August 15, 2021

One Thing That Matters

Passage: Luke 10:38-42

Ronald Warwick, captain of the luxury cruise ship Queen Elizabeth II, questioned a passenger who paid full fare for his dog to join them on an around-the-world cruise.  Accommodations averaged $50,000 for an around-the-world cruise.  'Wouldn't it have cost less to leave him at home?”, Warwick asked.  "'Oh no”, the man said.  'When we're away a long time, the dog's psychiatrist fees are so high, it's less expensive to bring him along'" 

When our priorities are out of touch, our sensibilities get out of touch.  And when our sensibilities are out of touch we can waste a lifetime trying to do something but never accomplishing anything.  William Barclay puts it this way, "It's not the things which are obviously bad which are dangerous.  It's the things which are good we leave for second best that are always the worst enemy of the best'"  In many Christians' lives the reality is that they don't prioritize to get things done in their personal lives and ministries.  They put other things at the top of their lists – meetings, functions, outreach, fund raising, advertising and so much more.  And when they pause they come to the shocking realization that they didn't start where they should have – in close contact with Jesus and to follow His advice.

A pastor from a Baptist church in Boston had a nervous breakdown and had to take a leave of absence for 3 months.  He returned and had many successes.  He told his congregation one Sunday during worship, “I looked at too many things at the same time and there was only one thing that matters – a close walk with Jesus and to live what He says in His Word.”

Let's look at the setting of our passage from Luke 10 and learn about the One Thing That Matters.  First we see 1 A Logical Request.  Jesus had three friends who lived in Bethany, three siblings: Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  He often stayed in their home when He was in Judea.  Bethany was only a mile and a half from Jerusalem and their companionship meant so much to Jesus as He prepared Himself for the journey that was ahead of Him.  On this occasion as Jesus enjoyed their hospitality Martha was the one who was left to take care of all the preparations while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.  It was very reasonable what Martha requested from Jesus in verse 40, “Tell her to help me....”   That seemed like a fair and logical request.  Don't we hear those words in every household?  It's not fair that one should be left as the serving Martha while others sit back and don't lift a finger.  We expect from someone to either start doing something or getting someone else to do it.  “Mom, tell your other daughter to come and help me!”  Mary expected the same when she turned to Jesus.  But listen again to His response, “'Martha, Martha' the  Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.'”   If we were in Martha's shoes we would not have appreciated such a response.  But we have to understand my friends – Jesus wasn't insensitive in His response.  There were some things He wanted Martha to learn.

He wanted to know something so essential, 2 Do Not Get Distracted.  The truth was that Martha was so concerned about preparing the food to serve to the people in the house that she completely missed out on what Jesus was teaching.  As much as He appreciated that preparations had to be done, it wasn't the most important part of His visit.  No, He wanted to bring to those people the teachings of His Father that they needed so desperately.

In the Expository Files, a commentary series on the bible, an author said, “God would never expect from us to chose between listening to Him and serving Him, but He always would expect from us to first listen to Him.”   You can appreciate with me that there are hard lessons to learn for not listening to God when you get distracted in the moment.

The Evangelist Dwight L. Moody received a clear calling for ministry, but the attractions of secular life first took him to Boston where he worked in his uncle's shoe store.  Life in Boston was hard and dangerous.  He got ripped off by people and beaten up by gangsters.  Later he confessed, “I shouldn't have been distracted and listened the first time, when God spoke to me.”

I think some of us can give account of the consequences in our own lives for not allowing God to first speak to us when we jumped right into things.  Our Lord comes to us on so many occasions and says, “Don't get distracted.  Just listen to me.”   I think quite often we are just like Peter who got distracted by the “movement” of Jesus.  To him the “movement” was all that mattered.  It was about the miracles – people had to be fed and healed; the more people he could bring to Jesus, the better.  But he didn't really listen when Jesus talked about His suffering and death and about a new kingdom.  The here and now distracted him.  Do we truly listen to Jesus when He speaks to us or do we only hear those things that is in line with our perceptions?  O my friends, the sad reality is that in many churches the truth in Jesus became blended with worldly perspectives.  Like Jesus said we should be sensitive for the “One Thing That Matters.”

3 What Is The 'One Thing That Matters'?  Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him speaking.  “The One Thing That Matters” to her was the Word of God and after more than 2000 years the most important in our lives is still the Word of God.  Why is God’s Word so important?  Because it brings a mirror before us that shows us really who we are.  In this world there is a perception – it's your choice in life who you want to be.  And that just doesn't go my friends.  God meant for us to be a new person in the grace of Jesus Christ.  It will never be acceptable to God that we would just try to be a good as we can.  Perhaps that is true in our professions, in our family life, in sports, in any project we do.  But spiritually, with where God wants to see us at the end of time, we have to become blameless in His sight.  The “One Thing That Matters”  is the message of the Word of God that He reconciled us with Himself in Jesus.  What an Amazing Grace for any human heart to affirm “Jesus saved me; He pulled me out of the fire.”   Is that by the grace of God your personal affirmation?

But then  His Word, has another message.  It tells us that we are precious to God.  That's why He made us so fearfully and wonderfully as David wrote in Psalm 139; that's why God made us a little lower than the heavenly creatures as Psalm 8 tells us.  That's why God wants to be a Father to us.  O my friends, can you and I only fathom how precious we are to God?  That message Jesus wanted Martha to hear as well, but she missed out.  There are too many people in the world with the understanding – God wants to get every single sinner and deal with them.  But you see the truth is that each person is so precious to our God that He never wants to see anyone perish.  I know I quote the following verse so often but appreciate it again and again as you hear it, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3: 16 

You may have things in your life presently that could bring anxiety in your heart.  You may have concerns or fear or trouble or hardship like the bible tells us.  But there is “One Thing Matters” which rises far above anything else – in God we are secure; in Him everything has been answered.  Let's not be distracted by anything in this world, but let's focus on how we live our lives in God.

Amen.