by Canon Mark A. Pearson
For new converts to Christ the choice is often between right and wrong, good and evil. A new believer chooses to give up the sin he or she had been committing and now desires to walk in holiness. For those who have walked with the Lord for a while the choice is something else – a choice between good and best. Because even maturing disciples take our cue from the secular world, unless we pay close attention to Scripture, we’re likely
to fall short of God’s will for our lives.
Example 1: Working for the Lord vs. a growing relationship with Him.
Both Scripture and common sense tell us that we must be hard at the task of doing God’s work. Saint Theresa of Avila noted, “He has no hands but our hands.” Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:58) exhorts us, “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord….” We’re not to be selfish, concerned only with our personal spiritual life, oblivious to the needs of others. Thus James writes (2:26b): “…faith without works is dead.” But there’s something even more important than working for God.
Luke 10:38-42: Now as they went on their way, [Jesus] entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into their home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”
The key is the word distracted. What Martha did was not wrong in itself.
Company was coming and a good hostess will prepare the guest a meal. What was wrong was what she was doing in comparison to what Mary was doing. Martha did good. Mary did better.
Before God wants our work, He wants us. The old fashioned word is piety. God wants our worship, both formal in church with other believers and informally, one-on-one in our private devotions. He wants our prayers, set prayers faithfully recited, and spontaneous, “from the heart” prayers. He wants our “love songs” sung to the praise of His Name, both formal hymns and praise choruses in church and individual outbursts of love-in-song on our own. He wants us to listen to Him, both in the words of Scripture, the liturgy and the sermon, and in the “still small voice” with which He speaks to each of us.
Some people skip the relationship with the Lord and substitute working for the Lord because they don’t know any better. They were never taught how central a personal relationship with God is.
Other people are afraid of a personal relationship with the Lord because they had been burned in relationships with people. But God is not those people. He will not burn you!
Still others believe that if they work hard for God He won’t make demands on them. What’s wrong with this is, first, He is LORD, not mere religious advisor. Second, God’s demands on us are both good and good for us. We do not come out ahead when we try to bribe God with our activity.
Yet others do not wait at the feet of Jesus because they do not know how. If this is you, ask those who know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus to show you how you can have one, too.
Finally, some fear that if they spend time adoring the Lord they will be shirking their responsibilities to the world that so desperately needs help. Yes, this can happen. We all know of those who are “so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good.” But personal piety need not – and must not – be at the expense of our ministry to the least and the lost. In fact, our ministry to the world is enhanced if we first spend time with the Lord. We will more likely do God’s real work, not some well intended but ultimately ineffectual do-goodism. And, regularly empowered by our time with God we will less likely burn out. First, be a Mary. Then, go be a Martha.
Example 2 of good vs. best: Seeking things from God vs. seeking God’s
Matthew 6:33: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. (King James Version)
The key is the word first. It’s not wrong to ask God for things. Jesus points out that if fallible humans know how to give good gifts to their children how much more will God Who is perfect give good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). But these things – health, financial stability, a good marriage and a happy family, a job that satisfies, friends – are secondary to seeking His Kingdom.
A better translation of the Greek would be “kingly rule.” What we are to seek is God’s will. I begin the staff meetings of the healing center with the prayer, “God, we don’t want to do a good thing for You. We want to know what Your thing is so we can Your instruments in it.”
Then, we are to seek His righteousness, that is, a right relationship with God the Father established and maintained by a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
When we seek God’s Kingly rule and are in a right relationship with Him our priorities change (we more likely seek what’s right, not selfish gratifications). We are more able to discern Him at work when He answers in ways we were not initially expecting, and we will make better use of what He sends.
Let’s aim at “best,” not “good.” Let’s put
our walk with God ahead of our work for God. Let’s seek to do God’s will, not seek God for what He can give us. +