we meet the family again in John 12. Jesus had returned to their house a week before He was to be crucified. Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining with Jesus. Then in verse 3 it says, “Then Mary took a pound of very expensive perfume of pure nard, and she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” When we worship at the feet of Jesus, it releases a fragrance that fills Heaven. We must take time to honor Jesus with our expressions of worship at His feet. There’s a time to serve, a time to recline, a time to learn and a time to worship. In each instance, Mary was opposed by others for her act at His feet. It didn’t stop her. We can’t let others keep us from the feet of Jesus. It is a critical place all believers must take time to be at. It won’t just happen though. We must be intentional about being at His feet.
Sometimes we will host a large group of people in our home for a birthday party or some other event. My personality style wants to make sure everyone is taken care of. I go around making sure people have what they need, empty the trash, put out more food, etc. at the end of the night, after we’ve cleaned everything and head to bed, my wife will sometimes ask, “Who all did you get to talk to? Did you visit with your aunt? Or did you get to visit with this person?” More often than not, my answer is, “No one. I was too busy.”
In my business, I forget to slow down and engage with people. My mind says that for people to have a good time, there needs to be food out, plates cleaned up, and the trash has to be taken out. Most of that can be done after the party, but it’s hard for me to let go. I get distracted by all there is to do, and then end up not interacting with my guests the way I should. I find that I have a lot in common with Lazarus’ sister Martha.
She hosted a party for Jesus and His disciples in Luke 10. While she was cooking food, taking out the trash, picking up plates, and such, her sister Mary was just sitting there interacting with Jesus. I’m sure she asked her for a help a few times before she complained to Jesus. She said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work?” (NLT) She was socked by Jesus’ answer I’m sure because it goes against her personality.
In verse 41-42, Jesus said, “But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’” God is less concerned with our busyness in making sure things get done than with our interaction with Him. Yes, things need to get done, but there are more important things out there. Sitting at Jesus’ feet is one of them.
You and I can get so caught up in the work of ministry and the life of a Christian that we forget to spend time with Jesus. When we fail to interact with Jesus, it’s easy to begin to think our work is what impresses God and others. It’s time each of us stopped the things that keep us busy and spend time interacting with Jesus. I think we’ll find direction and become more productive when we do. Doing Kingdom work is good, but it needs to come after we’ve spent time in His presence.
40 But Martha, overly occupied and too busy, was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me to lend a hand and do her part along with me!
41 But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
42 There is need of only one or but a few things. Mary has chosen the good portion, that which is to her advantage, which shall not be taken away from her.
If you are having trouble viewing this video, click here.
Time. It’s the one thing everyone has the same amount of each day. It’s also the thing most of us wish we had more of. There’s always someone or something that is after our time. Since we can’t make more of it, we have to choose daily what to sacrifice because we can’t do everything we want. Usually we cut out time with meaningful relationships including God. “I’ll pray extra tomorrow, God,” we promise. “I’ll take off work early tomorrow so we can go do that thing,” we tell our significant other. Yet, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.
I know what it’s like to be pulled in every direction, to have my inbox full, to have reports that need to be run, to own a phone that won’t stop buzzing, from people who need answers, to have a child who needs attention, friends who want to hang out and a spouse who just wants some quiet time with me. It gets overwhelming at times. It’s hard to know how and what to prioritize. There’s so much that has to be done, so little time to do it in and not enough of me to go around. Sound familiar?
Lazarus’ sister Martha felt that way too. In Luke 10:40, the Bible says, “Martha, overly occupied and too busy, was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him (Jesus, who was in her house) and said, ‘Lord, is it nothing to you that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me, to lend a hand and do her part along with me. (AMP)'” She was wore out doing all the things that were required of her and wanted some help from her sister who was just sitting there listening to Jesus. She was tired and crying for help.
Jesus’ response was strange. He didn’t tell Mary to help her out. He didn’t chastise her either for not serving The Lord. In fact, He got onto Martha who was the one being busy for Him. He said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it…and it won’t be taken from her. (MSG)” He told her that her busyness was “nothing”. He told her that being busy was not what He was looking for. He wanted someone who would use their time getting to know Him. He wanted someone who would stop what they were doing and listen. The one essential thing He said was to sit at His feet.
I get caught up in the lies that Martha believed. In my mind, I think that busyness for God equals greatness with God. I think serving Him through works equals righteousness. Those things are great, but what He really wants is that thing that everything else wants. Time. He wants you to spend time with Him more than He wants you to be busy about His work. He wants you to sit and listen instead of being so distracted by everything you’re doing. He’s not interested in us getting stressed by doing Kingdom work nearly as much as He is at having us relax at His feet. He understands that time is our most valuable asset and He wants us to use it to draw close to Him.
My son gets frustrated some times while playing his learning apps on the iPad. He will carry it over to me and say, “Help me, DaDa.” I’ll look at what the app wants him to do end start to show him. He will then start trying to help by doing something else on the screen while I try to show him the right way. I ask him to stop and watch, but he gets frustrated with me. He eventually takes it back and keeps on trying until he comes back and asks for help again. We go in circles until he just gives up trying to do it.
It reminds me a lot of how I try to do things. When I can’t get past something or really need God’s help to accomplish something, I run to Him and cry out, “Help me, Father!” He looks down and tries to show me what He wants and how I should do it. Instead of watching and learning, I bat His hand away and say, “Ok, I got it.” He knows I don’t. He knows there’s more to it than I see. He’s trying to help me connect the dots, but I’m not patient enough to watch and learn. I take it back out of frustration and keep trying.
I’m glad that God is more patient than I am. I know He gets frustrated with us trying to always do things instead of learning from Him. It reminds me of two sisters in the Bible found in Luke 10:30-42. There is one sister, Martha, who is busy trying to do everything for The Lord. She is working hard so that everything is right and there are no problems. She wanted to serve Jesus we’ll, but got frustrated in the process. Her sister wasn’t helping, so she asked Jesus to help. “Tell her to lend me a hand,” she said. The Lord tried to help her, but not in the way she was expecting.
Her sister Mary was sitting at His feet listening to Him. She was patient and wanted to learn how to better serve. Instead of continuously trying to work to get it right, she stopped, handed her time over to Jesus and watched. She didn’t try to bat His hand away while He spoke. She didn’t interrupt in order to show she got it. She just waited. The Lord rewarded her in His response to her sister. He said, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
If you’re looking to God for help today, take time to sit at His feet and listen. Quit trying to do it all, stop completely and learn. He would rather us take the time to listen and learn than to keep working in our trial and error ways. He wants to take it out of our hands, show us what He wants and then to give it back. Don’t keep batting His hand away when He’s trying to show you. It’s ok to stop working when you’re sitting at His feet. It’s ok to leave the complicated things behind to do something as simple as listening. Taking time to listen to His voice will not be taken from you. It’s just up to you to position yourself where you can hear.