Sunday, May 13, 2007

Choosing the Best

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me. Tell her to lend me a hand." The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing, One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—It’s the main course, and won’t be taken from Her." Luke 10:38-40. (The Message)
I realize that today’s woman has no easy task. I know that more appliances and conveniences are placed within the home with the goal of making the household chores easier. Things have certainly changed from the time that I was a child. There were no microwave ovens, ice maker refrigerators, and many of the other modern appliances found in today’s home. However, in spite of all these changes that supposedly add to the convenience of the home, women today are probably busier than at any other point in history.

Expectations for women have changed as well. Today, she is expected to not only cook the bacon, she has to help bring it home as well. Even though she may work 40 hours plus, she is still expected to be the main housekeeper. She is often expected to keep the house, cook the meals, wash the clothes, and take care of the children. With all that is expected of them, many women try to cut corners in order to make for time for a busy day. The problem with this is that one aspect that often gets cut or overlooked is that of the spiritual.

Many women, (and men as well) fail to make time for God. If they focus only on the material, and neglect the spiritual, they will not be fulfilled and happy.

Someone once said, "It’s the woman that sets the mood for the home." Today’s version of that is "If momma’s not happy, nobody’s gonna be happy."

Today’s women, through motherhood, have the greatest opportunity to mold the future. It was
Napoleon who once said, "The fate of a child is always the work of his mother."

I realize that the passage I read today is not about mothers. As far as I know, the scripture never mentions either Martha or Mary as being mothers. That’s one detail that we may never know. We can only speculate and wonder. Tradition sees Martha as the older sister who was widowed and who took her brother and sister under her care. What we do know about them was that they lived in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem.

However, Martha and Mary were women, who faced decisions that were important, with results that had eternal consequences. Jesus loved both of these women, they were dear to Him, along with their brother, Lazarus. In this chapter in Luke is the only time they are mentioned in this Gospel. We are told that Martha received Jesus into her house.

Jesus was an up-and coming-rabbi who was gathering a following. No doubt Martha wanted everything to be just right. After all, some were even saying that this was the Messiah. She was busy working, while Mary, her sister, was listening to the words that Jesus taught. Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the best part. What was that? Sitting at the feet of Jesus! Fellowship with the Lord!

This passage of scripture shows three differences between Martha and Mary. I want to show them to you this morning, all the while remembering that Mary had chosen the better part. This text applies to mothers, women, as well as to men. See where you fit in this morning.

1. There was a difference in focus.
Both of them had different focuses. Webster's Dictionary defines focus as the point where reflected rays come together, the center. Here, by focus, I mean the things they were concerned about. That which was the center of their lives.

A. Martha's focus
Notice what they were paying attention to. The scripture tells us that Martha was concerned about serving. That is what she was focused upon. No doubt she was excited. Jesus was coming to her house. She wanted everything to be just right. Jesus was the honored guest so it was customary to prepare a meal for the guest. I don’t know what was being prepared, but I’m sure that Martha put everything she had into it. She was busy serving the Master.

When I was a child my mother used to stay home from church to fix dinner for her brothers and sister until the Lord talked to about missing church. So when her brothers and sister came I heard her say to them, "You are welcome to go with me to church or you are welcome to stay here until I come back, but I am going to church!" They got to where they came after church on Sunday afternoon to visit!

I have met people who spend all the time being busy. However, they do all these things, yet they never find the time to develop a closer relationship with Jesus.

Did you know that you can be too busy for the Lord? Martha’s service was not a bad thing. The problem was in much serving. Martha was focused on serving. Serving is not a bad thing, but Martha had allowed it to become the center of her attention. She was cumbered about with much serving. I think that is the key word, "much". All her energy, all her attention, and all her focus was on serving. Some would say she suffered from from low self-esteem and by her "service" she was attempting to overcompensate for it. Some might say that she was just a "type A" personality. Theologians might say that she was "works" based, thinking that maybe by her works she could please the Lord. I don’t know. I do know that she was focused upon the wrong thing.

Now think what a tragedy it is, to have the Lord of the Universe in your house, and you’re too busy to hear what He has to say. Did you know that we have people that sit in churches every Sunday, in the presence of the Lord, and their thoughts are 10,000 miles away, they’re too busy to hear what the Lord has to say?

This in not just confined to church work either. There are mothers who labor hard on the job, working to build a future for their children, working to build a good home for their families, and they never give thought to the spiritual needs of their children.

Thank God for every mother who takes the time to teach her children about the Word of God, and thank God for every mother who pays enough attention to the Word of God that they can teach it to their children.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. John 6:27 .
Jesus said to not put all your energy into that which is only temporary.

I know of dads and moms who work and lay up for their children and when they are gone, everything they put up their children waste in just a short time. It is not appreciated but it is taken for granted. I have yet to hear a child say that they didn’t appreciate the faith that their parents passed on to them.

