by Christina Book
“One thing is needful:
and Mary hath chosen that good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.”
Mary was sweeping the front step, humming a sweet tune. She looked up when she heard voices and shielded her eyes from the blazing sun in order to see who was approaching their house.
“Martha,” she called as she stepped inside, “there are travelers coming to our home.”
Martha pushed a few stray curls out of her face with a little “humph”. “We don’t need visitors right now,” she thought, thinking of all the tasks at hand. But she took off her apron and went to welcome their visitors at the door. “Come in, you must be tired–” Martha’s voice trailed away as she looked into the face of the man leading the group.
“Martha, do you know me?” He asked.
“Yes, Lord,” she answered, realizing that this was Jesus, the Messiah she had heard so much about. No one could look into His face without knowing Him. A thousand thoughts raced through Martha’s mind in a moment. “Everything must be perfect. I’ll clean, cook, bake…Oh, there is much to be done.”
While Martha’s mind was racing, Mary was bowing at the feet of Jesus. “My Lord and Master,” she said, love and admiration apparent in her voice.
Jesus and His followers entered the house and were soon comfortably seated in the front room. Martha hurried away, thinking of the marvelous dinner she would serve to Jesus. Mary sat at His feet, her thoughts only of Him.
Jesus’ teaching, as usual, encouraged all who heard His precious voice speak truths to their hearts. Mary basked in His presence, for there was nothing she would rather do. She listened intently to every word that came from His lips and treasured up His teachings in her heart. Martha, on the other hand, was busily slamming pots and pans on the stove, filling cups with cool water, baking bread, and washing vegetables. She glanced into the front room several times, muttering under her breath about her inconsiderate sister who forgot all about making dinner for their guests.
As Martha grew tired and hot, she lost her temper. She was fuming when she entered the room. “Lord,” she addressed Jesus, “do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
Jesus looked tenderly into the faces of both Mary and Martha. He knew they each loved Him, but had shown their love for Him in different ways. “Martha, Martha,” He began, “you are troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha moved slowly to sit beside her sister, never taking her eyes off that wonderful face.
(Adapted from Luke 10:38-42)
The story of Mary and Martha is a beautiful reminder of what it means to be still before the Lord and how important it is to sit at His feet, listening, loving, and learning from Him. It’s easy to be like Martha, working so eagerly serve the Lord that we forget the importance of sitting quietly and learning from Him. We are called to be faithful servants of the Lord, but when we fail to spend time being filled by the Lord and His Word, our vessels of living water will run dry. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37b-38) We are unable to bless and serve others when our hearts are not delighting in Jesus and His precious presence. Psalm 46:10 says: “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” God is honored when we quiet our hearts before Him, like Mary did, by His grace. Two simple, yet important aspects of being still before the Lord are resting in Him and delighting in His presence.
Being still before the Lord isn’t merely sitting quietly, but it is also resting our hearts completely in Him, by His grace working in us. As Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, she had no other thought but of her Lord. He was the One who drew her heart into perfect worship of Himself. Mary couldn’t do this on her own, but God did this work in her heart. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5) As Mary abided in Christ and He worked through her, she was undistracted and completely one-minded. We have much to think about, much to complete, and many ways to serve the Lord, but there comes a time when we must simply rest in Jesus Christ, just as Mary did. Jesus tells us, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Jesus is the only one who can give us true rest and it is only God’s peace that brings us the sweetest stillness of heart: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) Perfect peace comes from being like Mary, whose one thought was to be with the Lord. Her mind was fully set on Him and His words. Resting in the Lord is something that comes from knowing, trusting and waiting on Him. He is faithful to guide us to find His peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Another encompassing aspect of being still is delighting the presence of the Lord. Psalm 16:11 says, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Jesus’ presence was the “completeness” of Mary’s delight. Just to be with Him was her joy and we can imagine that there was such a happy light in her eyes as He spoke. There is nothing more precious or heavenly than spending time with the Lord through reading His Word and praying. It’s easy to get caught up with life, like Martha, and forget that being in His presence is pure bliss. But the Lord guides us ever closer to Him, as He did with Mary. David had a heart that loved being in the presence Lord as much as Mary: “One thing I have desired 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 behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4) David’s main goal and desire was to be with the Lord and to seek Him. It will be so wonderful to be in heaven with Jesus one day, but for now, we can have a taste of that precious communion with Him through just being still before Him. Only Christ’s grace upon our lives can cause us to truly enjoy and delight in time with Him, but as we wait on Him and seek Him, He will satisfy us in His presence. “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Just as Jesus fulfilled Mary’s heart and made her content in Him, He will also fulfill every desire of our hearts in His presence as we are quiet and still before His throne.
Mary’s and Martha’s examples have much to teach us about the joy of being still before the Lord. By resting fully in Him and delighting in the joy of His presence, we honor and worship the Lord, find the rest and peace we need, and God gives us the strength to press on to serve Him more. By grace alone through faith, let us listen and obey this call from the Lord: “Be still and know that I am God.”
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