D. L. Moody once said, “A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian and most of all, his family ought to know.”
It was April of 2018, and my wife Beth and I were enjoying a walk together at a beautiful park near our home, and she said this to me, “Something has happened to you in the last eight months. You have changed. I feel more loved, more respected, more listened to. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.”
I was blown away by her comments. I was not consciously aware of trying to be more loving or sensitive towards her. I didn’t think that my attitude had changed in any way. But she did say that this change began about eight months previous. She pinpointed when it all started to August of last year. Then it hit me. That was the month when I went away for a few days on a prayer retreat with three other local pastors. We had no agenda, no prayer lists, nothing but Bibles in hand and a heart to seek God’s face and hear His voice. And hear His voice we did.
We sensed that the Lord was drawing our attention to three familiar names in the Bible: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-5). As we discussed the significance of these names, we agreed that Mary represented a Worshiper; Martha depicted a Worker; and Lazarus demonstrated Wonder. We understood that they were related in the natural and perhaps in the spiritual as well. God seemed to be saying that if we were going to see more of Christ’s presence and resurrection power in our lives and ministries (Lazarus), then we needed to put into practice what these names represented and prioritize them in order of importance. Worship before Work. Waiting before Walking. Praying before Preaching. Sitting before Serving. Mary before Martha. Why? Because as one old preacher used to say, “God wants your company before your cooking.”
By God’s grace, I came away from that retreat with a fresh commitment to be a more devoted worshiper of Jesus. My first priority each day would be to spend considerable time alone with Him, in His Word and in prayer.
In his book, Enjoying Intimacy with God, J. Oswald Sanders makes this challenging statement: “The inner circle of deep intimacy with God is the outcome of deep desire. We will be only as intimate with God as we choose to be.”
As a result of the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pursue deeper intimacy with Christ, I have been seeing more of God’s majesty and hearing His voice with greater clarity. I am more confident in ministry, and less fearful. I have never bounced back so quickly from disappointments and discouragements. I have experienced a new peace in the face of personal attacks. I have a greater love for people and a more compelling passion to share the gospel.
I believe this is what Beth was referring to when she spoke of my having changed. It was God transforming me from the inside out. Of course this is the promise we have in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Work from Worship
Jesus put waiting on God (Mary) before working for God (Martha), and as a result, He saw the power of God in his ministry (Lazarus). After He was commissioned at his baptism, we often read of Him withdrawing from the crowds and successful ministry, in order to be alone with his Father.
Jesus put waiting on God before working for God, and as a result, He saw the power of God in his ministry.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He departed and went out to a desolate place, and there He prayed.” (Mark 1:35)
“He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” (Luke 5:15)
In the wilderness temptation Jesus lays down God’s priorities when He says, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” (Mt. 4:10)
Worship and serve. Mary before Martha, but not without Martha. Working from Worship.
What necessary lessons to be learned from our Lord! Yes, we have been given the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 but we must remember that only a few days before speaking those words to his disciples, Jesus also said to them, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; separated from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Our going into the world must be from a place of abiding in Christ. Fruit-bearing will be the natural by-product of abiding.
Many years ago when I first set eyes on my wife-to-be in a Kinney’s shoe store, I didn’t say to myself, “Wow, that woman will produce good children for me.” No. Children were the natural outcome of love and intimacy. As it is in the natural, so the spiritual.
Work to Worship Better
To go one step further, we see Jesus commending the church in Ephesus for their good works (Martha) … “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for my name’s sake and have not become weary.” (Rev. 2:2-3)
However, what follows is a strong rebuke because worship (Mary) had been abandoned … “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” (Rev. 2:4-5)
It was Hudson Taylor who said, “You don’t have your concert first, and then tune your instrument. Begin the day with the Word of God and prayer.” So let us awake each morning intent on seeking His face and hearing His voice, “My beloved spoke, and said to me: ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’” (Song of Solomon 2:10)
Copyright © 2022 Sandy Robertson. All rights reserved.