Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Luke 10:40 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
In the midst of some scurrying about this past week, I was brought up short by the words of Jesus to Martha in a similar situation, “…you are anxious and troubled about many things…” (When Jesus calls your name, it’s time to listen.) As I stopped to ponder the truth of that admonition—I often get caught up in “things”—I was reminded of another verse that I’d never connected to the first: “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Jesus said in another place that sometimes we allow “the cares of the world” to choke the Word, and we become unfruitful (Mark 4:19). Instead, we’re to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb. 12:2).
Obviously, as hard as we may try, we can only focus on one thing at a time. As often as we claim to successfully multi-task, the Cleveland Clinic claims that “the concern among neuroscientists studying the workings of the brain is that our tendency to divide our attention, rather than focus, is hampering our ability to perform even simple tasks.” I don’t think our problem is trying to do too many things at once; I believe we’re trying to do the wrong things. Our priorities are misaligned.
Jesus said, “Seek first” God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness (his right-living, right-being, and right-doing). Push everything else aside. Focus on him. Seek him. Nothing Jesus tells us to do is impossible with his Spirit’s empowering. We—I—just need to do some severe editing and stop being anxious about many things. Only one thing is necessary.
Jesus first. Then everything else falls into place.
I surrender, Lord. All to Jesus, I surrender. I surrender, Lord. AMEN.
…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. Ephesians 5:19 (NLT)
We noticed him immediately—front teeth missing with a toddler cradled in his lanky arms. He had quietly stood in line for his breakfast taco, beans, and pineapple and respectfully participated in communion. Then suddenly, the margins at the Mexican border were filled with his clear and melodic voice as he burst into song. It wasn’t just a brief little ditty. He sang on and on with bursts of staccato phrasing—obviously, a canticle of praise. And we were all touched and moved beyond that border feeding station.
A small group of church folks had come from afar to see for ourselves the “crisis” on our southernmost point. We had talked with government officials and their loved ones; had witnessed ordinary families waiting to be freed to unite with their families; had seen people hopefully awaiting the buses that would take them to their new homes; and we’d listened to ranchers whose multi-generational families had populated the border.
Already on sensory overload, we filled wagons of food prepared by faithful volunteers and made our way across the concrete link that was the gateway to dreams for which so many had risked their lives. We knew people would be waiting for the breakfast that would sustain them until the next act of kindness would be proffered. As I pulled my wagon, I anticipated a scene of chaos, disorder, grasping from the ragtag I thought would be awaiting us.
Instead, we were greeted warmly, and lines quietly and patiently formed in front of us as we set up our makeshift cafeteria. One by one Cubans and Hondurans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, and others took their plates with, “Gracias,” “Dios la bendiga,” or heavily-accented, “Thank you.” No pushing, no grabbing, just quiet gratitude.
And then two clergy in our group set up communion for anyone who wanted to remember our Lord’s great sacrifice. We were drawn together from many places and many experiences yet shared Jesus as we worshipped. And that’s when he broke out in song. The song that clearly recognized Jesus and our fellowship as we praised God together. The song that transcended the suffering, the setbacks, the disappointments that may have been felt. The song that proclaimed the love of Christ in the midst of a broken world and the song that would, ultimately, heal that world.
It was a song we all knew…
Father, be with those people who are searching for a place to be free and safe and where they can worship you without fear. Thank you for allowing me to participate in a foretaste of what it will be like as we, from many tribes and tongues, stand around your throne and worship. AMEN.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Ephesians 6:10
I’ve just returned from a mission trip on which the youngest member was looking forward to his seventieth birthday; the oldest was nearing seventy-seven; and all others were somewhere in between. Sounds like a herd of dinosaurs. And the assignments with which we were tasked all included hard manual labor: hauling trash, digging drainage ditches, installing an irrigation system, digging large holes for planting trees and berry bushes. I didn’t mention that all but two were retired professionals who had spent their working lives sitting at a desk or conferring or researching.
I’ll confess that every evening I prayed for strength to continue the next day and for no one to be injured. One of our team members had arrived with a compression bandage on his knee in preparation for surgery; another had his right arm in a sling; a third had a “trigger” finger. You get the idea. A motley crew. And yet, all our tasks were completed; no one was sidelined; and there were no injuries.
On the final night prior to departure, one of our teammates confessed that at the end of the first day he thought he would have to ask me if he could return home because of his weariness and strain. And then he prayed for strength for one more day. At the end of that day, he thought for sure he’d have to leave, but he prayed for strength—for one more day. And he made it. All through the week he prayed, and he found that at the end of the mission, he was stronger than ever.
God promises us, “as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut. 33:25). I believe this promise can apply not only to our physical needs but also to our spiritual, emotional, and mental needs. Have you sometimes needed strength to persevere or to address a difficult person? We’re told, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13); “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10); and one of my favorites, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:31).
With these and so many more precious promises, there’s no need for us to lag or fear when he’s already given us everything we need to do his will.
Father, we acknowledge you as the source of energy, inspiration, and strength. Let your will be done through these weak vessels. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.