Before the main meeting at church Sunday morning, I found myself outside of any conversation. For some reason, I didn’t feel really talkative that day. I could have stood in an empty church and felt the same as I did then, but I do not blame my brothers and sisters in Christ; there was a lesson I needed to learn… So, instead of standing around like a silent and twitchy statue, I chose to sit on the front steps of the church. By the grace of God, the storm clouds of the day before had rolled away and the Sun shone bright overhead, almost to the point of blinding me. While I sat in the light, I decided to read our little church program (The Body Builder, as it is called). The main portion was an analysis of Luke 10:38-42 by John MacArthur. The verses tell the story of Mary and Martha, and how, though they were sisters, their priorities were very different: Martha served Jesus and the other guests, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him speak. In the story, Martha saw Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet and thought she was being selfish and lazy. Martha felt overwhelmed by the work she was given to do and she felt cheated that she was left without an extra set of hands to help her. She asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, but Jesus called Martha out for being anxious and troubled about many things and that Mary was doing what was needful.
In itself, the work Martha did was neither wrong nor evil, but her motivation – the tune of her heart – was not in line with Jesus. Her work would feed the God of the universe and His disciples, but instead of considering the importance of the work, she thought of how much she had to do and how she was all alone in her labor. MacArthur wrote that Martha was not doing what was needful, and that is true, but what was needful was more than just sitting at Jesus’ feet, it was worshiping Him no matter the circumstance. Martha performed her work as a chore, rather than as a form of worship. The work of Martha’s hands was both needful and necessary, but she worked from her own strength and didn’t realize that she could both worship and rest in Christ even within her work. In the years after the ascension of Christ, Paul wrote of how he suffered many things, having hundreds of reasons to complain, yet he wrote; We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
Paul did not despair even though he was face with the reality of those verses in 1st Corinthians, but he chose to glory in Christ.
I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13)
For Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet was both needful and necessary; that was the way she was called to worship. She was content to serve and worship Jesus by sitting at His feet. Martha was not content to serve Jesus through the work of her hands. Both of them worshiped Jesus, but only one did it with a perfect heart.
Sometimes, worship requires complete focus on the King, while at other times, worship is shown through the work done by productive hands and a grateful heart. Who knows? Maybe Martha could have heard everything Jesus was saying. If that was the case, she could have listened, worshiped, and ungrudgingly served. With that focus, the labor of her hands would not have been arduous, but glorious, because she was doing it in service of her Lord, while still hearing every word He said. In this particular story, Martha focused on her hardships, grew anxious, troubled, and jealous of her sister. I can only hope that Martha learned from this instance and chose to worship Christ through her every action, not complaining when things got a little stressful, though I know that lesson would not have been so easily received by me.
As I read McArthur’s analysis and the story itself, I thought of all the times that I have done (or thought) the same as Martha. How many times have I grown weary in well-doing and counted whatever work I was doing as nothing compared to another form of serving or another activity? I confess that I have been jealous of other Christians who seemed to be doing a “greater” work for Christ, and discounted the work that God had given me to do. Instead of being grateful that God would choose to use me of little faith, I asked Him why He had not given me the courage or the opportunity to do something else. How many times have I been caught up in the desire of doing something “bigger” or “greater” and missed out ministry God is calling me to right now? How often have my eyes strayed from Jesus’ face even as I sat at His feet? Even the littlest things distract me and make me anxious or troubled, though I know that Jesus has everything covered and He is sufficient to overcome my trials. When I face hardship, challenges, or work that seems to be more than I can handle, I should rejoice that such things are for the glory of my Savior and for my spiritual growth in Him. At all times, I need to seek first the kingdom of my Abba. Whether I work, play, think, read, speak or refrain from speaking, run, walk, sit, etc.; whatever I do, I need to be doing it for my King’s glory and in worship of Him… But I fall short so many times.
