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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Too Busy for the Lord

Luke 10:38-42 (NIV) 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" 41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

It happens all the time. There is a special fellowship after church and a number of women skip worship to make sure that the food is ready when the service ends. Everyone of them knows this story about Mary and Martha. They all feel justified in skipping church. I wonder what Jesus would say.

I had a friend once say, "We know that spiritual people are busy so we suppose that if we can get you busy, you'll be spirtual." He said it in jest but it rang so true. Church has become a place where people could spend amazing amounts of energy without sitting at the feet of Jesus. In fact, they could work very hard without knowing Him at all!

Yet, most church members do not truly understand what this story says in Luke. Doing more things does not mean that the right things are being done. Being concerned about things that don't matter is no reason for others to join you. Churches which merely do more things so that people will get involved do not understand what the only important thing is.

Service should not take the place of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Being concerned with too many things will lead you to forget your relationship with Christ. Someday your service will fade. You will be too old to serve like you once did. But your relationship with Christ will not be taken away from you.

This reminds me of the men who work so hard for their families to have everything that they want that they never see their families. They miss the important events in the lives of their children. These events can never be restored. It is good for a man to provide for his family but he cannot equate things with a relationship. He cannot equate working for his family's wants with a relationship with his family. Thus, his family has everything that they want except him.

Yet, I know that my Lord wants me more than He wants my service. He wants me to know Him even more than He wants my ministry to succeed. I am more important to Him that my ministry. Shouldn't He be more important to me than my ministry?

You can be so busy for the Lord that you don't know Him. You can talk more about Him than to Him.

Some people think that they are too busy doing ministry that they can never take any time to really spend time talking and listening to the Lord. I believe they are too busy.


Deb Willbefree said...

RE: the women who skip worship to make sure that the food is ready right when the church service ends.

Your point is well-taken, but you are aiming at the wrong target when you say that the women feel justified in doing that.

The little drama you describe is under the direction of the pastor. He needs to decide that the women are more valuable to his church in worship than they are in the kitchen.

He only needs to speak the word, you see. Just say that no kitchen work my commence until the service has finished. The congregation can wait for their food or help put it together.

Easy to point at the women, but they are not the ones in charge.


high-expressions said...

Luke 10:38-42 (KJV) -
38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word {sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said, NIV84}.
40 But Martha was cumbered {distracted, NIV84} about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled {worried and upset, NIV84} about many things:
42 But one thing is needful {few things are needed—or indeed only one, NIV}: and Mary hath chosen that good part {what is better, NIV84}, which shall not be taken away from her.

Ps Prentis has used the NIV84, and so, I thought, I put here (above), the KJV; and then we take a brief look at this account of Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary. In the Book of John, John 11 & 12, there is/are again account(s) of Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary. Perhaps, John 11 & John 12’s accounts are separate accounts; separate, in both senses, i.e. that firstly, John 11 & John 12 are NOT one and the same sitting, but 2 separate sittings; and then, relative to the Luke 10’s account, the 2 accounts in John could be different. To look at all of these, the look would NOT be brief, and so, I will NOT do that. So, concentrating on this Luke 10’s account, there are a few key words to note (I made them bold in the above text); what we assign to them, perhaps, would influence what we are to learn from this account.

An over-simplistic way of putting the lesson to be learned is, “Chuck the serving, just bask in grace”. Even this, “Forget about the doing, just be in His presence”, I consider it, as being over-simplistic.

Sure, when we get old and wrinkled up, we are probably NOT serving in any active manner, still that is when you are old and wrinkled up; are you now old and wrinkled up? Just imagine your son in his late 20s coming up to you and say, “Hi Dad, since I will be old and wrinkled up one day, and I will most probably NOT be working then, I think I shall NOT need to work NOW. You will accept me then, right; and so, if you could accept me NOT working then, you should be able to accept me NOT working NOW, right?”, what will be your response? Or alternatively, if there are 2 sons in your family, and let say, they are both in their late 20s also, but one of them is handicapped and wheel-chair bound, the other is fit as bull, and the latter says this, “Since you can accept my brother as NOT having to do anything, surely you can also accept me, doing nothing, right?” Right? No!

Clearly, it is NOT Martha was doing something and Mary is NOT doing anything, and so, to be like Mary, Martha is to do nothing!

