Keeping the Best Things First
by Katherine Britton , cbn.com
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best… – Philippians 1:9-11
How often do we resign ourselves to the “tyranny of the urgent”? If you’re me, it’s a daily struggle not to use that little phrase as an excuse for losing sight of the big picture. It’s so much easier to take care of what’s immediately in front of me instead of what should be first in my life.
I’m a task-oriented Martha, so concerned with getting the job done that I forget to focus on Him first. I can tell myself that I’m doing my work “as unto the Lord” as much as I want, but I don’t serve anyone when I get harried. You probably know the feeling; you tell yourself that you’re cooking a wholesome dinner as a supreme act of service and love for your family – if they only appreciated how many other things you have to do besides stand over a stove! – when little Anne asks if you’ll help her find a favorite CD. Something boils over, and it’s not the pot on the stove. In taking care of dinner, you’ve forgotten to feed a godly attitude of patience and love.
That’s me to a fault. James makes it clear that faith is constantly looking for ways to serve; like Martha, however, we can get so busy that we forget why we’re doing it. I often catch myself thinking that if I’m not busy, I’m not “doing enough” for God. But then the act becomes its own end, instead of an outworking of love. Imagine Martha in the kitchen, fluttering around and looking for that special recipe to serve Jesus, while Mary just sat, soaking up His words. Martha’s response to this was probably well-intentioned – that is, from a human point of view. She was serving and wanted others to serve with her! But Jesus called her bluff. “Only one thing is needed,” Christ said, “and Mary has chosen what is better” (Luke 10:42). Better? Lord, you mean that sitting at your feet and being quiet is better than my idea of being busy serving you? That’s right.
I think I got a double-portion of Martha’s spirit. Too often, I think that sitting and listening to Jesus is the same thing as sitting and doing nothing. I think it’s laziness. Satan whispers that my time could be better spent doing than learning, and then the tyranny of the urgent takes over. But even Olympic acts of service are as nothing if not done in love (1 Corinthians 13), and only time at the feet of Jesus can teach me that.
Love leads to action, as Paul writes to the Philippian church, not the other way around. I can’t “discern what is best” in my work and words unless I keep the very best in front of my eyes, like Mary. My prayer this week is that I will focus on Jesus and see how to love. Then the priorities will fall in line. Then I see what is best, because I see Jesus.
A Great Work for God
“The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods.” – 2 Chronicles 2:5 NASB
Solomon knew that the temple had to be built with excellence. Why? Because it was being built for God. It was a witness about God Himself. This excellence had to be reflected in every detail. And it had to be built by the best
workers and craftsmen.
To accomplish this goal, he asked Hiram, the king of Tyre, to send the right materials, as well as “a skilled man” to work with the “skilled workers” in Israel (v. 7). Hiram agreed to Solomon’s requests, praising him for his wisdom and commitment. He also blessed God because He had given David “a wise son, endowed with discretion and understanding” (v. 12).
Solomon kept emphasizing that he was doing something “great and wonderful” because it was being built for God and represented God Himself (v. 9). Solomon also acknowledged that even this temple could not measure up to God’s greatness. “Who is able to build a house for Him?” (v. 6).
Solomon provides a model for us. The reality is that everything we do should be done in the name of the Lord. We are His witnesses. Everything in our lives should bring Him honor and glory, for He is great and worthy to be praised.
Today, commit to doing everything as unto the Lord. Live so your life is a witness to His greatness. Serve Him with excellence and humility. Remember, you are His representative.
First Doesn’t Last
Scripture Reading — Luke 16:19-31
“Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.” — Luke 16:25
People have complained that in sermons about this parable, it seems their pastor wants to make them feel guilty. After all, they have worked hard for the possessions they have. Their perseverance, not privilege, has earned them an expensive house and an extensive travel budget. They figure they are entitled to enjoy it all.
Some people have wrongly assumed that Jesus sees wealth as a barrier to eternal reward. But the point is not about money or the lack of it. What matters is the attitude of the heart and the pattern of behavior. Jesus said it is easier “for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25).
Jesus came not to teach a money management course but to model true humility and extravagant generosity (grace) in all aspects of life. He taught that “anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Sadly, the goal of building a big bank account can distract us from the dire needs of people who are financially challenged.
As Christ-followers, regardless of our income level, we can share with others. Rather than rushing past a homeless neighbor or an unemployed friend, we can open our wallets and bless them. We can see them not as lesser than we are, but as equals.
Humble my heart, Lord, when I think I am better than others. I know that all I have is a gift from you. Help me to share freely. Amen. (BMB)
Streams in the Desert – January 16
- 202216 Jan
And there arose a great storm (Mark 4:37).
Some of the storms of life come suddenly: a great sorrow, a bitter disappointment, a crushing defeat. Some come slowly. They appear upon the ragged edges of the horizon no larger than a man’s hand, but, trouble that seems so insignificant spreads until it covers the sky and overwhelms us.
Yet it is in the storm that God equips us for service. When God wants an oak He plants it on the moor where the storms will shake it and the rains will beat down upon it, and it is in the midnight battle with elements that the oak wins its rugged fibre and becomes the king of the forest.
When God wants to make a man He puts him into some storm. The history of manhood is always rough and rugged. No man is made until he has been out into the surge of the storm and found the sublime fulfillment of the prayer: “O God, take me, break me, make me.”
A Frenchman has painted a picture of universal genius. There stand orators, philosophers and martyrs, all who have achieved pre-eminence in any phase of life; the remarkable fact about the picture is this: Every man who is pre-eminent for his ability was first pre-eminent for suffering. In the foreground stands that figure of the man who was denied the promised land, Moses. Beside him is another, feeling his way — blind Homer. Milton is there, blind and heart-broken. Now comes the form of one who towers above them all. What is His characteristic? His Face is marred more than any man’s. The artist might have written under that great picture, “The Storm.”
The beauties of nature come after the storm. The rugged beauty of the mountain is born in a storm, and the heroes of life are the storm-swept and the battle-scarred.
You have been in the storms and swept by the blasts. Have they left you broken, weary, beaten in the valley, or have they lifted you to the sunlit summits of a richer, deeper, more abiding manhood and womanhood? Have they left you with more sympathy with the storm-swept and the battle-scarred?