Learning how to worship through my life has been a difficult lesson to learn, and one I feel I will never stop learning until I enter into my heavenly eternity. Here on earth, my thoughts are often centered on me and what I think is best for me. Even when I am convicted of my selfish thoughts and try not to focus on myself, I compensate by building walls that don’t bring my Father glory at all… Clearly, living by Hebrews 12 is no easy task; to always fix my eyes on the King, be ever aware of those who have gone before, to rejoice even when I am being punished, and to abide in the mountain of my God unafraid, knowing that Christ has made this salvation one that can be touched and held by all those who call on His name.
I don’t know what is best for me, and I don’t know how to glorify my King as He deserves or as I so desperately need to glorify Him. You see, when I glorify my King, I am filled all the more with His presence and a greater understanding of His love and affection for me. When I hide the glory of my Abba, I deny the purpose of these hands and the life of this heart; giving place to jealousy, weariness of spirit, and feelings of emptiness in the works of my hands. But this is not the salvation that I have received. I have received a salvation that literally moves mountains, breaks down walls, and tears the veil that once separated me from my Creator. Only when I am truly grateful for the unshakable kingdom God has given me can I truly worship Him as I should. Jesus has been so good to me and He has given me everything, which is reason enough to worship Him, but I also know that He reigns on His holy mountain and He is a consuming fire. He is so worthy of praise from these hands, these lips, and this life.
If my God was not a consuming fire, then why would sinners ever have cause to fear eternity? (Hebrews 12) I think today’s church focuses so much on the grace and love of God that they forget how He is so worthy of worship. Yes, so many churches have bands with amazing talent and they lead the congregation in worship songs, but how many people in the congregation are actually worshiping? If the worship team stopped playing and singing in the middle of a song, would the congregation be making a sound? We have forgotten what worship is and why it is so important. Worship is the way we live, not just how well we sing or play an instrument. Worship does not start and end on Sunday morning or Wednesday night, but it should be a constant part of every day. The God we serve is holy, just, merciful, loving, kind, vengeful, powerful, righteous, and uncompromising. From how God’s children live, one would think that the God they serve is apathetic and changes with the culture… I don’t know about you, but I serve a God Who never changes. He is not like me, and He doesn’t care how much I try to justify my sin; He will still never justify what He knows ultimately destroys me and separates me from Him. And He will always love me and show grace to me when I stumble, repent, and turn humbly to Him.
Last Saturday evening, I was driving home through pouring rain. As I got closer to home, I could see the Sun breaking through the clouds, and the closer I came to home, the brighter the Sun became and the more it filled the horizon. The light started as a small ray of hope, and then it almost filled the sky… while I was still driving through rain. The route took a turn north at one point, so the Sun was by my side, shining into my car and onto the fields on my right. In the light from the Sun, I saw a picture of how Christ goes before me and stands beside me. Though I stand in the valley, in pouring rain, He still sits upon His thrown in His holy mountain. The rain does not touch His glory, but He shines through the shadows and pouring rain to show His faithfulness. This rain washes over me and would seem to overwhelm me, but it is renewing me, restoring me, washing me clean, and strengthening my faith. With Christ before me and beside me, there is nothing I cannot face. I embrace the rain and I embrace the truth that my King reigns. Amen.
Are you doing what is most needful? Do you worship your Creator, the Savior of your soul and the Giver of light, within everything you set your mind to do? Perhaps the better question is, will you learn from Martha’s mistake? Will you take up your cross daily, rejoice in your sufferings, and serve the King ungrudgingly?
Do not grow anxious and troubled about anything.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels that must not be hidden by obsession with work, money, school, or social life. A true passion for Christ and the salvation He gives will lead to a life that is holy, set apart, and lived out in worship. I am not being legalistic or ultra-conservative, I am just telling you that if you profess to be a follower of Christ, then your life will show it. If your life does not reflect Christ at all, even the world would not believe you to be a Christian. Turn from your sin, be set free in Christ, worship Him with your life, and find the glory in living your life for the One Who knit you together in your mother’s womb and called you out of the darkness and into the light of the Son. Embrace the reign of Christ in your life. Worship the King without ceasing.