Is sitting at the feet of the Lord and listening to what He said, doing nothing or NOT work? To me, that is NOT doing nothing. Is it work? To me, that is also a yes. You mean a student who goes to the classroom and listen to the teacher teaching, that is NOT work? To the students, the attending classes, to listen to their teacher teaching them, is work; the student who sleeps in, and so, skips the classes, he is NOT working. Ok, the students are NOT working as in, doing the kind of work their parents are doing; but it is nevertheless, work in their context.


high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

So, then is it really a matter of busyness? A student attending all kinds of classes throughout the day, days in and days out, without much breaks, he is busy, isn’t he? He is busy at his work. Now, the one sleeping in, all the time, and so, skips classes, he is NOT busy; you just cannot say he is busy at sleeping! This one is plain lazy! Now, if another, instead of attending classes, listening to all the mathematics and science, etc, teachings, just stayed in the school’s field, kicking balls, what do you say? He wants to be a professional footballer, and so, to him, he is working real hard; but he is supposed to be at the feet of the teachers, listening to their teachings on mathematics, science, etc, etc! I tend to read, it is NOT so much a matter of busyness, but more of a matter of what you are doing (or NOT doing).

In other words, it is more pertinent to understand that the occasion called for figuring out what was it that Jesus considered as the thing(s) to do, or concentrate on, in our journey through this life. It is NOT particular location or seat that you have to be at, like some people will NEVER have it, that their seats in the sanctuary are taken by another! In my church there is one such individual (a lady) who insists the seat that she sits on, every weekend service is her seat; it does NOT matter if you are early, she would insist that is her seat, and you have to vacate; even the usher, she would insist the usher vacates!

You see, people can be in the sanctuary, but their hearts and minds are miles away! People can be having so-called quiet time (QT), right at that spot, but all that they are doing was dozing off, or letting their minds and hearts wander off. Ah, you are guilty, you were in church last weekend, when Ps Prentis was preaching, but you were NOT listening; you were day-dreaming! You were busy? Busy day-dreaming or sleeping with your eyes open in the sanctuary! See, get the idea of, there is also the apparent and the real!

So, you are in a ministry, but what exactly do you do in the ministry? Yes, some people, they are very busy, running around in this ministry, and in that ministry, and in this other ministry. Some people are always attending this preaching, and that preaching, and preaching by this fellow and by that fellow, and by this other fellow; they are really busying at the feet of teachers or preachers, purportedly listening, but they could be running away from engaging in any other community blessing or reach-out programs, or they could be avoiding the nagging spouses altogether!

Now, it is possible (I say possible, NOT necessarily true, in that particular instance) some of the ladies referred to, in the article of Ps Prentis, they don’t like being in the sanctuary, praising God or listening to sermons, and this manning or helping out at the hospitality corner, becomes an excuse for them to avoid what they do NOT fancy. Rightly, helpers should have attended the earlier service or the previous day’s service, and then skip the current service to help (or there is a later service, to attend the later service), and NOT skip that weekend service altogether! Or if there is only one service for the weekend, they have to have some alternative arrangement; like getting hold of the recording of the service, etc. Having said that, if an individual will NOT go to the service in any case, then I would rather she comes to serve at the hospitality corner, then be absent from church. To me, it is that simple: I think she is more likely to get touched by the Lord, through someone, etc, etc, when she is at church, inside or outside of the sanctuary, than she is at home sleeping in, for example! There is always a difference between wisdom at work, and knowledge, like “One should NOT skip the service”.


high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

It is NOT so much of you are busy or NOT busy, it is more of, are you busy in the right stuff? If Mary is here, and you can ask her to help her sister, Martha, she just may tell you this, “I am busy. I am busy listening to the Teacher.” Or “Can’t you see, I am busy with my biblical studies!” Some may argue, “But Mary was NOT really busy, what she was doing was for a period of time only; the Lord was visiting and so, when the Lord was gone (left), she would NOT be busy anymore.” So, you argue she was NOT busy, but Martha was! Look, Martha was also busy for the time the Lord was to be around! So, it is NOT so much one, Martha was busy, and Mary, was NOT. When we read enough of the Word, we will find that the Word painted for us, busyness of people, more, in the positive way, than it exhorting laziness or idleness (in fact, it does NOT exhort laziness!).

We just need to look at the life of Jesus, and the Apostle Paul, they are busy or NOT? Well, maybe there was NOT so much the picture of hurriedness in their lives, but their lives were full, alright; busy, and NOT idling. The exhorting words of Jesus, before He healed a certain blind man: “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. … ” (John 9:4). We also read this in Eph 5:16-17 – “15 Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Of course, the subsequent verse (Eph 5:17) correctly pointed out that we need to know what the will of the Lord is.

