Sometimes my life feels like a crazy tug-of-war in which I am the rope. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My family, my ministry, my relationships, my home, my writing, my hobbies, my interests– all of these things so often seem to be at odds with one another, pulling me in a hundred different directions until I feel like I never accomplish anything.
And I want to say that while sometimes I find myself pursuing things that simply aren’t God’s calling for me– things that distract me from His plan– the things I listed up there are for the most part what I believe God has called me to do. Marriage and family– and homeschooling and homemaking and discipleship and quality time and budgeting and submission and meal planning and laundry– clearly in this season of my life all these things are hugely important and a definite part of God’s plan for me. My ministry within my local church, with all that entails, is a part of my life and calling that I am wholly assured of. Although that changes from year to year and sometimes month to month, I have no doubts that I am called to minister within my church, not because I’m the pastor’s wife, but because I am a member of the body.
I get frustrated when people tell me I’m doing too much, because honestly I feel like most days I’m not doing enough. I have a sense of urgency that I believe comes from God– our days are not unlimited or guaranteed. All this could be gone tomorrow. What have I done to serve and to obey today?
In my Monday night Bible study, we have been going through Warren Wiersbe’s book on Philippians, Be Joyful. In last week’s chapter we were studying Philippians 3:12-16, and Wiersbe pointed out how important the concept of “one thing” is to the believer– in this passage it’s “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on . . . .” Wiersbe used an illustration that suggested that this means that we need to choose one thing– God’s real calling in our life– and press toward it singlemindedly. His example was D.L. Moody, who wildly used by God when he began focusing entirely on evangelism.
I have to say that this raised my hackles, because God keeps on pressing me to do more, not less. He convicts me about generosity, about hospitality, about discipleship, about evangelism, about my relationship with my husband and children. He asks me to write and really doesn’t take no for an answer. Very seldom does He close doors on ministry opportunities, or remove me from them. I feel so overwhelmed by my life at times, that I pray for release from some of my responsibilities, but that is not a prayer He answers with a “yes” very often.
I’m so thankful for the way God speaks through His Word to the very deepest needs of my soul. Lately I have felt more than once that my calling and my ministry has come under attack, and that is an ugly feeling that can lead to doubt and frustration, especially when the fruit of my ministry is long in coming. I asked God what is the one thing I am supposed to pursue? And He answered.
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
One thing: I press on toward the goal. What is the goal? I think the answer is found in Hebrews 12.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . .
The goal is Jesus. We look at Him; we press on toward Him. He is the source of our endurance and our inspiration to keep on running.
And as I looked up the verses that Wiersbe quoted in his chapter, I found that really, this was the counsel of Scripture– that Jesus Himself is the One Thing I am supposed to pursue.
Jesus told the rich young man in Mark 10 that he lacked one thing:
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
What did he lack? He lacked a wholehearted, sacrificial commitment to follow Jesus. He failed to recognize that his possessions were holding him back from a real relationship and from real joy in the presence of Christ.
And let us not forget Mary and Martha.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Poor Martha. I think we all can relate to being “distracted with much serving.” The testimony of Scripture is that we are to be serving, so what went wrong? Jesus recognized Martha’s problem– she had let her service become her one thing, instead of letting it flow from her love and worship of her One Lord.
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Mary recognized that the presence of Christ was the most amazing thing that was going to happen that day. Even if the roast was overdone, the carrots were burned, and the kitchen was a mess. Even if nobody ever put the good tablecloth on or swept the cobwebs out of the corners. The service was important, but it wasn’t the one thing. The one thing was that Jesus was THERE. In her home. And all she wanted to was to be near Him.
Perhaps Mary was familiar with Psalm 27. Her heart’s cry echoed that of David–
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
David’s heart desired one thing, and it wasn’t victory in battle or the success in the kingship or any of those things, though God had called him to victory and to royalty. For David, the one thing was to dwell in the presence of God Himself, to look on His beauty, to seek His face constantly.
Oh, friends. If we are to live the lives God calls us to, we must never let ourselves be distracted from the one thing God has called us to– to dwell in the presence of Christ and to walk in His Spirit. All the to-do lists and all the callings in our lives and all the serving are nothing without this one thing— that we may dwell before God daily and gaze on His beauty.
And as we focus our hearts again and again on Jesus, all the other things fall into place, or fall off our plates. Because our priorities are never right until Jesus is our priority.
Though the outworking of our walk with God will be different for each of us, different in each season of life, the one thing is the same for all of us. Daily in the presence of God. Moment by moment seeking His face.
Let this be our One Thing.