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13 June, 2013

The most important thing . . . .

Early on in my adult life I discovered I am a task-oriented person. I enjoy being assigned or finding a task that needs to be done and accomplishing it. These tasks may be around home, in an office, in the lives of others and/or in the ministries God has called me to here in Africa. I love accomplishing tasks. During the many years at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, I was privileged to accomplish many tasks relating to the implementation and maintenance of the hospital information technology systems. This past year I have been involved in accomplishing tasks which included language study, learning a new culture and tasks associated with our ministry in the community and church.  

During the last few years, I have been pondering, reflecting on an answer to the question, “What is the most important thing I can accomplish in life?”  Is it about finishing tasks?  Is it about doing all the “right” things?  Is it about being a missionary in Africa?   What is the most important thing God wants from me? 

Recently, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke10:38-42.  In this passage Jesus is visiting Bethany, a town near Jerusalem. He was invited into the home of Martha and her sister Mary. In the story we find Martha focused on her tasks, her work in serving others, her work in serving Jesus himself.  Meanwhile, Mary sat at Jesus’s feet to hear what he had to say. Martha and Mary are two people responding differently to the visit of Jesus. 

Three times when Mary is referred to in Scripture we read she is in the same place, at the feet of Jesus.  
  • John 11:32, Mary “fell at His feet and shared her woe”,
  • John 12:3 , Mary “came to His feet and poured out her worship”
  • Luke 10:39, Mary “sat at His feet and listened to His Word”
Mary experienced true intimacy with Jesus by being with him, by being in His presence.  Mary came, fell and sat in the presence of her friend, her King.  Martha was doing “good” things to honor and provide for Jesus out of love and respect for him. She was offering her works, her usefulness as a hostess to Jesus.  When Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me?”  Jesus responded with “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”   Mary chose the “good part” to offer herself, to sit in His presence, to experience intimacy with Him.  

Intimacy takes stepping away from the tasks, the life the world so easily makes a priority and recognizing our greatest priority needs to be the intimacy with our Jesus, the son of our God, our father.  It takes a conscious choice and intentional effort. It often takes sacrifice to make it happen.  It may mean sacrifice of good or great things in order to do the best thing. It often involves sacrifice of our schedule, desires, wants, physical and professional passions to focus on a spiritual passion for Christ.    

We talk about passions we have for life, for work, for helping others, and for ministry.  But, the most important thing is demonstrating in our lives a passion for (and maybe sacrifices too) experiencing intimacy with Jesus.   In their book Captivating, John and Stasi Eldridge have written.  "When we offer our unguarded presence, we live like Jesus.  And we invite others to do the same."

For me the most important thing is to live with a passion for Jesus, a passion for His presence (but not by doing). I want to live out my passion for Jesus by entering into and remaining in His presence, for worship, for opportunities to hear and respond to His voice.

I desire to choose the “good” thing just as Mary did. But, as a follower of Jesus, I desire to help others develop this same passion for and demonstrating the presence of Jesus in their lives. 

Living in His presence,