What is crucial is to know what Jesus regards as what we are to be busy with, while we live this life of ours, on earth (Eph 5:17). I really do NOT think, the story of Martha and Mary here, is about we just stay at the feet of Jesus, and forget about everything else. I mean you cannot be doing it right, by locking yourself in a room; just stay at the feet of Jesus, day in and day out, refusing to do anything else; even when the Holy Spirit tries to move you, you will NOT be moved. Oh, that is without listening to the Word (Mary was listening to the Lord’s words); ok, you can have the Bible read out to you electronically in the room (I-phones have that now!), still it does NOT make it right, if what you want to do is like what the monks are doing, locking yourself up to the exclusion of the part you are to play in the world! That cannot be the will of God; God cannot be wanting you to lock yourself up, like you are stuck in a jail cell, in a life sentence; you will NOT do anything useful for the Lord, in that! Jesus repeatedly spoke about He, Jesus, was to do the will of the Father God, and so, it is also that we are to do the will of our Lord, and when we do that, we would be doing the will of the Father, for the Father and the Son are one.

Too many people got the wrong idea that this story is talking about particular tasks/works, per se, being wrong; it is NOT about that. There is nothing wrong per se, about the work that Martha was going about, doing. In those days, 2 things were very important to be rendered for guests: one was that of washing of feet, and two, the provision of drinks and food. The circumstances of life then (no cars and no many eateries around, unlike in Singapore city, today!) dictates such hospitality. In fact, if we go back even further in time, to the time of Abraham, such rendering of hospitality which must include preparation and provision of food or meal, was a must; that was how Abraham met the 3 Visitors/Men (the Triune God?) in the Genesis 18:1-23 account. It was NOT wrong of Martha to prepare food or meal for the Lord and His disciples. Providing meal was meeting a need, and it, per se, was legitimate.


high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Scripture, in verse 40, said that Martha was cumbered about much serving. Cumbered means being weighed down, like cumbered by heavy clothing. Cumbered or distraction (as in NIV) implies that there is a choice, meaning you can choose to be less weighed down, for example, put on less thick clothes, or be a little less demanding on wanting a “perfect evening”, so to speak. Scripture recorded for us, in Romans 14:17-18, that the Kingdom is NOT a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, and the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit, and serving in this way (in righteousness and with the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit) is pleasing to God and will receive men’s approval, even. Yes, we need to eat and drink, but the Kingdom is NOT a matter of eating and drinking; and so, we ought NOT be weighed down too much by that; in other words, don’t major on that, for when you major on that, that pursuit would be a distraction for you. See, you need to know what the Kingdom is about, or what the will of God is for us, while we live.

In fact, eating and drinking, or merry-making, typified fleshy gratifications, which we should NOT major on (NOT that we do NOT drink or eat; I didn’t say that!). Many other things fall under fleshy gratifications which we ought NOT to major on, or be indulging in.

A study into the family background of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and what they inherited, and did with their lives, showed us that Martha (was believed to) inherited Bethany, and was known to be a great hostess (playing host). I believed Martha could be quite a perfectionist, and so, the Lord noted for us (verse 41), Martha was worried and upset about many things. Jesus and His disciples weren’t into great banquet and fleshy gratification. Jesus was NOT rich, did NOT make himself rich by having lots of money, and he ate simply, although He could perform such miracles of feeding 5,000 from 2 small fishes and 5 loaves of bread! In fact, in Matt 6:25 we read these words of Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? And Jesus went on to remind us that we cannot be serving both God and money. In Matt 6:33, Jesus gave an important key to living the Kingdom life; that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all our needs would be added unto us.

Martha asked that Jesus tell Mary to help her. Jesus did NOT want to do that! But is it so wrong to have a sister to help another, with the preparation of a meal the guests were to have? Again I say; it was NOT the simple matter of the works, per se. Have you have to work for, or help people who are cumbered, who are worrisome and easily upset about many things? It is NOT the work you have to do for them, per se, that is wrong, it is that, the person are expecting and sucking you into being of like attitude, as them, that can be an issue.