B. Now notice Mary’s focus.
The scripture says that she was sitting at the feet of Jesus and notice this: She heard His word.
Moms, are you hearing His Word today? Are you taking the time to listen to Jesus? Are you focused upon Him? Mary was focused on Jesus and His word, she chose the better part.
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
II. There was a difference in their fellowship with Christ.
Now let’s pay attention to Mary. She was sitting at the feet of Jesus. The Greek means that she literally sat down right in front of the feet of Jesus. She wanted to get as close to Him as she possibly could. She didn’t want to miss a word of what Jesus was saying. She knew that there was something special about this man called Jesus. To be at someone’s feet is a place of closeness.

Let me tell you something this morning, you are as close to Jesus as you want to be.
I know that you don’t like that, I know that you will give me your excuses, but Jesus desires for you to be close to Him. If you are not as close to Him as you used to be, guess who moved?

You see, it all come down to priorities, for Mary, fellowship with Christ was a priority in her life.
The scriptures say that you have been called into fellowship with Christ.
God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. I Corinthians 1:9.
Mary knew that to fully receive from Jesus, she must shut everything else out and focus on being close to Him.

Now let's go back to Martha. We are not told that she was in a specific location. We are just told that she was cumbered about with much serving. She was probably here in this place for a while and then she would move to another place within the house. What I want you to notice is the word "cumbered". This is a word that we don’t use a lot in modern English. The New Revised Standard translates it as: "But Martha was distracted by her many tasks." That’s probably pretty close to what the text says in the Greek. The Greek word used literally means to "draw away" or "distract". Martha was letting her tasks draw her away from Christ. Remember, she was the one who received Christ into her home, she was the one who welcomed Him, yet now, other things have become more important and she is drawn away from the One she needs to hear the most.

How many times do we receive Christ into the home of our hearts, welcome Him, and then allow other things to consume us and draw our attention away from Him?

If we are not careful, we will be like the ground that received the seed with joy, yet because we do not take the time to ground ourselves in fellowship with Him, the rocks and stones of our lives don’t allow the seed to grow.

Then we become overwhelmed with our troubles and cares and die out spiritually.

Ladies, this is a grave danger.
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. Hebrews 2:1. (KJV)

Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1. (New Revised Standard).
What do you have to do to drift away? Absolutely nothing. The currents of life, the cares of life, and the temptations of life, will naturally cause you to drift away. If you don’t want to drift away, if you want your life to mean something, if you want to leave your children an example of what it means to be a Christian, anchor deep in your fellowship with Christ. If we don’t center our lives upon Christ, we too will drift away. Remember again, that Mary had chosen the best part.

III. There was a difference in their feelings.
Notice what Jesus said about Martha in verse 41.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things." (KJV)

The RSV says "Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things."

The New Revised Standard – "Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things."

The NIV says, "Martha, you are worried and upset..."
A. What I want you to see was Martha’s feelings.
She was upset, she was anxious and she was worried. When you don’t focus upon Christ, when you don’t anchor deep in fellowship with Him, this is often the end result.

I love the old hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. The first verse reads,
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Martha had the One Who could speak peace to the storm, the Prince of peace, right in her home, but she’s far from being peaceful. Her feelings are those of anxiety, fear and concern. She is troubled.

I can’t help but wonder, how many mothers today are filled with fear, worry, and concern, all because they don’t focus on the Peacemaker? It’s a scary world that we live in. We send our children to school everyday and we don’t know if we will ever see them again. School shootings, kidnappers, drugs, alcohol, occult activities can all be found in our schools today. If you don’t want to go crazy, you have better have the Prince of Peace as the center of your life.

2. Let’s look at Mary.
The scripture doesn’t say what she was feeling. It just tells us that she was sitting at the feet of the Master. She is focused upon Him and His words, but I know she was feeling peace.

Pastor, how can you say that? How do you know that she was feeling peace? Because of what the Bible says.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3
Those who focus their minds, who lean on Christ, are kept in perfect peace. Mary had indeed chosen the good part.

Notice what the Lord said to Martha. "He said one thing is needful." Did you catch that?
One thing is necessary!

I realize that your days are filled with activities, I realize that your schedules are busy. But Jesus said one thing is necessary. Martha was busy, but what would it had mattered, in the big picture of eternity, if maybe supper was a few minutes late? What would it had mattered, if the biscuits were burned just a little? (I know they didn’t eat biscuits, but I had to put that in there). What would it had mattered, if she had everything just perfect, and yet missed out on eternity?
You may keep an immaculate house, I hope you do, but do you find time for God? You may be raising your children according to the latest principles of child rearing currently being advocated by the American Psychological Association, but only one thing is needful, only one thing is necessary, and that’s your relationship with God.
Jesus told Martha: "Mary has chosen the good part that won’t be taken away from her."

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

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