When I minister to people and hear people out, of their afflictions, problems and impasses, and pray for them, one thing, I always remind myself, I can lift them up to the Lord; I cannot and will NOT take on their worry. For my own problems, already I am trying NOT to worry; I definitely cannot be worrying for other people. If they want to hear me out, I will dish out only the ways prescribed by God or the Word. It is NOT that I will NOT have compassion on people, it is because of my compassion, I have to tell people the ways of the Kingdom, because I do NOT believe the ways of the world is better for them, over the ways of the Kingdom. I cannot worry with them, and I cannot prescribe the ways of the world, instead of the ways of the Kingdom; and if they listen NOT, I have done my part; I will NOT take on guilt or be worrying for you!


high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

Jesus said, verse 42, only one thing, or in some bible versions, a few things were needful. Let us say, we stick to one thing (instead of a few things); what then was the one thing which Jesus said was needful? What has been said earlier – get into a room and stay there, sit there by the Lord, and listen to Scripture played out to you! Or be in QT (quiet time) all the way; no need to go to work; is this the one needful thing? What is this one needful thing?

I could put it as, we loving God. Or, we, wanting to listen to what God has to say to us concerning what He wants done. Of course, the latter must be referencing the extreme end of the meaning of, to “shama” (H8085) God, which is to listen to give effect; in other words, we will do what God wants. This, of course, God will never take away from us. - we wanting to do His will; that will never to be taken away from us.

Actually, loving God (with our all) is the one thing all of us must be doing. And basic to loving God is to obey God, and in obeying God, we invariably are doing the will of God, and when we are doing the will of God, we are serving Him, and because God loves men, doing His will invariably is leading us to loving men, as is desired by God. Jesus was clear that ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21). “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Matt 12:50).
It is NOT more of the case of, to just to enter the Kingdom of Heaven or the heavenly phase of the Kingdom of God; it is also equally relevant, and is requirement that we are to be loving God all the time. Rom 8:28, for example, is applicable, the “in everything God works it for the good”, it is for the good of those who LOVE God, who are called according to His purpose. Ps 91:14-15 revealed to us, the many beautiful promises given in that Ps 91, are for those who LOVE God. Even, Nehemiah revealed of his understanding that God keeps covenant with those who LOVE Him and obey Him (Neh 1:5).

When we understand that it is loving God that is the one thing that is needful, it no longer, is a question of particular activity or works or task that was particularly referred to. If you just sit at the feet of the Lord, and you hear what He said to you by His Holy Spirit, but you would NOT do His desire or will expressed (to you), you are still NOT loving God; you can sit there until cows come home, so to speak, it does NOT necessarily please Him. On the other hand, if you are busy doing the assignment He revealed to you to do, and you are always practising His presence, you are onto the one needful thing, and God is pleased. Who say you cannot be pleasing God with your busyness in providing fellowship meals or food, when you are doing it according to the desire of God, and working with Him, by your practise of His presence!

But of course, if you are doing serving with impure motive, and you are NOT mindful of His presence in what you are doing, you are NOT going to please Him, and it is especially so, when it is being done by your cutting back of your participation in corporate praise and worship unto God in the regular church services. There is really NO hard and fast rule such as 80% of your time should be on QT, and 20% on works. When you practise the presence of the Lord in your works (your busyness), you are tuned to the Lord all (almost all) of the time. Of course, it is always recommended that you set aside some time to be just alone with the Lord; afterall even Jesus did that; He would go away on his own, to pray.


high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Equally, if NOT more importantly, we need to practise the presence of the Lord in our ministry or works; we need to check and re-check with the Lord, even as we work; we need to pray for wisdom as we work, we need to ask for strength, and we need to ask for resource, we need to ask for grace, and mercy, and protection, and we need to ask for his supernatural intervention.

Just to be sure, I am NOT mistaken to be snubbing believers who spend time waiting on the Lord, I say it again, that we definitely need to spend some time alone, to have ourselves built up; we need to be in His presence and so, be mindful of His holiness, and so, also His righteousness. We also need to be refreshed with the peace and the joy of the Holy Spirit. It is we need to be recharged so that we can go even further and deeper, with the Lord, for when we serve, and we are to serve, we are to serve in righteousness and with the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17-18). We need also to ask God if there is something else He has intention for us to do; in our busyness, often, we cannot hear God concerning this. Also, it is in separate times, away from our ministry to others, we could bring before God, our needs, and talk to God concerning things we thought we would like to do, and ask for His blessing. Furthermore, even as we serve, we should NOT forget to pray for ourselves, and our loved ones.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions